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OpenACS Home : Forums : OpenACS Q&A : Reuse in the large is an unsolved problem !? : One Message

Forum OpenACS Q&A: Re: Reuse in the large is an unsolved problem !?

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Posted by Caroline Meeks on
Malte’s perhaps sarcastic comment about commercial footers on posts started me thinking. A number of people in this thread have talked about openacs.org not effectively putting forward our advantages.

Simon Write:

The problem OpenACS is having is that Forums, Chat, File -storage and so on are simply not very challenging. They've been done to death, and largely for a customer its all about tweaks and cosmetics. OpenACS is a sophisticated, re-usable architecture. Unfortunately website are not challenging enough for it. Rather then trying to be an also ran imitation of the PHP applications which are infact imitations of us (ACS being one of the early movers in the forums, file storage community sites) we should be looking for the things that make us different and highlight them.
OpenACS has matured and is now primarily developed by people who do it as their day job. Not to say there isn’t a lot of volunteer work, but most people are associated with a consulting company or educational institution or other business entity that is using OpenACS.

The conventional wisdom is that open source communities are communities of individual hackers and you have to be very careful if you are an organization approaching them to use their code to make money.

http://producingoss.com/producingoss.html (Read the Money chapter, note there area actually a lot of very good ideas in this book.)

I am putting out for thought and discussion the concept that we are a community of organizations and that the new users we wanted to attract are more organizations. If we felt that way we could go even further then a footer and support automatically putting a linked logo on each post similar to the way other forums put in portrait images. Possible Advantages:

  • Look organization friendly. I think we already are an organization friendly open source community. Its an advantage. Lets flaunt it.
  • Help readers understand the context of the post. I often find myself wondering when I read a post what they are doing with OpenACS..is that an e-lane person? Is that the company in Italy doing the ERP work? Although we need to explicitly address realy making it easier for people to understand how OpenACS is used, this would provide a way for a motivated person to follow the links and begin to learn what OpenACS is actually being used for.
  • Provide a realistic context for new people. New people sometimes wonder why they don’t get more free support on the boards. Highlighting that it is a community of paid developers might help them understand.
  • Make it easier for developers in organization to justify posting helpful comments and writing up their work for the boards. The vast majority of people here use OpenACS as their day job and may well have to justify to a manager why they are spending time writing answers to other people’s questions. Giving back some good exposure to their organization might help us promote good citizenship.
  • Look Different. We need to stand out for something other then tcl and AOLServer. We should be looking for ways we really are different in a way that is positive for our target new users and do PR around it. If we consciously shifted our orientation from a community of individual developers to a community of organizations developing in OpenACS we might attract attention from the anthropologists/open source scholars. Simply put, it might be an interesting publicity stunt.
  • Show that OpenACS can do forums with little pictures. Forums with little pictures are in right now, and some people assume that since they don’t see them we don’t do it.
Obviously this would be optional. We won’t require anyone to put in a logo or url.

I hear several other probably important points in this recent discussion.

  1. We have companies who want to give back but are not doing so.
  2. Google isn’t indexing our forums well.
I will post on those points also as I get time.
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Posted by Simon at TCB on
There's an awful lot of wisdom in what Caroline is saying. Just a few additional comments of my own.

The conventional wisdom is that open source communities are communities of individual hackers and you have to be very careful if you are an organization approaching them to use their code to make money.

I've always assumed that the OpenACS community wasn't resistant to commercial activity. After all it started as a commercial, single-company enterprise. I hope thats still true?

What might be an idea is some discussion on how we can make the toolkit more 'commerce-friendly'. I was tempted to raise the 'Is the GPL the right license issue' but perhaps thats too emotive. :) There are other things though that include marketing, organisation, presence and so forth. One criticism of OpenACS is that its a high barrier to entry for new developers/volunteers. Is this such a bad thing? No enterprise I work with has that high issue on its list. Thats what they employ us for! What they want to know is

  • Will it do X million per day?
  • Can it handle user management?
  • Does it have a serious database?
  • Is it easy to integrate into a hetrogenous network?
  • Can it do Busines Services (B2B, Document exchange)?

    And so on

    I am putting out for thought and discussion the concept that we are a community of organizations and that the new users we wanted to attract are more organizations.

    I wouldn't want to be seen to exclude the non-organisation element, but I think as a software project the simple fact is it has far more appeal/potential for organisations than individuals.

    > Look organization friendly. I think we already are an organization friendly open source community. Its an advantage. Lets flaunt it.

    Amen to that!

    Look Different. We need to stand out for something other then tcl and AOLServer. We should be looking for ways we really are different in a way that is positive for our target new users and do PR around it.

    This is key for me. As I mentioned before the fact is has a good webserver or a good scripting language is somewhat by-the-by. The fact that it is an Enterprise Architecture suitable for deploying large scale SOAs, Agile development and high performance XML based B2B services is far more salient.

    Perhaps the key word here (and perhaps it has always been) is architecture. I think we need to focus on this aspect of the community. Modern enterprise development is about agility, time to market, extensibility, standards etc... its a perfect fit.

    If enterprises are not giant collaborative communities then I don't know what is :)

    We have companies who want to give back but are not doing so. And more than that, commercial companies are exposed to much larger scope in terms of software projects. If the toolkit wants to make *big* strides forward it simply must have good commercial backing, both for breadth and depth. It covers far too much ground, and is far to 'industrial' to be progressed by volunteers alone. I think this is why the community seems quiet, volunteers are obviously going to be less interested in developing distributed, xml based, tuple-server support than they are putting pictures on forum postings. The former kind of work is best done under the context of commercial delivery.

    Something that needs clearing up and putting firmly at the forefront of the OpenACS pitch is that it is suitable for combined OS and proprietary usage. i.e. through the package mechansim. It should be clearly stated that this 'architecture' is there to provide a basis for commercial software development. Companies should be comfortable developing commercial propositions designed to run on the architecture.

    This isn't such an issue in the enterprise world because problems often require custom solutions and therefore the OS, service-based model is fine. With a little better 'positioning', this area could explode for OpenACS.

    However innovation drives good software. Companies should feel able to get ROI on what they develop to encourage new venture. Successful companies with healthy revenue streams will have both a vested interest, and the financial capacity to contribute more.

    Why not become a leader again? Perhaps as a web-dev community we are not. But as an affiliation of organisations we could be.