Website look

Mark S. Miller markm at
Tue Apr 30 08:01:18 UTC 2002

>Lex Spoon <lex at> said:
>> you worry that businessmen will equate "open source"
>>and "OSI", but that hasn't even happened (yet?) among us technical

Hi all, I'm Mark Miller, and I run an open source project over at .

Lex, my perception is that this has indeed happened among both technical and 
business folks.  

I would also argue that this is a good thing, but that's a separate matter. 
Briefly, the term "open source" is a line in the sand.  If the term weren't 
made institutionally stable somehow, then interests on one side of the 
slippery slope would rapidly dilute all meaning out of it.  I was at a weird 
closed (!?!) meeting where Bill Joy was trying to sell various leaders of 
the open source community on the acceptability of the ancestor of SCSL.  If 
OSD hadn't pinned down a set of clear criteria, Bill Joy would have simply 
trumpeted this license as "open source" and the word would have lost all 
meaning. We have seen this over and over again with words that were coined 
to make a needed distinction, like "nanotechnology".

Note that this logic places much higher value on drawing a clear line and 
sticking with it than it does on getting the line right.  Just like we draw 
a line on "adult" at 18.  It's clearly arbitrary, but an arbitrary simple 
stable line is better than the mess that would result from trying to be more 
accurate.  This is the thresholding of the world into categories that rules 
can apply to, just as an A-to-D converter thresholds the world into 
categories that digital logic can apply to.  In both cases, the important 
thing is to remove ambiguity by making arbitrary choices.  These choices 
don't remove actual ambiguity from our understanding of the world, but they 
enable disparate parts of a system to coordinate with each other in reacting 
to that world; since they can react to a shared abstraction of the world.  
Those who care about open-source need a shared distinction more than they 
need a good distinction.  That said, I think the OSD has done a great job at 
creating a decent distinction.

In any case, I've read section 6 of SqueakL and don't understand the problem 
with it.  I tried looking at the squeak archive, but it's no better indexed 
than mine ;), so I wasn't able to find an explanation of the problem.  If 
this has already been hashed out, then please respond to me privately rather 
than on the list.

At 11:05 PM 4/29/2002 Monday, Cees de Groot wrote:
>You seem to be thinking that "free software" as a term existed before the FSF
>used it, and similarly that "open source" as a term existed before (who?)
>coined it.

It was coined by Christine Peterson, the head of the Foresight Institute, 
cc'ed on this email.

>[...] there are many organizations out there who would like to ride the
>open source wave but would also like to avoid paying their dues to the
>community, and when we ('we' as a bunch of guys who are clearly on the
>right side of things) start diluting the term ourselves, we cannot blame
>all sort of sleazy types to do the same.

Indeed!  Further, we do their job for them.

Text by me above is hereby placed in the public domain


More information about the Squeak-dev mailing list