Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Building innovation nodes through Free Software Communities (III): participants

This is the third post of this serie. Please read the first two (I and II) before reading this one.

A.- Participants

As mentioned in the previous post, the participants in a project like the one we are describing can be organized in three different groups:

1.- Source

There are the organizations which represent the innovation source, that is, Local Free Software Communities (LFSC from now on).

Mature Global Free Software Communities (GFSC) are organizing more and more local groups, specially in non-English speaking countries since people in general like to related to each other in their native language. But in most cases those local groups are not configured as legal entities. When they are, most of the times there is no legal relation with the matrix, at least, so they can operate as legal representatives of the GFSC in its country.

Due to law differences, in each country that relation implies different rights and duties, so there no single and simple way of building that relation. But is an achievable problem in most cases. In KDE we created a precedent with the agreement with KDE Spain (link). we are using this initiative as experiment in order to replicate it with more LFSC.

This project should have, as one of its major goals, to help local groups:
  • To become legal entities, so they can grow and mature, by being able to relate to other organizations, not just its matrix.
  • To develop activities that allow them to increase the number of local contributors and the software use by local players.

2.- Catalyst

The Catalyst is the organization that will put the initial effort to attract local communities to the project. Ideally, it'll will have the initial resources and the localization needed to launch the project. Its major initial goals will be:
  • To coordinate the initial steps and prepare everything for the LFSCs to take command of the project when the Assembly is formed.
  • To promote interactions and networking among LFSCs and between those and local agents.
  • To do marketing with impact beyond Free Software media.

3.- Local agents

The initially act as receptors of the knowledge transfer generate in Free Software Communities. In a second step, little by little, will generate its own experience and knowledge to LFSC to end up providing them developers, experiences and (hopefully) code. Beside interacting with LFSC, Catalyst will promote interactions among them, so they can learn from each other's experience.

B.- An example: Spain

Local Free Software Communities

Mi idea is giving this project a try in a certain country. Let's say Spain. It would kick off in a certain big city and could be replicated to smaller ones. The initial LFSC candidates are:

All of them are legal entities in Spain, regularly organize community events and have ten or more members. They are the perfect starters.

Some other local groups must be also involved in the early steps. They are LFSC groups that are not legal yet, but organize events and are active groups. The project should focus on helping them to become members of the project. By the end of the first year, the goal must be to add another 5-6 local groups to the project with the same rights and duties than founders. Distribution LoCo teams (Fedora, Ubuntu, OpenSuse, Gentoo, Guadalinex, Linex, CentOS, etc.), computer language related groups (Java Hispano, Rails-es, etc.), product oriented communities (Zentyal, LibreOffice-es, Plone-es, LibrePlan, etc.) and other ones like OSGEO-es, FSFe, Mozilla-es, etc. are perfect candidates for these second group.

In my mind, the perfect catalyst is a non-profit with many local contacts and visibility or a Public Administration (City Council or Municipality). Last November, I presented this idea to one City Council from a big Spanish City. Other options are being under study.

Local players/agents

The best players to involved at early stages of the project are those that have demonstrated in the past some relation and support to Free Software. The plan is to reduce the culture gap initially. My first candidates would be:
  • Regional/national Association/Federation of Free Software SME.
  • Local college (through its Free Software Office).
  • R&D Institutes with Free Software related experience.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Building innovation nodes through Free Software Communities (II)

Please read the previous post about this topic to have a better idea of what I'm trying to explain here.

When thinking about how to create a local node in a certain area where all the knowledge from GFSC can be used to improve local economy and social rights I came to the conclusion that we need to define a model based on the following six general ideas:
  1. Principles: some basic principles shared by all participants must be defined.
  2. Participants: electing who is going to participate in the initiative and which role will have each one of them is another simple but relevant idea to determine.
  3. Localization/facilities: the initiative needs a specific place, adapted to the kind of activities needed to achieved the goals.
  4. Services and resources: participants will need to define services and look for the resources needed to launch and sustain the project.
  5. Organization: governance model and structure are also key point to define. They must be adapted to promote an innovation environment.
  6. Actions: activities that will be the core of the project.

