Looking at an SPI Project: OpenOffice.org

I’m not sure which is the second-largest of the projects supported by Software in the Public Interest, but I thought that OpenOffice.org was up there with them. It’s been a bit of a surprise to me that SPI hasn’t done more for them since they joined back in March: only about $1,000 has been donated that way, none spent and I’ve not noticed their liaison being very active yet. Following the release of OpenOffice.org 3.0, I took a bit of a closer look.

Stuff Michael Meeks is doing: Measuring the true success of OpenOffice.org suggests that the project is much smaller than I thought:

“In a healthy project we would expect to see a large number of volunteer developers involved, in addition – we would expect to see a large number of peer companies contributing to the common code pool; we do not see this in OpenOffice.org. Indeed, quite the opposite we appear to have the lowest number of active developers on OO.o since records began: 24, this contrasts negatively with Linux’s recent low of 160+. Even spun in the most positive way, OO.o is at best stagnating from a development perspective. “

OpenOffice.org is a project that produces something I don’t use much, but I recognise the significance of it. I’ve looked at contributing a couple of times in the past (nothing major, just bug reports and offers of help), but got utterly lost in the maze of websites and copious verbose descriptions written in management buzzspeak. (I spotted a “Report a Bug” link taking me to a page titled “Submit an Issue” for example.) Looking again now, OOo doesn’t seem much easier to navigate. I did find that SPI doesn’t appear to be listed on their donation page yet, which probably explains the low donation amount.

Another confusing thing: they don’t use bugzilla, but a less accessible fork called Issue Tracker. Even simple contributions seemed to want multiple registrations to websites, mailing lists and whatnot – that seemed to contradict a claim that “Joining OpenOffice.org is purely optional” – and a confused email question to an address listed on the website got a rejection/error in reply.

I’m sorry to say that I got confused, discouraged and moved onto other, easier things that I’d use more. Anyone else looked at contributing? How did it go for you? Anyone understand how this associated project works?

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