Who watches the OSI watchers?

The Open Source Initiative judges open source, but isn't democratically elected. Does this matter?

I moderated a panel yesterday that included John Roberts, CEO of SugarCRM, as well as Danese Cooper, Open Source Initiative (OSI) board member. I was a bit surprised to find John criticize the OSI's make-up and mechanics, as The Register notes, but I can't say that I disagree with those complaints. John's basic point - for the OSI to have stronger resonance within the community should reflect that community - seems like a sound one.

But how do we get there from here?

John suggested:

Roberts continues to question why the OSI gets to be the arbiter of all things open source - a query made stronger by the chaos often displayed by the organization and the fact that the board members are not elected but rather tapped to lead during a bizarre hazing ritual performed at midnight in the San Diego Zoo's penguin display.

"I really like what OSI represents as an organization," Roberts said. "But no one really asks, 'Who are the approvers. How are they elected - by hundreds of votes or three or four votes? How did you get to become the Supreme Court?'"

It's a good question. I do think that the OSI's board is well-qualified to adjudicate between open source and pseudo-open source. But that's not John's point. John isn't really arguing about pedigrees, but rather about process. How does the OSI come to represent the open-source community without a democratic process?

The OSI has been grappling with how to open up to a membership-driven organization without diluting the ideals of the organization. I believe this is important. I, personally, would happily give up my board seat with the OSI if it meant that I would be replaced by someone more effective and representative of the open-source community. I wouldn't have to think twice about it.

But how would we go about this? A vote? What do you think?

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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