Reconsidering contributions from Microsoft

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Chris Messina

May 15, 2007, 2:20:56 PM5/15/07
In light of Microsoft calling for an all-out war on open source [1]
for patent infringement [2], I've been contemplating a personal ban of
future Microsoft contributions from BarCamps in which I'm involved. As
a thriving and diverse community, no one individual can enforce her or
his will upon the larger whole, but individuals actions, especially
when joined in aggregate, can speak loudly.

It is important to acknowledge that, to date, Microsoft has been a
generous and consistent supporter of BarCamps around the world (and
even TorCamp's own David Crow recently went to work for
[3]) and the Microsoft employees who consider themselves BarCamp
community members and who have supported BarCamp are not the source of
problem. Instead, the problem lies with upper management -- and their
actions are now undermining much of the good will that has developed
over the past year.

As such, so long as Microsoft continues down this path, I will
personally not ask, nor accept, Microsoft contributions to events that
I help organize. I invite the employees of Microsoft and members of
our community to do whatever is in their power to continue educating
and transforming Microsoft, and that as a community we demonstrate our
values and shared principles when we judge contributions from outside



Chris Messina
Citizen Provocateur &
Open Source Advocate-at-Large
Cell: 412 225-1051
Skype: factoryjoe
This email is: [ ] bloggable [X] ask first [ ] private

Bryce Johnson

May 15, 2007, 3:29:52 PM5/15/07
Hey everyone.

Chris I appreciate your passion and I do think that the patent breach
thing is stupid. I am writing this to our community and it is
defiantly not meant as a direct response to you. I have been thinking
about many of these thoughts for a long time.

As someone who has worked closely with Microsoft for over 8 years I
feel there is an acceptable prejudice against Microsoft within the
BarCamp Community. We talk about having an open inclusive community
but somehow degrading anything MSFT is tolerated and even encouraged.
We all make jokes at the expense of Microsoft and Microsoft supporters
and most of the time this is brushed off.

A brief and incomplete history of Microsoft and BarCamp
BarCampSanFrancisco = Location, Sponsor
BarCampHyderabad2 = Location
BarCampHyderabad3 = Sponsor
BarCampSydney = Sponsor
BarCampDallas = Location
BarCampNYC2 = Location
BarCampPhoenix = Sponsor
EnterpriseCampToronto = Sponsor
BarCampEarthToronto = Location
BarcampLA2 = Sponsor
BarCampStanford = Sponsor

Apple sues bloggers but we don't ban them. Microsoft has said that
they won't sue anyone like the SCO group did.

However I do acknowledge that the action might be more insidious then
that, but it is too early to jump to any conclusions.

I've done a lot of work in this community over the past year and a
half and I always kinda feel like a second class BarCamper because of
my professional affiliations.

So Chris while your voice is very important in our community, other
voices are important as well and I encourage others to speak out on

I would hate to see this fracture our community though.

Bryce Johnson
Director of User Experience Design, Navantis Inc.
Chicken wrangler -

Tara Hunt

May 15, 2007, 4:12:30 PM5/15/07
I don't think it will fracture the community. We all still have a similar goal in mind: creating connections and fueling our local communities.

Personally, I'm with Chris and don't want to take another dime or donation of space from MS in protest. Of course, that boycott will be listed if they drop this stupid suit, but I'm not hopeful that Balmer and his crew will do 'what is right' rather than 'what is profitable'. Boycotts happen for a reason: a need to exercise a protest of certain behaviour. We are boycotting MS on our end because we think their behaviour is the antithesis of how we value the world. Will it work? Probably not. But we, personally, don't want to benefit from MS's gain. It would be hypocritical.

Like Chris said, there are many people who work for MS who we adore. Nima here in SF was a central part of our BarCampSF team and pulled for us quite a lot. We heart Nima, but we don't have to heart his employer. I feel bad for those with heart and soul who have to defend their employer, who continuously unravels the good work they are doing in the community. I hold nothing against those great people. I just wish we could afford to give each and every one of you enough money to never have to defend them again.

Anyone in the BC community can choose to go with this or not. Chris was merely stating what we are doing. We don't expect solidarity.


Christopher St John

May 15, 2007, 5:14:25 PM5/15/07
On 5/15/07, Bryce Johnson <> wrote:
> As someone who has worked closely with Microsoft for over 8 years I
> feel there is an acceptable prejudice against Microsoft within the
> BarCamp Community. We talk about having an open inclusive community
> but somehow degrading anything MSFT is tolerated and even encouraged.
> We all make jokes at the expense of Microsoft and Microsoft supporters
> and most of the time this is brushed off.

As someone involved with two Microsoft sponsored Bar Camps (Dallas
and NYC) I've been very careful to avoid the sorts of prejudice you're
talking about. I use Microsoft products, and I'm very appreciative of their
substantial contributions towards a number of events. I think, in
return, MS has gotten substantial benefit. If nothing else, NYC and Dallas
Bar Campers are a lot less likely to make snarky comments about MS
now than they were before.

But MS's actions aren't trivial. Declaring war on Open Source as a business
strategy puts them directly at odds with the ethos behind Bar Camp, and
makes sponsorship tricky.

I don't think I'm quite ready to rule them out (I'm generally a fan of
over embargo) but I think there is an onus on anyone engaging with them to
communicate the problem clearly, and push for change. I'd certainly be leery
of having them as primary location sponsors.

