[xwiki-devs] Back to the future of XWiki !

Ludovic Dubost ludovic at xwiki.com
Mon Mar 7 09:28:50 UTC 2011


Hi Andreas,

Le 06/03/11 23:29, Andreas Hahn a écrit :
 > Hi Ludovic,
 >
 > thanks a lot for your comprehensive response.
 >
 > The motivation of my response to the thread you have initiated was to 
get better feelings about the ongoing continuity and the direction of 
the xwiki product.
 > First of all I'd like to better understand the relation between XWiki 
SAS and the XWiki community.
 > As I see it more than 90% percent of the regular committers are 
employees of XWiki SAS.
This is right. Now not all committers are as tied to XWiki SAS than it 
might seem. Most of our committers are more tied to the XWiki Open 
Source product than they are tied to XWiki SAS.
 >
 > This means the vitality of the Xwiki OpenSource directly depends on 
the health of XWiki SAS. You might think this shouldn't bother users as 
this is free software.
 > Now after 30 years in IT-industry I have seen quite some products 
rise and fall. So the financial background of a supplier - or 
understanding its business model - is a natural concern for me when 
beginning to spend time and resources on it.
 >

I very much agree. Right now the more XWiki SAS is vital the more XWiki 
Open Source is vital and we actually want to stay it this way, not 
withstanding other contributions that there can be around XWiki.
My experience has also shown that our company is more committed to the 
software than service companies using these softwares can be. Our type 
of organization actuallty creates more stability around the development 
of Open Source software than many other types, and still it does not 
restrain the openness nature of the software (which is due to our 
commitments as a company and to the LGPL licence).

 > Looking at the public material on the homepage of xwiki.com, 
xwiki.org the discussions on the boards their focus and priorities the 
testimonials and claims I doubt that there is a positive cashflow of 
revenues somehow related to the Xwiki software.
Reading between the lines of your postings it seems that also vision has 
got lost somehow.

 >
 > I don't mean to be offending - I just try to understand the 
motivation and/or business model behind it to get a better feeling about 
the risk of this project being discontinued suddenly.
 >
 > So far its my impression that the project is financed by some sort of 
generous patronage - maybe like Mark Shuttleworth of Canoncial who 
became a happy and generous sponsor of Ubuntu Linux after selling his 
startup.
 > I'd be happy to hear your comment on that ;)
 >

---
Note: I'm sharing below information about XWiki SAS. I'm not 100% it is 
relevant to our community but since Andreas seems to find important to 
understand how XWiki SAS works relating to XWiki.org, I'm going into 
this. XWiki SAS want to be not only a "good" open source citizen, it 
want to be a "great" one. This means that we don't fear showing how we 
are and how we work and what our motivations are.
---

You are actually wrong here. While XWiki SAS is not "rich", XWiki SAS is 
not "poor" neither "subsidised" the Canonical way or even the way many 
open source companies are subsidies (which is with VCs).
We do have a bit of subsidies:

1/ French state: we gives us some tax cuts and funds research projects. 
Though this is quite classical in the French way of building tech 
companies to reduce our non-competitivness when it comes France's tax 
and social structure. We got currently 30% of our budget payed this way.
2/ Our employees, including me, are making a partial financial sacrifice 
to work in a company like XWiki, but we are also giving many things 
including the fact of getting payed to work on Open Source.

Once this is said, XWiki is break-even for the last 6 years. Everybody 
(34 people mostly in France and Romania) gets a decent salary, and all 
this without external funding except the initial ones from the employees 
(we invested 200K). We are even more than break-even lately, because we 
need to fund our reserves of cash flow to manage the growth.  And 100% 
of the XWiki SAS activity is devoted to work around the XWiki software.

You can find some information here: 
http://www.societe.com/societe/xwiki-477865281.html
The latest year (soon published) is much better with 850K revenue and 
benefit.

Now not all the XWiki SAS employees are working on the XWiki software 
directly. Many are working on client projects doing custom development. 
We have a small support team and we have our hosting and cloud offering. 
We have the research team that does the funded research projects and we 
have a marketing team.

But all the revenue from these work fund the active development of 
XWiki, including developers, a usability engineer, a tester, people 
working on documentation, etc.. The people working on support, hosting, 
consulting and development also participate when possible to improve the 
product. The global level of our engineers is quite good, since Google's 
HR seems to try to pitch them.

