The Question of Conflicts of Interest

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masterchief
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The Question of Conflicts of Interest

Post by masterchief » Sun Jul 25, 2010 11:09 pm

For me, the question of Conflicts of Interest (COI) come up from time to time, almost with seasonal regularity

Wikipedia summaries Conflict of Interest as:

"A conflict of interest (COI) occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other."

and:

"More generally, conflicts of interest can be defined as any situation in which an individual or corporation (either private or governmental) is in a position to exploit a professional or official capacity in some way for their personal or corporate benefit."

Wikipedia goes on to say that "the existence of a conflict of interest may not, in and of itself, be evidence of wrongdoing.". This makes dealing the COI's a rather complicated matter because to actually establish a COI requires a significant burden of proof (in other words, you need to know the facts of a situation to judge a potential COI). It should also be noted that having a COI is not a bad/immoral/unethical thing. They are a reality of any organisation so it's not the fact that they exist that should be of any concern, but they COI's certainly need to be managed properly.

In addition to this, we also have an interesting area of "perceived COI" which I translate as people will assume you have a COI in the absence of sufficient supporting facts (not because of them). All up, this makes for an interesting area to look at, and to my knowledge we've never really had an open conversation about how COI's relate to ones involvement in an Open Source project like Joomla.

The project's Volunteer Code of Conduct already has a provision for people to be aware of COI's, but what I'm interested in is where others think COI's exist. I think it would also be useful to explore areas that are commonly thought to be COI's but aren't.

Here's an example of what I don't think is a COI:

"It's a COI to own a company and be involved in an Open Source project"

No, that mere fact alone is not enough to establish a COI (and unfortunately I've received that one a lot).

Conversely, here are a few situations that I can think of that would be a conflict of interest for me:

If the PLT (the Production Leadership Team) is discussing whether to extend my paid contract with OSM, it's a COI for me to influence that discussion (usually meaning I would have to excuse myself from the vote or even the discussion as a altogether and limit my involvement to answering direct questions only).

My company produces commercial training and development resources. It would be a COI for me to write a review about a author's book in a similar genre (even if not done on Joomla property) because that could affect its sale to my benefit.

Anyway, those are a few quick thoughts from me. What about you?
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Re: The Question of Conflicts of Interest

Post by RussW » Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:20 am

Always an interesting, and sometimes, emotive topic...

I do feel that "Conflict of Interest" gets yelled a little too loud and a little too often sometimes, especially without doing some research first about the specific item under discussion or having a full understanding of any actions that may have already been taken to guard against it. As with your example of excusing yourself from a discussion when you may have secondary interests.

On the whole, I guess, a lot of this comes down to a personal ethic and duty of care, before being led in to such a situation. For myself, I am always extremely careful when pointing people toward "external" resources from any official sites or forums, that I myself use, primarily so it is not seen as favouritism towards any specific developers or providers, including myself. I tend to hedge on the "safer side" (even with signatures) and rarely offer direct recommendation unless it really is only one of a few or uniquely suits a situation.

As with many of the longer-term members and users, I also tend to declare an "interest" and allow others the option to enter discussion as to whether it is a conflict, well before the "meat" of main discussion is opened for debate.
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Re: The Question of Conflicts of Interest

Post by abernyte » Wed Feb 02, 2011 6:32 pm

Sorry to come late to the party.

The situation of a COI is more generally one that is perceived rather than actual.

The perception can be allayed, although not dispelled, by a completely open and transparent manner of operation. As RussW observes it is mostly a matter of personal ethics but no organisation should leave the issue of COI to personal ethics.
The framework in which you participate in OSM, whether voluntarily or not, should be clear and unambiguous. So regardless of whether I am a paid official, core contributor or front line grunt fielding questions in the Forum it should be clear to me what Joomla expects.
At the moment it is left to personal discretion.
What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly…Thomas Paine

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Re: The Question of Conflicts of Interest

Post by OOmNezar » Sun Feb 13, 2011 11:35 am

The essence of "Open Source" is a source open to the public. So, in my opinion, which is expected to Joomla and most people who use it, in my opinion is something which is free. Free to do anything about the source of which was opened to the public. To be as a professional we "must" do something that could make the company more profit. While the "Open Sourcher" we "should" be able to give something to the public as volunteers. So, when working, we become professionals. But, as a volunteer we should be able to give what was expected by others to us.
Set it on ourselves each of us, want to be a professional or volunteer.
Being a volunteer, such as when we help others in a place during a natural disaster, war, plague.
Are you always working around the clock, 24 hours, 7 days a week, all year round. If like that, then we are a robot that can be controlled by a company.
"COI" is exist. But we are supposed to control our interests. Our interests to our company enjoyable or pleasing others.
Indeed there are others who use the COI, all of us even have a COI. COI is the fun of ourselves.
All this to be up to you.
In my opinion, there are times when we menjai "professional" and there are times when we become "volunteers".
When our hearts call to become a volunteer, we'll feel it.
Are all our lives, we must always take advantage of the shortcomings of others. Why do not we give the excess to others who lack resources. We could benefit in other ways. Way that does not ride on the "Open Source". A better way in my opinion.
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Re: The Question of Conflicts of Interest

Post by dubois » Wed Aug 03, 2011 5:02 pm

im my opinion joomla should fiercely make a switch to a commercial scenario, this will give you the money to make joomla a serious product and to screw Drupal and Wordpress as commercial devs will have a marketplace (app store ? template store ?) where users are locked-in.

think about it, what's exactly the business plan for joomla ? at the moment it's "fly by night", as any other NGOs and OSS projects, at the mercy of donations, advertising, and volunteers.

open source just means the source code is code, it doesn't mean you can't make a biz on it.

at the very least you should ponder about a Joomla Pro version, thus a "freemium" scenario.

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Re: The Question of Conflicts of Interest

Post by johher » Sun Sep 11, 2011 11:43 pm

I think that conflict of interest is used all to common even without knowing what it really is. I think that before throwing something out, you should be able to justify what the conflict would be should there be a need for it.

I think the real conflict of interest lies with what 2 things you are doing. And should there be a similar description for both, then a possible conflict could be named for it, but not too sure.

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Re: The Question of Conflicts of Interest

Post by jmchauvel » Thu Oct 20, 2011 6:02 pm

dubois wrote:im my opinion joomla should fiercely make a switch to a commercial scenario, this will give you the money to make joomla a serious product and to screw Drupal and Wordpress as commercial devs will have a marketplace (app store ? template store ?) where users are locked-in.

think about it, what's exactly the business plan for joomla ? at the moment it's "fly by night", as any other NGOs and OSS projects, at the mercy of donations, advertising, and volunteers.

open source just means the source code is code, it doesn't mean you can't make a biz on it.

at the very least you should ponder about a Joomla Pro version, thus a "freemium" scenario.
dubois, I fully agree with you! Joomla! should have a Pro version.

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Re: The Question of Conflicts of Interest

Post by dubois » Fri Oct 21, 2011 9:42 am

thank you but we all know it's never gonna happen and frankly i don't care anymore, i'm on joomla, wordpress, and drupal, and if i need something robust i stick with Drupal actually, it's just wasted time to mess with joomla in the hope in a radical u-turn coming soon.


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