I don't have any particular illusions that a bunch of Bar Campers acting alone
are going to have a large impact on their business decisions, but constructive
criticism of some sort seems like the right thing to do.


Christopher St. John

Michael Collins

May 15, 2007, 3:48:16 PM5/15/07
I'm with Chris.

Even though M$ bought the beer at BarCamp Austin it seemed like more of a bribe than anything.  The software they were pushing and giving away is/was a joke and the only way to get people to overlook that was to keep em likkerd up.  I thought it was very comical but it just gave me more ill will towards a company already convicted of being evil.  They will never change.

As far a fracturing the community, that is one method of getting rid of open source that they use.  I have seen Lugs die because M$ had shills planted in them.

On 5/15/07, Bryce Johnson <> wrote:

Hey everyone.

Chris I appreciate your passion and I do think that the patent breach
thing is stupid. I am writing this to our community and it is
defiantly not meant as a direct response to you. I have been thinking
about many of these thoughts for a long time.

As someone who has worked closely with Microsoft for over 8 years I
feel there is an acceptable prejudice against Microsoft within the
BarCamp Community. We talk about having an open inclusive community
but somehow degrading anything MSFT is tolerated and even encouraged.
We all make jokes at the expense of Microsoft and Microsoft supporters
and most of the time this is brushed off.

Michael H. Collins

It's us against them.  Ride like you stole it.

If you love some code, set it free.

Please avoid sending me Word or PowerPoint attachments.

Chris Messina

May 15, 2007, 6:07:23 PM5/15/07

Thanks for your thoughts on this. I want to reiterate that I was only
speaking for myself, as an individual, and *not* on behalf of the
BarCamp community.

I would also encourage and invite others to share their thoughts and
feelings about this matter; as you put it and I mentioned, Microsoft
has been a great sponsor of BarCamp and our community. They've bent
over backwards more than a few times and have made very positive
contributions to our work.

All the same, the challenge lies in working for an organization that
has the power to do so much good while being lead by people who can do
so much wrong, and do so time and time again.

Nor is my personal ban one that I expect to last forever, or to change
my relationship with other members of this community. This was
specifically about contributions -- primarily in the form of space or
money -- from Microsoft. I still welcome Microsoft employees to attend
BarCamp and agree with you that there need not be any hostility to
them; and that we should continue to include Microsoft employees just
as we do anyone else and hold no particular malice against them

Now, as for accepting resources from Microsoft the organization,
that's where I personally draw the line. I'm not asking for anyone
else to do the same thing, only that we consider what it means to
accept any kind of corporate support in running BarCamps, and how
sponsor acceptance is a way of acknowledging friends.

I appreciate your thoughts -- and would love to hear other thoughts,
proposals or ideas.


On 5/15/07, Bryce Johnson <> wrote:

May 15, 2007, 6:13:08 PM5/15/07
to BarCamp

I'm one of the folks that sponsored some of the barcamps on behalf of
MS in Austin and Dallas and I know many folks on this thread. Choosing
whom to accept sponsorship from is a personal choice and I completely
respect that. What I don't see Chris Messina asking for and I hope
others see is this is not a call to halt dialog, engagement or
conversation. The folks from Microsoft that engage in, champion in and
value the Barcamp community are a voice and conduit into Microsoft.
Changing Microsoft or encouraging them to alter behavior that one
considers antithesis to their values is alot harder when folks aren't
talking or when folks that can impact that change aren't participating
in your local communities.

I think many of the people that are on this thread that have worked
with MS folks like me, Nima and others know that we also work hard to
give this community broad exposure to events where that typically
wouldn't get exposure to either.

If you deplore what Microsoft is doing I would expect that it would be
better to have someone from Microsoft there to hear what you think
versus having an absense of dialog. But we're also using some
simplistic terms here like 'war' that don't really give substance to
the conversations that need to occur around intellectual property and
open source software versus proprietary software models and
intellectual capital.

The schisms that exist in this debate are not just between Microsoft
and the open source community but also exist within the open source
community itself and how all public companies are using patent and
intellectual property laws in software development. If you want to
have someone else provide the beer and the venue so be it but I hope
folks still see the value of having open conversations with a variety
of folks as it's my impression that Barcamps weren't designed as a
place where one can decide who should and shouldn't be there.

Chris Bernard
User Experience Evangelist, Microsoft

Chris Messina

May 15, 2007, 7:21:50 PM5/15/07
Chris -- I absolutely agree. BarCamp is designed to be open and
inclusive for a very pragmatic reason -- and you touched on some of
the benefits of those reasons.

I don't want my personal decision come off as a ceasing of
conversation or a shut out in any sense -- and I am more sympathetic
to individuals such as yourself who are out in the communities, making
a difference, and representing a different side of Microsoft. The
problem, again, is weighing the power of the upper echelons to undo
your hard work -- and I can imagine how frustrating that must be.

Know that I do want to keep the channels of discourse open and that I
personally still want Microsoft people at *camps. If anything, having
you there will give you a visceral reminder for who these kind of
decisions affect most -- and a sense for what the prevailing reaction
is from open source communities.


