GNOME Census report released

community, freesoftware, gnome, guadec, work 8 Comments

I was delighted to see that the GNOME Census presentation I gave yesterday at GUADEC has gotten a lot of attention. And I’m pleased to announce a change of plan from what I presented yesterday: The report is now available under a Creative Commons license.

Why the change of heart? My intention was never to make a fortune with the report, my main priority was covering my costs and time spent. And after 24 hours, I’ve achieved that. I have had several press requests for the full report, and requests from clients to be allowed to use the report both with press and with their clients.

This solution is the best for all involved, I think – I have covered my costs, the community (and everyone else) gets their hands on the report with analysis as soon as possible, and my clients are happy to have the report available under a license which allows them to use it freely.

You can download the full report now for free.

GNOME Census

General 71 Comments

(Reposted from Neary Consulting)

Today at GUADEC I presented the results (Slides are now on slideshare) of the GNOME Census, a project we have been working on for a while. For as long as I have been involved in GNOME, press, analysts, potential partners and advisory board members have been asking us: How big is GNOME? How many paid developers are there? Who writes all this software, and why?

By looking at the modules in the GNOME 2.30 release, made last March, we aim to answer many of those questions, and give deeper insight into the motivations of participants in the project.

The GNOME heartbeat - pre-release peaks and GUADEC boosts

Here are our key findings:

  • GNOME has a rhythm – there is a measurable increase in activity before release time, and after the annual GNOME conference GUADEC
  • While over 70% of GNOME developers identify themselves as volunteers, over 70% of the commits to the GNOME releases are made by paid contributors70% of GNOME participants are volunteers
  • Red Hat are the biggest contributor to the GNOME project and its core dependencies. Red Hat employees have made almost 17% of all commits we measured, and 11 of the top 20 GNOME committers of all time are current or past Red Hat employees. Novell and Collabora are also on the podium.
  • A number of top company contributors are consultancy/services companies specialising in the GNOME platform – Collabora, CodeThink, Openismus, Lanedo and Fluendo are in the top 20 companies. As many of these companies grew initially through work on Maemo, this is a sign of the success of Nokia’s strategy around the GNOME stack.

Company Commits Percentage
Volunteer 101823 23.45
Unknown 73558 16.94
Red Hat 70790 16.30
Novell 45349 10.44
Collabora 21684 4.99
Intel 11160 2.57
Fluendo 10218 2.35
Lanedo 10090 2.32
Independent 8922 2.05
Sun 8862 2.04
Nokia 6183 1.42
Openismus 5303 1.22
Codethink 5276 1.21
Eazel 4734 1.09
Litl 4620 1.06
Canonical 4487 1.03
Movial 2988 0.69
Mandriva 2504 0.58
The Family International 2130 0.49
Entropy Wave 2056 0.47
(Academia) 1894 0.44
Mozilla Corporation 1040 0.24

One of the interesting things that we have done for the census is to look at who is maintaining modules by looking at commits over the past two years, and use this data to identify areas of the platform which see lots of collaboration, areas where the maintenance burden is left to volunteers, and areas where individual companies assume most of the maintenance burden.

There are a number of modules in the platform which see a considerable amount of co-opetition, including Evolution, Evolution Data Server, DBus and GStreamer. Most modules in the platform, however, are either maintained to a large extent by volunteer developers, or see the vast majority of their contributions from one company.

I see this information being useful for companies interested in using the GNOME platform for their products, companies seeking custom application development, potential large-scale customers of desktop Linux or customers buying high-level support who want to know who employs more module maintainers or committers to the project.

GNOME platform maintenance map
The GNOME maintenance map, with modules coloured according to the company maintaining them

Update: Two significant omissions in the maintenance map were pointed out to me. After correctly associating a number of commiters to a company, Lanedo is responsible for 16.5% of the commits in GTK+ over the past two years, and volunteers are also responsible for at least 17%. Red Hat are still the largest contributor, with 32% of all commits to the module. libsoup is maintained by Dan Winship, who left Novell to join Red Hat in 2007, where he developed and maintains the module.

Update 2: As I announced in this post, the report is now available as a free download via licensed as Creative Commons by-sa 3.0

Rotten to the (Open) Core?

freesoftware, General 18 Comments

Open core, Open core,  more Open core… the debate goes on and on, with Monty the latest to weigh in.

When you get down to it this is a fight over branding – which is why the issue is so important to the OSI folks (who are all about the brand). I don’t actually care that much how SugarCRM, Jahia, Alfresco et al make the software they sell to their customers. As a customer I’m asking a whole different set of questions to “is this product open source?” I want to know how good the service and support is, how good the product is, and above all, does it solve the problem I have at a price point I’m comfortable with. The license doesn’t enter into consideration.

So if that’s the case (and I believe it is), why the fighting? Because of the Open Source brand, and all the warm-and-fuzzies that procures. “Open solutions” are the flavour of the decade, and as a small ISV building a global brand, being known as Open Source is a positive marketing attribute. The only problem is that the warm-and-fuzzies implied by Open source – freedom to change supplier or improve the software, freedom to try the software before purchasing, the existence of a diverse community of people with knowledge, skills and willingness to help a user in difficulty – don’s exist in the Open Core world. The problem is that for the most part, the Open Core which you can obtain under the OSI-approved license is not that useful.