1.- Principles

The actions that need to be taken must follow some principles shared by every GFSC, adding some important ones for local agents involved. These two groups of principles can be summarized in the following:
  • Freedom, which includes economic and administrative freedom.
  • Self management.
  • Openness
  • Integration.
  • Free licenses.


In order to be successful, I think the project must count on three major participants:
  • Source: local Free Software Communities.
  • Catalyst: organization that will promote interaction among players involved.
  • Receptors: local organizations and individuals.


Localization must be carefully chosen. I think that the perfect place must be located in a mid-size city, well communicated with bigger cities and an international airport. The facilities chosen must allow to celebrate talks, meetings and workshop, with a networking area. Accommodation and restaurants/cafeterias must be easily reachable.

To be successful, the place must have a comfortable atmosphere, quiet but informal, with areas that promote interaction and others intimacy. 

4.-Services and resources

In order to define a project to achieve our goals, some services will be needed. The basic ones are:

The project will need support in the following areas:
  • Administrative
  • Legal
  • Financial and accounting.
  • Marketing and communication.
  • Business development.
  • Facilities maintenance and management.

The resources needed to launch a project like this one, must come from:
  • Sponsorship.
  • Local public administrations and innovation agents.
  • Local companies.
  • Participants.
  • Activities organized by participants.

5.- Organization

Innovation and complex organization structures are incompatible. The structure to manage the project must be simple and compatible with the culture from the communities involved. I think the perfect organization and structure comes from a mix of three different kind of well known organizations:
  • Labs. There are many of them around the globe. In Spain we have two well known, one in Madrid and other one in Barcelona.
  • Self-managed cultural centers. They are multidisciplinary legal entities, self-organized, usually linked to a certain building or infrastructure where many different kind of activities are promoted and organized.
  • Business incubators.

The global idea is reducing administrative and legal work to the minimum, promoting meritocracy and electing the people that manage the project, creating forums where local agents directly interact with those organizers from the communities that participate in the initiative.

6.- Activities

The communities involved in the project will determine the type of activities to be organized. Obviously, in order to generate a local pole, an intense agenda a a key point. It should be full of community events, but also other kind of activities that promote interactions with local agents, like training sessions, workshops, etc.

Communities usually organize itinerant events. A project like his do not mean that local communities has to change this mechanism of "spreading the message". It is just a matter of creating several minor activities per year at this place.

In following posts I will explain a little how do I believe the above six point should be done/organized to be able to create a local pole of innovation through Free Software Communities.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Building innovation nodes through Free Software Communities

Global Free Software Communities (GFSC from now on) are a proof that Silicon Valley model is an industrial innovation and business model from past century. GFSC are building, not just great products, but creating new engineering procedures and tools, new ways of governance models, supporting and promoting new legal improvements in some areas, creating its own identity, its own culture and becoming politically active promoting freedom in the digital world.

Communities attract many young talents and professional by allowing them to grow personally, technically and professionally while developing software anyone can use. GFSC represent a mirror to some new movements and a relevant help to others.

Traditionally key stakeholders has seen GFSC as a R&D ecosystem and a hiring environments. Lately, we are facing a significant change. Smaller companies are getting more and more involved with a new purpose, to share the development of a technology or product to base their business upon. This is specially true in vertical (product oriented) communities, like Drupal or Joomla, for example.

We are also seeing some companies succeeding in building communities around their products, creating a new type of communities driven, but not owned, by them.

All this innovation is taking place through internet, starring geographically distributed teams who usually know each other if they collaborate in the same community but do not if they are members of different ones.

I believe that we have a good opportunity in the following years of creating impact in many places with what we do if we are able to create nodes where all that we do in communities can be translate it to local agents/actors so they can adapt our procedures, use our software, create their own, build a local business sector around the software, help other sectors grow, etc. and, at the same time, attract more contributors to our communities, give us very useful feedback and give us resources to increase our activity.

