Sunday, May 24, 2009

Matt Asay on OpenRemote, building communities.

Matt Asay recently gave us some coverage on OpenRemote. We are approaching with a Developer Release of OR 1.0 and Matt wanted to be briefed on what this industry (automation) was about.

Matt concludes:

And, like JBoss with Java application servers, the time for OpenRemote may be ripe. Despite the morass of nonstandard technologies and bit players in the automation market, OpenRemote's open-source approach just might have a chance to unify the market. It's now possible to put a $200 computer in the wall, which suggests it just might be feasible for OpenRemote to open source a deeply proprietary and fragmented industry.

Matt wanted to know about the history of the project and how one goes about recruiting a community in the automation industry. Getting to OR 1.0 was no mean feat. Juha Lindfors (yes JMX lead from the JBoss days) is managing the project full time. A traveling dutchman is helping with business aspects. We have 3 developers in china. And a growing community of good friends with good will. So we lever up with services from the outside, be it hosting, development, consulting. We are a modern cloud community, fully funded and functional.

This narrative, that the initial development is funded seems counter intuitive to some people. Even heresy. I mean afterall isn't open source supposed to be about peace and love. Won't the good lord provide free software? It is a fallacy, one that is not hard to debunk, think about it 2 seconds, no one helps you because you have no product, and you have no product because... you are alone? And even if you get a product, getting to a succesful OSS project is not assured, it will require a lot of passion and perseverance to put an OSS project on the map. Anyone with a project that has achieved more than 1000 downloads in its lifetime will tell you so.

JBoss was no exception, by the way, it was funded in the beginning. Most of the work was done by a small team. The community formed around this codebase and was quick to grow. The community of users and the community of consultants and the community of partners. It became hundreds of thousands. It is not uncommon for end-user project in Linux to achieve millions of users (think Firefox).

Of course outside contributions started coming in, just like contributions are coming to OR. In the case of JBoss I started recruiting those community members that stood out. As a result, at no time was JBoss the codebase with less than 80% contributions from JBoss inc. I have no idea where it stands today but I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same. Community meant users, partners, consultants.

In the case of OpenRemote, we are reaching a 1.0 product stage and we have been lucky on coverage and visibility so far. With 250 visitors a day on average and some days at 1000, OpenRemote is lucky to have a good team, good software and a good dose of coverage (thanks Matt). Those are necessary ingredients for a succesful OSS project.

1 comment:

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