Subject Re: [IBDI] Firebird / IBPhoenix Politics
Author Helen Borrie
Hi Markus!

First, I love the logo ideas you presented at your website....just couple of comments on aesthetics...I would prefer to see the modified Firebird logo at the righthand side of the text because, at present, the "face" of the phoenix is directed away from the centre of focus; and the Helv Bold font is too chunky and ugly for the graphic. (This has also been a niggle of mine with the use of the reverse ibphoenix logo on the Firebird site).

It might help a little to plug in a little background here. There *is* a division currently between the open source developer community. It was never intended or expected by the community. As far as I can tell, very few consider this division desirable for the growth of our database. This notion of "politics" is a concept created and pushed in your face by a small group people employed or appointed by Borland in various capacities. When certain personal disputes arose between individuals, these people actively exploited them, via the Borland newsgroups and even the website, to paint the illusion of a "war". Whether this arose from malice or sheer stupidity is irrelevant now.

Let's go back in time, to the end of 1999, when groups of us organised with great urgency to retrieve InterBase from the oblivion into which company policy had determined it should go. Contrary to the current mythology, Borland had already scheduled IB's "end of life" before December 1999. This is not rumour or spin. I have in my possession copies of internal memos to this effect, which I received via webmail, in the fourth week of December, 1999. Copies of these memos were also sent anonymously to others.

The initial group of people, from whom the IBDI was seeded, also formed a private business group to explore the idea of raising cash to buy the then-defunct InterBase operation from Borland. We called ourselves IBPhoenix. Opportunities that were presented and laboured over, over the weeks, were finally passed over when the Borland executive made its offer.

The next few months are "another chapter in history". What looked good to and for InterBase and its community in February 2000 disintegrated finally into a no-win fiasco in July. Those who had invested time and money into a new venture developing IB free of the whims of the Borland executive were cut off at a stroke.

It was salt in the wounds, therefore, when Borland plans for IB quite patently and cynically excluded the community from active involvement in the completion and development of the database. The erstwhile members of our community still employed by Borland were cut off from us. People who had not hitherto been involved in the "save InterBase" effort stepped in, took credit for *our* efforts and joined with their allies in the Borland marketing arms to spin a campaign of lies and innuendo against the folk who had given so much of their to the cause. Pain was acute and words were harsh.

Call it "political", if you will. The French Revolution was political. Some sectors of the population felt upset at watching their friends and relatives go to the guillotine and so it did look quite political there for a while.

The IBPhoenix group had closed itself down once plans were under way for "Newco" and its managing of the source code. IB was not going to be as detached from Inprise control as some desired but ISC was a compromise most could live with. Opening the source offered the route to break IB from the custodianship of a very poor guardian. Some key people even rejoined the community, optimistic that the Fuller proposal would work out.

When the screw finally turned, and it was clear that the Borland exec really had determined to do the dirty on the community, IBPhoenix reconstituted itself with many of the original members and a number of new people. We spent several weeks supporting the efforts of the ISC group (Ann Harrison, Paul Beach and Matt Larsen, at that time) to build up the kernel of a support and development company from scratch.

From the day the source went open, Mark O'Donohue, Mike Nordell, along with a keen band of C-coders who already knew the source from past work and some others who had been preparing for the new ways, began to communicate and coalesce. Some were IBPhoenix people, some were not. We agreed that none of us was willing to contribute time and energy and as unpaid servants of the Inprise (now Borland machine) with no control over the outcome of our efforts. This was all that was ever offered. Borland answered no communications on the subject - not then and not since.

The open source IB community was once again "rehatching the egg" and the phoenix symbol seemed appropriate. Ann and Paul gave us permission to use the phoenix logo created by Paul's friend, for the new ISC company, and we named our project FirebirdAshes. (FirebirdAshes eventually disappeared). The Firebird name caught people's interest and it has stuck.

During her summer vacation, Ann kept in touch with both the IBPhoenix and Firebird teams. We especially wanted her around, because of her long and broad knowledge of the source code. When she returned, she launched into building up her own support company (for users of *any* version of the database) under the IBPhoenix flag, has shared many hours of her unrewarded time as one of a group of five admins on the Firebird project and worked zealously to pull the many scraps of documentation into shape as a resource for users and source developers.

Thanks to the efforts of Ann, Paul Beach, Pavel Cisar and several others, the IBPhoenix site took shape. It had several donor hosts before coming to rest on web space donated by Ann and her husband, Jim Starkey. I believe FTP hosting is still being provided by a donor in Canada; although this may have changed.

To continue...

At 12:16 AM 15-04-01 +0000, you wrote:
>Hello all,
>This is somewhat a comment from outside. I didn't participate in the
>Firebird project so far but am following the news since the beginning
>of IB going OSS and have much sympathie for Firebird and the people
>at IBPhoenix.
>In their recent FAQ Borland seems to reaffirm they're not willing to
>work with an open community. The community will be on its own to
>maintain the open code base and to build a growing user base.

The community has probably known it all along. If, by "on its own" you mean "without Borland", it is more of plus than a minus, given the many ways in which Borland (the company) has jerked it around. "On its own" meaning "not supported"? Hardly. We have the community. We ARE the community. We have the blessing of other open source projects. And, yes, we have VARs who see the Emperor's new clothes for what they really are. We have a great database that is getting inspected and polished as it has never been in nine years' tender care by a succession of executives.

Yes, right now, we lack money. We don't need $230million showing up on a balance sheet somewhere but we have an objective which we could meet in an orderly and timely fashion if, somehow, we could raise some sponsorship to fund a couple of our best people to bring the Firebird 1 release out and get our certification testing into a more systematic shape. It would be great for restoring confidence in the database once known as InterBase and it would vindicate everyone's loyalty, faith and persistence despite the poison coming from those who see genuinely open development as a threat. Moreover, it will get reliable open source builds onto CDs in shorter order.

