Oracle do not, in fact, comprise the total set of MySQL Experts

There's been quite the thread on Google+ (my how technology changes quickly...) over a comment Andrew Hutchings made on an Oracle MySQL Blog Annoucment for their new "Meet The MySQL Experts" Podcast. I should have ignored it - because I honestly could not give two shits one way or the other about Oracle or any podcasts that they may or may not decide to broadcast. But to be straightfoward about it ... the title of the podcast is ludicrous. In case you were wondering, "The" in English is the definite article and implies a singular quality to the thing that it describes... effectively implying that Oracle's MySQL Experts are, in fact, the only MySQL Experts. We all know that's false- Percona and SkySQL are both full of experts as well - likely have more MySQL Experts per-capita than Oracle does, as if a per-capita measure were important. Of course, as Matt Montgomery pointed out, there is absolutely no reason for Oracle to point people toward's someone else's experts ... and that's fine. It's just that there are other ways to phrase the title that still assert Oracle's product and trademark and which are not, from a purely grammatical sense, lies. "Meet Our MySQL Experts" or even "Meet MySQL Experts" or "MySQL Experts Talk to You" or "Hey! Look! MySQL Experts are going to drink Black Vodka!" (ok, probably not the last, since that would point people to MariaDB - but it is at least a true statement... MySQL Experts WILL, inevitably, drink Black Vodka)

As I said earlier though - I don't really care about Oracle... they have no impact or meaning in my life... so if they want to either play silly grammatical games OR be unaware as to the actual meaning of words in English - that's fine. But then Matt Lord said something that really pissed me off:

 Any religion and its dogma can be problematic in the real world, whether or not it involves any kind of deism or not. :)

Too often people confuse FOSS with the cathedral and the bazaar, shared development, shared ownership and other high minded ideals and frameworks. In the end, it's a trademarked and in-house developed product that is released as FOSS. It's not a cross, don't try to impale yourself on it. :D

It's not that big of a deal people! We're surrounded by beauty and tragedy, this is just work.

Now, first of all, I like Matt Lord. And with that in mind, I have the following to say:

I am fully in support of trademarks and trademark protection. I am fully in support of people making a living doing what they do - especially if they are doing it by providing a service. I recognize that Oracle owns the trademark MySQL and can do with it as they see fit.Oracle does, in fact, own the product called MySQL, with all of the rights that go along with that... and honestly I do not think they are being bad shepherds of that product. Whether I like Oracle or not, it is undeniable that they are now a part of the MySQL picture, and I say good for them.

The reason I get pissed off is the attitude that it's not that big of a deal. The MySQL trademark and the business around MySQL is a BIG DEAL to Oracle, and if I were to try to put forward the opinion that they should just, you know, stop caring about it, people would think I was crazy. Why is it so unreasonable then for me to care about the portion of this that I happen care about? Why is it not ok for me to NOT be in this for the money, for me to NOT be in this just as work?

I think it might be worthwhile reading The Cathedral and The Bazaar again - because it describes the two different models you are talking about rather than being a single entity that one might confuse FOSS with. The Cathedral, as described in the book, is the model traditionally taken by the MIT and Gnu-derived projects,  (although emacs has a more open dev model now) and is currently also employed by Oracle on MySQL. In fact, it has been the MySQL model for quite some time - well before Oracle entered the picture. It involves a mostly closed dev process from which code drops are made unannounced and at the whim of the folks in the Cathedral. It's not de-facto a bad thing, it's just a description of a process. With the Cathedral, ironically enough, it is the ideals of Free Software (that the software itself be free) that are more important and that an open development process is less important. The Bazaar, on the other hand, is the process Linux uses - where all of the development is done in a distributed manner and in the open. The assertion in the book, and one of the philosophical differences between Free Software and Open Source (which makes the use of FLOSS or FOSS completely ludicrous) is that having an open development process is more valuable than just the software being free, although the by-product of an open development process is that your software sort of has to be Open Source. The irony here that I mentioned earlier is that, of course, Oracle approaching its Free Software offerings via the Cathedral model gives it none of the benefits you would think a corporation might want from an arrangement such as Eric Raymond's Open Source Bazaar model might afford them, and instead themselves choose to operate under a set of zealous ideals much more akin to Richard Stallman.

I'm sure that analogy is not pleasing to either Stallman or Ellison.

