Quo vadis, OpenNTF?

by Volker Weber

When IBM announced in January it was going to help OpenNTF, this was not what I had hoped for the site: committees, working groups, meetings and conference calls. These are the last five headlines:

  1. Announcement: IP Working Group Conference Call - Friday, June 19th, 2009 - 10 AM EDT
  2. OpenNTF Alliance Steering Committee Meeting Minutes from June 8, 2009
  3. OpenNTF.org Alliance Steering Committee Meeting Minutes from May 28th, 2009
  4. Summary of Inaugural Meeting of the OpenNTF.org Alliance Steering Committee
  5. Bug submission fixed in Projects DB

"/Internal/home.nsf" says it all. Try to sit through this.

PS: You can't make this up. The next entry on planetlotus.org:



What had you hoped for? What's going on right now is, we're trying to find ways to increase contributions from non-IBMers.

Andre Guirard, 2009-06-22

Putting myself out to be slapped here...

IBM should of done with openntf what they did with ILUG and UKLUG. Gave it money so it could operate and help promote it in a non-associated way. That being said, I wish it every success in the world.


Paul Mooney, 2009-06-22

Andre, if I am not mistaken, then the vast majority of OpenNTF contributions were from non-IBMers before IBM got involved.

Volker Weber, 2009-06-22

Whole-heartedly agree, Paul.

Actually my biggest concern is that what is being forced upon OpenNTF is actually IBM trying to loosen up and work with outsiders, and that the reality is that the level of bureaucracy within the company is many times worse... ;-( Tell me it isn't so!

Stuart McIntyre, 2009-06-22

What's going on right now is, we're trying to find ways to increase contributions from non-IBMers.I’m not sure how layers of bureaucracy and conference calls about intellectual property (sorry, but wake me when you’re done) achieve that.

What I see is a move to make OpenNTF “fit for purpose”, as far as serving IBM’s needs are concerned (in terms of both contributing to it, and using code from it).

Ben Poole, 2009-06-22

Well, on a positive note, at least we can definitely say that IBM is involved now. :-) The shock troops (aka legal staff) have arrived, and maybe when they're done things can start to happen.

Though I think I would've preferred Paul's suggestion - give it cash and step aside.

Is there any reason that OpenNTF can't just work like Sourceforge and others, where the contributer gets to choose the license they want to use?

That sounds like it would truly invite the most contributors.

Erik Brooks, 2009-06-22

I made it to slide 33 before I glazed over. The distinction between Contributor and Committer lost me, and I read forward through slide 45 before finally giving up.

@Erik - That's the way it was, but some were calling for stronger support from IBM. This is what it takes to get IBM support.

Charles Robinson, 2009-06-22

What if Microsoft was willing to fund part of the site and post more Micrsoft related Notes code?

Gary Devendorf, 2009-06-22

Gary, I'd take these funds and setup your own Sharepoint site with this code and a support area.

Volker Weber, 2009-06-22

OK, so I decided to see if I could create an alternative.....Took me a few hours. How did I do?


I've signed up for and redirected otherntf.org, but the DNS is probably not active yet.

Ning charges for bandwidth in $10 increments, so if we get a lot of traffic over there I may need some help with that - if anyone can pitch in it would be greatly appreciated.

And Gary, please do post anything you please!

Limited time offer! Anyone who signs up in the next 10 years will automatically be a member of the steering committee!

Brian Benz, 2009-06-23

Gary, is there something stopping you? Sign up, fill on the forms, post code. No?

Kerr Rainey, 2009-06-23

I can only speak for myself but I don't want another SomethingNTF. The Domino community is small and at the end hardly anyone will have an advantage.

Henning Heinz, 2009-06-23

I agree it doesn't look very exciting, but that is exactly the reason that I needed help to finally settle these issues.
Paperwork has never been our strong point and the stuff that is being discussed now should have been agreed upon years ago. You cannot run a site like this without rules about who is contributing what.

I hope that once we have resolved the current issues we can get on with the site without too much redtape for either the people using the site and the people running it.

Vince Schuurman, 2009-06-23

Qui bono?

Who needs all this overhead, all this structure and process? Why do you need a catalog with projects, and projects without a catalog? The site is full of text, text, text explaining all this complexity. Apparently SourceForge doesn't need that. Neither does GitHub. Maybe we should all just use Sourceforge and let IBM use developerWorks.

