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Amanda Brock is the CEO of OpenUK an organization that promotes the use of open source software, hardware, and data in the UK. Amanda has a deep background in open source dating back to the time she was the general council for Canonical. The HOSS talks with Amanda about her background, the business of open source, licensing, contributor agreements, FOSS growth in the UK, and more! Join us for the great discussion on all things open source.
Amanda BrockCEO, OpenUK
Amanda is CEO of OpenUK, (@amandabrockUK @openuk_UK), representing the business of Open Technology in the UK. That’s open source software, open hardware and open data”; OpenUK; European Representative of the world’s biggest defensive patent pool, the Open Invention Network; OASIS Open Projects' Advisory Council Member (open source and open standards); Advisory Board Member KDE; Charity Trustee Creative Crieff; and a member of various commercial and start up Advisory Boards including Mimoto as well as mentoring C Suite individuals.
Amanda has previously been the Chair of the Open Source and Intellectual Property (IP) Advisory Group of the United Nations Technology Innovation Labs; CEO of the Trustable Software Engineering Project, focused on solutions to risk in Open Source Software; a member of the UK’s Cabinet Office Advisory on Open Source; General Counsel of Canonical, one of the world’s biggest open source companies and the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, setting up the global legal team and running this for 5 years. As a senior lawyer she worked across a range of sectors including hardware, mobile, ISP, data centre and digital financial services in Emerging Markets. She has worked internationally since 2000 across EMEA, US, AsiaPac and Emerging Markets, based out of both the UK and Amsterdam.
Amanda has contributed to the leadership and strategy of a number of businesses and multi-organisational collaborative projects, and Open Source initiatives. She has expertise in Open Source software, collaboration across businesses, developing product and strategy, risk, governance, and compliance, IP, Standards, Circular Economy, contracting and commercialisation in digital and provides consultancy and advisory services. She’s worked in digital transformation since 2000. Amanda was a member of the Open Stack Drafting Committee during its set up in 2012 and has a long-standing engagement with and understanding of the platform economy.
She is a regular international keynote speaker, podcast guest and panel member, and author covering digital, business and revenue models, Open Source, policy and legal issues, with a particular focus on open for good. She writes regularly for both academic journals and the tech press including Information Age, The Reg and CBRDigital. She is an Executive Editor and co-Founder of the Journal of Open Law Technology and Society (formerly IFOSSLR), a Fellow of the Open Forum Academy and a guest editor of an IEE Special Edition on Open Data to be published in January 2022.
Amanda is the Editor of the book, Open Source Software: Law, Policy and Practice”, 2nd Edition, to be published by Oxford University Press in October 2021 with open access sponsored by the Vietsch Foundation and contributed to by 20 leading figures in open source.
Listed as one of 20 CEO’s to Watch https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6777656310428135424/ her profile can be found at Linked in: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amandabrocktech
Matt Yonkovit: I’m here with Amanda Brock, the CEO of OpenUK. How’re you doing today, Amanda?
Amanda Brock: I’m doing great. Thank you. And thanks very much for having me along.
Matt Yonkovit: Ah, we’re glad to have you. So welcome to the HOSS Talks FOSS podcast, we like to highlight all of the awesome things happening in open source. And we know that you have a deep background in the open-source space. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came into the open-source area?
Amanda Brock: Yeah, yeah, I joined a, I would have said a small company, but actually, now quite a big company called canonical February 2008. I was employee 165. Back in the day. And I went into canonical as a lawyer with a commercial corporate commercial background, I’d done quite a lot of tech work. But I didn’t know so much about open source. And I joined canonical to set up the legal team to run the legal team. And then sort of spent five years falling in love with open source and learning every day, something new about it.
Matt Yonkovit: So wait, so coming from the commercial space into open source. That’s a rough move. I remember my first experience in the open-source industry, and especially having come into a company like MySQL AB it was so open, it was so like, transparent. It was scary. You know, those first few months? I mean, I don’t know, from a legal perspective, I can only imagine.
Amanda Brock: Oh, yeah, totally. I mean, I, we had a few incidents. In my first few months, there were frankly, somebody would publish, what a normal company would have kept proprietary and quiet and internal, or advice I’d given even. And I’d be sitting there going just somebody explained to me what the hell just happens here? Why did he do that? And it was a very, very steep learning curve. And to be honest, over the time I was there, I spent more and more of my time teaching other lawyers and trying to engage with commercial people who are procuring open source to take them on that same journey to get them to understand you sort of having to unlearn the things that you’ve been taught to learn the new. You don’t let convince? You really do you really do. So even if you think about copyright copyleft is upon on copyright. And it’s kind of the opposite of the mirror image of what you’ve been taught as a lawyer. So you really have to develop an open mind and try to look at things differently. And I think it’s not just for open source, I think the current the current state of play in the digital economy, if you really want to understand it, being open to new ways of doing things and alternative models and revenue streams, etc. It’s absolutely critical.
