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<nettime> FW: [SummerSource-L] Jonathan Peizer on (FL)OSS and non-profit
Volodymyr Vorobey on Thu, 25 Sep 2003 08:03:59 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> FW: [SummerSource-L] Jonathan Peizer on (FL)OSS and non-profits.

-----Original Message-----
from: Volodymyr Vorobey 
sent: Sunday, September 14, 2003 10:01 PM
to: Patrice Riemens; Akhundov, Emin A.
cc: summersource-l {AT} lists.tacticaltech.org; tbyfield {AT} panix.com
subject: RE: [SummerSource-L] Jonathan Peizer on (FL)OSS and

Dear Patrice and all, 
It was incredibly interesting to read article of Jonathan, thank you, Patrice for sharing it. I could not resist temptation to share my thoughts on it. Those of you who did not read the article, just ignore this mail. 
Many thoughts from Jonathan's article are absolutely the same I have been trying to verbalize during last 2 years of my life. Organisation I have been working for, AIESEC International www.aiesec.org, world's largest student organization, is deploying communities system www.aiesec.net based on Open Source software/platform OpenACS and I got the chance to start learning about ups and downs of F/OSS from scratch.   
We have been talking a lot at Vis camp and not only there about the cost effectiveness of F/OSS but what we have faced in AIESEC was lack of technology support that sometimes far outreached budgeting advantages of F/OSS deployment. It is one thing to learn how to install and use Linux distribution, open source graphic desctops and graphic applications (that I successfully learned at Vis Camp) and totally different thing when you need to utilize collaboration tools and applications based on F/OSS. Just a sample list of syndroms that were impeeding smooth implementation of our internal communities sysetm:
Lack of training materials regadring F/OSS; 
Lack of expertise within NGO (basically no expertise to put it straight) in regards to specifications writing; 
Different terminology used by developers and NGO implementers (and a lot of confusion caused by this); 
Eternal problem of communication - "Tell me what I need and I develop it" vs. "Tell me what you can and I will tell you if I need it"; 
Different personal agendas of leaders within same NGO and accordingly different priorities in modules development; 
No undestanding by NGO leaders F/OSS systems/platforms development process and no insight into NGO Change Process by developers (no anticipation/forecast of future changes in technology and NGO needs/user requirements);
No clarity on pricing on new code development (sometimes code is already there, sometimes it needs to be developed by pricing depends on what is already available and what needs to be developed - something extremely weird and complex for an average NGO staff member who need to know price and that's it) that causes frustration in NGO activities planning;
Lack of insight by NGO into developers' community priorities and modules soon-to-be-released and problems from developers' side in communicating these developments in non-geek terms; 
Low level of understanding by NGO leaders mechanisms by which code is being developed in OpenACS that creates multiple puzzles for NGO staff members working with the system development;  
No support in regards to long-term budgeting and planning of NGO systems from developer's side and no knowledge within developers community in this respect to rely upon; 
User education as irritating factor in using and developing software (NGO des not have HR capacity of doing it while developing organization cannot physically do this - no direct interactioni with users), - floods of help requests from users who simply do not know how to use Internet; 
This list can go and on and it would be perhaps beneficial for the sake of further F/OSS community development to continue compiling this list based on case studies, but points are the same as Jonathan put it in his article - F/OSS has troubles in regards to technology support, NGOs have troubles in defining technology support they need, no capacity at NGO side and lack of service on developers side, no guarantee that there will be broad enough pool of developers supporting the technology over the time. Suprisingly, many NGOs does not know or care about this time bomb just because they do not know about its existance and/or they have other immidiate proirities in regards to their system (see list above). Quite often software development process resembles non-stop fire fighting with both NGO people and developers being totally exhausted at the end of the extinquishing process. 
I do not know where solution lies although I picked some ideas during the camp. In my opinion, it would take years and years of pain-staking collaboration between NGOs and developers until after the best mode of collaboration would be defnied. And this is extremely individual process. Many NGOs, especially big ones, have already created their systems or at least planned/thought about them, many of them opted for F/OSS. There is already choise made in favour of this or other platform/system/software NGOs are using. It would be extremely hard and, not least important, expensive, for NGOs to move from one system and piece of software to another. In this sense I would challenge Jonathan's idea of creating Social Sourceforge entity. 
Take for example AIESEC. This organizations invested thousands of euros over the years into developing OpenACS community as a couple of other NGOs/companies/Universities did. It is absolutely impossible to convince this NGO at this stage to move to any other solutions, even if it would be all-encompassing industry-standard one developed by suggested Soial Sourceforge entity (unless it would be based on OpenACS itself of course). Task of convincing NGO to migrate is too heavy to lift by developers when there are 100.000+ users of system and stability of the system is issue No.1 for organization not its further enhancements. Too much to explain, too many people to convince. Thus, it seems that at least AIESEC will stick to the platform it has chosen (how it happened, it is different story alltogether) as, most probably, other NGOs will do. So, basically, Social Sourceforge in the format proposed by Jonathan would be yet-another-one platform trying to lure more user organizatio!
ns than others. 
I think that advantage of F/OSS is also in diversity of solutions provided. Community also operated by the laws of marketplace with many solutions competiting, sometimes directly, for the same users. And as in real traditional market economy, any kind of regulation is hramful if it is not coming from the market will itself. I would see certain F/OSSS platfomrs and system gaining wider acceptance than others and essentially they would become Social Sourceforge entities for the F/OSS community. 
Well, I think I have written more than I had expected from myself. 
Hope that some of you actually read this to the end, thank you. 
Would be interesting to here from others regarding topics addressed in Jonathan's article. 
I would alsoappreciate if someone can actually forward this mail to Janathan.  
Have a nice week and cherish warm memories from Vis :-)

	-----Original Message----- 
	From: Patrice Riemens [mailto:patrice {AT} xs4all.nl] 
	Sent: Sat 9/13/2003 10:14 PM 
	To: Akhundov, Emin A. 
	Cc: 'summersource-l {AT} lists.tacticaltech.org' 
	Subject: [SummerSource-L] Jonathan Peizer on (FL)OSS and non-profits.

	The article I really wanted to attract your attention to is Jonathan
	Peizer's "Realizing The Promize Of Open Source In The Non-Profit Sector"
	in nettime-l, Sept 9 (send in by Ted Byfield).
	Sorry I cannot copy paste it here (it's long anyway) and not even the URL
	(neetime's: http://www.nettime.org  you have to go the 'Archives' of
	'nettime-l' (the english language list) because I have an xterm screen I
	cannot handle properly.
	If people really want it mailme, I can cp it later, even send it printed
	out by post.
	cheers for now, patrice & Diiino!
	summersource-l mailing list
	summersource-l {AT} lists.tacticaltech.org


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