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Conflict of Interest Derails UK Government Open Source Consultation

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the starting-from-scratch dept.

Government 34

judgecorp writes "The UK government's consultation about the use of open source in public sector IT has been sent back to square one, with discussion results scrapped because the facilitator, Andy Hopkirk, is involved with Microsoft. Hopkirk is well regarded, but the open source community feels the debate dismissed RF (royalty free) standards in favor of the FRAND definition, which is more favorable to proprietary vendors."

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Happy Friday from the Golden Girls! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39819871)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

Hopkirk (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39819951)

>discussion results scrapped because the facilitator, Andy Hopkirk...
Hands up who expected the next word to be "(deceased)".

Re:Hopkirk (4, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39820025)

The actual following words were "is involved with Microsoft.".
I guess it's not too far off.

Re:Hopkirk (2)

yahwotqa (817672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39820375)

*raises hand*
I just wonder where Randall is.

Russell!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39820001)

Watch the manual grid balance!!!!

Respected, not ethical (5, Informative)

Internal Modem (1281796) | more than 2 years ago | (#39820119)

According to the post, he may be respected, but has been labeled unethical: "This [relationship with Microsoft] could be seen as a clear conflict of interest and should have been declared by the relevant parties at that meeting."

Re:Respected, not ethical (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39820297)

When crap like this is pulled there needs to be a demerit system that now weighs more heavily against the side which was found to behaving unethically. Like Proprietary software has 120 points, Open Source alternatives 119. However, due to the unethical stunt you pulled we award you 50 demerits. So the final score is Open Source 119, Proprietary 70. We will therefore use open source whenever it is feasible.

Re:Respected, not ethical (2)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 2 years ago | (#39821243)

When crap like this is pulled there needs to be a demerit system that now weighs more heavily against the side which was found to behaving unethically.

There isn't a point system. However, there's a much more simple thing, and it's actually the law already. Products from companies involved in corruption should be excluded from all governmental contracts for a period of time as happened for example to Boeing in the USA. If Microsoft products were suspended for e.g. 10 years, this would be a salutory lesson for all involved in corruption.

Re:Respected, not ethical (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 2 years ago | (#39821829)

[Citation Needed]

Re:Respected, not ethical (2)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 2 years ago | (#39822019)

[Citation Needed]

Citation given []

Re:Respected, not ethical (1)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39822677)

There is such an demerit system, it is called "public opinion". It is, however, up to us to ensure the facts reach the eyes of the public. If you reside in the UK, be sure to write your member of parliament, on paper, in an envelope, with a signature. You will get a response.

Re:Respected, not ethical (0)

sosume (680416) | more than 2 years ago | (#39820937)

God forbid a company is making profit selling commercial software in the EUSSR!

So you demand a government handout? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39821127)

After all, the only place this money can come from to pay for software would be to raise taxes to cover it. This money, coming from everyone equally (hah!) then goes to the few.

A welfare handout.

Something you have no problem with, as long as the handout is to rich people...

Re:Respected, not ethical (2)

makomk (752139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39821781)

This is basically what Microsoft have always done, though, isn't it? There was even an internal memo describing the usefulness of this particular tactic - quietly getting a Microsoft stooge as the moderator of the discussion - in I think the Halloween documents.

The Slog, Redux (1)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39823527)

It was Pamela Jones of Groklaw who revealed the existence of "The Slog" from the Comes vs. Microsoft case documents. On reading of this latest conflict-of-interest issue with Hopkirk, PJ's February 17, 2008 article is eerily familiar... []

Re:The Slog, Redux (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39826757)

Ah yes, that's the memo I was thiking of, though I think it was known about before PJ blogged about it.

Re:Respected, not ethical (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#39821881)

I wonder how respected he'll be now that he's got caught first trying to hide then pathetically to play down the pretty obvious strings running up to the Microsoft glove.

It's not so much that he did it that's outrageous, it's the insulting assumption that he could just shrug and get away with it.

These comments are based on reading TFA, by the way, it really is as bad as the summary makes it sound for once.

Re:Respected, not ethical (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 2 years ago | (#39830625)

Reality here is the bill for the cost of the effort to date should be forwarded to M$ as it were their interests that were deceitfully forwarded, M$ can then choose whether or not to get the 'bad' doctor to pay for it or not.

That companies can try this stuff on again and again, without any penalty is getting way out of hand. Some real penalties should be applied especially when they stooge up government based investigations that will likely lead to legislation.

Re:Respected, not ethical (1)

TheMathemagician (2515102) | more than 2 years ago | (#39821889)

He can't be that evil, he has a most impressive white beard.

Re:Respected, not ethical (3, Funny)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#39822453)

He can't be that evil, he has a most impressive white beard.

Bah, so did Saruman. Look how that turned out.

Re:Respected, not ethical (1)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39823319)

He can't be that evil, he has a most impressive white beard.

Like Saruman.

Obama ate a dog. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39820165)

Obama ate a dog.

FTFA (4, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39820255)

"not been paid to specifically write their response to the Open Standards consultation but he is engaged to help them tease out the issues"

Wow, what a bunch of political weasel wording by Hopkirk. It all depends on how "specific" Hopkirk defines "specifically." That's not just mere conflict of interest. That's conflict of interest and then still lying about it.


Re:FTFA (2)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#39821751)

That's not the right way to look at this. You can't call the facilitator having consulted for Microsoft a "conflict of interest" without that applying equally to someone who benefits from the adoption of truly open standards.

The problem here is that Dr. Hopkirk didn't *disclose* his ties to Microsoft. I give Dr. Hopkirk the benefit of the doubt that he attempted to steer the roundtable impartially -- to the best of his knowledge. But he concealed information that was important for *other* people to make an *independent* assessment of his impartiality. That was deceptive.

