Friday April 28th, 2000
And the big question (which feeds off a discussion in a forum today): what kind of responsibility do third party developers have to meet the deadlines of commercial entities who are utilizing their Open Source code? What if these deadlines are being advocated by end-users? What role should the end user play in directing the time of volunteer coders?
For example, should the third-party volunteers implementing XSLT or SVG or MathML have a responsibility to meet the deadlines of Netscape 6? Even if Netscape didn't promise the technology for the 6 release? What if end-users are telling them that they need to get it done for that release? How much can or should an end-user expect in this situation? How much responsibility should the volunteer developer feel to deliver?
We're interested in feedback from both end-users and developers. Let us know what you think. It's a complex question, but one that I think needs a public airing.
#17 Feature Freezes
Sunday April 30th, 2000 6:58 PM
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Firstly, let me start by saying that feature freezes are the norm in freed software projects.
I'm sure we're going to hear people complaining Netscape's agenda is keeping their code out of Mozilla. The complaints have started already and it hasn't even happened yet.
I hope that mozilla.org continues to do what it has done - code, stabilise, branch, stabilise. Mozilla is new, so we need that first stabilisation to be for a while, and that will inconvenience some people. Don't cry.
Secondly, the issue of deadlines.
Mozilla.org is the coordinator for this project, and what the coordinator says, goes. You can certainly argue about it, but we can't have people arguing forever.
That being said, there is of course inverse power, namely, that Netscape, being the main developer, can essentially set the development schedules. That will change as their ratio of development decreases and mozilla.org asserts itself as an independent entity, which it needs to do here and has not.
Some people have said here that freed software projects should not have deadlines. Untrue in my opinion. It is definitely true to say the credo for release should be "release when ready" and not "it compiles, ship it". However, this is something mozilla.org, Netscape and Joe Bloggs's Mozilla distribution can easily differ on.
This discussion is about the feature freeze date though. We can set feature freezes based on a date, a set of features, or a combination of the two.
Where you have a project where there is no real consensus on a set of features, date-based cutoffs are a necessity. I have seen enough evidence to suggest Mozilla is one of these. I'm pretty sure Linus sets cutoffs dates for Linux too.
As for responsibility, of course non-Netscape developers have no responsibility to conform to the Netscape 6 schedule. But they have to conform to the system set in place by mozilla.org.
Mozilla.org should stand up and say that the feature freeze date of Netscape is the feature freeze for everyone, and say that no development shall occur until mozilla.org decides it is time to branch into stable and development trees.
At the moment we have Netscape developers doing this sort of thing. This is very bad.