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How To Kill an Open Source Project With New Funding

ScuttleMonkey posted about 6 years ago | from the money-still-the-root-of-all-evil dept.

Software 187

mir42 writes "The OpenSource multimedia authorware project Sophie, formerly hosted by USC Los Angeles, may just have been killed by new funding. The original funding organization, Mellon Foundation, approved a grant to redevelop the four year project from scratch in Java. The grant was awarded to a Bulgarian company based on their proposal, which is simply an exact description, including the UI and the artwork, of the current Sophie. Being an OpenSource project, this isn't strictly illegal, but let's say, not nice and definitely not innovative, coming from a former sub-sub-contractor on the project. Some of the original, now laid-off developers started OpenSophie.org trying to salvage the project. As the current version is still somewhat buggy and slow, it might just be enough to alienate all potential users of Sophie to the point that nobody will even try to use the next version. Have others faced similar situations? How would you deal with a situation like this?"

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Hang on a sec... (5, Insightful)

Chairboy (88841) | about 6 years ago | (#25249139)

Is this a legit question being asked at the end of the story? Or is this whole article a thinly veiled attempt to editorialize about an event the author disagrees with in an effort to drum up community support for his/her project?

It seems like Slashdot is being used as a hammer here, instead of just the normal server-blasting time waster we all signed up for. I don't like being used.

Re:Hang on a sec... (1, Interesting)

nbmorgan (459099) | about 6 years ago | (#25249437)

It seems to me when you boil everything down to bare essentials. You can be used or be useless.

Now hopefully you get something out of the equation yourself.

I think the author feels burned, and wants to know how to deal, in a way that is good for the community.

But the question remains does he encourage the fork in the project, walk away, or do something less obvious and more brilliant that's buried in one of the other posters minds. Oh. wait this is Slashdot :-)

Re:Hang on a sec... (1)

computational super (740265) | about 6 years ago | (#25249659)

I didn't even understand what the hell he was talking about, and I got the same impression. The tone of the summary doesn't make me care enough to dig any deeper. Glad it wasn't just me.

Re:Hang on a sec... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249683)

Let's get this straight, your objecting to being used to queue up and hammer an open Sophie yet your first in line? Well stiffen up, you know the old line, you have to lead, follow or get out of the way. :P

You are wrong. WRONG! Wrong, I say! (0, Troll)

multipartmixed (163409) | about 6 years ago | (#25249731)

It wasn't thinly veiled at all. Yeesh.

This is basically astroturfing.

No, wait. *coins new term*

This is bashtroturfing !

Re:Hang on a milli sec... (1)

Tuna_Shooter (591794) | about 6 years ago | (#25250325)

Dammit why is it when i read this kind of BS i start laughing so hard that i spit out a mouthful of fine wine on a friday afternoon???... God even my dog could compose a more veiled sales spiel such as this. Opens new bottle......

Re:Hang on a milli sec... (1)

youthoftoday (975074) | about 6 years ago | (#25250853)

Dogs composing veiled sales spiels? Photos or it didn't happen.

Re:Hang on a sec... (1)

qmx (933029) | about 6 years ago | (#25250377)

Probably they wanted the slashdot effect...

I would (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249145)

Install linux, problem solved.

Re:I would (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249531)

Damn you m$! Ruining another open source project!

Funding didn't kill the project (1)

dedazo (737510) | about 6 years ago | (#25249149)

It was a botched bidding process, obviously.

And wasn't there a community behind this project before? Why wasn't the funding given to them instead of a company in Bulgaria?

Re:Funding didn't kill the project (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249361)

It sounds like a hostile takeover where the community had no power and their duties were simply outsourced by the player holding all the cards.

For any given open source project, there's some kind of answer to the question of "who owns this thing?". When choosing a particular FOSS product as a key component of a project, you have to be aware of not only the quality of the software but the issues of its community politics.

There is baggage with commercial products also, but it's a different set of equations. (Like, if I rely on the product will they jack up the licensing fee, and is this company too small or too big to give my account the attention it needs, etc.)

I don't understand (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 6 years ago | (#25249175)

What exactly is the problem here? The old devs don't like something about the new project(the summary isn't clear what, and there's no article with more information), so they've forked it. Who exactly killed what?

Re:I don't understand #1 (3, Insightful)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 6 years ago | (#25249337)

"Someone does nothing but copy the existing output and claim it's a new direction, and bamboozling the funding organization into giving them the new grant".

Re:I don't understand #1 (5, Funny)

retchdog (1319261) | about 6 years ago | (#25249433)

Wait, I know how to solve the problem! The original authors should have claimed exclusive copyrights to the source code and distributed only binaries. Maybe they could even file for a patent on some of their methods.

