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Re: [board-discuss] Some problems.


Hi Michael,

        Thanks for engaging here ! =) you write a friendly and helpful summary.

On 12/07/2020 02:11, Michael Weghorn wrote:
Simplifying and exaggerating a bit, I'd try to sum up the described
problem as "There's not enough revenue for ecosystem companies, but
those are essential for LibreOffice." and the described solution as
"Let's discourage enterprises/organizations from using LibreOffice from
TDF, and hope they'll use paid versions from ecosystem companies instead."

        Right; it -could- be seen as a simple "developers for users" trade off.
I'm not sure it is a trade-off though: I think we'll win more users by
having happy enterprise users and more investment in feature / function
and a richer product myself.

To sum it up, one of my main concerns is that organizations not using
"LibreOffice Personal" doesn't necessarily mean they'll use "LibreOffice
Enterprise". I see a rather high risk in the "LibreOffice Personal
approach" decreasing the overall LibreOffice use/market share, rather
causing organizations to switch to other office suites (or choose them
from the beginning), not just short-term. This probably wouldn't help to
reach the desired goal in the end, but rather have a negative effect on
both, TDF-provided LibreOffice as well as "LibreOffice Enterprise" and
the ecosystem that provides it.

        There is risk in any change, but also risks in stasis - particularly
when we know the status quo doesn't work well.

https://people.gnome.org/~michael/data/vendor-neutral-marketing.html

Thanks for all the information, that's really informative and helps to
better understand the motivation/background.

        My pleasure; it's eighteen months old, but of course almost nothing
changes in that time.

From what I have heard, there's also a tendency in (particularly in
large) organizations to only use products backed by some kind of SLA, so
there is some contractor to contact (or blame) in case of problems.

        I've met a few organizations like this - but they seem to be extremely
rare. Can they even get an SLA for Firefox or Chrome ?

     So - lets turn this around - can anyone thing of more than
five enterprises that paid for support or instead (just as good)
contributed meaningfully to LibreOffice instead ?  Munich, and ...

At least those 3 quickly came to my mind

        Sure; there's a reason I picked five ;-)

Regarding paid support, I've at least heard from two or three
organizations, but don't know what amounts of money were/are involved
there; that's certainly something the involved ecosystem companies (so
basically you and Thorsten) know better...

        So - I was talking of new contributors; how many can we think of that
are new since 2018 ? =)

     => It is the norm to deploy LibreOffice from TDF in
        enterprises, and pay nothing for support &
        maintenance that can go into development.
             + its that good.

Might one (main) problem be that LibreOffice (from TDF as well as its
enterprise derivatives) just is not widely used by companies whose IT
strategy involves paying for their office suites (yet)?

        We're really quite widely used; our 200+m users includes many large
government and business deployments.

IMHO, it'd be ideal to try to get more organizations switch to
LibreOffice editions from whatever they're using now which I'd expect to
increase demand for professional support as well.

        I think this was one of the headings in my mail. With the current %age
up-take of professional support we run out of world population before we
get enough developers to make LibreOffice fly.

As written in my previous email [2], I agree that many larger
deployments involving "professional use" will probably want to use an
edition with some kind of professional support (e.g. due to Service
Level Agreements, long-term support, more stability, new features) and
the TDF-provided version won't fit their needs, regardless of whether it
has a "Personal" tag attached or not.
Therefore, also from the experiences that the City of Munich made, I
tend to expect that affected organizations will find this out

        Well - it took Munich a long time to find this out I think; furthermore
our marketing tends not to make people effectively aware of the
existence of, nevermind the  benefits of, support / migration / training
- even in the abstract. It also tends to make people believe the
software is created by Volunteers + TDF at many points. I guess
enterprises think that TDF is sustained by donations from end-users, and
volunteers just train themselves & contribute - so ... no need to
support the ecosystem ? =)

        You may notice the other discussions here arguing for a replacement of
the explicit recommendation to get support & services from the download
page (which we know doesn't work) with a suggestion.

     => The LibreOffice brand is devalued and we have no way
        of telling people that the product they deployed was
        not suitable for deployment in an enterprise and has
        no effective support.

While those companies may not contribute meaningfully to LibreOffice
upstream, I tend to think that they will probably manage to do their own
branded build of LibreOffice ("MyOffice" or whatever, without a
"Personal" tag attached), and then offer that with the same
(nonexisting) support for basically the same price.

