Board member position statement for mpg [resent]

Michael P. Gerlek mpg at
Mon Mar 13 14:51:51 PST 2006

[I'd like to thank Chris Holmes and Gary Lang for nominating me, and
also the others who suggested I go ahead and pursue this avenue.  I am
submitting the following short note describing why I am interested in
being on the OSGeo board.  This may seem like shameless and unseemly
self-promotion, and in fact I suppose in some sense it is...  Therefore,
I am going to restrict myself to 500 words, and will refrain from any
follow-ups to this list until after the election closes; I encourage the
other nominees to submit their own position statements to the list as

I attended the Chicago meeting in large part because my company relies
heavily on some open source packages and we wanted to see what we could
do to help foster and support their growth.  Also, we wanted to see if
the organization that came out of it would be a group we could work
with, should we decide to open up some code of our own.  In the
subsequent weeks, the answers to these questions has been decidedly
positive, and my company and I are fully behind what is now "OSGeo".

We have now doubled our membership size, and we have an excellent pool
of candidates to fill out the remaining board seats.  However, I'm
worried about the diversity of interests represented by the foundation.
Specifically, while we have great representation from various long-time
OS project leaders and advocates, I worry about generating enough
interest and support from the corporate side of the geo industry (Gary
and AutoDesk being the notable exceptions).  Even more specifically, I'm
worried about our ability to reach out to the significant part of the
corporate community out there for whom open source just means "Linux" --
or, worse, the part that immediately (and unfairly) dismisses as open
source discussions as over-zealous advocacy, anti-IP/patent models, and
GPL poison.

My "agenda", then, is to make sure we reach out to that part of the geo
community that is today just trying to build good products and make some
money -- to get them to understand the business proposition of the reuse
and quality value in existing open source geo packages.  To teach them
that they can use open source internally and within their products,
without necessarily having to give up their IP or open up their entire
product line.  To teach them about the value of submitting patches back,
and to consider donating some money or manpower to these projects.
Later still, perhaps, to consider opening up some of their own lesser
projects, and to go on the record about their use and support of open
source software.

This education can be done in a variety of ways: obviously talks at
conferences and articles in trade magazines are one way.  Informal and
indirect means are often more effective: one-to-one conversations with
people at various levels of corporations can get more attention than a
slide set.  To do this, we would need to prepare materials like talking
points, informal case studies, short white papers, and so on, for OSGeo
members to use.

Having helped move my company from a wholly proprietary model to one
that strategically relies on open source and open standards, I know
first-hand some of the arguments against open source, and I also can
speak first-hand to the fact that open source is not incompatible with
the traditional, closed world.  And so in turn, I'd like help OSGeo help
other companies join OSGeo's efforts.



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