Eric Skiff

May 15, 2007, 7:23:14 PM5/15/07
Speaking as one of the organizers for BarCampNYC2 (hosted at MS) , I can vouch for the fact that people within the MS community have bent over backwards to make barcamps happen. Peter Laudati went above and beyond and worked extremely hard to make sure that there was a 2 way dialogue between attendees and MS. I've heard similar stories from others who've worked with MS on barcamps. I'd also like to chime in here to mention that as I understand it, the Austin Barcamp was set up in such a way that we needed to spend a certain amount at the bar to keep the event private. MS and other sponsors kicked in money for drinks to help us reach that amount, and keep barcamp going, not as a bribe or to get people sauced.

That said, I was really starting to feel that MS had changed, and was employing people who 'got' the community. I guess that's why this bit of news made me so sad. It feels like the old FUD is flying again, except that this time, I imagine 1000 community outreach people working at MS all smacked their heads in unison.

The BarCampNYC community will have some serious talking amongst ourselves to do. We wouldn't have had our last event without MS, and it would be very nice not to have to once again try to find somewhere to host us (assuming, of course, that they invited us back)

Chris Bernard - I hear your points about keeping dialog open, but I'm afraid I have to agree with Chris Messina here. Any and all MS people are free to come and hopefully those lines of communication can stay open, but it seems as though taking MS sponsorships could be a conflict of interest.

I'm taking a bit of a 'wait and see' approach before coming to a final decision for myself, and I obviously don't speak for all the NYC organizers. I'm still in denial that MS would actually go through with the lawsuits.

If they do, I don't see how an event that is so focused on eveything "open" can in good conscience take contributions from the company most on the attack against them.

-Eric Skiff

Tara Hunt

May 15, 2007, 7:36:47 PM5/15/07
I think the biggest point here is that there is  serious disconnect between:

a. The great people who Microsoft have hired and we all know and love


b. The corporate entity of Microsoft that is still a business, above all else, and continues to strive to make a profit at ANY expense

If only we could help the A.'s influence the B. more, that would be amazing. I continue to support the involvement of the A.'s. I don't want to have much to do with the B. as long as it is publicly taking on Open Source. And, I believe it is Steve Balmer (who embodies the B. IMO) who was the first to employ 'war' metaphors in his interviews with the press.

As long as everyone understands the difference between what we are saying about A and B (and it sounds as if the MS employees do), it's good. :)

tara 'miss rogue' hunt
co-founder & CMO
Citizen Agency (

Janet Hawtin

May 15, 2007, 7:41:13 PM5/15/07
On 5/16/07, Bryce Johnson <> wrote:

> Apple sues bloggers but we don't ban them. Microsoft has said that
> they won't sue anyone like the SCO group did.

From what I've read it was evident that Microsoft backed the SCO process.

Mark K

May 16, 2007, 3:26:52 AM5/16/07
to BarCamp
Ok, I'm gonna back my buddy Bryce on this one. Chris & Tara, I love
you but I think your boycott is counterproductive to both the
community and the patent issue.

You can qualify it all you want with "hate the sin, love the sinner"
language, but turning away a cheque from MSFT given in good faith will
always mean turning away the hand of an individual community member.
It sends a chilling signal to everyone associated with MSFT: "your
kind aren't welcome". A community turning its back on its own people,
even symbolically, seems inconsistent with BarCamp values. Issues of
dogma like this are exactly what create schisms and should be
avoided. BarCamp is best when it is not activist or prescriptive.

What is interesting in the David Crow/Toronto case is that MSFT are
coming around to the community on the community's terms. i.e. they're
"getting it". There are debates/battles going on inside MSFT for the
future. There will be winners and losers. Those that come to and
support BarCamps are the good guys, the ones we want to win, to
influence. It's just like China and civil rights - a long-view and a
policy of engagement is the right policy. Take the cheque and use it
to buy a bigger soapbox, bring more MSFT people in and have a town
hall on the patent suit.

We can use our bully pulpits, but the patent case needs to play itself
out, and the story at the end of the day might look more like IP
policy reform rather than open-source doomsday. The April 30th
Supreme Court case loosening the "obviousness" test is a positive
sign. At the end of the day, it is the law and IP policies that are
the real issue; MSFT is just the evildoer of the moment. Someone else
will surely come along to take their place, so there's no need for
collateral damage in our communities.

Mark Kuznicki
TorCamp Citizen Wonk

Michael Collins

May 16, 2007, 8:45:43 AM5/16/07
Does no one remember M$ "Embrace and destroy" method for getting most of the "innovations" they have come up with.  How soon we forget.  M$ has stifled real innovation for 30 years and I for one don't think they are gonna change now.  Course most of y'all aren't even 30 years old so it is not your fault you dont remember. 

Those who forget history are bound to repeat it.

Chris Messina

May 16, 2007, 9:57:49 AM5/16/07
Mark, love right back atcha', but I'm going to have to strongly
disagree with you on this citing principle.

I want to reiterate that my decision is a personal one and that any
other organizer feeling equally strong about this kind of thing could
have also sent the same kind of non-binding message to the list,
simply making it known what they were doing and why.

Now, you've brought up a very interesting, and on the one hand,
pragmatic approach. But I think that you make one crucial mistake: by
refusing to accept primarily monetary (and secondarily, geographic)
support, I am in no one restricting how much MSFT can otherwise
participate, engage, join the conversation or get involved. And, to
your point and others, I would much rather have the involvement of
individuals from MSFT who represent change than money from the
organization that clearly represents the status quo.