Volker Weber, 2009-06-23

I was looking over stuff last week after Nathan's rant, but I honestly got bored too. He was asking for volunteers to sit on a conference call, but I didn't get into IT because of my love of paperwork and bureaucracy. I care deeply about what transpires at openntf, but I was bored silly looking at the agenda.

I just want to code my project and have people enjoy it. I don't really care what downloaders do with it when they get it. I'd be fine with an "I do not care" licensing radio-button option when I upload a new release. I honestly don't even know what all the current options are. I just pick one at random. I have neither the legal resources nor stamina to prosecute people who might steal my code anyway!

I swing libertarian on almost everything, but I'm not blind to the need for rules, I just don't thing it needs to be as publicly debated as it is currently. I don't want to see committee member logos on the site, and I don't want to see the agendas unless I'm LOOKING for them. I want them to be as anonymous as I am as a chef. I post my code, and if you look hard enough, you can find my name and why I wrote it. OpenNTF committee should setup as few rules as possible and move forward as transparently as possible.

It's particularly difficult, because people donating time and helping steer are *passionate* people, but the rest of us show our passions in different manners. This is in no way a rant, as I have the utmost respect for most of the committee members, by my passion is efficiency and speed.

Mike McPoyle, 2009-06-23

Thing is, if you don’t engage with these processes, you’ll be accused of being a moaner with nothing to contribute—someone who doesn’t “add value”—so you can’t win.

OpenNTF needed an injection of time, money and enthusiasm (hey, don’t we all from time to time), but I think it’s a shame that the focus is on dry legalities and committees. I understand where this is coming from, but that doesn’t mean I like it, or want to engage with it.

Ben Poole, 2009-06-23

Is there anything that can't be done in OpenNTF now that could be done before? I think most of the work being done on the IP side involves creating a new category of project that meets a higher standard than we have required before. I too have questioned how many people are likely to jump through these additional hoops to qualify but as long as I can also continue to contribute codes/projects the same way as in the past (which seems to still be the case with the new model) then I am not too fussed. I would suggest we give this a little more time before we rush to judgment. The option is always there to get involved to have a say on what happens.

Peter Presnell, 2009-06-23

So the question is again, what benefit does all this bureaucracy have besides creating working groups, steering committees, meetings, conference calls and chairs for all that.

Volker Weber, 2009-06-23

The WTF moment for me was when 3rd party Google gadgets started appearing in the OpenNTF catalog, that are neither open nor NTF (TwitterGadget is built on ASP .Net!), with no attribution to their actual authors. Yet they get pride of place in the catalog, while genuinely open and Notes/Domino based community efforts need to satisfy all these strict legal and licensing conditions to get there.

Jeff Gilfelt, 2009-06-23

Jeff’s quite right. If you look at the installation file for TwitterGadget (taking his example), you will see a tiny bit of XML that references this URI:


So I’m confused as to what the OpenNTF contributor Mukundan Desikan is claiming here. He’s not an employee of Logika Corporation (the authors of TwitterGadget), he works for IBM. But the OpenNTF page doesn’t make clear what is being offered or by whom. Interestingly, the gadget is provided under the ASL 2.0 licence, but Logika don’t stipulate a licence in their pages.

Ben Poole, 2009-06-23

Widgets have a few dozen downloads. They don't matter anyway.

Volker Weber, 2009-06-23

Interesting discussion. Many interesting points of view here.

I've personally met (and in fact shared a beer or two with) almost every one of the contributors to this thread; I think I've earned the right to call Shenanigans here.

It would have been very helpful had you (collectively) given this input DURING THE CALL, or perhaps in the FORUMS which have been open for quite some time now.

I'm not entirely happy with, nor do I completely agree with all of the proposed changes, but at least I PARTICIPATED IN THE CALL.

(that squeaking sound you hear is my soapbox being put away).


Devin Olson, 2009-06-23

Well Volker does not run a Domino server. He does not use it as a mail client and he does not have applications running on Notes. I doubt that he himself has a demand for any of the applications on OpenNTF. He sometimes writes what others only think. And he is not the reason why IBM is losing accounts nowadays. Five months have gone since Lotusphere. That is a long time in the IT world and if IBM announces something it is fair to assume that they already had a plan and some work done before January. And he has not complained (as I read on Nathans blog) but wrote what he saw. Censorship in the yellow bubble still is a problem.