All in all, I think that XWiki is quite stable. We are able to fund 
development (although of course we would like to fund more). We have 
been able to build almost all branches of the development part and we 
also have done all of the commercial part.
I think you are a bit underestimating our success. One of the reasons I 
think is that we have a bigger success in France (commercially) than in 
other countries. If there is one thing I think we are a bit slow, it's 
international. I would like us to be more present in Germany for 
instance. In France we are doing more and more projects with XWiki and 
are currently progressively getting in almost any important company 
(that does not standardize fully on Microsoft) and also many public 
ministries.

As for the vision, it's not that it's lost. In my view, XWiki has been 
lacking the "good" marketing. The one that allows to match the product 
better with customers needs, the one that allows to better value our 
strength. This is due to the fact that XWiki is very "tech" oriented by 
all means. By getting into "product marketing", that's what I want to 
work on. This will allow us to better use our "little" (they are always 
too little) resources on the right stuff.


 > Now for the targets.
 >
 > a) If (in contrast to the above) there is a need to make some (more) 
money in a reasonable timeframe I'd go and copycat the atlassian way. 
AFAIK they are joining forces with some industry heavy weights. I think 
I remember having read about SAP selling confluence licences and 
services as a complemantary offer to SAP's existing user base. No 
surprise that atlassian claims having almost 10.000 installations. If 
you are interested in this topic I'd write more about what opportunities 
I can imagine here and what steps can be taken. Of course - developing a 
business like this is nothing that developers could do as a side job.


This is complicated. It's hard to sell the same price as Atlassian. To 
do that you need a flawless product which requires no support, which 
means no revenu from these installs. This is good to get "known" but 
does not make business.
Except for the Cloud offering, which is what we are doing.  We are also 
thinking of a slightly beefed up package only available from XWiki SAS 
but we lack development time to work on features that don't make sense 
to go in the core platform (on the other hand we don't want to undermine 
the platform, so we are more thinking about apps).

I also think you are underestimated their joining with SAP. Atlassian 
mostly sells Confluence to their JIRA customers. They do quite well with 
their direct model. They are quite focus on the techy world.

On the Application/Solution side we have actually some interesting cards 
to play. Curriki is a very interesting product for eLearning and it is 
naturally sold with service.
So one long term strategy is the core XE/Platform is free and "vertical" 
apps and "implementation" is "commercial". There are other vertical 
targets that make a lot of sense.

 >
 > b) Succeeding as OpenSource simply by the quality of the software 
looks far more complicated to me. Blogging software, CMS, wikis - they 
all are competing for the attention of publishers and there is quite 
some overlap in functionality - if not in the end they all will be the 
same. As long as XWiki is not installed by webhosters it means that 
users have to install the service of their own. Only companies with 
IT-department and people with IT background can do that which is a 
severe reduction of the potential user base. But bringing 
'collaboration' software to companies is more than a technical issue. 
Management is involved as it needs to be confident that their companies 
knowledge is not being shared with the wrong people. You need to build a 
reputation first to get there - or you are joining forces with other 
companies that already know the customer and have that reputation see a) 
Atlassian/SAP - this seems to be far more easy than b) to me.
 >

We are less inclined to try to distribute XWiki through hosters, because 
of our hosting and cloud offering and also because of he fact that most 
hosters focus on php apps. We can provide VMs for Amazon for sure and we 
plan to do that.
Our experience shows that it's less expensive for us to support a client 
on our own hosting than to support him on his hosting.

At this point we plan to provide VMs with support as a sellable package 
by XWiki SAS. We also think that this is a good package to propose 
through partners (resellers in different countries).

So to summarize we a few big plans

1/ Our Cloud offering
2/ An AppStore with apps
3/ A packaged offering with apps available for customers and partners as 
VMs, etc..
4/ Higher end Open Source solutions: education, etc..

 > Beside all the mentioned features - I think an (the most) important 
one has not even been mentioned.
 > Simplify individual design of wiki pages. For example by making it 
sort of compatible with page layout software like Artisteer.
 > I have been mentioning it a couple of times and I know I'm getting 
boring now so please read my old postings on it.
 > Its *not* a solution to extend the presentation admin form to support 
more options.
 >
 >
 > Besides - I think that there are also some other simple things that 
help better promoting the software -
 > - doing a video like this one  
http://www.atlassian.com/software/confluence/videos/overview.jsp
 > - reconsider communication with users through a more widely 
recognized media instead of the mailing list (for example stackoverflow.com)
 >

I've been thinking about getsatisfaction.com. Balasamiq seems to have 
quite a success with it.
WDYT ?