Matt Yonkovit: Yeah, absolutely. And I know, like there’s, there’s not only the legal aspects, there are the cultural aspects, there’s just getting used to that environment, I had a similar case, I remember the first day when I was at MySQL AB, they were having the debate on going open core not. And it was in a company-wide distribution channel where email was flying back and forth. And the CEO was being called all kinds of funny names. You know, and I was like, Oh, my God, who’s gonna get fired on my first day, nobody got fired. It was that open, kind of like collaboration, that openness. But you saw that even back than the movement to open core to try and do that monetization strategy. And that really became the de facto standard for a long time, where you had GPL, and you had an enterprise version that was under a more restrictive commercial licence. In now that started to evolve and change a bit more. So now we’re starting to see us delve into other alternative licencing. And a lot of it is coming from the cloud, according to a lot of vendors. And I don’t know if I buy that 100%, but I’m curious on what your take is there.
Amanda Brock: I’ve just written a book chapter on this topic about commercialization and revenue models and open source. Yeah, I don’t think you knew that. So we have coming out in September, and it has the very catchy title of free and open-source software law, policy and practice. Oh, okay. Oh, I know, I know. It says what it does, it says what it does on the tin. But it’s quite exciting. Because it’s a second edition. I’m the name on the cover as the sole editor, something that won’t happen twice because I had no conception of how much work that was going to be. You know, next time, they’ll be multiple names. But it’s been a really interesting journey. And one of the most exciting things about the book is its open access. So when that comes out in September, we’ll be sharing loads of information around the legs of open from many of the leading experts, but also their staff and community and governance and open-chain and all that good stuff. So I’m rambling on about the book. Not answering your question. For me, when I started to think about my chapter, I’d written the same chapter nearly 10 years ago for the first edition. And a lot of the authors were really lucky, they could just update bits and pieces. I had to start from scratch because it is entirely different. If you look back at 2008, I think it was four or five, one had done a report about open source that included companies like Oracle, so it wasn’t truly open. And I think they looked at 144 companies, and they were talking about the models and what worked. And there’s a very limited range of models that would work, right, if we’re really honest about it. And then I had joined canonical around that time, I think the report came out end of 2008. And as part of my learning curve, but whilst I was in canonical, there was this big shift. And the shift was obviously cloud. And my view is that we were one of the first companies that went through that. So as a chap called Simon Wardley was our cloud director. And we went almost overnight with Simon’s lead from a very small percentage of the cloud instances to being over 70%. And it was just about overnight. Do you think our revenue shifted in the same way? No, we hadn’t planned our model to build it around that infrastructure. And it was a bit of a surprise, I guess. And a lot of the conversations you hear about trademarking things. Now, those are very specific to one particular instance, one particular case of an organisation in the cloud the merits of that case is something entirely different. But if you look at your trademark, and if you look at the services that are provided around open, in a sort of on-prem environment, or an enterprise environment, it’s entirely different, right, you’ve got a whole load of add ons that you can sell, or upsell, you’ve got a whole load of a different set of configuration implementation type pieces that you can work on. Even basic support, which you just don’t need in that cloud environment. And it made a massive shift in the models and in the industry, I think. But it’s not something that’s new. We were seeing that back in 2010, so 11 years ago, and the report that came out and became sort of the industry standard, explaining what those business models were, it was widely distributed, it was at all the conferences like Eclipse and stuff back in the day people knew what the range of business models was. And there’d be debates about things you could add, but they all were fall under the same categories, whether it was support, whether it was engineering services, subscription, which is slightly different. So I don’t think anybody should have been massively shocked, in 2016-17-18-19-20-21, to find that cloud uses open source in a different way.
Matt Yonkovit: And why like, when you talk about that, that and you mentioned that there are only a few models that you see that actually work. Can you maybe expand and like, tell us a little bit about what those models are that you’ve seen, yeah, be successful. Why don’t we have one of them, but I’m curious perspective,
Amanda Brock: Sometimes. Now you hear about abundance, the ubiquity. So what really happens for open source is that you have this opportunity to scale. I think HashiCorp talk brilliantly about it, where they talk about setting up a project never really meaning to set up a business, and then suddenly, it scales into something huge. And it does that because you’ve got the engineering community, the world has shifted. The developer has a different role, the engineers will go and procure direct, except they don’t have to procure it just go and help themselves in a GitHub or git lab environment. That open repo piece changes everything and allows them to bring without going through the traditional and often restrictive procurement processes open into business. So you have this massive, particularly early-stage opportunity to build in the scale of something like Kubernetes could never have been achieved without it being open. I think everybody would acknowledge that. But then you’ve got to work out how am I going to generate revenue behind it. And it tends to be three or four things. And those tend to be added on engineering services, building something to give a first-mover advantage, looking at traditional support and looking at subscription. And both Red Hat and SUSE would tell you they’re subscription-based, which I think is interesting. So you have the biggest company in the world in terms of open-source, biggest tech transaction history with Red Hat, definitely subscription. I’ve always said that I thought they were a unicorn because they followed that model for such a long time. And they’re so close to the kernel that there’s a sort of stickiness there that I wasn’t sure anybody else could have. Whereas SUSE will tell you that they’re doing the same thing. And I’ve never got deep enough into it to know whether I could challenge that. But it looks like they probably are and they’re now the biggest independent open source company. So I think that the ultimate model, if you can get into that subscription position, is definitely subscription. Because once it’s in there, it’s in there, right? It’s just gonna keep renewing, it’s just gonna keep ticking over. I think support and engineering services, bespoke engineering services are much harder to settle. But there’s also in the last decade, something that I think really works for open, and that’s building the infrastructure on it. So when you can get these massive collaborations in place, I think Marco boom, The Economist describes them as continuous, non-permanent, non-differentiating collaborations. So you get a bunch of companies together, they want the same end goal, they work on that same end goal, they bring together engineers, they bring together finance, and they create something that they don’t need to differentiate on. Effectively, they’re out doing the standards bodies, right. And they’re creating a de facto standard. And I think that the facto standard is one of the main pieces that we’re going to see going forwards. And then there’ll be a bunch of things around it, probably not far off the kind of CNC F model that we’ve seen, where you have a core piece of technology that’s critical. And then a family that supports that. And when you have that family, there are opportunities for the organisations that are building those individual pieces, either to upsell them into something bigger, like we saw with rancher and SUSE or maybe to build their own revenue streams and continue separately, but probably around that kind of support piece, which is definitely harder than the cloud. Like going back to your original question of cloud, and stopped me from rambling too long about this, but that Clyde piece is really where the revenue at the moment is. And that’s where all the controversy has been. So I’m gonna let you ask your question, and then come back to what I was gonna say to you.
