community

The Asian Free and Open Source Community

During my work as a FOSS business matchmaker in Asia for FOSS Bridge and other projects in the last two years I met many fantastic people doing amazing things with free and open source software. Yes, there is a vibrant free and open source community in Asia. I have done a few interviews and talks and will be publishing more of that step by step. I had a talk at the Berlin Webmontag a few days ago about business opportunities with free and open source technologies in Asia. The slides (in German) give some ideas about this.

Community First!

The current release of MySQL shows the problems free and open source software projects face that put business first and community second. Michael “Monty” Widenius critizes in his Blog the current developement model of MySQL and recommends not to use the current release 5.1 of the database system.

The reason I am asking you to be very cautious about MySQL 5.1 is that there are still many known and unknown fatal bugs in the new features that are still not addressed.

Monty points out problems stemming from having a company taking the lead in the development of a free software system - cause they need something to sell fast. In this article I am supporting the view of Monty and discuss his views in regards to Freifunk and LXDE. I believe communities must take the lead in order to make and keep a project on the bleeding edge, however, we should work together with companies (like FON.com for Freifunk or ASUS for LXDE) and exchange resources. Both can profit. In the end open and free community projects are all about cooperation.

In his blog entry Monty gives some reasons why the MySQL development department again got a quality problem with the release. Problems are ranging from the fact that MySQL 5.1 was declared a release candidate to early (because of commercial reasons), to focussing too much on new features rather than on quality (because of commercial reasons), to involving developers that are not experienced in developing database systems (Mario: Maybe because they do not come from the community?), to not keeping the development open for testing and participation of the community and more.

As I said in my talk at the MySQL users conference, I think it’s time to seriously review how the MySQL server is being developed and change the development model to be more like Drizzle and PostgreSQL where the community has a driving role in what gets done! (http://monty-says.blogspot.com/2008/11/oops-we-did-it-again-mysql-51-rel...)

What can we learn for the free software and other open source projects here? The consequences are clear. Projects that want to stay on the bleeding edge of technology with quality code and widespread support must put the community first.

In the projects I participate - e.g. freifunk, LXDE, FOSS Bridge - I always work hard to bring the community together, make the community grow and keep and foster it. And this is not always easy. There are different expectations of people involved, different goals and outside circumstances change and have positive and negative effects.

For example, even though the Freifunk community was in the spotlight many times in the last two years, it seemed somehow stagnating. We had put a lot of resources to rebuild the website and foster more exchange, but with the broader availability of broadband in some districts in Berlin for example the motivation of people to participate to get constant Internet access became less. Additionally new business models seemed to draw people away from freifunk to something that seemed easier to use and offer many things similar to Freifunk. However Freifunk is more than mere exchange of free Internet access. The idea of Freifunk is to build a local network - the public space in cyberspace, but we did not have the tools easy enough giving everyone the chance to build the local network with the limited resources, especially time!, that people have.. but we are getting there with simpler software and easier to use devices.

FON.com received different reactions in the core groups of the global Freifunk community when it started, ranging from refusing any connection with FON to trying to ignoring it. Some welcomed FON and their involvement. FON pays some of the core OpenWRT developers which is the base of the Freifunk Firmware and it offers new hardware, that can also be used by the Freifunk community. Personally I do not mind working together with FON. As I see it, we have to be pragmatic and everyone has to make a living and the Freifunk community could profit from the involvement of FON and other companies. I would like the decision if people from the community work for and with FON left to the person him/herself. At a recent meeting in Berlin, I have discussed this a bit with Martin Varsavsky. Martin actually asked me how FON could work together more with the Freifunk community.

We should be clear here though. FON and Freifunk are two very different things. FON is a company that labels its participants (actually its customers) community. Freifunk is a community with many different people - students, engineers, scientists, free and open source activists, people who want Internet, people who want a truly free network, people using it for their business, people working for development cooperation and so on. People have different motivations to participate in Freifunk - interest for technology and development, Internet access, interest in new ideas and projects, inspired by idea of freedom, a way to make a living. These people would not participate if Freifunk was a commercial operation. I remember the saying of some ¨Money destroys the community¨. It is formulated in this regard, I believe.

Still, we should not be absolute here - meaning - we should acquire resources and money for the community -> for conferences, events, hardware for developers, funding for projects etc.. Based on my experience of the last years, communities need resources. We should study successful models of communities that have achieved to channel resources to the people really working on it. Associations, Foundations and similar organisations are very helpful here as they keep things transparent and offer newcomers entry points. Also companies that would like to support projects have it easier to talk to someone from the community if there is a working organisation set up.

