[Linux-aus] Should Linux Australia change its name to Open Source Australia?

Jack Burton jack at saosce.com.au
Wed Dec 20 17:16:17 AEDT 2017

On Wed, 2017-12-20 at 13:26 +1100, Linux Australia President via
linux-aus wrote: 
> On 20/12/17 11:50, Jack Burton via linux-aus wrote:
> > Please do not rebrand LA as OSA, as that is likely to cause extreme
> > brand confusion between OSA & OSIA.

> Any name that we move to that has "Open Source" in it is likely to have
> the same impact. As a case in point, is OSIA often confused with, say
> the Open Australia group (that does Right to Know etc)?

Personally I've never heard OSIA & OA being confused before, but I'm
willing to take your word for it.

For the record, I don't think that just having "open source" in the new
name would be sufficient in itself to cause confusion.

But I do think that OSA & OSIA are ripe for confusion with each other.

Even if you look at what the full legal names would be:
* Open Source Australia Inc.; cf.
* Open Source Industry Australia Ltd

...there's still a great deal of similarity.

That might not seem like an immediately obvious problem to those of us
on this list ... after many years of happy hacking, I'm sure most of us
could, for example, spot a strcat(3) that should really be a strlcat(3)
a mile off, let alone a whole word of difference...

...but outside our community, that level of attention to detail is not
always so common...

...so to me the clear uniqueness of a name would seem to be most useful
when dealing with audiences *not* already in the fold -- for example
governments, the mainstream media or the general public.

I'm not going to get into suggesting specific alternative new names, as
I realise that's a discussion you want to avoid.

But I do think that, if Linux Australia needs a new name, it should be
possible to select one that's not so close to the name of an existing
organisation that supports many of the same things.

> > Whether there should be any name change is a broader question, which I
> > don't have a strong view on either way so long as whatever new name is
> > chosen does not end up being likely to cause brand confusion with other
> > relevant organisations.
> >
> > Linux Australia does superb & highly important work, as by far the
> > leading community body for FOSS in Australia.
> >
> > In my opinion at least, the work of OSIA, as the only remaining industry
> > body for FOSS in Australia, over the last 13 years has also been of
> > great importance and utility (particularly in the public policy space)
> > -- although admittedly not over the last 12 months, but steps are being
> > taken at OSIA right now to remedy that in the new year.

> Agreed, both organisations do excellent work. I'd be very interested to
> hear what OSIA has planned, particularly given the impetus that was
> started in 2013 with the OSIA 2013-2018 Strategic Plan:
> http://www.osia.com.au/drupal7/sites/default/files/default/osia_sp_2013-18-1.2_web.pdf

The OSIA SP is due for a review -- but I agree that S1.4 is well worth

> Strategy 1.4 of this document seeks to collaborate and build open source
> / FOSS relationships in Australia, however from the Linux Australia
> perspective there doesn't appear to have been a lot of progress toward
> that strategic objective. And that's understandable. FOSS / open source
> organisations are often stretched for time and resources.

Agreed -- there's been very little progress on that front, especially in
relation to OSIA collaborating with Linux Australia.

We did have some success collaborating with OSDC, before the merger.
OSIA used to promote OSDC's conferences to our members, even sponsored
the conference 2 or 3 times; and in the years that OSDC was held in
Australia, they would often generously let OSIA hold our AGMs at OSDC
(the time of year was just right for that).

But even there, I'm sure we could have done a lot more that we didn't.

It would be good to work towards better / broader collaboration with LA
& potentially other orgs too in future.

> > From an OSIA perspective, it would be a great shame if that work were
> > derailed, by forcing us to undertake our own rebrand in the midst of
> > all that -- which seems to me an inevitable outcome if LA changes its
> > name to OSA.

> This is a long bow to draw, and slightly disingenuous to be frank.
> We're not "forcing" OSIA into any sort of decision. We're canvassing the
> desire of our Members to change the name of an organisation to a name
> that was the most popular alternative the last time this was formally
> floated in 2011/2012. If our Members vote not to proceed, we won't
> proceed with the name change.
> If the vote passes, then it's up to OSIA whether to respond to that change.
> Our decision to seek feedback on a name change is driven by our external
> environment, and the role Linux Australia is now playing in that
> environment.
> The only 'Linux' event we run now is linux.conf.au, although to be fair
> it is a flagship event. We also run Pycon AU, DrupalSouth and this year
> have entered into an MoU to help facilitate WordPress-based events in
> Australia (we've been auspicing WordCamps for several years now). These
> only have a peripheral association with 'Linux' - and so activities such
> as Sponsorship, and relationship building can be hampered because of
> *our* brand in these markets.
> *Keeping* our name as Linux Australia actually has the same impact to us
> *now* - it causes brand confusion in the markets we operate in.

I'm not objecting to a name change in principle -- some good arguments
have been made in favour of that -- just raising what I see as a fairly
clear issue with the particular new name put forward this time.

> > Please reconsider -- personally, I think that OSIA and Linux Australia
> > (or whatever new name it chooses) should look more to *collaborate* with
> > each other on relevant initiatives, rather than stepping on each other's
> > toes (and that cuts both ways -- I'm aware that some of OSIA's limited
> > activities during 2017 may have been seen as straying into community
> > territory, and over at OSIA I'm seeking to end that and return to our
> > core focus).

