Re: Open v. open

From: David Mertz <voting-project_at_gnosis_dot_cx>
Date: Sat Aug 16 2003 - 22:23:04 CDT

Since there are already so many words (many by me), I'll try to be brief
with what I think are important points.

(1) Anand has done a very good job of explicating a very common
     sentiment of the Open Source community. To go Situationists: his
     ideas are in all our heads :-). I am confident that NO developers
     will make themselves available on a volunteer basis to produce
     something for "commercialization" by someone else.

(2) Matt has done a very good job of explaining the distinction between
     "open" and "Open". The former is something associated with MS'
     nefarious idea of "shared source." The latter is what we all think
     is important ("we" in the aformentioned neo-Situ sense).

(3) I cannot publically support an EVM project that is "open" but not
     "Open"--nor contribute code to it. It's hard to say whether my
     conscience would let me work (privately) on such a thing if I were
     being paid--I certainly have for "regular" software; but voting is
     a matter of greater ethical importance. In any case, no one is
     waving bills in front of me.

(3a) I believe a stark distinction between "the demo" and "the system"
     is wrongheaded. Any demo that can motivate any interest in
     volunteers has to be designed to advance the eventual project--in
     real learning and code terms, not just in terms of getting grants
     (on deceptive terms, if so). Maybe "the system" will be in a
     different programming language, or OS, or data format, etc., but
     those change must be based on things we concretely learn from the
     demo, or on software design principles, not capricious and

(3b) Let's get specific on "Open": I cannot ethically or politically
     support a system where Essex County, MA needs negotiated
     authorization from the University of California, or from the Open
     Voting Consortium, or from whomever, to use the code base and
     concepts connected with EVM. The principle applies equally to
     Gnosis Software[*] deciding to do the packaging, validation,
     audits, etc. on behalf of Essex County (in exchange for money).
     [*] Gnosis happens to be my own Massachusetts company... but in the
     concrete, I haven't the slightest interest or background in trying
     to sell such a thing. I'm just making the example concrete.

(4) Alan has put a lot of work into promoting the idea of an EVM with a
     ballot paper-trail[*]. He's gotten poor out of dedication to the
     concept. Given Alan's time investment, knowledge, and personal
     connections, there is no question in my mind at all that he should
     be a well-paid "project lead" (or some similar title) should the
     EVM/UCVS/OVC thing get some grant monies.
     [*] Alan's also not the only person who has invested years of time
     in a project without seeing the payback. I've done so, for
     example, albeit for far more mundane and politically unimportant
     software systems.

(4a) There's money to be made in the support and validation of turn-key
     EVMs based on Free code. Essex County, in practice, doesn't want
     to do this themselves... they want installed machines, with
     consultants supporting them. You don't need to be an enforced
     monopoly to be the best at delivering something (or even just being
     good enough).

(5) All the above said, I now lean away from advocating Public Domain
    (which is, of course OSI and FSF approved), to advocating GPL. In
    essence, GPL does a lot more to make sure that UC, or OVC, or
    whoever, must keep their own code developments free for Essex
    County to use (and it is probably impossible to develop a "clean
    room" version post-demo, in copyright terms, even if the large
    majority is re-written).

Yours, David...

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Received on Sun Aug 31 23:17:10 2003

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