A JBoss employee took exception to a recent post and left me a comment. I’m reply to him here as this would make for a really long comment reply to him ;-)

Norman,

I do not consider you, or your colleagues at JBoss “evil sell-outs”. This is actually one point that I’m in 100% agreement with Marc Fleury. We all need to eat, so at some point, we’re going look for a company to fund our 9-5 work. Community holding hands, but not dancing

My point is that you can’t use JBoss projects or Sun Java projects (openJDK, Glassfish) as a test of the open source development model. They are all lacking an important component of open source, namely, community. (As seen by the image of “holding hands = good” from a Flickr user)

Let me address a few of your points:

[1] <paraphrase> “JBoss app server was developed largely by the community, and then these developers were hired by JBoss”. </paraphrase>

The difference between what you describe and what we have seen in the Linux community is that these early (and key) developers got hired by one of many Linux distros. Also, some developers already worked at large IT vendors. The result was a healthy tension between doing what’s right for the community and what’s right for “my employer”. Maximizing the former is obviously good, but the debates that result from the latter often lead to better ideas which in turn help the former. The fact that no one company dominated the community is what has led to success of the community, and the Linux product as a result.

True community requires that there are people with different motivations along with a joint community motivation. Once a company starts hiring, and as a result, controlling, the majority of developers who were contributing to the project, the community starts to disappear. If you disagree, then I’d say that every software company in the world has a ‘community development model’. For example, you were interested in JBoss products and then got hired by JBoss and I was interested in WebSphere and then got hired by IBM. What is the difference?

I don’t think your description of the history of JBoss and my definition of true community differs on semantics alone. We’re really talking about two very different approaches to development, and only can be called community development.

[2] “there is still a considerable amount of contribution from people getting paychecks from outside of JBoss.”

Can you provide a list of people who have commit access to JBoss products and add a column to indicate which company they work for? In fact, Fleury spoke about “opening our governance” in a recent eWeek article. He can say that JBoss has a restrictive governance model because JBoss cares about the resulting code. But that is quite disingenuous. You don’t need a restrictive governance model to get high quality code. See: Apache, Linux or Eclipse as examples of open governance models, great products and true open source community.

[3] “Hibernate, Tomcat, the portal, Seam, Drools, etc… All of the projects that make up the entire JBoss “product” are done with considerable “community”. ”

There is a difference between a community project that JBoss is involved in versus a JBoss project that is open to the (wink, wink) community.

Let’s start with Tomcat, which falls into the former category. To indicate that Tomcat is related to the JBoss organization is what I find “evil” about JBoss. The Tomcat community existed well before JBoss decided to hire one of the contributors. And unlike JBoss projects, the Tomcat (Jakarta) project is a true open source community project with committers from several competing companies. So, if you want to argue that JBoss, at times, contributes to true open source community projects, then I’ll buy that.

Hibernate, Drools & Seam: Google each one and tell me that these are not examples of the latter category (i.e. a JBoss product developed in the open). Or better yet, how about a list of committers with company affiliations.

In summary, let me just say that I’m not dismissing JBoss because you guys are competitors. I’m pointing out that there is very little that your organization has done in terms of opening your development model to the community. And hence, one cannot use JBoss as a test for open source innovation because your company lacks a key component of the open source business model, an open community. I see your efforts with Group Bull as a step in the right direction. But it’s way to early to tell the outcome.

If you’d like to reply to this as a mainline post here, (not in the comments which people may miss), please let me know. I’ll post a verbatim copy of what you send. Or if you reply on your blog, please let me know also.

Cheers,

Savio