Open source should mean open discussions about open roadmaps

Last week I wrote a commentary on whether the future of Plone lies in web publishing. This was based on a candid blog posting by Plone co-founder Alexander Limi, where he said that the community should "realize that web publishing isn't our main area."

This quickly lead an Italian blogger to conclude that Plone wants to copycat SharePoint. Quite a stretch in my view. Since then I've received several phone calls and private e-mails pressuring me to change the commentary. A Plone consultant complained that my posting created fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about the future of Plone, a future which, according to the consultant undoubtedly was in web publishing.

The reality is that Limi clearly sparked an important discussion. As of today at least 114 messages on the Plone mailing list relate to Limi's controversial posting. It is normal for visionary leaders to make comments about product futures that can make consultancies uncomfortable. Clearly those consultancies with Plone-based web publishing projects under their belt have a vested interest in the status quo.

In my experience it's commercial vendors who put pressure on analysts. But as the stakes get bigger for large communities like Plone, so too rises their pressure. Some open source communities don't have roadmap discussions in the open, but instead hold important debates behind closed doors with top stakeholders, the way commercial firms do. So my response to the various entreaties to change my blog posting is: Plone should welcome outsiders' perspectives, hold public discussions on the future of the platform, and if Limi believes he was misunderstood, he can clarify his opinions in such a way that the whole world can read them.

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