Matt Yonkovit: I was gonna actually expound on that. So it’s good. So you know, because you mentioned that this, this the shift in the cloud, and you could see it coming in as early as 2010. It really started to pick up steam in 2016. But yeah, it is the de facto revenue model, there’s a couple of things, especially from a legal point of view that that continue, go back and forth, right? You see that a lot of it’s, especially in the database space, that the vendors are saying oh, these cloud providers are strip mining, open-source, they’re not contributing back. But the licencing allows people to run these as a service. And that’s where a lot of these licence changes, whether it’s as SPL, ESL the comments clause eight, I mean, there’s many different ways that they’ve tried to get around this, over the years, I think, even starting with AGPL, to try and prevent this as well, you’ve seen this evolution where I liken it to really a, a big money grab personally. But while the market has shifted towards people wanting easier access to their technology stack, developers being more in charge to be they want to be able to control that. And so the Cloud enables that, that easy access to that technology, you see that these other vendors have provided the tools but don’t know how to monetize it because as you said, the support model doesn’t really work. Even the subscription models a little more difficult in the cloud. Because the cloud providers like to say, it’s fully managed it you don’t have to do anything, you never have to buy a support contract ever again. So it does create that friction point. And so how do you see that like, now, it’s with that kind of structure kind of taking for place where you’ve got the cloud providers providing the service that people want, but they’re doing it with licences, that they’re allowed to do it, but these other vendors don’t know how to monetize? They don’t know how to fix that.
Amanda Brock: Yeah. So I think there’s a whole load of stuff from what you’ve just said to unpackage. And if we start with the licences, I’m glad you’re acknowledging that the licences allow it, because that’s been one of the debates and pressure points in this whole conversation. And I think I would say that open source was never designed to be a business model. Right? It was. G, it’s a social movement is all sorts of things. But nobody ever said, here’s a business model, take it. When I left canonical, I worked in a law firm for a couple of years. And I was too early stage, which is why I didn’t stay and I was too early stage, because all I wanted to do was open source. And people would come to me and they’d say that they wanted to build an open source business. And I would explain to them that if they release their code open, somebody else can take it and use it. How do you feel it? You know, there’s this even amongst really good lawyers, I hear this misconception all the time. And I think it comes from Creative Commons where you can have non commercial and you can have a creative like a Creative Commons licence that allows documentation itself should be used but not for commercial purposes. And that really serves academia well. But it doesn’t exist in open source. And it sort of goes against the grain and the whole point and purpose of open source to do that, because you can’t different you can’t the words gone, or you can’t discriminate against somebody, for a field of use, or in technology, you have to make it open for everybody. So even if you’re trying to do it with good intentions, you cannot discriminate. And we’ve seen discussions about ethical licencing, that kind of thing. So it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, you still can’t do it. So what that means is, if you’re a business person, you go through if you’re sensible, the what-if conversation that I would have, and my conversation was what if you release this open and someone else uses it? What if you release it open, someone else uses it and makes a tonne of money. And you can see the lip began to tremble they weren’t quite so happy about that as a business model. And it’s what if that happens, and you make nothing, or they find a better way of using it, and they take your code. And you have to have the stomach for it to get into the game. If that’s what you have to know what your revenue model is. And be confident that that’s going to work if you’re going to open source your code, and you want to make money out of it. Bottom line,
Matt Yonkovit: And I think this is where it’s it’s interesting. So I think that there are many companies out there, who the founders might actually get into the open-source market and choose an open-source licence because it does fit their personal beliefs. But I think as soon as the investor start rolling in, that’s where I think the problem runs headlong into the business problem is yeah and I’ve seen this where from an investor prospective investors see the download numbers, they see the audience the reach of some of those open source. And, look, I’ve got 10 million downloads this month, how can I monetize that? And I think that that’s the kind of process people go through. from an investor perspective, it goes against the grain when you’re talking from the pure open source side.
