Bruce Perens

I am running for one of the Individual seats.

About Me

I am one of the founders of the Open Source Initiative and was an initial board member 20 years ago. I was the creator of the Open Source Definitionthe rules for Open Source licensing which OSI still uses. I published my first Open Source program, the Electric Fence malloc debugger, to the USENET newsgroup comp.sources.sun from Pixar in the late 1980's. So, I've been participating in Open Source for about 30 years now - half my life, and it still takes up much of my life every day.

I am active as a member of OSI's license review committee, and helping OSI handle some gnarly political issues that threaten Open Source. Here are my last three license reviews, of licenses submitted by the European Space Agency.

I continue to evangelize Open Source at legal and technical conferences, often as the keynote. At home, I'm working on Open Source for Space as president of Open Research Institute, Inc. (ORI), a non-profit organization that facilitates worldwide collaboration in the development of space systems and other technology that - without careful handling - would be restricted as "munitions" under ITAR and EAR. ORI will apply to become an affiliate of OSI once we're certified as a 501(c)3 non-profit. To support my family, I run a small business, Legal Engineering, which helps law firms and their customers to understand Open Source and to resolve license compliance issues. I'm not a lawyer.

I was the second Debian project leader and successfully split the development of the "core" of Debian among many different developers worldwide instead of a single developer. At the time, nobody knew that you could do that and have the system actually run when it all came together. We succeeded in getting the Debian system on two Space Shuttle flights, and built not just Debian but the foundation of all of its derivatives today: Ubuntu, Mint, etc.

I created Busyboxa set of tiny command-line utilities for the first compact embedded Linux system, as part of the Debian installer. Today, it's in your phone, drone, and wireless access point.

I published 24 books on Open Source software as series editor of the Bruce Perens' Open Source Series of books with Prentice Hall PTR publishers. This was the first book series under an Open Publication License, before Creative Commons existed.

I continue to write Open Source, most recently some packages to help Ruby on Rails developers.

Why I'm Running

I've been very effective without holding any representative position. I'm going to go on doing this stuff whether you elect me or not. But I can do more, and more effectively, on some serious issues if you help me by making me an OSI director again. Here are two important items on my agenda:

1. We're Not Reaching the Common People - People worldwide run your software, but are unaware of its effect on their lives. We need to reach them, so that they understand that there's another path besides having devices that control the user rather than are controlled by them, and are tools for selling their attention and information about them. Can we meaningfully improve the life and liberty of the common person, by helping them to understand what's at stake? Personal devices and the Internet should be tools to enable humanity and increase our freedom, rather than being used to misinform, surveil, and subjugate us. Open Source is the only way to make that happen. But to do the work, we must transition from making tools mainly for ourselves to understanding how to engage the common person as well as, for example, Apple does. That's really difficult for our developers, but we have opportunities to teach them how to do it. How do we start? See "Bruce's Apple Exercise" below to help you develop understanding.

2. The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance - There are some serious problems facing the Open Source community, and there always are, every year. Who is pushing back for you? Maybe not who you think. We are faced with powerful companies and their industry associations that profess to represent Open Source while they work against our interest, like loggers who claim to speak for the trees. They are trying right now to establish royalty-bearing patents in "Open" standards that would prevent the implementation of Open Source that complied with the standard, or its commercial use. They are fighting to make our licenses unenforceable - one country's copyright commission even sponsored a presentation on making Open Source licenses "guidelines" rather than legal requirementsWell-known companies flaunt decade-long infringements of licenses that don't even ask for much, potentially establishing a precedent for courts to further dishonor our licenses. One company and their lawyer sued me for defamation for even daring to blog that they might be violating an Open Source license. I ran up a fortune in legal defense fees, but I'm sticking with the case, to protect the Free Speech Rights of Open Source developers. Against all of these forces, we have our small, poorly funded organizations like OSI that truly have the community's goals at heart, and people like me who try to fund their activities out of their own pockets. We need all of the help we can get.

Can We Talk?

Your OSI board members should be available. The best way to reach me is via email to bruce at perens dot com. You can also leave a message at 510-4PERENS and I'll call back. I live in Berkeley, California, a mile or so from Campus. My weblog is . I'm @BrucePerens on Twitter. I have presences on other social networks, but use them much less frequently. Please use email rather than social networks to contact me. I check email most frequently.

Engaging The Other Individual Candidates

I'm running for an individual seat. The candidates are all great people, and I wish we had room for them all on the board instead of just two seats! We do have room for everyone in OSI, so I hope none of them will be dissuaded by a loss. Thus, this isn't about running against those people. Let's have a policy discussion!

Duane O'Brien thinks that Corporate Sponsors should be Corporate Donors, and puts up a good rationale. Josh Simmons talks about "corporate funded foundations that sometimes distort the true spirit of open source". I agree, and am glad that candidates, and OSI, are brave enough to engage the corporations on our terms, not theirs. Unfortunately, Corporate Sponsors have been the death of some other Open Source organizations. Well, those organizations are still around, but they're as good as dead - more like zombies out to eat your brains than they are working for the good of Open Source.

Molly de Blanc (sitting board member, not a candidate this year) is looking for greater ethnic diversity. I agree, and I am unfortunately another old white guy and can't help it. I can claim to be a religious minority in the U.S. (ethnically Jewish, Secular Humanist).

There's also gender diversity, and Laura Getano is working on that and Samson Goddy has it for a goal. I believe that a gender-unbalanced community is an unhealthy community. Back in 2016 I wrote The Empathy Gap, and Why Women are Treated Badly in Open Source Communities. I present a theory that you may find plausible. I remain interested in how to get more women involved in Open Source and also in Amateur Radio (where there seems to be at most 15% female participation).

