Lodahl's blog: On open source communities

12 February 2008

On open source communities

A small piece on open source communities in general and OpenOffice.org specific

Each time you enter a shop to buy something, this can be grosseries or a computer program, you have an expectation that it is ok and that everything works as described. You have the right to demand certain quality because you payed for what you have bought. If the new DVD player doesn't work, you can have it repaired, exchanged with another one or in the end, get your money back.

This is not the case when you use open source software from the simple reason that you didn't pay anything. Of cause you can uninstall the software. If you need a piece of software in conjunction with a guaranty, you can buy a commercial application like StarOffice from SUN Microsystems. StarOffice is a commercial version of OpenOffice.org and you can buy StarOffice with both garanties and support.

  • How does the open source environment actually work ?
  • How can anyone make a business when the software is free ?

From time to time I get a question from people that would like me to confirm that it actually *is* free of charge to use OpenOffice.org. "Can we use it in the company too ?" is the question.

Yes. OpenOffice.org is free of charge. Also in a company - without any limitations.

This can be true because several IT companies has found a possibility to make money on selling consulting and education. These companies doesn't make any money if the application doesn't exist, so the company is indirectly making money on supporting and helping the application development. Furthermore, several companies, organizations and governments that supports the development because they are using OpenOffice.org. By supporting the development, they make sure that the application is developed in a way that ensures OpenOffice.org to be developed in the right direction. You could call it a kind of self decided license fee. In most cases two or several companies or organization stick together and solves a specific problem in common. That way they can achieve something without each of them is getting involved directly.

In Denmark there is a lot of companies, organizations and authorities that is using OpenOffice.org, but as far as I know, only very few of them is actually giving a contribution back to the community. All members of the community are private contributers.

In the last two years of discussion on open standards and use of open source software like OpenOffice.org I have often heard that OpenOffice.org is not good enough and other programs are much better. But I have never heard from anyone that Denmark could participate and contribute to solve some of these problems. In Denmark we raise demands and criticisme, but we don't contribute.

I think this is caused by the lack of understanding for the way open source software works. And how development works.

In Denmark there is a lot of schools that is using OpenOffice.org in education. There must be some of the schools that has made some kind of education material like a syllabus or maybe even a teaching book. It would be much more effective if the schools could get together and develop this material in high quality once and release it under one of the free licenses.

The community behind OpenOffice.org in Denmark would very much like to contribute to get people together. Public schools can even get supported with fundings from the National IT- and Tele Agency.

In 2007 we started a new project in the international level of OpenOffice.org with the purpose to develop some kind of certification of users. A common goal of knowledge. The project is unfortunately partly closed for the moment, because we cant find participants.


Next time you wonder why something hasn't been developed yet or why you can't find a course to join or why you can't open .docx-files in OpenOffice.org or why you can't play multimedia files in presentations properly, change the question to: "How can I help to make it work ?".

You don't have to be a programmer to contribute to development. We can use anybody who can spend a few hours among friends in a wonderful community. Can you write a short how-to description or help us with graphical work or perhaps help us writing press releases. Do you know a lot of politicians or just a lot of people, you can help us promote the cause. There is always a job for everyone. And remember, its always YOU that sets the limits, so you can always say no thanks and back out for a while.

If your company uses OpenOffice.org, please remember to join the reference list on http://da.openoffice.org or http://www.openoffice.org. This is also considered a contribution.

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