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My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 11, 2013 13:10 UTC (Sat) by rcweir (guest, #48888)
In reply to: My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand by pieleric
Parent article: Results of the Apache OpenOffice 4.0 Logo Survey

We see movement in the other direction as well, LibreOffice users who get tired of the bugs and move to Apache OpenOffice for the better user experience.

But I don't see the fork as confusing. It maybe be inefficient, but it is not confusing. except maybe on Linux, where the distros silently replaced OpenOffice with LibreOffice. We've received complaints from users saying they were confused by that.

In the end we have two products, with two brands, and each has the opportunity to reinforce their brands with their marketing and with word of mouth, but ultimately with the results they deliver in the products.

LibreOffice picked their brand. I personally think it is a hideous name, but it is what they wanted. They actively promote and market it. They are now even buying Facebook and Google advertising to promote it, a very corporate approach. But what else can you do when word-of-mouth fails to penetrate further than the nano-share of Linux desktop users?

Would they do better if they had the OpenOffice name? Yes. But they'd do even better if they had the Microsoft Office name. Or Coca-Cola or Nike. But they are not any of these things. They are LibreOffice, dominated by corporate employees of two Linux vendors, and they'll need more than brand envy to break out beyond the Linux market.

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My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 11, 2013 21:41 UTC (Sat) by luya (subscriber, #50741) [Link]

With all due to respect, I think you have a personal grunt and vendetta against LibreOffice and its contributors. You knew The Document Foundation vainly attempted to get OpenOffice namefrom Oracle that refused the offer. It sounds like you attempt to revise the history by misinforming the readers about LibreOffice.
They are LibreOffice, dominated by corporate employees of two Linux vendors, and they'll need more than brand envy to break out beyond the Linux market.
You talk about contribution working for those corporation yet omitted the fact some of them were the original OpenOffice developers. You omitted the fact OpenOffice under Sun and Oracle disallowed external patches hence Go-OpenOffice at that time and it seems Apache OpenOffice want to continue the old tradition. The only argument you have is branding but no detailed information about the development. For me, it becomes clear the problem with Apache OpenOffice is you.

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 11, 2013 22:01 UTC (Sat) by rcweir (guest, #48888) [Link]

It wasn't my intent to write a book about the history of LO. The fact that LO "vainly attempted to get OpenOffice name from Oracle" is irrelevant. They failed at that. Apache didn't. This was two years ago. Time to move on.

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 12, 2013 1:00 UTC (Sun) by shmget (subscriber, #58347) [Link]

"It sounds like you attempt to revise the history by misinforming the readers about LibreOffice. "

Welcome to Rob's world...

oh, and when Rob says
"where the distros silently replaced OpenOffice with LibreOffice. "

He of course knows very well that the 'OpenOffice' on most Linux distribution was in fact Go-OO.
He also knows very well that his company _started_ its second (or third) fork -- with Oracle's trademark this time -- almost a year _after_ LibreOffice started.. and in the mean time Linux ditrib needed to keep-up, fix security bug, etc... and going back to the vanilla would have drawn a _lot_ more angry reactions from their users...

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 12, 2013 13:30 UTC (Sun) by rcweir (guest, #48888) [Link]

Yes, I know and you know that LibreOffice started as a Novell-led revolt against Novell had been behaving badly toward for many years and waiting for the opportunity. In fact readers might recall an article a while back where Mark Shuttlworth explained this:

"Shuttleworth has a fairly serious disagreement with how the split came about. He said that Sun made a $100 million "gift" to the community when it opened up the OpenOffice code. But a "radical faction" made the lives of the OpenOffice developers "hell" by refusing to contribute code under the Sun agreement. That eventually led to the split, but furthermore led Oracle to finally decide to stop OpenOffice development and lay off 100 employees. He contends that the pace of development for LibreOffice is not keeping up with what OpenOffice was able to achieve and wonders if OpenOffice would have been better off if the "factionalists" hadn't won."

