Office Plugin / Self-Examination / OOo follow-up

Tom posted an insightful comment to my post from last week regarding the iSummit report. His point was basically bringing me back from snarky-fun-land to reality-land: “OK, so Garton’s an idiot, but what if he makes legitimate points?” (my words, not his) My comments were the result of my initial read-through which pushed some buttons (regarding the paper throwing, accusations that we “helped” Microsoft, etc). I had sort of decided not to publicly complain about the whole “Oh my god! You helped Microsoft!” attitude, but after reading Garton’s report, well, the soap box doth beckon. So a few further thoughts spurred by Tom’s comment:

  • I don’t think I’m in a position to judge whether or not the event was “too” self-congratulatory. I think that recognizing and celebrating our successes is important given how easy it would be to think “wow, the ‘enemy’ has so much money, so much entrenched power, this is a fool’s errand!” Whether it was too much or not… others are in better places to judge.
  • I think your question about “Should Microsoft have sponsored…” is really asking “Should CC/iCommons have accepted their sponsorship?” And to that question, I answer “yes”; flying delegates around the globe isn’t cheap, and I don’t see any evidence that we’re somehow beholden to them now [I’m sure some will disagree; this, like the previous post, is just my personal opinion].
  • Should we have given the plugin such prominence? Well, I don’t know. I think it was a big deal for two reasons: the fact an incumbent player was supporting explicit content licensing, and the massive size of the installed user base which can now take advantage of license embedding. Ignoring questions of whether the software is evil v. not-evil (which frankly lots of end users don’t care about), the latter point (installed user base) makes the Office support a bigger deal than, say, Inkscape, by definition.
  • This does not mean that I think having open source applications support licensing is irrelevant. In fact, I think it’s a way to innovate currently ignored by lots of major players. Not just in the license selection field, but in the license interpretation/remix/reuse field. I think that the MS plugin is interesting in many ways (especially, as I said above, simply because it allows millions of users to tag works with license information). That said, I also think they blew a couple of good opportunities to do it “right”. See our stub page on a hypothetical plugin in the CC Wiki for some details. In particular, I think the absence of some sort of “auto-text” for revealing the license information is a huge let-down. Sure, you can re-select the license and it’ll re-insert the standard statement. but it won’t remove the old one, and if you’ve customized the statement in some way, you have to repeat whatever customization you did before.
  • Finally, in regards to implications of Microsoft not sponsoring the event, I honestly don’t know. People at Creative Commons far smarter and more qualified than I were the brains behind the iSummit. I just showed up, talked about CC software and was generally harangued by disgruntled OOo users. I kid. I also drank a lot of caiperinias. A lot.
date:2006-10-08 11:37:07