There is a bit of a rant coming, but before I start I want to get out a couple of disclaimer bits.
There is nothing wrong with building a business on open source and nothing wrong with making profits from open source or paying peoples’ wages through it. I have written about the business of open source before. I am closely associated with Astun, a UK business that supplies products and services built on OSGeo technologies, I hope that most of the time we succeed in getting the balance right betweeen making a profit, looking after our staff and supporting the UK OSGeo community. This post has nothing to do with Astun, these are my thoughts not their’s.
I have enormous respect for Boundless (formerly known as OpenGeo) who have done an enormous amount to evangelise open source geo within the US government market and have contributed a hell of a lot of code and other resources to the OSGeo community.
But … you must be wondering where this is going?
Boundless have been rubbing me up the wrong way for a while now with their press releases (that’s a Brit colloquialism which does not have the vulgar connotations that some of you may imagine – think snakes, whoops that may also not work for you, forget this bit). If you aren’t a member of the OSGeo community (e.g. you are a potential customer) you might be forgiven for thinking that Boundless single handedly developed all of the software on which their products are based, you might even confuse Boundless for the whole of OSGeo. “That’s a bit strong” you say, well consider a couple of their recent press releases.
Let’s start with Boundless Launches Complete Open Source GIS Platform for the Enterprise – a couple of snippets:
Boundless, the leading provider of open source geospatial software and services, today announced the launch of its latest products designed to enable organizations to successfully transition to the open source GIS platform. The new offerings are powered by trusted open source projects, and include support along with value added services and productivity tools.
So far, so good, nothing to complain about. But read on
Boundless Desktop (powered by QGIS) – A powerful desktop GIS used to create, edit, visualize and analyze geospatial information on Windows, Mac, and Linux. QGIS supports both raster and vector data, and is used by GIS professionals around the globe.
“powered by QGIS” – come on guys, it is QGIS! Why not say so?
Comments Andy Dearing, CEO Boundless. “We enjoy working closely with the community and our users to provide the tools and support they need to be successful.”
Well, if you enjoy “working closely with the community” maybe call a spade a spade (another Brit colloquialism) or even a QGIS a QGIS because I am sure ‘the community’ doesn’t enjoy having its work misappropriated.
“You are overly sensitive, Steven” you might be thinking. Let’s have a look at another, Boundless Commits to FOSS4G Education:
Boundless is proud to announce the creation of its academic engagement initiative. Innovation in education drives the foundation of this initiative.
Doesn’t OSGeo have its own “academic engagement initiative”? Oh yes, it’s called Geo4All and it has been running for at least 3 years under that name. Big respect to Suchith Anand who has been the driving force behind this initiative setting up over 100 Geo4All labs around the world. Shame that the press release makes no mention of Geo4All. To be fair, after I pointed this out to the Boundless twitter folk they did incorporate mention of Geo4All in the linked Engagement Plan. From my perspective, it would have been better to put Boundless’ resources and enthusiasm for education and outreach into the Geo4All programme rather than pushing forward with a separate initiative.
“You, really are touchy about this stuff Steven. Lighten up” Yup, I am touchy, because I see a pattern. Last one, I promise, but it is a gem. QGIS 2.14.1 Release is Now Available
Boundless, a leader in commercially supported open source GIS software, announces that its QGIS 2.14.1, the latest release of the premier open-source desktop GIS technology, is now available for download here.
The Boundless 2.14.1 QGIS release includes all of the core software plugins, plus the Boundless Connect plugin, which acts as a single entry point to Boundless QGIS technology and content.
“its QGIS 2.14.1 …” Gosh, you might be confused into thinking that QGIS was a Boundless product! Incidentally the “here” link takes you to the downloads section of the Boundless site rather than the QGIS.org site, I guess that helps the QGIS folk to manage their bandwidth even if it might slightly reduce their donations via the ‘Donate” button on the site. When I saw this, I sort of ‘lost it’ and tweeted
— Steven Feldman (@StevenFeldman) April 19, 2016
That got a good few likes and retweets. But to be fair to Boundless, they did insert an extra line into the post after the first line (possibly prompted by the feedback?)
Please go to the qgis.org site and check out all the additional powerful enhancements the community has poured into this release.
That acknowledgement of the “community” still leaves the impression that QGIS is a Boundless product or that they are the main contributor. Have a look at the list of contributors on the QGIS 2.14 page and also look at the massive list of sponsors and the humungously long list of individual donors. I know that at least one of those donors is less than thrilled at the idea that QGIS is a Boundless product!
Boundless, you guys are on the side of the angels. Don’t go over to the dark side and lose your friends in the community.
It’s time to rein in the marketing team, remind them that you build products alongside and on the back of the efforts of hundreds of other contributors and that often what you sell is not exclusively your own work. Please, be part of that community and promote the community alongside your own efforts.