Around the Web: OpenOffice.org - The Fun Has Gone?
Meeks takes the view that OpenOffice.org should be developer driven, with less hands-on involvement from Sun staff. Successful developer driven projects, such as the Linux kernel, Samba or GNOME, tend to be open, democratic, noisy, argumentative, divisive, and chaotic, but are often highly creative and successful because they promote developer initiative and attract a greater number of developers. Organisations participate in such projects for selfish reasons, because it works, and because it brings twice the resources at half the price. Individuals participate for a multiplicity of reasons, and some, like Linus Torvalds, became involved purely for fun. "The most important design issue...", he wrote in 1995, "is that Linux is supposed to be fun..."
A characteristic of such projects is that they are often fiercely independent. The idealistic view of an open source project is that the IBM employee who is paid to contribute to the Linux kernel or Samba or GNOME is first a hacker, and second an employee of IBM. (This, of course, is more true of some projects than others). Almost as important as the code to the integrity of the project is the amount of noise and discussion on the mailing lists. The theory is that anyone can contribute to the whole, and become an equal partner in a world where the measure of your worth is the quality of your contribution, and while many of the long term contributors to projects such as the Linux kernel are now employed by outside interests, most continue to work just as they did before.
Meeks' feels that the fun has gone out of OpenOffice.org development, precisely because of Sun's grip on the process, and that this is inhibiting the creative hubbub common to most open source projects, something that Novell has tried to replicate in its "freer" branch of OpenOffice.org at go-oo.org. The Sun project lacks the free and easy exchange of ideas, and has moved away from the "release early, release often" philosophy common to most free software projects, where bugs get tracked down quickly, and are dealt with on a first come, first served basis.
"It's certainly possible to cruise along talking about all the marketing advantages of end-user communities," Meeks says of OpenOffice.org, "but in the end-game, without a focus on developers, and making OO.o truly fair and fun to contribute to - any amount of spin will not end up selling a dying horse."
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