> I'd be very interested in hearing more from OSIA around how you see us
> collaborating. We've had some early initial discussions with EFA in this
> regard, and as you would have seen, we've finalised an MoU this year
> with WordPress Support PLC to facilitate WordPress in Australia. We also
> collaborated strongly this year with VALA around VALATechCamp, which was
> a roaring success. So yes, we're very open to suggestions on how we
> could collaborate and deliver mutual value.

Definitely open to those sorts of discussions.

As to how, here's one suggestion for starters -- apologies in advance,
this is likely to get quite long-winded, but please bear with me.

OSIA's core mission, as I see it, is to influence governments on public
policy matters -- proposing & supporting changes advantageous to the
Australian FOSS industry, and opposing changes (or where necessary
opposing the status quo) which discriminate against the Australian FOSS

This most often falls into one of four areas: government procurement;
domestic law reform (mostly copyright & patent law); international
treaties; and initiatives around government/citizen or
government/business interfaces.

That last category in turn seems to have three natural sub-categories:
pushing for unencumbered open standards to be mandatory; pushing for
any reference implementations to be released under FOSS licenses; and
opposing the various "Australia Card like" initiatives that from time
to time threaten to destroy the privacy & security of Australian
citizens & businesses alike.

Many of those areas are likely to be of interest to Linux Australia as

To pick two examples from 2016 (the last time I was directly involved
in OSIA's public policy work):

1. Both OSIA & LA lodged submissions to the Productivity Commission's
Inquiry into Intellectual Property Arrangements and OSIA also appeared
before one the Inquiry's public hearings:

OSIA initial submission (2015):

OSIA final submission (2016):

Linux Australia submission:

Transcript of public hearings:

As an aside, this was one of OSIA's most successful engagements, with
the Commission following 3 of the recommendations from our final
submission in full and a further 18 of them in part.

2. Both OSIA & LA lodged submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on
Treaties (JSCOT) Inquiry into TPP and OSIA also appeared before one of
the Inquiry's public hearings:

Linux Australia submission:

OSIA submission:

Transcript of public hearing:

Looking at all those submissions and testimony, it seems clear to me

* there is much commonality at the core of the .au FOSS community &
industry positions, as put by LA & OSIA respectively;

* naturally there are some elements that only matter to one or the

* it is sometimes necessary for the industry & community bodies to
advance *different* arguments (from their respective perspectives) in
favour of the *same* thing; and

* sometimes there is benefit in proposing two completely different
*approaches* to solving the same problem (e.g. as was the case with the
problem of software patents), even when the arguments for why the
problem needs solving are identical.

Rarely (although I don't see an obvious example in any of the above),
it may even be necessary to put opposing views on some things.

Because of the first point above, I think there's substantial scope for
LA & OSIA to collaborate on future public policy matters.

I think it's still important for each organisation to lodge its own
submissions, give its own testimony, etc. partly because of the last 3
points above, but mostly because governments will take a *different*
view of arguments advanced by industry & community bodies: some types
of argument will carry more weight if advanced by an industry body;
others will carry more weight if advanced by a community body.

Note that philosophically I do not support the idea of assessing an
argument based on who its proponent is. I'm just stating that in my own
experience that is something that governments tend to do, so it makes
sense to optimise for it where possible.

But a *lot* of the work involved on public policy matters --
particularly with enormous treaties like TPP -- lies in the analysis

It strikes me that, given the extent of the commonality, if LA & OSIA
were to undertake that analysis work collaboratively, it would get done
quicker (leaving both orgs more time for actual drafting) and would be
higher quality simply by virtue of having more heads involved.

That strikes me as a fairly obvious first step.

If that turns out to work well, then it might even be feasible to share
*some* of the drafting -- on those matters where both orgs hold the
exact same view -- with the resulting text going into the submission of
whichever org has better standing (in the eyes of government) to put
the individual argument in question, and the other org simply saying
"we agree with ${first_org} on this point".

Odd as it might sound, government submissions from certain other, much
larger & longer-lived industries often do just that.

That's a more complex, slightly riskier model for collaboration, but I
think it's worth at least considering.

Happy to discuss those & any other ways that OSIA & LA could collaborate
in future -- and happy to take those discussions off-list if this is not
the appropriate place to have them (and sorry for hijacking this thread
in the meantime!).

> > The views above are my own and not necessarily those of the OSIA,
> > although I suspect that most OSIA members would probably agree.


> Out of curiosity, how many members does OSIA have currently?

That brings up the age old question (which I've heard discussed at
Linux Australia meetings before too) of how exactly we should count

In terms of total members, I'd estimate that somewhere between 20% &
50% of Australian FOSS businesses are OSIA members.

OSIA's number of *financial* members is much smaller -- by roughly a
whole order of magnitude.

That's something that OSIA clearly needs to work on. And it might not
happen quickly -- my personal view has always been that any
organisation needs to demonstrate strong results *first*, then go to
market seeking members (and sponsors): it's much easier to make a sale
when you can demonstrate value.

12 months ago OSIA had those strong results and would have been well
placed to go to market if that level of results had continued. Right
now we don't, but the first steps towards rebuilding have begun and I'm
confident OSIA will get there in time.

Why am I talking in percentages instead of raw member numbers? Because
OSIA's members are mostly businesses (anything from sole traders to
large corporates, and everything in between), whereas Linux Australia's
members are individuals -- so any comparison on raw numbers would be a
case of apples & oranges.


Jack Burton FACS CP <jack at saosce.com.au>
Director, Saosce Pty Ltd
Company Secretary, Safecoms Cyber Security Pty Ltd
Company Secretary, Open Source Industry Australia Ltd

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