Henning Heinz, 2009-06-23


I think the collective question is 'why are we having to have the call in the first place?'

No-one likes excessive paperwork.


Warren Elsmore, 2009-06-23

Thanks, Henning. The proof is in the pudding post. I am only stating what everybody can see on the site. OpenNTF is busy gazing at its own navel.

There is no censorship in the yellow bubble. There are just some mob tactics that I find laughable at best. They don't really affect me since I just continue to report what I see.

I do understand though there are people out there who have a business to protect and therefore can't speak their minds.

Volker Weber, 2009-06-23

I have a few projects on OpenNTF and a little while back I asked the question if openNTF was jumping the shark with all the requirements and regulations and there was a bit of a debate on what was happening on OpenNTF that spilled over into a number of different blogs.

I certainly don't regret writing that blog entry and I feel that it has made the steering committee at OpenNTF situp and take notice. Not being part of the SC I don't know what happened on that first call but I do know my blog entry and all the discussion around it was discussed and while not everything was addressed immediately it has resulted in some concerns being addressed by the committees that have been formed, thing like full audio minutes of SC meetings was something I asked for on my original blog entry. That's happening now.

If you go to the IP Working Group forum you'll see that I'm active in there asking all the questions that I want answered, while I was not able to get to the IP call last week I was still able to have some input via the forum. I'm only one voice in there and that one voice is having an impact, do you think they would be discussing how an individual could become an alliance member if I hadn't of asked?

There is still a lot that they need to finalize, they need to figure out workflows of how apps get into a managed catalog and unless other openNTF project owners apart from me speak up they will just do it the way they see fit which may not be the way we want.

I'm not sticking up for how they have gone about doing the openNTF changes but I can say that they are listening. If we don't get involved as project owners then openNTF will fail because they will make uninformed decisions, Personally I don't want to see it fail.

Declan Lynch, 2009-06-23

@Warren: I HATE paperwork, of all kinds. It is a gigantic PIA. However, it is sometimes necessary. One of the explicit reasons (and bullet points) for this call was on how to reduce paperwork / legal requirements / PIA stuff.

Another huge reason for this call was to try to figure out how to make the whole process as transparent as possible. IBM is throwing their support behind this in a big way, but they are in no way (as anybody who was on the call can attest to) running the entire show.

My frustration is in seeing so many people who I know and respect simply bitching about the changes they are seeing without bothering to step up and help.

Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying people aren't allowed to complain (hell, I'm one of the biggest bitchers on the planet). But the folks on the OpenNTF working groups / committees have been literally BEGGING for people's input, and have received essentially a vacuum of responses -except for threads like this.

Of all the names on this thread, there are only two that I recognize and remember as being on the call. One of them is mine.

On second thought, this doesn't frustrate me. This pisses me off.

Devin Olson, 2009-06-23

Thanks, Devin. So this discussion may be late, but not too late.

Volker Weber, 2009-06-23

"So this discussion may be late, but not too late."

That's actually a great way of putting it, The changes introduced were sudden and also confusing to the people who contributed code to openNTF projects but it's the second part of that sentence that is the most important, it's not too late. While we can't go back to the way it was it would seem to me that the processes have not be finalized so we, as project owners, still have the ability to make sure that what is put in place works for us.

Declan Lynch, 2009-06-23

Why can't we go back to the way it worked?

Volker Weber, 2009-06-23

Devin: so not everyone was on the call. So what? An OpenNTF conference call doesn’t mean that the world stops on a Friday afternoon.

Ben Poole, 2009-06-23

"No-one likes excessive paperwork." And no-one likes a lawsuit. That is, quite simply, what all this is about.

The irony is that most of the negative feedback seems to be coming from folks that would prefer to post their code with minimal obstacles. I can relate to that. But what makes it ironic is that these are the very folks that the new process is intended to protect. The current/previous process offered no evidence of due diligence in determining that the code was posted by someone with a legal right to do so. This puts that individual, OpenNTF itself, and anyone who downloads and uses the code, at risk of litigation. The new process (as was made painstakingly clear on the call that Devin was on - yes, Spanky, I was on that call too) attempts to minimize that risk as much as possible.

