CodePlex Business Plan - one is needed asap!

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johnvpetersen

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Sep 16, 2009, 8:40:13 AM9/16/09
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Just posted this blog entry: http://johnvpetersen.com/?p=195

Jay R. Wren

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Sep 17, 2009, 12:07:59 PM9/17/09
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Its not a business. It is a non profit. My first thought was applicability of a business plan, because to me, this means "how will we remain solvent?" Which is answered "by soliciting donations to our non profits."

So I looked up the definition of Business Plan : A business plan is a formal statement of a set of business goals, the reasons why they are believed attainable, and the plan for reaching those ..

Ok, we have a goal : "enabling the exchange of code and understanding among software companies and open source communities".

That is the stated goal. The existence of the contribution agreement and the license agreement suggest two specific things to achieve that goal, but I will not allow their existence to prevent me from considering others.

The reasons why these goals are attainable should be obvious given the 10 year history of OSI and the 20 year history of the FSF.

The third item, the plan for reaching those goals is unknown. I think this is a good thing.

If a plan were launched with announcement it would guide the foundation in that direction. I love that they launched with such a wide open goal.

In order to maintain transparency and instill confidence in the greater open source community a list of plans for reaching goals should be compiled while in parallel pursuing a leadership board. No plan should be executed by the existing board until their current plan is completed. The only currently publicly announced plan of action that I have heard is finding the first board to replace the current interim board.

All that said, now is the time to suggest things for this foundation to do. Lets hear what you would like to see the foundation do.
--
Jay R. Wren

Louis DeJardin

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Sep 17, 2009, 12:19:39 PM9/17/09
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Reach out to the coordinators of the projects commonly used in an "alt.net" application stack and guage their level of interest, inventory conflicts and reservations, and get a sense of what steps would take place to form a critical mass of cpf based projects?   

John Petersen

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Sep 17, 2009, 12:28:49 PM9/17/09
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>>Its not a business. It is a non profit

These two terms are not mutually exclusive. The most successful non-profits are run as business. And in this case, funds from a public corporation are being used as initial seed capital for operations. It better be run as a business.... And given that intellectual property rights are involved, it goes more to why it needs to be run like a business.

I have already articulated what I would like to see the foundation do...but I will do so again here.

1. Operate with the same approach that  Apache/Mozilla operates (support services, tech/legal, etc) and;
2. While being open to all tech, have a stated purpose that it will focus on the Windows/.NET Platform (that is something that is not out there today).

At the WAN Party, Britt Johnson (board member) stated that the role of the foundation is to "facilitate" - but did not give specifics. IMO, facilitation on the part of the OSS involve the kinds of things Ayende has already stated.

We are not talking about an unknown problem here. The operations of such entities is fairly well known. The irony here is that the first rule of OSS is to not come up with your license scheme - to not reinvent the wheel. And yet here, it appears the CodePlex Foundation is trying to do just that - reinvent the wheel. The big problem of course is that there is little in the way of specifics - which leads to a lot of questions by us on the outside.

In terms of a business plan, it is much more than a statement of purpose. It also involves operational facts as well. I am not saying it has to be all that elaborate... More than anything, I simply suggesting the idea and approach be adopted.

Just my 2 cents on where I think things should go...


JVP

Mark

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Sep 17, 2009, 1:01:00 PM9/17/09
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John,

I'm just curious on where you think we're "reinventing the wheel". We
aren't proliferating a new open source license, and indeed are license-
agnostic. And I don't think there's a lot of precedent for the model
license and contribution agreements we're offering. So I don't see the
duplication; am I missing something?

As for the focus on the Windows/.NET platform: I think one of the
places where the CodePlex Foundation will differ from other
foundations is in being focused on business challenges, not technology
challenges. Personally, I don't see that we need more .NET developers,
or even more .NET open source developers. What we need are processes
that make it easier for those developers to participate in open source
projects. And that process problem is really a business problem, not a
technology problem. Any progress we make, any solutions we are able to
offer in the way of business process, are likely to be applicable to
other open source communities as well, not just the community of .NET
developers.

Mark Stone
Deputy Director
The CodePlex Foundation

John Petersen

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Sep 17, 2009, 1:14:18 PM9/17/09
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When I say re-inventing the wheel, I refer to the lack of specifics. It probably has to do more with not having a good grasp on what the concrete goals of the CPF are. In terms of the agreements on line, there is a good amount of similarity to other licenses. That said, my comments are not really directed to the licenses themselves. What I am getting at is the core purpose and functionality of the foundation. From my perspective, if I don't see anything that clearly differentiates one thing from another and if there are a lack of specifics, I default to concluding that other, more established actors i the space would be a better alternative. i.e., what is the compelling reason to go with option A over B. In those cases, the similarities are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is what differentiates the  two.

