FOSS Community, Microsoft And Reconciliation

Posted by dcparris on Sep 11, 2006 6:23 AM EDT
LXer.com; By DC Parris
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LXer Feature: 11-Sep-2006

Neil McAllister calls on the FOSS community to drop the fortress mentality and work to build bridges with Microsoft. That's kind of like saying an abused wife should hug her husband just because he brings her flowers. Maybe Microsoft really is changing, but LXer's Don Parris suggests watching to see what they are holding in the other hand.

Abusive Relationships

Let's start off by acknowledging that I have never been an abused wife. As a man, it would not only be impossible, it would be downright embarrassing if it were. Secondly, as a husband, I can say I have never abused my wife. However, I am all too familiar with abuse and with the process of reconciliation. Based on a recent article by Neil McAllister, it is sadly apparent that he either lacks familiarity with the relationship between the Free/Open Source Software community and Microsoft, or with the process of reconciliation.

Try to picture, for a moment, a couple of ladies sitting around chatting. The one breaks down in tears, crying about her husband's abusive behavior. She describes how her husband talks down to her at home, how he frequently accuses her publicly of things she never did - never even thought to do. She tells how he constantly threatens to haul her into court, and even threatens her friends if they try to help her. And then there was the time when she gave clothes to the homeless shelter for anyone that needed them. Oh, how he raged that he - and he alone - should have given the clothes!

Try to picture the response her friend offers. Well-meaning, she says, "There now. Look, your husband has brought you flowers! He even has a beautiful set of earrings. Go on! Give your husband the hug he deserves! He really is a good guy. He just gets a little frustrated - that's all. It will get better! He'll change. Honestly." Then the news stories a day or two later describe the bloody beating the wife suffered as she died. They quote the dear friend regretting that she ever suggested going back to the husband.



The FOSS Community And Microsoft

Microsoft has a serious problem. They abuse everyone. They abuse their competitors. They abuse their so-called "partners". They even abuse their customers. They would probably still be abusing their own employees if Bill Parish hadn't blown the lid on their accounting methods. Sadly, most just cower in fear of the great bully. Shucks! Many even play the role of the abused wife - returning to the abuser, no matter how badly he treats her. After all, whatever it is, it must be her fault. She has to make it right. And since Microsoft frequently brings flowers (or makeup and perfume) to cover up the damage, then Microsoft must be changing. They really are this time. Honestly.

That is not McAllister's only point of short-sightedness, either. McAllister claimed that Microsoft never attempted to equate "shared source" with "open source". I believe it was Jim Allchin who essentially attempt to co-opt the term "Open Source" in reference to "Shared Source". While Allchin should not be of much concern to the community any longer, the fact is that Microsoft's upper management have a way of "talking tough" and playing dirty. Even if their minions seem to be presenting bouquets of flowers, the heart of the company still wants nothing more than to beat our community to a bloody pulp. Until the upper management at Microsoft changes their tone, there is no hope for reconciliation.



One-Sided View Doesn't Help

I had a fair amount of respect for Neil McAllister until today. In his article, McAllister is calling on the FOSS community to "to set aside their pride, recognise (sic) their place in the larger software market and start working to build bridges, rather than fortresses." Nowhere in his article does McAllister suggest that Microsoft should change its behavior. Nowhere did McAllister suggest that Microsoft should stop abusing others. Nowhere did McAllister suggest that Microsoft consider making a public acknowledgment of the way it has treated the FOSS community. In his view, Microsoft has the flowers; therefore, we should go back home.

I'm sure McAllister just wants the whole ugly affair to be over. Don't we all? However, since the process of reconciliation calls for an acknowledgment of wrongdoing and a change of behavior, and since neither has actually occurred, all I can say is, we're waiting. Our community did not start the abuse. We did nothing to deserve the abuse. I'm glad McAllister is a technology writer and not a marriage counselor. I would never counsel an abused wife to return to her husband until he has demonstrated a change in his behavior.

If, and when, Microsoft acknowledges their wrong conduct, and changes their behavior, I'll be the first to step forward and recognize it. I'll even beat Richard Stallman to the handshake of reconciliation. Microsoft will have to show more than a handful of flowers, though. It's what might be in the other hand - the one behind their back - that concerns me. Call it a fortress attitude, but everyone has a responsibility to stop abuse and to protect others from it - and yes, even to call the abuser's bluff.

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
If you're going to use the metaphor... dinotrac 27 1,904 Sep 12, 2006 6:57 PM
There are two Borgs in the software industry Teron 9 1,839 Sep 12, 2006 7:16 AM
denial galore tuxchick2 0 1,641 Sep 11, 2006 1:02 PM
The McAllister article... d0nk3y 0 1,488 Sep 11, 2006 12:57 PM
Good points robert 0 1,620 Sep 11, 2006 8:49 AM

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