Subject Open Source and Open Documentation
Author Jim Starkey
It is hard to argue that product documentation is almost as important as
the product itself because without documentation, a product can't be
used, and if it can't be used, it might not as well exist. It follows
logically that the documentation for an open source project should be no
more restrictive that the source code since, without the documentation
and the ability to extend and distribute it, the source code is worth
very little.

The original intention was that open source Interbase would have
documentation under the same license as the code itself. To that end,
Interbase Software Corporation (third incarnation) started with and
revised and extended the Borland documentation. When Borland eventually
reneged on the deal, Interbase Software Corporation (third incarnation),
was left owning a bunch of revision to documentation they could no long
legally revise for extend.

Since then, there have been a number of attempts to fill the void. The
most notable is Helen's "The Firebird Book." There is nothing wrong
with except that a) Helen owns it, b) her publisher controls it, c) the
combo of Helen and her publisher refuses to make it available on-line,
d) it can't be revised or extended by anyone on the project without
Helen's permission, and even then e) Helen and her publish would
continue to have total control over the distribution.

There have been any number of attempts to create open documentation for
Firebird. To the best of my knowledge, all have failed.

Last May, LarsDybdahl suggested a Wiki. I thought this was an excellent
idea, and offered the MySQL half of a machined jointly owned by MySQL
and IBPhoenix. There were a couple of offers of software, one using the
standard open source wiki and another layered on Firebird. The
IBPhoenix guys selected the Firebird based product, installed it, read
protected it (you wouldn't want anyone reading the software, would
you?), and apparently dropped it there (I'm told by Paul Beach that
there was a show stopper problem with search).

OK, the IBPhoenix wiki is dead in the water. It's time to move on.
Open Source projects have to proceed with someone willing to run with
the ball rather than stand there and hold it (sorry, this is a US
specific sports metaphor; I know that in the rest of the world running
with the ball is illegal. Maybe that's the problem?).

So I will renew the offer. I have half a 4 gb dual-dual core Opteron
running SuSE 10.0 that is available to anyone who wants to set up and
manage a Firebird Wiki. I have only two rules. First, the content
must be available under the same IDPL as the other source code. Second,
read access can't be password protected.

Any takers?


Jim Starkey, Senior Software Architect
978 526-1376