A different take on the Banshee/Canonical conflict

The latest drama sweeping across the open-source world is Canonical’s decision to redirect affiliate profits from music bought in the Banshee music player from 100% GNOME to a 25%/75% split (with Canonical receiving the majority). Nearly everyone has come out against this, but I disagree with parts of their argument. Also, everything I’ve seen has involved verbal wrist-slapping instead of concrete action, so I’m going to propose some possibilities.

“Open source” doesn’t mean “open source until someone makes a change you don’t like.” The whole premise of open source is that anyone can make any changes they want, they have the freedom to fork, and nothing restricts their actions besides copyright. Do we have a right to be angry at people who take advantage of the freedoms we’ve offered them? I don’t think so, but I see where people could disagree.

But what options does that leave anyone who wants to change the situation? Here’s a couple:

  • Banshee has a trademark; enforce it. Make Ubuntu change the name of its music player to something else. This would involve talking to lawyers and definitely takes this confrontation to the next level. If Banshee doesn’t already have legal contacts, its developers might contact the GNOME Foundation and work through them, or get in touch with SFLC or another legal team of their choice. If you want your code used in Ubuntu, maybe the name change is enough. But you’ll obviously lose the name recognition.
  • Banshee developers could treat Ubuntu as an unsupported configuration and refuse to work with affected users. For this to have any chance of working well for Banshee, it must require its developers to consistently place the blame on Canonical every time problems get reported, to preserve Banshee’s reputation. However, if you don’t support Ubuntu or its users, remember that most bugs aren’t specific to Ubuntu so you’re also hurting yourself. Furthermore, this could provoke Canonical to drop Banshee altogether and switch to a different player. I’d expect Canonical’s decisions to be based on a combination of usability, access to upstream support, and revenue, so its choices will likely try to find a balance of those factors.
  • Banshee developers could use rational approaches to convince Canonical its existing terms are inconsistent with the broader software world. OpenSUSE community manager Jos Poortvliet made a great point:  “Even Apple doesn’t take more than a 30% cut from people who ship applications through their App Store.” However, this is the next level beyond that; Apple’s recent move to take a 30% cut of subscriptions, books, etc sold via App Store applications is far more equivalent. And this move, even by Apple, is seen as largely negative, but they’re staying the course much like Canonical. If I were Canonical, I’d ask myself how much my users love me compared to how much Apple users love Apple, and adjust my portion of the Banshee revenue accordingly.

I favor the third approach, but you should always keep in mind the best alternative to negotiation, so everyone on both sides of the conflict knows what will happen if negotiation fails.

BarCamp PDX: Business 101 session

Much smaller group this time … about 15. People from 2-person startups, Microsoft and anywhere in between. Some from tech, some from biz, some consultants … I’m here to think about what it takes to start my own business (not now, but who knows?).

Issues: growth, fundraising

How do you decide where to take your business? Where do you get the info?
– Personal experience of making and watching mistakes, not so much market research
– Customer surveys, combined with a newsletter asking for feedback and building community
– Build community so customers do marketing for them
– Tiny percentage responded to newsletter, 15-50 of 4000
– Targeted survey to 150 users (of 4000) got about 50% response rate
– How do you connect others’ business experience with your business?
– Enterpreneurs’ forum
– CEO roundtable: get small biz owners together over meals
– Successful people in business meet, swap ideas that worked, discuss biz plans & needs
– Business Enterprise Center: incubator provides space, mentorship
– Bring in various experts in legal issues, accounting, etc to talk
– Choosing to build a business around yourself and your reputation vs a company reputation
– Even the name of your company depends on this
– Lifestyle business (you can leave whenever you want) vs having employees, etc.
– The people are the value, when they leave there’s no value left
– Small companies working with small companies or big companies?
– How do you build a consulting business that isn’t a lifestyle business?
– Growing without relying on just your personal reputation
– Locking into models
– If the model requires a certain technology, it can’t last forever
– Flexibility
– Do what you’re good at
– Outsource finances, etc. Time vs money
– Your time is best spent on your expertise
– You drop way too much time on things you’re unfamiliar with
– In the same way, use the tools you’re familiar with
– CFOs from big businesses can run small biz into the ground
– They don’t understand the urgency of time and the shortness of money
– Online database of information and experience from other owners?
– Trust issues
– My thought: show me the data, and I can draw my own conclusions (i.e. Fred Brooks)
– Ratings? Wiki-like model?
– What questions do you need to ask for a business plan? A list … inspires thought

BarCamp PDX: Collaboration in Communities session

Dawn Foster, one of the BarCamp PDX organizers, is facilitating this discussion. She’s interested in how people build communities.

How is collaboration changing within communities? Moving from mailing lists, newsgroups to blogs, wikis, forums …

Face to face (F2F) interactions build more trust than you get online.

How to bring non-technologists into online communities? Knitting is one of the biggest of these.

People treat each other differently F2F than online. Educating newer generations in social norms, cultural differences, etc all play a role.

How do you find forums moderators, e.g.? Let people who might want to contribute know where you need help. Not just technical but someone to set the expectations for community norms. Important to create a sub-community for the moderators.

Communities self-organize their structures more than being placed into a hierarchy.

Network weaving: intentionally creating tighter and more connections within groups. People apparently do this for a living?

Building a strong community, from a corporate standpoint (or any project), means that people have got your backs when bad PR comes up. Give trust to your community, and they’ll reciprocate. Companies have done this forever as product advisory councils, which also provides a beta testbed.

Building an internal corporate community is required before you can build a strong external community. And letting your internal engineers or whatever hear real customers firsthand sometimes makes the difference. Connect the creators to the users.

Business models move more toward ecosystems and away from your traditional corporate structure. Away from a two-state system and toward a spectrum — no longer just producer vs consumer.

When do bloggers become marketers? Are they still impartial if some company pays them to blog about its products? Does it matter?

More stuff. Funny relevant comic at http://xkcd.com/c256.html