BarCamp is not, and never has been, about the sponsors. It is about
passionate people getting together to share, discuss, explore, grow
and build. When a sponsor is found to engage in practices that
patently (excuse the pun) contradict those values, we have to realize
that sponsorship is both a type of participation and a type of speech,
and it is up to us to determine what forms of involvement support our
broader ideals (though loosely defined, seem to entail fairness,
openness, collaboration, inclusivity, diversity and the like). In the
case of a corporation sponsoring something (anything) that we sign our
name to, we should consider their means of participation; now, if you
want to accept an individual MSFT employee's contribution out of their
own personal checking account, that's certainly up to you and is less
the use case I'm thinking about.

Hope that clears things up a bit. This discussion is very useful.



May 16, 2007, 2:33:50 PM5/16/07
to BarCamp
Better a known enemy then an unknown enemy !!

Keep the peace with MSFT , seek collaboration on all fronts.
Consistency and constantly engage the community from within and

Being melodramatic and calling for a ban on any entity is incorrect,
regardless of one's personal reasons and motives. This only widens
the bridge and narrows the vision. We should not cut the nose to spit
the face.

Regardless of who we are and what we want or have, everyone has the
right to protect their wealth, including corporations !! The ways and
means of protection is always open to discourse and will have
conflicts of opinion. We talk of the patents way of MSFT , but what of
the DRUG companies that hold patents and make medicine expensive for
the 3rd world countries and the poor ?

As barcamper, is it ok to ban MSFT and not ban Pfizer from sponsering
a barcamp event ??



Tara Hunt

May 16, 2007, 4:17:57 PM5/16/07
Let me reiterate one more time:

Microsofters are welcome


As long as they wage war (according to balmer) on open source, the
money of the corporate entity is not. Profit at any cost is not a
philosophy we support. The triple bottom line (people, planet, profit
- balanced) is.


That is a personal decision, not a decree..

But we have always been very careful about who we take donations from
(so, we wouldn't have taken them from a drug company, either, although
anyone from their company is welcome to attend).


Chris Messina

May 16, 2007, 4:52:24 PM5/16/07
...which is all fine and well, but I've never solicited nor been
approached by Pfizer.


1. This was a personal choice, only affects my organizing work and
should not affect anyone else's ability or willingness to accept
sponsorships from Microsoft.
2. We all have our means and ways of achieving change. For me, given
how much I'm all about proactive inclusivity, it's a big deal for me
to come to the point to *not* want to include something in a BarCamp
in which I'm involved. But, it is also my duty, as a BarCamper, to be
aware of those things that, on the whole, threaten to undermine the
intent and principle of the event. In such cases, I am not willing to
make compromises that blanketly accept your assertion that companies,
such as Microsoft, in executing the will of their shareholders, should
be allowed to do whatever it takes to protect their profits,
especially when it means putting those profits before people.

If BarCamp, in some small measure, is to be about building
civilization and healing the thread-bare fabric of society, we must
hold some things sacred and not budge when acquiesence would result in
backsliding towards the past instead of the future. To make small,
almost unnoticeable, steps in reverse weakens our accomplishments so
far and lessens the necessary independence that we need to confront
the future.
3. Perhaps most important to my argument and this discussion, you
*must* separate individual employee from collective corporation. The
involvement of brilliant and talented Microsoft employees is to be
welcomed and encouraged: at BarCamp they represent themselves as
individuals, they do not represent Microsoft (see my post Each person at
BarCamp isn't simply interchangeable with another individual from her
or his respective employer; as individuals we come together to share
our passions, and over the course of the event, it should not matter
who you work for, only what you do and what you want to accomplish in
a shared, respectful environment.
4. To accept an undertone of your comment, if other organizations end
up offending my sense of what is in line with the Spirit of BarCamp, I
will reconsider accepting their contributions as well -- this isn't
about Microsoft. Frankly, I have concerns about Google in China, but
have not, as best I can remember, ever dealt with Google on a
sponsorship level. I have concerns about Yahoo as well. But, every
time I have either sought out or been approached by potential
sponsors, I do consider whether that sponsor's involvement is a net
plus for BarCamp and whether the organization is generally in
alignment with our values. For example, PayPerPost is an organization
I have already considered and is one I also have "personally banned"
(though there have been no conversations about sponsorships from them,
their work doesn't sit with my desire for openness and transparency).
5. BarCamp is a social experiment. It will live and die by the actions
and dictates of its community. I am but one community-member raising
my voice and my concern about an unlikely friend who has recently
begun behaving badly again. For me, it's essential that I embrace the
positive acts of Microsoft and isolate the negative ones. I have
chosen one strategy to enact this idea, and I encourage others to find
their own path that fits for them. Maybe someone in Microsoft will see
this and help the folks executing this strategy see the damage it is
doing to the good will they worked so hard to create. But my approach
may also fail, and therefore is not the only way. The strength of this
community is in its diversity, resilience and adaptability. Where my
small protest fails, I encourage others to try other approaches, and
strongly encourage you to report your results -- positive and negative
-- back to the group so that we might learn how best to confront such
an issue in the future.


On 5/16/07, /pd <> wrote:

nima dilmaghani

May 18, 2007, 3:42:41 PM5/18/07

Hello all,


Bill Hilf, the General Manager of platform strategy at Microsoft was interviewed by InfoWorld regarding the Fortune article. (see  Here are some direct quotes: 

"we have no plans to litigate."   
"Our strategy ... has always been to license and not litigate as it relates to our intellectual property." 

