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Sun accused of hardball open source project tactics

Weighs ex-employee's claim

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"I don't think that Neil has said anything that's precisely untrue, but he has been selective about what he has said," Phipps told The Register. "He hasn't mentioned, for example, that the governance policy was first changed in April, and that Sun simply wanted to change it back."

It appears the project owners did change the governance of the OpenDS project in April - months before the layoff - effectively writing Sun out of the governance picture. The project's initial governance scheme established Sun as the ultimate arbiter of the development process.

The original line read: "The OpenDS project has single, overall Project Lead. This Project Lead, who is appointed by Sun Microsystems, is responsible for managing the entire project, and is the final arbiter of all decisions." In April that line was changed to read: "The OpenDS project has single, overall Project Lead. This Project Lead, who is appointed and removed by a majority vote of the Project Owners, is responsible for managing the entire project, and is the final arbiter of all decisions."

This change (1739) can be seen on the project's version control system.

"One could argue that it was a good decision or a bad decision, but the fact is, the fiduciary - which is Sun - was not consulted before that change was made," Phipps told El Reg. "You would expect Sun employees to get fiduciary approval before removing Sun's stake in the governance."

Not only were the proper Sun executives not informed of that change, Phipps claimed, but it wasn't posted on the public lists, so neither the community nor Sun management knew about it. The change didn't even come to Sun's attention until the layoffs were announced in September.

"It was just a small textual change, and it went undetected by Sun execs and the community until after the [layoff] was initiated," Phipps said. "At that point, as people were doing the housekeeping, they discovered the change. With all of the project owners laid off, it left Sun with no say in the project."

Wilson and his colleagues had elected a Sun employee, Ludovic Poitou, "as an act of good faith (and without any prompting from Sun)," as a fifth project owner. After the group resigned from the project, Poitou reversed the changes made in April to the original scheme.

"Look, there's always room for improvement, and there probably are places where we're not doing open source right," Phipps allowed. "But this is not one of them. I think OpenDS has operated in pretty good faith. If the guys had continued as Sun employees and not been laid off, I think they probably would have had a much more reasonable attitude about this, and the whole matter could have been resolved amicably. It's been unfortunately complicated because of that layoff."®

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