 > I'd be interested in ongoing  discussion on all of this but please 
understand it might take a while until i find the time to respond.

I hope I gave you some good grounds to believe in XWiki's future success.
Any contribution on how to improve all parts of XWiki is always welcome.

Ludovic

 >
 > Andreas
 >
 >
 > Am 04.03.2011 21:27, schrieb Ludovic Dubost:
 >>
 >> Hi Andreas,
 >>
 >> Thanks for your email. This is actually good material and we need 
more of it.
 >>
 >> As Jerome pointed out, I never said in my email I would go back to 
development.
 >> My objective is too involve myself in the "product definition" which 
means making a better product which fits more the market needs.
 >> I believe it has the objective to help us get XWiki less a "niche" 
product and making it more mainstream.
 >>
 >> If it means that we need to work on packaged distribution let's do 
it. If it means working on distribution this goes beyond "Product 
Marketing", though I'm also interested into that.
 >> I'm also getting more involved in XWiki SAS marketing and while we 
have spend the XWiki SAS marketing efforts more into showing a 
'professional' face to potential customers, we plan to invest more time 
in open source marketing. As Vincent points outs this is also a 
collective effort as there is nobody better than our committers to get 
XWiki known in the tech world.
 >>
 >> I think we also need to clearly define out target. You mention 
"wordpress" but even if we can do some things that wordpress is used 
for, this is not what we are good at, and wordpress does not do what 
XWiki does.
 >> As Jerome pointed out, XWiki is about "collaboration". That's our 
market. That's what XWiki is good at. It's not any kind of 
collaboration, as XWiki's way of collaboration is different than what 
people have been used to.
 >>
 >> If we try to compare our "reach" with CMSs we will always loose, 
since these tools build public web sites and this automatically extend 
their reach.
 >>
 >> I think we need to focus on making XWiki known to people interested 
in collaboration, interested in bringing their organization to that type 
of collaboration.
 >> It's a collaboration that is:
 >>
 >> - social
 >> - a mix of unstructured and structured
 >> - flexible
 >>
 >> Making XWiki more known for that requires both more "distribution" 
and "communication" as you mentionned, but I also believes it requires 
more work on our end on XWiki itself.
 >> Not more work to start a "feature" frenzy, but to improve XWiki to 
more democratize it, simplify it for newcomers, making it's powerfull 
features more accessible to newcomers.
 >>
 >> For example, one of the most powerfull feature of XWiki since day 1, 
is it's internal Class/Object system which allows to create new data 
structures from the web. Unfortunately this feature requires a too steep 
learning curve.
 >> "App Within Minute" is not a NEW feature. It's the Class/Object 
system XWiki should always have had.
 >>
 >> Another example, "Dashboards". Dashboards is not a completely NEW 
feature. It's THE "modern" way of configuring a home page for basic users.
 >>
 >> I know we have plenty of "quality" refinements to do in XWiki, but 
we also have plenty of refinements to do that will complete XWiki for 
it's "purpose", and for what it's differentiated from other tools.
 >>
 >> I'm very open to discuss more what we can do both in the product and 
in distribution and communication to make XWiki more popular and widespread.
 >> You mentionned I was talking only about "features", and I supposed 
you refer to the "feature" survey. Actually the current "feature survey" 
did include "VM" distribution.
 >> So maybe we should extend the "feature survey" into an "effort 
survey", to actually discuss what we should spend our effort on for XWiki.
 >>
 >> So if you or others have ideas on what we should spend our effort 
on, please bring them on.
 >>
 >> Ludovic
 >>
 >> Le 04/03/11 10:48, Andreas Hahn a écrit :
 >>> Hi,
 >>>
 >>> I'm a bit surprised that you are just talking about features and not
 >>> about moving from a niche product to get more mainstream.
 >>> When I'm saying niche product I'm just referring to what google 
trends says.
 >>> http://www.google.com/trends?q=xwiki%2C+foswiki%2C+twiki%2C+confluence
 >>>
 >>> Well I think that almost all people on this mailing list like xwiki a
 >>> lot and the hard and devoted work the developers are doing and all wish
 >>> xwiki and its backing company all the best and a long and 
prosperous future.
 >>>
 >>> However I'm concerned when reading that the XWiki SAS 'Product