"That article spins it on the attack. The only new piece information in that article is that it just put a number on the patents."


In light of this clarification, I respectfully ask Chris and Tara to reconsider their previously stated position. 

Microsoft is not interested in going to war.  I looked and I could not find any quotes from Balmer or anyone else from Microsoft calling for war.  This is a matter of IP and resolving licensing issues.  The deal with Novell was a significant move in that regard. 

Over the last year Microsoft has made several interesting moves in favor of OSS.  Some of them are:

  1. Consistently supporting, sponsoring, and hosting BarCamps and other open source gatherings.
  2. The Novell Deal.
  3. Creation of and hosting Codeplex, an open source repository for code. 
  4. Making the ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit an open source project.
  5. Releasing Live Clipboard and SSE under the Creative Commons License.
  6. ...

The success of these ventures and customer demand will ultimately dictate Microsoft's further involvement with open source.  If the BarCamp community closes the doors on Microsoft, (which I believe has been the most consistent sponsor, and also one who has not dictated terms like other sponsors) it will be a loss for all of us.  Microsoft has been a good partner of the BarCamp community.   Please reconsider your decision given the new information from the interview.




Nima Dilmaghani



Who am I?  I am the Developer Evangelist at Microsoft, currently on leave of absence, so the information here is from public sources.  I attended the first BarCamp, and helped organize and hosted BarCamp SF and fed folks at BarCamp Palo Alto.  I also championed BarCamp inside Microsoft and promoted it internally resulting in Microsoft's sponsorship of BarCamp in several locations.  I am a BarCamper first and a Microsoftie second since my involvement with BarCamp predates my employment with Microsoft.


Bryce Johnson

May 18, 2007, 4:13:05 PM5/18/07

I appreciate you finding this information. I'm sure you and I feel the same.

Chris and Tara have the absolute right to have their own opinions.
They have stated that their opinions are their own and knowing them I
respect their stance.

I am glad we have been able to talk about this as a community but I
would like to support the rights of individuals to have their own
opinions :-)

I think that we will be talking about this for a while as this story unfolds.


This email is: [ ] bloggable [X] ask first [ ] private

Bryce Johnson

Director of User Experience Design, Navantis Inc.
Chicken wrangler -


This email is: [ ] bloggable [X] ask first [ ] private

Bryce Johnson

Christopher St John

May 18, 2007, 4:14:59 PM5/18/07
On 5/18/07, nima dilmaghani <> wrote:

I started to write a point-by-point rebuttal, but then I realized I was
feeding the FUD. I can't resist feeding it just one thin mint, though:

I appreciate Microsoft's involvement so far, but no sane
person who has followed Microsoft's public statements on Open
Source can possibly doubt that the patent PR effort is an attack.
We can argue whether it's illegal, immoral, or fattening, but there's
no doubt that MS is trying to scare developers and businesses
away from Open Source software as a high-level policy decision.
Saying they're not is just silly.

We all know that Microsoft is not really a borganism and speaks
with many voices. Many of those voices support Open Source, in both
a personal and professional capacity. But when the Ballmer speaks
ex cathedra you've got to take it as the official position...

Janet Hawtin

May 18, 2007, 7:02:41 PM5/18/07
On 5/19/07, nima dilmaghani <> wrote:

> The Novell Deal.

In an internet world the impact of our actions on others is visible.


Tara Hunt

May 18, 2007, 8:25:02 PM5/18/07
Hey Nima,

Thanks for explaining all of that. And, yes, we really appreciate all that you've done for us. But we don't consider YOU Microsoft. We consider YOU a really awesome, amazing person who works at Microsoft who spends a great deal of time apologizing for them. You are a remarkably patient soul. :)

Now, I should say, though, that the fact that they aren't suing and only 'licensing' still doesn't sit right with me. Now, the point of OS shouldn't just be Free as in Beer, of course, but is it Microosoft that deserves the payments? What about all of that code that MS sells that rides off the backs of OS developers who aren't duly compensated? Methinks once you open this Pandora's box, you will find that MS benefits a great deal from OS, too. In fact, Linus Torvalds ( beckoned for Microsoft to lay down the gauntlet and is confident that MS will actually be in violation of more OS patents than vice versa:

"It's certainly a lot more likely that Microsoft violates patents than Linux does," said Torvalds, holder of the Linux trademark. If the source code for Windows could be subjected to the same critical review that Linux has been, Microsoft would find itself in violation of patents held by other companies, said Torvalds.

"Basic operating system theory was pretty much done by the end of the 1960s. IBM probably owned thousands of really 'fundamental' patents," Torvalds said in a response to questions submitted by InformationWeek. But he doesn't like any form of patent saber rattling. "The fundamental stuff was done about half a century ago and has long, long since lost any patent protection," he wrote.

Of course, this will all wash out in the end, but this particular move by Microsoft has shown that the core corporation, itself, hasn't changed as much as it's public relations would have us believe. Hiring great people to do community outreach doesn't compensate for quite antagonistic practices.

As for the many interesting moves "in favor of OS" that MS has made, I would also argue that these aren't done altruistically, and that, today, Open Source is more of a marketing strategy than anything. As the dude from AOL told me at FOWA, "If you don't have an Open Source developer strategy, you are dead."