But that was not what I was talking about. The insiders like us know what happened. But the change was silent from the perspective of the users. And the confusion, to the user, is real, not just my opinion. How do I know? Users have written to the project and to the distros and complained about the switch.

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 12, 2013 15:55 UTC (Sun) by pboddie (guest, #50784) [Link]

So, we have a quote from one of the principal advocates of copyright assignment agreements (or agreements granting extensive rights to project "owners") berating people for wanting to be treated like equals and not wanting to work for free and sign over their work to others (recalling also the absurd assertion that Canonical does all the quality assurance on Ubuntu and should have effective ownership rights to contributions). And in this quote, the thrust of which you presumably agree with, he labels those people and their seemingly reasonable demands for fair treatment as a "radical faction". Naturally, people only do this when they want to discredit others, as was pointed out in the discussion on that article.

Yes, I've seen people who have a fair awareness of Free Software being confused about what LibreOffice is, not knowing that it is related to Apache OpenOffice (or whatever it's called at the moment), but they pretty much accept it when they hear that it's not some new or niche office suite, and it doesn't mean that they are clamouring for AOO to be put back on their desktops.

Apache OpenOffice want to continue the old tradition.

Posted May 12, 2013 12:59 UTC (Sun) by Wol (guest, #4433) [Link]

Actually, I don't think that's true.

It's just a shame that licence compatibility between the two projects only goes one way - AOO to LO :-(

That said, I'm more comfortable with the copyleft (even if mild) approach of LO than I am with Apache's free-for-all.


My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 12, 2013 2:02 UTC (Sun) by keithcu (guest, #58738) [Link]

There are a few people moving from LibreOffice to AOO, but the numbers are very small compared to those going the other way for the many improvements and faster progress.

The fork is definitely confusing. How many people inside AOO know of the countless features LibreOffice 4.0 has that AOO 4.0 will not? They are ignorant / confused. And so are users who wonder whether LibreOffice can import their OpenOffice documents, people writing extensions who wonder how hard it is to support both, people providing professional support for the products, etc. How confusing was it for retail stores when they had to offer both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD? You might not find that situation confusing, but many other people do.

It is also terribly inefficient, a point you seem to be casually diminishing.

LibreOffice didn't "pick their brand". They picked a name. A brand is built, not picked. You seem to be confusing brands and names, so the fork has confused you.

LibreOffice wouldn't want the Coca-Cola name or the Microsoft Office name. They want the OpenOffice brand because they can add more value than AOO, and combining resources would give efficiency and resources gains over time.

This isn't about brand envy, this is about ending the mess of a situation like Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. The OpenOffice brand is the more valuable one, and LibreOffice has the better codebase, license, tools, people and vibe. If the resources and efforts are combined, great things will happen.

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 12, 2013 14:02 UTC (Sun) by rcweir (guest, #48888) [Link]

I disagree with your vision of efficiency. In one sense it would be more efficient if GM and Ford would stop their competition, their redundant factories, stopped confusing consumers with choices, etc. It would all be so much more efficient if they just worked together. That is the view of central planners, certainly, and one can look at the typical automobile in the Soviet Union to see what that kind of thinking leads to.

Without competition innovation slows. It is odd that we so easily acknowledge that it is good for Microsoft to have competition, and for consumers to have alternative choices like Linux, but our logic stops at our front door and we fail to see that it applies even within the open source world. It is good that there are choices of office suites in Linux: AOO, LibreOffice, Calligra, Gnumeric, Abi, etc. Is it confusing to users? Perhaps, but so is having the choice of 50 breakfast cereals.

Your Blu-ray/HD-DVD analogy doesn't work because those were competing and incompatible standards. We're not talking about that here. Both AOO and LO support the ODF standard as well as Microsoft formats. So a user should be able to switch from one to another rather painlessly, with no sunk costs or lock-ins.