In terms of your comment:


<<
What we need are processes
that make it easier for those developers to participate in open source
projects. And that process problem is really a business problem, not a
technology problem. Any progress we make, any solutions we are able to
offer in the way of business process, are likely to be applicable to
other open source communities as well, not just the community of .NET
developers.
<<

In principle...I agree with you.

Now... Let's break it down:


<<
What we need are processes
that make it easier for those developers to participate in open source
projects.
<<

How specifically will CPF make it easier for developers to participate in open space projects. Using NHibernate as an example, I can reach out to Ayende, Steve Bohlen, et al. today if I have a patch to submit. The landscape is replete with info on how to get involved... If I want to submit a plugin for jQuery, the roadmap is very clear on that as well.

And by the way, I agree with you that it is a business/process problem...not a tech problem. That is why I called for a business plan.

>>
Any progress we make, any solutions we are able to
offer in the way of business process, are likely to be applicable to
other open source communities as well, not just the community of .NET
developers.
<<

Progess is in the eye of the beholder. If there is a compelling reason to adopt solutions ,then yes, I agree those would have a great chance at adoption in other areas. And yes, I agree that the targets should be platform/technology agnostic. The key of course is to actually solve a problem. That is where the rubber meets the road.

JVP

Ayende Rahien

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Sep 17, 2009, 3:59:24 PM9/17/09
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Then you are solving a problem that doesn't exists in the .NET world.
And this goes all the way back to my initial question: What is in it for me?

If some guy comes to me and offer to hand me a pair of snow shoes, I would decline them. I live in Israel, snow shoes are not a problem that I am having, and the shoes would only take up space in my closet.

John Petersen

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Sep 17, 2009, 4:09:34 PM9/17/09
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Mark...

I am in the process of listening to Scott Hanselman's podast..

http://www.hanselman.com/blog/CommentView.aspx?guid=d38de27e-5995-41aa-8c55-ad2d09f819f4

He hits the nail on the head re: the need for something like CodePlex should be about .NET projects having a place to live. Seems to me this is a good place to start. I wish the CodePlex Foundation would embrace this notion.

JVP

Jay Glynn

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Sep 17, 2009, 4:36:28 PM9/17/09
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But not everyone lives in Israel. Snowshoes might be a handy thing to have for some. What I'm seeing is that those that ARE involved in OSS don't see any benefit since they already are there. The benefit may be to those that want to be involved but may not have the cache of knowledge to get involved.

Ayende Rahien

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Sep 17, 2009, 4:38:52 PM9/17/09
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In which case, you have more or less the chicken & egg problem.
If the CPF can't offer much to existing projects, it isn't likely it it going to get much traction.

Jay R. Wren

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Sep 18, 2009, 12:41:09 PM9/18/09
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Ayende, there might not be anything in it for you, but I could see huge things in it for me.

I consult for OSS fearing businesses. CFP could develop a standard education plan. The truth about open source. (and I don't mean Balmer's "truth")

Further, the CFP could identify certain high profile projects (NHibernate, Castle, StructureMap, Ninject, NUnit, Moq, Rhino, etc) and do risk analysis and recommendations on them.

Quite often the business risk is not copyright. Copyright permissive licenses like BSD, Apache2 and MIT/X11 make copyright largely a nonissue -- does MSFT still ship Windows with a "portions of this software are copyright the Regents of the University of California Berkley" ?  Because they definitely did.

The risk issue is with patent exposure. CFP could make recommendations regarding this. e.g. CFP could make a general statements "no patents about ORMs have been taken to court." and suggest generally that NHibernate is generally safe from patent infringement.

Further, CFP could sell patent indemnification for these high profile open source projects. This would benefit the businesses greatly. Now they are using open source software with out much of the previous risk they would have incurred otherwise.

I'd like to see CFP be more like the work of Linux International than the Apache Foundation. Educate and help business adopt open source. I'd also recommend John "maddog" Hall as a board member, if he would be willing to sit on a non-Linux centric board.
--
Jay R. Wren

Seth Juarez

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Sep 18, 2009, 12:54:07 PM9/18/09
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I disagree. If the foundation is just an educational outreach for
businesses fearing OSS, what incentive does the developer of said OSS
project have for aligning themselves with the same? I believe the
original intent of the Foundation was to help spur open source
development by providing an umbrella under which the OSS developer
could practice with less FUD. If businesses are afraid to use OSS,
they don't need an "education," they simply need to learn how to read
the license agreement. Your approach is too business oriented for a
developer wishing to align themselves with the foundation. The point
of the foundation is that its credibility alone (and alignment with
corporations) should on its own provide incentive enough for
businesses to use the projects the foundation sponsors. I would have
to agree with Ayende: what is in it for me (the lowly developer
without whom there would be no discussion of this nature at all)?