Different communities have done different actions in order to accomplish these goals. We have experiences from all over the world where Libre Software has been used/deployed/develop with a concrete purpose and certain measurable results. Big companies and Public Administrations has also develop many experiences. 

But overall, it seems to me that we haven't yet get the solution to spread our "innovation and culture" in a structured manner, so every community can repeat some basic processes to grow locally and get feedback from these initiatives. For several reasons, many people out there are using our software, but GFSC and the local agents are not properly connected so any of them are taking all the possible advantage. It is hard for us get benefit out of it to let our communities grow. Most of the time it is just a one way street...

GFSC want new contributors that allow us to build new code (and related activities) along with new power users to test and notify bugs and possible improvements. We use internet as the main communication channel and organize events all over the world to accomplish that goal. It takes an affordable amount of resources to execute those action and support the needed infrastructure that allow us to grow every year. But that growth is linear and have little impact in a localized area most of the time. I guess the strategy must be different if we want to create well established local nodes to generate a big impact. And spread them.

How can we move that distributed innovation done by GFSC to a certain geographic area? How an innovation node that helps local economy giving engineers, companies, etc. new chances can be created ? How can we do it in a way that GFSC get feedback? How do we replicated and spread them? Is it possible to do it by ourselves, with our own culture?

I'll write a couple of posts during the following days with some ideas I have related with this topic. These ideas are the fundamentals of a proposal sent to a City Council from Spain to try to create a local node of innovation related through Free Software Communities.

If you know an example of local groups of people that have done sustainable actions in a certain area resulting in increasing the number of contributors in a specific GFSC along with improving the local economy, promoting the creation of local companies, deploying new tools, bringing users to Free Software, etc. please add a link or write s brieft summary. I would like to know about it.

There are several more recent posts about this topic. Please chack them if you are interested: 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

KDE 4.8 release party in Malaga

If everything goes as expected, KDE will publish a major release on January 25th. Our KDE 4 series keep improving with the 4.8 version shipped with many new features.

After releasing two beta versions and another two candidate releases (check the announcements for further information), the moment to feel a new freedom experience with KDE 4.8 Platform, Workspaces and Applications has come and we want to celebrate it all over the world.

If you are around Malaga, Spain, on Friday Jan 27th, come to our release party and bring your family and friends with you. We will have a great time. Please add yourself to the list (if you are a KDE member) or send me an e-mail, so we can make an accurate reservation in La Garrafa restaurant.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Should we go for another Desktop Summit?

During more than a year, back in 2008 - 2009, I invested a good amount of hours, along with many friends, local contributors and companies, KDE and GNOME members, local public administrations and universities, sponsors, etc. to make true an attractive and risky idea: co-hosting GUADEC and Akademy in Gran Canaria. Two years later, another great group of people did exactly the same to take that idea further, creating a better defined product, the Desktop Summit.

The last few months both communities are discussing about the results of that effort and the challenges we have ahead us. I would like to share my vision. I've found tons of arguments to support it. It is pretty clear to me. I've just written what I think are the most relevant ones.

