Monday, September 14, 2009

OpenBD is Free as in Speech

So I'll admit to not keeping up with the blogosphere lately, I've been to busy checking out Fail Blog and related sites. But Adam Lehman Pinged me and asked for my thoughts on his recent post. What originally began as a comment turned into a little bit more than a comment length response so as the blogpshere goes sometimes I've created a blog entry instead. Since I think it is most important I will answer the second half of Adam's question first.

"Is the motivation of the OpenBD team ... [a] conscious effort to take CFML market share from Adobe?"
Nah. Hell there is a reality here right? If that was the motivation we are failing miserably since we don't present OpenBD at CF conferences (unless invited by the organizer) and we don't sponsor CF conferences. To date the only sponsoring OpenBD has done was $100 + raffle prizes at Spring BR 2008 which was largely to a PHP crowd (by design). So again just so there is no confusion we realize that by putting a "free" (as in cost) alternative out there, there will be some cannibalization. This happens but we have no interest in acquiring market share from inside the community.

"Is the motivation of the OpenBD team based in raising the quality of CFML"
"Raising the quality of CFML" is sort of awkward terminology to me. We are certainly interested in trying out concepts and putting out new/innovative features (especially as related to the cloud) but I think our bigger goal is providing an open source engine. We want to provide a fully open sourced CFML engine to those interested in Open Source software. We certainly want to bring new ideas, new ways of thinking, new avenues for CFML but raising the quality? I guess that depends on how you qualify what is meant by quality. The key here for us is concepts, and bringing new concepts to the community.

So there is my answer to your question Adam/community. I hope you accept is but I also feel like I need to add some additional commentary to the discussion of Free as in Speech v. Free as in Beer. From Adam's definition I agree I think OpenBD does straddle the lines a small bit. But I think there are a couple of things to mention to help clarify, as an example a lack of a road map. OpenBD does have a road map. Often times we do stray away from the road map and this the fault of a couple things. Sometimes contributors to OpenBD get a idea about something not on the road map and a new feature will popup over night. OpenBD contributors are passionate programmers and this is going to happen. I've come embrace this as to do anything else would be futile not to mention stifle creativity of the OpenBD team. To Andy and Alan's credit as they begin to implement features not on the road map they have done a superb job posting wiki entries and integrating feedback into the features. The second issue with OpenBD's road map is a result of poor project management rather than a conscious decision to hide what is going on. I talked with Alan about this many months ago and I stated my intent to step up and do more PM work. To date I have failed at this job, mostly due to a lack of effort and allow me to explain why (I think the explanation is telling).

I only have so much time to devote to OpenBD and lack of a road map guidance has typically been an issue brought up by the CFML community not folks outside of the community. Given my limited time to work on OpenBD I tend to spend most of my time focusing on what folks are saying outside of the CFML community as I think that is more important right now. As OpenBD matures and becomes slightly less erratic (think about the cloud development it is always innovating) we'll probably have more and more folks ask for a solid road map and that is the time when it will happen. Right now I think it is important but there are other pressing issues for me that I think will serve to grow the OpenBD community (and the greater CFML community) rather than appease the ColdFusion users looking for alternatives.

And the final topic licensing. This comes down to philosophy. As a commercial entity (Adobe, and a lesser extent Railo) and product manager (Adam specifically) I would expect these folks to have the stance that they do on licensing. That's not to say put in another position they would not have the same opinion but I think given their position wanting a sharable license makes sense. As a staunch (rabid maybe?) advocate of Open Source the opinion of the OpenBD steering committee is slightly different. What I mean by this is OpenBD is open source for the reason of wanting to be open source and we don't feel others should take that source, modify it, and NOT share it with the community. I recognize this is not a popular position with some folks but it is the position of OpenBD. At the end of the day let's be realistic OpenBD's architecture is so wildly different that it'd typically be detrimental to take anything but concepts from the engine and concepts are not covered under GPL. This brings me back to my original statements above. We certainly want to try out new things and take CFML to new places and new markets but we are interested in doing this entirely open source and keeping it and all versions of OpenBD open source. That is the intent of OpenBD.