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NDA.  Non-disclosure.  Hush documents.

Not many people like them.  In the technology world they are a necessary evil.  Personally I don’t think that way.  I think NDA’s are generally a good thing.  It’s enabling legalese to let two parties participate in information exchange when they don’t want the rest of the world to know about them.  NDA is a general term, of course, and the wording in any non-disclosure agreement is subject to the two parties involved.  Heck it could say “We’re going to show you everything and you agree only to not talk about feature X…everything else is fair game.”  Usually they don’t.

Enter the iPhone SDK.  The frustrating part for iPhone developers wanting to share their knowledge, innovate on the platform, etc.  It was assumed from a lot of developers that upon the release of iPhone 2.0 software that the NDA would be lifted.  Guess what – it isn’t (as of this writing).  What does that mean?  Well, among other things, people who have the SDK are under that NDA and shouldn’t be discussing it with anyone other than Apple.  Guess what…even if your best friend is under the same NDA, technically your agreement is only with Apple, not ‘anyone else under NDA.’

My local Cocoa/iPhone user group in my area recently shut off their email list and posted this message:

“IMPORTANT NOTE: AT THE PRESENT, IN ORDER TO RESPECT THE IPHONE DEVELOPER TERMS AND CONDITIONS, WE HAVE DEFERRED MESSAGE POSTING AND OUR FIRST MEETING UNTIL OPEN DISCUSSION ON IPHONE DEVELOPMENT IS ALLOWED BY THE NDA, AND BLESSED BY APPLE. OUR GOAL IS TO PROMOTE APPLE IPHONE TECHNOLOGY ACCORDING TO PROPER GUIDELINES AND NOT PRESENT EVEN AN APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY. ALL GROUP MEMBERS WILL BE NOTIFIED AS SOON AS WE ARE FREE TO OPENLY COLLABORATE.” source: Phoenix iPhone Developer Group

As frustrating as it is for passionate folks, bravo to this group to at least ensuring their channel they’ve created isn’t a faucet of information that shouldn’t be shared just yet.  There are other groups that I’ve seen hosting iPhone developer discussions and I can’t imagine how they are doing that without talking about thing that violate the agreement they have in place. 

NOTE: If you downloaded the SDK, you agreed to the NDA – sorry if you didn’t read it, but you did.

An NDA is in place to provide valuable information to those who want to agree to it.  By not honoring that you’re stealing information essentially.  Beyond the legal stuff which I don’t pretend to understand in a deep manner, it just isn’t really ethical for you as an individual, business, developer, community, whatever.  I don’t care if it is with a darling company like Apple…no matter what if you agree you should be responsible. 

Another part of the SDK is the terms.  Besides not being able to be discussed, shown, shared, the terms of the iPhone SDK might prohibit any open source project.  Which brings into question the project from Wordpress.  This is an AppStore approved app that now has source available. (which is using the GPL license).  As Nathan Willis of Linux.com points out that two terms of the SDK and AppStore deployment violate explicitly the GPL (nondisclosure and code signing).  Wordpress putting the source out there violates not only the terms of the iPhone SDK but as well isn’t in line with the GPL they have selected.  How is nobody claiming shame on them?  Just because they are open source doesn’t mean they have the right to violate agreements.

Yes, I know Microsoft isn’t open source all the way by ANY means.  I don’t believe I’ve ever made that comment and certainly not here…this isn’t about a ‘well then you should to’ but rather about honoring known agreements and terms/conditions of use.

If people get lost in a frenzy of excitement and decide just to start violating things they agree to, where does that leave organizations wanting to plan and share information?  There isn’t a lot of trust left is there?  I honestly think that Apple will rectify this soon and perhaps it is just an oversight while they are dealing with the MobileMe troubles as of late, but regardless the terms are still there, the confidentiality agreements are still in place and if you agreed to them, you should honor them.  I know that is a bit of a “duh” moment…but seeing stuff like what Wordpress is doing and user groups sprouting information makes me sad that we as professionals have disregard for these types of things.

I had an idea for an iPhone app that I wanted to do to manage the life-sucking-battery-settings and others even wrote they’d pay money for that app.  When I had the idea I immediately contacted an Apple evangelist and began starting a discussion about this.  Turns out that the settings I’d need to get to aren’t available according to this evangelist in email.  I noticed the iPhone dev team has the headers needed, but even completing the app wouldn’t give me any distribution beyond myself because the mere coding against the properties would violate the terms and wouldn’t be approved in AppStore.  I suspect an app like this will surface (perhaps in the Jailbreak world) and if it does on AppStore, I’ll be pissed that I was misinformed and missed out on an opportunity!  Where was I?  Oh yeah, anyway I went to the source (Apple), inquired, and was told it wasn’t possible per the terms.  It sucks, but I’m going to honor those terms…because I agreed to.

And if you did, so should you.  Wordpress…shame on you.

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well the next session block had some to choose from.  i decided one of these was going to be my choice:

i saw the .net/mono one was in the product/services track, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but usually means that it has a product twist on it.  frank w/novell is presenting on it, and maybe i'll try to poke in.

ultimately i chose to go with the 'who gets to decide...' one as i look at the panel.  i've met brian behlendorf before and wanted to see what the panel had to say about this topic.

in 1998 when open source was coined as a term, free software already existed.  the term 'free software' caused confusion (free as in no $ or free as in no liberty).  this movement helped coined the open source term.

"now sun is pretty much a free and open source licensing company" -- hmm...pretty sweeping statement.

who is the OSI?  an open process and community discussing licensing issues.   when a new license is proposed, they start a conversation about it.  the board/committee meets and decides -- open process with the submitter on ensuring OSD compliance, etc.

current discussion on gplv3 (SugarCRM supporting this license).  chris dibona has some issue with gplv3, not because of some details, but ensuring that something called open source complies with the open source definition.

ross mayfield has a company (social text) who used a mozilla license with some modified clauses...caused some issues with some in the community, a result of a passionate community.  "users are becoming developers" in certain ways...interesting thought.  ross refers to the blog post about 'will the real open source crm please stand up' and how socialtext stopped calling themselves open source until their process was vetted through the community.  social text has the common public attribution license == mozilla+.  michael just announced that this attribution license submitted by social text (CPAL) is approved and the ink is drying as we speak.

micheal suggests we look at the history page of the definition of open source on wikipedia.  he says "terrifying."

in the definition of open source is it about the OSI maintaining its reputation? 

this is some interesting discussion but perhaps way too philisophical for this time of day or my technical dweeb mind ;-).  end of panel -- do we have an idea of who gets to decide?  i'm still confused.

i'm looking forward to bill hilf's discussion during tomorrow morning's general session...stay tuned.