Bluenog angers Hippo

  • 13-Jul-2009

Bluenog, an upstart web content management company, continues to make waves. But not always the kind of waves they'd like: they don't seem to be quite sure what to do with their open source foundation. They can't really conceal it, so should they become open source advocates and actively participate in the projects they reap the fruits of?

Armed with venture capital, Bluenog seems to have taken the pre-dot-com-bubble-burst path. Invest your money wisely: spend it on marketing. I get frequent emails singing the praise of Bluenog's ICE, which would almost lead me to think that the solution has real market presence. Almost, because in reality, compared to the vendors we cover, they still have a lot of ground to cover. The company recently released a "Higher Education Initiative," presumably sensing an opportunity after three wins in that area. But even if there were to be a "best" solution for a specific vertical, there's some pretty stiff competition there (including Terminalfour, which is gaining its footing in the U.S. on the basis of its expertise in education).

And then there's the tool itself. Bluenog is a mashup of open source -- "ICE leverages several open source CMS, open source collaboration, open source portal and open source BI projects" which are listed in a faraway corner of their site. Bluenog ICE, however, is a commercial closed source product. Having just written a blog post on open source, "it's just a license", I find it ironic that immediately afterwards I was alerted to a small storm brewing on just that topic.

Don't worry: as a solutions buyer, I still don't think you should be overly worried about licensing and Seth Gottlieb seems to agree on that. But like I said in my previous post, there is an exception: if you're a software company, building on open source, you're expected to participate in the community and give back code. Large parts of Bluenog ICE rely on Hippo CMS (in an older version 6), something Bluenog doesn't seem particularly keen on emphasizing.

Understandably, Hippo isn't very happy about it. As you may know, "more people are killed by the hippopotamus than any other wild animal, either by being trampled to death or having their boat capsized." I don't quite see Bluenog being trampled or capsized by Hippo yet, but there's discussion of a possible breach of the Apache license. That would be novel, because usually with open source, it would be the other way round.

Bluenog issued a press release saying it intends to "contribute back to open source projects." I checked, and Bluenog developers don't seem to play much of a role in the development of any of the Apache projects they use. Bluenog promises "extensions to the popular JSPWiki, which adds support for wiki and page level permissions", but as of yet, JSPWiki's wiki doesn't seem to have any contributions from Bluenog developers.

Checking the Hippo mailing lists, I did find quite a few posts by Bluenog developers. But most of these were questions, and some just a cry for help. And, unintentionally funny, Bluenog CTO Suresh Kuppusamy asked the list "Can you please check if I locked the car. I forgot to lock it" (later apologizing that he had sent this to the wrong address).

By contrast, you can criticize Hippo for lacking the ability to execute with the new version 7 of their CMS, or for the fact that the vendor is very developer-centric. As commercial open source, it's not exactly run for altruistic purposes, and the Hippo community mostly revolves around the company itself. But if you want a Hippo, you'll probably want the people that are taking an active lead in the direction the project is going.

Currently, Bluenog is missing not only the transparency of what they're actually selling -- they're also passengers on the journey, rather than drivers. There's nothing wrong with sharing the safari vehicle. But usually, you'd still like to know where it's going.

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