A sad but illuminating message

Story: Leaving the OpenOffice.org projectTotal Replies: 9
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Oct 24, 2010
4:36 AM EDT
My personal opinion is that Charles H Schultz is an honorable person with high ethical principles. I note part of his message:

Quote: The Oracle employees who are members of the OpenOffice.org project and who expressed themselves these past days have displayed a disturbing lack of understanding of Free and Open Source Software; LibreOffice is, after all, and until proven otherwise, a downstream version of OpenOffice.org, and as such deserves inclusion into the OpenOffice.org community. Unquote.

As readers of these pages would know, I have not been happy with Oracle's takeover/stewardship of OO.org. Schultz's quote above encapulates those misgivings although like him, I do NOT wish to start an Oracle-bash, nor is this post intended to do that. Wiser heads than mine will comment far better than I can, but to me it seems as if the Document Foundation is going to have an open, thriving community ...... Oracle on the other hand, (if the Board members sympathetic to Oracle's position are used as the template), seems to require tight control of OO coupled with a disregard for the principles on which FOSS is established. I could be wrong of course, I hope I am, but the events of the past month or so don't seem to give me much reason to doubt my analysis.


Oct 24, 2010
9:40 AM EDT

We had better be careful here, because I can cite precedence on the Free side of software where things got as ugly as the suggested potential of a bogus forking that was mentioned in the text, i.e. Debian excluding the Ubuntu developers. To which I counter: don't give the nut cases an idea that has not already occurred to them!

When I was on a consulting assignment, where I was allowed to pick up Unix on the fly I began to use Emacs heavily. However, I was also forced to limit my use of Linux at home, because the latter had so many features, e.g. arrow keys to see command history that made the CLI much simpler to use. However, emacs on Linux was a pain. Many of these problems were due to the Unix environment I had found myself using. That is, it was strictly server OS not Solaris on Sun, but one of the Sun OS series using the Korn shell that reverted aperiodically to the unrequested C shell. The Korn shell is much more difficult, than I found bash to be.

Beside the OS differences, I finally noticed I was not really using Emacs, but a fork that was standard issue at the company I was contracted, that is, XEmacs. The latter was much nicer in appearance and ease of use than the former.

In later years Emacs caught up with the X version. Moreover, RMS refused to allow the latter group to use the Emacs documentation, despite that same person's argument that documentation should not be sold in book form for Free applications. He compounded his spite by later refusing to merge Xemacs back into Emacs.

RMS's deserves respect for his ideas and ideals, but I find his inability to live by them disheartening. Nonetheless, I can understand his bitterness. When he was isolated and nearly alone, he was derided by others for his lack of understanding reality and the absolute verity of compromise and the utilitarian view of practicality above all else. Compared to his critics, they are intellectual pygmies (I include myself in that group) but he has authoritarian tendencies. The latter means, listen to his words but keep power out of his hands.


only a bit [serious]

WARNING: None of the above rational words and arguments are allowed to limit by personal predilection to practice my peccadilloes in the form of verbally pulling tails, tweaking whiskers and tickling toes while pursuing humor in the unlikeliest of places.

Some may call me a purveyor of verbal abuse. I see it as pursuit of High Art, hence, I beg to differ. [/serious]


Oct 24, 2010
12:51 PM EDT
One thing that we have to note: a successful project with a large user community doesn't necessarily equate to a project with community involvement. Microsoft Office and Windows are the extreme examples. Examples a bit closer to home would include Android and even Ubuntu, where the direction of the projects is driven by the corporate leadership and not the community. I suspect OOo will fall into the Android category in the end. Oracle will gladly accept contributions that further it's goals but it will not allow a community to drive the direction of the project.

I made the comment in the previous thread that what is left of the OOo board are almost entirely Oracle employees, long time OOo developers, some of whom have been with the project since it was a commercial word processor for OS/2 called Star Writer. The roots of Open Office, in Star Division, the company Sun bought, are entirely proprietary. It was Sun, despite all the criticism they endured, who decided to allow Star Office to be taken Open Source and released as OpenOffice. Only then did a community develop. Is it really surprising that developers from the original proprietary project may not be FOSS supporters or advocates?

Oracle will maintain OOo as an FOSS project for precisely as long as that is seen to benefit Oracle.