I think the backlash is simply over a matter of choice. When I file my tax returns, I like that I can forego the accountant and just submit my returns online. Sure, it's possible that I may have missed something and will get audited. But it's never happened so far. I'm a responsible guy. So I'm fine with just taking my chances, and would be annoyed if I were forced to take that extra precaution.

But I'm just an individual, not an entire organization... if I'm being legally reckless and get burned, I only impact myself and my spouse. If, on the other hand, I'm posting code I have no legal right to post, and some company downloads it because the site I posted it to seemed reputable, and they end up in litigation over their use of what I posted, they'll be pissed. And they'll come after me, OpenNTF, or both. And if they come after me, depending on copyright law in my country, it's likely my employer that gets burned, not me. And it would suck if my coworkers got laid off because the company lost money in a lawsuit just because I thought a code review would be too much hassle.

Tim Tripcony, 2009-06-23

But what makes it ironic is that these are the very folks that the new process is intended to protect.I get all that. But the question is, protect from whom? You need a community of contributors and consumers first ’n’ foremost, the legal stuff follows.

Without the former, there’s no point sweating the latter. Again I think the Lotus community overestimates its size: where are all the upcoming developers looking to use these snippets, widgets and projects? Let’s get those folks in place first (not sure where to look though), then worry about IP.

Ben Poole, 2009-06-23

Good questions Ben, and got me to make my first public comment on this:

1. The goal is to keep as many of the existing contributors while adding IBM and larger Lotus customers to the mix. Both IBM and the larger Lotus customers want a more formal IP process. Just like the attendance of the call is not the entire community interested, either are the blogs. I have lots of email from people who want to contribute and consume from OpenNTF.org that have never written a blog entry. They have not used OpennTF.org because they are prohibited by their employeers. GPL is great for someone like you, but Apache is what most enterprises are using today. So we are trying to grow the contributors and its a lot of work. IBM wants to the option to put the core Notes templates on the site - to do that, we need changes. That means a more eclipse.org process and site vs what we have now (very sourceforge like).

2. We have to start somewhere. We decided to start with the IP process. Marketing needs to happen, both for OpenNTF.org and the entire Lotus community. That won't be solved by you, me, or OpenNTF.org. I hope OpenNTF.org can be used as one of the many tools in that battle, but it won't solve the problem.

Look, The process sucks - I agree. There is so much effort being put in here to find an IP process that the community and IBM can share. I have over 100 hours of time in this - and the legal council PSC has provided has another 60. But this has to be done first. I have talked with folks at eclipse, apache, sourceforge, etc - they all recommend to do the IP work first. One lawsuit and your site is gone. Yes, I am taking this personally - I won't apologize for that. I have taken this on as a personal mission. I would love for someone to go in and edit the crap out of the proposed resolutions. That is why they are there. But if no one does, the resolutions will be put in front of the Steering Committee on 7.2.2009. If they pass, they become the rules of the site. Why would anyone who is passionate about OpenNTF.org not want to participate in that? I am not asking everyone to agree with me. I am just asking people participate in the area provide. After that, its up to you. We are moving forward. I invite everyone to get involved. Comment in the forum. The IP process will be behind us in July and we can focus on creating the Not for Profit for OpenNTF.org, settle the licensing debate, and get working on the changes to the Projects pieces that we have wanted for so long.

John Head, 2009-06-24

VoWe: "Why can't we go back to the way it worked"?

May be it didn't work that well with the 'old' OpenNTF !

Say ...
- with respect to overdue conceptual website reorganization,
- with respect to overdue bleeding-edge technology radiating website reorganization,
- for downloaders the ability to easily identify the quality of contributions,
- for contributors the ability to commit to a quality assured and managed project style obvious in industry for higher-end and complex projects with all the workflows and people involved,
- hesitation of esteemed Lotus business partners to post some of their valuable though not commercially successful software pieces because of a lack of a niche radiating excellence of contributions,
- unclear IP-issues for reuse of posted software in commercial applications,
- handles to ship a path between whole proprietary software empires in the open web-3.0/cloud/SAS/whatever world (Google, ...) and the completely libertine classical forum model including folks who stick to a continuous stream of fast 'my-killerapp' uploads,
- frank & clear policies supported by working processes on a daily basis with respect to what should not be posted (OpenNTF might not be considered the platform for posting solutions for 'one-click' migration to Sharepoint [not a good example, they don't exist anyway - but Gary tries hard :-; ])
- clear, competitive, and broadly supported position between all the existing and upcoming 'yellow bleeding' knowledge environments and networks commited to Lotus

It is true that we are in the middle of the transition phase to a new and revitalized OpenNTF. Yes, this transition phase should last only a couple of days - as we desire for all projects. But, the change has to take into account all the issues brought up in this thread and documented on OpenNTF since the start of the transition period. This needs time, though (or better: because) the people engaged to democratically moderate, enable, and enact the new structure are professionals. They put a lot of time into this project in addition to their job and are happy about everybody helping and supporting.

