Where Are All The Open Source Developers Gone?

I’ve been thinking about this topic for
a while and had been hesitant to blog about it, but a sentence in Ben
Poole’s
recent blog post asking if there is value in using
Domino as a blogging platform
caught my eye…

the Domino open-source
community is somewhat lacking in committers at the moment, beyond each
individual

Advertisements
Tagged with:
Posted in Uncategorized
28 comments on “Where Are All The Open Source Developers Gone?
  1. David Leedy says:

    Great post Declan.Ties in nicely with Mitches’ post of Domino as a blogging platform as well: { Link }What’s the future if there aren’t more people involved and working together to give back to the projects and really the overall community that they benefit from?

    Like

  2. John Head says:

    Declan – I totally agree with you on pretty much everything, but just to clarify:anyone can post to the projects section without an ICLA or CCLA. You could post Blogsphere there and anyone could add to it. You could do the releases or you could let others. And people could download templates. All without worrying about the legal stuff. The legal stuff comes into play when you want to commit a project to one of the catalogs. Great post. Thanks for writing it.

    Like

  3. Totally agree with you, Declan.I started my project ( !!HELP!! ) in 2004. Thomas Schulte stepped in a few month later. Downloads increased and so did the questions. We answered numerous questions day by day. Most of them in the German Notes Forum ( http://www.atnotes.de ) OK, we had a few contributions. But since almost 3 years now there is nothing but silence. Silence in contributions, not in questions that we continue to answer ..This is really frustrating. Not to accuse anyone, but why does someone start a new project for a ticket system using x-pages rather than joining our existing project and giving the web interface a makeover?Trigger Happy; nobody in the whole wide world seems to be able to help porting the source code to Linux. I’ve asked for help on this a few times and got no feedback.Really, really frustrating.

    Like

  4. Jerry Carter says:

    Two things come to mind. First, I think we are seeing the natural result of Domino itself not being open sourced way back when. It would have been visionary to take Domino open source back at R5 when many major changes were made and it was “super human software”. As a developer who has released a couple of open source bits myself, and had the same ringing silence you describe, I can tell you that the big stick in my craw when working with Domino is running up against the closed product source time and again.So, we’re hoping open source thrives on top of a closed source product. It’s a bit like hoping water and oil will mix at room temperature. Secondly, your primary consumers are in commercial environments where the primary mode of development is commercial and IP is such a valued asset that the thought of turning features back out to the community is seen as a loss by the consumer of the OSS. I have frequently seen conversations go this way;Dev: “We should look at using this, boss, it’s open source — works pretty well, has most the features we want, and we can change it all we like.”Boss: “No, it’s open source – we have to give up all our code if we touch it.” or “Legal department says no” or “Open source? You trust that?”1 in 10 “Yeah, cool. We can use that… maybe we can release some small contributions, but don’t spend too much time on that.”Academically, OSS is a great and valuable idea. Commercially, it is incompatible for companies that look at code as IP. The realization that sufficiently abstract tools do not compromise IP (unless that is your core business model) or competitive advantage is far out of reach for most commercial entities because there is not much correlation for abstraction in the business world. The tool is not seen as community knowledge. The leap to fully embracing OSS as a consumer and active contributor is just beyond this prerequisite.Put into perspective – some companies derive a good percentage of their revenues from the code they write. Owning the (c) to that is part of or their whole profit center. As such, they will be recalcitrant to share what they improve, ethical issues of using OSS and not contributing aside.(pardon the possible duplicate submission – I think NoScript broke it!)

    Like

  5. I think the biggest drawback is on the “Code Contributions” section of the OpenNTF site.

    It clearly states “Become an official OpenNTF contributor. You either need to be named on your employer’s (as an Alliance member) Corporate Contributor License Agreement or have executed an Individual Contributor License Agreement for yourself. Send either of these signed documents to ip-manager at openntf.org.”

    Thats clearly too much hassle for the average causal developer. There should be an implied License automatically for contributors, unless otherwise excepted by alternative agreements. By insisting on the Alliance member options you are instantly putting huge amounts of paperwork in the way of getting developers. The Devs in question then need to fight their own internal political battles to get approval. Normally from PHBs who have no idea what Open Source is, or could even care less.

    The whole point about OpenNTF is that it should be Open. It clearly isn’t.

    Like

  6. Unfortunately, I think this post reflects one of the shortcomings we have in the Yellowverse, which is a belief that somehow things are “different” in here than elsewhere. The real question is not why OSS isn’t working for OpenNTF or for Notes/Domino in general, it is why it is not working anywhere to any great extent.Take a look at sourceforge.net. Under the title “What’s Hot for Windows?” the product at the top of the lest is TightVNC with 807 ratings, which has has four patches by anybody since Jan 2009. The next is WinDirStat, which hasn’t had a patch since 2006.

