Linked by Rahul on Sat 11th Oct 2008 01:39 UTC
Features, Office Michael Meeks who leads the development team within Novell has taken a detailed look at contributions associated by metrics to and makes the case that Sun's tight control over the codebase and the lack of enough volunteer contributors leaves the development slowly stagnating over a period of time. Michael Meeks has recently started strongly advocating the position that Sun needs to setup a more independent foundation or otherwise allow more relaxed policies for commit access and be less rigid about assignment of copyright to itself for the development community of to thrive beyond Sun developers.
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RE[3]: heh...
by karl on Sun 12th Oct 2008 01:56 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: heh..."
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You seem to be conflating a few things:

1) Criticizing a procedural system which actively thwarts new contributors and contributions and which makes the already thankless task of hacking on OpenOffice even that much more of a turn off-discouraging developers who might otherwise be inclined to lend a helping hand from even attempting-is not the same as attacking Sun(ie. corporate politics). If IBM was steward of this code and managed it in the same fashion Meeks would probably be lambasting them for their mismanagement.

2) Novell has over 20 years involvement with Microsoft-whether as a company producing software to run under windows, or standing before a judge in legal issues with Microsoft. When I first started working in IT back in 1989 Novell was *the* name in networking for PC's. They built their business and reputation on a software platform written by Microsoft. Expecting Novell to completely purge any relations to Microsoft after having purchase SuSE and Ximian is like expecting IBM to divest from the mainframe business once they started focusing more on software as a service product.

Moreover I highly doubt that Meeks was consulted by the higher-ups at Novell when they made deals with Microsoft in the past couple of years. You seem to conflate the corporate political issues between Novell and Microsoft with the *agendas* of those employed by Novell who are working on Free Software.

Although I do not have access to any meaningful statistics about who has historically contributed the most to OpenOffice, what I do know is that Sun purchased and already written cross-platform office suite known then as StarOffice. Sun has never been known for their desktop applications-prior to OpenOffice Sun had never produced any meaningful desktop applications. You stated that the code *is* Sun's code- and this is part of the fundamental problem, regarding the viability of the OpenOffice project.

OpenOffice is FOSS software, at least according to the license, but looking at the community around it(or the relative lack thereof), one might come away with the impression that this is Sun's baby-which of course is the point you are trying to make. My point, and I believe Meek's point is that as Free Software OpenOffice is something which belongs to a much larger community, a community which is only limited by those who contribute in one way or another. Sun maintains a propietary hold on this Free Software through a) all the hurdles it creates for contributors b) copyright assignment.

This propietary hold on Free Software is like caging a beautiful bird-what otherwise would be free to fly is held artificially trapped in a cage. Now I understand the commercial needs that Sun has as regards their propietary StarOffice product. I understand that they wish to protect the brandname and quality of that product. But I contend they can still do so without burdening OpenOffice with such a procedural nightmare that devs are avoiding OpenOffice likes the plague.

Looking at the Wikipedia page for Staroffice one finds this rather interesting quote:

" The number one reason why Sun bought StarDivision in 1999 was because, at the time, Sun had something approaching forty-two thousand employees. Pretty much every one of them had to have both a Unix workstation and a Windows laptop. And it was cheaper to go buy a company that could make a Solaris and Linux desktop productivity suite than it was to buy forty-two thousand licenses from Microsoft. (Simon Phipps, Sun, LUGradio podcast.)"

Now why did Sun release the code for OpenOffice under a FOSS license? I don't really know the answer to this, but pure benevolence it was surely not-more likely they felt they needed to do this to get respect and support from the larger FOSS community-after all Sun was a noname from a consumer PC desktop user perspective, ie. if the project is FOSS it can get uptake by others in the FOSS community and corporations which build on FOSS(like IBM), helping to establish the "street cred" of Sun in the desktop application market. But apparently Sun was not all that interested in getting non sun employees to actually contribute and push through changes to the code, improving it for all.

The structures in place by which means OpenOffice code contributions are managed expresses clearly this lack of desire or interest in 3rd party contribution. And this flies flat in the face of the spirit of FOSS. Xorg, Linux, Mozilla and OpenOffice are all FOSS software. Xorg has blossomed since the old XFree86 days were left behind-Xorg was born out of frustration by devs who were hindered by the XFree86 management to propell X into the 21st century-the license change was only the icing on the cake, the real frustration had already been brewing for a while. Linux has a spectacularly large and diverse community of contributors- who own's Linux ? those who contribute. Mozilla is struggling with many of the same issues which OpenOffice has-a horrifically complex codebase which scares off many potential contributors, but a) this situation has gotten noticably better in the last years b) they also have spawned a vibrant community of plugin writers-which ultimately is a pool from which programming talent can be drawn.

OpenOffice has a large number of volunteers helping out in all sorts of ways, promoting Openoffice, creating artwork, etc. The non-developer community around OpenOffice is probably one of the largest around- but, and this is the point, the project is visibily suffering from a lack of developer manpower, progress in OpenOffice is like the moving of glaciers. Just think how much better it would be if they could draw from such a large and diverse community
like Linux.

Sun has undoubtedly made tremendous contributions to FOSS. I and many, many other trully appreciate this. But Sun has done virtually nothing to grow FOSS communities. One could even argue that this is not their job-and one would be right-it is not Sun's job to create FOSS communities around it's products. The issue here is whether Sun is actively precluding the development of such a FOSS community around OpenOffice by virtue of it's propietary hold. Sun ought to Open the cage and set this bird free.

(lol, I can see some abiword/koffice devs laughing at setting OpenOffice free as in uncaging a bird-a bird ? that damned thing is so heavy that it couldn't fly even if it had anti-gravity.... ;)

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