Update 2005/08/03: On Wednesday morning Tony affirmatively states that there is no legal issue with Class::DBI. He indicated to me in earlier private email that there were other legal issues involved and that he could not say anything about how that related to the community. He has relented on that part of the debate.
OSCON has started off lots of gossip and queries about Class::DBI’s personality problems. The news around the camp fire is that people are going to jump ship to get away from the proble.
In a previous weblog I reported on a row between Tony Bowden and Sebastian Riesel. Tony wrote to me to explain part of his story, but also explained that he has separate legal proceedings that prevent him from explaining his actions. That, along with personal attacks he made towards me and seemingly coy statements about why this such a big deal, worry me.
I’ve seen this sort of thing before while consulting with Stonehenge. People who want to get open source into their business have to convince their higher-ups that it’s a good idea. Some developers and maintainers are so truculent, wacky, eccentric, or whatever that the business people balk at using the otherwise technically excellent software. Tony’s taken it a step further by dangling threats of lwasuits over everything and everyone that comes near him.
It’s easy to see the business case against this situation. What do you do when you need support, or you want to request a feature? Certainly propietary software could have similar outcomes: no patch and no feature. Open source developers, however, will also write you back with personal attacks and behave poorly in public. Now legal action is in the mix.
In Tony’s private mail to me, he continued to insist on legal action along multiple axes, and made some statements that made me think he might now direct some of that at me. He wants to shut down the discussion with the threat of lawyers. What do you do when volunteers and open source developers can’t get along or act like adults?
Based on my recent personal correspondance with Tony as well as my contact with the other principals involved, I think Tony’s now a liability for Class::DBI, and I can’t recommend the module until he breaks his association with it. He’s passed the point of no return. It’s too bad that his otherwise good work is now overshadowed by a personality conflict.