The Mambo Open Source Controversy - 20 Questions With Miro
Written by Ric Shreves
Sunday, 21 August 2005
When the Mambo Developer Team announced their split with Miro Corporation to form the new OpenSourceMatters [http://www.opensourcematters.org], I contacted both sides and asked for more information. The Mambo Foundation Board asked me to submit my questions to them and they would reply. I submitted 20 questions and they were kind enough to answer all.
Up to this point, the Miro side of the story has been the missing piece in the controversy. Their answers provide some insights into the thinking behind the controversial Mambo Foundation. As the old saying goes, there are two sides to every story...
I'm not waving the flag for one side or the other on this one -- too much vehemence from the community at this point -- but I will say that there appear to be some misunderstandings at work. I hope that the publication of this information can inspire some intelligent dialogue as the debate being played out on the Forums has devolved into something akin to The Rebel Developer Alliance versus Darth Miro. I would be nice to see a little less (OK, a LOT less) polemicism on the Forums right now...
So, without further delay, I present here - unedited - the 20 questions along with Miro's answers.
P.S. Please don't shoot the messenger...
The Mambo Foundation seems to be at the heart of all this so let’s start there:
1. What is the Mambo Foundation?
The Mambo Foundation was established to support the growth of Mambo and its community, and more importantly, to safeguard the longevity of Mambo through proper organizational structure within which Mambo can be developed focused on the core goals – to be a high quality, easy-to-use Content Management System. Miro’s role in the Foundation was to pay for its establishment. Two of its staff, Peter Lamont and Justina Phoon have been helping to create the organizational structure to support this growth.
Please take a look at our FAQ’s on the Mambo Foundation website (http://mambo-Foundation.org/content/view/28/46/) for more information.
2. What are the Foundation’s goals?
The goals are as mentioned above. In addition, the Foundation aims to set up rules and processes for the project to self-manage indefinitely. The Foundation describes the whole organization, part of which is the MSC and the individual dev teams. Each dev team has a team leader who participates on the MSC and brings proposals from his team for general consideration by the leaders from other teams. The MSC takes care of the day-to-day operational and development functions of the project and the chairman of the MSC is represented on the Foundation board. The MSC decides on development issues which are presented to the board as proposals and once voted on, become policy. The board also represents other interests such as treasury, PR and Advocacy and also serves to mediate between the different factions within the project
3. The Foundation site seems to imply that anyone who wishes to be part of the Mambo development community MUST be a member of the Foundation, is that correct?
That’s not quite right: you don’t have to be a member of the foundation to develop Mambo for your own purposes. You don’t have to be a member of the foundation to develop plugins or templates or to have a project on Mamboforge. And you certainly don’t have to be a member to be a part of the community! What it does mean though, is that anyone who works for the foundation in an area of responsibility must be an active member and must abide by some basic rules of etiquette. The quality of the product and the way the organization is represented to the world are directly linked to the quality of the people and any organization has to be able to depend on its members
. 4. Will the Foundation be certifying component and modules released by Foundation members? If so, will certification be available for non-Foundation developers?
We have built into the framework of the Foundation a membership level for third-party developers. We also believe there is a value to both the user and the developer for some level of certification. Next we need to work with the community to determine exactly how the program will come together. We need to fully understand the needs and wants of both the users and the developers.
5. What has the Foundation structure been modeled on (basically, can you give me examples of others operating in similar fashion)?
The Foundation’s principles have been based on a collection of ideas and goals of the Eclipse Foundation, the Ubuntu Foundation, and the GNOME Foundation. These were models that were looked at by the MSC since our discussions in April on setting up a Foundation for Mambo.
Let’s talk about some of the complaints in the Open Letter and on the Boards (“italics in quotes indicate original text from Open Letter”):
6. Foundation membership fees for 3rd party developers are set at US$1,000 per year -- don’t you think this may have a chilling effect on the growth of the development community, particularly on hobbyist developers?
