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.

11 Responses to “Reality Check on the OpenNTF.org IP Discussion”

  1. 1) Vitor Pereira says:

    "Why can't we stop all this spin and just work together"

    That might be the problem right there. Are you sure the people taking the cheap shots are in the same "we" as the rest of us? I think it's about time we stop listening.

  2. 2) Kevin Mort says:

    Pot shots are easy to take, that's why so many so called "supporters" take them. Notice they rarely have any constructive input.

    With friends like those, who needs enemies?

    Applause for all of your work John (and others), this is the kind of personal action that defines real leadership.

  3. 3) Gab Davis says:

    John I"m not a developer and Turtle isn't a product company so the IP issues and arguments surrounding OpenNTF have not really made a dent in my consciousness. Having said that I would very much like to see OpenNTF thrive and grow as it can only help the Lotus Community and I shudder to think of the political and legal hurdles involved in getting large product companies to the stage of posting their code there.

    I had assumed that OpenNTF was still finding its feet and its form and my plan was to wait patiently to see where that goes and if I need to be involved. It was news to me for instance that you are actively targeting large product companies as well as IBM and less so individual 'homemade' developments.

    I do appreciate you writing this, I think it helps to understand the effort and personal commitment involved and to bear that in mind when providing feedback. It's not all nameless , faceless , IBM bureaucratic committees.

    Gab

  4. 4) Jeremy Hodge says:

    Hey John ...

    Keep it up, I think you're doing great, and to be honest, it seems to me to be a very small minority that are complaining, and not giving the process a chance to work.

    I know a lot of us out here very much appreciate what you and Nathan and the rest of the group are doing, and you are heading down the right path. Keep it up, and we'll all be the better for it.

    Thanks again.

    Jeremy

  5. 5) John Head says:

    Gab, you said "It was news to me for instance that you are actively targeting large product companies as well as IBM and less so individual 'homemade' developments."

    I think the accurate description is that OpenNTF.org caters to homemade developments today very well. We are keeping that model as much the same as possible. We are just adding another option for large product companies, IBM, and enterprise who just want to use code from OpenNTF.org but can't today. It's not one or the other, its both. But we already have the first piece, we have to design the second. And fit it into the existing model as much as possible.

    I do not want to see folks like Declan or Ben Poole stop using OpenNTF.org. But I want to enable IBM or PSC to also use OpenNTF.org. I also want to protect OpenNTF.org from possible litigation. Will some of those changes make people like Declan or Ben P decide to release stuff on their own site? Probably. We will never get to 100%, but I think we can hit 90%. We have to do something- and if we stumble, we will do something different. I am open to every solution except doing nothing.

    Thanks for the feedback - John

  6. 6) Karl-Henry Martinsson says:

    Hopefully I will be able to use the forum at OpenNTF.org soon, right now I can't see the full text. But in the mean time, here ar emy thoughts.

    1) I have not contributed at OpenNTF (yet).

    2) I been posting some code on my blog, but not marked it with any copyright/CC license. Perhaps I should.

    3) I think OpenNTF is a great resource. But the site need to be more clear, easy to use, and less confusing.

    4) I think there have been a lot of confusing with "catalogs", "chefs", "cooks", etc. Why not use the KISS principle? I will try to write something up and put on OpenNTF in the forum...

  7. 7) John Head says:

    Karl-Henry - we are moving to a model of using the legal approved names by the majority of the open-source community. Contributors, Committers, etc. Those have to be there for legal reasons. This can't just be a free form download site. The legal issues are too big - even the ones to just let IBM to post. So it will never be a KISS model. As for your technical issues, please send me screen shots with the browser, browser version, and OS. we are trying to recreate everything. Thanks

  8. 8) Ben Poole says:

    "Will some of those changes make people like Declan or Ben P decide to release stuff on their own site? Probably."

    Woah woah there, steady! I have not said that, and it's certainly not my intention that such a thing should ever come to pass. I have been into OpenNTF since almost the beginning (I was an early contributor to Blogsphere and then started the wiki project a bit later). Let's just see how things pan out eh.

  9. 9) Philip Storry says:

    John,

    I've always thought OpenNTF was a great idea. And I've always wanted to contribute to it, but never had time.

    Having used an occasional template from it, I appreciate all the time that people have put into it. Thank you - and everyone else - for that.

    Here's an interesting thing though - I had intended to contribute code under a GPL licence. GPL is my normal modus operandi for what little development I do.

    But a couple of the ideas I had were ones I wanted IBM to be able to reuse. Even if they never took an iota of my code, I wanted them to be able to read it without fear that it could compromise them legally.

    So I changed my mind, and decided to go for a BSD style licence instead. So when the OpenNTF changes were announced, I simply thought "that's great", and didn't note it.

    I now wish I'd at least voiced the fact that I'd already decided a BSD/Apache style licence was best. Perhaps you'd have felt better supported.

    But I do think that I'm not unique. Many people have used OpenNTF, but just don't care about IP and licencing issues.

    I'm sorry to hear about the other issues. I hope you resolve them.

    Please remember that all the silent folks in the community are, more likely than not, with you. We welcome the ideas behind the improvements, and want to see them accepted as quickly as possible.

    Thank you for all you've done. :-)

  10. 10) John Head says:

    Ben - If I mispoke for you, my apologies. I was just saying that I can see you wanting more control over your projects than being forced into a specific license. And you would have no problem moving to your own site. I wasn't trying to go with anything sedious.

  11. 11) Ben Poole says:

    No worries. DominoWiki is ASL 2.0 anyway, and has been for some time :) If I move away from OpenNTF, it won't be because I want to host the project elsewhere, I can assure you. If anything, DominoWiki has probably reached the end of its useful life.

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