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Open source democracy

Published on Thursday, 12 July 2007
The aim of an open source product is to allow certain freedoms for the end user or client. The aim of the open source community is to allow disemmination of  those  freedoms so others can benefit. Yet it must be asked. Does this allow a democratic community to be built?

Let's take for instance Open Source Matters. It is the legal non-profit entity responsible for handling both the monies and the collateral that is the Joomla! project. So when the new by-laws were published, I was left wondering how closed and exclusive the project actually is.

ARTICLE IV - Community Oversight Committee

The Board will be overseen by a standing committee called the Community Oversight Committee (the 'Committee').

The responsibilities and powers of the Committee are to appoint and remove Members of the Board of Directors of Open Source Matters, Inc.; and to approve amendments to this Article of the By-Laws.

The Committee may exercise its enumerated powers or to elect or remove Committee members.  These actions may be proposed as motions by any Committee member via email to the Committee email list.  This email must include the date and time of the deadline for voting on the motion and must be sent at least seven days before the deadline.

Committee members may vote at any time before the deadline via email to the Committee email list, and this email must contain the email in which the motion was proposed.  Motions will pass if at least two-thirds of Committee members cast votes and at least two-thirds of votes cast are in favor of the motion.  Motions will pass or fail as soon as enough votes have been cast to determine the outcome. Committee members may be elected to the Board of Directors.  A Committee member may not vote on a motion concerning his or her own election to or removal from the Committee.

Notwithstanding any other provision of these by-laws, the President, Secretary and Treasurer each will hold office until her or his successor has been elected, appointed or qualified.

The initial members of the Community Oversight Committee are the following people currently involved in the Joomla! project: Brad Baker, Shayne Bartlett, Levis Bisson, Michelle Bisson, Chris Davenport, Rey Gigataras, Wilco Jansen, Johan Janssens, Alex Kempkens, Mateusz Krzeszowiec, Louis Landry, Andy Miller, Sam Moffatt, Peter Russell, Rob Schley, Marko Schmuck, and Antonie de Wilde.

The Community Oversight Committee, from the standard text here (which was rescued before the pageBox with lock in question was pulled after two years of being publically availble), only seeks to serve the Committee, not the wider Joomla! community.  In all my dealings with the Mambo Foundation, one of the key freedoms I had was the right to appeal a decision. The membership of the Committee can be hired and fired at whim by the key political players on the Committee because, as stated above, "A Committee member may not vote on a motion concerning his or her own election to or removal from the Committee." There remains no community involvement, no oversight and no transparency for an organisation that markets itself as being an open source project.

In this way, Open Source Matters remains a brandname and a business, not an ideology. It might not have been this way when Mitch Pirtle first helped incorporate it as a non-profit, but with these sorts of new by-laws, more and more the focus is on exclusive rights over stuff. That stuff may be who has a voice amongst Joomla. That stuff may be the legitimacy of commercially and non-GPL compatible licenced extensions and the ability for certain Joomla! developers to land grab rights over third party work. That stuff may be who has a voice on the forums and in the Foundation and Legal teams of Joomla.

It's not the only place to be adopting this strategy either.

Open Source Community
, a related Drupal powered community resource focussing on:
a place for those participating in the open source community to come together and share ideas, discoveries, pointers and questions related to open source technologies, projects and community issues. You are invited (encouraged, even!) to join and blog with us. Our only rule is "Please, be friendly!" Thank you for visiting, commenting, and sharing with others.
has since dropped newsfeeds and support for the Mambo project. How open is that ? Nobody said that when you use Joomla!, you have to keep to some form of wedding vows, did they ? There is also significant wreckage across the blogosphere from key members of OSC in regards to their misunderstanding of the role the Mambo Foundation plays, conveying that not all is right in Wonderland.
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