So the question is who did Dr. Hopkirk deceive, the people he was trying to help, or himself? Surely it must be himself, because had he been thinking clearly he would have anticipated someone connecting the conflict-of-interest dots. Consider this blog entry from Dr. Hopkirk (

By way of clarification and noting that I maintain a strict firewall between the different activities I am engaged in ...

Do you find Dr. Hopkirk's claim to have erected firewalls *within his own mind* at all convincing? More to the point would you expect *anyone* concerned with conflict of interest in this case to be reassured by this claim? This statement is so provocatively absurd, that it can only be the product of self-deception. People are prepared to believe all kinds of ridiculous things about themselves, like "my intentions are good, therefore I can do no wrong."

Re:FTFA (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39822627)

>This statement is so provocatively absurd, that it can only be the product of self-deception.

I think you nailed it.


Re:FTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39827639)

I've actually been involved in the Open Standards debate in UK gov *way* before Dr Hopkirk - I was part of the group of people that engineered the first standardisation in UK gov IT in years (I can't begin to describe just how much money we saved the tax payer, but it may serve as illustration that in one particular instance we had an ROI of one MONTH).

You nailed the problem exactly - if you want to navigate the choppy waters of vendors willing to throw all sorts of deceptive messages, political manoeuvring and even money at it (not bribery, of course, but think fancy dinners et al) you *have* to be whiter than white. Not mentioning the Microsoft connection is exactly the kind of thing that removes the trust in your impartiality you need to get parties around the table. You cannot be a raving Open Source supporter either, by the way, because you'll scare the decision makers who like "safe for me" over "best for the nation" (aka "past the time I'm in this job").

It's disappointing Dr Hopkirk made such a statement, because even if it is true, few people will believe it. He should have declared this beforehand, and if someone is really that capable in separating issues in his mind, he sure as hell should have realised that an upfront disclosure would have been better than one made after a 3rd party discovered it..

Say it ain't so (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39820299)

Microsoft playing dirty? Who would have thought!

Not surprising... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39820317)

I've worked in Local Government IT on an account for a London Borough for over 12 years, both on the client and contractor side.
It seems pretty much mandatory that as much public money as possible spent on IT is funnelled straight to Redmond.
It's therefore not really surprising that they should invite someone strongly connected with Microsoft to discuss Open Source.

Re:Not surprising... (2, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39820395)

We all know how committed to maintaining openness and compatibility Microsoft is. For many years their support of free and open systems has been legendary.

Re:Not surprising... (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 2 years ago | (#39834217)

Your comment is actually insightful, as anyone who has tried to install a pirated version of Windows 7 has discovered (i.e., if we define "free" as in beer, and "open" as in "wide open for piracy").

OTOH, MS might very well be monitoring the IP addresses of update requests and scanning them for fixed IPs assigned to businesses so that they can refer evidence of piracy by commercial entities to the proper BSA national branch office.

Frankly, MS has a stake that people pirate their OS and tools for home use, because they know that most businesses aren't going to take the risk involved in infringement, and will pay up. If all of the IP staff is using FOSS at home, they're much more likely to consider using FOSS in the office environment, especially if the business is small enough that there isn't a lot of politics/bureaucracy involved. And every widely publicized success story of FOSS adoption is another nail in MS's (eventual) coffin.

Jobs for the boys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39830513)

The last local borough I worked for, the head of IT left after a few years to join Microsoft. He now lobbies the new guy on behalf of Microsoft. It's no stretch to imagine that the next guy will leave in a few years to join Microsoft.

Millions wasted on Microsoft Office hardly anyone uses, when Libre Office would be a better choice for them. This really stinks.

Now can we apply this to... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39820399)

... the entirety of DEA and just get the entire thing scrapped because it was made by morons who are lazy and have no clue about technology?
Please? Pretty please with a cherry on top?

The general public shouldn't need to pay for an entire industry if they don't even support it.
And I say this as a person who buys. The only time I have ever "pirated" is to trial where there was no trial to see if it was worth the effort to buy if the thing never even worked in the first place. (be it games or software)

Some people couldn't give less of a damn about the music industry. I sure don't care about the majority of the industry. Their music is lies, scripted and derivative most of the time. It is embarrassing.
Yet they are quite happy to force a tax on everyone to pay for the internet.
I'd be perfectly happy to do that IF I cared about it, it would be a simpler way to pay for things, but considering how they'd also likely make you pay for things twice, or even more, why bother?

DEA is just as bad as these things. It doesn't do anything but increase the cost to end users.
Some things were completely fine, but the entire thing was destroyed by over-reaching greedy media companies.

How about giving a better service and product to users than free rips do?
Is that so hard to ask for?
Most people pirate because it is easier, not out of malice. (that is likely last in the list of piracy types, 2nd being those who cannot acquire these things through original distribution channels)
Look at what happened when iTunes came along, people flocked to it and still do. Online streaming websites are growing in numbers massively, whether it is for films, TV, or even anime fansubs being officially greenlighted by the producers.
So, why are you all so insistent in trying to destroy your own industries and bring us down with you?

a delay is success.. (4, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39820447)

and profits in pocket.

not paid specifically to do that, but paid anyways. if he was going to continue to be paid depending on the results would have been the next question to ask.

but good civil service reaction (1)

jeremypbennett (1829930) | more than 2 years ago | (#39842647)

The one positive out of this, is the reaction of the Cabinet Office deputy CIO, Liam Maxwell. When he heard about the problem, he confronted Hopkirk, then having heard his account fired him for not declaring his conflict of interest, binned the responses he had facilitated, and extended the consultation. It seems we have one civil servant who is determined that this consultation will be held fairly. So all our UK readers now have another 5 weeks to get their responses in: [] . The UK Open Source Consortium ( has additional information.
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