Panel: Measuring Community Contributions (Liveblog)

Panelists:
Joe Brockmeier – OpenSUSE
Jono Bacon – Ubuntu
James Bottomley – Novell
Dan Frye – IBM
Karsten Wade – Fedora

* Don’t always associated “contribution” with “code”.
* People tend to contribute things that are of value to them – they are scratching their own itch.
* Measuring community is very new and is not an exact science. There’s still a lot to learn and we’re still making mistakes.
* Having a clear answer to “how do I get involved” is very important.
* The first mistake companies often make when they try to enter the Linux community is an attempt to push things upstream as-is and in a way that only benefit the company.
* Audience question: It seems most mainline kernel development comes from the developed world. Why isn’t more coming from India, China and other developing countries?
– Dan indicated that some IBM’ers are actually effectively contributing from BRIC countries, but admits that we can do a much better job here.
– Some of this is an infrastructure problem, which is already being worked on.
* Audience question: Is there a way to objectively measure contribution?
– Intuition is our starting point, but we’re moving toward reverse intuition.
– Fedora is using EKG – https://fedorahosted.org/ekg/
– Every project focuses on different aspects and different items are important to them.
– Measuring community started out very informally, but as we mature we’re being much more rigorous and scientific in our measurements.
– Deciding _what_ to measure can be difficult.
– Measuring for the sake of measuring is senseless. Getting data that is useful is very important.
Audience question: is anyone measuring the way people are mentoring?
– Generally yes, but it’s vastly different for each project/community.

–jeremy

Judge Kimball Rules on SCO v. Novell

It looks like Judge Kimball has finally issued a ruling on SCO v. Novell. From the article:

OK. I’ve read it now once through, and the big picture is this: Judge Kimball did not change anything in his August 10th order, which I was afraid might happen. He could have, had he heard anything that he didn’t know when he made that order. So, SCO breached its fiduciary duty to Novell, converted funds, and so it has to pay. That is ironic, in that this case started with SCO accusing Novell of slander of title, and asking for millions in damages. Instead it has to *pay* Novell millions.

However, Judge Kimball accepted SCO’s argument that UnixWare is the latest version of UNIX and that it was the foundation of all the other agreements, even though SYSV was also involved, or so SCO thought. He accepted SCO’s argument that if SCO was wrong about owning the copyrights, and it was, then it’s too bad for the licensees — they just got less than they thought they were paying for, and that is a matter for them to work through with SCO. So if EV1, for example, wanted its money back, or part of it, it would have to sue SCO.

I think this is an appealable issue for Novell, but I don’t know if they will bother. This was all about money, this trial, and very narrowly about whether SCO owed Novell anything from the Sun and Microsoft and SCOsource licenses. The rest was decided already on August 10th. And SCO doesn’t have much money left, if any, so I would guess that if SCO appeals, Novell will raise issues it certainly can in this new order. And it’s a bit hard to fit SCOsource into the APA, since it was just a strange and vague bird. But if SCO doesn’t — and to my mind the order seems designed to discourage it, since if they do appeal, they risk being found liable for even more money than now ordered — Novell then has to figure out if it is worth it.

For its part, SCO is attempting to spin this as somewhat positive:

In an e-mailed statement today, SCO described the ruling as “an important step in (its) ability to pursue the appeals to try to get all of (its) claims heard by a jury as soon as possible. We are pleased, however, that the court agreed that Novell is not entitled to anywhere near the more than $20 million dollars it was seeking.”

“Importantly, the court ruled that Novell has no right to any royalties from UnixWare or OpenServer sales by SCO, which is where the bulk of SCO’s revenue is earned,” SCO said in the statement. “This is also an important step forward in the capitalization and reorganization plan for SCO that will allow us to emerge from Chapter 11. We continue to disagree with the premise of this trial and believe that Novell is not owed anything, but that they have interfered with SCO’s UNIX rights.”

The company is reviewing the ruling by Judge Kimball with its attorneys and will be assessing the next steps over the coming days and weeks.

Realistically, SCO is probably going to appeal and it looks like they are attempting to go for a jury case. I’m not sure how much cash they have on hand, but it looks like because they were acting as an agent for what was always Novell money, the full amount should be given to Novell before any further creditors during bankruptcy. With the IBM ruling not handled down yet, things don’t bode well for SCO. Whether someone will pick up the carcass or they will just go away remains to be seen.