No, you don’t have to be a 3PD member to develop plugins for Mambo. However if you are a commercial plugin developer and you want to get inside Mambo to see first hand what’s being done, to have a say in the architecture that affects you, and to participate in promotional activities from time to time then there is a cost to that. If you are generating a revenue stream from the Mambo community, a third-party membership fee should easily fit into your cost of business. What is not in the figure you quoted was consideration for GPL versus commercial plug-ins. If you are developing product under GPL and offering them back into the community as an act of community, we do not think that fee is appropriate. We want to award peoples good nature, not punish them. As a third-party developer, you can choose to join the Foundation and become more active in the community. However, you don’t have to join the Foundation in order to do business. The benefits as stated in the Foundation website, “Membership in the Mambo Foundation allows organizations to leverage the resources of the community and achieve a higher return on their investment in Mambo. Mambo Foundation members are offered a unique opportunity to understand the trends and directions of the core Mambo system and participate in marketing programs that drive potential users to the member's offerings.” (http://mambo-foundation.org/content/view/13/31/)
7. The Terms & Conditions for membership provide for a number of penalties which can be invoked against members who run afoul of the rules -- including monetary penalties. What is the thinking behind this? Give me some examples of when those might be invoked.
In order to build real community, there has to be community rules and guidelines. Rules also need some kind of consequence for not following them, or they become ineffective. Our goal is to make the environment as effective as possible. An Open Source project has to deal with issues from bad forum behavior to vendor / customer performance issues, (in the case of commercial third-party developers). Our rules directly reflect other Foundations and we built a rule-set around universally adopted procedures.
8. How was the composition of the Board decided? Why are there no members of the Core Development Team? (“The Mambo Foundation was formed without regard to the concerns of the core development teams. We, the community, have no voice in its government or the future direction of Mambo. The Mambo Steering Committee made up of development team and Miro representatives authorized incorporation of the Foundation and should form the first Board. Miro CEO Peter Lamont has taken it upon himself to incorporate the Foundation and appoint the Board without consulting the two development team representatives, Andrew Eddie and Brian Teeman.”)
Very early in the year the idea was mooted to simply use the MSC as the Board: Peter Lamont and Justina Phoon from Miro, the independent representation, Matthew Swinn, and Andrew Eddie and Brian Teeman from the dev team. For work-related reasons Matthew resigned from the MSC in June and during a subsequent phone conversation with Andrew, Peter put forward the idea that the Board might be better served with members from industry for their objective views and experience. It was also mentioned that hands-on people like Brian would be most effective in the MSC, the main decision-making part of the foundation. We sense the frustration the developers are expressing, but to simply take the Mambo Steering Committee and elevate them to Board members would not do anything to solve any of the problems that the project was facing. The most factual point is that if a developer from the dev team was appointed to the Board it would be the end of his programming work for Mambo. There are so many hours of work required to manage our roles on the Board, there simply isn’t any time left to do anything else. Being on a Board isn’t about sitting once a month and having a chat. It’s as many as 40 hours a week reviewing documentation submitted, liaising with the community and looking for management solutions within other open source communities, to name but a few tasks. Robert Castley comes from the original development team and has a strong passion for the core vision of Mambo. He has the ability to see the project where it is today, identify where it has become overly complex and help guide it back on track. Jim Begley comes from a long background in product management and third party development programs. He is dedicated to helping us build out the third party development program and helping to improve some of the product lifecycle issues, and Justina Phoon has been in the MSC focusing primarily on the administrative and advocacy aspects of the project. The Board received Robert Castley’s resignation yesterday. This sudden decision is a result of the hateful and childish bullying in the forums and by email, and is the same reason Robert left the Mambo community last year. We would have expected more maturity and decency from the Mambo community and the outgoing dev team in their use of the public arena. There are many people who should be ashamed of their behavior and members of the former dev team attempting to use the unfortunate incident to twist the truth is a poor start to their own community.
9. The Open Letter alleges that there are control issues, that, essentially, the Foundation is a velvet glove for Miro’s (potentially) iron fist. (“The Mambo Foundation is designed to grant that control to Miro, a design that makes cooperation between the Foundation and the community impossible.“) How do you view Miro’s role in the continuing growth and development of Mambo? The Foundation's role?
Part of the reason for Brian and Andrew asking Miro to develop the Foundation was to get Miro further away from the project but still keep Peter Lamont, the founder of Mambo, actively involved. The initial Board does have 2 of 5 members that are Miro employees. But, Boards have lifecycles and change as Foundations vote. You can look at any Board and build theories of power blocks, but, in the end, if they don’t deliver what they promise, the community votes them out next time. Neither Peter nor Miro has done anything other than help fund and support the community. To float the theory that somehow, they are suddenly going to work to hurt the community seems a bit extreme. The community seems to be upset about innuendo and speculation rather than actually looking at the facts and history.
10. The Boards are speculating wildly that Mambo has become so popular that Miro seeks to regain proprietary control of the code set. How do you respond to this?