        Sure - but they will have to put their own brands on something and
associate the terrible reputation for support with their brand not the
LibreOffice project =)

     Possibly if we give TDF 10x more more money - it will become a
more dynamic organization (though still run by a committee of ten);
perhaps that is possible.

That sounds sad and like it would be great to have that improved, even
if it's only a partial solution.

        Sign up, join the board & make things happen. We need more smart polite
people in the board and/or the MC.

     Probably this nudge alone is enough to try to encourage real
contribution to LibreOffice, and get the numbers of users buying
support and thus contributing, or else contribuing themselves up from
~zero.

This might work, but as mentioned earlier, I see quite high risks it
might in the end make things even worse (and it's hard to guess, which
is true...).

        If there are large numbers of users who refuse to contribute anything
in enterprises - and they will switch away if we ask them to: it seems
to me we're unlikely to get much from them anyway.

        I try to think well of people, so I do think there are a large pool of
well-meaning people who like our brand, and product and who - if
effectively steered - and can provide a clear and plausible rational to
their management: "We can't deploy the Personal edition - we need to use
the Enterprise edition" - will seek out and support the project in this
way. Every LibreOffice deployment must have an enthusiast behind it: but
(apparently) none of them can effectively encourage anyone to pay; what
can we do to help them ? =)

In any case, as others have already said, I personally don't like the
idea of "actively discouraging" the use of TDF's LibreOffice, but it'd
be great to have an approach to more positively encourage the use of
enterprise editions.

        Differentiation is like that. Somewhere we have to have a page which
says: "Who should use what version" - and/or the enterprise people have
to have a way to say: use XYZ version for ABC reason. I hear lots of
good-ideas about adding proprietary features & value for ABC - but
they're not attractive to me. A simple marketing message would be great
that does this differentiation in one place outside of the software.

Ultimately, the goal should be to somehow convince organizations
currently using other office suites to migrate to LibreOffice
(Enterprise), and I think that the popularity of TDF's LibreOffice plays
a vital role there as well.

        Unless someone tells them that TDF's LibreOffice is not suitable for
their enterprise - their first (and final) stop is to deploy
GratisOffice I'm afraid, ~all the data points in that direction. They
see GratisOffice as more genuine, and legitimate and authentic than
Collabora Office eg. which is pretty depressing given how much we put in.

        Conflating your other mail:

On 12/07/2020 08:59, Michael Weghorn wrote:
On 08/07/2020 14.40, Michael Meeks wrote
     And of course for us Collabora Online is the tip of
the spear for investment & expected returns, with
education being a key sector currently. We have a
growing set of customers there.

     That as well as some intermittent consultancy
pieces lets us work on improving lots of things in
the LibreOffice core for our users.

Out of curiosity:
Does that mean that much of the work that Collabora does
for desktop is basically not being paid for by customers
directly, i.e. something that Collabora invests into by
itself?

        I mentioned New desktop customers since 2018. We have a big mix of
existing larger customers to whom we are grateful many of whom renew:
though getting 100% renewal is ~impossible, and growing that is hard.

        We have a set of faithful consulting customers though they are highly
intermittent: since we solve their problems well, they go away & we have
to acquire new customers.

        Then the other problem I have is a soft heart & over-enthusiastic
programmers. Customers tend to put these puppy-dog eyes on and say: "I
can't afford it, but surely you'll do it anyway at ~below cost; it's all
for the good of the project / product" - and I get suckered (again), and
then on top our staff do an extra specially good job that goes beyond
the minimum the customer asks for - and consume a ton of time doing that
- and in any circumstance estimating time for projects is a nightmare -
so when you look at the economics, it ends up loss-making. It is far
from trivial running a business.

        In another adjacent thread - people say our marketing sucks, and we
should invest a ton more in that - sure, but given finite resources - I
like to invest in LibreOffice development - only, we can't get any
return on the desktop - so its just madness.

Or is it more like the work is done in the context
of online, and desktop profits "implicitly" as well,
since many of the changes in core (like work being done
in the document model) directly affect both, desktop
and online?

        There is a chunk of this too; but not nearly enough perhaps that will
increase over time; it is/was the idea of having a shared code-base.

        It is of course, also worth noting that CIB does great stuff across the
codebase, so well worth asking Thorsten similar questions too.

        Thanks !

                Michael.

-- 
michael.meeks@collabora.com <><, GM Collabora Productivity
Hangout: mejmeeks@gmail.com, Skype: mmeeks
(M) +44 7795 666 147 - timezone usually UK / Europe

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