OpenNTF : What Would Work Better For Me

Last Friday I made the decision to pull
all my projects from OpenNTF until such a time that they have sorted out
all the issues. I think many people reading the blog entry may have missed
that one little word so here it is highlighted for you.

A picture named M2

In the very first comment on my blog
Nathan T. Freeman asks ‘What Would Work Better for you?’ So here is my
answer…

Speak With One Voice.

OpenNTF needs to elect a communications
officer. This one person should be responsible for all official communications
from OpenNTF, This includes replying to blogs, tweets, emails etc. Minutes
after posting that I was pulling my projects I had 3 Instant messages on
my screen from different people involved in OpenNTF all asking why I did
what I did and that I shouldn’t be encouraging others to do the same. The
proper response to this situation would have been a single reply saying
that they regret my decision and that they hope they can resolve some of
the factors that lead to my decision and that they hope to see me back
at some stage in the future. What’s not needed is the multitude of IM’s
, blog comments and even other blog entries on the subject all from different
people involved in the process.

Leave the ego’s at home.

Everybody involved with the reorganization
of OpenNTF seems to be taking things way to personally. If you think you
are being stabbed
in the back or being poked in the eye
then you are mistaken.
The problem is with the process and not the people. Maybe speaking with
a single voice would lessen this problem.

Get Rid of The Managed Catalog.

This is probably my biggest issue with
the direction OpenNTF is heading. The Managed Catalog, in my opinion, is
the single worst thing that OpenNTF could do. A special catalog for special
projects that meet the criteria of the steering committee. All other projects
are second class citizens. I honestly do not believe that there is a need
for this. If you look at SourceForge, GitHub or Google Code do you see
special catalog for approved projects, no you don’t. All projects are equal.
All projects clearly mark what license they use, all projects have access
to the same resources.

The idea behind the managed catalog
is that OpenNTF wants to provide businesses a list of ‘quality applications
that have passed IP clearance’. I say that this can still be done using
a single list of projects by using filters. It would be easy, just go to
the ‘projects’ area and select to look at all projects using a permissive
copyleft license, Add a filter for ‘Stable Release’ ( as opposed to beta/test
releases ) and you practically have the same info that you would in the
managed catalog. You could even keep your link on the homepage that automatically
applies the filter.

Don’t Force The Apache License.

You can certainly encourage it but it
should not be forced as the be all and end all of open source licenses.
Do you see SourceForge, Github or Google Code telling anybody what license
they should choose? For some the GNU GPL license is the one they WANT to
use, for others a weaker copyleft license like MPL may make more sense.
Lets not forget that the Apache license is not the only permissive copyleft
license in the open source world either, the BSD license is probably just
as popular. Forcing the Apache license as the only way to get into a special
category of project is just plain wrong and also introduces the concept
of second class projects for anybody not using the Apache License. Of course
a single catalog of projects would also get rid of this problem.

Finish The Website Redesign Quickly.

OpenNTF should never have released a
half-baked, half working website. I understand that the people working
on the website redesign were doing it on their own time but it should never
have been put into production until the ENTIRE site was overhauled and
tested. Most of the people working on the site understand the concept of
a software life cycle but it seems to me that none of their skills in this
area were put into practice. Where was the planning and prototyping? Where
was the user acceptance of these plans? Where was the user testing of the
new site before it was put into production? A lot of the technical issues
would not have existed if OpenNTF had treated this the same way the individuals
treat client projects in their work environments.

Finalize Processes Before Publishing
Them.


On May 12th when the OpenNTF Alliance
was announced and the OpenNTF website updated with all the new procedures
and policies it was a sudden and unexpected change. Some of the policies
where you needed to have documents signed by employers were very different
from what was needed before. I understand these policies were put in place
BEFORE the steering committee had any say and that they are now trying
to undo some of the damage by adjusting them so that signed documents are
not always required and that anonymous code submissions can be accepted.
The problem is the damage has already been done. These policies should
have never been published in the first place. The discussions that are
happening now should NOT be about reversing damaging policies but about
creating policies that make sense to everybody.

Transparency only works when it’s
100%.


Meeting minutes are a start, lets get
the MP3’s for the meetings up there also, and not just the Steering Committee,
but also the other committees and working groups. Lets not forget the locked
forums, shouldn’t they be open as read only to people not on the committees.
Of course there’s still the question of the private emails and IM’s that
occur between committee members. I guess the process will never be 100%
transparent.

And Finally….

There are  9  8
companies involved in the OpenNTF Alliance yet only two to three people
from two to three companies SEEM to be doing anything. I’m not just talking
about just Steering Committee members, I’m talking about all the people
from the companies in the Alliance. If being part of the alliance means
your company is supposed to help out, provide resources etc then why have
we not heard a peep out of the other companies. Have they forgotten what
they agreed to? How can they be part of the alliance if they are not actively
being involved? Voting Yes or No on a conference call once every few weeks
( when they show up ) just does not cut it.  Every company that is
part of the alliance should have as many staff members as possible in the
forums every day, answering question, discussing topics etc.