–jeremy

OpenOffice.org

OpenOffice.org has been in the news for a couple reasons this week. On one hand, IBM announced that is was releasing Lotus Symphony, an office suite that is based on OpenOffice.org code and runs in an Eclipse instance. On the other hand, some of the community is up in arms about the control Sun continues to have over the project. Note that I am not involved in the OOo community on a daily basis, so I don’t know if the CW article is just a journalistic powder keg or a legitimate impending feud. Looking at the issues at hand, I do have a little commentary however. When you look at successful Open Source projects of a certain size, they typically have some kind of benevolent dictator at the top. Sometimes it’s a person (Linux for example), sometimes it’s a Foundation (Firefox, Apache, Eclipse) and sometimes it’s a company (Alfresco,OpenOffice). Whatever the structure, that direction and leadership from the top is critical to the success of a project. It’s clear that up until now, Sun has been the “top” of the OpenOffice.org project. They employee about 85% of the contributors and all official commits must go through Hamburg. Don’t forget that OpenOffice.org is the result of Sun acquiring Star Office and open sourcing it. Keeping that in mind, it’s clear that some features have not made it into the product because Sun did not want it to happen. That being said, I think that overall Sun has done a very good job with the project.

Now, with IBM joining the project on an official level and also committing 35 head count from China, things may be set to change. Have we reached a point where Sun should let go and form an “OpenOffice.org Foundation”? If so, how much control of that organization should they retain? Or, is it OK for a company that started an Open Source project to maintain control if they are providing good leadership? OpenOffice.org is hugely important to the Open Source community, so this is an important discussion. I think that an OpenOffice.org Foundation makes the most sense in this case, but I could see a general argument for maintaining company control (at least in some cases). What do you think?

One final comment. I forget sometimes how difficult a position Sun has put themselves in after years of being schizo about Open Source. For the last couple of years they have done some truly awesome things, yet they continue to take a beating in the community. I wonder how long it is until some will think they have paid their dues. With some of the OpenSolaris vs. Linux posturing that is sure to come (more comments on that soon) my guess is that Sun may not get the credit they deserve for some time.

–jeremy

IBM joins the OpenOffice.org

To the collective cheer of “It’s about time”, IBM is now officially supporting the OpenOffice.org project. From the press release:

The OpenOffice.org community today announced that IBM will be joining the community to collaborate on the development of OpenOffice.org software. IBM will be making initial code contributions that it has been developing as part of its Lotus Notes product, including accessibility enhancements, and will be making ongoing contributions to the feature richness and code quality of OpenOffice.org. Besides working with the community on the free productivity suite’s software, IBM will also leverage OpenOffice.org technology in its products.

“In the seven years since Sun founded the project, OpenOffice.org has fueled and filled the need for document data and productivity tools that are open and free. Open source software and ODF are having a profound impact around the world, with numerous communities and organizations coming together to support these initiatives and governments, and corporations and schools standardizing on the software. We look forward to working with IBM and the other members of OpenOffice.org to ensure that this momentum continues. We invite others to join us in the community and participate in building the future as OpenOffice.org and ODF continue to gain popularity across the planet,” said Rich Green, Executive Vice President, Software at Sun Microsystems, Inc.

The accessibility gains here are huge for OpenOffice.org, as it means a foot in the door to some Government procurements that were not previously possible or would have previously run into issues. Stephe also points out the significance of Redflag Chinese 2000 Software’s participation in the press release, along with the potential ODF and UOF harmonization that may occur.

IBM almost certainly would have done this much sooner if Sun wasn’t the primary OO.o backer, but it needed to happen. Andy points out that the recent OOXML setback did impact the IBM decision to do this now. The question is, is this too late. I don’t think so. While it would have been great for ODF adoption if this would have happened earlier, I think we are still at a crossroads right now. OOXML approval is an uncertainty and the market is more open than it has been in a long time. Microsoft has overshot from a functionality standpoint and the emphasis is moving toward other items like Open Standards anyway. An opportunity this large only comes around once in a generation, as John McCreesh, the OpenOffice Marketing Project Lead, sums up well in the press release:

“This is great news for the tens of millions of users of OpenOffice.org and the thousands of individual members of the project”, said John McCreesh, OpenOffice.org Marketing Project Lead. “We welcome IBM’s contributions to further enhancing the OpenOffice.org product. But equally important is IBM’s future commitment to package and distribute new works that leverage OpenOffice.org technology supporting the ISO ODF standard. ODF is a once in a generation opportunity for the IT industry to unify round a standard, and deliver lasting benefit to users of desktop technology.”