Although I understand that the ideals behind Free Software may not be important to you, I do not think that there is any constructive reason in the context of a discussion about Oracle's business practices asserting trademark ownership to imply me subscribing to those ideals is silly. It would be very difficult to accurately describe the success of any of the currently valuable pieces of Free Software as not due in any large part to those of us who routinely impale ourselves on the cross of Free Software. MySQL AB's business strategy itself, which involved attaching FUD to discussions of the GPL to incite people to buy licenses that they quite simply did not need ... (a perfectly valid if devious business strategy) was predicated on the existence of such an enormous shit-ton of users that they could focus on converting a percent of a percent of those users into customers and still wind up selling the business for a billion dollars. That shit-ton of users grew out of the emergence of LAMP as the dominant pattern for the Web. LAMP arose because it was technically much better than any of the alternatives... and the pieces of LAMP became dominant because of the work of a set of people who do, in fact, care about the ideals of either Free Software or Open Source.

You seem to be quick to put things in business perspectives and to remind people that it's ok for Oracle to do business. I agree. It's ok. But we wouldn't have had MySQL to work in the first place for if it wasn't for a bunch of people for whom it was not just a job, for whom it was not just work and for whom the ideals you are looking down on are not silly things.

So disagree with me all you want to about the effects of Oracle's choices on the health of MySQL. Defend Oracle all you want to on whatever terms you want, in whatever way you want to define a set of values such that they are positive. I'm right there with you on some of it, I might disagree with you on other bits, and that's just life and how we go on being people ... but please do not smirk and snicker and roll your eyes and tell me that the things that I think are important are not. I assure you, I find them to be very important and I do not believe I am the only person who does.

9 Comments

  1. [1]   Anony Mouse
    July 15, 2011 at 02:02 PM

    Well, it is hard to promote 'Meet some of the complete set of MySQL Experts' or "Meet the MySQL Experts who are not all the MySQL Experts but still retain some expertise in some areas'.
  2. [2]   Sheeri
    July 15, 2011 at 02:34 PM

    Yes, the title isn't 100% accurate, but anyone reading the description will easily see what's going on. I think you're putting too much weight into the title of the podcast; I don't believe there were long meetings with marketing and legal teams saying "yes, let's title it this way!" Why can't it just be a simple "oops, not such a great title"? I suggested to Bertrand in a comment that there be a subtitle, like: Meet the MySQL Experts: Oracle engineers share their expertise. For illustration purposes, the title of my podcast, "OurSQL", is completely nonsensical. Hence the subtitle, so that "OurSQL: The MySQL Database Community Podcast" makes a LOT more sense and clarifies a lot more. You're assuming a lot based on a few words, without first giving Bertrand the opportunity to reply and perhaps correct this oversight. Because I would bet you that that's all this is.
  3. [3]   Friend
    July 15, 2011 at 08:11 PM

    Do you expect that the podcast will actually interview every single MySQL Expert at Oracle? I understand you are complaining about the limited selection pool (Oracle employees), but even within that, it won't be comprehensive. This is common statement by other companies: "At Percona Live, you'll benefit from the expertise of *the* most accomplished system architects and developers in the business." http://www.percona.com/live/nyc-2011/ Really? All of the most accomplished system architects and developers in the business attended Percona Live 2011 in NYC? "It is independently developed by *the* original core developers of MySQL" http://montyprogram.com/ Really? All of the original core developers contribute to MariaDB? I honestly think this "controversy" says far more about the predisposition some people have towards reading meaning into things Oracle say, while not imparting the same meaning to other companies, than it does about the original company's statement and objectives.
  4. [4]   Matt Lord
    July 15, 2011 at 09:26 PM