Re:I don't understand #1 (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#25250849)

Maybe you should read the summary? "The original funding organization Mellon Foundation approved a grant to redevelop the four year project from scratch in Java. The grant was awarded to a Bulgarian company"

"redevelop from scratch in Java" (1, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about 6 years ago | (#25249877)

There's your problem. You just alienated all the developers.

Huh? (5, Interesting)

R2.0 (532027) | about 6 years ago | (#25249187)

I'm not even sure what the question is. So the project is being taken closed source? Or it's still open source but the original developers aren't included in the new plan?

From the description, it sounds like a fork is getting all the monetary attention - not unheard of.

Re:Huh? #2 (5, Interesting)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 6 years ago | (#25249423)

Let's subsitute another better known entity as an example.

"The OpenSource office project OpenOffice, may just have been killed by new funding. The original funding organization Sun approved a grant to redevelop the four year project from scratch. The grant was awarded to a Bulgarian company based on their proposal which is simply an exact description, including the UI and the artwork, of the current Open Office. (Having contributed nothing new.) Being an OpenSource project this isn't strictly illegal, but let's say, not nice and definitely not innovative, coming from a former sub-sub contractor on the project. Some of the original, now laid off, developers started FreedomOffice.info trying to salvage the project. As the current version is still somewhat buggy and slow, it might just be enough to alienate all potential users of Sophie to the point that nobody will even try to use the next version."

Clearer? When you submit a proposal for new funding as a replacement for the original Dev team, screenshotting the existing features is a bit slimy.

Re:Huh? #2 (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249797)

Clearer? When you submit a proposal for new funding as a replacement for the original Dev team, screenshotting the existing features is a bit slimy.

I still don't see the problem. What I read is:
Company gets paid to develop app that is the same as an existing open source app.

For f*cks sake, if people couldn't clone existing apps there'd be no open source movement.

It cuts both ways.

Re:Huh? #2 (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about 6 years ago | (#25249947)

The new and innovative part is where the Bulgarians make it work right by re-writing it in Java.

Of course, if the Bulgarians fail and end up with a slow, buggy program, they have reinvented the wheel. If they succeed, it makes the original project members look foolish.

Re:Huh? #2 (4, Insightful)

story645 (1278106) | about 6 years ago | (#25250523)

Clearer? When you submit a proposal for new funding as a replacement for the original Dev team, screenshotting the existing features is a bit slimy.

But from what I can gather from the summary, the whole point of the grant was

to redevelop the four year project from scratch in Java.

So in theory it's primarily a language swap, and the features and GUI shouldn't change much. Basically, I think the screenshotting is actually valid in this case, and honestly should be the guide for the new work.

Re:Huh? #2 (1)

jlarocco (851450) | about 6 years ago | (#25250559)

No, not really.

There must be some information missing somewhere, because neither version makes very much sense. The developers were laid off? How is that even possible on an open source project?

The confusing headline doesn't help, either. "How to kill an Open Source Project With New Funding". At first I thought it was going to link to an article showing an example of how increased funding had killed a project. Then I saw it was an "Ask Slashdot", and thought the poster was asking how one might go about killing a project with funding, which just made me confused as to why they'd want to do that. So I had to read the summary. Which just confused me further by being about a project I've never heard of, having nothing to do with the title, and asking questions with what seems to me to be fairly straightforward answers. Fork the code and get over it.

Re:Huh? #2 (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 6 years ago | (#25251327)

The developers were laid off? How is that even possible on an open source project?

The fact that a product is released under an open source license does not mean that the project does not have a regular, paid development staff employed by the copyright holder. It may or may not also accept community contributions (but accepting community contributions, while typical of open source projects, is not a necessary feature of open source project: you can develop in a completely closed shop with no community involvement and still release under, say, the GPL and thus be an open source project.)

Re:Huh? #2 (1)

R2.0 (532027) | about 6 years ago | (#25250861)

"Clearer? When you submit a proposal for new funding as a replacement for the original Dev team, screenshotting the existing features is a bit slimy."

I understood that the new vendor seemed slimy to the submitter from the original post - I did not need translation for that.

So he doesn't like the new developer - again, what is he asking? Is he looking to wrest control back? Is he trying to figure out a way to make his fork more popular than the "official" one? Overall, it comes off like my kids complaining that the gym coach took the new basketball and gave it to the mean kids, leaving them with the old flat one. Sucks, but...what?

Why? (1)

rakslice (90330) | about 6 years ago | (#25251285)

"Slimy"? Why?

