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Hi all,

as I was a person directly involved in the process that should have given to the LibreOffice community a usable LibreOffice On-Line I think I should add my comments to this thread.

Very brief summary of the events:

Back in March 2020, other new board members and I, started making enquiries in regards to why we weren't making available an up to date LOOL to the community. We were clearly "advertising" LOOL on the website but it wasn't in a easily usable state and I strongly believed we had to do our part to help e.g. schools and non-profits coping with remote working when the pandemic started hitting hard. After all, TDF has been created for the public benefit, and in this new situation with the lockdown, what would have been more beneficial to the general public than to support pupils, students, volunteers in nonprofits by providing a platform and sharing our knowledge, based on Free and Open Source Software? This would have allowed our Foundation and us, as citizens, to perform our civic duty to help and it would also have had a positive marketing effect for the members of the ecosystem. Unfortunately that opportunity is now lost, mostly in favor of proprietary vendors which just consolidate their position. It's sad. It's a lost opportunity for TDF and for the ecosystem.

As our enquiries weren't really answered I proposed a vote to get noticed. That finally got things in motion to evaluate the situation with LOOL, which in turn uncovered the understandable need the members of the ecosystem had for more visibility. To satisfy both needs in a fair way, work on the marketing plan was started, with the aim to satisfy everyone's interests. It's something we should have started much earlier.

It was also an agreed precondition to release LOOL in a more usable way and up to date so that we could do our part in providing a free on-line platform e.g. for schools and other non-profits.

Things seemed to be satisfactory for both Collabora and TDF, so both the marketing plan and the discussion to publish LOOL carried on until suddenly Collabora decided to announce the fork, just two weeks before our annual conference.

We already put a lot of effort to create and execute on a marketing plan and spent months in negotiations for LOOL's release in a way that would satisfy the wider community, without damaging economically a valuable member of our ecosystem, but unfortunately one party didn't fulfil its side of the agreement.

Collabora wrote most of the code, there seem to be no sizeable developers community around LOOL elsewhere and TDF has no internal developers to continue the development. This leaves us with two options: Collabora works with us on executing the marketing plan that includes LOOL, or members of the volunteer and enterprise community clearly state they want to work on a LOOL. If neither of those two options is actionable then we have to conclude that TDF has no LOOL to promote anymore, and it's another lost opportunity.

Sadly, the temporary freeze announced in 2020 did not help to find a solution. Since the beginning of the fork Collabora didn't respond to requests to find a mutually benificial solution to the issue. Instead it put its efforts in removing tags related to the "LibreOffice Project" and even renamed variables from LOOL* to COOL*, clearly indicating that they are not interested in reviewing their decision, so eventual backports to the original project are even more complicated from both a technical and relational point of view.

If in the next few months a small number of developers will express their interest to work on LOOL to fix bugs and/or take it in a different direction then it would make sense to re-open the repository. Closing it in my opinion was a mistake in the first place. It prevented people from contributing, so we don't even know if someone wanted to contribute, or if by now people just gave up.

If in feedback is received by either Collabora or the community then we should officially declare LOOL as end of life and stop promoting it directly, stop allowing third parties to benefit from this specific brand as they did for a decade and review the marketing plan to remove references to LOOL or third party products derived from it.

It is a real shame that a project which was presented during the 2011 LibreOffice Conference by a member of the community and supported by TDF over the years ended this way but at least it's a lesson learned that should help in:

1) Creating clear agreements with the projects we support/promote so that, even if a team/company writes the majority of the code, we will have clear indications of the benefits we can together bring to the community and the relevant expectations from both sides.

2) Making it very clear to current and future members of the commercial ecosystem that "The objective of the foundation is the promotion and development of office software available for use by anyone free of charge" so that it doesn't come as a surprise when TDF propose to fulfil its duties for projects that have been hosted and supported by TDF for so many years. TDF naturally welcomes new members of the ecosystem but the rules of engagement need to be defined as from point 1.

It is totally fine if someone wants to start his/her own projects based on LibreOffice and host them under his/her rules. However, I don't think it is fine to benefit from TDF and the work of its community for years, and then change the rules and walk away.

