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Hi Marco,

On 09/01/2022 16:05, Marco Marinello wrote:
> I also would like to emphasize the fact that, in the current situation,
> building a competing product starting from the frozen repo with no
> companies working on it and the one on GitHub 1 year ahead, would just
> be impossible.

        Thank you for recognising the importance of companies working
on the project to do much of the heavy lifting too; that's
appreciated.

        I wonder though if building a competing product is a useful
goal for TDF to consider. I would hope instead that TDF can
collaborate well with others to drive its mission. Every organization
has strengths and weaknesses, things it can, and cannot do - and by
working together to complement each other - much can be achieved that
would be otherwise impossible.

        Beyond that I see your proposal as fundamentally the same as
previous approaches here - which I mentally group under the heading
"lets de-fund the developers".

        As you know TDF previously had an agreed[1] position around
online. It was pretty ugly and displeasing to many; no-one was very
happy with it. Confidence in the durability of this compromise broke
down completely with the results we know. The up-side of that is that
now - I believe we have moved to a new and better model for everyone:

        Now we have clear credit for the work via clean branding. We
use Italo's clever framing to credit via the LibreOffice Technology
that we build on and those that write it. The documentation you need
is open. There are no user-limits in the binaries so they can be used
in schools for free etc. We didn't break the economics ie. we still
empower "makers" over "takers", which continues to fund work on the
LibreOffice core. To top it all we can remove a massive source of
contention.

        Re-opening the can of worms as you suggest doesn't look
constructive. And I don't believe it is necessary.

        If competing organizations want to re-build COOL and re-brand
it or deploy it themselves, that is fine - it is FLOSS - people
already do that left and right.

        Lending them our brand to promote competing products, without
the expense of them having to contribute anything significant, and
without any track record of doing so would be unfortunate. As is - it
risks use the LibreOffice brand to make it socially acceptable to set
the price-point at zero for collaborative online office suites, and (I
assume) remove the nudges to get support and services.

        I hope you can see that just de-funds the developers.

        My ecosystem paper[2] tries to explain the basics:

        -> marketing/branding -> leads -> sales -> investment -> ...

        where a chunk of such investment goes back into the
LibreOffice core that is foundational to TDF's mission; as well as
marketing to go around the next virtuous circle.

        We have lots of hard data that shows the LibreOffice brand
will crush the ecosystem's brands in a side-by-side comparison. So at
one level you're right - it would be ideal in some sense to use the
LibreOffice brand in a fair way to drive leads and sales to fund
development - however this has been repeatedly shown to be
structurally impossible for TDF. Quite probably that is a feature not
bug for a non-profit.

        So here we are.

        Who benefits from a proposal to remove the author's names and
credit from the brand of the product, and to leverage the community's
brand to drive competing products ?

        TDF's previous approach had a message:

        "This is an un-supported version of LibreOffice. To avoid the
         impression it is suitable for deployment in enterprises, this
         message appears when more than 10 users or 20 connections are
         in use concurrently."

        I believe we can only harm the LibreOffice brand by blessing
services that are not effectively supported - ie. backed by competent
(certified) developers. If someone wants that - they should build it
and use their own brand (as they always could).

        I associate (perhaps unfairly) the suggestion for TDF to make
this easy to do with those who want to promote their own hosting
services with a zero-price complement.

        Fostering the development of Free software is tough, with
everyone from Sun/Oracle onwards struggling with that. As of today we
have no big 'strategic' investor. If we want to create more good Free
software we need to care about the side-effects of otherwise
well-intentioned actions.

        The thought that TDF could first de-fund and then hire
developers to do the work itself is interesting, but is fundamentally
a negative-sum-game. We have a positive sum option: to keep the wider
ecosystem around -and- spend that money to improve the software (for
example by hiring extra mentors or tendering).

        Sadly, the distraction from this topic has really impaired the
board's ability to do good things around the LibreOffice Technology
and our desktop product.

        Perhaps I've not persuaded you, but I think the proposal while
no doubt well-meaning is self-defeating for TDF, for LibreOffice, and
for its contributing ecoystem.

        I also agree with Thorsten that the stories about achieving
market dominance during the COVID crisis with this approach are
impossibly naive. From a hardware provision perspective alone - being
backed by a giant monopoly (which we are not), really helps to front
the Eur 10's of millions of infrastructure cost needed to provide a
large-scale free service. Also - I expect that selling users' private
data or insights gleaned from it (something TDF would never do) also
gives a significant cost edge against us.

        On the plus side - the tragic COVID crisis has encouraged a
number of organizations to choose to move to LibreOffice
Technology. Many have done that in a sustainable way - I hope their
financial contribution and positive experiences of support will
continue for many years improving LibreOffice to everyone's benefit.

        Hopefully that is something we can mutually celebrate,

        Regards,

                Michael.

[1] - https://www.libreoffice.org/download/libreoffice-online/
        eg. "why is this un-supported?" - this page forms the
        only substantial agreement I can see on the topic.
[2] - https://people.gnome.org/~michael/data/vendor-neutral-marketing.html
--
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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