Yesterday on Twitter, I said “Open Core is annoying because the “open core” bit is pretty much useless. It doesn’t do exactly what it says on the tin.”

Now, I wasn’t expecting this to be particularly controversial, but I got some push-back on this. Dan Fabulich replied “Ridiculous. Like the free version of MySQL is useless?” Which leads me to think of Inigo Montoya on the top of the Cliffs on MoherInsanity turning to Vizzini and saying “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

With all this talk of Open Core, clearly some confusion has crept in. Perhaps it’s on my part. So allow me to elaborate what I understand by “Open Core”.

First, companies can’t be Open Core. Products are Open Core. So whereas Monty considers that from 2006 on, MySQL was not an “Open Source company”, I would contend that MySQL Server has always been, and continues to be, Free Software, and an Open Source product. That is, not Open Core.

Open Core for me means you provide a free software product, improve it, and don’t release the improvements under the free software licence. In my mind, Mac OS X is not “Open Core” just because it’s based on the NetBSD kernel, it is proprietary software.

Perhaps it would be useful to give some examples of what is Open Core:

  • Jahia is Open Core – significant features and stabilisation work are present in the Enterprise Edition are not available at all in the Community Edition
  • SugarCRM is obviously Open Core. Key features related to reporting, workflow, administration and more are only present in the commercial editions
  • JasperSoft BI Suite is Open Core. Lots of useful features are only available to people buying the product.

The key here is that support contracts and extra features are only available if you also pay licensing fees. To take the oft-cited example of InnoDB hot back-up tool for MySQL, you can purchase this and use it with the GPL licensed MySQL Server.

This is why I say that Open Core products “don’t do exactly what it says on the tin” – the features you see advertised on the project’s website are not available to you along with software freedom.

I have talked to companies who deliberately avoid adding “spit & polish” to the community edition to encourage people to trade up for things like better documentation, attractive templates and easy installation – and don’t provide an easy way for the community edition users to share their own work. Other products have an open source engine that doesn’t do much except sit there, and all useful functionality is available as paid modules. Yes, a persistent, skilled, patient developer can take the Open Source version of the product and make it do something useful. For the most part, however, if you want to actually use the software without becoming an expert in its internals, you’ll need some of the commercial upgrades.

There is another name for this which is even more pejorative, Crippleware. Deliberately hobbled software. And that’s what I think gets people riled up – if you’re releasing something as free software, then there should at least be the pretence that you are giving the community the opportunity to fend for itself – even if that is by providing an “unofficial” git tree where the community can code up GPL features competing with your commercial offering, or a nice forum for people to share templates, themes and extensions and fend for themselves. But what gets people riled is hearing a company call themselves “an Open Source company” when most of the users of their “open source” product do not have software freedom. It’s disingenuous, and it is indeed brand dilution.

That said, let me repeat – I have no problem with companies doing this. I have no problem with them advertising their GPL-licensed stuff as Open Source. I would just like to see more of these companies providing a little bit of independence and autonomy to their user community. But then, that’s potentially not in their long-term interest – even if it is difficult to imagine a situation where the community-maintained version outstrips the “Enterprise” edition in features and stability.

GNOME Training confirmed!

community, freesoftware, gnome, maemo, work 4 Comments

A few days ago, I took the risk of setting off alarm bells on the GNOME developer training sessions planned for GUADEC this year. It was a risk, and comments from the naysayers reminded me that it’s easier to do nothing than it is to take a risk. I’m happy to say that the risk paid off.

Thanks to all who spread the word, a couple of prospects I was aware of confirmed their presence on the course, and I received a new group booking. The training is now feasible, and we are confirming that it will happen. There is still room on the course, and I expect to sell a few more spots in the coming days.

I did get one interesting suggestion in a Twitter reply to the announcement, and I’ve adopted it. If you are interested in attending one or two of the modules (say, community processes and the GNOME platform overview, but not the practical session or Linux developer tools), you can do so for the much lower price of €400 per module and €750 for two modules, not including a GUADEC registration.

Anyone who would like to avail of this offer, please contact me, and we will take care of getting you signed up.

Thank you all for your help and support!


General 2 Comments

No, not the film.

While I’ve been back in Ireland it’s been impossible to avoid “Discover Ireland” promoting the country as a tourist destination for locals, with ads backed by an infectiously catchy tune.

I’d never heard the group before, so I went hunting and found Heathers, an Irish duet of teenage girls who seem just a little shy, but when they start singing they belt it out. Very simple – guitar + +2 female voices, with an atypical sound and a heavy Irish accent. They’re pretty great. The joys of the interweb and youth who thinks differently about copyright – there is *lots* of live material from these girls on youtube. They’ve already been touring the US and I suspect that they will make a name for themselves. Well worth discovering.