Reality Check on the OpenNTF.org IP Discussion

June 24 2009

So in the past 60 hours, there has been a huge amount of debate, discussion, and even a bit of nasty sludge being thrown around after the IP Working Group Conference Call last week. I decided to stay out of the fray and have only answered questions about technical issues outside of the IP Working Group forum until now. I decided to write this blog so people knew exactly what I was thinking and feeling around this. Hopefully an open revelation will help settle some of the issues and fears.

1. The IP Working Group Forum Technical Issues

So let's get this out of the way. Yes, the new XPages forum design is having technical issues on OpenNTF.org for the General Forum as well as the Working Group forums. This sucks. We have time out issues, display issues, and more. It looks like Safari has login issues as well with the site, which has nothing to do with the XPages forum design. These issues frustrate me as much as anyone else reading or commenting - I am basically living in that forum right now. As IP WG Chairman, I take full responsibility for the issues. I apologize to anyone dealing with them. I can not make the changes myself to get the issues fixed, but will take it on as my #1 priority. I will get this fixed even if it means moving the forum to another site. Please give me some time to work on this and I will report back on the progress before the end of the week.

2. The OpenNTF.org Alliance and all the legal mumbo jumbo

Many people complained that OpenNTF.org was not transparent before IBM got involved. I was one of them. One of IBM's first acts was to form the Alliance and make OpenNTF.org more like a real open source program, like Eclipse.org and Apache. To do that, we had to implement layers of stuff, like Steering Committees, Working Groups, and legal mumbo jumbo. This frustrates the hell out of me - as it frustrates many of you. To grow OpenNTF.org to allow in larger companies like IBM, we need to have this. To make OpenNTF.org transparent and not reliant on any one person or company, we need to do all this. And because we don't have a bucket of cash lying around, we are doing this all on our own time. On top of our full time jobs. I can not tell you how many evenings Nathan and I have been up chatting until midnight talking about OpenNTF.org in the past 8 weeks.

The IP work will be behind us by the end of July for the most part. I hope the OpenNTF.org Not for Profit creation will be done by the end of August. After that, its just maintenance and on going governance stuff. Please, be patient. If you don't care about the IP stuff, fine.

3. Open vs. Managed Repositories - What the Hell

One of the requests has always been that IBM get more involved with OpenNTF.org. Money, exposure, hardware, software, etc. But at the end of the day, what I want is IBM contributing and consuming assets to OpenNTF.org. I want to see templates put up for community contributions and then consumed and put back into the box. Templates that get QA'd and are supported by IBM - which means customers will use them. This is a huge process with no guarantees. To have any chance of this happening, we need to add some managed processes to OpenNTF.org. That is where the Managed Repository comes in.

So here is the bottom line. We are not changing the way projects work today. Anyone who registers can create a project. That will not change. You can make releases like always and people can download your stuff. What we want to change is adding a managed repository next to this. At release time, the contributor can submit that release to be reviewed for the managed repository. That release will get reviewed by a committer (which is a standard open source term, not one we came up with). They look for basic stuff - license violations, etc. If it passes, that release gets put into the managed repository. No development or changes are made - we call it is a snapshot. That managed repository has some implications - tested, verified releases. From my research, combine this process with the Apache license, and we can get more companies to consume from OpenNTF.org. This includes IBM.

I know the licensing is a hot topic. We will start that discussion after the 4th of July. I think I even have a way to handle both sides of the debate.

So for everyone trying to figure out what were doing: we aren't taking anything away. We are adding a process that you don't have to use. You don't want your code to be in the managed repository? Don't mark a release for contribution over there. As far as I can tell, this caters to both ends of the community and is the best of both worlds. If you disagree - I welcome the feedback. Just please put it in the IP WG Forum :-)

4. Aggressive Passion

So I am going to be blunt here: I am taking much of the criticism personal. I know that 99% of what is being said is not targeted at me or meant to be harmful. Reality Check: I have spent over 100 hours of my own personal time trying to wade thru all the IP issues. The copyright mess where what is law in one country is not in another. How to take a community like sourceforge and add on a community like Apache and make everyone happy. If I come across as someone who is carrying the OpenNTF.org IP process like its a burden over my shoulders, I am. I do my best work when I get personally involved. So when someone calls out my presentation and takes a shot at it, it angers me. For sure. If that makes me an attack kitten, then sign me up for the tattoo. No apologies for doing what I believe in.

I am also taking this attack personally because the time and effort of others around me. There is a lot of work by Peter Tanner of IBM, Nathan, and legal councils - some with very personal connections to me. There are so many better ways to provide feedback. Why can't we stop all this spin and just work together?

I will be 100% open here - much of what we are doing today is rolling back changes that IBM put into place before the Alliance was announced. I looked at much of the initial outline for the repositories, licensing, and process and was furious. Nathan and I literally spent a day on the phone getting ready for the first Steering Committee meeting - which we pretty much hijacked. I made a personal decision that instead of bitching, I would take on the challenge of fixing it. That is what I am doing. I welcome all feedback. But please, do not expect me to sit here and take criticism without taking it personally. That is not how I do things. It may be my worst fault, but it is who I am.

I want everyone to help make OpenNTF.org the best it can be. I don't want to discourage anyone. I have seen claims that I am badgering people. Sorry folks, but that is spin. I am making the best effort I can to have this entire discussion out in the open. Privately, all I have done is ask people to bring their contributions to the discussion into the IP WG Forum.

I do not own OpenNTF.org. OpenNTF.org is owned by the community. I am just the person trying to make something happen in a bucket of chaos. I ask that everyone who believe in OpenNTF.org do the same - in whatever manner you can provide.