When OpenOffice went to the Apache Software Foundation I started writing a post about this topic that I never got to finish and publish.
The post from my colleague Rob Weir on Ending the Symphony Fork prompted me to post this now though.
I should say that I no longer have anything to do with what IBM does with ODF and anything related. I’ve changed position within IBM in the Fall of 2010 and now focuses on other things such as Linked Data which I may talk about in some other post.
In fact, I’m now so out of touch with the folks involved with ODF that I only learned about OpenOffice going to the Apache Software Foundation when the news hit the wire. I had no knowledge of what was going on and have no insights as to what led to it. Similarly, I only learned after the fact about IBM deciding to merge Symphony with OpenOffice.
So, if anyone wants to blame me for speaking as a person on IBM payroll, I’m not even going to bother responding. This is entirely my personal opinion and I’ve not even talked about it to anyone within IBM.
But let me say quite bluntly what Rob is only hinting at: It’s time for LibreOffice to rejoin OpenOffice.
LibreOffice started from a sizable portion of the OpenOffice.org community being tired of Oracle’s control and apparent lack of interest in making it a more open community. I certainly understand that. But now that this problem is solved, what does anyone have to gain from keeping the fork alive?? Seriously.
While forks in the open source world can be a tremendous way of shaking things up, they can also be very damaging. In this case, I think it’s a waste of resources and energy to keep this going. Instead of competing with each other the LibreOffice and OpenOffice communities should get together to fight their common and real competitor.
I know a certain level of competition can be healthy but I’m tired of seeing open source communities fight with each other to their own loss.
I know the fork was painful and people still hold a lot of angst against one another but they need to get over that. They need to realize they would do themselves and everyone else a real service by putting all this behind them and uniting. LibreOffice should declare victory and join forces!
For obvious reasons what’s happening in the emerging markets such as India and China is getting a lot of attention but it seems worthwhile to underscore that Europe is really playing a major role in getting our industry to move forward.
If you’re not convinced I suggest you take a look at the news section of the Open Source Observatory and Repository Europe website.
I find it fascinating to see the prominent place open source and standards issues are taking in the political arena, the number of decisions various European administrations are making in favor of open source and standards, and the cost savings some of these administrations are reporting.
This is demonstrated by the following few examples:
The French candidate for the European Parliament Marielle de Sarnez says public administrations’ interest in free software is essential. “This is an issue of competitiveness for the EU in the information technologies sector, as well as the condition of our technological independence.”
Two parliament members of the Italian Democratic Party want Italy’s public bodies to favour free software. By 2012 all IT systems should be based on such software, MPs Vincenzo Vita and Luigi Vimercati proposed in a bill last month
The city council of the city of Amsterdam on Wednesday decided that OpenOffice and Firefox should become default applications on all 15.000 desktops in use by the administration.
Nine Swedish municipalities have asked ten software application firms to start supporting OpenOffice.
The Danish municipality of Gribskov has saved two million DKK, about 270,000 euro, over the past two years by switching the public administration and schools to OpenOffice, Michel van den Linden, responsible for IT in the municipality says in an interview with the Danish IT news site Computerworld.
The French Gendarmerie’s gradual migration to a complete open source desktop and web applications has saved millions of euro, says Lieutenant-Colonel Xavier Guimard. “This year the IT budget will be reduced by 70 percent. This will not affect our IT systems.”
And the list goes on and on. Good luck to those who think they can still stick to the old model of proprietary software and vendor lock-in. This is like standing in front of a train coming at full speed in my opinion.
On a personal level I’m obviously interested because I’m European and still have strong ties to the old continent but this, along with many other changes I observe, makes it clear to me that the United States are no longer where “things” are happening. At least not the way it used to be. The change is coming from other places in the world, like Europe.
As I indicated in a previous post I was invited to participate in the SDForum Open Source Colloquium on Monday. This year the event ended up being jointly held with Microsoft third annual Open Source ISV Forum which was taking place the same day. Unfortunately, due to conflicting schedules I couldn’t attend much of Microsoft’s sessions.
The next two days the InfoWorld OSBC conference was held in the same hotel and I attended that event as well. So, I just participated in two and a half days of presentations, panels, and hallway discussions on open source and I want to share some of my impressions.
First, I think it’s fair to say that the most obvious thing that comes out of all this is that there isn’t any discussion about whether open source is real or not anymore. It is clearly accepted that it’s become part of our industry and it’s here to stay. As several speakers commented the fact that even Microsoft seems to finally be recognizing this fact is a clear sign that this question isn’t really up for debate anymore.
I should point out that Microsoft’s message remains somewhat twisted though. Yes, they recognize that open source is part of our industry. They talk about interoperability with Linux for instance and this appears to be real, simply because it is motivated by customer demand and even Microsoft has to listen to its customers sometimes.