It makes sense to establish some details of the project they're porting in the proposal, does it not?

Re:Huh? (2, Insightful)

collinstocks (1295204) | about 6 years ago | (#25249537)

From the description, it sounds like a fork is getting all the monetary attention - not unheard of.

Mod parent up.

This is, in fact, the whole purpose of open-sourcing something. It makes it so that somebody who has a better idea can implement it. If that idea is incompatible with the original project or not accepted by the project owners, the party with the better idea forks, and a new project is formed. If that project is legitimately better, it will be the one that gets monetary support.

I see nothing wrong here.

Re:Huh? (1)

try_anything (880404) | about 6 years ago | (#25249541)

The company's "About" page says, Astea has focused its initial activities on the open source market segment with a special focus on university, publishing, and research-oriented applications.

It sounds like the original developers are suffering from jealousy or control issues. Why try to revive a project that he admits is "buggy and slow" when someone else has a grant to rewrite it from scratch? Why get upset over the death of a project that had already stalled out in an (apparently) unusable state? Maybe making an exact copy is a poor use of the Mellon Foundation's money, but then again, it might be a wise idea. Having a reference implementation simplifies development immensely.

Re:Huh? (1)

mooingyak (720677) | about 6 years ago | (#25250423)

Yes, but how often do you get forked by Bulgarians?

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25251049)

Are you aware of where the word "buggered" comes from?

Sounds fair to me... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249201)

I dunno what the deal is... sounds completely legit to me. There's nothing in the GPL, or in F/OSS in general, that says that if you write something, someone else cannot come along with a better story, more money, more developers, etc. and take your code or even forking it out from under you and taking control of the project. They can also start selling support for it and making money off of it (even without additional development... just support it).

Relax (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249231)

Java blows anyway, the bulgarians will spend 8 years
on a slower, even buggier version of the project :-)

The plot thickens (1)

try_anything (880404) | about 6 years ago | (#25249737)

From Astea's web site:

Developed by Astea in collaboration with Impara GmbH (http://www.impara.de/) of Magdeburg, Germany, and a team of the worldâ(TM)s leading Squeak experts, Sophie is the Instituteâ(TM)s premiere effort.

Why is a team of the world's leading Squeak experts involved in a Java rewrite? The article summary may turn out to be a bigger troll than the one I'm replying to.

Re: The plot Squeaks! (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 6 years ago | (#25251217)

This is why the internet is wonderful.

I don't even know what "Squeak" is. Something to IceWeasel later. Today's vocab word FTW!

(Looking for new verb to replace "Googling".)

Duh? (4, Insightful)

sexconker (1179573) | about 6 years ago | (#25249239)

So you have something open source.
Someone takes it, throws money at it, and tries to do something with it.
This pisses you off, because they now have the resources to one up you on the project.

Excuse my ignorance, but I thought open source was supposed to be open and free so it would allow anyone to evaluate, use, improve upon, etc. a project, with the end result being better stuff for everyone.

If this company put up money to do something with a base they saw as promising, then they're doing exactly what open source is all about.

If your code/project is not covered by any license that forces them to keep it open source / attribute credit to you, that's your fault.

It seems to me your e-peen got butt hurt, and you're crying foul.

Jump to conclusions much? (4, Insightful)

argent (18001) | about 6 years ago | (#25249347)

Someone takes it, throws money at it, and tries to do something with it.

Except according to the OP they're not taking anything, they're re-implementing it from scratch in Java using the current UI as a guide. And it's Carnegie Mellon that's putting up the money, and who were (apparently) providing support for the original project.

Now that's not unreasonable, if there were problems with the original that CM couldn't resolve... for example, if the FOSS software wasn't going anywhere and they needed something that worked (which was my first thought reading the article). And, after all, it's not like there are no FOSS projects that have done the same thing (though if they target another FOSS project rather than a commercial one you tend to get some bad blood). On the other hand, it's possible that the Bulgarians pulled an end-run around the people at CM who knew what was going on and got some PHB to pull the plug on the FOSS project.

We don't know, and it's better to avoid jumping to conclusions... either that Sophie was stabbed in the back by the Bulgarians, or that Sophie was adrift at sea and the Bulgarians rescued it... without more information.

Re:Jump to conclusions much? (1)

fitten (521191) | about 6 years ago | (#25249401)

There's no "no stabbing in the back" clause in the GPL, last I heard (assuming the whole thing was GPL from the start). As long as their Java implementation is also GPL'd, what's the big deal?

Re:Jump to conclusions much? (4, Insightful)

argent (18001) | about 6 years ago | (#25250099)

As long as their Java implementation is also GPL'd, what's the big deal?

