The OpenDocument XML.org web site is not longer accepting new posts. Information on this page is preserved for legacy purposes only. For current information on ODF, please see the OASIS OpenDocument Technical Committee.
These past weeks have marked a significant twist in the way the Document Foundation is supporting the LibreOffice project and in general, the Free and Open Source Software world. Three distinct pieces of news should indeed be put together in order to shed light on the way the Document Foundation is changing the way Free Software projects can work in order to grow and gain traction. In chronological order, here are the three announcements you should pay attention to:
– The Document Foundation opens a tender to develop a full viewer (and limited editor) for Android
– CloudOn, a member of the Advisory Board of the Document Foundation and a very active contributor of code, releases its new, full touch-based document viewer and editor for the iPad, entirely based on LibreOffice.
– The Document Foundation extends its certification programme to migration and training professionals.
Put together, a new story is emerging. Part of it was expected since the beginning of the LibreOffice project, while other parts came up unexpectedly, yet welcome. Let me explain. The other day I was writing about the roles of Free and Open Source Foundations. The funny thing about that is that while some foundations have roles that are easy to understand, several others operate in ways that may not make immediate sense to all. It seems that the Document Foundation falls in this latter category.
The Document Foundation role is to support and grow the LibreOffice & Document Liberation project and promote Free Software and Open Standards. You will notice in this statement two key points; first, it is not directly the role of the Document Foundation to develop the LibreOffice code: the community of volunteers is in charge of that and second, the actual role of the foundation is actually to protect and cater to the community’s needs and logistics.
At this point, it should be clear that at least in the case of the Document Foundation, we don’t hire developers to work on LibreOffice. But we feel there’s a difference between being a non profit entity distributing t-shirts and an entity actually supporting and growing the project. As such, we have overcome the lack of skills and time to develop an Android client by dedicating resources to this development, enabling talented developers to work on this project during a fixed period of time and funded by the foundation. Clearly, if such a development had been so easy we would already have an Android version.
The second case is a bit different, but highlights that the licensing choices of the LibreOffice project do not make it some sort of project for hobbyists. Here, we have a dynamic startup investing in the codebase and in the project in order to bet its own business on LibreOffice. The result is a visually stunning, touch based document viewer and editor for the iPad; it is also the only client able to read and edit documents in OOXML, ODF and several other formats on this device. Is it proprietary? I’m afraid it is. But the important lesson here is on two levels: in order to create such a product, CloudOn had to invest heavily in the development of LibreOffice (i.e, make actual, sizable contributions to the LibreOffice codebase) and, despite everything we have heard in the past, our licensing scheme is flexible enough to accomodate many different kind of scenarios without ripping off the actual project from its resources and code.
Last but not least, the certification for migration and training professionals is an important announcement: by assessing a reasonable level of competence and knowledge on LibreOffice, the certification aims at turning the market into a readable and transparent set of service offerings the customers can choose from while benefiting from a real stamp of minimum quality to be expected.
The conclusion at this stage I take from these three announcements is that the Document Foundation moves into new territories that will ultimately help LibreOffice and the FOSS world in general. By setting these precedents, the Document Foundation finds ways to strengthen the business ecosystem and invest resources into much needed strategic initiatives. This is what an independent foundation can do for the community it stems from and it is a powerful, yet at times intriguing model that prompts a new thinking on Free and Open Source Software projects.
Welcome to this month’s edition of Eyes & Ears. This edition is a bit special, as it is somewhat in tune with the coming of Fall season. Expect less electronic beats, and more accoustic tracks. Let’s start right away with the new sampler from the Café del Mar’s “Dream Series”:
After this melancholic beginning, the latest release by Madeon will make sure you wake up a bit. It’s called Imperium and it will be a hit in the clubs for sure!
We’re now tuning down all this excitement for something… different. Alexei Murdoch is a pop singer I recently discovered – he was featured in the recent movie “This is where I leave you” and I really like some of his songs. This one, “Blue Mind”, really caught me.
Let’s wrap up this session with yet another unusual choice: Diana Krall. Her voice is beautiful, yet I would not really add her to my list of tracks… but her recent cover of California Dreamin’. Her musical work led to revisit the entire song while remaining, I think, faithful to the original intent of the composer.
I hope you will have enjoyed this month’s tracks. See you again in December!
Last year I did a three-part blog (“The Power of Brand and the Power of Product”) describing a simple model of product adoption and market share, and showed how the parameters of that model could be determined using a single survey question. I used the open source productivity suites, OpenOffice and LibreOffice, as examples. It is now time to update that analysis with the most-recent survey data. (If you want to look up the original posts, here are the links: part one, part two, part three).
To recap the methodology, I conducted a survey using Google’s Consumer Survey service, which uses sampling and post-stratification weighting to match the target population, which in this case was the U.S. internet population. In other words, the survey is weighted to reflect the population demographics, for age, sex, region of the country, urban versus rural, income, etc.
The question in the survey was:
What is your familiarity with the software application called “OpenOffice”?
