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Saturday, 23 January 2016 15:15

Linux Foundation chief spins to justify keeping community out Featured


Linux Foundation chief executive Jim Zemlin has made a disappointing response to the reports about changes in the by-laws of the Foundation designed to prevent community representation.

Confronted by facts that show clearly that the Foundation has made changes to block out the community, Zemlin (seen above) has tried to spin and talked about irrelevant aspects of the debate around the issue.

iTWire could not have made it more plain when pointing out the changes in the by-laws; they were marked in bold. Zemlin ignored everything and instead created a few straw men and then addressed them.

His statement began with a straw man: "The same individuals remain as directors, and the same ratio of corporate to community directors continues as well."

Nobody has said anything about a change of directors, but the latter part of Zemlin's statement is just plain wrong. How can the ratio be the same when the community was earlier allowed to have two directors and now cannot have any?

Zemlin then went on to claim that the Linux Foundation's move is in keeping with other FOSS organisations that are also cutting down on community representation. This again is incorrect, another straw man. Would he care to name the organisations he claims to be trying to emulate?

The major part of his statement talks about the abuse directed at Karen Sandler, the head of the Software Freedom Conservancy. Zemlin's changing of the by-laws was widely seen as a move to keep Sandler off the board as she is a passionate supporter of the GPL. The Conservancy is funding a GPL enforcement action against VMWare, a silver member of the Linux Foundation, and this is seen as a major reason why Zemlin has concluded that the fewer community members on the board the better.

In discussions around the web, there has been mention of the way the GNOME Foundation ran low on funds when Sandler was its head. Some claim that this was because more money was diverted to the outreach programme for women. Sandler has earned some flak for this.

And so Zemlin became a knight in shining armour to defend what he characterised as a damsel in distress. Wow, he really went heavy on this.

The fact that most of the code for the kernel comes from developers employed by this company or that appears to have turned Zemlin's head and made him determined to ensure that only non-controversial people occupy the decision-making spots on the Foundation.

The owner of Canonical, Mark Shuttleworth, the man behind the Ubuntu GNU/Linux, has taken a similar approach and found that it just doesn't work to his advantage. If Zemlin continues to try and humour the corporates ahead of the community, something will give.

Zemlin's predecessor, Stuart Cohen, was head of the former Open Source Development Labs, and came a cropper soon after he started referring to the organisation as the centre of gravity of Linux. The community is the centre of gravity, nothing else. Disregard that at your peril.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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