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[steering-discuss] Re: OpenOffice and the ASF


Hello,

I hope you don't mind if I jump in to the discussion. The views shared here are not any official TDF statement, but rather solely my own ones, acting as a volunteer who has been contributing to the OpenOffice.org project, and now the LibreOffice project, since 2004, investing lots of my private time and heart into the community.

I don't want to repeat what has been said -- e.g. in our blog at http://blog.documentfoundation.org -- about the history of the LibreOffice project, about why it was shaped, about how much it has grown over the past months, as I think you very well know them, but moreover want to reply to some of the questions and topics mentioned on this list already.

Being one of the people involved in creating The Document Foundation, it comes to no surprise that I think that having the OpenOffice.org project as incubator within Apache would further the division of the community. However, contrary to what I have read in some places, the reason behind this is not that I would like to be in the driver's seat and having a say, so let me elaborate a bit on a few aspects that I think are important to get outlined:

First, I truly appreciate the open discussion going on here, as well as the notification Jim sent us. I do very much respect the Apache Foundation for what it has done, for what it is doing, and also personally, I join the feelings the TDF issued in their recent statement saying that getting OpenOffice.org to the Apache Foundation as an independent entity is an important step.

Second, I do not object at all on cooperating with organizations and corporations. In fact, and that's also what TDF has been saying from the first day on, a vivid and healthy ecosystem is important to further the growth. I am not as naive that I would believe that corporate involvment is bad, because individual volunteers can contribute hand in hand with corporations. That is what TDF has been proclaiming ever since: We are of course working with corporations, but we are not depending on any single entity.

The community has gone through hard times. Oracle buying Sun, uncertainities, issues and troubles, in the end leading to a majority -- and given the activity on the public OpenOffice.org mailing lists I indeed do say that we are talking about a majority over at TDF -- setting up TDF. From day one we all knew it would not be an easy path, but demands a lot of time, work and dedication to make happen what we have been dreaming of for so long. I'm still thrilled by what we have achieved so far, and every day, the project proves once again how capable and grown up it already is.

I do not question the intentions of the Apache Foundation, neither do I doubt that it would be a good home for the proposed open source project. However: With The Document Foundation, we already have created processes, have an up and running infrastructure, have given ourselves bylaws, have a release cycle, stable versions, groups dedicating their mind and creativity to development, QA, user experience, localisation, marketing, website, user support or design. We have been working hard since last September to make all of that happen. I do not say that everything is perfect, but expecting that from anyone, even a well-established Foundation, would be irrational. The task we have taken is huge, so nothing can be 100% perfect for anyone in such a short period of time.

Some opinions state that Apache would be a safe home, as it has a track history of successful projects, is well established and has running processes. I have read about doubts that our infrastructure would be enough, I have read issues about stability and safety within TDF, and I have heard assumptions of us being not a good bet. I think the events of the last months prove the opposite. Not only did we manage to get up to 93.000 EUR in donations already -- 50.000 EUR of them in just eight days --, which proves that there is a large public interest in what we do, but we managed to set up processes, infrastructure and a vivid, strong project in just a short glimpse of time.

Yes, The Document Foundation does not exist yet as a legal entity, and a few people have pointed out to that. This does not mean, however, we have no strong legal backing. We are an associate project of SPI, and we are legally backed by the German association "Freies Office Deutschland e.V.", formerly known as "OpenOffice.org Deutschland e.V.", which has been in existance since 2004, organizing major parts of the German community work, sponsoring international conferences, being in permanent contact with major business and governmental stakeholders, and regularly organizing a "Business and Administration Congress". We (I am a member of the Board of Directors there) are not just a small, unknown association, but we are a strong player and long supporter.

In addition, the setting up of the legal entity is just at the doorsteps. After identifying the ideal federal states within Germany, we not only have the Community Bylaws, worked on in open collaboration with the project, but also have nearly finalized the legal statutes required for setting up the Foundation. Yes, this process took a long time, maybe too long, but given that we needed to incorporate our membership idea legally, that time has been very wisely spent. Of course, large corporations with a large legal department might have done that in a much shorter period of time; but then, I am missing offers for help from that sphere. Given we did all on our own, I think the results so far are astonishing. And after all, everyone started small -- this is no shame, but the opposite: Starting small and growing big is something we can be very proud of.

People may question the location of the foundation inside Germany, but we have had an open discussion for several months, where everyone could participate. In addition, our donors proved us right, by donation the needed capital stock in just a bit more than a week. Of course, there are reasons for and against Germany, but I doubt there is an ideal solution -- and the wide support not only of the community, but of all the donors worldwide prove that we have taken the right decision.

To bring this to an end:
I seriously doubt that having a separate project, even as incubator, within the Apache Foundation, would bring benefit for anyone. The Document Foundation has been working for months not only on shaping a project, but also on shaping solid grounds to work on, providing the legal framework, and our open, meritocratic and transparent approach ensures that anyone -- individuals, organizations and businesses -- can contribute to the future.

I see no justified reasons of having the same efforts in parallel.

This would not only be about reinventing the wheel, but also about splitting the community, leading to disadvantages for end-users, contributors, and enterprises.

As said, and I like to state this personally here, too: We have been and are always open for feedback, criticism, discussions, and people joining us. I do not say that everything is 100% perfect as it is today, but I can only repeat the invitation to join us.

While I am sure that we could have good relationships with the Apache Foundation and cooperate, I have the fear that everything I personally worked on, shaped, helped to grow, would be due to split into two projects. In the end, this would not help anyone, but rather lead to friction loss, reinventing the wheel and irritating the market at large.

So, my honest and open question is indeed: Why would the Apache Foundation be a much better home than The Document Foundation is? What, besides already being legally established, is it that Apache has, what The Document Foundation does not provide? What would prevent large organizations of working with us?

To the representatives of IBM and Oracle, what is it that hinders you from working with TDF? Why do you think a project at the Apache Foundation fits so much better? Why do you think that setting things up again nearly from zero are so much better than investing to what has been shaped by the larger community for the last months?

This is not at all a rhetorical question. I am indeed keen on hearing replies, and be assured I give my best to reply openly to them.

Any constructive feedback on this is highly appreciated, and as much as I invite anyone to join us in our efforts, I invite anyone to join this discussion. I am available on the TDF mailing lists, but also personally, for any discussion.

Florian

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Florian Effenberger <floeff@documentfoundation.org>
Steering Committee and Founding Member of The Document Foundation
Tel: +49 8341 99660880 | Mobile: +49 151 14424108
Skype: floeff | Twitter/Identi.ca: @floeff

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