[This article was contributed by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier]
OpenOffice.org has come a long way since it was officially rolled out in
October, 2000. The group has delivered a full-featured Open Source
office suite that is shaping up as a viable competitor to Microsoft
Office, at least in some markets.
The group is now looking to revamp its governing process. Until now,
decisions have mostly been made by votes on mailing lists or by the
project leads of the various projects that make up OpenOffice.org. Now
the group is trying to develop a Community Council.
has been kicked around for some time, and is currently being voted on.
We talked to one of the originators of the proposal, Josh Berkus. Berkus
is a marketing volunteer for the OpenOffice.org project. According to
Berkus, the proposal has been making the rounds for about a year before
it got to the final draft that is now being voted on.
In general, he says the Council will be similar to a steering committee.
It will help set release dates, coordinate efforts between the
OpenOffice.org community and Sun Microsystems, and coordination between
specific projects in the project. Berkus also noted that the Community
Council will handle some member issues that the group was ill-suited to
handle in the past.
We had a problem with somebody who specifically needed to be expelled
from the project and blocked from rejoining...we didn't have any
structure in place with designated authority to kick this person out,
which is another thing we sort of need.
Another responsibility for the Council will be to assign resources if a
company or organization wants to donate developer time to the project,
without a specific feature or goal. Also, Berkus noted that the current
structure is not set up to handle donations of money. "The first task is
to come up with a legal structure that allows us to accept money."
Berkus wasn't sure if the the organization would be seeking non-profit
status or not.
The Council will consist of five project leads elected from the leads of
accepted projects, Lang (language) Representatives, a Community
Contributor Representative and a representative from Sun. The project
leads and language reps will have twelve-month terms, and the Community
Contributor will hold a six-month term. Sun's rep will be seated for
whatever term Sun chooses. The goal is also to stagger elections so only
half of the seats are up for election at one time.
When speaking to Berkus, he mentioned that having language group
representatives was particularly important. According to Berkus, it can
be extremely difficult for non-English speakers to participate in
discussion lists that are conducted in English and that being
effectively shut out of important lists can lead to misunderstandings
and communications issues. "Having them know they have a rep on the
Community Council and they have a voice, should do a lot to head off
that kind of a problem...they don't have to feel alienated."
One thing that is unusual about the Community Council, for an Open
Source project, is that some of the work will take place behind closed
doors. In fact, the Community Council members will have to sign confidential
disclosure agreements. Berkus explained that, from time to time, the
group would be discussing plans that relate to Sun's StarOffice strategy
and that it wouldn't be prudent to do that in the open where Microsoft
could oversee the StarOffice strategy and revise theirs to match.
Berkus said that the Community Council would not be likely to dictate
new features, though they could help coordinate non-technical members of
the Community with the technical teams that could implement new
As far as new features go, we should be seeing some pretty soon.
According to the public roadmap, we should be seeing a public beta of
OpenOffice.org 1.1 as early as this month and a final release of 1.1
sometime in July. We all know, however, how changeable software release
dates are. From the roadmap and release notes for build 643,
OpenOffice.org 1.1 looks to be mostly improvements on existing features
and further refinement of the program in general. However, there are a
few noteable features that many users will find compelling.
At the top of the list is native PDF export capability. Filter support,
in general, is also slated to improve in 1.1, including new filters for
DocBook, XHTML and FlatXML. A full list of changes can be found on the
site. Note that this list may be out of date, as it was last updated in
September; a few more improvements are listed on the
developer snapshot page.
Meanwhile, the first OpenOffice.org
conference is being held at the end of this week in Hamburg,
Germany. Expect more interesting news to emerge soon from this important
project which has only begun to shake up the desktop Linux landscape.
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