26 May 2009

Enomaly, Inc. owns CloudCamp™ - has it jumped the shark?

So Reuven Cohen's company, Enomaly, Inc. effectively owns CloudCamp... you heard it here first:

Here's the backstory:

As you're no doubt already aware I recently stepped up to bring CloudCamp to Paris on 11 June 2009, which seemed like a good idea at the time and a nice opportunity to kickstart the community over here (we already have almost 100 registrations!). You also likely followed my coverage of previous Enomaly-related fiascos including the CCIF goat rodeo and appreciate that I have a very low tolerance for bulls--t in anything I'm involved with (I still can't for the life of me work out why Enomaly insists on involving itself in this stuff rather than focusing on its fledgling business). What you probably don't know is that the CCIF and CloudCamp organisations are (or at least were to be) one and the same, were it not for backlash from local organisers and my premature uncovering of the ill-fated [Open] Coud [Computing] Alliance just in the nick of time. I figured the shenanigans and tomfoolery were in the past and that we'd moved on but apparently not...

So we held our first organisers' meeting a few weeks back hit the ground running with an agenda, venue, sponsors and a handful of registrations in an Eventbrite site that we set up. As we expect a mixed audience and bearing in mind we're in Central Europe rather than the US we went for a more formal structure than usual with a combination of set talks and an "unpanel". This apparently wasn't the CloudCamp approved format so the agenda was overhauled only to be rejected by the venue and restored to something more like what we started with. The Eventbrite site was also handed over without question to Dave Nielsen, who claimed it would be better on his account for cross-marketing purposes. That was fine until we wanted to offer sponsorship slots to a few specific registrants but were denied access to our own list on the basis of a "no-spam policy" (if we can't trust our own organisers then who can we trust, bearing in mind BarCamp lists are public, albeit obfuscated). Needless to say my patience was already being tested because things I needed (documentation and a sponsorship kit) were absent while things I didn't (interference) were plentiful.

Naturally cynical and somewhat unsettled by our brushes with the self-appointed CloudCamp committee (which obnoxiously lists Reuven as "instigator" while failing to acknowledge any of the European contributors including Alexis Richardson, Chris Purrington and Simon Wardley who were equally critical to its' success, not to mention BarCamp itself on which the whole thing is based) I took advantage of being at the Cloud Computing Expos in Prague and London to discuss candidly with some of the other European organisers. Sure enough I'm not the only one who's anxious about the future (of course the future of cloudcamp is looking bright when you know you own the thing!) and it seems there is some well-earned and deep-seated distrust going around. I'm also not the only one concerned about the hard work of the many potentially resulting in the unjust enrichment of the few and my attempts to convince Dave (in a 3 hour call no less) that everyone who's ever organised or even attended a CloudCamp event is both stakeholder and benefactor have thus far fallen on deaf ears. It's becoming increasingly clear to me that the view from above is that a small group of people I've previously referred to as the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers believe they "own" the community (more "pwn" than "own" if you ask me).

Everyone I spoke to agreed that the best way forward would be to take care of registering the trademark (something that should have been done long ago anyway), to be handed over to a suitable non-profit organisation run by elected representative(s). This mail was drafted to announce the contribution, which should really have been the end of the story:
Afternoon all,

As you know I've been active in protecting all things cloud computing w.r.t trademarks, for example:

I've just discovered the term CloudCamp is not protected and as one of a large and growing list of stakeholders (on which I include everyone from participants to organisers, sponsors and "instigators") I am concerned that we are unnecessarily (significantly) exposed. I bumped into Tom Leyden at the Cloud Computing Expo in Prague (who's organised a bunch more CloudCamps than I have) and he shares my concerns, as do a handful of other organisers I have spoken to.

As such (given the significant lead times and expenses usually associated with trademark registration) I've taken the liberty of registering the trademark with the USPTO which I will gladly transfer to a 503(c)3 non-profit, established to further the interests of cloud computing and run by elected officials. If we're not (eventually) reimbursed then Tom and I will cover the costs personally as a donation/sponsorship.

Sam
The problem was when we did a worldwide search last week with a view to registering the trademark we found that Reuven Cohen (with the help of Deeth Williams Wall lawyers) had already done so in March in the name of his own company, Enomaly, Inc. Even more curiously, when I raised the trademark issue on my recent call with Dave he knew nothing about it so either he's being taken for a ride along with the rest of us or he's telling fibs too. Naturally the excuse will be that this was done to protect the community while waiting for the formation of CloudCamp, Inc. but I don't buy it - the application curiously occurred contemporaneously with a brash attempt by a vendor to buy the whole lot and I don't believe for one second that this was a coincidence.

