Improving our integration with KDE application teams, and supporting companies

Thomas Pfeiffer thomas.pfeiffer at kde.org
Sun Aug 19 23:30:37 BST 2018


On Samstag, 11. August 2018 14:25:16 CEST Valorie Zimmerman wrote:

> In addition there is the widespread opinion that amateurs are better
> than professionals for KDE, and that if there are professionals
> working on software, that the volunteers will leave. In fact, this
> idea seems widespread in the FOSS world. From what I have seen,
> professionals can *increase* volunteer contributions, by laying the
> groundwork for successful onboarding, by paying attention to details
> which volunteers left undone or did improperly, by doing work that no
> volunteers have the skills or interest in doing, in ensuring that
> documentation is up-to-date, by thinking of tasks such as training
> sessions for bug-triage, documentation writing, packaging, testing
> days and so forth.

Hi Valorie,
Thank you for bringing this topic up!

Interestingly, in almost all conversations I had at Akademy about this topic, 
people were actually very positive about the prospect of growing an ecosystem 
of companies around KDE. Maybe it's the difference between the people who are 
still active and want to see people spend paid time on KDE, and those who are 
mostly watching KDE from the sidelines and want to go back to "the good old 
timeṣ"™ when KDE was just a bunch of enthusiastic geeks who wanted to change 
the world as a hobby.

For those people who claim that having paid people work on a Free Software 
project will inevitably kill all motivation for volunteers, let's look at some 
examples within or close to KDE:

1. Plasma: If you look at the percentage of regular Plasma developers who are 
employed by Blue Systems, you could indeed think that nobody wants to work on 
it as a volunteer anymore.
However, the reality is the other way around: It's not that volunteers stay 
clear of Plasma because it has so many paid developers, it's rather that 
whenever a very active Plasma contributor is looking for a job, chances are 
high that they get that job from Blue Systems, to be able to spend more time 
doing what they've been doing before as volunteers. Kai Uwe or Roman are the 
latest examples.
In fact, as far as I know, all of the Plasma developers who work for Blue 
Systems have started working on Plasma as volunteers and then got hired by 
Blue Systems.

2. Krita: Krita has become very popular as a volunteer project, until it grew 
to a point where it became difficult to sustain it purely with volunteer work. 
The team started the Krita Foundation to raise money to pay for 1.5 (or 2.5, 
different sources have told me different numbers) people to work on it.
It continues to grow, and I have not heard of volunteer contributions going 
down since then.

3. ownCloud / Nextcloud: ownCloud was envisioned as a company-driven project 
from early on, but always aimed to have a healthy base of volunteer 
contributors. However, their "open core" model with a mandatory contributor 
license agreement, together with a decision-making process that wasn't as open 
as outside contributors had hoped, resulted in the community not shaping up as 
envisioned.
So what Frank did was fork out Nextcloud, without a CLA, fully open source and 
with more focus on community, but still with a paid core team. As far as I 
know, this has worked out exceptionally well and they now have both a 
commercially successful company _and_ a big, happy volunteer community.

4. Kontact: The current business client for the Kolab server is still based on 
Kontact, yet most of its development is currently volunteer-driven. 

5. KOffice / Calligra: Their story is very complex, so much so that I wouldn't 
dare trying to retrace it from my limited insight into it. I'd rather leave 
that to the team. I'm just listing it here so that people won't think I've 
left it out on purpose.

What I gather from these examples is that having a company involved in the 
development of a KDE- or KDE-related project does neither guarantee its 
success nor its failure. Whether it's a positive or negative influence (or 
both) very much depends on the way that the company engages with the 
community.
If the company takes full control of development and only maybe accepts a 
small patch here and there from outside volunteers, then of course volunteer 
contributors will lose their motivation pretty quickly.

If, however, the company makes sure that people employed by it still consider 
themselves as part of the community just like everybody else - which is what 
Blue Systems does, for example - they can happily coexist with volunteer 
contributors.

I - this is my personal opinion, not necessarily the board's stance - fully 
agree with Valorie that a healthy ecosystem of companies and/or foundations 
around KDE, with paid contributors collaborating with KDE's volunteers, would 
not just be a good thing, but actually necessary for us to be able to compete 
with other products (be they FOSS or proprietary) that are doing the same.

So what I'd like us to do, instead of cowering in fear of the dangers of the 
dreaded business world meddling with our volunteer-driven community, is 
actively looking for ways we could promote the growth of a company and/or 
foundation ecosystem around KDE!

Best,
Thomas




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