What's Canonical thinking about Bazaar?

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at xemacs.org
Wed Nov 4 12:09:41 GMT 2009

Ben Finney writes:

 > No, the branding changes being discussed are going to harm Bazaar's
 > perception with those who have yet to *make* an emotional decision
 > about Bazaar. And it's that emotional decision that is so crucial
 > to whether *any* facts will matter at all in the person's
 > subsequent decisions.

But you're missing Ian's point about *some* people (fairly highly
correlated with the kind of people who actually spend money on
software) who feel more secure if there's a corporation behind the
software.  We've had one person *explicitly* testify to that already.

That's why I've identified the people who react as you describe as
"Ben's and my acquaintances, among others".  They *are* a significant
fraction of the people I hang out with.  But I suspect that among the
paying customers, the reaction is going to be "somebody's paying
developers to maintain this but I can have it for free?  Cool!"

So from the point of view of "kicking a little git ass" a few months
down the road, there are plusses and minuses.  FLOSSy types are less
likely to contribute, and that hurts IME ... their per capita rate of
code and complaint contribution is way higher than the Windows and Mac
users.  But quite possibly that can be made up from Canonical's point
of view by higher consulting revenues and synergies with other
Canonical businesses, so that they can pay developers.

 > > "Owned by the community" sounds nice (though somewhat socialist) but
 > > what does it actually mean? (Not a rhetorical question.)
 > Fortunately, we don't need to *know* exactly what it means in order to
 > promote a perception of it.

Yah, but Martin wants to know if there's a salary raise in it for
him.  Just kidding about the personal interest (though in the end he
is undoubtedly interest in the survival and eventual profitability of
Canonical!)  Nevertheless, "what's in it for Canonical?" is a crucial
question here.

Community-owned means (among other things, this list is neither
complete nor necessarily 100% accurate in the details):
1.  Community members "feel ownership" of the project so that they
    identify with it: they're proud of using the code, they're proud
    of their contributions, they want to meet the core people, they
    advocate the product fervently to acquaintances.
2.  No commercial entity controls the copyright of the whole product.
    Thus, there will be no proprietary forks of the whole code base to
    the detriment of the community.
3.  No commercial entity controls whether any given patch will be
4.  No commercial entity employs enough of the core developers to
    cripple the project by withdrawing them if it loses interest in
    supporting the project.
5.  Community members feel a responsibility to "pay back" to the
    developers, and "pay forward" to the project's future.  They want
    to help write documents.  They blog about the product.  They
    contribute FAQs and support other users for free on various
    channels.  They harbor a secret ambition to contribute a whole
    plugin someday, or maybe host a wiki.
6.  Community members report bugs, and follow up even if they've found
    a workaround.
7.  Community members with the capability write code.  Others do
    artwork, bug triage, host resources of various kinds, present at
8.  Community members start consulting businesses based on the
    product, and help each other out with recommendations and
9.  Community members see a reasonably clearcut path (that doesn't
    involve an employment contract) to influence over the future of the
    project ("commit bits", a voice in reviewing code, choice of
    domain names!, etc.), even if at present they have little or no
    interest in actually walking that path.
10. Community members feel free to branch the codebase within the
    community when it's necessary, and expect that other community
    members will help them (as long as it's not a pure power play, but
    rather a genuine irreconcilable technical difference that can't
    really be combined in a single code base).

The crucial attribute is number 1.  Aladdin Ghostscript had a
community-owned feel to it in the early to mid 1990s, even though it
was 100% owned by Aladdin (it helped that Aladdin wasn't a public
corporation, but rather a small consultancy), the core contributors
all worked for Aladdin, and it wasn't even free software.  If you've
got #1, people can ignore the company in favor of the developers it
employs.  (It's still risky to have a substantial corporate presence,
people tend to be paranoid about excess influence, especially of large


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