During recent months I have seen more activity in the Freifunk community again. With the new OpenWRT Firmware Freifunk will have many features which we want for years. I am always talking about the fantastic things we can do in local networks - new usage cases and sharing of content in your local environment, community radio in schools, universities or simply your backyard. Local networks are different to the Internet as cinema to TV. Felix Fietkau and John have presented a development version of OpenWRT to a group in Berlin recently. The new OpenWRT will offer plugins that will let us store content directly on the nodes. With router devices offering USB connections now everyone can have their small webserver at home. We can have a local Web 2.0. With devices connected to sensors like thermometers we can have live feeds from all over the city, the country and worldwide. I do not want this local Web 2.0 called after a company, a device or anything else. We call this FREIFUNK. A global local = glocal network open to everyone - to the public and to companies.

Companies are always welcome to join development and focus on their business models. However, Open Source, Open Infrastructure and Free Software Projects like Freifunk and LXDE or Open Content projects like Wikipedia have a roadmap that is following long term goals instead of short term profitability. And people are engaging here not just for monetary reasons, they have much broader motivations and they are inspired by the freedom the communities offer. This is why communities are more powerful. Companies simply cannot compete with this in terms of human resources and motivation. In order to grow and sustain free and open projects and the communities though we need to work together in our different fields and we need companies that engage and support the communities.

Liferay: CEO Bryan Cheung provides some insights to current developments

Liferays CEO Bryan Cheung offers insights into its business. Liferay has hit 1 Millions downloads in the forth quarter of 2007 and currently employs 55 people worldwide.

Google Video: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8314322112100513065

Mario: What can I do with Liferay?

Bryan: You can do blogs, wikis, message boards, document library, web publishing, more traditional things like having an intranet or extranet . You can do e-commerce. I think the key difference from just having standard litte blog or message board is, it is community based. So you have different groups of people that have a message board.

Mario: About your business case. How do earn money?

Bryan: Some of the major revenue sources are professional services, professional support, sort of providing insurance for large enterprises, that want someone to call if something goes wrong and then things like training. We also do performance tuning as well as partnerships with other businesses...

....

Mario: Why did you actually start as an open source company? Why did you take that decision?

Bryan: ... Looking back, we do agree very much with the philosophy and we do think that software development in the future an increasing percentage of it will be done in open source fashion. The way we started the business and the project was very grassroot and so having an open source development philosophy meant getting a lot of development and systems from the community. It has worked out very well for us.

Liferay LogoLiferay, Inc. is a professional open-source company that provides free documentation and paid professional service to users of its software. Mainly focused on enterprise portal technology, the company was founded in 2000 by Brian Chan and currently has its headquarters in Los Angeles, CA. Liferay was created in 2000 by Chief Software Architect Brian Chan to provide a enterprise portal solution for non-profit organizations. In 2006, the company was incorporated under the name Liferay, Inc., formalized its Germany subsidiary Liferay GmbH and named as its new CEO Bryan Cheung, the company's former Director of Business Development. In 2007, the company opened a new Asian headquarters in Dalian, China. ... In July 2007, they announced a partnership with ICEsoft Technologies for developing AJAX technology for their enterprise portal software. In January 2008, the company hired the lead engineer for jQuery UI, Paul Bakaus, to exclusively work full-time on the JavaScript library. (Version 2 April 2008, 18:33, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liferay)

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A world where everything is free

Imagine a world, where everything is free. Impossible? Right now people all over the world are working on this idea. They want to create a world where you can instantly have access to free content like free music, videos or texts, free software like free operating systems, programs, computer games and even powerful search engines, free hardware like plans for computer chips and free infrastructure like local wireless mesh networks.

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Freie Software als philosophisches Konzept

Wenn im Zusammenhang mit Software von „Freiheit“ gesprochen wird, bedarf diese Verbindung einer Erklärung, da sich der Inhalt nicht allein durch die Worte erschließt. Besonders im Englischen, wo das Wort „free“ in Verbindung mit Dingen, die normalerweise verkauft werden, sofort die Assoziation des „umsonst“ hervorruft, muss geklärt werden, was „frei“ in diesem Zusammenhang bedeutet.

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Freie Software: Freiheit, Zusammenarbeit und Gemeinschaft

In diesem Beitrag geht es um Richard Stallmans Vorstellungen von Freiheit in Bezug auf Software und das GNU-Projekt. Die Geschichte der Freien Software und des GNU-Projektes beginnt mit einer Anekdote, die die Veränderungen in der Welt der Software beschreibt.

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