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Interview: Simon Phipps

Simon Phipps will give a talk about "A new OSI for a new decade" at FOSDEM 2012.

Could you briefly introduce yourself?

I'm a digital liberty activist who has been privileged to have spent nearly 30 years involved in all sorts of interesting developments in the 20th and 21st centuries. I've spoken before at FOSDEM, when I worked for Sun, primarily to announce liberation of Sun's Java implementation under the GPL. I left Sun on the last day it existed in the UK, and have spent the last two years with a startup. I'm now entirely independent, consulting and speaking on software freedom and how it can transform business and society. There's a load more about me at if you're really interested!

What will your talk be about, exactly?

For the last two years I have also been a director of the Open Source Initiative, where my focus has been the rebuilding of OSI as a member organisation directly representing the interests of open source developers and users worldwide. My talk will explain the history and potential future of OSI, probably with a load of photos and references to essays on

What do you hope to accomplish by giving this talk? What do you expect?

I hope that FOSDEM attendees will see OSI differently, will share my excitement for what me might all achieve together with it and will want to join in once it opens up for membership later in 2012.

Why exactly did OSI decide to reorganize its governance from a board-only organization into a member-based structure? How will this new governance allow OSI to address its mission better?

As you'll read at its website, the Open Source Initiative is a non-profit corporation with global scope formed in 1998 to educate about and advocate for the benefits of open source and to build bridges among different constituencies in the open source community. Despite the breadth of that mission, it has focussed almost exclusively on approval of licenses as compliant with the Open Source Definition. The Board felt that it was time to return to that initial mission and work on the broader goals too.

We hope that as a consequence of the switch to a member organisation, OSI will be able to educate, advocate and build bridges as well as continuing as a "standards body for licenses". Our success opposing CPTN's attempt to buy Novell's patents (among other things we did in 2011) has given a hint of the force that could be unleashed for software freedom by having a neutral and uniting venue for education and advocacy.

Can you tell something about the first steps that have been or will be done to reorganize OSI's governance? And in which ways can individuals or organizations become involved with OSI?

That's the subject of my talk! You'll need to come along and hear the news on the day! And we'll be announcing how individuals and organisations can become involved during 2012, starting February 4th at FOSDEM.

Have you enjoyed previous FOSDEM editions?

Very much. I am a regular FOSDEM attendee and think the chance to meet both socially and collegially with members of a wide range of open source communities is absolutely vital. I'd almost go as far as to say that you can't truly be an open source project in Europe without being represented at FOSDEM...

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This interview is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Belgium License.