What I would love Balmer and his lawyers to realize that what we have here is a symbiotic relationship and that upsetting that balance isn't worth the impending fall-out. A fall-out that, I'm afraid, will not ultimately benefit Microsoft. It is a short-term and dangerous strategy that will:

a. further damage an already precarious trust level in the wider community
b. encourage more of a patent craze that will halt innovation
c. cripple a great number of small businesses, who are also customers of Microsoft, probably irreparably damaging the relationships there, which MS cannot afford since Google is offering pretty decent alternatives to the Office Suite (especially for SMBs)


d. probably end up being the nail in the coffin for Microsoft. There will be one left standing in this zero-sum game, and Open Source is amazingly decentralized and agile.

Now, how the heck do I justify faulting a corporation for being, well, a corporation? Well, that is my entire raison d'etre, so I do that. But Flickr's Heather Champ said something pretty amazing during a recent community roundtable that struck me as a totally viable option for any cold-blooded company:

"When it comes to business decisions, there is doing the right thing and then there is doing the right thing by the community."


Profit at any cost is not a model I prescribe to. I believe in profits. Hell, we all need 'em. But I don't believe in these types of profits. They are unnecessarily brutal.


Chris Messina

May 18, 2007, 10:14:35 PM5/18/07
Thanks for your feedback Nima -- I'm eager to keep the lines of
communication with you and other Microsoft folks open to make our
concerns heard and understood and to work towards some kind of amiable
resolution to this matter (although whatever resolution we come to
will not fully restore my faith, confidence or trust you had begun to
instill in my mind, but at least we'll be getting back on the road to

Anyway, what Tara said is really important. Microsoft needs to come
clean, reveal the details of the 235 patents, and as Linus said, let
the open source community either license the portions that it needs to
be in good standing with Microsoft or let them code around the
patents. There is an obvious solution to this problem, and it need not
be turned into a FUD-laden media circus (which is what it is now).

It's not so much that Microsoft has patents that have been infringed
and wants equitable payment for licensing the tech; it's how Microsoft
has gone about rattling its swords and menacing the open source
community with whom evangelists such as yourself have worked so hard
and effectively to curry favor.

That Microsoft continues to act in an aggressive and petulant way is
thoroughly disappointing. That Microsoft continues to act as though
shareholder value is the only thing that matters (when it's people are
it's greatest asset) is disappointing.

And as such, again, my personal ban is only a statement against that
perspective and that behavior; if Microsoft will put its profits above
its people, BarCamp will keep its people above those same profits.

Nima, we want you involved in our community because of you and what
you bring to the table, no matter where you work. You'll find ways to
continue making valuable contributions to the community, of that I'm


nima dilmaghani

May 19, 2007, 5:22:42 AM5/19/07

Thanks Chris and Tara for your kind words towards me.  I appreciate your friendship and value it above all of this.  I appreciate and respect your position.  Here are some more thoughts that I would like to share:

Microsoft is a business and is interested in making a profit.  Not any different than Sun, IBM, or RedHat.  While some companies have built a good business around OSS, Microsoft has not.  This is mainly because of its ownership of a very successful proprietary operating system platform and having the most vibrant community of partners around it.  Let me explain.  Companies that have been successful with OSS, like RedHat and IBM, do so mainly because of their consulting and services operations.  Microsoft, years ago, decided not to build a huge consulting practice and instead built a thriving ecosystem of partners that resell, support, and consult on Microsoft technologies.  For Windows Vista, it is estimated that for every dollar Microsoft makes, Microsoft partners make $18.  Microsoft has gone to great lengths to build its partner community.  For example, Microsoft Consulting is not allowed to grow to more that 5% of the total consulting business on the Microsoft platform.   In the meantime, Microsoft has continued to look at ways to make money off of Open Source and has implemented several Open Source projects.  There is money in Open Source.  Microsoft knows this.  It has not yet been able to figure out how to capitalize on this given its current model.  Microsoft has to figure out how to embrace the OSS community without destroying or abandoning its existing partner community.  This is a very difficult problem.  But Microsoft is very tenacious and has a long history of working on difficult problems and failing and failing until it succeeds.  The deal with Novel was a turning point.  As it turned out, Microsoft ended up paying Novel more for licenses than it gets back for its licenses.  Fair is fair.  Who knows, maybe Torvald will be right and Microsoft may end up paying more for licenses to whoever is sitting on the other side of the negotiation table.  Microsoft's main asset is IP.  Last year, Microsoft spent over $6 billion dollars in research.  A lot of the results are published in peer reviewed journals and are accessible to the technology community.  Microsoft needs to recover this investment in part by licensing these technologies.  Today the OSS world does not have a sustainable financial model that would allow for this level of pure research.  I believe that 5 or 10 years from now, the OSS community will have solved this problem.  In the mean time, the technology industry needs this level of research in order to grow and patents and licensing come with it.

Microsoft is smart enough to know that the OSS genie is out of the bottle.  The idea that Microsoft is out to destroy OSS or dissuade OSS developers is ridiculous since Microsoft knows that it can not destroy OSS.  It simply wants a piece of the action.  In its pursuit of this goal, Microsoft will do some stupid things and will piss off some people.  The media will also amplify these mistakes because sensational issues increase readership.  At the end of the game, I believe that Microsoft will find its way and make a handsome profit in OSS.  That will be good for Microsoft, the OSS community, and the world at large.


