Sunday 21 August 2011 by Bradley M. Kuhn
I realize nearly ten days after the end of a conference is a bit late to blog about it. However, I needed some time to recover my usual workflow, having attended two conferences almost back-to-back, OSCON 2011 and Desktop Summit. (The strain of the back-to-back conferences, BTW, made it impossible for me to attend Linux Con North America 2011, although I'll be at Linux Con Europe. I hope next year's summer conference schedule is not so tight.)
This was my first Desktop Summit, as I was unable to attend the first one in Grand Canaria two years ago. I must admit, while it might be a bit controversial to say so, that I felt the conference was still like two co-located conferences rather than one conference. I got a chance to speak to my KDE colleagues about various things, but I ended up mostly attending GNOME talks and therefore felt more like I was at GUADEC than at a Desktop Summit for most of the time.
The big exception to that, however, was in fact the primary reason I was at Desktop Summit this year: to participate in a panel discussion with Mark Shuttleworth and Michael Meeks (who gave the panel a quick one-sentence summary on his blog). That was plenary session and the room was filled with KDE and GNOME developers alike, all of whom seemed very interested in the issue.
The panel format was slightly frustrating — primarily due to Mark's insistence that we all make very long open statements — although Karen Sandler nevertheless did a good job moderating it and framing the discussion.
I get the impression most of the audience was already pretty well informed about all of our positions, although I think I shocked some by finally saying clearly in a public forum (other than identi.ca) that I have been lobbying FSF to make copyright assignment for FSF-assigned projects optional rather than mandatory. Nevertheless, we were cast well into our three roles: Mark, who wants broad licensing control over projects his company sponsors so he can control the assets (and possibly sell them); Michael, who has faced so many troubles in the OpenOffice.org/LibreOffice debacle that he believes inbound=outbound can be The Only Way; and me, who believes that copyright assignment is useful for non-profits willing to promise to do the public good to enforce the GPL, but otherwise is a Bad Thing.
Lydia tells me that the videos will be available eventually from Desktop Summit, and I'll update this blog post when they are so folks can watch the panel. I encourage everyone concerned about the issue of rights transfers from individual developers to entities (be they via copyright assignment or other broad CLA means) to watch the video once it's available. For the moment, Jake Edge's LWN article about the panel is a pretty good summary.
My favorite moment of the panel, though, was when Shuttleworth claimed he was but a distant observer of Project Harmony. Karen, as moderator, quickly pointed out that he was billed as Project Harmony's originator in the panel materials. It's disturbing that Shuttleworth thinks he can get away with such a claim: it's a matter of public record, that Amanda Brock (Canonical, Ltd.'s General Counsel) initiated Project Harmony, led it for most of its early drafts, and then Canonical Ltd. paid Mark Radcliffe (a lawyer who represents companies that violate the GPL) to finish the drafting. I suppose Shuttleworth's claim is narrowly true (if misleading) since his personal involvement as an individual was only tangential, but his money and his staff were clearly central: even now, it's led by his employee, Allison Randal. If you run the company that runs a project, it's your project: after all, doesn't that fit clearly with Shuttleworth's suppositions about why he should be entitled to be the recipient of copyright assignments and broad CLAs in the first place?
The rest of my time at Desktop Summit was more as an attendee than a speaker. Since I'm not desktop or GUI developer by any means, I mostly went to talks and learned what others had to teach. I was delighted, however, that no less than six people came up to me and said they really liked this blog. It's always good to be told that something you put a lot of volunteer work into is valuable to at least a few people, and fortunately everyone on the Internet is famous to at least six people. :)
Meanwhile, I want to thank the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring my trip to Desktop Summit 2011, as they did last year for GUADEC 2010. Given my own work and background, I'm very appreciative of a non-profit with limited resources providing travel funding for conferences. It's a big expense, and I'm thankful that the GNOME Foundation has funded my trips to their annual conference.
BTW, while we await the videos from Desktop Summit, there's some “proof” you can see that I attended Desktop Summit, as I appear in the group photo, although you'll need to view the hi-res version and scroll to the lower right of the image, and find me. I'm in the second/third (depending on how you count) row back, 2-3 from the right, and two to the left from Lydia Pintscher.
Finally, I did my best to live dent from the Desktop Summit 2011. That might be of interest to some as well, for example, if you want to dig back and see what folks said in some of the talks I attended. There was also a two threads after the panel that may be of interest.
Comment on this post in this identi.ca conversation.
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