Yeah, and I was on a panel with Gradle founder. And he made the interesting point that nobody should tell you, you can’t make money. And I totally agree with him, right. And if open source is a way that you think you can make money, or you can make it fit, and lots of companies do, that’s great. Obviously, the more investment you take, as a startup, the more you’re diluting. How many that the bread at the table has been diluted amongst many of you at that stage. And the more investment there is, the more people want a bit of that, that loaf. I think that that is the driver for a lot of the issues. But I don’t think it is a sustainable model to see companies continuously having an investment and letting their communities down. And you would have seen the same response as I did to elastic. And we probably need to go into a bit more detail about that. To go back to your questions about licencing. But what elastic did was they have shift from the Apache licence open source to the SSPR licence. Now, I’ve been ticked off on Twitter, for calling SSPR proprietary, which I thought was really funny, because there are these big proprietary companies who are quite happy being proprietary and have made a lot of money out of it. You know, I don’t think they consider a dirty word, certainly a dirty word if you’ve been disingenuous, and you’ve allowed people to believe you’re open. So if everybody is honest, if everybody’s straightforward, if everybody has cards on the table, it’s not a problem. You choose to be proprietary or proprietary, you choose to be open, you’re open. Where I think the problem has come is for whatever reason, and you could be right, it could be that the founders thought it was fine when they started but there is a shift with VC investment. Where that problem comes is when you can’t generate revenue because others are able to use your code for free. And that’s not it is an open-source issue. But if you go back to the strip mining you were talking about, and you look at the New York Times piece on that from I think was December 2019. And I was really surprised to see that because to me, it was like, Hey, open sources in the New York Times. But if you read the article, it doesn’t actually talk about open source particularly, it’s talking about the service layer in the cloud environment and small companies not getting to sit at that table not getting their share of that service layer. Now, Matt AC has been talking a lot about a third way. I would call it a public source. I think I’ll just call it a shared source where you can have code that is open but is not open source. So it doesn’t have an open-source licence doesn’t meet the Open Source Definition isn’t on an OSI approved licence. Right now that is proprietary, there is no way around it. So if you wanted to create this third way, as I’ve said to Matt, you would have to go in and create a movement, create the licencing getting engagement, it’s going to cost a lot of money in somebody is going to have to drive it. And I actually think what we’re gonna see is something totally different. I don’t see anybody actually starting that process there. You know, there’s a lot of talk about SPL and things and we’ll come back to that and the common scores. But I think what’s actually more likely, is that this isn’t just a low resource problem that we’re taking on what’s happening as the service layer is closed. That’s where you get locked in. If you’re a client-vendor. It’s where you get locked out if you’re a small company trying to engage with customers in the client space. And I think we’ll see the regulator’s looking at it in the next 12 months. They’ve spent a lot of money and a lot of time working out how the revenue streams flow. And you know, bit by bit you were seeing them moving towards it. But I don’t think it will take the regulator’s I think the client companies are really smart, they’re really astute. You don’t scale businesses the way they have, without knowing what’s coming around the corner. And I suspect that we will see them increasingly opening that up. And I know that Google, I think it was April 2019, started doing deals with a revenue share. I believe Amazon did one AWS did one with Grafana. And the run-up to Christmas. I believe there are more I haven’t seen names behind those. But I suspect it will gradually open up in that collaborative way, in the sort of model that we’re used to as collaborative open-source people. Because if it doesn’t, it will be forced. And actually, the whole third way, and the public source shared source thing will go away because it won’t be relevant anymore. When I first started to deal with this, I did think and I publicly said we should go back and look at the OSD and look at revisiting it. Because I’m pretty open-minded, right? And I don’t think you know, Bruce Perens did not come down from a mountain with a tablet with the OSD carved on it.
Matt Yonkovit: There are millions and millions of people relying on that as a certainty. And I think it was Deb Brian at Red Hat, who’s on the OSA board who first said it to me this is really dangerous thinking about that I went off and I thought long and hard about it. She’s right, it doesn’t make sense to shift it, it just would create a ridiculous level of problem. But the reason I mentioned that is it’s not like people haven’t thought about it. And I tried to engage with it. There’s a group of open-source lawyers, there’s not that many of us in the world you’d be surprised to hear. But we all know each other. And there is a group and we discussed it, and they’re just didn’t interest. You know, people don’t want to go off and build it. Maybe Matt and others will go and raise money to do I don’t know. But I think that the concept will be redundant before he even starts.
Amanda Brock: Yeah, I think I think sometimes these ideas float in and out just to see what kind of traction or uptake they can get. I mean, I don’t I don’t see that as gaining popularity. And I think really, from an SSP perspective, that’s what they’re trying to do is, oh, this is source available, it’s kind of you’re trying to try and make it that way. And I know that there are some other funky licences, that people have come up with that, that doesn’t fit that. But I wanted to get back to something that you said about you know, that there’s push and the the the vendors saying hey, eventually they will collaborate. And I agree completely, just because let’s be honest, the revenue that Mongo or Elastic has made because the cloud is there is greater than they would have made without the cloud. Yeah, they require one another, can work together and be collaborative in the future. Right? It’s just, they have two licences aside, right, like, they wouldn’t have been as successful without each other. And so I think that that codependency will, will drive things. And hopefully, my hope is that the next generation of open-source developers don’t look at an SPL or don’t look at more proprietary licences as the de facto standard, and then start their projects with it. That’s the danger right now, in my opinion. Yeah. You mentioned this idea behind revenue, and I did a FOSDEM talk on the death of openness and freedom where I see open source being under attack. And in that, I talked a little bit about the revenue side, and I talked about shareholder value trumps all, but it’s interesting because the argument when you talk about oh, well, these open source vendors are not seeing the money that they need, or they’re not getting a piece of the pie. Here’s the thing. They’re making money. They’re making hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s just not enough to satisfy investors. And I think that’s a key thing because it’s not like any of the executives or any of those companies are starving. It’s not like they’re struggling artists they are making they are making money. None of them is profitable though. Because part of their business model is to go out there and overspend. Right, they pay for customers. And we’ve seen a pattern, especially in these open-source companies that start as open, or start more open, as they get more restrictive, it is more and more as the gap between profitability and revenue grows. Right. So as they start losing more money, they start to become more restrictive. And you continually see this. Now, it’s interesting, because some people call it out, as the CEO of MongoDB, that they’re like, we did not get into open source because it was collaborative, because we wanted contributions because we wanted any of the community stuff. We got into it because it’s a freemium model. And people could try it, and then it would drive additional business.
