Keynote Georg Greve: Rising to the challenge of our own success

published Oct 30, 2009

Keynote by Georg Greve, at the Plone Conference 2009 in Budapest, Hungary

I am a developer, physicist, author, working for Free Software Foundation Europe.

"Politics is a process by which groups of people make decisions." ( Decisions about how to spend money, do we relicense software, anything.

"Everything is politics" (Thomas Mann).

The Plone Foundation has Relicensed some of the software this year. You managed to boil that down to a majority vote. Plone could only do that because it has the Plone Foundation. Without such a body you would need consensus, where there is no active opposition to an idea anymore. Consensus can work, but it can also lead to "shoutocracy" where the loudest voices win. For relicensing consensus is not enough, you would need unanimity. Can lead to deadlock, for example when one of the contributors is dead and can no longer agree to anything.

Copyright law. For national laws you need majority. In bi/multilateral situations you need unanimity: all parties have to agree. In the United Nations you need consensus. Unanimity can lead to harsh situations, where one party is obviously stronger, or single-party systems where the party says "everyone voted for us".

"In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way." (Franklin D. Roosevelt).

Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. Was a coalition of the willing. U.S. Special 301 asks corporations: which companies have been "naughty" this year? Leads of black/grey-listing on behalf of the other corporations. Lobbying is very, very profitable, calculated as 22,000 by a few professors.

"Politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians." (Charles de Gaulle)

You have to be at the negotiation table otherwise you have no influence, your wishes/needs will not be taken into account. Software patterns, web standards are affecting all of us.

"Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber." (Plato)

Challenge: single vendor versus community. Plone has decided it is a community. How do you address growth? How do we keep our core strong when more and more people come to the community? How do we keep our community able to make decisions? What about the structural "bottleneck bugs" that you know have to be fixed but no-one wants to do it and no customer is going to pay for it?

Open Database Alliance,, is being created. Membership fees are for 50 percent allocated by members and only 20-30 percent allocated by the board. So if either the members or the board want something, it can happen. There is room for plurality and diversity there, also room for Plone as it is also about databases.

Some conclusions.

  1. Get active. Get involved. "In politics, an organised minority is a political majority." (Jesse Jackson)
  2. The most important asset of Plone is you, the community.
  3. Coordinate with your allies. You are not alone. Others are working on the same issues as you. Build alliances with them. That way you can shape things.

"What do your want to be a sailor for? there are greater storms in politics than you will ever find at sea. Piracy, broadsides, blood on the decks. You will find them all in politics." (David Lloyd George)

Build structures that allow your core people to operate without burning out.

Don't make enemies lightly; keep a professional dispute on a professional level: don't make it personal. It is easier to turn a friend into an enemy than turning an enemy into a friend.