This year and last have been years of Woman Power for me. I am privileged to be partner of the inspiring Valerie Gilbert-Perens (currently of UC Berkeley's Haas Business School) since the summer of '91, and with her, parent of Stanley. Stanley is now 17 and a state-certified search-and-rescue volunteer and firefighting student, working the Napa fire and Berkeley ambulance calls, on track to graduate high school with his EMT certificate. Valerie gets lots of the credit for bringing up that great kid. Most of my customers for Legal Engineering are woman corporate attorneys, and there is the amazing All Woman Defense Team (except for one lonely first-year associate) helping me with my lawsuit. A lot of my work over the past few months on Open Research Institute has been to develop an organization to support a woman who develops space communication systems, and when she's not doing that she plays in an orchestra, and is a mom too! All of these women are amazing, and no man can claim these women are less than him in any way.

Josh Simmons is currently OSI's CFO and I hope he's planning on staying even if he doesn't win a board seat. The OSI board can designate officers.

I'm trying to find more to talk about with the other candidates, but there's not much there yet. Just vanilla things like they want to increase membership and funding. OK, that's obviously good for most organizations, but what are we going to do with it? I'd encourage those folks to go back to their pages and write more about policy. Please. There is a lot of policy that we should be working upon.

Open Cars

According to the major automobile manufacturers, the car of the future will have its hood locked so that only the dealer can maintain it, and you'll only lease it, so that the real owner will be the one maintaining the self-driving computer that you won't be allowed to touch. Well, that takes care of the 1%, but what about the rest of us? My research on Open Cars is charting that direction. What if we split the automobile and the self-driving and telematics systems, giving you plugs and standards so that you could buy the car and its guiding computer separately, in a competitive market? My first paper on the topic, written with a law professor at Boalt Hall (Berkeley Law), has been published in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal.

We Need to Have Fun, Too

A lot of Open Source is developed by people on their own time, and even the ones who get paid spend a lot of their personal energy, credibility, and their career direction on Open Source. We need to keep it fun for them, or they won't work. They need to be helped in whatever way they can be, their work needs to be made easier wherever we can, and they need to be appreciated for their work. We need companies to treat them well, not exploit them. So, I lobby and educate in their interest, and spend some time on stage giving them reasons to feel good about their work (like this: do you know just how much Open Source is on the Falcon 9? Actually a lot, and there's even Open Hardware!).

Bruce's Apple Exercise

This is from my work on Reaching the Common People. Try this exercise, if you live near an Apple store:

Go there, look like a normal person, don't sneer. Be polite and quiet. Just sit, stand, or look around. Not by the Genius Bar, but where people are trying out Apple hardware. Look at the people and what they are doing. Try to pick up how they are feeling, what they are seeing and experiencing, what attracts their attention. They're happy and excited, because they are going to be enabled, and their lives enhanced, by all of that proprietary software. Watch how they engage with it, and with each other. Look at the hardware - it's beautiful. It's physically desirable, it indicates status, it makes them want to own it. Consider how those design elements extend to the software. How does Apple's own software appear to the customer? Look at what's visible to the user and don't consider what isn't. The kernel, utilities, and what language they program in aren't important to the customer, they don't see that - only the user interface, how responsive the computer is, how well it works. Look at how Apple promotes itself. It says something completely different to their customers than what it probably says to you. Put yourself in the Apple customer's shoes, and try to see and feel what they do. If anyone asks what you're doing, it's marketing research.

Then, take that home and help us appeal to people just as well. Because if we can do that and give them freedom too, we win.

Amateur Radio and Open Source

I am a Radio Amateur, with callsign K6BP. Ham radio was the first Internet, actually a steampunk Internet with spark transmitters and electron tubes at the start, and has had a tradition of open innovation and sharing of designs since the 1910's. So, it's fitting that I approached Linux and Open Source because I was trying to make software for radio hams.

I was founder of No-Code International, which lobbied for the end of Morse Code examinations as a criteria for ham radio licensing. This required that we modify a treaty of the International Telecommunications Union (a UN organization) to allow all of the member nations to remove their Morse Code requirements. We were successful, and as far as I am aware all nations other than Russia removed their Morse Code requirements. This resulted in an increase of licensed Radio Amateurs in the United States, with the result that more people actually use Morse Code on the air today than any time since voice and text replaced the manual telegraph. So, everybody won. We also headed off what looked like the impending death of Amateur Radio as members aged out and the ranks of hams diminished. Today I remain active on Amateur Radio policy. Here's my most recent chat on Ham Radio Now.

I have been active in evangelizing Open Source digital voice communications, founding the Codec2 project and recruiting the main developer. Today, we have an Open Source voice codec that can use as little as 700 bits per second, and our FreeDV delivers good quality voice using as little as 1.2 KHz of bandwidth on HF radio, using both an Open Source codec and Open Source softmodem.

Relationship of Open Source and Free Software

Open Source is standing on the shoulders of Richard Stallman and the Free Software movement which he created. Richard deserves our honor. My intent in founding OSI was to promote the idea of Free Software to business people in a way that they would understand, in the hope that many of them would eventually develop sympathy to Richard's presentation. And many have! Open Source licenses and Free Software licenses don't have any fundamental differences. We're working for the same thing. Those who try to split our camps in two don't understand what we're about.


I worked at Pixar, joining as employee number 62 or so, before they ran out their non-compete with Lucasfilm and could be an animation studio again. I have a credit on Toy Story II and A Bug's Life, and am featured in the documentaries Revolution OS and The Code Breakers. I left Pixar after 12 years there and 19 years in the film industry, to work full-time on Open Source.

Created by Bruce Perens on 2018.03.01 at 15:32:18 PST

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