Apache OpenOffice has hit the 30 millions downloads mark in just 9 7 months, and become one of our top downloads. We are glad to be part of this success, and we are proud to provide our continuous engineering contribution to the project.
Below you’ll find the list of new features we’ll be working on in the next months.
1) Platform and Content Migration to Drupal 7. The two sites, now on Drupal 5 (unsupported) and Drupal 6, will be brought to the same platform. Common code will work on both sites without need to be adapted. This will bring improvements in performance, user experience and multilingual support. All users, passwords (if applicable), and content will be preserved during conversion.
2) Technical improvements. Automatic management of updates will be available on Extensions, to enable update notifications in OpenOffice. The site will export RSS feeds with new content.
3) Search improvements. Search will be switched to an Apache Solr backend; this allows much faster search, autocomplete of search terms, “Did you mean” suggestions and “Saved searches” for each registered user.
4) Web 2.0 services. The sites will support RSS feeds to export specific searches (latest dictionaries, templates matching
“curriculum”) to other sites. New content will automatically be posted on dedicated Twitter channels. It will be possible to share on Facebook/Twitter each extension/template and to rate the content with the familiar 5-star widget.
5) Branding possibilities, replicated repositories. The sites can display different content and branding if called with different domain names (e.g., show only open source extensions when called as open.extensions.openoffice.org). The sites can also be easily replicated and reinstalled with full functionality (e.g., for a company-wide internal repository of extensions or templates).
During the process we’ll keep providing users support, including helping anyone who needs to understand the configuration changes.
SourceForge has been home for both the Apache OpenOffice Extensions and Templates websites for almost 6 months now. This is a great time to look back at what we’ve learned and let you know about some recent changes, new features and how this will affect the end-user experience.
The SourceForge Community Team receives a few emails a week from Apache OpenOffice end-users asking for tips and help; they occasionally also ask if the download statistics are reliable. We also get valuable input from developers on the Apache mailing-list, covering both the stats and spam issues, as well as some cosmetic changes (logo replacements).
We hope we have been able to capture all this feedback, below is a full list of new features that are now available:
Download statistics are now automatically obtained via the SourceForge API and are more reliable than the old system, in which the counters had been turned off and remained stuck for a long time due to inaccuracies in the counting procedures and incompatibilities with cache system. By the way, the SourceForge API is the same system used for the official Apache OpenOffice counter downloads. Additionally, since we can’t calculate statistics for externally hosted extensions as reliably, their download counters have been removed and they won’t appear in the “Most Popular Extensions” listings. This is also the case for Commercial extensions with no public releases. Note that the default home page of the Extensions site has been set back to “Most Popular Extensions”, as we believe that newcomers would probably benefit from having the top extensions in the home page. To provide visitors only meaningful statistics, the daily download numbers have been replaced by a link to a timeline with real-time statistics, charts and analysis.
The new antispam system is now on line on the Extensions site. We’ve tested it extensively. Since the live site receives up to 50 spam submissions per day it was pretty easy to figure out if it was working properly. It has been in operation for over a week and so far has proved very effective. For end-users this means meaningful comments are more visible and the possibility of adding comments if needed (something we had to temporarily block for some titles because of the spam).
We updated the graphic theme of the site and the primary links to reflect the new name and new logo for Apache OpenOffice. In this way visitors can more easily identify these sites as the official repositories of OpenOffice Extensions and Templates, and they can be confident that they are still maintained.
[updated 8/16/2012] We completely removed the legacy OpenOffice.org authentication and inserted updated, localizable explanations both on Extensions and Templates. This will make easier also for non-English readers to access the Extensions and Templates websites.
Allura is the software that powers SourceForge’s developer experience. It offers source code hosting, discussion forums, issue ticket tracking, wiki, mailing lists, and much more. It’s been Open Source from day one under the Apache License, and we’ve decided that we want so much more.
By submitting Allura to the Apache Incubator, we hope to draw an even wider community of developers who can advance the feature set and tailor the framework to their needs. With the flexibility and extensibility Allura allows, developers are free to use any number of the popular source code management tools, including: Git, SVN, or Mercurial. We are indeed willing to turn our own open source platform into a tool that everyone can use and extend, and we believe Apache is the best place to steward the process.
The Apache Software Foundation is a non-profit that provides the legal and technical environment for Open Source projects to flourish. The Incubator is the mechanism for accepting new projects into the foundation. Today we’ve submitted our proposal to the Incubator, and over the coming weeks and months, will continue building a larger community around Allura.
