Answers to Luis Villa's Four Questions

4 minute read Published: 2021-03-11

Luis Villa posted a series of questions on for this year's OSI Board Nominees to answer.

In this post, I share my thoughts.

Thank you, Luis🔗

First off, I want to thank Luis for sharing these questions. I appreciate the opportunity to address them.

(1) What should OSI do about the tens of millions of people who regularly collaborate to build software online (often calling that activity, colloquially, open source) but have literally no idea what OSI is or what it does?🔗

The OSI has an obligation to support education about the rationale behind the OSD, and how this translates into tangible (and positive) impact on businesses -- impacts that create the open and collaborative environment that we all colloquially call "open source". Nuance is valuable, and, as with any rapidly-adopted term, nuance is easily lost.

I believe The Four Opens provide a valuable model we can use to distinguish between different aspects of open source, which are each crucial components of our community's "tribal knowledge".

However, simply speaking about open source at conferences (as I and many other current and past Board members have done) is not enough. We'll need to do more, and I think we should directly engage with influencers in business, media, and legal affairs to enlist their help in educating the vibrant and world-wide open source developer community upon which nearly all businesses in the world now depend.

(2) If an Ethical Software Initiative sprung up tomorrow, what should OSI's relationship to it be?🔗

I've written about this a bit, and weighed in on the Ethical Source discussions over the past few years. You'll find some of my thoughts on twitter. That thread is a pretty good summation of my opinions, and my 2021 platform statement itself includes more thoughts on this. I won't repeat them here.

I believe the OSI must maintain its neutrality -- this is key to the functioning of the Open Source Definition as a business tool which drives collaboration up just as it drives down the market costs of common tools and infrastructure.

However, I also believe there must be room for developers to consider alternative approaches to software licensing that account for our changing legal, social, and geopolitical circumstances.

What ever experiments in Ethical Source (or other use-restricted) licenses arise, I believe the OSI should develop healthy working relationships to those organizations. I'm not unaware of the history (though I'm surely not aware of all the history) between these organizations, and I trust that we can all navigate that history as professionals and as adults.

(3) When a license decision involves a topic on which the Open Source Definition is vague or otherwise unhelpful, what should the board do?🔗

The Board should support and encourage the discussion, weighing in as individuals rather than board members, and potentially engaging outside councel (if and when needed) or reaching out to our networks to solicit input and facilitate the discussion.

The board should continue to consider whether it would be appropriate to make any additions to the OSD to account for changing circumstances -- though I remain of the opinion, given what I know today, that no changes in the OSD are likely to be necessary.

(4) What role should the new staff play in license evaluation (or the OSD more generally)?🔗

Broadly speaking, I believe that OSI Staff should be empowered to support the activities of the foundation, which likely includes actions such as: assisting with platforms/tools, scheduling meetings and ensuring minutes are recorded and publicly available, building partnerships, amplifying awareness, and carrying out the outreach needed to ensure that all necessary opinions (including legal councel if needed) are represented during a license evaluation.

Staff members may facilitate, but should not make decisions regarding license evaluations, and should not be seen to "hold the pen" in the decision-making process.

Contact Me🔗

You can reach me on Twitter at @aevavoom or by email at "aeva at aeva dot online". More ways to contact me can be found here.