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Perens throws hat into SPI ring

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Software in the Public Interest (SPI), the entity that owns the Debian trademark, is holding elections and working to generate enough interest in said elections to actually elect some new board members. Ironically, the last "original" board member just resigned at the same time a former board member is getting re-acquainted with the project.

SPI is looking to elect three new board members from a total of eight candidates. Contributing members of SPI are eligible to vote. A contributing member is one who is considered to have made a significant contribution to the Free Software community, as determined by SPI's membership committee.

The group has experienced a flurry of activity over the past several months starting with the resignation of former v.p. Martin "Joey" Schulze. He left because of his frustration with perceived indifference from other board members, including president Nils Lohner, secretary Wichert Akkerman, and original board member Ian Jackson. Since then, Lohner and Jackson have also stepped down, and the departures stirred emotions and much discussion about the future of SPI.

"We feel that with some fresh blood elected by the membership, SPI can be infused with some more vigor, and the visibility and accountability of the Board to SPI's members will be increased," says Branden Robinson, SPI treasurer. He says that overall, the SPI functions well, especially considering the global distribution of the membership as a whole and the fact that it is an entirely voluntary organization. "The existing SPI Board strongly feels that we can do better, and it is our intention to do so."

Throwing his hat into the ring is former founding board member Bruce Perens, who left under less than desirable circumstances in 1998 to form the Open Source Initiative (OSI) with Eric Raymond. In a well-publicized spat, OSI demanded that SPI transfer its claims to the potential "Open Source" trademark to OSI, even producing an email from Perens to Raymond stating that SPI relinquished its claims on the mark, a correspondence that other members of SPI denied having any knowledge of. In the end, it was a moot point because OSI determined that the U.S. Patent and Trademark office would not grant a trademark on the phrase "Open Source" because it is too generic.

Despite some hard feelings directed towards Perens from SPI in the past, it appears that at least a few current SPI members are ready to take him back. Ean Schuessler, a contributing member who admits "complaining bitterly" about Perens in the past, says "the only real problem with Bruce is that he is so used to being a leader that when he gets on the wrong track its insanely hard to get his head screwed back on. But if 90% of what he does is positive, which it is, then that seems like a tractable problem to me." Schuessler still maintains his belief that Perens will not be elected, however.

Perens characterizes his current relationship with SPI as official, though. "I have been representing SPI, with the permission of SPI's board, to the W3C patent policy working group for the past two years," he says.

Robinson says that SPI is exercising an advanced voting system called the Condorcet Method, which requires voters to rank candidates in order of preference instead of simply casting one vote for one person. He says that the method is more "sophisticated" than the one used in U.S. federal elections.

Tomorrow is the final day that votes will be accepted, but it is unclear whether there has been a "quorum" of votes from eligible members. Robinson posted a plea to the SPI mailing list, writing that "it is very important that SPI's contributing members vote. I saw a lot of passion on this list back in December and I personally would not like to see that momentum get lost."

© Newsforge.com

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