[OSGeo-Discuss] Chickens, Boards and Export Restrictions

Arnulf Christl arnulf.christl at wheregroup.com
Thu Jun 12 08:56:45 PDT 2008

every now and then governance issues pop up in lists and on IRC. I will try to summarizes some of them for those of .us who do not follow all OSGeo communication that closely. 

One critique is that the board of directors does not make decisions easily and quickly which could be seen as a weakness (chickens) [1].

Another critique is that some members of the board block decisions due to philosophical[2] musings. It was suggested that in some cases it is better that the board take decisions even if they might be objected to by parts of the community. 

Some have argued that part of the sentiment underlying this kind of talk is a North American centric view of the world, namely this included Jo, Markus, Me, Myself and I. I for one get this feedback on a regular basis from parts of the German speaking community. This sentiment has lead to a lot of discussion within the GaV which is the existing German FOSSGIS community, a legal entity incorporated in 2001-01-18. It was felt that OSGeo (Main?, Int'l?) was too US (North American) centric in its mindset. 

What do other "local" communities think about this? And how do you voice your opinion? Do you have a legal representative within OSGeo to voice your concerns? How do you go about this?

I believe that some of the sentiment and philosophical musings that has lead to the Board not being very decisive in some matters is actually a good sign and shows that the board is conscious of the mission impossible she has taken on trying to represent the highly diverse community of all Geo-FOSS folks in the world. 

>From my perspective OSGeo (intl, Main, HQ, ?) should try to be the meta level organizational umbrella and should thus also refrain from meddling with local issues as best it can. This includes by far and large all commercial activities. I can only foresee many unresolvable problems coming upon us if we do start to go commercial. 

Whenever we say We, we must be conscious of who We are. The danger for people "steering" OSGeo is to confuse Me with We. Its so easy: you only have to flip the "W" in We to make it turn into a "Me". 

Ugh. This looks very much like a Warnock[3]. My hope is that someone will share some more insights from another perspective. I'd like the board and the NA cabal and all see that there *is* a rest of the world - and that incidentally the others are always in the majority. 

Anyway. Another triviality we need to address are export restrictions. Due to formal reasons OSGeo was required to incorporate[4]. It could have been Togo - home of one of the most active and diverse spatial communities[5]. Or it could have been Switzerland, one of the most neutral (soccer looser) nations or it could have been Canada, home of our president, ED and some of the best software developers OSGeo can muster and also home of our beloved elephant in a porcelain shop[0]. But instead, she incarnated in the US, the most backwater place imaginable wrt Open Source. Looking at the goals and mission of OSGeo it would have been more logic to incorporate on Earth but funny enough that is not a legal entity suitable for incorporation. It is an undisputed fact that Web communities are spatially unrestricted [6] If .us does not understand this - who on Earth ever could? From this world wide perspective US Export Restrictions are ridiculous and nothing but. But from a legal standp
oint - and OSGeo (Int'l, Main, US) is one of our legal incarnations - We do have to abide by these laws and need to develop a policy [7]. The good thing is that this is enough. We are not forced to enforce it by scanning IP's and similar crap. The way Open Source works makes it impossible to control. This has also been recognized by the BIS (painful insight that must have been). Plus we do not have to reinvent the wheel but can follow best practices by Apache, Debian, PostgreSQL, and the like. Therefore it will also not be required to consult lawyers. And it is not a political issue that OSGeo wants to solve for the rest of the world. Warnock. 

Best regards, 

[1] http://logs.qgis.org/osgeo/%23osgeo.2008-06-09.log around 15:26:15
[2] http://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/board/2008-June/002555.html
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warnock%27s_Dilemma
[4] The inadvertent creation of "The MapServer Foundation" in Delaware, USA is the precedent: http://www.osgeo.org/content/foundation/incorporation/osgeo_certificate.pdf
[5] http://lists.burri.to/mailman/listinfo/geowanking
[0] http://dict.leo.org/ende?lp=ende&lang=de&searchLoc=0&cmpType=relaxed&sectHdr=on&spellToler=on&chinese=both&pinyin=diacritic&search=wie+ein+Elefant+im+Porzellanladen&relink=on
[6] http://arnulf.us/Blog on TLDs and location
[7] http://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/US_Export_Restrictions

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