Obama, McNealy, and Cognitive Dissonance

Courtesy Han Soete, licensed CC-BY-NC-SA.

Gene Quinn’s recent post titled “What Happened to the Obama Open Source Initiative?” criticizes, in turns, open source software, Scott McNealy, the Obama administration, and “business newbies” who want to use the open source software model.

Early in the Administration, President Obama asked Scott McNealy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, to prepare a report on how the federal government could employ open source software, but Quinn notes that “as yet, some 26 months later there has been no mention of the report or across the board government adoption of open source software.” The article then draws this strange conclusion:, “Perhaps the trouble associated with coming out with a report or even a government wide coherent approach is that open source software is not really free really.”

Yeah, I didn’t understand, either. To summarize:

  • The President shouldn’t have commissioned a report on open source software.
  • Scott McNealy shouldn’t have been asked.
  • The follow-through on the report has been poor.
  • Therefore, open source isn’t really free.

Disappointingly, Quinn doesn’t stitch these points together, robbing me of the opportunity to refute him. Instead, he uses the McNealy story as a christmas tree from which he may hang his favorite open source bugbears. I’m forced to content myself with refuting these instead.