--
Seth Juarez
http://www.sethjuarez.com

John Petersen

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Sep 18, 2009, 12:57:50 PM9/18/09
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Jay said:

The risk issue is with patent exposure. CFP could make recommendations regarding this. e.g. CFP could make a general statements "no patents about ORMs have been taken to court." and suggest generally that NHibernate is generally safe from patent infringement.

-----------------------------------

Jay, did you follow the Firestar software case? That had some interesting subsequent history. In a nutshell, Red Hat was sued by Firestar of infringment of its [Firestar's] orm patent, which apparently, was very broad. Sun came in as a white knight of sorts and demonstrated to the USPTO that Firestar's claims were in part, based on prior art from Sun. The result, I believe Firestar's patent was invalidated. Not sure about that. The point here is that a lot of the software patents that have been granted, that if prosecuted, would likely not stand scrutiny. The old saying, be careful what you ask for. You may be out there prosecuting your patent only to find your patent wasn't really legit to begin with!!

So with that, I don't see patent exposure being that much of a big deal.

What you are suggesting in essense, is that the the CPF run legal interference for its projects. That in principle, I agree with.

JVP

Ayende Rahien

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Sep 18, 2009, 3:33:44 PM9/18/09
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That is not a problem that the OSS projects are facing. And it grows weaker as time goes by anyway.
Let me try to make this clearer.

From the business side: if a business don't want to use OSS, then it is in a competitive disadvantage compared to its competitors that do make use of it. OSS projects tend to make great infrastructure and generate high quality base to work from.
Having to develop things in house cost, a lot.
The Java side has demonstrated that quite clearly.
Even in the .Net world, I can tell you that I am aware of Fortune 50 companies making use of things like NHibernate or Castle.

From the project side:
We got enough attention that we don't actually worry about the OSS fearing businesses. It is their loss, it is not ours.

John Petersen

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Sep 18, 2009, 3:40:39 PM9/18/09
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Ayende..

So what you are saying is that system, as is, takes care of these issues. For business, it is already in their self interest to use OSS. And for projects, they already have everything they need. On both counts, CPF, or any other foundation for that matter, brings nothing to the table and there, is not needed.

Does that accurately reflect your argument?

JVP

Jay Glynn

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Sep 18, 2009, 3:40:52 PM9/18/09
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Yes it is their loss, so wouldn't it be nice to have a place where they can be educated in that competitive advantage? I worked for a company that had a no OSS rule. They supposedly had many reasons, but if they were able to be educated and had some of their concerns put to rest, then what is that a bad thing? Some larger companies aren't going to listem to you or me or any OOS dev, but they may listen to an organization that has other corporations behind it. 

Ayende Rahien

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Sep 18, 2009, 3:45:22 PM9/18/09
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Pretty much, yes.
It would be more accurate that I don't feel any pain if a business decide not to use a project of mine.
Remember that unlike commercial software, OSS projects don't really have an incentive to "sell" more & more.

Ayende Rahien

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Sep 18, 2009, 3:46:09 PM9/18/09
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Jay,
It goes back to my original question: What is in it for me?
Haven't heard an answer yet.

Jay R. Wren

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Sep 18, 2009, 3:49:21 PM9/18/09
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Scenario:

A different Fortune 50 company is willing to pay you five times your normal consulting rate. You pursue the opportunity only to find out that they are ill informed and have a "no OSS" rule.

This is what is in it for you, less likely hood of you running into the bad part of this scenario and being able to experience the good part of this scenario.

--
Jay R. Wren

John Petersen

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Sep 18, 2009, 3:49:26 PM9/18/09
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Ayende said: It would be more accurate that I don't feel any pain if a business decide not to use a project of mine.

-------------------------------

i.e., you are indifferent.

-----------------------------

Challenge to CodePlex Board....Convince Ayende! And specifically, address his incentive point.

JVP

Aaron Weiker

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Sep 18, 2009, 3:50:17 PM9/18/09
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Ayende,
I apologize, but going to put words in your mouth to see if they fit.

Is it true that for you don't care about any of the following:
* Getting more contributors to your project
* Increasing the velocity of adoption of your project

-Aaron

Jay Glynn

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Sep 18, 2009, 3:50:51 PM9/18/09
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Well, I guess the point of OSS is to develop software for other people to use. This would porentially get more people inline to use some of the fruits of your labor. To say there is no monetary gain for more people using your software would be naive and short sighted. You can't tell me that because of your work on various OSS projects that you haven't benefited from a speaking engagement, an article on MSDN, etc etc etc. That's what's in it for you.

