The open-source world was caught by surprise this week when Russ Nelson, the newly elected president of the Open Source Initiative, resigned his office retroactively to Feb. 23.
The OSI (Open Source Initiative) is the body that approves open-source licenses. Nelson, a founding member of the nonprofit group and president of Crynwr Software, a high-end e-mail system design company based on open-source software, was named president on Feb. 1.
He took the place of Eric Raymond, a co-founder of the OSI, who had been president since the organizations founding.
In his Weblog, Nelson said, "Im resigning from the presidency of the Open Source Initiative, effective last Wednesday (2/23). I have waited to make this announcement because it is not easy to admit inadequacy publicly."
"I have no trouble telling people that I am a poor swimmer, but that is of no matter to me since I dont care about swimming. I care very much that OSI have a good president. I dont like politics, and its become evident in recent weeks that OSIs role has rapidly become much more political," Nelson wrote.
"I am not ready for the position of president; certainly not by training and perhaps not even by temperament. The entire board is unanimous in agreeing that we need a president with more political savvy than I," he continued.
Some members of the open-source community had wanted him out of the position because what of what has been described as "his racism and fringe economic theories (that) were endangering the mission of the OSI."
Nelson subsequently sought to explain himself in an essay titled "Blacks are Not Lazy."
Raymond, now the OSIs president emeritus, said, "The people who called Russ a racist should be deeply ashamed of themselves. The rants against him were ugly and ignorant, ignoring what he actually wrote and substituting the ranters own preoccupations."
Larry Rosen, former general counsel for the OSI, agreed. "I dont believe that Russ is a racist. I think it was an unfortunate choice of words."
"The people who knew Russ as a Quaker, a pacifist and a gentleman, and no racist, but nevertheless pressured OSI to do the responsible thing and fire him in order to avoid political damage should be equally ashamed," Raymond said. "Abetting somebody elses witch hunt is no less disgusting than starting your own."
"Personally, I wanted to fight this on principle," Raymond said. "Russ resigned the presidency rather than get OSI into that fight, and the board quite properly respected his wishes in the matter. That sacrifice makes me angrier at the fools and thugs who pulled him down."