We’re very excited about this step and think that it’s going to be a big turning point in the history of SourceForge. Many of us are thrilled because we have been huge Apache fans for more than a decade, and have been actively working to support the Apache OpenOffice podling. We look forward to collaborating with some of the brightest people in the world, and benefiting the thousands of Open Source projects that are hosted at SourceForge. It’s clearly the best of all possible worlds.
You can read more about Allura features, and you can read more about the Apache Incubator. We hope to be joining a truly stellar group of projects in the Incubator.
If you want to participate in the Allura development, there are many ways for you to get involved. There’s the source code, documentation, UI/UX, and just using it and telling us what you like or don’t like. We’d love to have you as part of the Allura development community.
Rich: The last time that we spoke was at ApacheCon, and things were at a much earlier stage then. Tell me what’s happened since then with the community so far as getting them on board with the Apache Way.
Ross: Probably the biggest change since then – which would be back in November – I think the biggest change since then would be that the community has accepted the fact that there isn’t an owning influence who is just going to make things happen for them. So, in the early days, it was, well, who’s going to do our marketing for us, who’s going to do our conferences for us, who’s going to do this, who’s going to do that. And the Apache Software Foundation isn’t set up to do that kind of thing. It doesn’t do that kind of thing. The individual projects have to do it. So I think that’s probably the biggest thing. The project community has recognized that if we want something doing, we’ve got to find a way of doing it ourselves. Once they figured that out, well, they started moving pretty quick. And of course we culminated last week in the release.
Ross: Yeah, very much so. The Foundation only exists to provide a legal entity in which the project can exist. It doesn’t exist to control the project, or babysit the project, or make sure the project succeeds. That’s entirely up to the community. So the community does have to become part of the Apache Software Foundation in order to get the most from it.
Rich: What’s the next step? Now that there’s a release out there, and the release is fully under the Apache software license, what’s the next step to getting out of the Incubator?
Ross: Probably each of the mentors has a different opinion on that, so I’ll give you my opinion. I think that there are still some IP issues that needs to be addressed with code that isn’t in the release. The release is IP-clean, and is under an Apache license. But there are still some questions over some of the items that are in the repository as to whether or not they can remain in the repository as it becomes a top-level project. But they’re quite minor, compared to what the team have been working on in order to get the release out there. There is no real issue in terms of diversity. Certainly there is no question about the fact that there is one specific employer who is providing a great deal of input to it. But there are a significant number of people who are independent, and working for other organizations, that are active and showing leadership within the project. So I don’t have any concerns about diversity. So that one’s pretty sorted. And that’s about it, really. It’s just the final cleanup of the items that are used in building the OpenOffice code base, which should take really a matter of weeks, and as far as I’m concerned, I’d be happy to talk about graduation at that point.
Rich: What’s the relationship between the Apache OpenOffice community and the Templates and Extensions communities? Is there a lot of overlap there, or are they just kind of far flung?
Ross: There is some overlap. The Extensions and Templates communities are able to release their software and their plugins and so on, under whatever license they want. And what that means is that they can’t be hosted – or some of them, at least, can’t be hosted within the Apache Software Foundation’s infrastructure, because we only release code under the Apache software license. In those cases, it’s difficult to say that they’re part of the same community. They obviously would be part of the testing community, making sure that their extensions work within OpenOffice. But they maintain their own software, their own extensions, and so on, externally. We’ve had SourceForge step forward to help resolve that problem of, where do these people host stuff. Previously that was owned and hosted by Sun/Oracle. As I said, we can’t host non-Apache licenses, and the project team felt it wasn’t appropriate to demand that all of the extensions became Apache licensed. So SourceForge stepped in. SourceForge are now providing the hosting site for all of those. I’m sure SourceForge would be quite happy to provide development tools for those extensions, since that’s what SourceForge do. And of course the OpenOffice community is welcoming to anybody who wants to come in and help us improve the extension mechanisms within OpenOffice. So there’s overlap, but there’s certainly no requirement for extensions developers to become part of the Apache community.
Rich:Jürgen told me a little bit about where he expects the project to go in the future. As a mentor of an incubating project, what’s your thing going forward? Do you remain part of the project once it graduates, or is that the end of the road for your involvement?
Ross: As a mentor, that’s the end of the road for my involvement. Once the project graduates, they’ve shown that they understand the Apache Way and that they’re operating according to the way that we expect projects to operate. I would step down as a mentor. I may or may not choose to remain a member of the community. I’m not an OpenOffice developer. I’ve never been an OpenOffice developer. And I don’t expect to become one. So it’s not likely that I myself would remain a committer. But I think some of the other mentors will stay around, will go with the project. They would then become just normal members of the Project Management Committee with equal rights to everybody else in the community. If I wanted to regain those rights, as it were, after stepping down, then I would have to start from scratch, just like anybody else who would be joining the project fresh.