John Petersen

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Sep 18, 2009, 3:54:45 PM9/18/09
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Jay said: so wouldn't it be nice to have a place where they can be educated in that competitive advantage?
----------------------
Picking up on Ayende's point... nice for whom? Business already has an incentive to pickup the mantle here. If they don't, perhaps they won't be around for long - especially if their competitors do pick up the mantle.

This all depends on whether you view this from a OSS centric or business centric view. Seems to me, this has to be viewed from an OSS-centic view. If business gets a clue as a by-product of some OSS-centric initiative  - great. At the end of the day however, if it is OSS-centic, then it necessarily has to answer the question of what is in it for the project.

I certainly don't presume to speak for Ayende here..but that is my take on his point. I am also not suggesting that his specific opinion s/b used as a proxy for the OSS-project POV. I would be interested in Jeremy's and Steve's comments on this specific point.

JVP

Ayende Rahien

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Sep 18, 2009, 3:58:29 PM9/18/09
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Jay,
I am OSS guy from the inception of my professional career.
About 95% of my income comes directly or indirectly from OSS related work.

The scenario that you just described never happened to me.
Oh, I had to talk with the business a lot of time. It is easy to show them why OSS is the safer choice.

I can point out stats like this: http://www.ohloh.net/p/nhibernate
That trying to build something like NH is going to cost you in the order of 130 years and ~15 millions.
I can tell them that going with MS data access method is a good way to throw good money at upgrading their data access methodology every two years.
I can point them to a whole host of people making good use of it.

I may need to talk to the lawyers, but that has generally been a pretty straightforward deal.

So no, I don't lose clients because of no OSS rule.

Beside, you know what, if they are willing to pay me 5 times my normal rate, I am going to be very explicit about making my preferences made and explaining the benefits. Afterward, they are the client, if they want to may me gobs of money, I am not going to complain even if I am going to use NIH as the root namespace.

Ayende Rahien

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Sep 18, 2009, 4:04:26 PM9/18/09
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inline

On Fri, Sep 18, 2009 at 10:50 PM, Aaron Weiker <aa...@weiker.org> wrote:
Ayende,
I apologize, but going to put words in your mouth to see if they fit.

Is it true that for you don't care about any of the following:
* Getting more contributors to your project

That is a more complex question. It depend on what kind of project it is, what my investment and plans for it are.
As a good example, I have a lot of stuff that I put out as one-use only solutions. Rhino Igloo is a good example of that.
It is a WebForms MVC framework that we needed for a single project. I built it as OSS, we get contributions for it once in a while.
But if it gets to be very active, I am going to find myself in a problem, because I don't really want to maintain it anymore.

But in general, for most projects I want to have more contributers. It is just that I don't find that the problems that were brought up has any relevance whatsoever to getting more contributers.
By far, most contributions that we get for my projects are from people making commercial use of them.

* Increasing the velocity of adoption of your project

Pass a certain point? Nope.
I have ~15 - 20 OSS projects that I either founded or am a member of, in exactly one of them I cared about adoption (Rhino Mocks), and that was 5 years ago, mainly because I thought it would give me some credentials when I was looking for a job (it did).

I am working on OSS to solve a problem, the number of users in a project isn't something that I really care about.

Ayende Rahien

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Sep 18, 2009, 4:11:03 PM9/18/09
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Jay,
If what I wanted was to get name recognition, there are so many easier ways to get that.
Rhino Mocks (which I publish in part to get name recognition) has a lot of time invested into it.
In one hundredth of the time that I invested in Rhino Mocks, I could have reached out to the community, written articles for places like the server side, code project and build a name to myself using another way. It would probably be easier to get from there to start writing to magazines (and from there to conferences).
OSS work has really poor ROI if what you look for is getting famous.

Aaron Weiker

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Sep 18, 2009, 4:11:27 PM9/18/09
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So then maybe the foundation would be of more help to someone who is having trouble running a project for various reasons. a) too much administrative work, b) fearful of lawyers, c) not enough time anymore or d) moved on to other things. I think it's safe to say that you have infinite energy and figured out the coding time warp so do not have these issues.

-Aaron

Ayende Rahien

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Sep 18, 2009, 4:17:06 PM9/18/09
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Aaron,
No matter what the CPF is going to end up doing, it isn't going to be able to reach all OSS projects.
Apache now handles about 100 projects with another ~35 in incubation.