Matt Yonkovit: Yeah. Now, they haven’t been able to monetize that yet, in a way that’s profitable. Now, their stock price is outstanding. But they’re a company that is making less and less money, which is an interesting dynamic and elastics in a very similar boat. Elastic and Mongo actually have very similar top lines, right, where the revenue is very similar. But the profitability, the margins that they’re making are very low, because of their sales and marketing costs.
Amanda Brock: Yeah, I guess we’re in a world where it’d be you know, much more about that than I do in that whole database piece. But I guess we’re in a world where a company’s value isn’t necessarily measured in profitability. Right. And that’s the kind of shift that we were talking about that right back at the beginning when I was saying that as a lawyer joining an open-source company, you have to unlearn what you know, I think there’s a lot of unlearning around economics as well. It’s something for OpenUK, we issued a report last week. And we’ve used the existing numbers and terms of developers, we’ve used the existing formula on things like total cost of ownership, we’ve used existing economic principles. And we come out with multiple different values for open source and the UK economy looking at GDP. And they go from something like 14 billion to 41 billion Sterling. So you could write that in dollars for me probably 50-60 billion, it’s a lot of money for a country of 60 million people. And we have somewhere between 126,000 and a couple of 100,000 developers, I would guess in the UK, so we’re really a bit of a centre of excellence for open source, pretty much unsung. But what we want to do now is take a totally different approach. And we want to look at the uptake of open source. And then we want to try and work out value the value that that’s generating. So moving away from this GDP focus total cost of ownership worked 10-20 years ago on-prem at work, because that’s what the big software companies you’re competing with, used. Now the value is entirely different, I don’t think you could look at lines of code to value something. So there’s going to be a really interesting process for us. And we’re going to work globally and collaborate and try and create something that others will use. And then for our own next stages of our report will sort of then focus down locally, and come up with figures but create something that hopefully will become a standard across the industry if we get the right folks behind it contributing. And for me, that sort of educating our government educating our business folk to the importance of open because I want to see them invest in it. I want to see them invest in it both through laws and policy, but also in their business spending with an understanding of how important it is. And it’s sort of leads on to what you were saying about education. So I think we’ve done the generation behind as a bit of a disservice, right? For developers who grew up after 89. After the Linux Kernel, we just kind of assumed that they would get it. Whereas those of us a little longer in the tooth. We went through a process where we were rejecting an existing system. We didn’t want copyright we didn’t want or we didn’t get away from copyrights and misstatements, but we didn’t want proprietary. We wanted to move to this open licencing. And it was a choice and an understanding and for some a battle and a war. And we just kind of expected the next generation to get it. And that was wrong. It wasn’t fair. They’re not going to just get it and you also can’t throw war stories down someone’s throat. It’s the last thing they want. Yeah, second the day when I was hearing Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Can you believe we’re old enough to be saying that to people, it’s awful? Anyway, so what we’re doing is we’re starting with school children. Ages sort of 11 to 15. And we did a camp last summer we gave away glove kits that are based Based on the BBC Micro bit, the open-source micro bit, which allowed children to do a course, and we gave away 3000, we hope to do more this year. But we’re, we’re not just teaching them to code. We’re teaching them about open. So this year 10 lessons, each lesson is themed on one of the OSDs. So one of the Open Source Definition is very cool. Whereabouts we have a guest.
Matt Yonkovit: Oh, yes. Okay. Open Source. That’s okay. That’s okay. But here’s the thing. And this, this is interesting, because, again, you mentioned that open source is not a business model. And I think that open source is closer to a social movement, it’s closer to something that is designed to help the world get better to stimulate innovation, and you know, and through that, then you can have the economic opportunities you look at some of the most profound technological advances in the last 10 years or 20 years. And almost all of them have the open source at the core, you talk about the cloud and how disruptive the cloud, the cloud does not exist without open source. The web does not exist without open source people using Facebook and Twitter, all open source behind the scenes. And in fact, Facebook is one of the largest contributors to open source projects, they like to tout the number of lines of code and the number of projects they’ve contributed, and things because they realise that by giving away things, it can make other people better, and other people can support and help build what they’re building. But everything that we cherish today has an open core root to it. And some of the world’s largest companies were built on open source, and built around that. And it was because it enabled that innovation, I like to use the example of when I was starting out, in the database space you had Oracle, your SQL Server, your DB2, a couple of others mixed in. And as a college student, if you wanted to use those for any sort of project, Oh, guess how much licence fee that is? Right. And so it completely shut that down. And having the capability to have whether it was Postgres or MySQL, or one of these other databases, and then being able to get an Apache Web Server, and to be able to use Perl, and CGI, and like or PHP later on, it enabled you to do things that would generally cost so much money, they were outside of your reach. Yeah, totally. And, and that inspired me it inspired countless 10s of 1000s of others, to develop and innovate the next generation. And throughout my consulting career, I’ve I started as a consultant. So my job was, I would parachute into a place and fix their databases, and their, their web servers and stuff and make sure that they ran correctly. But I look back at things that I influenced. And it was, it was crazy, how many different applications or different situations that were influenced by work that I did, or that colleagues of mine did. YLinkedIn, for instance, we have a gentleman who helped LinkedIn with some stuff Facebook, we’ve worked with for years, Twitter, Amazon all these companies are companies that over the years, have hit scalable issues. And the community, the open-source community has embraced changes and helped fix and overcome those problems.
