Community governance links

General 2 Comments

As promised during my presentation yesterday, here are the various publications I linked to for information on evaluating community governance patterns (and anti-patterns):

And, for French speakers, a bonus link (although the language is dense academic):

OSBC: Opening my mind

freesoftware 3 Comments

Like Dries, I had the impression that OSBC was something of a parallel world to the type of conferences I usually attend. There were a lot of people from small VC funded companies created around niche enterprise markets (with all due respect to ERPs, electronic document/content management and business intelligence vendors), and the core assumptions that people work under aren’t the same as I’m used to.

For example, it was taken for granted that selling enterprise software implied owning all copyright, and thus getting JCAs signed for contributors outside your company. Also, the way people count the size of their community seems to be different for these company-driven projects – for some, the number of people who create accounts on a forge is their developer community, for others it’s the number of plug-in or extension developers. This isn’t deceitful, but when I think of the core GNOME developer community, I tend to think in terms of people who have access to Subversion, or people who write code for core GNOME components. If we counted the number of people working on GNOME-related projects, or GTK+ applications, then that number gets orders of magnitude bigger.

Why do companies do this? If you say “I have 10 guys working for me, and they write 95% of the code for our core product”, that doesn’t sound quite so impressive. The concern that you’re tring to allay by casting the net as wide as possible is”what will happen to your product  if you go out of business?” In enterprise sales, the viability of your company is under scrutiny during risk analysis, and being able to say that you have a community of 9,000 people building your product goes right to that point. One person I spoke to this week said “open source is the ultimate escrow”.

The reality, however, is that for many of these projects, the company cutting funding for the project or going out of business is very bad indeed for the life of the project. Whether it be Mozilla being thrown a lifebelt by AOL, Novell cutting investment in Hula, or Wengo withdrawing from OpenWengo, the result has been that the project stays alive, perhaps (like Bongo and QuteCom) under a different name, but for several months or years, development slows down as an independent developer community grows to fill the void left by the disappearance of the core development team.

I’ve been trying to think of examples of successful community projects which have grown from the ashes of dead companies. A couple that come to mind are Abiword and Nautilus. Are there others that people can think of which went on to success? How about projects that went the other way? Code that went closed and was sold off by liquidators, or projects that have not had a release since the company went under? I’m interested in identifying patterns in the companies involved.

Update: Bassam from Blender pointed out in the comments that Blender and NaN is an example of a company that went out of business, the company founder started a non-profit, got the code released under the GPL (which it hadn’t been before) and built a successful user and developer community around the project post-liquidation. The personal investment of Ton Roosendaal through that difficult process was really the key point that made the transition so successful – he successfully reconciled business and community interests, and create a sense of community ownership of the project, through the selling of company assets to “the community” via a fundraising drive.

Healthcare in the US

General 21 Comments

For a European travelling in the US, one of the things that jumps out at you when you turn on the TV is the number of ads for prescription drugs you get in the US.

These 30 or 60 second ads are all very similar: 5 to 10 seconds presenting the medication, followed by 20 to 25 seconds of disclaimers and disclosure of secondary effects, with a warning to consult with your physician and ask him about the drug in question.

It’s symptomatic of the approach to healthcare in the US, which says that the patient is responsible for his care – your doctor’s role is to advise you what medications are available, and let you decide what you use to medicate yourself. Thus, drug companies market their drugs directly to the public, rather than to doctors.

Like Bary Schwartz in “The Paradox of Choice” I don’t think this is a healthy state of affairs. Excessive choice creates stress, and asking someone to make a decision they are not sufficiently informed to make is asking for trouble. You might as well ask me to fix the financial crisis – it doesn’t matter how good my advisors are, I’m not equipped to make decisions in the area.

Where I live, patience go to their doctors for expert advice. The doctor decides what medication, if any, is appropriate for your condition, and gives you a prescription. Of course, it is your choice if you fill that prescription afterwards, and if you’re like me, you ask the doctor lots of questions during your visit, but the chain of responsibility is substantially different. There is no point marketing prescription medication to the general public, because the doctor is the one who decides what prescription medication you use.

Gran Canaria: Registration & call for participation open

community, freesoftware, General, gimp, gnome, guadec, libre graphics meeting, maemo 2 Comments

For those who missed the next last week, the Gran Canaria Dasktop Summit website got updated last week – and with it, we opened registration for the conference. This is the organiser’s way of knowing who’s coming, and the way for attendees to reserve accommodation and request, if they need it, travel assistance.

We also concurrently opened the call for participation. Since we’re already a little late organising content this year, we’re going to have a pretty short call – please send abstracts for GNOME-related and cross-desktop content to guadec-papers at before April 10th (midnight on the date line, I guess).

The procedure is going to be a little unusual this year because of the co-hosting of GUADEC with Akademy – a GNOME papers committee headed up by Behdad will be choosing GNOME-specific content, and a KDE equivalent will be choosing Akademy content, and we are co-ordinating on the invitation of keynote speakers and choice of cross-desktop content.