As for your thesis that AOO volunteers are only there because they are ignorant of LO, I'd point out that we have several volunteers who contribute to both AOO and LO. I'd be interested to see how your ignorance/confusion model works there. Can someone be a contributor to LO and still be confused/ignorant about what the project is doing? Or might they just have different preferences than yours? I hope you acknowledge that this is, in theory at least, possible.

Finally, if you have any comments on the topic of the parent article, I'd love to hear them. I feel bad for the author of the article, whose efforts are being hijacked by LO'ers to rehash their tired old arguments.

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 12, 2013 20:50 UTC (Sun) by keithcu (guest, #58738) [Link]

You have offered a lot of analogies for the OpenOffice / LibreOffice situation: Ford / GM, the Soviet Union, Calligra, breakfast cereals, etc.

Unfortunately, none of them are useful comparisons and it just means you are confused 4 different ways.

In fact, you are confused in 5 ways because in the past, you suggest the fork should end:

So that means you don't believe the analogies you offer, or haven't (yet) noticed the contradictions in your head.

People aren't lacking in logic to suggest the AOO fork shouldn't exist. Here is a comment I posted to my blog by Mike Conlon, who has written papers about forks in software: We disagree, not because we lack logic, but because you lack knowledge.

Furthermore, AOO and LO have different implementations of the ODF standard. LibreOffice is constantly improving their ODF support. Every time they do this, it creates a new incompatibility. ODF is also not static and simple like the zip format which is easy to have multiple implementations of. Furthermore, what about incompatibilities in sharing macros, incompatibilities for people writing documentation, incompatibilities for companies trying to support both products?

I know there are a few people who contribute to both, but you'll find they are confused or have contradictions in their head, like you.

Don't feel bad for some of us hijacking the comments. Feel bad because you are wasting money, wasting the time of volunteers, creating confusion, hurting free software, helping Microsoft, an ineffective steward of the OpenOffice brand, too stubborn to listen to the people who complained about your plan 2 years ago, etc.

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 12, 2013 21:50 UTC (Sun) by rcweir (guest, #48888) [Link]

Keith, You've stated that people only contribute to AOO because they do not know what is going on in LibreOffice. I contracted your assertion by pointing out that some developers contribute to both project. You then responded by dismissing those LibreOffice developers who also contribute to AOO as "confused". This is not a very good argument, but it does have a name. It is called the "No True Scotsman Fallacy" [1].

Would I like the fork to end? Yes. Do I want a permissive license? Yes. Do I want high quality? Yes. I want many things, in various degrees, according to my personal preference order. This undoubtedly differs from yours. That does not make me confused.

Remember, if the fork ever does end, it will not be because of rhetorical flourishes from someone like you who neither contributes to LO nor to AOO. It will not occur because of bad logic. The fork will not end because you demonize your opponents as "confused". To end the fork will require some give and take on both sides, and if you truly want that then you might want to step back and ask yourself if your methods have any chance of success in this regard, or whether you are merely seen as the crazy bystander who inserts himself into the debate.


My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 12, 2013 23:29 UTC (Sun) by keithcu (guest, #58738) [Link]

Dear Rob,

A few people contribute to both projects, and very few of them are developers. How many of them have read papers on forks in software? How many of them have really thought about the opportunity cost compared to combining resources?

So you'd like the fork to end, but you also make analogies regarding Ford / GM, Calligra and Abiword, the Soviet Union, and breakfast cereals. Why do you make bad analogies? Either you should admit they don't apply, or you don't want to end the fork, or you believe contradictory things. Which is it? The people who contribute to both also have such contradictions in their heads.

My words might not be directly useful in helping to end the fork, but there are multiple reasons to write. For example, one of the reasons I write because I'm very impressed with the people in LibreOffice and want many more to join them. Success is not always binary. I also think you put out disinformation, and I feel it is important to combat it. I also think that maybe one day what many people are writing to you and about you will sink in.

