|FROM ||Ruben I Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [hangout] Shaed Source Egovos
There must be something in the water at conferences these days. A couple
weeks ago, the Desktop Linux Summit made headlines when some
participants accused Lindows, the primary sponsor, of hijacking the
Now, March's upcoming Open Source for National and Local eGovernment
Programs in the U.S. and EU conference (http://egovos.org/march-2003) is
stirring the pot as well. The problem isn't that the conference name is
almost as long as the agenda; it's that one of the speakers will be from
a company not known for embracing open source: Microsoft.
It seems that in the interest of free speech, the organizers saw fit to
invite one of Microsoft's Shared Source advocates to speak at the event.
Upon learning this, some folks in the open-source world reacted ? how
shall I put this? ? negatively. As in, "threatening to tar and feather
Clearly there is a reason for such inflamed passions. Inviting Microsoft
to speak at an open-source conference feels a little like asking the
devil to handle opening prayer at a tent revival; everyone knows he has
a very different agenda than the rest of the speakers that evening.
Although the open-source world is not built on an anti-Microsoft
foundation, many of those involved have felt burned by the Redmond
giant, and thus have no desire to give the corporation even a moment's
respect, let alone access to government workers seeking to evaluate
The whole situation got a little worse when Tony Stanco, an event
organizer, wrote an op-ed piece for NewsForge.com which claimed that
Microsoft was attempting to claim the moral high ground in the matter
After all, the benevolent behemoth of the Northwest had invited
EbenMoglen of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to speak at a Business
Software Alliance (BSA) conference. If Microsoft can indulge in such an
act of free speech, why can't the open-source world reciprocate?
I'm sorry, but inviting a member of the FSF to speak at a BSA event is
not "moral high ground." It's more like inviting Little Red Riding Hood
to be guest speaker at the Big Bad Wolf convention; that's not an
invitation to lunch, that's an invitation to be lunch.
To claim moral high ground, Microsoft would have to invite a real
adversary to speak in front of its customer base, something on the order
of having a Sun CEO Scott McNealy keynote at a .Net users convention. I
know this may come as a shock, but I'm not holding my breath for that
The plan to have a Redmond representative possibly dissuade government
users at this open-source conference has some Linux advocates
threatening to protest the event. Despite the sympathy I have for the
folks who hold this position, I think this is a mistake.
I say, let the guy speak. Frankly, the story behind Shared Source is so
lame that most participants will spot a cheap imitation when they see
it. And that will do far more to benefit open source than harm it.
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