Georg C. F. Greve

153 points
Zurich, Switzerland

Georg Greve is co-founder and CEO of Kolab Systems, a full Open Source Groupware ISV. He has been in the industry for some time with a strong focus on software freedom and Open Standards. Previous endeavours include working on the OOXML standardisation process for Google, authoring the Brave GNU World and founding and presiding over FSFE between the years 2001 and 2009. For his accomplishments in Free Software and Open Standards, Greve was awarded the Cross of Merit on ribbon by the Federal Republic of Germany in 2009.

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I'm sorry to hear you've apparently chosen to go back to the proprietary world.

We've come across the expectation of free consultancy and support a couple of times over the years, so it's possible our technical team have not been quite as courteous as you were expecting in explaining that it would be extremely unfair to all users and customers that contribute to and support the development of Kolab by neglecting their tasks in favour of answering user questions on an IRC dedicated to coordination between developers.

Also, groupware is a complex problem.

If you want a generic solution that does NOT lock you into a particular path of technology or limits your abilities, some level of complexity is the price you pay. Which is why we've put extensive efforts into providing documentation for those with the necessary basic skills and education on the individual standard system components without duplicating their individual documentation since we don't think we could or should be doing a better job at documenting postfix (to take one example) than the postfix team itself does.

For those with a more casual engineering background we created a simplified setup with a set of sane default choices for those that just want to get running quickly. On top of that we're working with the distributions to get better packaging upstream, and simplify installation on a variety of platform-administration modules.

So indeed a lot of effort is spent on reducing complexity, although we realize that effort will never be enough to allow 100% of the population to set up and run their own server.

Especially since everyone's requirements tend to be slightly different. And understanding the individual requirements of every installation and setting up all components, such as the directory service, exactly as desired for that installation remains an expert task that will sometimes take substantial time and effort depending on how specific or peculiar the requirements are.

And while we prefer to spend our time on things that help ALL users and customers, we WILL gladly help individual users and customers with their problems.

But time so spent is not available for anything else, including improving the solution for all the other users. So indeed such time will need to be paid in order to ensure the many don't pay the price for the one who is not inclined to abide by the same rules as everyone else:

You can spend your time to build up the skill, solve your own problems, and contribute back with your time and knowledge. Or you can enable those who have spent that time and built the solution to advance it further for your own and everyone else's benefit.

That's a couple choices more than any proprietary solution would give you.

Which is one of the ways in which Free Software / Open Source empowers people.

But with great power comes great responsibility, including the responsibility to respect the professional time of others.

I could not agree more with this article, by the way.

The age of "Free Software as a penance" is long gone. Free Software should be wonderful, beautiful, visually engaging, fun to use, and getting the job done in elegant fashion. It is time for us to find our own visual language, and solve things better than the proprietary world. This is one of the things I always felt Elon Musk has done right about Tesla: Where electric cars before were often ugly things by people who obviously disliked cars in general, he liberated and energized the concept by making one that is beautiful, fun, and a actually first class car.

Which coincidentally is exactly what the idea behind Roundcube Next is all about, check out http://roundcube.net/next

Let's build that exciting experience for Free Software to fully replace Google Apps and Office 365 in all aspects technical - and by making it more elegant, beautiful and fun to use.