1 March 2001
Interview: Sander Vesik
Over the course of two days, I interviewed OpenOffice.orgs release engineer, Sander Vesik. As the release engineer, Sander works with Armin Theissen in Sun's offices in Ireland to coordinate releases of OpenOffice.org builds. I initially planned for this interview to go into the "Spotlight" section of the OpenOffice.org home page. But because Sander raises some important points about Open Source that transcend the more biographical nature of the spotlight, I feel that this space is more appropriate.
Every open-source project has its own defining characteristics. What characteristics about OpenOffice.org drew you to it?
I actually worked at Sun before October 13th  when the site (and project), as far as source code is concerned, was launched. But in general I guess it was the name recognition of 'StarOffice' and its potential [that drew me].
How would you describe your role in OpenOffice.org?
Imagine taking one of the great pyramids, say the Pyramid of Cheops, and removing all but, oh, 20 randomly selected stone blocks. You could probably think of a wide variety of shapes based on just those 20 stones and the position of the stones in the structure might thus considerably vary. It's really hard to say at this point where I am going to be in the OpenOffice.org scheme of things when they finally develop. I just hope the process does pick up some speed. For now, I'm mostly a free-floating stone.
It's difficult sometimes for those not familiar with the workings of an open-source project to understand just how positions are established and defined .
OpenOffice.org isn't really an open-source project, and definitely not from the developer base point of view, having only one non-Sun committer. Well, this doesn't sound nice when taken on the face value. Yes, the code definitely is free, but the developer community and structures associated with that just haven't developed yet.
What do you mean, then, by an open-source project? Is it the community that makes the difference? For what you imply is that an open-source project relies for its identity as such on community involvement.
There are a great number of shades of gray between 'totally Open Source' and 'closed source'. Somewhere in the spectrum are things like various FSF projects [Free Software Foundation], Sun JDK source, Ghostscript, Mozilla[.org], OpenOffice.org, GNOME, KDE, Linux, and many others. [Whether] a project is open or not doesn't depend so much on the license but how the whole project works. The license is only a small part of that, and not always the most important. There are GPL-licensed projects that are really more closed than the JDK, [but] that also actively kill forks.
How would you go about making OpenOffice.org more of an open-source project? That is, what needs still to be done?
I really do think only new people coming to the project and actively throwing their weight behind the project can do that. So far, this has only really happened in porting.
How would you recommend a new community member should go about joining a project?
It really depends on the project, but I think in general [that they could] start [by] asking questions, finding stuff out on [their] own (and [requesting] documentation for the uncovered parts), and making patches that fix bugs or add new functionality. Oh and not going away just because it seems nobody is paying attention and answering back.
For prospective members, what elements about OpenOffice.org might appeal to them?
Availability of regular binary snapshots, a wide variety of not yet filled roles, [and] having what you do actually go to the desktops of a large number of users on several platforms.
22 February 2001 Allchin's Demagoguery, by Bill Roth, guest contributor
15 February 2001 Interview with Wilfredo Sánchez
9 February 2001 Organizing Open Source
1 February 2001 Open Source and Its Culture
23 January 2001 Community Action
16 January 2001 Quo Vadis OpenOffice.org?
9 January 2001 The 613 build: problems and opportunities
3 January 2001 Sun's open door