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Bryan Cantrill & Friends on Corporate Open Source Antipatterns at P99 CONF

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When Bryan Cantrill proposed a P99 CONF keynote about corporate open source antipatterns, we knew it would be big. Bryan – always impassioned and insightful (and sometimes even a bit irreverent) – is a cornerstone of P99 CONF. His talks routinely light the chat on fire.

We anticipated that his take on corporate open source misuses and abuses might be difficult to contain in our TED-talk-like time slots, especially given the recent HashiCorp drama and the fact that he’d been thinking about this topic for over a decade. So, we invited Bryan to invite some friends to the virtual event stage and continue the conversation in a follow-up discussion.

But alas, we seriously underestimated. After Bryan’s P99 CONF keynote, immediately followed by a live P99 CONF panel discussion with Ashley Williams and Adam Jacob, then later continued in a 1 hour and 39 minute Oxide and Friends discussion, the conversation was still just getting started!

Don’t worry. We won’t try to jam nearly 3 hours of spicy discussion into this little blog. It can’t do it justice and, more importantly, we don’t have to. Everything was recorded and is now openly available. But here’s a quick rundown of the already (in?)famous discussion in three acts, so you can decide where to start – or pick up – the conversation.

Act 1: Bryan – P99 CONF Keynote

Here’s how Bryan set the scene for this one:

A little over a decade ago, I gave a talk on corporate open source anti-patterns, vowing that I would return in ten years to give an update. Much has changed in the last decade: open source is pervasive in infrastructure software, with many companies (like our hosts!) having significant open source components from their inception. But just as open source has changed, the corporate anti-patterns around open source have changed too: where the challenges of the previous decade were all around how to open source existing products (and how to engage with existing communities), the challenges now seem to revolve around how to thrive as a business without betraying the community that made it one in the first place. Open source remains one of humanity’s most important collective achievements and one that all companies should seek to engage with at some level; in this talk, we will describe the changes that open source has seen in the last decade, and provide updated guidance for corporations for ways not to do it!

You can watch Bryan’s keynote here:

And here’s the play-by-play:

  • Bryan’s original “corporate open source antipatterns” talk from FISL over a decade ago (also, WTF was that on his arm?!?)
  • What’s changed a decade later
  • Open source is software’s Moore’s Law, the great engine of software innovation
  • The new anti-patterns that have emerged in the last decade, particularly among companies built around OSS losing sight of the social contract inherent in OSS
    • Conflating users with customers
    • Conflating gross margin with net margin
    • Relicensing
    • Anti-competitive licensing
    • Non-specific anti-competitive licensing
    • Extra-license licensing
    • Considering your community “freeloaders”
    • Demanding trust after violating it
  • Lessons learned

This one ended right on time. Bryan has an uncanny ability to meet his mark on timed talks.

Act 2: Bryan & Friends – P99 CONF Panel

This was truly a spontaneous, unscripted panel. We had invited Bryan to lead it, and we knew he’d pull off something that would really get the community talking…and thinking. But just hours before the conference kicked off, we were creating intro graphics for a mysterious “Bryan and Friends” panel since speaker details were still being finalized.

Not surprisingly, Bryan exceeded expectations. After promising us a great co-panelist, he actually brought two: Ashley Williams (founder and CEO of axodotdev, former Rust core team member) and Adam Jacob (CEO of System Initiative, co-founder of Chef).

You can watch the full panel discussion here:

Here’s a look at where this one led:

  • How many large businesses are getting better at open source
  • Businesses using foundations against competitors in their “rapacious self interest
  • Startups having a different motivation for open source than large businesses
  • Open sourcing your product vs your technology
  • Participating in open source to make money? Fine, but at least be transparent about it
  • Who’s really rapacious (and the panelists were not shy about naming names)
  • How the lift that comes from being open source creates opportunities for more greed

At that point, the P99 CONF host entered, regrettably wrapping up the heated discussion so the next round of P99 CONF speakers could take the stage as scheduled.

Act 3: Bryan & Friends – Oxide & Friends

But wait, there’s more! As many in the P99 CONF community know, Oxide hosts a weekly Oxide and Friends Discord show discussing a wide range of topics: for example, computer history, startups, and Oxide hardware. That gave Bryan, Ashley, and Adam the perfect place to pick up the discussion a few days later. Just use the regularly scheduled hour to wrap things up. Right? Not exactly.

The discussion continued for 1 hour and 39 minutes, veering into a number of new topics and angles. In fact, the title even morphed into “Open Source and Capitalism.” Some intriguing discussion points involved:

  • Has the HashiCorp incident brought us to a (positive) turning point
  • Open source as a palate cleanser for world domination
  • The dark side of foundations
  • Why the open core model is broken
  • Talking to VCs about open source
  • Do we need more, or fewer, open source companies
  • Living with the fact that open source will create more value than you can capture
  • What’s the path to a truly sustainable open source business model
  • Applying a “Theodore Roosevelt era” conservation approach to open source

Bryan wrapped it up by channeling his inner John McLaughlin and then joking that maybe he should just get a catheter and make this a 24-hour stream. Attendees were left hungry for more –  act  4 (or even act 5 if you factor in Bryan’s original talk from FISL 2012). We hear Bryan and Oxide have been a bit busy lately. But as soon as the next act is planned, we’ll update this blog and share details on the P99 CONF socials. Stay tuned!

Listen in here:

Also, take a look at the chat log on Discord.

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P99 CONF OCT. 23 + 24, 2024

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