Open Collaboration Changes Everything...including SPDX

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Submitted by Phil Odence on April 1st, 2014

The theme of the Linux Collaboration Summit was: Open collaboration changes everything. (You would know this if you saw the back of my new hoodie.) It will sound sappy, but I was never prouder to be associated with SPDX as I was during the cross function legal discussion on Friday morning, one that can only be characterized as collaboration at its best.

We’ll publish the output of the session, but in essence we were formulating the new license expression language. Mark Gisi, the standard-bearer for the idea, led the discussion and did a terrific job facilitating, and left plenty of room for inputs from virtually every one of the twelve or fifteen folks in the room.

As is often the case, this one seemed completely straight-forward to me at the outset. And, in fact, we quickly got to agreement on making “+” an operator rather than a part of license names. When we got onto handling exceptions, however, we started identifying manifold dependencies and implications, and it became clear that tradeoffs would be required.

To inform our decision-making we really needed every perspective represented in the room: Lawyers, developers, practitioners, theorists, tool developers, SPDX users, etc. The discussion was spirited and there was occasional talking over one another, but all were highly respectful of others positions. I myself was, at one point, completely convinced of the “right” approach and advocated it passionately, only to later pulled a 180 as I better understood all the implications. And, I'm confident was not the only one who found themselves digging out of having been dug in.

With about 25 minutes to go, I bit my tongue when it was my turn to talk and Jilayne elbowed me out of the way to summarize where we were. It was obvious to me at that point, that we would have consensus in a number of important areas, though clearly not complete consensus on the complete answer. And then somehow, magically, a minute and a half before lunch, the approach about which we’d been circling came into sharp focus for everyone in the room and we agreed. We took a pole to verify, and there it was, we had complete consensus on this very gnarly issue. I lead a chorus of Kumbaya as we exited the room. OK, not really.

Lessons learned: 1. We rock. 2. Periodic face-to-face meetings are really good. 3. We rock.