For the record, that opportunity is about $15B annually. It’s easy to see why IBM and SUN were able to put their differences aside on this one. Carpe diem!

–jeremy

Court Rules: Novell owns the UNIX and UnixWare copyrights

It sure has been a long time since the last SCO related post. It looks to finally be the beginning of the end for this whole fiasco. From Groklaw:

Hot off the presses: Judge Dale Kimball has issued a 102-page ruling [PDF] on the numerous summary judgment motions in SCO v. Novell. Here it is as text. Here is what matters most:

[T]he court concludes that Novell is the owner of the UNIX and UnixWare Copyrights.

That’s Aaaaall, Folks! The court also ruled that “SCO is obligated to recognize Novell’s waiver of SCO’s claims against IBM and Sequent”. That’s the ball game. There are a couple of loose ends, but the big picture is, SCO lost. Oh, and it owes Novell a lot of money from the Microsoft and Sun licenses.

Judge Kimball asks the parties, in view of the ruling in Novell, which “significantly impacts the claims and counterclaims asserted” in IBM, to prepare by August 31 “a statement of its view of the status of this case and, more specifically, the effect of the SCO v. Novell decision on each of the pending motions.”

Here’s the conclusion:

For the reasons stated above, the court concludes that Novell is the owner of the UNIX and UnixWare copyrights. Therefore, SCO’s First Claim for Relief for slander of title and Third Claim for specific performance are dismissed, as are the copyright ownership portions of SCO’s Fifth Claim for Relief for unfair competition and Second Claim for Relief for breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court denies SCO’s cross-motion for summary judgment on its own slander of title, breach of contract, and unfair competition claims, and on Novell’s slander of title claim. Accordingly, Novell’s slander of title claim is still at issue.

The court also concludes that, to the extent that SCO has a copyright to enforce, SCO can simultaneously pursue both a copyright infringement claim and a breach of contract claim based on the non-compete restrictions in the license back of the Licensed Technology under APA and the TLA. The court further concludes that there has not been a change of control that released the non-compete restrictions of the license, and the non-compete restrictions of the license are not void under California law. Accordingly, Novell’s motion for summary judgment on SCO’s non-compete claim in its Second Claim for breach of contract and Fifth Claim for unfair competition is granted to the extent that SCO’s claims require ownership of the UNIX and UnixWare copyrights, and denied in all other regards.

Furthermore, the court concludes, as a matter of law, that the only reasonable interpretation of the term “SVRX License” in the APA is all licenses related to the SVRX products listed in Item VI of Schedule 1.1(a) to the APA. Therefore, Novell is entitled to a declaration of rights under its Fourth Claim for Relief that it was and is entitled, at its sole discretion, to direct SCO to waive its claims against IBM and Sequent, and SCO is obligated to recognize Novell’s waiver of SCO’s claims against IBM and Sequent. Accordingly, Novell’s motion for partial summary judgment on its Fourth Claim for Relief for declaratory judgment is granted, and SCO’s cross-motion for summary judgment on Novell’s Fourth Claim for Relief is denied.

Finally, the court concludes, as a matter of law, that the only reasonable interpretation of all SVRX Licenses includes no temporal restriction of SVRX Licenses existing at the time of the APA. The court further concludes that because a portion of SCO’s 2003 Sun and Microsoft Agreements indisputably licenses SVRX products listed under Item VI of Schedule 1.1(a) to the APA, even if only incidental to a license for UnixWare, SCO is obligated under the APA to account for and pass through to Novell the appropriate portion relating to the license of SVRX products. Because SCO failed to do so, it breached its fiduciary duty to Novell under the APA and is liable for conversion.

The court, however, is precluded from granting a constructive trust with respect to the payments SCO received under the 2003 Sun and Microsoft Agreements because there is a question of fact as to the appropriate amount of SVRX Royalties SCO owes to Novell based on the portion of SVRX products contained in each agreement. Furthermore, because Novell has obtained the information that it would otherwise obtain through an accounting during the course of this litigation, the court denies Novell’s Ninth Claim for Relief for an accounting. However, the court also notes that SCO has a continuing contractual obligation to comply with the accounting and reporting requirements set forth in the APA.