  1. I've written in the past my concerns about keep laying most of the organization tasks on volunteers and pretending at the same time to celebrate a big and high quality event. That is simply impossible. Every time we get the best we can give. The question is if that enough to achieve our goals in the following years. Do we have other options? Our communities deserve and demand a well organized event. That takes a lot of resources and people. I have no doubt that sharing the organization tasks have made us more efficient.
  2. The Desktop Summit is far from perfect. But both, GUADEC and Akademy are not either. Promoting the idea that globally we loose more that we gain by joining efforts is not accurate.
  3. This joint conference is, by far, the biggest example of cooperation between two free software communities in history. It is an example, one more, of the idea that has bringing us here. Together we can do much more and much better. Supporting that this principle only works within our communities do not make sense to me. This is an universal principle.
  4. During the past two editions, there haven't been any single key issue that could not be solved in the future by representatives from both communities with effort and honest negotiation. We are walking through an unexplored field. We have done many mistakes and many more will come. This is a well known situation for both, GNOME and KDE. We know we can handle it if we have a clear common goal. We've done it in the past within our communities and we can do it during the next Desktop Summit too.
  5. KDE and GNOME boards have came to basic agreements that ensure a fair event for both communities in most basic aspects. Instead of concentrating our efforts on going 50-50 in every single detail, we should be putting our hands on multiplying the impact of our current efforts in every way.
  6. From the economic point of view, we have a better chance to succeed together than by our own. This might not be true in every Desktop Summit for both communities, but in the medium term I'm sure the Desktop Summit will be more profitable than the addition of both, Akademy and GUADEC.
  7. Our communities are mature. Both, KDE and GNOME have a well defined identity. We have a clear view of who we are and what we want. But most of the people out there don't know it. In fact, most of the people out there do not know we exist. We develop two great desktops but less than 2% of the market use it. Unless something dramatically change, we won't become relevant players in the next few years. We simply will face another "this will be the Free Desktop Year", once more. Our contributors, our developers, our users, deserve a different status quo. This event is, by far, the best opportunity we have to induce that change.
  8. In order to increase our impact, we need to reach a wider audience. Our current efforts should be complemented with media coverage. The Desktop Summit is the most attractive product we can offer them to help us.
  9. Having a joint conference do not put in risk our own branding. Fear is what is behind that idea. Fear makes us become conservative. Innovation, means exactly the opposite. Yes, the Desktop Summit is, somehow, about innovation.
  10. Being conservative with less than 2% of market share, having a good product like we both, GNOME and KDE have, is a huge failure in many aspects. Not trying seriously to change that situation is assuming we belong to our projects just for our own interest. The current situation is totally unfair, not just for our communities, but for every single user out there. Having a great product is not enough. We have to do our best for people to know it and, hopefully, use it. Nobody will do it for us.
  11. KDE and GNOME relation is not just about cooperation but about competition. Introducing this second aspect in a natural way during the Desktop Summit is good, very good. I would said that is even necessary. We just have to agree on the red lines. We can do it.
  12. GUADEC and Akademy have a different structure. The Desktop Summit cannot replicate both. The structure of an event must serve the defined goals by the organizers with the available resources. GUADEC/Akademy and the Desktop Summit do not have exactly the same goals. Once we understand this, the structure conflict becomes an affordable problem. I like to think that we want something new, something bigger and, in the medium term, much better than what we have now.
  13. The Desktop Summit takes a whole week. There is plenty of time for accomplishing GNOME and KDE self expectations and needs.
  14. Yes, becoming mainstream means assuming sacrifices. We have to face the challenge of keeping that cool sense of friendship and personal contact we have in GUADEC/Akademy. I think there are ways of doing it. To enforce this, I want to say that I support the idea of doing the Desktop Summit every two years, instead of every year. I understand we cannot have it all. We cannot satisfy everybody during the Desktop Summit...but neither during GUADEC/Akademy.
  15. Instead of dividing efforts, by celebrating the same year GUADEC/Akademy and the Desktop Summit (like some have proposed) I would increase the impact of the Desktop Summit by also hosting other desktops/distribution events like XFCE, OpenSUSE, Fedora, Linux Mint, Mageia, ODF, X.org.......Unity, Trinity (yes, why not?), etc. We have already taken the most difficult decisions.
  16. We are in the position of incubating a movement towards Freedom in the mobile world by inviting key communities and stakeholders to join us under the Desktop Summit umbrella. At least it is worth trying.

For all the above, and many more arguments, I do not agree with those who want to stop celebrating the Desktop Summit, but I do not agree either with those who want to basically keep the Desktop Summit as a KDE and GNOME joint event. I'm one of those who think that we should move further, leading others with our same principles to share our effort and rewards.

What we did in Gran Canaria and Berlin is not the Desktop Summit we deserve, the one I want. I see them as steps in the right direction. Let's take the next one.