“OOo is sick” and Novell’s negative campaigns

Novell’s Michael Meeks thinks that OpenOffice.org is in trouble.  Maybe, but I have to say this sounds rather similar to another dire accusation made by another Novell employee, GregKH, this past September.

Greg, a Linux kernel developer, made news in September when he criticized Canonical for making comparatively few upstream kernel patches.  It turned out that some of his data was a little skewed.

Now, three months later, we have another Novell employee complaining about another high-profile OSS project.  Yes, Novell/Suse does contrubute heavily to Linux/FOSS development, but these negative campaigns seem highly suspect to me.  I’ve read about OOo’s arcane development process before.  I’ve even read similar dire OOo predictions of stagnation from Novell employees before.  They already more or less fork the code with the OOO-build project, why not just leave it at that?

Say what you will about Sun’s handling of OOo, 3.0 was just released and included a proper Aqua-native Mac port, much better document handling, and is overall the best release of OOo yet.  In the last several years, Sun has completed OOo Base, a much needed, if rough, MS Access work-alike, has integrated OOXML support, has ported to a new platform, and has kept the project running smoothly from an end-user point of view.  If Novell employees aren’t happy, fork it and be done with it.  Run a parallel project like NeoOffice.  If the project has merit, it may well survive, thrive, and outpace the original.  This has clearly happened before with the XFree86/Xorg fork of a few years ago.

Negative campaigns such as this may attract headlines in the short term, they may even bring Novell more customers, but in the long-run they bring everyone down and lower the quality of debate.  One of the huge benefits of FOSS development is that if you’re unhappy of the direction of development for a given project, even one as large and unwieldy as OpenOffice.org, you can fork it and put your money where your mouth is.

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