Dobey, I’m not sure Jeff ever said that these distributors are not free to exercise their right to fork the code and “innovate” in that way (it’s a frigging clock, so not sure what the innovation was, but anyway).
I’m definitely not contesting Novell’s, Red Hat’s, Sun’s, or anyone else’s right to modify some GPL code and ship a new version of it, with source code, obviously.
But I think Jeff was quite right to respond to Federico, saying “you exercised your freedom rights as a distributor, but you did it in a way that created the very problem you complain about.”
I completely agree with Jeff there – using or not using a distributed VCS in that discussion is merely a technical implementation detail. I have strong doubts that any of the distros involved would have in fact taken the time to go look for all of the patches in the various (probably completely local anyway) distributed branches.
It’s not the tools that need changing, it’s the mindset.
In any case, correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks like you’re trying to make the point that anyone’s allowed the freedom to fork, while all Jeff was saying is “if you break the collaboration model, you get to keep the pieces”. It’s merely pointing out the difference between “the community that a license can enable” and “actually being a community”.