GNU Business Network Definition comments

Shane M. Coughlan shane at
Wed Jun 21 14:14:06 UTC 2006

Hash: SHA256

Sam Liddicott wrote:
> Georg C. F. Greve wrote:
>> There are people presenting "Microsoft Office on Wine" as "Free
>> Software best practice" and they would certainly ask to be listed on
>> any such initative -- most companies understand this to be a very good
>> tool of customer acquisition and thus have a vested interest in being
>> mentioned.
> I think that one step is to recognize the different types of activities.
> Here you have recognized that making closed source software available to
> people moving to open source systems as one type of activity.
> It is a supporting activity.
> Another step will be to classify different activities against these types.
> Here you recognize the MS Office on Wine presentation as such an activity.
> Different types of activities have different degrees of goodness as well
> as different degrees of ambiguity of goodness.

Here - as they say - is the rub.  It's ever so important to make sure
that the defining line between good activities and bad activities is
drawn a the right place.  Companies with a closed agenda will attempt to
apply 'freedom' or 'open' certification and recognition to their
products if allowed.  Loop-holes, back doors and flaws in any part of
the GBN reasoning will be taken advantage of.

This suggests that some ideals need to underpin the GBN concepts:
(1) Any term, reference or certification must be watertight against
misapplication or abuse. Each term, reference or certification must
therefore support both the four freedoms and the Gnu Manifesto without
(2) Within the context of the above the GBN needs to provide a
methodology of entry for firms that currently provide sales, support or
services for software that is not free.  In other words, there should be
a method for ensuring that companies that wish to become free can do so.
(3) The GBN needs to ensure that companies who operate completely
according to the ideals of the four freedoms and the Gnu Manifesto will
be rewarded for their accomplishment.

Perhaps the most difficult matter is (2).  That's where - as Georg and
others pointed out - big nasty holes could appear.  Transition methods
are not something that will be easy to work out.  On the other hand, to
refuse a method of transition would marginalize the GBN in the context
of computing in general and fail companies that have a genuine wish to

> Let there be a lowly level of membership that involves paying money and
> providing information which will be used to provide awards of
> recognition and value. Those lowly members will have provided support by
> giving money to kick-start the whole thing. Membership rules can always
> be tightened a year later to cut out those who are seeking a cheap badge.

I don't agree with the idea of having loose rules and tightening them
later.  I believe the thought behind this suggestion is to promote
inclusion, and that's great, but I further believe that such an action
would undermine the legitimacy of the GBN.  Consistency is very
important and the GBN will be under both close appraisal and pressure
when it is launched.  There are certainly interest groups who would use
any indication of confusion, lack of cohesion or coherency as an
opportunity for criticism.

It would be far better if the GBN had classification problems,
membership remit and organizational structure fully formed before it
goes public.  This would make it easier to sell, would make it more
robust, and ensure that critics could only judge it for what it is: a
network to bring software freedom into the business arena.


- --
Shane Martin Coughlan
e: shane at
m: +447773180107 (UK) +353862262570 (Ire)
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