- I have never heard of it
- I am aware of it but have never used it
- I have tried it once
- I use it only sometimes
- I use it on a regular basis
With 1502 responses, the results were:I have never heard of it 61.3% I am aware of it but have never used it 13.3% I have tried it once 7.6% I use it only sometimes 10.3% I use it on a regular basis 7.5%
The same question was asked about LibreOffice, with results:I have never heard of it 82.3% I am aware of it but have never used it 5.8% I have tried it once 4.4% I use it only sometimes 3.1% I use it on a regular basis 4.3%
Now these numbers are somewhat interesting on their own, but what is far more interesting are the derived metrics, which look at things like:
- What is the name recognition of the product?
- Of those who have heard of the product, what percentage actually give it a try? This is a measure of marketing effectiveness.
- Of those who have tried the product, what percentage actually continue to use it? This is a measure of user satisfaction.
- What percentage of all respondents use the product? This is a measure of market share.
Full details on how these other metrics are calculated, from this single survey question, can be found in Part One of this series.
Here are some charts to show how these metrics have evolved over the 2 1/2 years I’ve worked with this survey approach:
Those who know me know that I am partial to OpenOffice, an open source project that I contribute to. So I am extremely pleased to see it continue to advance in all fronts. Since coming to Apache, OpenOffice’s name recognition has grown from 24% to 39% and the user share has grown from 11% to 18%, while keeping user satisfaction constant. This is a testament to the hard work of the many talented volunteers at Apache.
- The Power of Brand and the Power of Product, Part 3
- The Power of Brand and the Power of Product, Part 2
- The Power of Brand and the Power of Product, Part 1
This year the OpenWorld Forum in Paris will take place the 30th and the 31st of October. I will be one of the speakers of Community Track, and I’ll be discussing the Document Foundation’s example. My co-panelists include representatives of the Eclipse Foundation, the OW2 Consortium, Red Hat and others. The main point of this panel will be to focus on the benefits and drawbacks of setting up a technical and legal infrastructure for FOSS projects. It is one of the very few panel discussions that will cover this interesting yet a bit obscure topic, and I would like to share some of my own thoughts on the matter.
A Free Software development project needs developers, a licence, and tools to be developed. This requires an original author, or a team of authors, the choice of a license (it does not need to be complicated), a decision on who owns or does not own the copyright on the code, and a set of tools that will enable the development of the software alongside communication tools, such as one or more mailing list, perhaps an IRC channel and a web page – even a website for the ambitious ones. Documentation is also handy, alongside some basic instructions on how to get the software in its binary and source code form.
Having an entity running the whole project from the beginning seems both ludicrous and of the highest importance. What comes first is what I’ve just outlined: license, copyright, development and communication tools. All this can be handled by a supporting entity; but all this could as well be managed by one or more third party: GitHub is one obvious example; but more complex cases can also be thought of: The OW2 Consortium, the Apache Software Foundation, Eclipse, and of course the Document Foundation. There are other similar entities in the Free and Open Source Software world. Why should developers care then? Isn’t GitHub the easiest choice? Why would I want to open a project hosted by a third party entity? Here’s the short answer: It depends of your project and there is no silver bullet. I will pick the four entities mentioned above, and I’ll higlight some of their specificities. It will give an idea of the different approach given by each of them:
- OW2 Consortium: European and Chinese consortium on Enterprise Software (middleware and cloud mostly), lots of Java, different licenses. The Consortium started in France with major software development and telecom sponsors involved. The consortium’s coherence does not just lie there, but rather in its strong roots as the “forge for the European industrial players”.
- ASF: They don’t need to be presented, but their specificity is the license, and everything around the Apache web server. Over the course of the years, this coherence was only upheld in its licensing scheme. The ASF basically accepts projects from corporate donors who donate code and money.
- Eclipse: The Eclipse Foundation started very much as an IBM only story, but things have changed dramatically. The Eclipse Foundation essentially hosts the Eclipse IDE, its plugins and pretty much everything built on top of or using the Eclipse Framework. There is also the Eclipse license, but I believe multiple licensing schemes are now possible.
- The Document Foundation: The continuation of the OpenOffice.org project by its community after the Oracle takeover of Sun Microsystems. The Document Foundation is centered around LibreOffice but recently opened another project, the Document Liberation. As its name suggests, the Document Foundation is interested about anything document-centric. The licenses used are a combination of GPL v3, LGPLv2, and MPL.
In the case of the Document Foundation, the LibreOffice project needed an independent, solid and meritocratic entity dedicated to support it. In other terms, the OpenOffice.org community wanted to be its own boss and stop relying on corporate – or even third party – good will. If you attend the Community Track on the 31st you will be able to learn more about the Document Foundation and the other entities, but my message here is that while there is no silver bullet in these matters, forcing a community be hosted or to bend to a software vendor never works. It bends if it wants to; it goes whereever it wishes to go. In the case of the Document Foundation, independence and community rule prevailed over convenience; today the results do not need to be proven anymore. But it does not mean we hold the truth more than anybody else: we just ensured the community was in charge.
Looking forward seeing you next Friday in Paris!