However, this doesn’t mean they are embracing open source for that matter. You’ve probably heard that the financial crisis is said to be an incentive for companies to look at open source solutions as a way to cut costs. I don’t know about you but it makes sense to me.
In the little I heard during Microsoft’s event one of their executives was claiming that contrary to what is being said there is no real move toward open source though. According to him this is because the last thing companies want to do in the current situation is to take risks and moving toward open source is too big a risk.
While the point may seem to have some validity it’s reminding me of the same old FUD Microsoft has been spreading for years to try and keep people away from using open source. And one has to balance that with claims from Mindtouch’s CEO and the likes about the ease and record speed at which companies can deploy their open source offerings.
The second thing I noticed is that a lot of the sessions were about sharing information on how to use open source, how to manage open source activities in your company, how to successfully launch an open source project and create a community around it, the legal intricacies of the various open source licenses and their interaction with proprietary code.
There seemed to be a large amount of lawyers actually, both presenting and attending, as well as geeks and business people. Bringing these people together seems to be a characteristic of what open source does actually.
I should mention one talk from a lawyer on how to separate or “shim” proprietary code from copyleft code (typically under GPL). He mentioned that some people got the feeling that he was just helping companies avoid having to comply with the obligations brought by the copyleft license and gave some explanation of why this wasn’t the case. But I have to admit that I did not understand it.
All I can say is that having listened through all the techniques he suggests one uses to avoid the license contamination did leave me with the exact feeling he tried to render invalid. That is: 1) these are just tricks not to comply with the license, and 2) this is clearly going against the spirit of the license.
In summary, I think there was a lot of very practical information being shared rather than general debates on the good or bad of open source we used to have. I think this is very good and a clear sign of maturity.
As some of us remarked during the conference(s) we probably won’t have conferences dedicated to open source for much longer for that matter. Open source is poised to become business as usual.
I realize this is late notice but there is a whole set of events happening in San Francisco so if you’re in the area you may be interested in this.
I participated in last year’s event and thought the discussions were very interesting so, I’m looking forward to it and I invite people to come and join us there.
If you’re interested check out the registration page.
See you there.
I work for Bob Sutor in IBM’s Open source and standards project office. Given Bob’s level of activity and celebrity in the “blogosphere” I suppose it won’t be a surprise to anyone if I say that he’s been trying to get me to create my own blog for a long time.
So, why am I doing this now? Well, I’ve been participating in various public debates lately, such as the Goscon panel, and the need to be able to follow up and tell what I think on certain issues, such as OOXML, has been nagging me. Since blogs have now become the main communication channel for one to express himself, for better or for worse, I’ve decided to put aside all of the issues I have with them and forge ahead.
Now, let me explain why despite Bob’s insistence I have until now refrained from creating a public blog.
The first reason is that I find blogs to be very egocentric. And while I don’t claim to be particularly more humble than anyone else this fundamentally bugs me.
I’m a long time internet user and I used to be very active in public forums (a.k.a newsgroups) and mailing lists. The fundamental difference between these communication channels and blogs is that each of them typically focuses on a particular topic. Blogs on the other hand are centered around individuals. Furthermore, while comments and trackbacks provide for some level of dialog, blogs are primarily one way communication channels, unlike newsgroups and mailing lists that are essentially symmetrical. The fact that most syndication feeds merely communicate the blogger’s entries and not the comments only makes this worse.
Aside from the egocentric nature of blogs, another reason for not having created a blog earlier is the fact that blogs very often have no particular topic. This means that readers have to deal with all sorts of information that they may have no interest in to get to the information they do have an interest in. A perfect example of this is Bob’s blog. I’m very interested in Bob’s opinion when it comes to open source and standards. In fact, open source and standards being the focus of my own job it’s pretty essential for me to read Bob’s blog. But quite frankly I’m not so interested in his opinion on music and Bob Dylan. Not that I think there is anything wrong with his taste, I might actually be happy to engage in a discussion on that very topic while having a casual dinner with him but in the context of my work this is just noise.
Finally, the third reason for not having created a blog earlier is simply time. Lack of it that is. Like many, I already have a hard time keeping up with the email I receive and dealing with the long list of projects I’m responsible for. I know from past experience that engaging in public discussions on the internet can be very time consuming and I just don’t know that I can dedicate enough time to this to do it well.
For what it’s worth I’ve been wondering how Bob manages to write so much. Having just traveled with him I think I now have part of the answer. I think the amount of travel he does associated with the fact that he insists on being at the airport up to 4 hours ahead of his flight has something to do with it…
Don’t expect this to be my personal diary. Even though the opinions expressed hereby are only mine and do not necessarily represent those of my employer I intend to use this blog primarily for work purposes.
Of course, the lack of time will remain a problem and for that reason if nothing else I won’t commit to writing on a regular basis. Hopefully though, one will find interest in what I manage to publish.