MeeGo (Nokia/Intel): Openness does not seem to be very important for Nokia and Intel. They develop their stuff behind closed doors and then do a large code drop (once dropped, stuff gets developed in the open). In terms of professionality, it does not look much better: If you look at the meego-dev mailing list, you feel like you are in some kind of a kindergarten for open source developers – Things like HTML emails and top-posting appear to be completely normal for them, they don’t even follow the basic rules for emails and they also appear to ignore any advice on this topic. Oh, and writing a platform in GTK+ while pushing Qt as the supported toolset is not a good idea.
Android (Google): The situation with Android appears to be even worse. Google keeps an internal development tree and the only time the public sees changes is when a new release is coming and Google does a new code drop. Such a behavior is not acceptable.
Ubuntu (Canonical): Canonical does an outstanding job on openness. Canonical employees develop their software completely in the open, and there are no big code drops. They basically have no competitive advantage and allow you to use their work for your own project before they use it themselves. Canonical employees basically behave like normal free software developers doing stuff in his free time, the only exception being that they are paid for it. Most Canonical employees also know how to behave on mailing lists and do not post HTML emails or do top-posting. There are of course also other people: The design process of the Ubuntu font on the other hand is a disaster, with the font being created using proprietary software running on Windows; for a free software company, that’s not acceptable (such persons should probably not be hired at all). Furthermore, the quality of Ubuntu packages is often bad when compared to the quality of a Debian package (especially in terms of API documentation of Canonical-created software); a result of vastly different development cycles and different priorities.
On a scale from 0 to 15 (15 being the best), Nokia/Intel receive 5 points (“D” in U.S. grades), Google receives 3 points (“F” in U.S. grades), and Canonical receives 12 points (“B” in U.S. grades). Please note that those grades only apply for the named projects, the companies may behave better or worse in other projects.
Final tips for the companies:
- Nokia/Intel: Teach your employees how to behave in email discussions.
- Nokia/Intel/Google: Don’t do big code drops, develop in the open. If someone else can create something awesome using your work before you can, you are on the right way. Competitive Advantage must not exist.
- Canonical: Fire those who used Windows to create the Ubuntu font and restart using free tools.
- All: Document your code.