    Like

  7. Alex says:

    When you look at download counter for any project in openntf.org, you can see something like 1000-2000 downloads maximum for a very long time.It means that all these projects are simply not used by people.In my opinion using open-source applications for non-open source platform is strange at least.

    Like

  8. Bruce Lill says:

    I started looking at the opensource code I use regularly and I do notice something, all of it has a paid support features. You can use if free, get the code and modify but if you need support it’s available for a fee.Maybe allowing companies to sponsor projects with their logo’s would help get some more projects like the ones assono has posted on OpenNTF.Another thing that would help would be to make the project’s easier to navigate, comment on and contribute to. I don’t think people know they can help on projects.Projects just need a home page, comments and a download link. Let people link to the download page from their blogs, may get some bloggers to post their code here.My project was a pet project and I have received feedback and every a code re-write to fix some problems. He emailed me directly instead of using openntf with the changes.

    Like

  9. Patrick Picard says:

    I think the main issue with OSS and domino is that there is no easy way to merge code changes from multiple developer. Copy/paste code changes from other people is NOT a good way to do it.Domino needs a source code repository where people change checkin/checkout code, modify and promote.Speaking of contributing to the community, contributing to wikis is also an issue. There’s is no quick way to include screenshots in wikis. I rather work in MS Word where I have much more capabilities in terms of formatting and ease of content creation.On Monday, I completed the Xpages tutorial from the RedWiki (xpages from scratch). I found many errors in the pdf…so I sent the details back to John Bergland (a whole 19 pages of errors w/ screenshots). While my contribution will be beneficial, it was not productive in the following ways:-I found the errors-Documented them in a word doc-Send the email to John which will be forwarded to Muhammad-Muhammad will update the PDF and post it back to the RedWikiHad the contents been fully on the wiki instead of a PDF…..I would not of bothered creating new screenshots, upload them, link them in the markup as it would have been too much pain.So either way, its not productive and low productivity deters involvement

    Like

  10. Palmi says:

    Declan i can aggree with you 100%. Why not have a “!needhelp” section, have a list of bugs and have it so that i can go though it fast to see where i can help ? am not so good at JAVA (Not yet) but am real good at JS and LS , formula. it can point to the DB.We could have a button to press on that says ” I can help” and then it gets logged who you are with timestamp – just an idea

    Like

  11. Jerry Carter says:

    Then there’s this news…{ Link }Certain industries interested in IP rights are actively trying to punish OSS use. Sandbox closed due to Bully occupation.

    Like

  12. I think this is a common open source issue and not restricted to openntf/yellow bubble. I also think the mail experience is an exception rather than the other way around.

    It is obvious though that the openntf site does not help. Its not easy to manage projects with multiple people, its not easy to ask for help with a particular bug, feature or documentation and make it obvious. I feel we need to correct this.

    Like

  13. Niklas Heidloff says:

    I agree it would be good to get more contributors. We certainly want to grow the site.But I want to point out that we’ve seen many new first time non IBM contributors over the last months who have all signed the CLAs and contributed good projects: Rene Winkelmeyer, Tommy Valand, Frank van der Linden, Detlev Poettgen, John Mackey, Andrew Welch, Mark Hughes, Rolf Kremer and I’m sure I’ve forgotten more.

    Like

  14. Declan Lynch says:

    @Niklas More contributors is always a good thing but all these names you have just mentioned have published ‘pet projects’ as opposed to assisting in already existing projects with the exception of Rene who took over the existing File Navigator project from the IBM China developers. That is exactly my point and also the point that Ben was making in the quote I took from his blog entry.I also agree that this is not just an OpenNTF / Yellowverse issue. The problem exists in all open-source communities but in the Lotus Domino open source community it is very visible to those of use who have written major open source projects just to see other people write their own version of the project instead of helping with an existing project just like Ulrich mentioned in his comment. I could point the finger at IBM for doing the same. Why was the xPagesWiki written, I’m sure Ben Poole would rather have seen an xPages interface added to DominoWiki instead, and nobody can blame licensing here as DominoWiki was under the Apache License long before IBM got involved with OpenNTF.

    Like

  15. I’m very interested in hearing more community input re: Bruce’s suggestion of how we bring “motivation” into the minds (and pocketbooks) of contributing developers and companies. While we haven’t been able to integrate it yet with OpenNTF, a goal is certainly to provide commercialization / monetization through the Lotus Business Solutions Catalog { Link } Tweet or DM me at @mlmasterson if you have ideas to share.

