OpenOffice Grandfather's Private Thoughts

Category: blog

I sent out a similar email to our mailing list before Christmas and before I took a short break to relax with my family and friends. But it's maybe worth sharing with a broader audience here on the blog.

Let me first tell you something about me (Juergen Schmidt=jsc) and to explain the title of this blog. I have been involved in the OpenOffice project since the beginning and have worked on the source code before when I started to work for StarDivision in 1997. So I can for sure argue that I am one of many grandfathers of the OpenOffice project and that the last year or better the last 16 month were not the most brilliant in the long and successful history of the OpenOffice project.

A lot of misunderstanding and miscommunication led to confusion by our users and before we start in a challenging new year I would like to share some thoughts with you about the last months, my private expectations, and my wishes for the next year.

Oracle's announcement to stop their investment in was a shock for me. Well the reason is obvious, I was paid by Oracle and worked on this project. The people who know me from the past know that I am a 100% guy and I always appreciated to work on this project and together with our community. I always felt as part of the overall community. I know the reasons that were responsible for the LibreOffice fork and the split of the community and I have to confess that I can understand it. But I didn't like how it was done. If Oracle would have done this step 6 month earlier I am sure we wouldn't have this fork and we wouldn't have this split of the community. We would potentially still have the go-oo fork which was the foundation for LibreOffice but that is something different. Anyway it is as it is at the moment and we will see how it moves forward in the future.

The grant to Apache was at least the appropriate signal that as a project will never die. The brand is too big and too important, the opportunities around the product and the overall eco-system are great and I am very sure that the project will continue and will be hopefully shining brighter than before.

But a lot of work was and still is in front of us. We had to deal with a lot of things in parallel where other derivative projects didn't had to deal with at least not in public. We had to migrate the whole infra-structure to Apache and had to ensure that it worked. I think we were very successful here and have migrated nearly everything we need from a technical perspective.

Our mission was to migrate as much as possible of the available stuff on and at least save it for later use. I think we did it! Thanks to all who made this possible. And we can concentrate in the future on some structural and conceptual redesign of the main portal page to provide the information to our users that they need to find the product, to find more information like help, discussion forums, and to find the way in the community if they want to do more etc.

We couldn't simply use the code as it was and could continue with the development as in the past because of the different license. A huge challenge that is still ongoing and where I had many problems at the beginning. It is not easy to explain why you remove something and replace it with something new that provide the same functionality but is under a more appropriate license. It's simply boring work and no developer really likes it. But is a prerequisite for Apache and in the end it is better for our eco system because the Apache license is much friendlier for business usage as any other open source license. As an individual developer I don't care too much about all the different open source licenses, as long as the work I do is good for the project and in the end for our users. But I learned that the Apache license can be a door opener for more contributors and more engagement of companies. I think that is important and I am confident that it will help to drive our project forward.

And not everything is bad. With the IP cleanup we really cleaned up many things and Armin's replacement for the svg import/export is the best solution we ever had for OpenOffice and with the biggest potential for further improvements. All this is really motivating for the future!

Well we had a lot of noise and communication problems on our mailing lists and I think we missed transmitting the message that has found a new home under the Apache foundation and we have missed communicating the progress we have made in the pubic. We can do much better in the future! And I am looking forward to working with all of you on this communication part in the future. We don't have to be shy, we work on a great project with a great product and we should have enough to communicate and to share in the public (not only on our mailing list but on all the modern and very useful media like Facebook, Google+, twitter, ...)

For the next year I expect that we find our way to guide and control our project a little bit better. I expect our first release early next year and hopefully a second one later in the year where we can show that we are able to drive the project forward and that we are able to create and establish a vibrant and living community.

I wish that we can gain trust in the project and in the Apache way and that it is a good move forward. Our users simply want the best free, open source office productivity suite and they don't care about the different licenses. Enterprise users would like to see a huge and working community with the participation of a lot of different companies or at least their employees working on the project. We all know that such a huge and successful project can only work if we have individual community members as well as full-time community members. Important is the WE and the TOGETHER that makes open source projects successful.

I heart voices and read emails where people said that Apache is not able to manage such a huge end user oriented project with all the necessary things. A strong statement, isn't it. At the beginning I have to confess that I also had doubts and wasn't sure. But as I have mentioned in an earlier post on our mailing list, I have seen and got the necessary signals over time that Apache is willing to listen and is open for changes as well if they make sense for the overall success of our project and if these changes are aligned with the overall Apache principles. And I think that is fair enough for all.

The move to Apache is a big challenge for all of us. Apache had many very successful projects but none of these projects has such a huge end-user focus like OpenOffice. And of course OpenOffice is no small or new project. No it is one of biggest and most successful open source projects ever. And the migration was and is not easy. But we the community can do it, we as individuals, everybody can help and we together will do it!

And the Apache way and the Apache license have proven in the past and with many successful projects that it is a good way and a good license to achieve this.

For our users I wish that press people will do a better job in the future to research facts and stories better or if they prefer to write articles based on first-hand information that they contact the Apache OpenOffice project directly. We are here and can help with information! That will definitely help to avoid further confusion about the future of OpenOffice.

Enough from me for now and I hope that I haven't bothered you with my private thoughts. I wish you all a happy new year, enjoy these days, take your own break too, load your batteries for our next challenge in 2012.