If they implemented it from scratch, what makes you think they'd use the same license? Or need to?

But more importantly, there's more to ethics than just following the letter of the law.

Re:Jump to conclusions much? (3, Informative)

jeaton (44965) | about 6 years ago | (#25249699)

And it's Carnegie Mellon that's putting up the money, and who were (apparently) providing support for the original project.

Carnegie Mellon [cmu.edu] is not the Mellon Foundation [mellon.org] . The Mellon is the same (Andrew), but other than that the two are unrelated.

Mea Culpa (1)

argent (18001) | about 6 years ago | (#25250125)

Apologies. I got my fruits mixed up. I must have been out of my gourd.

Re:Jump to conclusions much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25250763)

The new project in in java...

Don't worry! The new project will be huge and take 2 GB of memory just to run the GUI. I think they are safe... ;)

Re:Jump to conclusions much? (1)

oldhack (1037484) | about 6 years ago | (#25250877)

Summary mentions Mellon Foundation, not CMU, and apparently the project was hosted at USC.

Not only that... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 6 years ago | (#25249913)

They're insisting you rewrite it all in Java.

Way to piss off all the developers.

A better headline... (5, Informative)

lax-goalie (730970) | about 6 years ago | (#25249267)

...might be "How To Kill an Open Source Project With A Crappy Web Site".

I took a look at OpenSophie.org, and there's nary a specific description of what the project is, no screenshot graphics, and the only documentation and examples seem to be embedded in downloadable .zip files.

I'm not saying that the project's good, or bad, or bogus, but from the website, there's nothing that makes me want to litter my hard drive with zips from an unknown, untrusted source, just to find out more.

Re:A better headline... (1, Informative)

just fiddling around (636818) | about 6 years ago | (#25249619)

I'd mod you RTFA, but instead I'll hold your hand.

From the website, the user docs for Sophie 1.0.3 [usc.edu]

Re:A better headline... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25250293)

That's not OpenSophie, but the (equally open) new Sophie. So you're supporting grandparent's point. They have some demo pages too, whereas the OpenSophie website leaves us completely in the dark about what we can expect from the product. And where is that ajaxy web viewer it announces? Why not host a demo of that at least? This is the opposite of vaporware: "Here's a program I wrote. I'm not telling you what it does. Just install it and let it surprise you." If that approach ever worked, it was decades ago.

Re:A better headline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25251111)

Personally, I'd mod you as wrong. I noticed many of the problems myself. Face it, the site lacks any multimedia and, as such, is strange and ineffective, which, oddly enough, is just like your criticism.

Re:A better headline... (2, Insightful)

WK2 (1072560) | about 6 years ago | (#25251261)

Wow. Did you even bother to read the page you linked to? Or perhaps you failed to read the post you responded to.

The GPP already saw the docs download page. He was complaining that the opensophie.org web site only had documentation in zips, and that it lacked a description and screenshots. It is a legitimate complaint. Not only did you link to the wrong website, but both websites have the same problems. The GPP did not mention that the zip files at opensophie.org require that you use sophie to read them. So you have to download about 50 MB and use a special program before you can even read the intro.

I went to the sophie websites to learn what language the original was written in, out of curiosity. But that info is not available on their website, and I was not willing to download that large file just to find out.

Re:A better headline... (1)

pD-brane (302604) | about 6 years ago | (#25249687)

Maybe the website is crappy or minimal because they didn't want it slashdotted...
This underlines chairboy's comment in a previous reply: "It seems like Slashdot is being used as a hammer here"

Re:A better headline... (1)

story645 (1278106) | about 6 years ago | (#25250669)

no screenshot graphics,

But they do have somewhat useless screencasts [opensophie.org] . The frustrating part is that this is multimedia software, so they could put their manuals into the .sophie form, which would be cool and relevant. Then, they could just take some screenshots of those .sophies and throw 'em on the frontpage, and yeah that'd be way more informative than what's already there. And they totally need to find a way to display examples (html works just fine) without forcing people to download the software, 'cause the crowd they're aimed at (people who'd totally go for FOSS) is so not going to download random files and software to open those files.

So what? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249299)

Someone was apparently not happy with the current developers and gave the next job to someone else.

Dude, you had your chance. You blew it. By your own admission "As the current version is still somewhat buggy and slow" you programmed and released shit.

Re:So what? (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | about 6 years ago | (#25249703)

yes, it read like someone decided that while the UI and the artwork were worth salvaging, but the backend code behind it was irreversibly bad. And decided to give someone money to take the good parts and reinmplement the basic function. Kinda like Bill Gates looking at Windows Me and opting to go XP.

