Sparked by the emergence of TWIKI.NET, a new commercial entity delivering enterprise-class TWiki services, the debate of a TWiki Foundation has been reopened. TWIKI.NET has TWiki founder Peter Thoeny. Another player in the field of commercial TWiki services that already existed is WikiRing, a brand/partnership founded by some of the most active and long-term contributors to TWiki. This begs the question: is TWiki.org able to hold its own as an independent project? If we want to guarantee that the answer to this question will remain to be a resounding yes, I believe it is necessary to give the project body with a non-profit: the TWiki Foundation.
The debate is not new, as can be seen in the history of the TWikiFoundation topic. Revision one is dated 09 April 2006. The major motivation back then was to be able to raise funds for getting not-so-popular things done. If fund-raising is all we are interested in, though, a foundation might be overkill. There already exist umbrella-organisations such as SPI and the open source conservatory, that accommodate fund-raising for open source projects.
However, a foundation can also safeguard the independence of the project from commercial entities. A foundation can carry out the will of the community, regardless of company interests. In my opinion, such a foundation should therefore be a platform for the community. Obviously, the foundation would need a board to run day-to-day business. But apart from that, the power should be with the community. Important decisions should be with the community, and not with the board.
Having said that, a lot of the ideas are sketchy and need to be worked out in detail, if we want to go for it that is! That is where it all starts: we need to reach a decision whether we indeed want a TWiki foundation. I want to hear your opinion on this! Are you a TWiki user? Is your company using TWiki? Maybe you are a contributor one way or the other? Whatever your involvement with TWiki, please join the debate on TWikiFoundation.
At some point, a decision will need to be reached. Once the decision has been made that, yes, we will have a TWiki foundation, where do we go from that? Some sort of 'temporary board' will be put in place, a group of people that will handle the steps up and until the actual founding of the foundation. These steps include: write out short-term plans for the foundation, initial fund-raising (pledges), formulation of the by-laws and organizing the election of the first board. The elected board can then perform the deed of actually founding the foundation, and from there formulate (dictated by the TWiki community) the longer term plans for the foundation.
There are a lot of details to be filled in. However, i strongly believe we should not wait too long with having a not-for-profit legal entity representing the TWiki project. So let yourself be heard, let's fill in the details and get this show on the road!
PeterThoeny - 18 Dec 2007:
Peter as community lead: As the TWikiCommunity is growing bigger and the TWiki project is getting more established
it makes sense to create a TWiki foundation, or some kind of other non-profit body or project to help support a vibrant open source community, at some point. I think the community should drive this. We can take this as one of the agenda items in the upcoming TWikiCommunitySummit2008Q1 in mid Februray in the Silicon Valley. Many of potential financial contributors may be in the USA, and we may get more contributions by larger companies if we form a 501(c) non-profit organization that is exempt from income taxes.
Peter with TWIKI.NET hat on:TWIKI.NET is already getting expensive hardware for twiki.org through Sun, and is on the way to pay for twiki.org hosting. The company is also driving more awareness to the TWiki project (and more business to consultants). The company has invested in educating industry analysts; TWiki is now reported as a leader in the collaboration space as a result, which helps draw more resources to the community. A TWiki foundation or dot.org of some sort could help bring more transparency to vital contributions beyond the important efforts of coding.
A question for all of us to consider before meeting at the TWiki Community Summit is which open source community would we most like to model our efforts on? MySQL? Linux? Apache? Others? There are many possible different models. Which makes the most sense given the nature of TWiki as a wiki and collaboration platform for Enterprise 2.0? How might we be similar to other open source projects, and how might we be different? How can we best nurture a great community which is rich, diverse, active and contributes great technology to the millions of TWiki users around the world?
These are some of the questions we might consider. I am looking forward to the conversation.