Amanda Brock: It’s really interesting. And I agree, it’s a social movement, and a lot of very hard not to get swept up into All right, and to get caught up and to meet your friends and to live a lot of your life around at once you engage. It’s definitely a social movement. I think it’s also a collaboration methodology. And I think that methodology brings together highly intelligent people who want to achieve the same goals. And we’ve seen that go from being really tech-focused, starting with the open-source companies becoming more general and tack. And now with digitalization, and I think this is only being accelerated with a pandemic, we’re sort of seeing it become the submarine under the Digital Ocean. And it’s what we want to draw out in our next phase, we’re going to do a survey for a report. And we’re going to trick people into admitting they’re using open source by asking different questions in different ways because we really believe that a lot of people don’t understand that they’re using it. And that it’s really important to create that understanding. Not just because you know, it’s You were saying the internet’s based on it social media is based on it, the clouds based on it, we’re looking at AI and ML going forwards and whatever we haven’t even thought of yet. And it’s all going to be based on it. But it’s only going to be based on it if we find ways to feed the developers, right? If they’re starving on street corners, they ain’t going to be building your code. And that’s about sharing. And that’s going back to what we were seeing with the revenue models and opening up the service layer in the client environment. Because at this moment in time, that’s the bit that needs fixing, I’m quite sure with AI and ML will be something totally different. And we’ll have to work it out all over again. But I also think that is the beauty of this community that you have this openness, we have these conversations, we’ll collaborate, we’ll work together. And we’ll try and have influence collectively. And I think it’s pretty much because we’re doing the right thing. But there’s also this compelling business case that if something is needed, and whether you are selling gasoline or petrol to a car owner, or you’re an energy company providing an Eevee charging point to a car owner, whether you’re selling the snacks that go into their vending machines, whatever it is, every company is using technology, therefore every company is using open source. So you really need this to keep going. And you need to reduce the number of different versions of everything there. You don’t want to take away choice, you don’t want to take away the competition, but you want to create a few good products that underlie low down the stack and most stacks, as opposed to having everybody going off and spending the same amount of money, creating multiple versions of things that just fall away over time.
Matt Yonkovit: Absolutely. Now, you mentioned your organization OpenUK and the work that you’re doing in different schools. What led you to find that like, where did that idea come from? How did you start to move into that? And what’s your goal? Where are you taking it?
Amanda Brock: Oh, God, that difficult questions.
Matt Yonkovit: Oh, I asked the other licenced ones were easy.
Amanda Brock: Oh, my goodness, my goodness. Okay. So the organisation existed before I joined, but it hadn’t really done much. And I was able to come on board and shape it, which is why I joined. That combined with Brexit, about Brexit is not a common answer and open source for you guys. But there was a lot going on across Europe, there’s good engagement at the moment in the commission. And I was deeply concerned that the UK had been absolutely world leading 10 years ago with our policies. And not a lot had happened. And I’d obviously developed this passion for open and I wanted to see that post Brexit. And as part of this bigger geopolitical shift stuff that we’re seeing across the globe, there’s a real danger that if people don’t stand up now, and work together and make sure this collaboration keeps happening, that politics will get in the way. And none of us can afford that to happen. If we want to have the right technologies in place in the future, we need to make sure that we can keep collaborating globally, and in the ways that we do and have at the diversity that we bring. So that really inspired me to get involved. When it came to the kids piece, we sort of worked out three pillars. So we work on the three opens open source software, hardware data, as well as Id data, is at the heart of everything these days, hardware and software are hard to differentiate sometimes. So we brought the three opens together, we started to do activities, and they fell into three pillars. So we bring the community together. And we’re not like a traditional organisation, that’s an industry body. We look at the business of open in the UK. So anybody involved in any level, in any way in that business, whether they’re working for a company in China, or the US or whatever is welcome to participate. So anybody interested in open, so we bring that community together, and it’s huge. And with that power, that influence that that community can have, we look at legal and policy. And we’re getting really good engagement with government. Now, I have to say I’m really delighted with that. But to ensure your community of the future, you’ve got to look at education and learning and make sure that the right skills are coming through. So it was kind of a no brainer for us to engage with kids. We want to create a high school certification and we want to do a learning piece for apprenticeships. But we had to start by building some credibility. So we organised a competition last year and Pandemic shifted what we could and couldn’t do with a little bit of money left and we repurpose that into creating a course you’d love it. It’s animated it’s 10 lessons 10 minutes long. If you’re like ADHD like I am, you know you can focus with 10 minutes is great. And it teaches digital skills but what we found was we actually had more girls than boys and I really it was the approach using the glove kit. The kids glove kit is based on one that Imogen Heap and Ariana Grande use So you’ve suddenly got these musical heroes that are away from software, except they’re not because it’s a software glove that I think really engaged girls. So yeah, it was really exciting.
