More on Moglen v. O’Reilly

Last week, during the O’Reilly Executive Briefing at OSCON, I blogged about the Moglen O’Reilly interview – “Eben Moglen – Putting the F back in FOSS.”

Although the video hasn’t yet surfaced, some interesting commentaries have.

Stephen Walli’s “Tim O’Reilly, Eben Moglen, and Jane Jacobs” links the tensions between O’Reilly and Moglen to the “two value systems” which Jacobs argued are at the root of all communities:

Jane Jacobs (originally famous for “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”) wrote a small Socratic dialog called “Systems of Survival”. The characters debate that there are exactly two value systems in existence. One leads to politics (protecting) and the other to commerce (trading). These value systems are not opposite ends of a spectrum, but rather different and incompatible. For each value in one syndrome there is no equal and opposite value in the other.

For Walli, the Moglen / O’Reilly confrontation is the embodiment of the debate between these poles:

Tim is the embodiment of the trading value system. Indeed, I would suggest that not only was the attack on stage unwarranted, but that the Free Software movement has been able to deliver its important message to a broader audience faster because of the stage Tim built with O’Reilly Media.

Likewise Eben is a veritable intellectual and rhetorical lion for our political value system around software freedom. Eben may be the perfect person to engage in the necessary debate going forward around conflicts of rights that I believe are invariably created by friction between the two value systems.

Matt Asay, on the other hand, argues in “Pendulum has swung in the open source debate” that Moglen’s criticisms were a “wake-up call”:

The wake-up call about the necessary freedoms came from Eben Moglen at last week’s O’Reilly Open Source Conference. . . . I wasn’t in the room to hear Eben. At any rate, I’m not one for handwringing and am just glad it was said.

Ultimately, I do think it is important – at OSCON of all places – to keep the discussion about freedom as part of the conversation, but I agree with Tim O’Reilly, who commented on Matt’s post:

Eben didn’t want to talk about freedom – He just wanted to talk about his idea of freedom, which is different from mine.

O’Reilly was trying, this year as he did last year, a conversation about what freedom means in a software-as-a-service world. Eben wasn’t interested in that conversation, and chose instead to use the moment to create buzz and be provocative in support of his agenda.

If you’re interested in the actual discussion, I’d recommend taking a look at:

  1. My notes from Eben’s session on The Republic of Open Source for more of what Eben means by freedom and what he thinks we need to be focused on. (I know, two links to my own blog in one post – but I can’t resist).
  2. Tim O’Reilly’s keynote from the next morning on Degrees of Freedom