I’ve been struggling with the Zonbu concept of a “community edition” or “developer edition”.
Typically, the community that forms around an open source product has a vested interest in embracing and extending the product. They are users of the product. The improvements they contribute benefit all parties and are generally shared back with all parties.
In the case of the Zonbu, where the intention is to present a very consistent, proven and “locked down” desktop experience to the end user, I’m not sure how much enthusiasm there really is for the traditional kind of open source community involvement…
Are developers welcome or not?
In most open source project communities, the developer edition is the latest version, complete with bugs, surprises and the potential that the build will be broken.
Developers download, modify and resubmit their code for peer review and comment before it is merged back in to the developer repository. Ultimately an official release is issued based on a frozen version of the developer tree.
With Zonbu, I’m confused about how this is supposed to work. Since you don’t get all the latest and greatest updates unless you subscribe to the service, how are you supposed to develop for it?
If you download the “community edition” and then are not given access to the patches and updates, you will be using a legacy branch of the code.
How do you know your efforts aren’t replicating work that has already been done?
How do you know changes haven’t been made in the main tree that will materially effect your code?
An olive branch? Psych!
I’m not a developer, but if I was, I would not be motivated to engage with the “Zonbu Community”. I think I’d be much more likely to contribute to the open lightweight desktop initiatives Damn Small Linux and Puppy Linux.
With Zonbu, it appears that I would not be working with the latest code, or have any reason to believe the work I do will necessarily make it in to the finished product – I think I would find it difficult to feel like my potential contributions mattered.
I think Zonbu may, perhaps without realizing it, be extending an olive branch to the open source community and then effectively snatching it back by requiring developers to have a subscription to the Zonbu service.
Significant clarification of the official Zonbu position, as well as better documentation and tools being made availbale are necessary if the company genuinely wants developer involvement.
Is direct developer involvement necessary?
And who knows? Maybe they don’t envision that being important.
Maybe it would be more effective to actively fund and contribute to the existing projects that the Zonbu combines to create the stack.
In a way, I think Zonbu is blazing a bit of a trail with a new twist on how to deploy and benefit from open source software. I like the model, but when ever a trail is blazed, someone takes arrows in their back for the first little while.
No doubt this particular topic will elicit some strong feedback from traditional F/OSS developers, and it should.
Something doesn’t seem right to me, and my “spidey senses” have a pretty good track record. I don’t know the answers, but the questions need to be asked.