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Did TWiki.org go commercial?

2009-11-11 - 19:58:24 by PeterThoeny in Community
Once in a while I get asked if TWiki.org went commercial. I believe a clarifying blog post (on 12 month old news) is warranted because I have seen a lot of inaccurate and false statements in blogs and tweets on this subject.

Short answer:

TWiki.org has been an active open source project since its inception 11 years ago and will remain open source. A year ago we introduced a code of conduct and a TWiki Community Governance modeled after the successful Ubuntu community with the goal to scale the community and the project. At that time we changed from a community open source governance model (such as Debian) to a commercial open source governance model (such as Fedora/Red Hat, Zimbra, MySQL). Twiki Inc is continually supporting the TWiki community with twiki.org hosting, product enhancements, marketing activities and more.

The details:

I have seen TWiki growing up from a baby 11 years ago, through a enthusiastic learning period, then tremendous growth, up to a "Sturm und Drang" teenager age. Now it feels like TWiki is growing up into a responsible adolescent.

The last few Sturm and Drang years were initially dominated by very active contributors. We had an active core community, but no clear code of conduct and governance. A ring of consultants tried to push their own commercial agenda on the project. This resulted in confusion, disagreements, and diminished contributions. And I was in the middle of it with my own commercial entity that supported the community. In 2008 it was clear that we need a well defined governance model. I proposed one in spring 2008. A consultant prepared a counter proposal that would allow a ring of consultants to gain greater control over the project, install a different community lead and take more control over the TWiki trademark. There was much debate over whether the Debian style model would be in the best interest of the TWiki project or not. Personally I believe that a commercial open source model is a better fit for the TWiki project since we have been clearly focused on the enterprise from its inception. Dirk Riehle wrote an inspiring paper comparing the commercial open source business model with community open source model. There are several examples of successful commercial open source business models that benefited the community and furthered the technology, for instance Fedora/Red Hat, Zimbra, MySQL.

In October 2008 we instantiated the code of coduct and TWiki Community Governance modeled after the successful Ubuntu community. We took the proactive step to move towards commercial open source. I chose the Ubuntu model because it has proved to be scalable. My goal for TWiki is create the right context to scale big as a developer community, extension community, user community, consultant ecosystem and as the commercial Twiki Inc company. Some people who disagreed left the project to form a fork.

Since then we regained a professional, courteous and helpful open source community. We have healthy downloads, an active user community, and a very active support community (with over 500 answered questions in the last 12 months). However, we are a smaller developer community than we used to be. We are working hard to build up our community, and encourage you to get involved by emailing me your thoughts. We keep TWiki.org open to all who agree to the code of conduct; 6500 did, 35 did not since we introduced it a year ago.

I think it is important to clarify the relationship between the open source community and Twiki Inc as a company. Let me describe it using the system architecture diagram:

TWiki system diagram

YELLOW: The open source community is building the TWiki core and extensions. The community has a clear mission, a charter, a release focus and is operating under community defined guidelines, such as the TWiki Release Management Process. Employees under the payroll of Twiki Inc are also part of the community.

BLUE: Twiki Inc is creating a distribution and hosting solution using the open source core and some extensions as its base. Some of that distribution is proprietary. Over time, some of that is released into the open source, such as the TWIKI.NET Skin and the TWIKI.NET Forum Application.

I hope these notes clarify some of the questions you might have on the open source TWiki project. Please drop me an e-mail with your thoughts or comment on this blog.



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Topic revision: r5 - 2011-05-22 - PeterThoeny

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