Currently my day job involves working on storing data using the open-source software Virtuoso, an universal database software. So I’m lucky because it is open, I can find it in debian software repository, I can read the source, I can improve the software by adding new functionalities. So it complies to the Free Software Definition, I am happy, … well almost.
After few weeks working on Virtuoso, I was looking for the source repository and I discovered that the development of Virtuoso is done behind closed doors (not repository accessible for instance, there is just an old CVS repository on sourceforge), the code is just dropped once in a while as a release, developers have their own private bug tracker, they are not very responsive to request, there is no roadmap, and no communication on the project. Also, they don’t provide open-source at the same time the closed version (the 6.2 is out for a while, but the open source version is still at 6.1.3). For someone who is used to work on projects like GNOME or Firefox, that’s frustrating.
I don’t know what the aims that lead Virtuoso to be open-sourced, like building a community of users, getting patches from contributors, make virtuoso more widely known, …, this is obviously a smart move as a first step for a commercial entity but I feel it is half-done, without letting users take part of the development.
Until now I wasn’t paying too much attention to this kind of details; when a software was open-source (in the sense of FSF) it was enough for me, but having to work with Virtuoso makes me realize that what I would called “Open Development” is an important item to me and why I love projects like GNOME or Firefox, there is more than Open-source code, there is also an open development. The FSF definition is fine as long as you’re a end-user, but it remains only as a baseline when you have to code or interact on open software.
Am I an extremist ? 🙂
Edit: Added the fact the closed version and the open-source version are not released at the same time.