FOSDEM: Please let the community help you

Dear (and much appreciated) FOSDEM organizers,

I really think that FOSDEM is one of the best European meetings around. I fondly remember my first visit in 2001, when not only did I have the chance to attend to many interesting talks, but also had the opportunity of meeting interesting people and making new friends in the community.

I hope to have a great time and exceed my expectations as I visit again, at FOSDEM 2009.

I know in advance that some of you will strongly dislike what I write for whatever, reason, please read my "In conclusion" near the end before fuming.

The community is very important, and that is the reason why it shouldn't blandly (pun intended) accept money from an element which has “bought” its way into the community with "dirty" money, using it as a sort of cheap good-will shop to increase it's leverage in it. This is particularly bad as it is a close partner of a certain monopolist software company which has been trying to kill Free Software for over a decade.

In the kindlier words of Bradly Kuhn, who deliciously associates a Frank Capra movie with Free Software:

«Never forget why they are making the offer. Microsoft is unique among proprietary software companies: they are the only ones who have actively tried to kill Open Source and Free Software. It's not often someone wants to be your friend after trying to kill you for ten years, but such change is cause for suspicion.»

Accepting “dirty” money from Novell should only be done with an outspoke distanciation from their actions. They have been buying and corrupting Free Software along the way by injecting dissension in the community and [software] patent threats [as a proxy] here and there, each time more. They do it as partners of Microsoft. Or as Bob Muglia, Microsoft Senior Vice President, has said:

«There is a substantive effort in open source to bring such an implementation of .Net to market, known as Mono and being driven by Novell, and one of the attributes of the agreement we made with Novell is that the intellectual property associated with that is available to Novell customers.»

As an important side mark, I have to make this clear: I'm not attacking SUSE, either in Enterprise or Open versions. Although not perfect Free Software distributions, they are almost 100% more Free Software than anything else Novell has ever published before buying them (or after, modulo the acquisitions).

Instead of making a single effort to calm the ocean waters, by rejecting community-dividing patent agreements, by enticing their top engineers to write community embracing comments instead of further dividing the community with extremely hostile comments (that apparently forget years of bad blood against the Free Software bore by Microsoft and incited upon it's partner networks). Just notice how Novell doesn't do a single action in this direction, but instead keeps announcing more and more Microsoft integration and support. What's wrong with this picture?

In conclusion, please tell us how much do you need the community to help you, with hard cash, in order to replace Novell's sad contribution. I'm sure that given a goal we'll meet it, if not for 2009, then surely for 2010.

Here's to a great FOSDEM'09 without proprietary software sponsors!


Rui Miguel Silva Seabra (click here for OpenPGP signature of this file)

P.S.: It would also be nice if you could at least criticize them publicly for what they have been doing these past years, without a sign or hope of stopping.