Open source culture clash

Larry Augustin talks about the difference in how open source is selected and perceived between the US and Europe – roughly boiling down to:

US companies see Open source as a free ride they can take to getting their millions, whereas Europeans see Open source as a way to reduce risk, and localise expertise.

In many things Australia follows the US examples – but with their economy imploding due to criminally negligent stupidity, and the Australian government contemplating a 50% tax rebate for companies that work on open source – perhaps things are looking up here.

The open source project has a governance crisis for exactly this mismatch reason. The main code contributors for the last 5 years have been, well, me and Crawford Currie – both of us with very European ideals for the project, and most of the users and other contributors feel the same way. Then, last year, Peter, the project founder found some angel funding to build a startup to capitalize on his ownership of the trademark – very much in the US open source way.

This isn’t being handled cleverly enough PR wise – most likely because the ‘US’ open source style companies aren’t even aware that they are behind.

TWiki Summit 2008Q3 in Berlin

I wasn’t able to travel from Sydney, Australia to Berlin for this summit – which means I’ve missed all 3 of them so far :(.

I was able to listen in on the conference calls made for the governance discussions, and was quite amazed at the strong commonality in the communities approaches and desires. I guess spending over 5 years talking over the same frustrations, and attempting solutions to them brings everyone on board extremely cohesively.

An amazing thing was that with Tom Barton (CEO) there, we heard from yet another TWIKI.NET decision maker that they were not aware of the feelings of the community – extremely scary for a startup that alleges to be working in the interests of the community.

Next major hurdle seems to be trademark control – Peter owns the ‘TWiki’ trademark, and TWIKI.NET wants to leverage that to gain an advantage in the TWiki community. It seems to me that the best response is for the community to avoid the issue – by doing what WireShark did when faced by a similar issues with the ‘Ethereal’ trademark – Rename and Re-brand the open source project.

There seems hope that things may not come to that – the second and final day saw the election of an Interm council to guide TWiki to a lasting democratic setup.

Either way, there is definitely cause to be optimistic about the project known as TWiki. Many thanks to Kenneth of Motorola for organising and hosting the Summit.