July 27, 2007 by jimstogdill
The Power of Brand: OSI?
I attended a talk the other day at OSCON that has stuck with me; it was a discussion of naming and branding around open source called “who gets to decide what open source means?” As a corallary to this discussion, the OSI was selling (giving away with donation) tee shirts complete with a nice logo and naturally, there was a lot of discussion of their crackdown on abusers of the open source nomenclature.
On one hand I agree with the basic premise here, that if you call your stuff open source and then never actually open the source bad karma is in your future. But on the other hand, there is something a bit quesiness-inducing about all of this.
First off, there is at least a subtle irony in seeing a group of copyright libertarians using trademark and copyright to protect their brand. Not that there isn’t value in it, but it seems a bit like a gangster rapper, after a career of singing “$%## the police”, starting to make angry calls to the local precinct demanding increased neighborhood patrols once he has a nice house.
The other thing that is weighing on me is this idea. If the OSI is successful in developing this brand, it will be really valuable. Valuable things attract attempts to influence (think Congress). Couple this with a vote-based subjective decision process for OSI vetting against the criteria; and you have a system that seems idealistic and good now; but will most likely be subverted later. These self-appointed holders of the brand will have to be very careful to incorporate mechanisms and incentives for protecting the brand that are better and more powerful than the very strong incentives to subvert it.