I find it interesting you would feel the need to tell me that my words won't end the fork, especially because it is almost entirely up to your whims. Don't tell me what doesn't work for you to change course and do better, tell me what does. Also, please tell me what your contingency plan looks like.

I'm not demonizing people by calling them confused. They are also naive, lack knowledge on forks in software, don't consider opportunity costs, believe contradictory things, etc. I just use the word confused because it sort of summarizes the situation, and because you are part of the reason they are that way with all of your half-truths and propaganda.

I am a bystander, but one with a unique perspective. I spent years writing code in Microsoft Office, and after I left MS, I've spent years surveying the free software community. You can call me crazy, but it was intuitively obvious to me that your plan was a bad idea. And then I researched it and found almost 50 reasons which made the arguments against your fork even stronger than what my intuition told me: That is 2 years old now, but it is mostly still relevant.

So why is it that a crazy person can see things years before you? I'd not worry too much about me, and instead worry about what a mistake it was for you to not revise your incubation plan after you got so many complaints. That sounds crazy to me.

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 12, 2013 23:50 UTC (Sun) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

<conspiracy mode>

Ahh, so you've just admitted that LO is a microsoft plot to destroy the pure and good AOO

After all, you are a "former" Microsoft Office developer arguing for LO, against AOO

</conspiracy mode>

In case anyone didn't get it, the above is a combination joke and sarcasm

I was also very disappointed to see Apache setup AOO in the face of the strong go-OO/LO development that was happening. I agree that the OpenOffice brand is valuable, and am disappointed that Oracle forced the split and Apache didn't mend it.

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 13, 2013 0:28 UTC (Mon) by rcweir (guest, #48888) [Link]

Keith, I'm sorry the analogies did not make sense to you. Although I certainly appreciate that you have graciously offered me the choices of being confused or being a liar, I must decline your dichotomous thinking. Can't you acknowledge that different parties just might have different priorities and preferences? Why does it need to be black & white? I'm not saying LibreOffice is wrong or their contributors are confused or ignorant. I'm just saying it does not match my preferences.

You ask about a "contingency plan". Sorry, but LibreOffice does not enter into my strategic planning. Microsoft and Google do. LibreOffice specifically, and the Linux desktop in the broader sense, is a round-off error in today's market. I'm looking forward, not watching past trends recede in my rear-view mirror. Niche markets are not really of interest to me personally. But if they bring pleasure to you or others, then great for you. Your having fun with LibreOffice does no harm to my plans.

You're welcome to your "50 reasons against Apache OpenOffice" blog post, for what joy that brings you. I'll just need to cry myself to bed with the consolation that I have 50 million good reasons to the contrary.

Unfortunately for both of us, and although it has been entertaining, it doesn't really make sense for me to discuss with you further the topic of ending the fork, since you have absolutely no influence in that regard, not being a member of either project and not having anything to offer. Those who do already know how to contact me.

I'll leave you with the opportunity for the last word on the topic, so you can repeat for the 4th or 5th time today your assertion that anyone who disagrees with you is confused or ignorant.

Regards, etc.

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 13, 2013 1:40 UTC (Mon) by keithcu (guest, #58738) [Link]


It isn't that your analogies don't make sense to me, it is that they don't apply, and furthermore contradict your own statements on the matter where you suggest the fork should end.

You used to be shopping around an analogy about spaghetti sauce, and it is also flawed as I wrote about here:

So now you've switched to new ones, which also are invalid. Eventually, hopefully, you'll run out of incorrect analogies. Don't worry about what I think, you've got contradictions to resolve and I suggest you spend some time working on them.

I agree that sometimes it makes sense to create a fork in software, but not this time. That is why you are confused.

The point of this contingency plan is if one day you notice that you don't have a healthy volunteer community around your software, you are squandering the OpenOffice brand because you can't legally take changes created by the larger outside community, etc. and when you add up all the new data you are seeing, it is clear you need to do something different. It is for scenarios like this you would make a contingency plan. This is about looking forward.

