There have been two rounds of discussion about code licensing:
- The MIT License – Clarity on Using Code on Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange
- A New Code License: The MIT, this time with Attribution Required
In my opinion (and with the benefit of hindsight), both rounds have been suboptimal ways of discussing the problem, even though we managed to collect a lot of good feedback.
I would characterize the conclusion from the first round as "this is more controversial than we thought". About twenty different issues were raised in the answers, and the proposal had to be postponed, then redone.
I would characterize the second round as, frankly, a gaffe. This proposal had just a tweak that resolved about three of the twenty issues, suggested that the "details" could be addressed in a yet-to-be-written FAQ, and set a transition date just 45 days out. The top five answers are, basically:
- Flawed sentiment analysis — and you know it!
- Flawed sentiment analysis, due to the voting system
- This is a very bad idea, and you ignored nearly all the issues
- Generally in favour of the direction, but the proposal is incomplete, and this proposed license isn't right
- Give us the FAQ now!
While the chaos of the first round could be forgiven as unexpected, the backlash from the second round was thoroughly predictable. Not only did the staff fail to do their homework, but they also put a tight deadline on the proposal that suggested that it was ready for implementation. (@Shog9 has subsequently added clarification that the "deadline" was just a scheduling goal, and that if it takes a year to get it right, that's OK — which was not apparent from the tone of the announcement.)
The second proposal has now been suspended, so I expect there to be a third round. However, given the chaos of the first two rounds, I fear that the third round will not go well either.
We can't have a sane discussion when half-baked proposals are presented as announcements with unrealistic implementation dates.
We can't have a sane discussion when twenty different issues are raised all at once, including fundamental preliminary concerns such as "What problem(s) are we trying to solve?" that impact all subsequent decisions. Now, we've spawned a whole collection of related Meta questions:
- What is "code" for the purposes of the proposed MIT license switchover?
- CC-by-SA vs MIT - The 2016 battle
- Add an indicator for the license to code blocks and a tool to copy code with the proper attribution
- How does the proposed MIT license change affect code that comes in part from another site
- Can the new license potentially end existing rights to old content?
- What happens when an answer crosses the threshold of originality, but the code within that answer doesn't?
- Licensing per Site
- Why should the new code license be permissive instead of copyleft?
- What sort of attribution should Stack Exchange members expect for their work?
- A New Code License: the Community Edition
- Why separate code and non-code licensing? (← This is a good initial step)
- Is a license change necessary?
- In the first two relicensing proposals, why did Stack Overflow try to use the Terms of Service to change the license requirements?
While those are all good questions, some of them put the cart before the horse. What we have is a project management problem.
We need to go meta meta. Putting aside your own opinions about licensing itself, can we design a process that is conducive to logical discussion? Please post your meta-meta ideas below.