    Edited by blog owner to correct the link to the Lotus Catalog.

    Like

  16. bruce lill says:

    I’m hoping the mobile access to Lotus Wiki project will change some of that.We have a group of people starting to work on a solution to provide mobile access to the wikis. It will cover web access and iPhone, android and blackberry apps. I guess the idea may be to pick a project and try to get people to help with it.After all why would I submit anything but my pet projects to OpenNTF. You have to want the end results to be interested in working on it.

    Like

  17. openSource is tricky business. Firstly, what do you want to accomplish with OpenSource projects ? I think any kind of pet project that is open source for commercial use, is a risky proposition for users without dedicated support. Either the user can support it themselves, or they would pay someone to do support it. So, someone has to take financial responsibility for it.Are you being philanthropic about publishing solutions, or are you thinking you want to be a micro-ISV and use it as a launch vehicle for new products ? In some cases OpenSource is an emotional experience for contributors. Some use it as a means of self-promotion, others just want to solve a problem they think is common and offer the solution to all.So it’s no surprise that the commitment wanes after months ? How many projects do you know of that operate for years ? If they do then people are drawing income from it.If you don’t have a business plan about what you’re doing, and are using OpenNTF solely as your means to promote and distribute your solution then you shouldn’t be surprised that it all runs out of puff after 18 months, especially if there is no monetary reward for contributors.If you’re looking beyond that time-horizon, and think everyone can use your solution, then you need to plan commercialisation of it, and OpenNTF is an excellent vehicle to be part of that plan, not all of it.

    Like

  18. Brian Benz says:

    Good post. Can’t speak for others, just my own personal experience….from 1997 to 2003 I regularly contributed code, examples, best practices, etc, via the pre-OpenNTF mediums of the day: Advisor, the VIEW, DeveloperWorks Live, Lotusphere, forums, etc. What looked like great gateway to business opportunities by establishing credibility and making contacts turned out to be simply an expensive hobby that I eventually had to give up or go broke. Why? I’ve had much time now to work this out….Here are 3 of many reasons:-Notes is enterprise software paid for by big companies. The guys writing code in these organizations are implicitly encouraged to take but explicitly forbidden to give back by their own company’s policies.-Even if they could give back – few feel any responsibility to the “community” to do so. Most contributors are from small companies, most downloaders work in big organizations. They have a choice – take all the credit and further their careers, or share credit with some anonymous geek and open a can of licensing worms with their bosses….-Paid software eventually has to be approved by someone authorized to pay for software, and services. Free software does not. Few enterprise developers, even if they have the balls to ask, will be given authorization to use company time and resources to provide code to potential competitors.Cynical? Yes. But no more than necessary…Gotta get back to billable work now 🙂 .

    Like

  19. Ben Poole says:

    The concept of simple “tasks” that any OpenNTF committer can pick up and work on have some merit I think. I discussed this with John Head yesterday. As it stands, the project management within the site is a little too lumpen.

    Like

  20. I have some same considerations.For me the ‘open source ‘community for Domino has been mainly focussing on building small solutions. Not really systems that can be rolled out as a complete, mature solution.For example I have the same questions regarding a WCM system.{ Link }In my opinion it would be better to clearly define on OpenNTF which solution will be build and how designers can contribute.For now it are 1 sometimes 2 persons projects, not a bigger developer team say for example 10 persons.I guess working on such projects can be more rewarding (more downloads, better reviews).But that is my opinion…

    Like

  21. Andrew Luder says:

    @ Declan. I hope you haven’t given up on OpenNTF. Didn’t Ben also indicate we’ve only just started the IBM open source journey??

    I was 1 of 6 submissions in the Lotus opensource indivudual awards, but didn’t get anywhere because I didn’t provide a sexy Plugin or X-Pages front-end solution. One could argue the ugly-duckling server-addin solution provides more value-add to companies than the sexy front-end stuff.. Was disappointed for a day and moved on…

    I need some “inspiration” to develop the next version of DominoDefrag. Any chance of committing the current version (v2.2) to the GPL catalog? Didn’t want to chase you up in a public forum, but can’t get in touch any other way…

    Like

  22. Henning Heinz says:

    The Apache license is all about removing footers and selling things as your own genius. IBM also takes the Apache webserver and relabels it to IBM HTTP server. Nothing wrong with that as many Apache projects are driven by companies not by individual people. If you don’t want to make money with a project then the APL probably is not the best Open Source license. To be fair IBM always said that they want that commercial entities can take code and sell it in their own solutions. In addition the advantage of other Open Source solutions is that they are much easier to deploy as the server software often is free. IBM should not only have offered Designer for free but also the Domino web server for non-commercial purposes (they could disallow individual mailboxes and authentication). There should also be affordable and easy to buy options for hosting providers to offer Domino services.And then to get this flying you need more developers. Developers, Developers, Developers (and more users don’t harm either).For bigger projects you would definetely need version control and a better way to coordinate who is working on what / task management). Something like JIRA comes to my mind.But finally maybe Domino just lost ground as a development platform although OpenNTF is very positive about their platform. More projects, more activities, more downloads, more success so maybe we talk about a non-existing problem!?

