Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Nature of OFBiz: Community, Resources, Scheduling, etc (reposted from 2005-01-29)

I know The Open For Business Project has many shortcomings, I get dozens of email messages every week that tell me about them! Of course, other people may not be having the same problems as those people I hear from, there are a wide variety of needs and solutions to those needs. But that's okay because this isn't a company, it's a community!

If I could choose how to structure an open source project it would be this: spend the tens of thousands of dollars required to setup a tax-exempt not for profit company, and have millions of dollars of corporate and individual contributions to make a beautiful piece of software that everyone loves and can effortlessly use for free.

Oh, and all major contributors would be moved to a single beautiful place and have huge houses and drive Audi A8s or something similar. And of course there would be a staff of hundreds to keep up with documentation, support, business development, and so on so that the developers could sit around all day and pontificate and create wonderful things. And after major releases they would have time off since that would bring in serious financial contributions automatically by the generosity of corporations around the world so they would take a couple of months off and hang out with family and friends and lose some of the weight gained during development.

Is that too much a dream? Yeah, I guess it is... So, as slow (but really truly elegant and beautiful) as it is, here is how OFBiz REALLY runs. And actually, there are really big reasons why I love and you could too...

As far as scheduling an planning goes: this is a community driven project! Andy and I have no idea what your needs are and what you are working on unless you tell us. For us, we do work on some things on our own time (probably 30% of the project is in this category, and mostly in the framework), but we don't often know how much time we'll have to spend on those things. Most of what we do comes from contracts, so only the people who pay us know what is coming up. In many cases we don't even know until a few days or a few weeks before we get started. We never know which analysis and bid efforts will result in a contract.

In other words: this is an unfunded community project! Even worse, it is an unfunded community driven project that is still maturing! So, right now if you aren't interested in being part of the community with all that entails, I don't want you to go away at all, but I also can't afford to help you very much.

Maybe this little parable would be helpful:

Consider OFBiz as the multi-part project it is and that some parts are still in the phase of the growing wheat, and other parts (such as ecommerce) are already bread that some of us are getting fat from. In other words, there are still many opportunities in OFBiz to be a "Little Red Hen" and get all of the benefits that entails. I have no problem with ducks, cats, and dogs, but I also don't have the resources to make a way for you.

That said, we are certainly working on this all the time and after significant development periods a lot of documentation update is needed.

We will be doing some getting started guides for SPECIFIC functionality areas, or uses of OFBiz. It is almost impossible, and probably not terribly useful for beginners, to have a getting started guide that covers the entire project. So, the first one will be VERY ecommerce setup oriented and go over the _basic_ things needed to get an OFBiz instance configured for production.

We have a few contracts coming (hopefully) right now to do these sorts of basic ecommerce setups, so the timing is good. And, BTW, yes: this will include both development to simplify the process and documentation of what is left over. One OFBiz community member, Integral Business Solutions, has even offered to pay for some of this and to allow it to be distributed freely as part of the project.

I just want to keep one central message in this email:

This is a community project! Those who want to get involved do, in some way or other. Those who consistently contribute and act like real members of the inner circle become that. This includes people like Al Byers, Jacopo Cappellato, and Si Chen. It also includes Andy and me. And there are MANY others who contribute on a smaller scale what they can. Sometimes these are bug fixes or just bug reports. Sometimes these are helping new people with _correct_ and well researched and experienced information.

We are just members of a community. Some of us have chosen to be _intimately_ involved in this project and dedicate thousands of unpaid hours to moving it forward. This does require significant sacrifice and I understand that many people aren't in a position to put up this sort of time and money. I understand that because at this point _I_ could not afford to get something like OFBiz started again. Now, this isn't because consulting has been bad, I still make more than I did as a senior engineer and analyst, but I invest a lot of cash in equipment, paying other people, marketing, and so on and I've had a couple of really significant personal losses recently, one on the order of ~$25,000 and another around ~$90,000.

I'm sure many people reading this have experienced such things and I understand that sometimes things just don't work out or have to wait. For some people, using OFBiz is in this category: it hasn't progressed enough for them to able to _afford_ to use it. There are many of us working on that progression, but there is a lot of work to do. So, if it's not moving fast enough for you or is not convenient enough for you, there is only one person/company that can guarantee to fix that: you. Or, you can wait. It will get there, I don't think there's any question about that.

I appreciate that some people are taking the time to put some detail into this and describe their needs, instead of just saying "it sucks" or "it's crap" or "it's non-existent". Please understand that different people and different companies have VERY different needs so details are required to achieve any reasonable level of communication.

Thanks again to everyone who is working on this and constructively making effort to move it forward and help to solve problems that exist, and not doubt they do exist! Especially those who bring up and issue and propose a possible solution! That makes it much easier to discuss and understand, even if the initial proposed solution doesn't turn out to be very good!



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