3) Employing internal developers which could help in maintaining LibreOffice and related projects so that we don't always need to depend on the goodwill of the members of the ecosystem or tenders to fix bugs, to write features that may be commercially uninteresting or too complex to handle for individual contributors.

4) Investing a lot more in marketing, communities and mentoring to diversify and expand our users and contributors base.

To conclude, I'd love to have LOOL back but now it's up to the wider community to show how much it matters to them.

We are now working on the 2022 budget, so now is the best time to speak out if you'd like specific projects to be supported.

TDF can and want to support contributors in many ways. If there is an interest to work on an online version, or in any other areas related to LibreOffice, let us know.

I am convinced that TDF does not compete against the commercial ecosystem, as some said. TDF has goals and potentials that may have not even been expressed to their fullest extent yet but that leaves plenty of opportunities for organisations that understand we are members of a Foundation that focuses on "promotion and development of (FOSS) office software" for the benefit of all without expecting that someone pays for it (although donations are very welcome). Commercial organisation working with LibreOffice providing services to business users can be successful if they adapt their business model around what we do but they should not ask us hold back in fulfilling our duties toward our community.



On 05/01/2022 17:18, Emiliano Vavassori wrote:
Hi Marco,

You called me on the topic thrice (as proposer, in the current Board and most probably in the next) so I think your email requires my answer now.

Il 20/12/21 20:34, Marco Marinello ha scritto:
first of all, I'd like to state for those that are not into the current status quo that this proposal will mainly affect the "Online" project at TDF's infra.

Not only. I can also name the Android "LibreOffice Viewer", for example.

While I will keep replying to your kind inquiry to some extent, please understand that the proposal in no way aims to solve the issues you touched in the rest of your email, that are only tangent to the main goal of the proposal, which is:

"clearly explain that some code, hosted at TDF and which was worked on by the whole community, is indeed FLOSS code but it is not anymore worked on and can be unreliable for production, unless serious development/support work is put in it."

I have to say, as a contributor of LibreOffice Online and a member of TDF, this proposal makes me completely unhappy

Well thanks for stating it out, but I have to say unfortunately we cannot always have what we want.

In the LOOL specific case, it is pretty obvious that TDF itself, or its wonderful volunteers, cannot provide the same level of support that other ecosystem companies provided before the move, to a point where it is impossible to state that that code was suitable for production anymore.

To better explain my statement, let me uncover the fact that, some months after the move (and IIRC before the official freeze), Collabora has kindly offered to backport (for free) some security fixes from Collabora Online to the TDF-maintained internal LOOL instance, which weren't reported nor fixed by others in TDF venues. Stated that, it should be self-evident that, as of now, the community at large cannot support the Online code available at TDF. And we cannot, in full honesty, set expectations of a stable project anymore.

1 - The code has always been open-sourced, so if anyone/any company had some interest in the project might have forked it and made it workable again (which didn't happen until now, to my knowledge); 2 - The attic proposal (with its de-atticization procedure) provide clear rules for resuming a project that was halted, something that the freeze didn't provide for, and sets some clear indication (albeit yet to approve/confirm and probably unsatisfactory to some) on how to consider if eventual development is deemed sufficient or not for its resume.

It's not the best approach/implementation, most probably, but it is a start. I hope everyone can find the time to propose modifications and/or underline their own issues with the proposal.

I have already said this many times but I want to repeat it: it has to be clear (and hopefully stated by legal contracts) to the companies working in the LibreOffice ecosystem that they cannot wake up one day and bring their development outside the LibreOffice project. They cannot stay with one foot inside the ecosystem, contributing to it, and with the other one bringing their development effort outside.

This is a pretty raw summary, but it is an oversimplification, to my perspective, and as any oversimplification, it does harm to one side or the other, or both. It also infers that the rules of the game were clear from the beginning, which I don't think holds true in this specific case, for a number of reasons; at least expectations has been falsely set (I assume in goodwill) on and from "both sides" and were never corrected during the years of development of the Online project.

A lot of hard to estimate, hard to balance, actions and decisions has happened during the time, and some actions/decisions that should have happened didn't really happen. I'm not pointing any fingers or guilt anyone in specific for what happened or not happened.

