Digressions on AOOo

I have one quarter of Roman blood, and I have spent my youth in Rome where I have attended the primary school. I can still speak with a decent Roman accent, so AOOo – the short name for Apache OpenOffice – has the same sound of the shout used in Rome to grab attention: “ahooo” (where the H has no sound at all).

AOOo, at the moment, has not produced anything worth of an “ahooo”. On the contrary, has raised a number of concerns in the media immediately after the announcement. Concerns shared by an increasing number of members of the OOo community.

I sympathize with IBM, as since the inception of AOOo Big Blue has been object of many of the blames that should have been directed to Oracle.

We should never forget that Oracle has generated most of the problems that have frustrated the community and led to the birth of The Document Foundation, then has shut down the entire OOo project with a single press release and subsequently fired around 120 people, and has eventually decided to choose Apache Foundation over The Document Foundation as the new house of OOo (generating a second wave of nasty feelings inside the community).

IBM, as the main corporate sponsor of AOOo, is in a quite unconfortable situation (because many have perceived that the company has been instrumental for the move to Apache Foundation) but should not be blamed for Oracle faults.

Rob Weir is working hard to keep together what is left of the OOo community and push forward AOOo. I believe it is important for IBM to engage with the community and contribute code, as a failure of AOOo would go against the interests of open standards, software freedom, choice and – ultimately – The Document Foundation.

Looking at the list of committers, it is quite clear that the number of “real” developers is quite small (in relation to the total number of committers) and the number of “real” developers who have a decent understanding of OOo code is even smaller (and probably decreasing over time, if some of the former Oracle employees will be finding a job outside the OOo ecosystem).

In addition, the majority of the committers who know the OOo code (former Hamburg developers, plus IBM and RedOffice chinese developers) have not been very active so far in the discussions.

Today, IBM has the opportunity of hiring several of the former Oracle employees – who are looking for a new job – to work full time on AOOo, in order to speed up the process (before releasing the first AOOo version of OOo, based on OOo 3.4 Beta, the project needs to get rid of the many bugs affecting the code, and to replace the components licensed under GPL or LGPL: quite a significant amount of work).

IANAD (I am not a developer), and therefore I cannot express a professional opinion, but I feel that IBM should hire around a dozen former Hamburg developers, in order to have a number of sponsored hackers similar to The Document Foundation. Otherwise, AOOo will risk to lag in a significant way behind LibreOffice or even fail, and no one will be happy and ever shout “ahooo”.

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