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August 28, 2006 / Steven Pousty

Firefox gets wind of our discussion

So I guess Paul and I mentioned Firefox one too many time to escape the notice of the Moz foundation. Asa (one of the founding devs on Firefox) responds to Paul’s post and set the record straight on the need for a firehose. I remember those discussions when they were happening at Moz ( I am a passionate Netscape -> Mozilla -> Firefox user ) and thinking it was a dumb idea to fork Moz for this smaller browser thing. Boy was I wrong and I think I have taken that message to heart for how OS projects really gain traction against an entrenched commercial closed source entity. Reading blogs like Guy Kawasaki’s and Creating Passionate Users only furthered reinforced those feelings.

Please remember the comments I am making are directed specifically to Paul’s comments and not to open source GIS/spatial libraries in general.



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  1. Paul Ramsey / Aug 28 2006 10:01 pm

    I do not think Asa really set the record straight on the firehose issue, so much as gave his particular perspective. The subtext of his posting (“it’s been only four years since the first public release of what would eventually be called ‘Firefox'”) is that Firefox was born four years ago, and is now the user succes we see today.

    In fact, it was built on top of 6 years of prior, fully funded, effort on XUL and Gecko by Netscape/AOL. Without the initial firehose giving them the starting point, it is hard to imagine them getting to where they are today. (Counter-example: Konquerer. I could very well just be a bitter, wrong person.)

    Anyhow, I would posit the geospatial equivalent would be if ESRI open sourced ArcObjects, I built a GIS desktop on top of it, then claimed that my achievement did not involve a firehose of money and was in fact a triumph of community.

  2. thesteve0 / Aug 29 2006 9:31 am

    Paul: I think ArcObjects is a bit extreme but I will leave Firefox out of the discussion if you want. I can point to MySQL, look at his latest interview on Kawasaki’s blog, their CEO claims its all about the users. Or look at JEdit, my interactions with Slava have been all about him trying to help me make things work better. Since if I was vocal enough to chat with him on IRC then there must be other users who would want the same things.

    My real point in this whole discussion is that I still think your statement that someone downloading the product and using it does your project no good is wrong.

    The better your project is at meeting user needs to more passionate users become about your project. The more passion there is the more they want to contribute to the project – be it money, bug reports, feature suggestions, and for the few that can write it, code. I actually do think the first paragraph of your response is controversial. The larger the user base the more people pay attention to you and the more likely you are to have cheerleaders.

    If Chevron started using your product but the only thing they let you do was say that they were using your product, you don’t think that would bring you value? I would say there would be other enterprise customers who start to evaluate what you do and some of them would probably want customizations. It’s all about the snowball.

    The marginal cost to give someone another copy of your software is close to zip – so why not try to get to as many users as possible since the more people using the more likely contributors you get.

    I can’t write very good C++ code but if I feel like the QGIS community cares about what I need and they work on the relationship with their users then I am going to find ways to help them the best I can.

    BTW, thanks for the conversation I really have enjoyed it and I would love to continue it over beer and pretzels…

  3. Paul Ramsey / Aug 29 2006 12:34 pm

    Thanks to you too Steve-o, perhaps we’ll meet in Lausanne (?) or next year at the UC and have that beer!

  4. Kisakookoo / Jan 23 2007 10:47 pm

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