Episode 75

Deb Nicholson on the OSI, the future of open source, and SeaGL


April 23rd, 2021

33 mins 50 secs

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About this Episode


Deb Nicholson


Eric Berry | Justin Dorfman | Alyssa Wright | Richard Littauer

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! Today, we are incredibly privileged to have as our guest, Deb Nicholson, who is Interim General Manager and Interim Executive Director at the Open Source Initiative, as well as a founding organizer of the Seattle GNU/Linux Conference (SeaGL). Deb tells us how she founded SeaGL and what she did in legislature before open source. We learn about a blog post that Elastic wrote, how Deb feels about it, and how OSI is addressing it. Also, we learn how open source is looked at differently by the community and by lawyers, and a talk Deb did about all the different patent clauses in licenses. Find out what Deb is currently doing as the Interim General Manager at OSI and why being kind is so important to her. As well, if you haven’t seen the Seagulls video on YouTube, you have to watch it! Download this episode now to find out more!

[00:02:23] Deb tells us the story of how she founded SeaGL, when the next conference will be, and how many people come to it.

[00:05:39] Justin brings up a blog post that Elastic wrote recently and asks Deb what her feelings are about it and wonders how OSI is addressing it. Alyssa wonders if there was any direct conversation with somebody from Elastic.

[00:09:20] Deb explains the two groups of people, the community and lawyers, and the differences between what they think open source means.

[00:11:20] Eric asks Deb if Elastic deserves all the bad press and negative feelings. Deb also tells us what approach Elastic should have taken.

[00:14:22] Alyssa asks Deb to speak more about lawyers sit in the community now and what lawyers and people with legal expertise can do to be a part of open source creation and sustainability.

[00:16:40] Deb tells us what she did in legislature before open source.

[00:17:40] Alyssa asks Deb how she found clarity around all these licenses, was she ever confused about how to navigate, and if she could help people understand and navigate through them. She mentions she did a talk about all the different patent clauses in licenses.

[00:20:52] Deb explains how she ended up as the Interim General Manager at the OSI and what she’s currently doing there.

[00:22:14] Find out why being kind so important to Deb.

[00:25:13] Deb talks about the process of the Cryptographic Autonomous License.

[00:26:54] Richard wonders Deb’s thoughts on setting best practices for open source in general, not just licensing, in particular other countries.

[00:28:25] Find out where you can follow Deb on the Internet.


[00:06:23] “Basically, we didn’t really think our business model through. We decided we were going to do one thing and then whoops, because we didn’t think it through, now we have to change.”

[00:23:24] “It also means that when you go out and you talk to people about your mission you sound like a person that hasn’t had a conversation with someone about anything other than your work five years, because you kind of haven’t.”

[00:24:35] “There might be other decisions I could affect, but like you end up sounding really out of touch and it’s not good for your organization and for promoting your mission if you never have perspective.”

[00:24:44] “Unfortunately, Deb, you’re one of our guests, and this happens occasionally with our guests who are so eloquent that I can’t even imagine a question ‘cause you just wrapped everything up in such a nice bow that it’s like yes, that’s exactly the problem, that’s a really good point, I totally agree, we should all have more time off!”

[00:25:05] “Take a vacation! Never forget! Even if it’s a staycation, because, you know, pandemic.”

[00:25:36] “So we don’t draft licenses, that’s the thing we don’t do, but we do look at new licenses, and last year we approved the Cryptographic Autonomous License.”


  • [00:29:33] Alyssa’s spotlight is the launch of FundOSS.
  • [00:30:38] Eric’s spotlight is Exercism.
  • [00:31:43] Justin’s spotlights are “The Onion seagull beach interview,” and Katacoda-Interactive Learning and Training Platform we are using for Curiefense.
  • [00:32:33] Richard’s spotlight is WaffleJS.
  • [00:32:49] Deb’s spotlight is a project called Spritely.



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