Mark Kuznicki

May 20, 2007, 11:17:21 PM5/20/07
For some interesting speculation on what's going on in terms of MSFT IP strategy, I recommend this PC World article:,131984-c,opensource/article.html

Microsoft Asserts Patents, Wants Weaker System

Microsoft's timing seemed odd to some this week when it complained recently about alleged violations of its patents at the same time it pushed for a patent overhaul bill.

It appears that Microsoft is trying to use the open-source community to pump up debate about patent changes, said Ronald Riley, president of the Professional Inventors Alliance and an opponent of large-scale patent changes.

"Microsoft is using this as a PR stunt to drive their patent-reform agenda," Riley said. "They want to pass patent reform, and they want the open-source people to carry their water."

Michael Collins

May 21, 2007, 12:51:24 AM5/21/07
Everyone thinks im a kook i guess.

before wintel there was real innovation

believe it or not.  remember the commodore c64.  what was wrong with that form factor.

Jun 7, 2007, 2:47:00 PM6/7/07
to BarCamp
I've been trying to figure out how to respond to this thread --
because I think it's important on several levels.

BarCamp at it's very core has always been about 3 things to me:

1. Building A Community Where One Didn't Exist Before
2. Bonding Existing Communities
3. Sharing Great Ideas and Collaborating in a safe and friendly
environment (while making some of the best friends of my life)

There is no question in my mind that there exists a prejudice against
Microsoft from the BarCamp community. However, at the same time we
have openly taken thousands of dollars, free schwag, software, t-
shirts, and goodies from Microsoft in support of BarCamps. Microsoft
has sponsored two BarCamps that I have hosted to date -- and without
their help - I'm not sure what we would have done at BarCampAustin 2
(THANK YOU CHRIS BERNARD). They have stepped up to the plate in so
many ways -- that I can't even imagine banning their sponsorship of
future events. I feel like that would be a big F-you to the folks who
have gone the extra mile so many times to help me with these and other

However, I do understand why Chris has broached this subject.
Although - from my perspective - one of the major problems with the
last two BarCamps I helped to organize was not the moral standing or
corporate position of the companies who sponsored -- but the focus of
the event itself. It's starting to feel like the events are less
about community and ideas -- and more about putting on the biggest and
best show -- and giving out the coolest "free" stuff. So, I've
decided to take a personal stand of my own, and go back to Basics.
Our next BarCamp will focus on content, relationships, &
collaboration. We won't have T-shirts or fancy banners -- and the
organizers won't spend a fortune out of their own pockets to make the
event happen.

If we return to basics -- we won't really need the support of large
corporations in the first place. Let's "Be Small but Remarkable".

I'd also like to say a thing or two about this concept of "Open
Dialogue" - thinking of a Google metaphor - Isn't it better that
Google is in China with compromise - vs. not being in China at all?
Or put another way, the value that Google's very presence has on
China, and the number of people who might have a chance to start
demanding change and be exposed to new ideas (however slowly), is
powerful beyond measure.

Is the same possible here? Can we effect Massive changes in Microsoft
by touching one employee at a time - until we reach the people at the
top? Can we turn an "A" into a "B"?

I understand that no one was saying to ban Microsoft employees from
these events. But I have to say that far more employees show up when
Microsoft donates money or the venue -- and that's just one more
chance for us to present our case.

Who to take sponsorship money from is a very personal choice. In a
lot of ways - I feel like I have made mistakes in this area in the
past. Not because I took money from Microsoft -- but because I don't
think it was a win-win situation. At the end of the day - we
definitely benefited more than Microsoft -- because the good will that
Microsoft has generated by sponsoring our BarCamps - hasn't been all
that good. And that's the absolute truth. Of course, I'm only
speaking about these 2 specific events.

For me and any future events I help organize, I think the guiding
principles will have to be these:

1. We will only take sponsorship money from local companies and
organizations (in an effort to raise awareness of local companies)
2. We will limit all corporate donations to $250.00, and all personal
donations to $100.00
3. We will make sure that it's a win-win situation for both parties.
4. We will keep the focus on the content of the presentations and not
on the "freebies"

BarCamps (and all the movements that have come out of it) are changing
the world. It's building and creating communities, and making the
world a much, much smaller place. I look forward to seeing what the
future holds.


Eric Skiff

Jun 7, 2007, 3:47:00 PM6/7/07
1.  We will only take sponsorship money from local companies and
organizations (in an effort to raise awareness of local companies)
2.  We will limit all corporate donations to $250.00, and all personal
donations to $100.00
3.  We will make sure that it's a win-win situation for both parties.
4.  We will keep the focus on the content of the presentations and not
on the "freebies"

Erica, I think these guidelines are great, especially as a starting point for discussion. PodCampNYC was extremely big for an unconference (the attendee list just kept growing to 1200+) so we found ourselves needing more and more money. (Ending up having to pay for our venue didn't help.) In the end, we went without free food or shirts, and still had tons of sponsors, which we got some heat for.

That said, we worked hard to retain our focus and I think we had a great, learning + presentation focused event. I definitely had trepidations going in, but I was very happy with how it turned out.

