New Tempest, Same Teapot

Yesterday morning before I went of to work I received an e-mail from Dave McLoughlin, the manager of the OpenLogic Expert Community. It was a pretty standard form letter along the lines of:


The reason I’m contacting you is because I’m looking for help supporting $PROJECT; we have a customer who is using $PROJECT and would like us to provide support.

Since this was sent to my Sourceforge account address, I figured that OpenLogic had spammed the admins of a number of projects, and sure enough, all of the OpenNMS admins got the same e-mail.

Now this didn’t bother me all that much. I get spam all the time and this was just another example of same. The tone of the e-mail was similar to any other sales pitch I’m likely to see, and the fact that he had done zero homework (it isn’t hard to find out that we already have a commercial venture supporting OpenNMS) pretty much indicated that they had harvested names, projects and e-mail addresses from Sourceforge without context. I just added it to the pile of e-mail from recruiters that start off with “I see you know computers. I have clients who need people who know computers” and the relatives of dead rich people who need me to hold on to some money for a bit.

However it really pissed off two of our team, and one even wrote to Sourceforge asking that OpenLogic get dumped from that site for violating the terms of use:

section 4(b) and 4(c):

Prohibited activity includes, but is not limited to:

(b) transmitting chain letters or junk mail to other users;

(c) using any information obtained from the web site in order to contact, advertise to, solicit, or sell to any user without such user’s prior explicit consent;

As I was thinking about this I wondered if this would be considered an example of “open source oversensitivity”. Outsiders might think we are a touchy bunch, but I don’t think, on the whole, we are.

Everyone has buttons, and in this case I think the tone of the letter was pretty condescending, which might have pushed a few. Some people think that open source software can’t be as good as commercial software, and when you here phrases like “take that payment in cash or merchandise,” “$25 gift certificate … just for signing up,” and “receive an iPod” it comes across more like Bob Barker than Bob Young.

My own buttons get pushed occasionally (okay, more than occasionally) but I don’t think this is inherent to open source. Recently Berkay Mollamustafaoglu found out the hard way when trying to introduce an open source project to the Netcool Users list. It appears he was within the acceptable use policy but got booted anyway.

Which reminds me, does anyone remember the Perl-based open source webUI to Netcool? I think it was called “gnomnibus” but I can’t find it on Google. It was shut down by the author’s employer when Micromuse complained.

On the whole, I think the communities around closed source tools are even touchier than the open source ones. At least with open source, community building is a stated goal, and thus dealing with issues of structure and etiquette are common. Closed source communities are more cliquish. On the OpenView Users list I was called a “communist” and accused of putting people out of work with OpenNMS. To some change sucks, while others embrace it.

So, was OpenLogic out of line? Did anyone else who admins on Sourceforge get the same letter? Enquiring minds want to know.

3 thoughts on “New Tempest, Same Teapot

  1. Yeah, I’ll admit I probably overreacted a bit, but considering we’re in the middle of a GPL violation battle where people are using our code for their own gain without giving back to the community, I’m a bit touchy about people wanting to *use* the community without *joining* the community.

    We worked our asses off to make OpenNMS what it is, and to build real community around the project, but now that it’s mature, suddenly all of these other folks want to come in and get quick cash off of it without really contributing as a part of that community.

    It feels like any time something becomes successful, you get a bunch of Amway folks wanting to build their own personal pyramid out of it. 😛

    Anyways, thanks for the cooler head. I promise not to call the cops on them. =)

  2. I’m not sure it was an overreaction, and I hope that’s not how the post came across. It’s just that I’ve found in open source people tend to feel strongly about things (hence working on “free” software) and I’m always curious as to what sets them off, myself included.

  3. Gomnilist? It’s still up on sourceforge. I so agree BTW, I think alot of people are oversensitive. Mangeeks are often like women, “Wait what did you say? I cant believe you said that, and I thought you cared!” 🙂

    “Closed source communities are more cliquish. On the OpenView Users list I was called a “communist” and accused of putting people out of work with OpenNMS. To some change sucks, while others embrace it.”

    That’s awesome haha! To be honest though, them calling you a communist is a stretch, as forcing everyone to use a overbloated thing like OV is not very democratic. “You will use this and spend tons and tons of cash for the worst support or we’ll break you knees.” I spent my time in the monitoring hellhole of OV/BB/Netcool/BMC and quite frankly, opensource is far superior, because well quite simply put you’re actually proud of your product and want to see it perform right. In summation, good jobs guys keep it going, hope to see lots more features down the road.

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