That’s an absurd notion. Miro could have done that at any time and wouldn’t have needed a foundation or the incredible amount of hard work behind it in order to do it. The reason for creating the foundation is to ensure no ONE entity could control it. With a democratic process in place now, there’s no more threat of the dev team OR Miro taking over. You’ll notice that there are only two members of Miro on the board – for total control Miro should have a controlling interest. Also, Peter knew that shaking up the project to get usability and quality back on track may alienate members of the team, but would be the right thing for end users. Sometimes, popularity of the people behind it is not the best gauge of a projects success.
11. The Open Letter claims that Miro has breached a promise to transfer IP in the code. Can you respond to this? (“Although Mr. Lamont through the MSC promised to transfer the Mambo copyright to the Foundation, Miro now refuses to do so.”) Who currently controls the Mambo IP? Going forward, who will control the Mambo IP?
While agreements in principle have taken place with regard to the IP and trademarks of Mambo, it was left incomplete. The most effective thing Miro felt it could do was to issue an irrevocable, perpetual and royalty-free license to the Foundation which ensures it can never be taken back (or away by someone else), it will last forever and it ensures Mambo will always be free.
12. For the record, will Mambo remain Free & Open?
Yes, and the Foundation was formed to keep it that way.
13. Why have there been no postings on the Miro controlled Mambo sites?
The Board members actively posted and answered questions the first few days. It then became apparent that some members really just wanted to vent and not discuss the issues at hand. We have made ourselves available to questions to any community member that contacted us. To date, we have only had two members of the community contact us. We also released all of the Foundation material as soon as it was legally available. We are back posting in areas that are helpful, helping new users get up and running, pointing users towards useful plug-ins. But the flame-wars are not where we will participate, it is just not constructive.
14. Rumors on the boards say you are censoring comments about this matter on the forums on the Miro controlled Mambo sites. Is that true? If so why?
There are standing rules of participation on the Mambo forums, developed a long time ago. At times we will remove posts that are particularly hateful or derisive, or are simply misleading links. We have had an amazing array of accusations and speculations. We sometimes remove things that are unsubstantiated and personally damaging. If the original site moderators were still working they would have been far stricter in controlling posts made in the forum. We are trying to balance being fair and being responsible site managers. We have also been keeping to forum rules and removing posts of people who are trying to cash in on the situation and advertising themselves or their websites and services. In the end we also have some regrets about the way the dev team has managed their part, however we are trying to be responsible and will not allow our members to engage in hateful and aggressive tactics.
Finally, in terms of the relationship:
15. This all seems so sudden and so final -- what was the lead up to this?
Certain information became available that made us realise that what the dev team were telling us was in fact different to what they were planning. We had no alternative but to take control quickly once we learned what was going on.
16. Did the Development Team give warning of this action or seek compromise prior to publishing the Open Letter?
No, the notice was their first and only action.
17. What efforts are being made to resolve the situation?
Disagreements that are handled like this are no good for anyone. Peter Lamont has tried to make contact with Andrew but has been referred to their legal counsel. We think the most important step has been taken, and that is for the Foundation to clearly communicate what its role is and how that will benefit the Mambo project, now and in the future. Next, there will need to be some time for the community to absorb that and determine how that fits in with their plans for using and contributing to Mambo. Until everyone can take an accurate inventory of how this affects them, it is best not to get caught up in flaming rhetoric or doomsday scenarios.
18. If the Dev Team wishes to move forward with the Mambo code independently, how do you plan to respond?
If the OpenSourceMatters team wishes to take a fork of the Mambo code, they are welcome to do that, as is anyone who honors the GPL. We do suggest that they honor the Mambo trademark and follow the rules it has in place.
19. What is the way forward?
The Foundation is moving ahead. We are actively recruiting development team members to add to the current team, as well as organizational and third-party developer members. There are a lot of ideas to talk to the community about and get input on. We have a good amount of product enhancements that are complete and ready to be released and we have a user-base that we need to assure and communicate with. It is a busy time, but we are prepared for it.
20. Anything else you wish to add?
Frankly we believe the fear in the community is baseless but actions always speak louder than words. Many people will be watching us as we put our wheels into motion. We think most will be very surprised to learn that things are run just like we are saying and that there is a better Mambo and a more responsible team behind it. We also hope the Jamboworks dev team and its followers are able to move on with their project in good faith and the spirit of the GPL, Open Source and sharing. As I said before, we feel the way the dev team has managed their part is also lacking in many areas, however we are trying to be responsible and will not allow our members to engage in hateful and aggressive tactics as they have.