Ludwig Nastansky, 2009-06-24

Is THIS what's got everyone's panties in a twist?

Sorry, hardly worth a rant. I've just assumed there's a bunch of legal work to be done in making the whole thing legitimate in a way that its end product can actually be used by corporations. Once the processes and legalities are figured out, I'm sure the whole thing will be more productive to us as in terms of free software.

Andrew Pollack, 2009-06-24

Yeah, yeah, meetings, phone calls, time sink. Big deal! "Property, thy name is LAWYER".

IBM has been heavily influenced (not "run", notice) by IP lawyers for many years. IBM does IP VERY well. What's the goal of IP "process"? As TimT says above, it's to keep oneself from being sued. If you think THIS thing is paperwork-heavy, try suing or being sued by somebody.

There are many people within IBM who are (non-publicly) very supportive of OpenNTF, it's widely recognized as a Good Thing. But (and I know this first-hand, from when I worked there), many of the things about the way OpenNTF used to operate do not conform to IBM's rules for shipping software. Perhaps most important of those: You must be able to PROVE where the software came from, and you must declare that you didn't steal it from someone else. That's completely reasonable!

So, to make OpenNTF "product" safe for general consumption, some stuff has to happen. IBM knows how to do that, people shoule give them a chance to contribute. IMHO.

Bob Balaban, 2009-06-24

Yes, IBM could have a really good website to publish code to, when it's all done.

Volker Weber, 2009-06-24

So the IP work needs to be done and the process for doing that is the process. Fair enough. As someone with code in the Code Bin and having contributed code to a couple of other projects (I asked not to be listed as a contributor) I'd like to contribute/participate in the discussion.

However, I'm having issues with the site and there is no "Contact Us" link, so what do I do? Please don't say the Forum because my issue is I can't post to the Forum and there is no Reply button on any existing entry. :-)

I'm not trying to be obtuse, I just really don't know where to go for help.

Charles Robinson, 2009-06-24

Charles, every post has a reply button once you log in to OpenNTF.org iff you are logged in. If you do not, please contact me directly and we can work to solve the problem.

John Head, 2009-06-24

Charles, log-in on OpenNTF is somewhat screwed-up if you’re on a WebKit browser, don’t know if that impacts you.

For example, in Safari, I find that if I navigate to an “old skool” OpenNTF page, and log in using the side panel there (don’t use the main full-screen log-in page), then the site works as expected. Otherwise, authentication just doesn’t work, and you can’t get to the IP working party forum (which requires authentication).

I’m not sure what’s happened to the old OpenNTF discussions, but there is a main forum there still. There is also a strategy working group forum in there somewhere, but that’s only linked in one of Nathan’s posts, it’s not on the OpenNTF site itself.

Ben Poole, 2009-06-24

Ben, all of the forums are linked on the site.

Go to the main site and click the About tab. There is a link for Committees and Working Groups. Click that. All of the forums are there, but you need the right access (logged in to OpenNTF for IP, Technical Committee member to access the TC Forum, etc.).

Yes, they could be better places - but it's three clicks.

John Head, 2009-06-24

@John - True, and the cool thing is, it even lists forums to which you don't have access! Sorry, pet UI peeve of mine - if you know who I am (and you do, because I'm logged in), show me the stuff that is appropriate for me, not the stuff I could see if I was somebody else! heh...

It's definitely true, though, that putting those forums in that location is more than a bit bizarre, and people are going to have trouble finding them. It makes me wonder if the decision was made by the same people who design the navigation paths for IBM's websites. *snark mode off*

Rob McDonagh, 2009-06-24

I agree 100% with you Rob so I will suggest changes at the SC meeting on 7.2 to get this changed ASAP

John Head, 2009-06-24

The other forums are also listed if you go to the Get Involved tab and click Committees and Working Groups.

Charles Robinson, 2009-06-25

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