Oct 24, 2010
3:11 PM EDT
Yet another refutation of the old husband's myth that "only the code matters." Many things matter, especially leadership and community-building. Project leaders can easily erect all kinds of barriers and in effect take a FOSS project nearly proprietary, to the point that the only way to restore it as a genuine open, community project is to fork it. Andy updegrove wrote on this recently in "The Launch of the Document Foundation and the Oxymoron of Corporate Controlled "Community" Projects"

Quoting: "This morning brought the significant - and decade overdue – announcement of the launch of an independent foundation to host development of the open source, ODF-compliant OpenOffice productivity suite. The good news of that lost decade is that under Sun’s ownership and control, the OpenOffice suite became the most successful and widely implemented alternative to Microsoft’s Office, providing at least some degree of competition in a product niche where it had been missing for far too long.

"The bad news is that in the same time period the OpenOffice suite could have become so much more. As with other single-company controlled efforts in the past (e.g., the Eclipse Foundation, before IBM spun it out into an independent organization), other companies that could have, and would have, made significant contributions of personnel, funding and promotion stood aside. "


Oct 24, 2010
3:58 PM EDT
That is certainly one way of looking at it. The other way to look at it is that without Sun and now Oracle paying the developers and allowing them to make a living the project would have gone absolutely nowhere. There have been several FOSS office suites that have failed or at least have very little real world presence. None have accomplished what OOo has in terms of acceptance. I wouldn't call the decade with Sun "lost" and I don't think OOo would be where it is today without that corporate presence.

Oct 24, 2010
4:21 PM EDT
Andy isn't against corporate presence, his point is that a single company controlling an important FOSS project has obvious perils. Like, you know, Oracle!

Oct 24, 2010
4:56 PM EDT
Just a couple of quick comments: It is always very enlightening to see the different slants people have on a problem situation depending upon their backgrounds and experiences. I tend to look at things in a very restricted and often simplistic way, but sometimes "there be dragons on those paths" and I am always very pleased to open my mind to other perspectives and information of which I was not aware.....like here.

I think caitlyn is right when she says: "Oracle will maintain OOo as an FOSS project for precisely as long as that is seen to benefit Oracle." The worry to me is the way in which Oracle "manages/maintains" OOo in the future since my "feelings" are that the community based administration and collaboration mode of development is not really Oracle's style of operation which appears to stand firmly in the area of very tight control. So far, I am not optimistic about OOo's future in Oracle hands. But tomorrow is another day and things may change dramatically. You can only wait and see.

Minor update: Just browsing the rest of LXer and directly under this article and its thread is the topic: Dear Oracle, Get a Clue and the article by Ian Skerrett at: http://ianskerrett.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/dear-oracle-get-...

The first paragraph also expresses precisely my concerns, this time with the Java community. Interesting ?

Oct 25, 2010
8:19 PM EDT
Quoting:Is it really surprising that developers from the original proprietary project may not be FOSS supporters or advocates?

Another question: Is it surprising that developers from the original proprietary project left Oracle / OpenOffice and became LibreOffice advocates?

It's what Caolán McNamara did, and now he's contributing to LO, paid by RedHat. So it can work either way, it seems. If some companies are contributing to LO, I hope LO will be to OOo what Firefox was to IE: Wake the darn big corporation by means of competition to stop it's sloth, make it lose some market share, and start bringing some progress to their product!

Because if you see what a small team of voluntary developers pulled of by making KOffice - and you see the progress in KOffice (OK, it's still pretty bad, but even then), you start wondering why more than hundred paid developers on OOo didn't do a better job than the current state of OOo. You can see on the LO-website the problems the OOo code suffers from. No proper version control and not stripping unused code seems to be only a few of them, those could and should have been solved a decade ago.

Speaking about 'user' communities: Of course proprietary projects have great user communities. "Open" projects, otoh, have great developer / contributor communities!

My conclusion of some past discussions, is the main problem with Oracle and OOo is trust. This story confirms that thought.

(Hey, without reading it, I just said the same as in the first paragraph in the "Oracle get a clue" article!)

Oct 25, 2010
9:02 PM EDT
An independent office suite project will be stronger in just about every way. If Oracle declines to participate, Red Hat, Novell, Canonical, etc. can throw developers/resources at the project if they deem it important. And I think they do (and will).

Oct 26, 2010
5:47 PM EDT
Hey, that's exactly what I thought about an hour after I turned of my PC yesterday!

If Oracle is in charge of OpenOffice.org, it may serve as a threshold for RedHat, Canonical, Novell and Google to participate in development.

Android and MeeGo are examples: Control of the projects is signed of to some foundation not being owned by some company. Then, suddenly it becomes interesting to contribute for other companies.

If such a thing were true, we should see more companies contributing to LO than OOo somewhere in the near future.

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