I don't plan to dwell on this point (I don't have the time anyway) and my primary/only concern is the ongoing viability and stability of the community we have all contributed to in some way (even if just as a participant). The last thing I want to see is a for-profit company being formed and run by self-appointed dictators only to be sold to a vendor - such a thing would be the antithesis of BarCamp, on which the group is based and whatever is setup should be structured so as to make this impossible (e.g. a non-profit democracy).

I'm not the first to accuse CloudCamp of jumping the shark, and we've seen it all before (right down to the silly puff pieces promoting individuals and obnoxious "instigator" title) when MashupCamp jumped the shark a few years back. However I believe it's not yet too late to avoid forking the community (and yes, if the organisers don't come to the party then everyone I've spoken to agrees there will be a fork) as I'm fairly sure they plan to announce the new regime they've been busy nutting out with their lawyers at the anniversary CloudCamp on 24 June 2009.

As a starting point for the "Future of CloudCamp" here's a mail I wrote at the start of the month, only to have it moderated and deleted. Let's try to work out what we need from any central CloudCamp organisation (and indeed if we need one at all) and then take it from there:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Sam Johnston
Date: Mon, May 4, 2009 at 7:28 PM
Subject: Future of CloudCamp
To: [email protected]

Evening all,

There was apparently a "future of cloudcamp" call with European organisers a few weeks back and putting aside the question as to why I and the other CloudCampParis organisers I've spoken to weren't invited, was someone planning to at least post some minutes to the list?

So far as I am concerned CloudCamp is a good (albeit blatantly obvious) idea and is essentially a franchise shared between anyone who has contributed to its growth (from "instigators" to organisers to sponsors to attendees). Those of you entangled in the CCIF goat rodeo will be acutely aware of my fervour for transparency and as such I don't like having to ask for it, but I know I'm not the only one who wants to see more of it.

That in mind, by kicking off this thread I'm hoping we (the stakeholders of CloudCamp) can collaboratively and openly define the direction of the organisation. First thing's first (as I'm busy organising CloudCampParis as we speak) I'd like to get Dave some ideas as to how he can best assist local organisers. Here's some ideas to get the ball rolling:

  • Sponsorship Kit to facilitate selling of sponsorships (maybe just a PDF and/or web page explaining why it's a good idea), probably offering a basic level (@ ~ $350/€250) including mentions on the event minisite, at the event, etc. and a more advanced level including a lightning talk. For bonus points offer a "bronze" level for cashed up attendees. Details TBD but you get the idea - makes it an easier sell.
  • Branding Kit with logos, colours, PDFs, etc. which local organisers can use to have some sort of consistency (even a PDF of a sign with an arrow on it saves time).
  • Global Sponsors who commit to pay a certain amount per event (say €100-500 or around €5-20k/annum) and who get a mention on the main site and at each event for it. Currently cloudcamp.com has a laundry list of sponsors including pretty much anyone who's ever had anything to do with cloud computing and their mothers - that makes it essentially worthless and difficult to sell... bronze/silver/gold/platinum sponsors would be a better idea.
  • Organisation to take money, issue invoices, etc. but only if it's a 503(c)(3) as it's too easy to take the piss with other forms and this has significant tax advantages (read: easier to sell sponsorships and everything is cheaper). Regional organisers should be organisation members and the direction should be set by them democratically. Among other things that would save people like me having to bother our accountants about collecting money on behalf of the organisation.
  • Support in terms of joining conference calls, mailing lists and even attending the events where possible/feasible. This is a two way street though so I guess local organisers should offer accommodation/entertainment/etc. where possible to reduce costs.
  • Web Site optimised for creating and advertising individual events. This should probably be something like the Drupal CMS and organisers should be able to create and edit events without having to bother anyone else. It doesn't need to be fancy - a Wiki would probably do too (this works rather nicely for BarCamp). This is something I'd be more than happy to help out with, especially if we could get it in place quickly (in time for Paris).
I'm sure there's plenty of other things we could do but the point is to get some sort of discussion underway and get people involved in the governance rather than provide an exhaustive list.

Cheers,

Sam
Update: Forgot to mention that Canadian Trademark Application #1431094 has a priority date of 4 March 2009, which likely means that for an additional expense it can be extended to other Madrid protocol countries at any time in the next 6 months (e.g. until 4 October 2009). Just because it doesn't show up in USPTO yet doesn't mean it won't in due course.

3 comments:

  1. FYI ... The link to Dave Nielsen's site appears to be infected. Or so says AntiVir.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tidy little story, thanks! see Jo's comments here:

    http://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/cloud-computing/splitters-in-cloudcamp/

    also FYI, Marten Mickos is now at RightScale:

    http://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/cloud-computing/

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Derrick, I fixed it a long time ago b/c I was told by someone like you. So thanks. Note: My AntiVir software hadn't caught it :-(

    ReplyDelete

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