As we plan PodCampNYC2, much of the talk is about making things bigger and better, which I think is natural, but makes me nervous. We've got a few giant corporate sponsors interested. The type of sponsor that could write one check and we'd have our event.

I'm worried about letting sponsors from outside of the podcasting/new-media community in, let alone having as the sole sponsor, but it's awfully tempting to be able to create a great thing for the community without spending months hunting down sponsors again.

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on Erica's guidelines above and about our sponsorship situation. If you have sponsors who want to give a lot without wanting too much in return, should you still set limits? What should those limits be?


Jun 7, 2007, 4:44:08 PM6/7/07
to BarCamp
As a side note -- the next two events I plan to be involved with are
BarCampHouston 2 and BarCampAuckland (in late December). Both are
pretty small events (in terms of size and participants) -- so we
probably won't have the same issues as a camp that has 1000+

I think that Eric has a VERY valid point. The larger the number of
attendees -- the higher your base cost grows. Here's what we took
heat for at BarCampAustin 2 (which had almost 1000 participants). I
think overall the event cost us somewhere in the neighborhood of 15K -
but I don't know the exact numbers. Most of that went to the venue.
We didn't have to pay for the venue outright -- but we did have to
reach a certain "Bar Tab" by the end of the night -- or pay a
guarantee. That number was somewhere around 10K.

Now -- lots of amazing folks came forward (some at the last minute) to
help sponsor this event. Including Facebook, Microsoft, and even
personal donations from folks like Alexander Muse and Blake Burris.
However, BarCamps are not about sponsors. They are about the
participants. But -- on that same note -- what is the incentive for a
company to donate money to an event -- if they aren't getting anything
in return??? Several of our sponsors complained that they didn't get
enough visibility for their contribution. We did have Logo's
circulating on LCD Screens, and even a few banners -- but at the end
of the day -- they're probably right. Dollar for dollar -- because we
had SO many sponsors - most didn't get seen or heard. And some like
Opera - were hardly noticed at all. This makes sponsors angry -- and
puts a bad taste in their mouth about sponsoring future events.

But, on the flip side, having too much exposure given to Sponsors puts
a bad taste in the mouths of Hard Core BarCampers - who believe that
BarCamp Sponsorship should be invisible.

Do I want to see BarCamp (and it's associated cousins like PodCamp &
StartupCamp) touch as many people as possible? YES. But I don't want
events to turn into corporate circuses. Although I didn't attend
PodCampNYC - from what I witnessed from a far -- it stayed true to its
roots - even with 1200+ in attendance. People shared knowledge -- and
brought cool things back to the community. And people who were
already doing cool things (like Drew Olanoff) got some much deserved
exposure. Not to mention all the attention from the local and
national media.

We need things like this in our communities - but we also need to make
some decisions about where our values lie. I think this is really
what Chris's post was all about. It's not just about Microsoft and
patents - or whether we take money from them or not -- it's about what
we stand for as a community - and where we are headed in the future.

I've actually made the personal decision that smaller events are
better for me - and for my community - both in terms of quality and
participation. But at the same time, I'm committed to spreading this
idea. Already we helped to spur the formation of RefreshBCS (Bryan
College Station) headed up by Cody Marx Bailey. This group has been a
huge success in a very small - very rural (read "non-techie,
redneck") city. Perhaps the next step is for us to spread BarCamp to
small cities across our home states. And spur smaller (maybe even
10-20 people) communities?

I think that large events have a place in this sphere (PodCampNYC &
BarCampAustin 2 are perfect examples of this) -- but I still haven't
solved the problem of how to sponsor them - without the organizers
putting up large amounts of personal money.


Jun 10, 2007, 3:15:55 PM6/10/07
to BarCamp
I think that Microsoft is simply pushing the software patent issue to
the forefront. I am sure that Microsoft is violating other people's
patents (if fact there have been claims before), so they are more
exposed than the Open Source community is. It would be in their best
interested to reform software patents to reduce their legal exposure.

And it would not be that hard to get in trouble with patents. I know
someone who was sued by a company who claimed to have a patent on
something, and the person who was sued INVENTED it 10 years earlier
than the patent was filed! Yet this company was claiming they
invented it! That shows the problems with patent law. It's too easy
to patent something that already exists and then sue people for it.

I think that the announcement saying that the open source community is
violating their patents is a well-timed part of their campaign for
patent reform. They knew that everyone would freak out if Microsoft
said they held the patents to pieces of open source software. How
many people are now calling their representatives telling them to save
them from the big bad wolf? More than before Microsoft's
announcement, I tell you that.

The Microsoft people are very smart. They know what they are doing.
And they know their reputation is not that perfect in some circles.
In this case, I think they used that to their advantage to push patent

I say, go ahead and take their money. I don't see how their
announcement actually changes their current strategy at all, except
for pushing patent reform that would keep people from suing them over
their own alleged patent violations.

-- Scott


Jun 12, 2007, 3:29:24 PM6/12/07
to BarCamp
One reasonable response might be to invite them to a panel discussion
on the issues that concern during the bar camp. Or perhaps have
someone address analyze

Regarding patents, I'm personally skeptical about someone who shouts
"I have this right, but won't exercise it." Especially when that is
essentially put into contracts. Maybe I missed the mention, but this
was recently done with Xandros as well. (

I think dialog should be encouraged (and I don't think anyone else
here has said otherwise) and there should certainly be a presentation
or platform on some of the greatest