No Love Lost Between Mambo Executives and Developers

By  Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

August 23, 2005

The break continues to widen between the executives and developers of Mambo, a popular open-source content management system.

While Miro International, an Australian firm that owns some of the copyrights and trademarks to the open-source Mambo CMS (content management system), announced that it is, after all, going to start the process of transferring the copyright and trademark of Mambo to the Mambo Foundation, this has cut little ice with the developers.

The developers have set up their own site, OpenSourceMatters, to continue the evolution of the GPL-ed Mambo source code.

While they had objected to Miro continuing to hold Mambo's trademark and copyrights, their real objection was that the Mambo Foundation was just a disguise for Miro.

On their site, the developers wrote: "Specifically, 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."

Miro, in an interview published on a news blog, explained that the company didn't ask the developers to be on the foundation's board because "Peter [Lamont, Miro CEO] 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 [Mambo Steering Committee, an earlier group that had tried to bridge the division between the development community and Miro], 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," said the Miro representative.

"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."

The Mambo developers see the situation in a completely different light.

"The Mambo development team was collecting yet another award at the LinuxWorld award at the San Francisco, when the development team discovered a radically altered version of a proposed foundation was being thrust upon the community," said Brian Teeman, a Mambo developer.

"What had happened behind a veil of secrecy is being viewed at by many pundits as Miro attempting to control the project well outside of the agreed way forward by the MSC members who represented the development team and community."

Why would Miro do this? Teeman believes that, "Miro may well have been aiming at splitting the development team and securing the project with a new structure. The team considered what was on offer and all unanimously rejected the foundation for a number of reasons."

One of these reasons, besides the issue of board membership, is that the foundation requires that third-party Mambo developers who "want to get inside Mambo to see first-hand what's being done" and generate a revenue stream from the program must pay a $1,000 annual membership fee to the foundation.

"The entire concept of paying a fee to the foundation so that third parties will 'be able to influence' both the direction of the project and participate in marketing campaigns, is surely contrary to the philosophy of Open Source. This concept had at no time been discussed with the MSC," said Peter Russell, who is acting as public relations representative for OpenSourceMatters.

On Monday, Robert Castley, a leading, former Mambo developer, publicly announced his resignation from the Mambo Foundation.

Miro claims that he did so as "a result of the hateful and childish bullying in the forums and by e-mail, and is the same reason Robert left the Mambo community last year."

Castley himself, however, stated on his blog that, "I resigned from the Mambo Foundation for two reasons and two reasons alone. Number one was to protect what is left of my reputation and integrity in the open-source community, this was coming under fire, and there was no way I was prepared to see this destroyed further.

"Number two, I didn't come back to spend hours every night on the computer and this was fast becoming the case. As many of you know, I have a family, and they are more important to me than anything else. For the record, I was no way forced or pushed to resign."

The foundation's board is now headed up by Miro CEO Peter Lamont.

Its other current members are Justina Phoon, Miro's general manager and Jim Begley, founder of Productized LLC.

Despite no longer having any developers, the foundation plans to try to keep on developing Mambo by "recruiting members of the community who are currently active and have expressed interest in contributing further to the project."

Copyright (c) 2006 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.