I can tell you've not bothered to make one in case your community of volunteer developers, etc. dies. You should have made this contingency plan along with your original plan. Maybe it never will reach the point where you should execute it, or maybe it already has, but you should have one.

None of your 50 million downloads disproves any of those 50 reasons. All it demonstrates is that you inherited a valuable brand. That is why I bother to reply to you.

Why should 50 million downloads give you any reason to feel good about your decision to fork? It seems you don't know the difference between inheriting $50M versus earning it. You are confused here also.

BTW, LibreOffice is a niche percent of market currently, but it has some very important things: a better codebase and community. You should not be simplistic and look at LibreOffice's marketshare, but other aspects as well.

You were talking with me about things such as whether to end the fork. That is a hypothetical discussion you can have with anyone. If you actually wanted to end the fork, then you'd have to go talk to other people to arrange the details. But if you say you don't want to talk about the fork with me because I have no power, that is a half-truth because you could discuss many aspects with anyone as much as you wanted. And it could even be useful to you because you can't do something better until you realize why you would want to.

I never said that *anyone* who disagrees with me is confused or ignorant. Your attack is a half-truth at best. There are confused and ignorant people regarding this fork. You are the source of much of it with all of your disinformation like your spaghetti sauce analogy.

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 13, 2013 6:59 UTC (Mon) by spaetz (subscriber, #32870) [Link]

Dear Keith,

could you just let it rest here, please? I don't want to add you to my spam filter, but the whole childish he-said-she-said is quite annoying and tiresome (independent of who is right).

Sometimes it is sufficient to let things just rest the way it is. There is enough back-and-forth so that everyone can form their own opinion by now.


My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 13, 2013 8:37 UTC (Mon) by keithcu (guest, #58738) [Link]

Dear Spaetz,

You needn't have said anything, Rob was done and I had written my last response. I'm sorry if you found the discussion annoying, feel free not to read every comment in a discussion between other people.

It is important that people not be tiresome, but it is also important for the free software community not to shoot itself in the face. Such as to build up a brand and then create legal structures which ensure it will wither away.

I did repeat myself, but in general, I kept writing because there were new points to make. For example, Rob wrote in his last post he ignores LibreOffice because of its small marketshare. He made what I believe were numerous incorrect statements in every post. If you want to complain about how the discussion kept going on, you should talk to him. I also have plenty of other things to do in my life than read that I've been called crazy and more in a public forum by an IBM employee. You can complain about my writing, but I endured plenty of abuse while making it.

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 13, 2013 21:44 UTC (Mon) by Wol (guest, #4433) [Link]

And as the guy who actually wrote the licencing guff that appears on the LO contributor web site, why did I carefully write it to make it EASY for LO contributors to use the Apache licence if they so chose?

Okay, it's not LO policy that they should, but if contributors want to, it's easy.

And as a coder who is hoping to contribute a major feature, I *might* add the Apache licence precisely to avoid a fork. I might not, I'm a copyleft guy, so we'll see.

But I won't be mistaken - it will be a deliberate intent to avoid forking!


My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 13, 2013 21:38 UTC (Mon) by Wol (guest, #4433) [Link]

If improving the ODF support creates incompatibilities, then one at least of the ODF spec, AOO or LO is broken.

From choice, I wouldn't touch either LO or AOO for word processing - I'm still a WordPerfect fanatic. Oh - did you know that its file format was last updated TWENTY years ago, and that WP5.1+ FOR DOS can still read - and render pretty accurately - files written with the latest version?!



Posted May 15, 2013 10:04 UTC (Wed) by njwhite (guest, #51848) [Link]

> I'm still a WordPerfect fanatic. Oh - did you know that its file format was last updated TWENTY years ago, and that WP5.1+ FOR DOS can still read - and render pretty accurately - files written with the latest version?!

The stability of the file format is admirable. But according to wikipedia WordPerfect doesn't do Unicode, which surely limits its usability rather significantly for many people. Plus it's proprietary, of course.