    My quote seems a little odd without any context. What I referred to as silly was having such a lengthy discussion about the title of the podcast. It seems to be rooted in the idea that it's somehow evil that a company would say something that could possibly be taken to imply that they were the foremost experts regarding a product that they own and produce. That It's unheard of, that it's morally repugnant, and we must gather the bull horns and hit the streets. *That* certainly seems silly to me. I'm a big fan of open source software as well as the various methodologies. Eric Raymond and I share largely the same views on any given topic (software, politics, guns etc.). What I disagree with is the tendency I see in small circles to build a religion and resulting dogma around what is (to me anyway) simply a methodology for creating software. Some people then seem to become fundamentalists in this religion and feel the need to proselytize and evangelize, to convert everyone else to the same beliefs, because, you know, everything else is simply wrong and somehow evil. You're then free to use whatever coercive tactics and methods you may have available in order to convert people and punish those who may disagree, in order to bring enlightenment to all the heathens and barbarians who haven't bought into the religion. Stallman seems to be the high priest in this movement and I just don't that aspect of "the movement". The main underlying principle could be said to be freedom, that includes the freedom to dissent and disagree, to follow your own path without some rigid software police force ensuring that you're properly following their methodology. I never meant to imply that it's "not OK" for anyone to feel, believe or do anything in particular. What I was referring to as "silly" was the debate regarding the topic and what I see as the underlying cause, that being some kind of OSS fundamentalist dogma that the fate of the world somehow hangs upon. If someone does anything (including software development) out of a selfless desire to help others then there's nothing silly about that at all. It's the most noble of actions that we can undertake as a humans IMO. That doesn't mean, however, that one has a moral right to coerce others into doing more of it. Oh, I'm a ramblin man... Last but not least, I really like Monty and whatever we may disagree with about software development or anything else, I think he's a great guy and I have a lot of respect for him. I hope that nobody feels otherwise based on what was said.
  5. [5]   pcrews
    July 16, 2011 at 04:01 AM

    It's all kinds of funny how people that have thrown in with Oracle (employees / ACE's / etc) think that they can be objective here? Of course it is easy to say "Why are you so upset? It's not a big deal" when you are on the side that comes out ahead of an unfair transaction - "I've got mine, but your whining about *your* rights and prerogatives is really ruining my good time, you selfish bastard". At essence is the fact that this *is* an unfair move. Oracle *cannot* lay claim to all MySQL expertise in the world (as Monty so eloquently pointed out). To have people whose success is tied to Oracle's say it's a lot of hubbub is disingenous - if you profit from things moving one way, then your opinions on the other way(s) will be skewed. It really boils down to this - a (likely small) group has been offended / aggrieved by your actions - do you attempt to respect the rights of all or do you leverage your power to do what you want at the expense of others? Attempting to be dismissive of other people's grievances only further highlights the main issue, which is that Oracle is stomping around without respecting other people. But then again, I'm sure that there were Union soldiers thought the Native Americans were making too much of a fuss about their land being taken away as well ; )
  6. [6]   Friend
    July 16, 2011 at 08:19 AM

    http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/5/prweb8436049.htm
  7. [7]   Friend
    July 16, 2011 at 08:23 AM

    "I have done my best to keep *the* MySQL core development talent together by employing them at Monty Program Ab" (http://monty-says.blogspot.com/2010/07/welcoming-skysql-new-home-for-mysql.html)
  8. [8]   Matt Lord
    July 16, 2011 at 09:40 AM

    Patrick: I'm sorry, but you're wrong. It did not bother anyone when Percona was listed as *the* mysql performance experts, for example: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/5/prweb8436049.htm Or *the* oldest and largest independent MySQL support and consulting company as listed on their homepage. Or when MP AB lists themselves as having *the* core mysql developers. I don't care, I don't know of anyone else that got their "feelings hurt" or were "offended" by it. It's common practice in any industry and by any company as well as individuals to use THE in that way-to imply that you feel this option is the best one amongst any available options. You're *the* man. This is *the* computer to have. The list is endless. We're *the* <blank> in <blank> market. It in no way is meant to denote exclusivity, as *the only* would, but meant to imply what that this is the best, in your opinion. Anyone with some objective sense understands this. Are you really offended that someone has an opinion that you disagree with? It's not a matter of lying. I suspect that you would have just as much outrage if the title was: Meet *the best* MySQL Experts. Meet the *leading* mysql Experts. Meet *the* MySQL Experts all have the same general usage. It's an opinion. It's not a statement of fact. You think that someone reads that statement and assumes that there are no mysql experts other than the ones who will be in the podcasts, let alone that work at Oracle or exist in the entire world? Whether or not something offends you is up to you. You decide if something offends you. This was not meant to offend, if you take offense that's up to you. I'm sorry, but this is beyond silly. I'm not defending anything or anyone, except for common sense and rational thought.
  9. [9]   http://openlife.cc/blogs/2011/july/mysql-community-counseling-talking-about-your-feelings
    July 22, 2011 at 05:30 PM