The thing that got me excited about this conference last yearn and the reason I was so enthusiastic about combining the conferences, is that cross-desktop content. The Gran Canaria Desktop Summit has the potential to be the meeting place for free software desktop application developers and platform developers, as well as embedded and mobile Linux application developers. We will have the people behind the two most popular free software development platforms coming together.

The conference is an opportunity to plan the future together for developers working on the kernel,, alternative desktop environments like XFCE, application platforms like XUL, Eclipse’s SWT, desktop application developers and desktop-oriented distributions. I’m looking forward to seeing proposals for presentations from all over the mobile and desktop Linux (and Solaris) map.

So to your plumes! We’re not expecting abstracts to be works of art, but we are looking for thought to be given to your target audience and what you want them to get from your presentation. Compelling, entertaining and thought-provoking content will be preferred over “state of…” presentations, or other types of presentation better suited to blog posts. Knock yourselves out!

Maemo community council elections: results in!

community, maemo 3 Comments

The Maemo community council election is over, and the results are in.

166 people voted to elect the incoming council, and when the dust settled, the new council will be made up of:

  • Andrew Flegg
  • Ryan Abel
  • Tim Samoff
  • Kees Jongenburger
  • Alan Bruce (better known as qole)

For those interested in that kind of thing, you can download all of the ballots from the election in .blt format (the format used by OpenSTV) and replay the election with different counting systems and options for transferring votes. You can also browse the votes online, and verify that your vote was recorded correctly.

Congratulations to the elected council members, and thank you to all of the candidates for running!

Libre Graphics Meeting fundraiser update

community, freesoftware, gimp, gnome, inkscape, libre graphics meeting, maemo, scribus Comments Off on Libre Graphics Meeting fundraiser update

With little fanfare, this year’s Libre Graphics Meeting fundraiser has been progressing nicely.

Click here to lend your support to: Support the Libre Graphics Meeting and make a donation at !

In the three weeks since the announcement of the launch of the campaign, we have raised almost $3,000 in community donation – mostly smaller than $50 – from 71 individual donors. Much of the credit for the campaign this year has to go to Jon Phillips of Creative Commons, Inkscape and OpenClipart fame.

The campaign has started earlier this year than last year, when we were really caught unawares by our difficulties in getting sponsors, and has lacked some of the frenzy of the last campaign, but Jon has been doing stellar work keeping the fire burning, and ensuring a regular stream of donations from supporters of projects related to Libre graphics.

It is hard to overstate the importance this conference has to the communities working on projects like Inkscape, GIMP and Scribus, among others, and to overstate the progress we have made because of these conferences in the past few years in the realm of graphics applications on Linux.

It’s useful to point out that in the Linux Foundation desktop linux surveys, the most popular applications which companies and individuals want for Linux are graphics applications – Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Premier, Autodesk AutoCAD, Adobe Dreamweaver and Microsoft Visio are the top 6 applications which people are missing on Linux. This conference is all about encouraging the development of applications destined to fulfil those needs. Also worth noting, when asked whether they wanted the applications above ported to Linux, or they wanted to use equivalent Linux applications where possible, a large majority want to use native equivalents, rather than ported commercial applications.

For any of you looking for a good cause which will go directly to supporting high quality applications that you use, I’d encourage you to contribute to the Libre Graphics Meeting. The conference is only as worthwhile as the people attending it, let’s ensure that we get a critical mass once again and provide energy and momentum to all of the participating projects for the coming year.

Maemo Community Council elections: The story so far

community, maemo Comments Off on Maemo Community Council elections: The story so far

More than half way through the Maemo community council Spring 2009 elections, I thought it would be interesting to get a sneak peek at turn-out figures, to let people know how things have been going so far.

The results are slightly disappointing so far – but I know that there are a lot of last-minute voters, so I’m not exactly worried yet.

Out of 717 ballots issued, as of Tuesday at 15h UTC, we have registered 138 votes so far, or about 20% of the electorate. This tallies roughly with the participation rate that we had in the first council election with people who had more than 25 karma (roughly 35%).

The election will end at midnight UTC on Thursday evening, at which time anyone will be able to download the anonymous ballots and calculate the results of the election using OpenSTV or any other program that handles .blt format files. I will calculate the results using the pre-defined settings for the election (random transfer STV, static Droop threshold, with no lower limit for batch elimination) and publish them on Friday morning, European time.

All of you who have been waiting to vote, vote now! And all of you who have trouble voting, or who haven’t received the voting token you should have, contact me.

FFmpeg release – congrats!

community, freesoftware, maemo 4 Comments

Never one to hold a grudge, I’d like to congratulate the FFmpeg developers on their recent release of FFmpeg 0.5.

I’ve been pretty hard on FFmpeg in the past for their lack of releases and their API policy – it’s made packaging their software hard for distributions, and developing using their libraries hard for third party developers. A release is great news, and I hope it is the first of many.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

General 1 Comment

Today’s xkcd made my inner mathematician giggle.

Parse error

General 1 Comment

Coworker (n): Person who orks cows.

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