Getting rather off-topic, but why do you like it? What does it have that LO lacks?


Posted May 15, 2013 15:55 UTC (Wed) by Wol (guest, #4433) [Link]

It may be proprietary (as in "owned by someone") but that is true of pretty much everything - including Linux.

It is also open, as in well-documented (often NOT true of projects we consider "open"), and freely available to use.

So, as a standard, I'd say it's actually a lot more free and open than a lot of stuff we happily consider free and open.

As for why I like WordPerfect - well first off I have to admit that from version 9 on (the Corel rewrite), I think it's gone badly downhill. BUT. What's to like? "Reveal Codes" for a start - I can see my document clearly in markup mode that shows me both *what* is happening, and *why*. If a wysiwyg program does something funny it's a real pain to try and find out what's going on. Many's the time I've been asked to debug a WP document, and in seconds it's been obvious what's happening, even with features I don't use and am unfamiliar with. And this markup window is an *editing* window. Secondly, and this is its text-screen roots showing (not DOS, it predates MS-DOS), it positively encourages editing properties in dialog boxes using absolute or relative positioning, *typed in as co-ordinates*! Thirdly, it's always been comprehensive, consistent and generic. When they introduced the label feature, they didn't call it labels, they called it "subdivide page". Which made it a useful and generic feature (v9 bastardised that, of course).

When I first encountered WordPerfect (v5.1 for DOS), I had access to about three other word processing programs, at least one of which I knew intimately, having enjoyed delving into its bowels over the years. Yet WordPerfect rapidly displaced them all as my favourite, it "thinks the way I do" and *really* *is* intuitive. I find Word, and Word clones such as LO Writer (and recent versions of WordPerfect :-( very UNintuitive as they try far too much to second-guess the user and hide things from them. WordPerfect was aimed at the professional typist who knew what they were doing. Word is aimed at the casual user who needs to relearn it every time they use it :-(

If I could actually find it in the shops, rather than pay full price on the web (I'm unemployed and can't afford it :-( I'd buy the latest version of WordPerfect like a shot. What I really need to do is get 6.1 for Windows working under wine ... that would be heaven! I've got an unlocked copy. If I could get an unlocked v8, even better!


My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 13, 2013 1:07 UTC (Mon) by ThinkRob (subscriber, #64513) [Link]

Mr. Weir:

If you're going to talk about how "corporate" one project's marketing and operation is compared to another, shouldn't you also mention who your employer is, particularly as they have had more than a little bit of an impact on the situation?

I know that officially your comments aren't representative of their stance, etc. etc... but I also can't help but note that your comments certainly seem consistent with which "side" of the fork they favor(ed)...


My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 13, 2013 1:46 UTC (Mon) by rcweir (guest, #48888) [Link]

I think you are the first one yet to suggest my comments are consistent with anything. I don't know if I should be insulted or not.

My profile has the disclaimer, "Opinions expressed are my own, and not those of my employer or any organization with which I am associated."

If someone happens not to know who I am, and cares to learn more, they are welcome to follow me on Twitter (@rcweir) or Google+ (

You can find even more Rob on my blog ( including a whole page on my various affiliations, none of which are responsible for my comments:

I also have some nice flower macro photographs on Flickr:

Any other questions? Maybe even (sacrebleu!) questions related to the topic of this article, which is the logo evaluation/selection process for Apache OpenOffice 4.0? Bueller...? Bueller...? Bueller...?

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 13, 2013 11:52 UTC (Mon) by paulj (subscriber, #341) [Link]

LWN user profiles are (AFAICT) annoyingly not visible to anyone, bar the user themselves and (I presume) staff (even then, perhaps they need to dig into the system).

My main problem with OpenOffice is the brand

Posted May 13, 2013 11:54 UTC (Mon) by paulj (subscriber, #341) [Link]

Oh, my "Personal Info" page says: "Your name and info will eventually be available to other users;" - as it has done for many years. Wish eventually would come!

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