Lack of publicity of some discussions/decisions might have obfuscate the matter, leaving it as a dark, opaque discussion out of the reach and oversight of the community, to the point that even members cannot tell the full picture, yet as of now.

I'm positive that there is fair and logic reasoning supporting both "sides of the argument" (because, remember, we are all part of the same community and should have the same goals), but the net result was a lose-lose situation for everyone (users, community members, TDF itself, ecosystem companies, developers, etc.), to me. Also, in hindsight it is always simple to point out errors, while that's not that simple to avoid them happening in the first place.

We cannot avoid ecosystem companies to put substantial efforts (money, tens or sometimes even hundreds of k€) on LO code (and in fact this is normally a blessing for the project itself; to be more fair, ecosystem companies are used to push changes directly into LO master/main branch while developing changes in the first place). Whether these efforts are shared with the community or not, however, it is a decision that pertains only to said companies' managements, based on their business model (e.g. leveraging added value to attract customers that, in the end, can enrich the whole project and assure its sustainability), and provided that LO license permits them to decide.

The reality, here, is that the Online project was mostly an effort from one company (not completely, but mostly), and that is clearly shown by the fact that the project is surviving outside of TDF venues under the cares of said company. Whether this project was marketed as a community effort but most of the efforts then arguably came only from one company and costs of its development were not shared with TDF, well, that's some of the missed decisions and false expectations I was referring to before.

I wasn't involved in the discussion from the inception of the Online project, so my understanding of what happened back then is somehow intrinsically biased and mostly the result of a collection of others' opinions; but I have to admit my overall summary of the situation has changed since I became a Director (not drastically, but has changed anyways).

That said, we (unfortunately) cannot fix what already happened. What we can do is learn from past mistakes and assure that what was done wrong with the Online project will not happen again in the future.

Some Board Directors (also, potentially re-elected) have already proposed some actions to fix (or better, put in place) rules of engagement for community projects; this need to fix rules of engagement is not even consensual in the actual Board of Directors, and some of the (equally, potentially re-elected) Directors refuse the need, altogether with the proposed fixes, pointing out other factors as the root cause of the actual situation.

Fixing eventual rules of engagement can just be one aspect of the issue, however, and we have to implement different approaches to nurture ecosystem-provided efforts to strengthen the set of features for LibreOffice by participating to these efforts as TDF and as community, as such making sure that the added value provided by these efforts will become an indissoluble part of the project.

How to do that, well, that's a pretty daunting, hard task to do, additionally with a pretty holistic approach; while the Board has the responsibility to implement actions to foster that, the whole community is called to care about it. I'd like to hear feedback from members to pointers, ideas, actions to better focus on our common shared goal, while reducing to the bare minimum the frictions between different parts of our diverse community.

This is something the next board should focus on.

Well, I'd be pleased and at the same time scared to death if this would be the only hot topic the next Board has to deal with ;)

Getting to this specific situation

Please excuse me if I will not go into details, for two main reasons:
* I don't think this is particularly helpful to further the discussion, and instead it potentially can affect negatively one side or the other. Let's just assume we *all together* did some *faux pas* and look out for the future; * I don't have the knowledge, the skills and the time to go over these details, check their genesis, the possible deciding facts, and give my own informed thoughts about all of them. For what purpose, then? Would it change something in the actual situation?

In conclusion, I would like to emphasise the fact that I’m completely unhappy with the “attic” proposal as a solution for the Online situation

Again, it was not a proposal for the Online situation only; and while I have to admit that my position changed a lot about what follows, with a lot of unhappiness and unrest in my heart I also must say that for me there is no Online discussion at TDF anymore, since the move from Collabora.

and hope we can all work together to allow TDF to still consider Online a part of the LibreOffice suite.

I still consider a cloud/mobile solution to be key for the future of the project, but I'm not considering anymore the Online solution as incarnated by LOOL as part of that future. I see a different approach to the technological issue that I would like to see loved and cared for from the community and the Board of Directors; as part of my renewed commitment to TDF, I would try to push that effort in the priorities of TDF.


Paolo Vecchi - Deputy Member of the Board of Directors
The Document Foundation, Kurfürstendamm 188, 10707 Berlin, DE
Gemeinnützige rechtsfähige Stiftung des bürgerlichen Rechts
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