 >>> Marketing' lead (and CEO) thinks that it helps the product to get more
 >>> involved as a developer.
 >>> IMHO a product marketing lead should have totally different priorities.
 >>>
 >>> IMHO its a misconception to think that more features will help the
 >>> product to attract a greater audience.
 >>>
 >>> Just a few things that come to my mind:
 >>>
 >>> * Push xwiki into as many linux distros as possible with 'one click
 >>> installers'
 >>> * Create ready-to-go images for popular cloud hosters (such as 
Amazon EC2)
 >>> * Talk to as much hosters and push them to introduce XWiki as part of
 >>> their offerings.
 >>> * Make it simple and attractive for people currently using other
 >>> software (Wordpress comes to my mind) to move to the more powerful 
XWiki
 >>>
 >>> I may be paranoid but I wonder if we will see XWiki survive the next
 >>> couple of years if its not gaining momentum in the big world.
 >>>
 >>> just my 2 cents
 >>>
 >>> Andreas
 >>>
 >>>
 >>>
 >>>
 >>>
 >>>
 >>> Am 03.03.2011 14:21, schrieb Ludovic Dubost:
 >>>> Hi all,
 >>>>
 >>>> As many of you may know, 7 years ago, I created the XWiki Open-Source
 >>>> software.  A few years ago, especially when Vincent arrived, I took a
 >>>> step back from development of the XWiki product to focus on
 >>>> developping XWiki SAS which allows to support the XWiki development.
 >>>> I've particularly spent my time making sure that the deployments of
 >>>> XWiki our Customers have been doing are successfull. I've left the
 >>>> product development work to committers who under the lead of Vincent
 >>>> have done amazing work in the last few years. We have provided some
 >>>> product marketing in addition through Guillaume's and lately Gregory's
 >>>> work which allowed to bring some feedback from users and customers and
 >>>> also bring a different less technical perspective to the XWiki Product
 >>>> development. Cati also joined the team and allowed us to make huge
 >>>> steps forward in product usability and design.
 >>>>
 >>>> Now, as XWiki SAS's project implementation team is doing great work on
 >>>> it's own, I've decided to involve myself more in the future of XWiki's
 >>>> product. I'm now the new XWiki SAS 'Product Marketing' head which
 >>>> means I will involve myself in community discussions about the product
 >>>> features actively developped, investigated for future development as
 >>>> well as in general discussions about the XWiki Software's future. I
 >>>> will try to bring the knowledge that XWiki SAS's customer, project
 >>>> managers, support team bring us from using XWiki in production
 >>>> environments to the community so that we make better decisions, more
 >>>> focused on developments that will allow to increase XWiki's success
 >>>> with end users. At XWiki SAS we have already done a lot of work to
 >>>> organize this feedback so that we know more things that XWiki SAS's
 >>>> developers and the XWiki community should work on.
 >>>>
 >>>> In the next few weeks you will therefore see me work on the
 >>>> investigations of future features as well as work more closely with
 >>>> developers whenever they feel the need on the features they implement
 >>>> actively. I will also manage the different surveys we have done in the
 >>>> past to gather feedback from our community. These surveys have still
 >>>> been running on the xwiki.org web site although they are now quite
 >>>> outdated. I will propose to review them and launch them again.
 >>>>
 >>>> If users or developers have any feedback about XWiki, about what we
 >>>> should work on in priority, please do send that feedback on the list
 >>>> (preferably). Although we have a much bigger list of great ideas than
 >>>> what we currently can achieve, you can help us on helping us select
 >>>> the most important ones that will make a difference.
 >>>>
 >>>> I would like to use this occasion to thank our great community of
 >>>> developers and users who help the committers every day to make XWiki
 >>>> better. We could not do this without all the suggestions, ideas,
 >>>> patches that our community provides.
 >>>>
 >>>> Thanks
 >>>> Ludovic
 >>>>
 >>>>
 >>>> _______________________________________________
 >>>> devs mailing list
 >>>> devs at xwiki.org
 >>>> http://lists.xwiki.org/mailman/listinfo/devs
 >>> _______________________________________________
 >>> devs mailing list
 >>> devs at xwiki.org
 >>> http://lists.xwiki.org/mailman/listinfo/devs
 >>>
 >>
 >>
 >
 >
 >


-- 
Ludovic Dubost
Blog: http://blog.ludovic.org/
XWiki: http://www.xwiki.com
Skype: ldubost GTalk: ldubost


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