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Open Office, and OSS fears

On Tue, 2004-04-06 at 20:27, Derek Martin wrote:
> OO is an important software package to the Free software world; if Sun
> abandons it, I believe it will be picked up. 

Given its importance, the community should be involved now while
OpenOffice is still in Sun's good graces. The transition to a more
community oriented project would be a lot smoother. OpenOffice is too
dependent on a Sun business decision, and Sun as a business is in murky

But the community isn't (after about 4 years?) Apparently, despite its
importance as a desktop solution and widespread use, there aren't enough
people who enjoy trying to wrap their minds around a bazillion lines of
OpenOffice code. They see an already solid program, but the
consideration of the resources required to support that codebase isn't
there. There is no sense of urgency to become involved. Sun is taking
care of it. I wonder if the community at large is even aware that Sun
shoulders that much of a load and is having a lot of difficulty
attracting OO community-driven developers that they don't have to pay? 

One reason why high-profile projects like OpenOffice are troublesome
from an open source perspective is that although the code is available,
the community involvement is low. Just seems like a small army of paid
Sun employees and a few saints. Some people talk about OpenOffice's
success as an open source project in the same vein as say the kernel,
but OpenOffice's programming resources are mostly supplied by Sun
whereas the kernel is mostly done by a community. To me, they are very
different beasts.

The process and programmer community surrounding the Linux kernel grew
as the requirements of the kernel grew. It is sustainable. It is not
overly dependent on an organization or even person because a lot of
people got involved *early* while it was relatively easy to get into the
code. The community, its process, understanding, etc. grew as the code

But the process and programmer community of OpenOffice is Sun-dependent,
and the project is very large. If Sun drops support tomorrow, there will
be a large knowledge, organizational, and resource vacuum that will take
considerable effort to stabilize. Sure, it can be done...eventually. But
if the community had more of a sense of urgency in becoming involved,
this possibility could be lowered quite a bit. Ounce of prevention,
pound of cure, and all that rot.

You see the "mooch behavior" in all sorts of social activity where the
costs required to do something are separated from the people benefiting
from it. You have very few people doing the work for many, and if
something should happen to those few, lots suffer (and deservedly so).
The lower the mooch %, the stronger that community becomes and
vice-versa. To me, that is why open source applications that have a high
overlap between the developer and user base are the most successful.

(Hey, nobody would be happier to be wrong on this than me!)

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