    Like

  23. Mike McP says:

    I was all fired up to post, then realized Henning beat me to about every one of my thoughts.The big problem was IBM charging extra for the Designer license. It will be years until we recover from that damage, because that was a decent opportunity to grow the community with casual developers. Young people with free time are the ones who have the most time to contribute to projects, and the Notes development community is quite mature at the moment.Also, server cost is a barrier to entry. As a young developer, I can pickup almost any other tool and start developing without worry about hosting. With Notes web apps, that’s not quite the case. I’ve been developing Notes apps for years, but until recently I had rely exclusively on borrowed licenses and server tome from my employer. Instead of coding from home, I had to VPN in and sometimes shut down my entire project while we exclusively tested something else out on the servers or went through upgrades. I still don’t have a server to publicly display current versions of my project.I don’t think version control is much of an issue. It would be a nice to have, but personally I’d find it overly burdensome to setup my project in a version controlled environment. I like Notes because it’s quick and simple, in an era of increasing development complexity.

    Like

  24. Dan Sickles says:

    Perhaps to open source platforms.

    Like

  25. Steve Smillie says:

    Declan,I understand your complaint on the xTalk OpenNTF project. It is unfortunate that they haven’t contacted you.I have tried to discuss issues in the Project bug discussion.I have sent at least 2 emails to you (via the Email Chef on OpenNTF). In those emails, I have some questions and have volunteered to try and help improve and fix problems of the Forum setups when using large Domino Directories, but I have not had any response from you. You complain about little contribution but then reject it when someone offers?

    Like

  26. For what is worth, I love openNTF, and if there was an option to Donate, I would. In fact, I ended up sending donations to Rene for File Navigator. There are a lot of great, smart developers out there. A little incentive goes a long way to get them motivated and help them as well.

    I hate to see OpenNTF not getting the recognition it deserves, but I agree that it needs to be easier to use. It is old look and too much structure.

    Like

  27. Heiko Voigt says:

    I sent you this reply as e-mail a few minutes ago and have removed some of the mail address stuff below. Dear Declan,This is a personal repsonse to your Blog entry “Where Are All The Open Source Developers Gone?” you posted a few months ago. The paragraph”A definite LOSS for an OpenNTF project is my own Xtalk project. Did you see it during the Opening General Session at Lotusphere 2010? There was a picture of it on screen and they talked about how it was a big win for an external company and how they were able to take it from OpenNTF and embed it into one of their projects. Why is this a loss for OpenNTF, quite simple, the company has not contributed a single thing back to the xTalk project. If they found a bug and fixed it then they have not contributed it back to the project, if they added any features, they have not contributed it back to the project, they didn’t even have the decency to contact me when I asked about getting a testimonial from them for the IBM Lotus Awards, nope the ONLY thing that they did was remove the footer from xTalk that contained the project name and link back to OpenNTF. “caught my eye, as it was my company, and me personally your blog relates to. I’m responding now, because your blog entry came to my knowledge today.I am truely sorry, if we embarressed you, using your xTalk project in one of our own projects in an unapropriate way.We did not contribute back to your project, because we did not do anything more to it than the integration in the portal solution (no changes in xTalk) and remove the footer as requested by the customer at that time. Actually, the customer we did an xPages based portal for, was already using xTalk and asked us to integrate it “as-is” into their new intranet portal we did for them. It was their wish to remove the footer for the integrated version to simply get more screen real estate. Clearly, this was not communicated back to you.You sent me a comment on my blog about the screenshot IBM was using back in december 2009 – please find the mail I sent you in response to your testemonail question below. I never heard anything back from you on that email.I would highly appreciate it, if we could talk about that whole issue. I understand this as a misunderstanding and would really like to clarify things – we highly appreciate your efforts for the yellow community and are truely sorry, if we unintentionally made a mistake here.Mit freundlichen Gr

    Like

  28. Zeff Wheelock says:

    Does this mean that projects like XTalk and Blogsphere are no longer going to be developed?

    Like

Comments are closed.

Archives