Hindering Backchannels Rule[tm] cure:
Yesterday I spoke with Bradley Kuhn. We noted that copyleft-next never
adopted a code of conduct -- as I put it (paraphrasing),
"copyleft-next is so *old* that it largely predates the contemporary
FOSS concern regarding adoption of codes of conduct". Leaving aside
the fact that copyleft-next has been a bit dormant for quite some time
(something which I am hoping may change in the near future), I believe
copyleft-next ought to adopt a Code of Conduct. As I think Bradley
said in the conversation yesterday, it may be that the Hindering
Backchannels Rule properly belongs within a Code of Conduct.
Incorporating HBR in a Code of Conduct may address concerns about
Last week I had a few conversations with Bradley Kuhn about
copyleft-next and the Harvey Birdman Rule . I understand Bradley
planned to make one or more HBR cures based on those conversations. I
am here pre-empting him solely as to the HBR conversation, just
because it's fairly simple for me to explain.
We were talking about HBR and I pointed out that the name Harvey
Birdman Rule is kind of obsolete or increasingly obscure.
Some background: Harvey Birdman Rule is a reference to the cartoon
series Harvey Birdman, Attorney-at-Law  which ended in 2007. In the
past (once on a Free as in Freedom episode, and I believe once on this
mailing list) Bradley provided explanations of the choice of the name
for the governance rule that originated in connection with the
copyleft-next project. These explanations were, as I recall,
ingeniously creative but had the character of ex post justifications.
In terms of its naming, at least, HBR was meant to be a reference to
and parody of the Chatham House Rule, which experienced a brief period
of popularity in certain free software-related circles around
2009-2010 or so. I think the original choice of Harvey Birdman may
have mostly had something to do with the fact that there was a
memorable lawyer involved in the GPLv3 process named Jim Harvey ,
but if so the connection was really only as loose as this: that Jim
Harvey was (way before the launch of copyleft-next) a representative
member of the open source lawyer establishment -- he was co-chair of
one of the four GPLv3 discussion committees -- and that coincidentally
his surname matched the forename of the memorable cartoon character
Anyway, whatever the situation was in ~2012, today Harvey Birdman is,
probably, more obscure as a cultural reference. I am also not sure
that the humor in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law has itself stood the
test of time.
So Bradley and I discussed the desirability of renaming the Rule. The
best approach is to fit a new expansion into the existing HBR acronym.
The auditory similarity of the expansion to Chatham House Rule -- the
original element of the joke -- ought to be retained; that is, the
expansion should be of the form [word1] [word2] Rule.
The best Bradley could come up with was Hindering Backchannels Rule. I
couldn't come up with anything better. I think this is better than
Harvey Birdman Rule.
Bradley also suggested that HBR should be revised to eliminate the
attempt to disincentivize top-posting of mailing list replies (see HBR
4). It's now clear that if only for reasons of generational cultural
change, the battle against top-posting which I suppose began in the
early days of the Eternal September is now completely lost. Recall
that HBR had already been revised to soften the prohibition on
So anyway I support Bradley's suggestion that (a) Harvey Birdman Rule
be renamed Hindering Backchannels Rule, and (b) HBR 4 be deleted.
 Now at Alston & Bird. See