What does this all mean? The case against IBM is all but a moot point now, since Novell owns the IP that SCO is suing over. In addition, SCO owes a substantial amount of the previous license money (95% at a worst case for them) to Novell. It’s pretty much game over at this point. Most of us thought this would be the end result, but in my mind there are many open questions that may never be answered. Will there be a criminal case against Yarro and/or McBride? Was this the longest running pump and dump scheme in history? What was the real reason behind Microsoft obtaining one of the original licenses from SCO and will that angle even be pursued now that Novell and Microsoft are pals? Was the recent Microsoft Novell deal structured as it was by Microsoft in anticipation of this and if so did Novell even see it coming? What was Sun’s intention in getting one of the original licenses from SCO? At the time they were fairly anti-Linux, but part of it seemed to be related to them moving toward OpenSolaris. If it’s really Novell IP how is that deal impacted and what legal ground does OpenSolaris stand on? What was the real impact of this case on Linux in general and on companies like Red Hat specifically? I have many more questions, but will be tossing them around a bit and looking for more information that will surely become available in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

–jeremy

IBM Pledges Free Access to Patents Involved in Implementing 150+ Software Standards

From the press release:

IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is granting universal and perpetual access to certain intellectual property that might be necessary to implement more than 150 standards designed to make software interoperable.

One likely result of the pledge to commercial and open source communities is that it will be easier for more computing devices and software to be compatible with one another. The move, which IBM believes is the largest of its kind, is also designed to spur industry innovation, while discouraging litigation.

The software specifications and protocols involved in the pledge underpin industry standards, such as those reflected in Web Services: programming, transactions and data exchanged on the Internet and Web. These are typically under, or moving toward, stewardship by standards groups such as the World Wide Web Consortium and OASIS.

“IBM is sending a message that innovation and industry growth happens in an open, collaborative atmosphere,” said Bob Sutor, IBM’s Vice President of Open Source and Standards. “Users will adopt new technologies if they know that they can find those technologies in a variety of interchangeable, compatible products from competing vendors. We think customers will like this added assurance for the open standards upon which they have come to depend.”

IBM’s commitment not only applies to the distributors, developers or manufacturers that are implementing the specifications involved, but also extends to their users or customers. It is valid as long as adopters are not suing any party — not just IBM — over necessary patented technology needed to implement the standards.

Matthew Aslett puts it well:

I’ve just taken a first look at IBM’s promise not to assert its patents involved in implementing 150 software standards and it appears to be a work of art in its simplicity.

Here’s how the pledge works:

Just get on with developing interoperability based on these standards – don’t even bother coming to us to get a license, you don’t need one.

But if you assert patent claims against IBM, or any one else for that matter, relating to these standards, you better make sure you’ve got the lawyers ready.

Compare the elegant simplicity of this approach with trying to pick and choose which partners to collaborate with based on complex and divisive patent covenants.

Of course, IBM didn’t do this out of pure altruism. Surely they think they can compete more effectively on a level playing field. Opening up in this way will help bring parity to that field. The 3rd party inclusion is also a great way to battle things like the recent Microsoft patent FUD. It’s a reminder of mutually assured destruction. Hopefully others such as Sun and HP, who could benefit in similar ways as IBM, will join the fray. Despite the business implications of a decision like this, it’s impressive how a company as big as IBM (and with the history of IBM) is able to see the big picture like this. They saw the light far earlier than many. You can find additional coverage by Bob Sutor here. A big thanks is due IBM for this one.

–jeremy

MySQL AB and IBM Announce Open Source Database Support for the IBM System i Platform

Some pretty big news from IBM and MySQL AB at the recent MySQL Conference & Expo 2007 (which I unfortunately had to miss this year, but do plan on attending next year). From the press release:

MySQL AB and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced a joint technology and reseller agreement to bring support for the MySQL open source database to the IBM System i business computing platform.

The two companies will work together to offer the MySQL Server for i5/OS, the flagship operating system for System i, and plan to deliver DB2 for i5/OS as a certified MySQL storage engine on the System i platform. This will allow System i customers to implement online and transactional MySQL applications while storing all data in a single, easy-to-manage DB2 database.

In addition, MySQL Enterprise subscriptions — a comprehensive offering of MySQL database software, services and support — will be made available to IBM clients worldwide through IBM’s reseller network and System i sales team. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

For such a large company, IBM has been able to leverage Open Source extremely well. This release is great news for MySQL AB and their upcoming IPO. The reach of the IBM reseller network is absolutely massive and will surely get MySQL into places it’s not currently. The fact that is being implemented as a MySQL storage engine is a testament to how powerful that modular paradigm is. Congrats to both IBM and MySQL AB.

–jeremy

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