Planning For The Future

It’s been over a week now since I came back from the fantabulous FOSDEM, and have had a chance to digest a lot of the conversations I had whilst there. One of the conversations I had was with a senior developer who was in a sort of Special Interest Group. He mentioned to me that his management had asked the SIG to formulate a plan for where they wanted to see their project in five years, and how they aimed to get there.

Now I thought about that idea for a while, and to be honest I find it a really difficult question to answer properly. So I thought I’d ask my fellow community members (whether that’s openSUSE, Bongo or whatever) how would you answer that question in relation to your chosen project? I can invariably only come up with a partial answer, not a full where and how. Let me try and show you what I mean.

I’ll take Bongo as my first example. For those that have no idea what Bongo is let me explain: Bongo is an evolution of some forward thinking by some people who used to work at Novell. It started out as the Hula Project; then Novell sold the related assets off due to strategy alignments (or whatever); a few of us wanted to continue and forked the code and created the Bongo Project. OK so that’s a brief history but what is it? Bongo is a lightweight and simple e-mail & calendaring solution, it is based on proven technology – the heritage goes back to NIMS if I’m not mistaken. Whoopee do there are like a million and one e-mail solutions out there. Yes but not all in one solutions that are light on resources and contain all functions. Bongo is NOT a groupware product, it is aimed at SMBs, geeks education and pretty much anyone that just wants e-mail, calendaring and contacts. Think of it as a FOSS solution to provide the functionality of Gmail Google Calendar. Here endeth the history lesson.

Back to the example. So I need to list where I would like to see Bongo in five years time, OK how about:

  • Used by a large number of education and SMBs
  • Shipped with all the major distributions
  • Mimicked but never beaten by potential competitors
  • Partnering with other projects to maximise reach
  • Leading edge web front end
  • Hooks for multiple languages/frameworks
  • Large developer community
  • Large user community
  • Global domination

Now the trickier part – how to achieve those goals. So far all I can come up with is (in no particular order):

  • Canvas more developers that are interested in the e-mail/calendaring space to join in
  • Advertise and market Bongo
  • Actually get a working WebUI done
  • Look at existing solutions and try and learn from them
  • Speak to distributions and see if they can help
  • Win the lottery

As you can see the list for where is larger than the list for how. Sure I could expand the latter a bit by being more detailed but this is supposed to be a bullet list with summaries not an essay. In my view one needs to get a list to work from and then expand on it, maybe even categorising the bullet points to see what/how/where/when and also explaining why.

Now Bongo is a relatively simple project with a small user base and community, and a very defined focus. The other project that I’m involved in and care for is openSUSE, and lord knows that is no simple beast :-)

Let me try the same with openSUSE. The where:

  • At the forefront of distributions
  • Large developer base
  • Better toolsets for developers
  • Working better and closer with fellow distributions
  • Have a foundation that manages the project
  • Get more community contributors involved to lessen the load on Novellians
  • Learn from other projects to help improve us
  • Keep momentum going
  • Grow the user base
  • World domination

Now the how:

  • More active marketing
  • Speaking to developers of different projects to find ut what they feel is missing
  • Win the lottery

As you can see I’m woefully short on how on earth I am to achieve anything.  I’m open to suggestions :-)

I know for a fact that there may be one or two items that I’ve listed that could be contentious, and do you know what? I sincerely hope so :-) Now don’t get me wrong, I really do appreciate and am grateful for all the work effort and money that Novell has invested in openSUSE; but it isn’t fair at all for Novell to keep carrying the Project. If anyone thinks they’re not, you are living in lala land. Sure some of it might be their own doing, but a lot isn’t and it is up to us the community help them so that we can benefit even more.

I really do hope people start thinking, and doing it seriously about where they would like to see their preferred project in five years time. I would also love to see people’s responses as to Where & How they would do it. Anyone that starts screaming like my 21month old daughter about this or that will get a sound thrashing and ignored. There is absolutely ZERO room for pettiness in the community. If you disagree with something then great! Just make sure you are as detailed and as calm as possible about why and also how you propose to do it differently. This doesn’t just apply to this whole five year plan thing, but to general discussion.

Don’t loose your passion, just learn to use your passion ;-)