Compared that to the number of OSS projects, it is not significant. CPF would have to deal with only projects of a certain size.

As for your criteria. For a,c & d - the project dies. What is the problem here?
For (b) - maybe. I don't think that this is an issue, and you get the EFF to call to if you need assistance.
Again, never heard of someone saying: "I can't work on OSS because I am afraid of lawyers".

Jay Glynn

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Sep 18, 2009, 4:27:43 PM9/18/09
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It's all in the success of the project. Thousands of OSS projects out there that have gone unnoticed. I've worked on several books and some sell and others don't. The popular ones are the ones that get you noticed. If you don't see a benefit to you from the CPF then have a nice day. I can see some potential from it for others that may need the recognition or help with other resources. You have to remember not everyone has the following that you do. You already have a lot of what the CPF can offer others. I would think that you, of all people, would recognize that and be willing to offer advice on what may be needed by others instead of just "What's in it for me?".

jasonbrooks

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Sep 18, 2009, 5:23:21 PM9/18/09
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> 2. While being open to all tech, have a stated purpose that it will focus on
> the Windows/.NET Platform (that is something that is not out there today).

I think a stated focus on Windows would be unfortunate -- an open
source initiative should be principally tied to a non-open platform.
Not to say that non-open platforms should be excluded -- that sort of
inclusiveness appears to be the point here -- but a focus on Windows
would be fairly limiting.

Seth Juarez

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Sep 18, 2009, 5:34:04 PM9/18/09
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@Jay: I think what Ayende is stating metaphorically is:
What is in it for the OSS developer? Why should I align myself with
the foundation? What will it provide? How will they help me? How will
it protect me? Turning it into a semi-personal attack on Ayende does
not change the intent of his message (as far as I understand it).

-Seth

Seth Juarez

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Sep 18, 2009, 5:39:02 PM9/18/09
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@jasonbrooks:
Why would that be unfortunate? I saw in SD times that C#/.NET stuff
has like a 2% share of ALL OSS projects. As a developer that primarily
works in that space I find it unfortunate that there is NOT a place
devoted OSS projects that would directly benefit my work.

Incidentally, the .NET framework/C# is not necessarily a non-open
platform (migueldeicaza might have something to say about that).

-Seth

Louis DeJardin

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Sep 18, 2009, 5:57:08 PM9/18/09
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@jasonbrooks

Is the objection to Windows that it sounds exclusive of Mono? I'm wondering if you are advocating a stated purpose be to focus on the .NET Platform without mentioning o/s, or if you're objecting to a particular focus at all?

Louis DeJardin

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Sep 18, 2009, 6:08:02 PM9/18/09
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@ayende, regarding "Again, never heard of someone saying: 'I can't work on OSS because I am afraid of lawyers'."

http://www.perlmonks.org/index.pl?lastnode_id=26179&node_id=153046 "

"UPDATE There is, considering the circumstances, only one choice for me to make which is not abysmally moronic. Do not expect to hear much from me in the future."

Lawyers from his own employer, but probably still meets the criteria.

Ayende Rahien

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Sep 18, 2009, 6:24:52 PM9/18/09
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Jay,
I don't care about thousands of projects, CPF isn't going to do anything for thousands.
I would be delighted if it can do something for two dozens.
And the reason that I keep asking: "what is in it for me?" is that this is the key question.
You say that it may not be right for me.
Then let me change the question, "what is in it for the average OSS developer?"
What is CPF going to offer?

Haven't heard an answer yet.
And no, legal stuff don't cut it. The avg dev never consider the legal stuff, and they aren't barriers to entry or success.

Ayende Rahien

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Sep 18, 2009, 6:29:29 PM9/18/09
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Um, sorry, but look up what I said about contracts and when employer can and can't decide what to do with code you write.
One guy being unaware that what he does on the employer's dime belong to the employer doesn't make a case, sorry.

Ayende Rahien

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Sep 18, 2009, 6:26:19 PM9/18/09
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FWIW, limiting the platform is against the OSS definition by the OSI

Louis DeJardin

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Sep 18, 2009, 7:33:22 PM9/18/09
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I see from the original remark about being fearful of lawyers that yes, point taken. I misunderstood the context and that's not something you would expect to be a problem.

So for the average OSS developer... No legal stuff...

How about a repeatable structure and pattern, and advice on execution? I've emulated the external artifacts of the projects I saw online in an ad-hoc fashion, plus trial and error and advice from random people along the way. Like you say there can't be a caseworker for every group-of-one that has an idea for a project, but when something starts to get legs that type of assistance couldn't hurt.

Jay Glynn

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Sep 18, 2009, 8:01:02 PM9/18/09