Matt Yonkovit: Very cool. Yeah. Yeah. And I mean it’s cool what you’re doing locally in the UK and that it’s that’s opened up. And I know that each country has their own policies, their own thing, but we’re in a truly global economy with all of this technology being globally influenced. And so that’s always a challenge. You know, not only how do you grow what, what the UK is doing, but you know, globally and how do you how do you ensure that the policies cross borders and and how do you make sure things that work in one location work and others? I mean, that I can imagine that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done across not only local governments, but global bodies? Yeah, no, I totally agree. Amanda Brock: I was chairing an advisory board for the UN, for their innovation labs, the labs of nightclothes. So the advisory went, but we were doing some really good work globally there. And it fits very well with the SDGs. And with the digital principles, digital principle six requires everything to be open. So I think we’ll see more and more of that collaboration. From an open UK perspective, we also joined a lot of international organisations we’re in the OSI, Linux Foundation, Eclipse, etc, just to make sure that we keep working globally. It’s very much about thinking locally, but then collaborating globally. We should go back to SPL, that we really didn’t discuss it.
Matt Yonkovit: We do, we do. But I because there’s actually two things that I was thinking that we can kind of move towards and close. So I am curious especially with SPL and the changes as we start to move to these new licences, a whole bunch of things need to be rethought. And one of the things that’s near and dear to my heart, especially being a contributor to open source for a really long time is contributor licences. And you think about like elastic, and they had some 1600 contributors, who overnight went from Apache to a, what is a closed source licence? I’m curious what your thoughts are on that. And then what’s your your general thoughts on SSPs? I’m laughing because back in the day, I lead an industry project called Harmony. And I got a really rough time over it. I really got really funny. Oh, yeah. You’ve not done your research.
I really, really had a hard time, because I go to Google right now.
Matt Yonkovit: Yeah, exactly. No. So it’s an interesting one, I think there was a real concern that I was from Canonical, and that we were going to shift to assignment. And actually we didn’t, and we never intended to so I think I’m probably forgiven for it by now.
Amanda Brock: With the contribution agreements, I think it’s really important. We have to have a level of clarity from a governance perspective. And if I’m asked No, I will say that my base understanding and this didn’t really exist when we were working in harmony. I think Richard Fantana, Red Hat, really came up with it as licencing licence out makes the most sense. Some lawyers will argue that you need to have assignment because you have to have it in certain jurisdictions, you have to have everybody agreed to be able to bring litigation. It’s not everywhere. And I don’t think it’s enough. So I think an inbound licence is enough. I definitely would never say assignment. The problem with the contribution agreement in the format that you’ve seen with elastic is exactly what you’re talking about that you have 1600 people who signed up to a contribution agreement doing something that they thought was innocuous, and now it’s proprietary. And that’s really not what they’re committed to. Right. And then that that is the problem. It was always the concern. But you know, you’re really seeing it happen with these VC backed companies now. So I would suggest that licence in licence I possibly using the DCO, the developer certificate originality that the Linux Foundation championed, and which is used for the Linux Kernel, I think that’s probably a good way to go at this point.
Matt Yonkovit: Okay, and so now we can move that we talked about one of the outcomes of SSPL, why is the SSPL bad for open source and bad for business?
Amanda Brock: Oh, that’s a bit of a statement. I don’t know if it’s bad for business, if it’s your business, what I think about it, and what I think is bad about it is that it has been sort of window dressing. It’s probably a nice way to put it. So commons clause, SSPL, I think the school fair licencing they’re all lobbying for this third way that we talked about earlier. But they’re not being really clear and transparent with people. So I was a lawyer for 25 years, I can assure you that I have worked on a hell of a lot more This proprietary than open in those 25 years. But I have never come across a proprietary licence that had its name, and had that name public. Because that implies the commons, that implies something you share. And whilst it’s not a bad idea to standardise proprietary licencing. That’s not the goal here. It’s about creating a suite of proprietary licences and sort of passing them off to people as if they’re open, right. It’s a little bit sneaky. And I really have a problem with that. I think it’s fine to have a proprietary licence. But just be clear. If you look at the website around the commons clause, even today, it says you should not call this open source. It doesn’t say it is not open source. Right. And that’s just wrong. And for the the OSI to come out and make a statement, that a licence is not open, is unheard of. Right? It the fact that it was causing so much confusion they felt they have to do that really says it all?
Matt Yonkovit: Well, it’s interesting, because I have seen that even even Elastic has said, we’re no longer open source. But they change it to we’re open. So they drop the source part, but leave the open. Yeah. Which is it’s just a weird thing, because it is a bit of a marketing spin. I think well, if OSI won’t certify will still be open. But in a different way. So it’s trying to redefine the word open. And take that as much broader meaning?
