Me, JoomlaShack, Joomla and the GPL


Over in the Joomla Developer's Blog it has been publicly announced that two people have resigned from JoomlaShack in recent weeks.  Whilst this fact is not entirely wrong - it is portrayed in a manner that implies my  dissatisfaction with the current stance of one of the JoomlaShack founders on the GPL debate.

I have made this post as I feel I must clear a couple of points up.

I am one indeed one of the people who is parting company with the Shack after 15 or so months of part time involvement. In this period I was an independent contractor working with JoomlaShack.  I am not leaving in protest at anyone else's actions - certainly not over (JoomlaShack co-owner) Barrie North's stance on this issue. If anything my feelings are generally in accordance with his on this issue.

The discussion follows some discussion about an action of Barrie's - his actions are his affair. I feel no need to apologise for (modern understanding of apologist) or explain/defend (original meaning of apologist) his actions.  I would point out that in a discussion/debate/argument one can show the weaknesses of an opponents position by arguing his point to its logical conclusion (or beyond - attempting to reduce it to absurdity).  Whether this was Barrie's intent only he knows - but that would be my reasoned belief

I have enjoyed my period of working part time at 'The Shack' and I am preparing to move onto new ventures. I would expect that helping people with Joomla sites will form a part of my work certainly in the short to medium term - but for the longer term I have my doubts. This whole GPL debate is in part responsible for my decision to take time out and consider other avenues - including other CMSs and maybe other categories of script altogether.

I have, like many, refrained from entering these debates. I am not a lawyer and my head hurts when I try to absorb some of the complexities of the GPL and other licenses. Rather than increase the 'noise' around the subject I prefer to monitor, read up as much as possible and listen to others more educated on the issues than myself. Another reason for keeping my mouth firmly closed until now is that I acknowledge I am sometimes a rebel and tend towards more extreme 'solutions' or outcomes. My very personal thoughts are more outlandish than the restrained arguments and debate of others.

Having said that - I for one have serious doubts about the future of Joomla without commercial (proprietary) add-ons, I don't like the way this issue has been handled (nor the way Joomla / OSM operates generally - lack of communication, lack of direction/aims/ definition of what Joomla is and who it is for, prioritising of project goals) and I am going to take time out to consider where my future lies - whether in an all GPL Joomla or with another CMS. I am going to try and educate my clients about the issues involved and let them draw their own conclusions.

I will say one thing though - JoomlaLand is not the place we all thought it was going to be 22 months ago. It still feels like a top down autocracy with those at the top spoon-feeding the masses. What happened to the bottom up, community led, aspirational project we signed up for when we followed the core (and brought our clients) away from Mambo...?

I know the developers do a lot of work - and I know it is a complex thing they do. I know they give their time freely to the project and I respect their decision to do so.

I love Joomla - and I still have a soft spot in my heart for Mambo. Between these two CMS's I have learned a lot, created a few worthwhile sites of my own, and I have shared a lot too - the odd component and a lot of my time. I owe the Joomla team - and that is a debt I hope I can one day repay.

I hope the Joomla project leaders can navigate this path - I sincerely don't understand the issue they feel they are addressing with this change of direction. (yeah yeah I know 'nothing changed' it is GPL and always was GPL). From their writing I sense they are pre-emptively moving to protect the project from some as yet unseen threat.

I can only guess at what this might be:

  •     Code contributors [Copyright holder(s)] making noises about bringing an action against Joomla team or third party devs?
  •     GPL world about to launch a re-education / re-assertion of what GPL is
  •     Fear at being excluded from GPL awards for not following the rules 100%

I don't know which of these is most likely. Or if they all miss the mark.

If this is just a couple of people at the top forcing a change more in line with their own beliefs and ideals just because they are now in a position to do so - then shame on you, and shame on your peers for allowing this.  I hope this last possibility is not as on target as it actually feels.

The Joomla team have been asked whether they would welcome a way to accommodate commercial components in a GPL compatible manner. The question was posed in a remarkably apposite manner, in three different forms within one thread - questioner against the whole of Joomla core, plus legal expert, plus partial  moderators.  The heart of that question was not whether the GPL would allow it, or whether it may or may not be possible. The questioner asks explicitly - if it were technically possible... would you want it?

The evasion in the thread is remarkable.  I don't think many impartial end users could read that and conclude that Team Joomla want to find an accommodation

Why I believe Joomla should find an accommodation for non GPL components

It is my assertion that the openness to commercial add-ons and the success of Joomla to-date are intrinsically linked.

Remember many of the 'open source' and free add-ons are produced by those same commercial proprietary developers. Some of the free components are made by people like myself who whilst not (professional) developers have a commercial interest in Joomla. If the commercial devs leave, chances are people like myself will follow. In other words when you lose the commercial apps you lose some of the free apps and you lose some of the more knowledgeable forum input. You have already lost people of respect within the community from the working groups.

If you lose the commercial developers you lose their commercial apps, their free apps, their tutorials, their forum presence and work-group presence.You also risk losing their client base as they advise present and future clients to follow them elsewhere.

You didn't want to do that did you?

Joomla GPL and FUD?

There is certainly an element of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in my writing on this subject.

I fear for the Joomla project 12 months from now, I am troubled by the uncertainty and I have doubts about where Joomla is going and whether it will still be the phenomenon that it currently is. So yes, this could be classed as FUD. Of course it is my belief that my fears are not unfounded or unreasonable - they are a reflection of actual FEAR as a direct result of actual UNCERTAINTY and actual DOUBT

I know I've gone on a bit, I hope that by this point I have clarified that I have not decided to leave JoomlaShack because I disagree with their stance on this issue; in fact their stance and mine are broadly similar, although my proposed solutions might actually be more radical than theirs. I hope I have also explained that I love Joomla, I owe the Joomla and Mambo projects, I intend to pay back more into these projects and these communities. I hope I have also explained my apprehensions about the lack of communication, the undemocratic nature of the Joomla / Community relationship and my fears for the project in the middle to longer terms.

Those of you who made it this far through my writing - I thank you for your patience. I hope to see you around in the future. 

Dean Marshall


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