Re:So what? (1)

iNaya (1049686) | about 6 years ago | (#25250063)

Except XP didn't reimplement the basic function. It was an extension on Win2K and NT.

Re:So what? (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | about 6 years ago | (#25250139)

I just picked ME/Xp as an example where very little of the old ME kernel made it in the "next version", unlike previous 95/98/ME transitions.
And from TFA it is not clear if the mystery Bulgarians have an existing product to modify either.

So...what school supported it? (2, Funny)

m1ss1ontomars2k4 (1302833) | about 6 years ago | (#25249311)

What on earth is USC Los Angeles? As opposed to another USC? There's only 1, which is in Los Angeles. There's a university that's part of the University of California system called University of California, Los Angeles, or UCLA. That's not USC Los Angeles either. By the way, it's USC that hosted this project.

Re:So...what school supported it? (1)

cleatsupkeep (1132585) | about 6 years ago | (#25249381)

University of South Carolina maybe? I agree USC Los Angeles is a strange working, but it is not the only USC.

Re:So...what school supported it? (1)

m1ss1ontomars2k4 (1302833) | about 6 years ago | (#25249425)

That, apparently, would be SC. http://www.sc.edu/ [sc.edu]

Re:So...what school supported it? (1)

cleatsupkeep (1132585) | about 6 years ago | (#25249519)

Interesting, I'm always just going by what I see for abbreviations on like ESPN or something (both say USC there). Interesting it's just SC however.

Re:So...what school supported it? (1)

m1ss1ontomars2k4 (1302833) | about 6 years ago | (#25250305)

ESPN seems to disagree with you:

Here's South Carolina (abbreviated S. Car): http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4025270771943828974&ei=ZnjmSLjEJYTyqAPgjpzWDw&q=south+carolina+football&vt=lf [google.com]

And here's USC: http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=usc&sourceid=mozilla2&ie=UTF-8&oe=utf-8&um=1&sa=N&tab=wv# [google.com]

Note that these are both from ESPN.

Re:So...what school supported it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25250023)

Being a USC grad I hate it when people confuse USC with UCLA. But there is another USC - University of South Carolina - thus the "Los Angeles". Of course South Carolina took the name USC after long the true USC was using it, but that is another issue.

Re:So...what school supported it? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 6 years ago | (#25250483)

The University of South Carolina was so named in 1865. The University of Southern California wasn't founded until 1880.

Re:So...what school supported it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25251019)

University of South Carolina

You're not a Gamecock?

Jahshaka (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249329)

A very similar thing happened to the Open Source video editor Jahshaka. Apparently some very dark interests were involved, because the author had to sign an NDA. Guess what happened later? The project stalled, and the author was forbidden to even talk about it in his own forums. This situation continued for more than a year, with everybody wondering how the project was doing, and why it didn't advance at all.

The peril is not the funding per-se, but the contract. When a company wants to pay you to develop your existing open source software, you need to be wary about NDAs and changes in the contract terms. ESPECIALLY if the company wants to retain the ownership of your work!

Re:Jahshaka (1)

Jah Shaka (562375) | about 6 years ago | (#25249801)

tried to open up a bit but got downmodded to -1 :) http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=984735&cid=25249539 [slashdot.org]

Re:Jahshaka (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25250409)

it wasn't modded down. all your posts appear at -1 automatically, because you are a known troll.

Pathetic (4, Insightful)

Proteus (1926) | about 6 years ago | (#25249359)

It's not illegal. You obviously think your project is better than theirs, so act like it. I suggest you spend less time whining that someone "stole" your idea (if you wanted to keep it, why did you make it Open anyhow?) and more time writing good software .

Whichever software is truly more useful to people will get used, and people will hear about it.

Grow a pair and get to work.

Umm (4, Insightful)

Compuser (14899) | about 6 years ago | (#25249365)

First off, wtf is Sophie? Their page says it is "software for writing and reading rich media documents in a networked environment" and I am still as clueless as before? What does it do? I tried reading their user manual and gave up. It is utterly unclear. As best I can figure, they were making some sort of bastardized office suite. If so, why? Isn;t there enough of that already?
As for the question in the summary, what is their license? Both for the original project and for what this company is developing. Just saying open source is not enough when you are dealing with a fork.

Re:Umm (2, Funny)

Duradin (1261418) | about 6 years ago | (#25249477)

Maybe they wanted Office but in cornflower blue?

Too bad we didn't get a link to the specs the Bulgarians got. From my poking around it looks more like the bastard child of pdf, (la)TeX and flash *shudder*.

My guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249557)

My guess: A wiki. I am not willing to wade through that website to find out more.

This is BTW a common failure of open source projects:

(a) Select a "cool" name which has absolutely nothing to do with the function of the software

(b) Absolutely can't be bother to explain what the "cool" thing is about, except stating it is "cool".

(c) Structure your website in a way that is only useful for insiders

(d) Invent own terms, never provide easy to find definitions, if at all, and provide information only in your own techno blah.

If the communication style we had to witness in the article is the same style the (ex) project owners used to "communicate" with their sponsors I am not surprised the sponsors went with someone the apparently understood better.

Re:Umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25250033)

Sophie is not much more than HyperCard re-implemented in Squeak. The Mellon Foundation, which funds a lot of Open Source software for higher education under a license that is an Apache-derivative, apparently figured out that nobody wanted a Squeak-based HyperCard clone and is now hoping that more people will want a Java-based HyperCard clone. Because they want to convert books to the more...uh..."modern" hypermedia.

The crime isn't what Mellon is doing now. The crime is that Mellon funded this thing in the first place.

Re:Umm (1)

WeirdJohn (1170585) | about 6 years ago | (#25250301)

Back in the 70s Alan Kay developed a vision for a multimedia authouring system when he invented the laptop and Smalltalk. This was the inspiration for Hypercard and is the direct ancestor of Sophie. Look at squeakland.org for the kind of things Kay has done with the idea, as a system for kids to use. The reality is that Smalltalk has a tiny userbase, regardless of how cool the language is.

Re:Umm (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | about 6 years ago | (#25250361)

Wikipedia isn't much help here, either.

It may be an e-book creator, but I have no idea about the specifics.

Rewrite in java? (2, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 6 years ago | (#25249393)

That's about the fastest way to kill a project, yes.

Re:Rewrite in java? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249509)

I don't get it.

Re:Rewrite in java? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25250363)

Wow, "fasted" and "Java" in a sentence that actually makes sense! That's gotta be a first! :evil grin:

Re:Rewrite in java? (1)

marcovje (205102) | about 6 years ago | (#25250767)

Read again, the original says "Squeak". That makes Java look like a Ferrari

If they had a sense of humor... (1)

b0bby (201198) | about 6 years ago | (#25249427)

If they had a sense of humor the Bulgarian team would rename it Sophia...

But seriously, if it's taken 4 years to get to a "buggy and slow" version, what could possibly be wrong with doing a rewrite while keeping the UI? Presumably a lot of lessons learned could be applied to the new version, and there's nothing stopping the old devs from keeping their fork going. As others point out, that's the beauty of open source.

lol wut? (2, Interesting)

larry bagina (561269) | about 6 years ago | (#25249493)

So my understanding of the summary/question:

Carnegie Mellon donates moeny for Sophie development. Four years later, it's slow and buggy. Carnegie Mellon donates money to bulgarian group to rewrite Sophie in Java.

What's the problem, exactly?

Oh, and for an example of a similar situation (this time with software that's known), consider the Emacs/XEmacs split. Emacs development was slow, so Lucid paid their employees to work on it and contracted with one of the main Emacs developers (Joe?). RMS didn't like the direction it was taking, the copyright not being assigned to FSF, etc.

I feel sorry for the Bulgarians (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about 6 years ago | (#25249507)

They want to recreate the project by getting rid of all the original developers who understood the old code and are familiar with all of the design challenges and tradeoffs, replace them with the cheapest warm bodies they can find, and rewrite the whole thing using (what I'm assuming) is Java+Swing.

Is this really a story about an Open Source project imploding, or a for-profit initiative starting off with a disastrous set of software engineering decisions.

Re:I feel sorry for the Bulgarians (1)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | about 6 years ago | (#25249615)

They want to recreate the project by getting rid of all the original developers who understood the old code and are familiar with all of the design challenges and tradeoffs, replace them with the cheapest warm bodies they can find, and rewrite the whole thing using (what I'm assuming) is Java+Swing.

Judging by the description of the original dev's software as "somewhat buggy and slow" it sounds like they're not so familiar with the design challenges and tradeoffs anyway. Sometimes a fresh start really is the best solution.

Re:I feel sorry for the Bulgarians (1)

n dot l (1099033) | about 6 years ago | (#25249661)

They just as likely want to get paid in a currency that isn't Leva, make a name for themselves doing this, and get the hell out of Bulgaria along with all the other Bulgarian talent. Or maybe it's a total scam. Knowing how things are in that country, neither would surprise me in the least...

Gah, now I've gone and depressed myself thinking about it.