Amanda Brock: Well, it’s an interesting one, because they always say I don’t have a trademark on it, right. They don’t have an open trademark. And I think if it had been applied for earlier before, it became something that was in common usage, they probably would have got it. But you can’t trademark something that’s already in common usage in that situation. So things like the term Hoover which we use here to mean vacuum. You know, they lost its trademark over time because it became common parlance. And it’s such a pity because you have Elastic pursuing a trademark claim against AWS on one hand, and then on the other sort of playing around with something that really ought to be trademarked. We have a concept of unregistered mark here in the UK, I don’t think the US has. And to me, it sort of feels like that we should regard open source as an unregistered trademark. And we should stick to what it means and just be really clear on it. And I think again, we have to take ownership and responsibility. As a community, as a sector as an industry, however, you want to categorise us. And we all need to get behind this. And just be absolutely clear and what we mean by it. And that when anybody talks about open in another way, that’s not open source. And here is what open source is. And if it’s open in another way, you’re not going to get the same benefits whether you’re a VC or anybody else.
Matt Yonkovit: It’s a good idea. So Amanda, let me give you the final say, so is there something else that you would like to talk about? We’ve got a little bit of time left, I want to, um, what else can we talk about? Well, I’m not trying to force you know.
Amanda Brock: I’m just thinking we’ve covered a lot. Um, we have it’s been a fun hour so far. So book, do you want to talk more about the book? Is that interesting? What would you talk about? She says, the question.
Matt Yonkovit: No, we have covered quite a bit of ground, I think. Yeah, I think we’re, we’re probably good. Yes. SSPL. Yeah. And we’ve talked about licencing changes. So and we talked about OpenUK and your mission and what you’re trying to do.
Amanda Brock: That’s interesting. So the only other thing that I was thinking that might be interesting is to talk a bit about community and what the pandemics doing to it. And you know, where we think things are going so I don’t know what you’re seeing in the US versus what we’re seeing here. And I don’t know if that’s of interest.
Matt Yonkovit: Well, so when you define community community is an interesting word. Right? Because community is just like open, it can be used to hide a multitude of sense. And so when we talk about like the community, especially the open source community here in the US, or that I’ve seen globally. I think right now, one of the things that’s hurting us, is the lack of travel and the lack of being able to see one another. The open source community is a very social bunch. Everybody that I have ever worked with, in open source companies, it is like a big extended family. Yeah. And when you go to conferences, when you go to Dev meetings, when you go to these different places, it’s like a reunion. And being remote is great. And I think everyone has learned over the years, especially in open source, that you can do a lot of collaboration remotely, you can get a lot done remotely. But the two or three times a year that you do get to see those other people is invaluable. And it drives projects forward in 3-6-12 months sprints. And that has been something that I know that I have sorely missed. But I have seen other people miss that as well. Because there are people who are looking to contribute to projects, who don’t know anyone, and they’re having a more difficult time getting involved. Because they haven’t met that and made those personal contacts, because a lot of times what you’ll see is someone come up to you in a conference and talk to you and say like, Hey, that was a great session, how do I do more of this? You know, yeah exchange, exchange, emails exchange, Twitter handles, there’s a lot there that we’re missing. And we’ve tried to replace it with virtual doesn’t really work as well. It’s okay. As I say, as we have a virtual conference coming up. Yeah, but that’s what we are in the the world we live in today. You know, and so you’re doing the best you can, given the circumstances. But there needs to be a lot more, collaboration than we can do right now, and a lot more face to face interaction. You need to have the collisions, you need to have people sitting at the pub after the talks, or working on the roadmap together, being in the same room, reading the body language and just getting to know one another. Because, again we talk about open source being a social movement, the social aspect is so important. You want to work with people who inspire you, you want to work with people you want to collaborate, if it’s just some nameless bot that you’re sending code into it just Yeah, it doesn’t. It’s not as satisfactory. It’s not as it doesn’t give you the same sense of satisfaction. And so I think that it’s something that I’ve seen as a something that hurts us.
Amanda Brock: Yeah, I totally agree. We have an advantage. And we don’t have many advantages, but we have an advantage by being geographical. So, for example, we had our report sponsored, and we were able to send lunch out to people. So we literally have held three lunches, and we’ve had a restaurant deliver food to people. And they’ve sat around a table together virtually, and broken breads featured a lot today for some reason, but broken bread. And I think that it builds relationships in a different way. It’s not the real world. It’s not what we’re all used to. But I think that social interaction is absolutely critical. And trying to find more ways of getting those engagements and allowing that collaboration, I think was interesting, as I’ve liked, you probably worked for home for a long time. But now I live at work. And that’s a totally different way of being. Yeah, actually get people engaging with each other is really hard.
Yeah, and I’ve talked to some people who, like I’ve seen their collaboration go down. And you know, what they’ve, they’ve they’ve contributed, and I’ve asked them why. And it’s like, well, I’m at my desk. 24 by seven, I just can’t spend the extra time at my desk. It has has hurt that.
Amanda Brock: So yeah, we I mean, I think full steam did pretty well, in January. With the virtual event. I mean, had about 1000 people, which is pretty good going. But I assume many of them didn’t have the bits that you and I are talking about that we missed the running into someone in the hallway and the two minute conversations with someone who you consider a friend because you see them six times a year for two minutes. You know, is that we’re missing.
Well, Amanda, it’s been great chatting with you. I hope that you had fun. And I hope to do it again in the future. There’s there’s always fun topics for us to discuss, and you’re always welcome to call me up and say, Hey, there’s this interesting thing. Let’s talk about it.
Amanda Brock: Definitely will do as time goes by. Thanks very much for having me on today.
All right. Thanks, Amanda. Thanks for being on the HOSS Talks FOSS podcast.
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