In a world of Open Source [EN]

ir.org-front-smMy friendship with Open Source started during my studies in the university. Then i’ve found out that lots of commercial software products have their free equivalents which are not worse (and sometimes even better). I’ve found out about Open Source afterwards, also about various licenses types of this, you can say, worldwide movement, found out about Linux (free, open source operating system). Even my bachelor’s degree work was related to this thing. Because my work’s advisor was a huge fan of this stuff, used Linux operating systems and other open source programs. I won’t tell about my work’s results, there was not much practical use of it, more like a theoretical introduction about programs localization for Lithuanian language.

Bit by bit i have get rid of almost every commercial program at home and replaced them with free analogues. And when i came to my first workplace i was given a task to install an internal instant messaging system, and of course, better if free of cost 🙂 So that’s was the start of my now older than 10 years acquaintance with Ignite Realtime. To be true, at first it was a free system (instant messaging server – Jive Messenger) distributed by a commercial company Jive Software. Already then an active users community started to build up around this and other free products of a company. Company’s representatives themselves (there were just two men in the company at first) also collaborated and embraced ideas of free open source software. Their business direction changed later and the current free products became not relevant to them. So the source codes of programs has been made public (became Open Source) and handed over to community, so they could continue improving it. Also, for many years now Jive is providing community a place for a site, tools for registering bugs, installers production, collaboration.And now i want to tell about the other, not so pretty, side of Open Source. About the oblivion. Since majority of open source projects are driven forward by volunteers, who are writing code, registering bugs, paying bills for a site and traffic, it is quite possible that some projects miss those volunteers. Or volunteers don’t have time for the projects because of they primary jobs, family stuff, etc. Same happened to Ignite Realtime projects. If the server part (Openfire – formerly Jive Messenger) still receives updates occasionally and it has around 3-4 persons relatively active programmers team, then in the client part (Spark – former Jive Communicator) case there were no new releases for over 3 years and this project was sinking into oblivion. People in the forums were surprised that this project seemed like dead.

This year i’ve accepted the responsibility to take over steering of Spark project into my hands (actually, there were nobody to take it over from, as there were no project leader for quite some time), when compatibility issues of older Spark version and new Openfire version arose. By that time i was using testing versions of Spark at my workplace for about a year (200+ people). Testing version was functioning better than the last official release in my opinion. During many years the project has received many patches from different people, but there was nobody to release a new version. I’ve asked one of the community members to give me necessary permissions and to help with a new version release. So in this manner the project at least moved from a dead-point. But i’m not a programmer. I can’t fix complex problems, can’t add new fanciful features. Usually i’m fixing minor things, apply patches made by others and sometimes add some minimal feature based on examples of others. The project will reach a deadlock again without a good lead programmer or at least active providers of patches.

The world of Open Source is wonderful when everything happens by the good scenario. Alas, sometimes, when a project is less interesting and relevant, it might live to a not so pretty ending. I try to support free products, report errors, donate money to the most useful projects once in a while. I’m thankful for the opportunity to join the development process, help people with advises, to freely use such tools at my workplace without an additional investment.

But where to find more volunteers..?