OOXML & GNOME Foundation furore

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A recent open letter to the GNOME Foundation called on us “to unite the community behind the standard, universal format for office suites [Note: ODF] and distance [ourselves] from Ecma TC45 and DIS 29500 [Note: OOXML standard group]”. (Google it – the guy doesn’t need more linkjuice from me).

Having been on the board when this issue came up, and agreeing wholeheartedly with the idea of joining the group, I’d like to explain why.

Actually, I’ll just let Jody Goldberg (our representative on the group) explain:

There are two truths that need to be accepted:

  1. ODF is an excellent start for OO.o’s file format, but it is not perfect and will never be ‘the one true office format’ for all office applications without destroying it’s utility by diluting it with so much random cruft that no implementation would be complete, and interoperability would suffer.
  2. OOX is a file format that is in use, and we will have to interact with it. The opportunity to improve the spec and have MS answer questions and clarify necessary details should not be wasted.

The Foundation board decided to join ECMA (as a non-voting member) to participate in ECMA376/TC45. We did this not to show support for the standard, but to improve it. Whether we like it or not, this is going to be the dominant standard for office documents for the coming years (Microsoft’s dominant monopoly of the market has taken care of that) and to satisfy our users and remain relevant, we’re going to have to be able to read & write office documents in that format.

It’s much easier to do that when we have a say in the standard, and can request extra information when we need it.

And decisions are made by those who turn up.

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In Rainbows

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So, after paying for “In Rainbows”, the new Radiohead album, yesterday (I decided that £3 was a nice compromise between paying cost & encouraging the effort), the burning question was: is it any good?

I’ve never been a huge Radiohead fan. I liked “OK Computer” and “The Bends”, but then again, “Kid A” and “Amnesiac” passed me by completely (probably because of their total absence from the airwaves). So I did what I figured was best for a Radiohead album, put it on at work today on repeat.

And after 3 or 4 listenings, I can say: it’s great working music. Atmospheric, slightly hypnotic, there when you want to listen to it, fading to the background when you’re concentrating on other things.

I like it. It’s not aggressive overwhelming rock, it’s not *trying* to be experimental navel-gazing (which is one thing I was afraid of), and there are some cracking songs on there. All in all, a good listen. And well worth 3 quid.

GStreamer, Fluendo and Collabora

General, maemo 3 Comments

I tagged an announcement by Collabora that they were hiring Christian, Edward and Wim from GStreamer, formerly of Fluendo, with the comment “Is this how Free Software acquisitions work?”

That got some response in the comments, and especially from Julien Moutte, CEO of Fluendo.

First, let me say that I wish the project well. I’m convinced that GStreamer is a core part of Collabora’s activity, and that GStreamer consultancy will make up a decent chunk of revenue for them. I also expect that Fluendo will continue to invest in a core technology that they depend on for their growing range of products, and that others depending on GStreamer such as Nokia will continue to support and encourage its development.

Julien confirms that Fluendo are continuing investment in GStreamer (great!), and affirms that all of a sudden, it’s just become a much more open project, since people are spread across many companies.

I hope that’s the case, but it’s not an automatic consequence of a few people leaving. Project governance is much more complicated than who employs the N most active hackers.

In the past, there has been rumblings that decisions affecting the project were being made in private in Barcelona, and then discovered by the community (see comment on GStreamer design – I remember other similar comments, but can’t find them right now).

GStreamer’s not alone in this – pretty much every project with one primary company sponsor/owner runs into the problem (OOo, Java, Mozilla, Evolution, and yes, even OpenWengo come to mind). The results are that company employees feel frustrated that they’re not getting community traction, and the community is frustrated because they have a feeling the company is looking for cheap labour to implement its agenda, rather than equal partners.

Whether GStreamer in particular becomes a more open project depends, now, on the governance model that is put in place. A model can be informal and ad-hoc, as long as it’s efective. Who gets to say what goes into the main tree? What’s the patch review process? Who are the core developers who can just commit? If those processes aren’t in place, or if one company controls all of the processes, then you will continue to see the kinds of problems which OpenOffice is currently seeing, even if there are many companies and individuals bearing the burden of development.

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