Rich: So, to be a mentor of an incubating project, you don’t actually have to be a developer on that project, or even familiar with the code base?
Ross: Absolutely not. No, our job is not a technical one at all. We have no opinion … as mentors, we have no opinion on where the project should be going technically. We’re only there to help the project community find their way in the Apache Software Foundation, understand how to get things done on our infrastructure, understand the processes behind our I.P. due diligence, release, etc., understand where to ask questions when they don’t know how to do something, all that kind of thing. We give them a leg up, if you like, into doing things the Apache Way. But we absolutely don’t need to be part of the technical team. And in many ways, it’s best if we’re not part of the technical team, because it’s good for the project to feel … good for the project community to feel that they are in control of the technical aspects of their project. They don’t come to Apache in order to get technical guidance, so it’s a good idea, as far as I’m concerned, if the mentors are not technically engaged with the project.
Rich: How has it been working with the OpenOffice community?
Ross: Something needs to be said about the strength of the community around Apache Open Office. It’s come here in a very difficult situation. There are certain tensions within the community – the original OpenOffice.org community, that have absolutely nothing to do with the current community members within the Apache OpenOffice project. And whilst it’s been a rocky road along the way sometimes, there’s been some rather messy things said in public, I think we’re beginning to see real collaboration between the other ODF projects in the community and the environment, and the OpenOffice community. We’ve seen it in a number of security issues that have come up during incubation. We’ve seen it in some of the code enhancements that are going on in there. We’ve seen it in some of the documentation work that’s happening. And I think now with the release of the Apache OpenOffice project, that can only increase. So, anybody who’s been sitting on the fence, waiting to see what happens with respect to these communities, please come along. Don’t sit on the fence. Do participate. We do want to build a stronger Open Documentation Format Foundation. And we want to be able to collaborate where appropriate on the code that works with those documents. So, having people like SourceForge step up, IBM, SugarCRM, and the hundreds of independents who are out there who are getting involved in various ways – we need to see more of that happening. We need to see more and more people come in and working under the Apache OpenOffice banner, and contributing back to the ecosystem as a whole, as a result.
Rich: Thanks a lot for taking the time to speak with me.
The Apache OpenOffice community is much larger than just OpenOffice itself. There are also thriving communities that create various add-ons to OO, such as extensions and templates. And because many of these addons are not distributed under the Apache Software License, when OO moved to the Apache Software Foundation, SourceForge offered to host some of that stuff.
As home of these two sites, we are gathering some statistical information, about top downloads, top countries and operating systems. Top downloads are probably of great interest to end-users, so that they might know at a glance which extension or template may be of interest to them.
There’s not much difference between the top countries by downloads between Extensions and Templates. Considering that few of them are language dependent this comes with no surprise, though.
The situation for Operating Systems is actually different, and it could probably inspire some speculations. We’ll keep monitoring these metrics and we’ll regularly keep you posted.
I recently spoke with Russell Ossendryver, the author of that business card template, about how he got started working on this.
This all started when Worldlabel.com sponsored a Openoffice.org template contest. They became interested in trying to help the community develop a large archive of user friendly templates. When the template repository site launched, it was obvious that there was a lack of business card templates for the community, so Russ decided to create a simple Business Card template design which can be used universally. He used basic design functions available in Openoffice including insert image, text boxes, created color gradients and more. He also decided to write a howto on making business cards.
Rich: What skills are required to contribute a template to the OO project?
Russ: Very little skills are required. Some basic knowledge of how to use tables, inserting a text boxes and changing font type is all what is required. Of course the skill needed for some templates is extremely high, for example a perpetual calendar in a spreadsheet is complicated.
Rich: What’s the motivation for contributing a template to the community, rather than keeping it to yourself?
Russ: There is nothing like sharing, and if ones creation can help others that is extremely rewarding. There is also some satisfaction creating a template which becomes popular and is greatly needed. I must admit, i check once in a while to see how popular my templates are. Its kind off competitive making it fun -:) The more willing people are to give, the likeliness of people joining in increases.
Rich: What’s missing? (i.e., what templates could I contribute?)
Russ: I think there is a little of everything, but we need more, there is nothing like a variety of choices for our community. Microsoft spends huge resources on their Office template gallery, so we need to keep adding. If there is one area I think the community needs more templates is legal forms i.e. pleading forms But, we can also use more presentation templates, business cards, and resume templates are all ways popular.
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