>Of course technical aspects will be important for success, I haven't
>even installed a build yet, so I don't know where you stand. But
>there's another point that will be no less important: The
>brand "Firebird". Since the trademark InterBase cannot be used you
>will distribute your product under this new name. Firebird is the new
>name under which your product will be known in public and the whole
>community should present itself as something coherent, behind this
>new name.

We like the name of the project and it does seem it would be hard now to go out searching for a different one for the database. :) In a perfect world, it would be named InterBase but - well - somebody else has got it locked up out of reach, so that's that. In any case, many consider that IB's brand recognition outside Borland circles is so tiny, that it's a small mouse with a big roar.

I agree with you; and I'm certainly delighted to see your clever artwork. Actually, I like it better than the original, I hope Paul won't mind my saying so. As I mentioned earlier, I think the orientation and text font should be changed. Thank you for doing this graphic!

>As a user new to Firebird, I'd get a good first impression if all the
>basic services of the community are provided by a "Firebird
>Organization", on a Firebird website. Builds, documentation, and
>basic connectivity components should be made available on the
>Firebird site. Also a unique logo, which clearly identifies products
>and activities of the "Firebird organization" is indispensable to
>build a strong brand.

I agree about the logo but I think you are "out" with the rest. Very little of the documentation is Firebird-only. Much of the news is of interest to the wider IB family and undoubtedly includes users of both commercial IB and Firebird. The Firebird stuff is about source code and builds. Certainly on the IBDI site it is my principle NOT to restrict it to Firebird-only. (I'm regretful that the IBDI site has been neglected of late through other pressures on my time but I am in the process of updating it....)

I think the ideal is to have ALL the documentation in one location, fully indexed and linked from both the Firebird and IBDI sites. The Firebird site is the right place to launch downloads of Firebird materials but, in my observation, a bunch of this stuff would need to be hosted somewhere that has better ftp performance than Sourceforge has; and we certainly have urgent, outstanding work to do to describe, date and version the downloads satisfactorily.

>In view of this objectif, the current "layout" of the community has
>two deficiencies: The Firebird project doesn't have an own logo and
>too many basic informations are provided on the IBPhoenix site rather
>than on the Firebird site.

I really disagree. The basic information on the IBPhoenix site is there for the open use and self-education of all - source developers as well as users, SYSDBAs, "newbies" and those who are simply curious. I reiterate my belief that, between the three sites, we can do a pretty switched-on job of making the resources accessible. Paul Reeves minds the IBPhoenix site these days; I'm still steering the IBDI site; and Pavel is in the processing of rebuilding the Firebird site. Time is our biggest enemy but I think I probably speak for us all when I comment that we are aware of the problem and want to make it right.

>I know the argument for this structure is the close cooperation
>between IBPhoenix and Firebird.

No, there is no such argument for this structure. IBPhoenix needs its site and they have the facilities to handle the vast raft of documentation. Don't overlook the nature of the documentation - it is much more user-oriented than source-code-oriented, i.e. *support* documentation. IBPhoenix does support, both as a commercial service and, through its individuals' contributions in the support groups, as a voluntary service. It is "close cooperation" I suppose, in the sense that it reflects the interdependence of the different pieces of the community effort; but Firebird is source code development, IBPhoenix is support and IBDI is coordination. We need to reduce the amount of overlap, to be sure, but I feel quite strongly that each site has a discrete role to play.

>But that's a false argument because
>since IBPhoenix has a strong interest in the success of Firebird,
>they have all interest to present Firebird as the coherent "full
>service" OSS community it actually is.

I think you are confusing Firebird, the source code development project and "Firebird" the database. I believe "separate but coordinated" is the secret to satisfying the quite distinct needs of the parts of the community, including those who are seeking support for the commercial InterBase products. I dislike intensely the idea of intentionally polarising Firebird and InterBase for users and newcomers.

>It must be avoided that the
>Firebird site links to sites of other organizations (IBPhoenix) for
>plenty of basic information. That doesn't mean IBPhoenix should stop
>providing the information, but they should provide it on the Firebird

No, again, I believe you have the wrong idea about what Firebird is for/about. But your desire to see Firebird making its presence more widely felt is close to my own.

>Of course that means less traffic for the site
>but at the same time more traffic for the Firebird site, which is
>important for the development of the brand: A Firebird Organization
>which provides all the basic information in a coherent manner.

That is not what we have done, nor wanted to do, although it's easy to see how those looking at the Borlanders' antics in the newsgroups have come to see a "them" and "us" situation arising from the rot that gets circulated there. Firebird = the open source code base. The Firebird project doesn't have a product support Gods, it has enough to do wading through the InterBase bug list and n-million lines of source code.

>I'm pretty sure IBPhoenix wouldn't loose any business because of wouldn't loose any business because of this, if they get mentioned as a sponsor on the Firebird site.

IBPhoenix is *not* a sponsor of the Firebird site. It's the central information and support depot for (theoretically) all information about InterBase and its descendants.

>If IBPhoenix wants to show their commitment to Firebird

I *hope* you are not saying what you seem to be saying...

>, they should -
> in my opinion - rather use the actual Firebird logo on their site,
>but in a way which makes clear that it's not their logo but the logo
>of Firebird.

I'm sure they would be more than pleased to have the distinction made! The reversed version of the phoenix graphic was an accommodation to us, not in any way a cooption of Firebird. Firebird is independent and I've heard no proposal for that to change.

Thanks for your your efforts on this. I'm impressed.

(co-founder, IBDI)

All for Open and Open for All
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