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11 comments on “OpenNTF : What Would Work Better For Me
  1. Palmi says:

    I totally aggree with you.

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  2. Disclosures: I am not an expert in licensing (nor do I play one on TV). I have not been publishing any projects or code on OpenNTF (yet). But I plan to. As soon as the CodeBin start accepting submissions.

    OK, now to my thoughts. I don’t see the big problem. I agree with Declan on certain things, and understand his point.
    I also understand the point OpenNTF makes about the need of IBM to protect themsleves (if they incorporate code) or their customers (if they download and uses code.
    What nobody mentioned is that the author of a piece of software always can allow for use outside the orginal license agreement.

    What about this suggestion:
    * One catalog with all projects.
    * Allow for a few different licenses.
    * Clearly mark each project with it’s license.

    If I were Declan, and developed something as cool and useful at his Blog template, I would be slightly upset if someone simply repackaged it and sold it for profit with no attribution or money coming my way.
    At the same time, I would be happy to see people and companies use the product, as long as they don’t use my work to make money for themselves.
    So a LGPL(?) style license would make sense. Free to use for non-commercial use.
    If a company want to use it commercially, contact Declan and get a special license and pay him something for his work, if he want that.
    I am sure that if IBM came and asked if he would be willing to let them distribute the blog template with Notes 9, he would say “yes” without hesitation…

    When it comes to code samples/snippets, the same thing goes. The Apache license should be encouraged here, but if someone want to restrict commercial use of their code, they should have the right to it. I am sure it would not be impossible for someone to contact the author and ask for permission to use the code in a commercial application, or to be allowed to use it in a closed-source application.

    I may be over-simplifying things, but if the big brains over at OpenNTF and IBM (and I know they are way smarter than I am) sit down for a few minutes, I am sure they could come up with a good solution everyone would be happy with.

    The key is the following line that can be found on teh Creative Commons site, on the page explaining LGPL:
    “Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.”

    See? Not that hard.

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  3. “OpenNTF needs to elect a communications officer. This one person should be responsible for all official communications from OpenNTF, This includes replying to blogs, tweets, emails etc.”FYI, Bruce did this job extremely well for years. He voiced the same concern to the SC a few weeks ago, and was asked if he wanted to take it on. That conversation didn’t proceed to a nomination and vote, though.

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  4. Declan Lynch says:

    @2 If only it was that simple. License exceptions would need to be tracked etc. if somebody takes some license excepted code and creates a derivative product is it also covered by the exception? This is a another kettle of fish that nobody wants to get into.@3 Well if two people have independently brought up the same concern I would suggest that it is brought up for discussion and voted upon.

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  5. John Head says:

    @2 Karl-Henry – as I have stated many times, the place for this discussion is the IP WG forum. Anyone who has a registered OpenNTF.org account can contribute. Anyone can contribute if they log in.Second, the goal here is to not maintain status quo. We are trying to grow OpenNTF.org to be more than it is today. For everyone who tells me they want an unstructured and GPL license, I have conversations where companies who would consume OpenNTF.org content can’t because of GPL licensing and an unstructured repository.Based on Declan’s contributions, we are making changes. The Apache license is what we are going to model after. But I am also going to submit the resolutions for the open and managed repositories. I believe that is the best method for keeping something that works today and attracting consumers who won’t come today. The SC will vote on them on Thursday.The license discussion is will kick-off in the forum Thursday as well. I will post the legal opinions and thoughts that I have gathered from resources. I appreciate everyone’s input.

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  6. Bruce Elgort says:

    @Nathan,Thanks for the kudos. You did the same as well. And to think it all started with Mackerel sushi.

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  7. @4 – Declan, to elect someone to that position, we would need a candidate. No one has volunteered yet.

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  8. @5: I did post the same text (with some minor modifications) there within 5 minutes after posting it here. Already I see five (5) comments here (two directly answers/comments to what I wrote) and none at OpenNTF.org…

    By the way, the IP forum is kind of hidden, when you click “Forum “on the OpenNTF homepage, I end up at a generic forum, not the same I get to when I first select “IP and Governance” on the homepage. Slightly confusing. And yes, I will post that comment at OpenNTF as well!

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  9. Alan Bell says:

    @5 picking on a single word from your comment “consume” (well consumers too) I think part of the problem is that some people seem to want a producer/consumer relationship just without any money changing hands. Other people want a “community” that is open to people who want to “join”, “participate” and “share”. I wouldn’t want to put anyone in any particular box (least of all you John) but I have a suspicion that this is the divisive elephant in the room.

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  10. I guess you cannot deny when IBM comes in and other companies the desire to have control has become dominant.Dominance goes against Openess which most developers or contributors would like to see.About the website:This would have for me also a priority instead of starting development projects for delivering new projects.But then again, the control freaks have taken over it, best example for tha tis the Working Group ‘box’ right on top on the right side.One website to rule them (notes developers) all!

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  11. Hear hear. Sounds a lot more mature than the other ruckus I read. Keep up the good work Declan, and I hope OpenNTF will quickly grow.

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