Re:I feel sorry for the Bulgarians (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25250789)

Knowing how things are in that country, neither would surprise me in the least...

Yeah, it's horrible to be in a country that's recently joined the EU and finds itself with a steadily strengthening economy. Not like the rest of us safe in the West with--OH SHIT WHERE'S MY SAVINGS?

Wake up douche, the post-cold war days are over. Not every former communist country is war ravaged and starving.

Re:I feel sorry for the Bulgarians (1)

n dot l (1099033) | about 6 years ago | (#25251161)

Izvinjavajte mnogo, no vie kakvo mislite che znaete za Bulgaria? Vie Bulgari li ste? Zhiveete li tam?*

Anyways, since you know so much more than a Bulgarian would, why don't you go on and tell me:

  • Are the vast majority of the buildings in our capital cities literally falling apart while still inhabited?
  • Do underground areas in large cities usually flood because nobody bothered to pay someone to clean out the storm drains?
  • Do water mains blow out, leaving large cities without water for days, several times in a six month period?
  • Is the national average on our standardized tests hovering in the 35-30% range?
  • Do city governments commonly permit historic parks to be redeveloped into condos (90% of which will sell to foreigners) above the very vocal objections of pretty much the entire local population?
  • Are health inspectors so badly paid that they take bribes all over the place, making eating out at a new place a gamble every time?
  • Is our government too busy siphoning the national budget into their own personal accounts, without even pretending to be spending it on useful things which at least create some jobs along the way, to do anything about anything at all?
  • Do big companies freely take monopoly positions, do they form cartels and fix the prices of everything from food to energy without so much as token opposition from the government?
  • Does the mafia go around doing whatever they want, killing anyone that speaks too loudly against them, without fear of reprisal?

And those are just a fraction of the headlines I read and the things I saw when I went back to visit my relatives for a few weeks this summer. You go get a clue yourself, buddy. Economic growth means nothing when the numbers come from a country run by a government that makes the old communists look like good, honest men with noble intentions.

* Goddamn /. making me write that in the wrong alphabet...

never re-write from scratch (1)

Dan667 (564390) | about 6 years ago | (#25249525)

I can see why they made the decision, but re-writing the project from scratch was the death of the project right there. As also seen with Netscape, you never ever take a working code base and decide to re-develop it from scratch. Even if it is really really junked up, if it is popular, it will survive the re-factoring or transition little by little to a new language or platform (or UI or what ever). And then you can slap a fancy 2.0 moniker on it.

Re:never re-write from scratch (1)

mellon (7048) | about 6 years ago | (#25249669)

What color is the sky on your planet? Never ever take a working code base and re-develop it from scratch? First of all, rumor (in the form of TFA) has it that the code base *isn't* working. Secondly, the refactoring of Mozilla took such a long time that a lot of people gave up on it, and in fact there's a very nice replacement for it called WebKit. This is a win-win situation.

The question here is, can the Bulgarian team do it. Apparently CMU believes they can. Why not wait and see what the outcome is before rushing to judgement?

Re:never re-write from scratch (1)

Dan667 (564390) | about 6 years ago | (#25251113)

Are you using Netscape to make your posts? I mean, before IE ate them for lunch, they were to dominant browser. If they had not re-written Netscape from scratch then most people would still be using it. While IE was adding new features, Netscape was re-writing their software from scratch trying to get existing ones working and got killed by delays, bugs, and bloat they thought they were getting rid of. And Mozilla and Webkit are not both rendering engines. I think you meant Gecko. I view Webkit and Gecko as components of the larger code base. It is not clear if Webkit is better yet, but it is more rare to write something from scratch and have it be successful when there is a working popular piece of code out in the wild that can be re-factored.

Just pointing out history, you can take it or leave it for what it is worth.

Re:never re-write from scratch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249747)

Apparently the original developers suggested the re-write. Now they are upset they didn't get the contract for the re-write.

Probably their "the software is slow and buggy after four years" argument was more convincing then they thought.

Re:never re-write from scratch (1)

WK2 (1072560) | about 6 years ago | (#25251343)

Rewriting from scratch is done too often, and most of the time fixing the original would have been better. However, sometimes you really do have to rewrite from scratch. You can only polish a turd so much.

Your comment is like saying, "Never use a hammer." Sure, a hammer is inappropriate for screwing screws, and it's a poor way to open a window, and most anti-spam solutions involving a hammer are illegal, but sometimes you have a nail that you need to beat into a board.

funding killed my project (5, Interesting)

Jah Shaka (562375) | about 6 years ago | (#25249539)

hi,

i feel your pain! funding killed my project... and herein lies my story :) jahshaka (http://jahshaka.org/ [jahshaka.org] ) was a open source digital content creation tool for film/video released at the start of the online video revolution. We had great hopes and we were pretty hot with 40-50k downloads a month and a active community. we won a few awards (best graphics software of the year) and intel contacted us saying they wanted to help out.

