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Commerce and Community

Summary: TWiki.org has evolved a set of processes and procedures (some explicit, some implicit) that have worked pretty well as an Open Source Software Project. However TWiki.org has now moved to an Open Source Software Project with commercial companies "attached". This puts a strain on those processes and procedures and now is a very opportune time to re-examine our processes and procedures (especially those concerning decision making).

The OSS + Commercial company model occurs elsewhere and both TWiki.org community and TWiki.net company should be able to learn a lot from other examples. It is hoped that this topic be a place for community members (and TWiki.net too!) to contribute to a shared view of CommerceAndCommunity.

(Where CommerceAndCommunity = Open Source Software Project + Commercial Companies)

For the sake of my typing fingers I’m going to refer to CommerceAndCommunity as C&C for now.

Learning by other people’s experience

There have been many examples of instances where a commercial company links up with an open source community and the relationship seems to have worked.

Examples that spring to mind are Ubuntu/Canonical and Fedora/Red Hat. Those seem to work well together. On the other hand you have the relationship between Mambo and Miro. That one wasn’t so good.

This pattern of a commercial company linking with an open source community seems to happen so frequently that you’d have thought someone would have written a book about it. Or blogged about it. Or thought up a name for it. I can’t find anything out there and so for now I am calling this pattern CommerceAndCommunity.

I am hoping that this page can act as a focus for our community to discuss these prior examples and learn from them.

By the way, C&C is a pattern – not an exact match. We should be able to learn from others even if it turns out that they have more external commercial organisations or less. Or whether the Commerce came before the Community or Community came before the Commerce.

What we need to discuss

To focus the discussion I think we need to address these points:
  • What other examples of C&C are out there. Which ones should we try to learn from?
  • What does the Commerce do for the Community in other cases? How useful would those things be in our case? What do we have to do to get this to happen in our case?
  • What does the Community do for the Commerce in other cases? Would that be useful to us? What do we have to do to get this to happen in our case?
  • How should the Community be structured so that it can successfully interact with the Commerce? Should there be a steering committee? What about a TWikiFoundation?

How to have the discussion

  • Within this topic
  • By directly approaching other C&C organisations. For example, we could approach Ubuntu project and ask if we could talk to them about their experience. If we could get external (from other C&Cs) comments on this page then that would be great.
  • I don’t think the time is right for an IRC chat about this.

Commerce and Community Information

Examples of Commerce and Community

  • Ubuntu/Canonical (see LearningFromUbuntu)
  • Fedora/Red Hat
  • Mambo/Miro
  • Apache/IBM
  • KDE/Trolltech
  • Please add more...

Examples of Commerce and Community that we should approach

  • To be decided once we have some discussion about this.

List of things that Commerce often does for Community

  • Sponsors developer conferences
  • Directly sponsors developers to work on code
  • Sponsors hardware, bandwidth
  • Sponsors services (like webdesign), that may be lacking capabilities in the community (webdesigners aren't much involved in Open Source, same holds for marketing guys)
  • Can (indirectly) make the open source version more attractive because corporates feel safer about using the community version if they feel that the supported commercial version is available if problems arise.
  • Interaction with paying clients results in very valuable input for the community and its products, that is quite different from any feedback the community is able to produce itself. This kind of input is most likely to come via a commercial path. As a result the Open Source project is being focused on issues that might have slipped beyond the radar otherwise.
  • Please add more...

List of things that Community often does for Commerce:

  • Let's Commerce use the code with its blessing.
  • Provides a large team of highly motivated developers/testers/etc to work on code that the Commerce can utilise.
  • Being "Open Source" is an appealing bonus
  • Pretty any advantage of the Open Source process can be listed here
  • Please add more...

List of things that we need to agree on:

  1. A decision making process for non-standard decisions.
  2. Do we need to balance C&C with a TWikiFoundation?
  3. How do we deal with different copyrights, licensing, patents and trademarks? Where are the risks?
  4. Do we need a code licensing guideline?
  5. Please add more…

(Note: Non standard decisions means any decision that we don’t regularly make. TDO has great processes in place for the standard decisions. i.e. which new features should the developer team work on, etc.

Commerce and Community Discussion

I have taken out my name and the (personal) statement about my interests in order to make this into more of a community document.

-- MichaelCorbett - 16 Jan 2008

Added a couple of things. I broadened the "List of things that X often does for Y" sections more in the sense of "The Effect that X has on Y".

-- MichaelDaum - 16 Jan 2008

Yes, I am in favour of a TWikiFoundation, and have said so for a while now:



Unfortunately, interest in a TWikiFoundation seems to be rather low, judging by the participation in the discussion. I am more than happy to create the foundation, but only if the community wants this, and so far it seems the community couldn't care less.

(ps: please continue TWikiFoundation related discussion on TWikiFoundation)

-- KoenMartens - 18 Jan 2008

On decisions:

  1. Yes, we need a process. We also need to clearly identify what we mean by a "non-standard decision", as it is clear that some people have differing views.
  2. I would be more in favour of a foundation if there was support from the user community, and not just the developers.
  3. We have to be scrupulous about observing all patents, copyrights etc. Every contributor has a duty of care to ensure that usage is legal and accredited correctly.
  4. We have one. The GPL.
Personally I think we have enough to get started on drawing up such a process for making non-standard decisions. It's just common sense, isn't it?

-- CrawfordCurrie - 21 Jan 2008

Agreed. It's also common sense to learn from other people's experience. With this in mind I've just created the page LearningFromUbuntu. I'd be interested in people's comments. Plus, if you fancy creating a page looking at another C&C example, please feel free!

-- MichaelCorbett - 21 Jan 2008

An article that lists a lot of CommerceAndCommunity examples: Sun/MySQL, XenSource (Citrix), JBoss (Red Hat), Zimbra (Yahoo), Automattic/WordPress, Greenplum/Bizgres, etc etc.

-- MichaelCorbett - 12 Feb 2008

Don't forget PostgreSQL / EnterpriseDB.. LearningFromPostgreSQL

-- KoenMartens - 15 Feb 2008

I strongly support the idea of companies getting involved in TWiki-development and getting something back for it. As TWiki is "the wiki for the enterprise" we should allow paradigmas of give-AND-take, as they are rather common in companies than the "just give"-thought. And as the "just-take"-element is already part of most TWiki-installations, why not explicitely ask for the things listed above: donations, services, promotion, ... -- MartinSeibert - 23 Mar 2008

TopicClassification TWikiCommunity
TopicSummary Starting a discussion on how we govern our open source community
InterestedParties MichaelDaum, MichaelCorbett

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Topic revision: r11 - 2008-03-24 - MartinSeibert
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