One thing led to another and with intels help we got £4 million from a tier-1 vc in the UK, under the terms that i move to the UK to be cheif evangleist (?). Sounds great right? Well for the first year 75% the funding went into the hands of upper management and their consultants (since upper management were clueless to open source).

Then they close-sourced the project, so with the communities help we tried to wage a war against management to 'open their eyes' and i ended up getting sacked for it - and left stuck in london with my family, wife and kids. And london aint cheap.

After the 2nd year (with no progress at-all, no new releases, and a failed attempt at build a CMS which was nothing to do with our project) eventually i was hired back as a consultant.

I immediatly directed as much of the budget as possible (turned out to be around 2 mil us) into building a fork of the underlying engine in the original project, called the openlibraries, under the LGPL. i took a back seat and directed this while i watched another CEO proceed to build a online video distribution system with the rest of our cash (also nothing to do with our project but whatever) with a goal of eventually getting my stuff back.

In the end i was able to use my consulting fees to buy it all back... for around £50k... only to find out that i had wasted 4 years of my life and was back to where i was when i got the funding. I got some cool tech out of the deal and some cool domains (http://plugin.com/ [plugin.com] ) but it has then taken me the better half of this year to figure out how to get the project back off the ground.

so, if nothing at all, you can learn from mmy experiences. open source is not about money its about the people. if you want to build a comercial business then you need to make up your mind from the start.

hope this helps,

Jah Shaka http://www.jahshaka.org/ [jahshaka.org]

Re:funding killed my project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25250771)

You could just have taken your open source code and walk away. You didn't. You sticked in the mess for four years.

How could the company management take the project close source if it was open source? Sounds more like you did develop a closed source project right from the beginning, and were just calling it open source.

In short, I don't buy your story. I thing the truth is more close to you apparently signed a shitty contract and you didn't understand the nature of open source. You wanted to trade your closed-source project for fame and a better life, and it didn't work out.

Re:funding killed my project (0, Troll)

Spy der Mann (805235) | about 6 years ago | (#25251259)

I'll believe you when I see your slashdot account published on the website. And even then, I really don't know if you just squatted the domain and kept the site for yourself. Heck, how do I know you weren't a shill from the beginning?

Mellon Foundation (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about 6 years ago | (#25249559)

Notice that the Mellon Foundation is also one of the major sponsors of Zotera, the opensource replacement for Endnote featured on /. for bringing about a lawsuit. Not that there's a connection; I'm just saying that it looks like their philanthropic interest is in enriching/enabling scholarly discourse, not in coddling developers. Even the world of charity can be ruthless - people want their donations to change the world, not just subsidize some programmers. It seems some people are learning that open-source can easily work against developers, even when they're working on "good" projects.

Also, if it moves to Bulgaria shouldn't it at least be renamed to Sofiya?

Kill it? Save it! (2, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | about 6 years ago | (#25249563)

They're paying to have a project that doesn't work well enough (by your own admission) rewritten completely so that it -will- work. Sounds to me like they're trying to save it.

If you want to prove yourselves, take the time to fix the current one before they have had time to completely rewrite it... If you can't, there's your real problem.

Oh, get the fuck over yourself (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249761)

Just face it, you failed. You admit that the software is a piece of shit, and you are just whining that your ego is being bruised by someone coming along and actually doing something with the project.

Blah, blah, blah, should be illegal, throw the meanies in jail, you hurt my feelings...

Grow up, then go fuck yourself.

Where's the source code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25249967)

OK then... Been to the opensophie site. All I can find is a page for the binaries where i686 version can be downloaded. Where's the source? Why can't I just do a configure && make? The linux version had DLL files inside the archive, what the heck?

Funding is tricky (1)

goofy183 (451746) | about 6 years ago | (#25249981)

I've worked with an open-source project that had a rough couple of years due to outside funding. The core of the problem is if the funding is for some work that may not really be all that interesting to the core of the community. You end up with a bunch of work that the core user/developer base isn't interested in and so it doesn't get as much TLC as other things that are features added by someone close to the project. After the pain of it happening and the few years of recovery the governing body for the project has started outlining better rules for funding related to the project and how it is handled to avoid the problem of this large external force knocking a project off track.

Hollywood solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25250749)

How would you deal with a situation like this?"

Interdiction with extreme prejudice
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