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Foundations, assignment and the long tail

The H: Have you considered moving the open sourced parts of Talend into a foundation and contributing to that?

RT: The markets we address are quite a bit narrower than those at Mozilla, Apache, or Eclipse, and I think that their foundations provide functions that our situation doesn't yet require. We receive very few outside code contributions.

We don’t require other people to donate or otherwise subsidise our development, and our community hasn’t shown interest in providing strong governance – to the contrary, we've been told that our community members have been very pleased with their open access to our core developers and product managers.

It all comes down to what will best serve the needs of our community. At this stage, I think our community is most interested in whatever allows the rapid expansion and enhancement of our technology to continue. Setting up a foundation could add a lot of complexity to the way we build things, and people wouldn’t want to see us do that without good reason. I don’t think we’re culturally opposed to the idea, but we have a responsibility to remain pragmatic.

The H: Do you require copyright assignment on contributions? This is becoming quite an inhibitor for contributions as people become more aware of it.

RT: Currently, we do require copyright assignment on contributions to the core code. However, most community innovation has been done through extensions (Talend Open Studio components or Talend Open Profiler patterns, for example). For an extension, we only require copyright assignment if the contributor wants us to maintain it perpetually as part of our product. That has happened before, but it's certainly not required.

I think the extensibility of our studio has given users a lot of flexibility, and reduced the need for modification of its core functions. A similar sort of thing occurred when Apache released version 2.0 of their HTTP Server project, and again when Mozilla released Firefox: long-tail innovation moved away from the core and into extensions, and ended up occurring much more quickly.

The result is that we receive very few code contributions to our core studio. However, of the around 450 components that can be used with Talend Open Studio, more than half were created by someone outside our company.

The H: Building a community is hard work; why are you taking the initiative to create community?

RT: Community is one of our major differentiators. It's critical that we have a vibrant community of users sharing ideas, helping each other, and providing feedback on our future strategy; that keeps us sharp. Also, users who share components, models, patterns, and other peripheral technology enrich the platform and make our technology more useful.

Increased adoption of the community editions will raise awareness – and value – of our technology much more effectively than we could with traditional product marketing. For every customer we have, there are at least a thousand non-customers who still benefit from what we've built... and that's pretty cool. Our proprietary competitors don't care about the long tail at all, but they're our future.

The H: The long tail I hope, not your proprietary competitors.

RT: Doh! Yes, that's what I meant. Our proprietary competitors don't care about the long tail at all, but the long tail is our future.

The H: Communities work best with a broad spectrum of users and developers; do you think you've done enough to advocate Talend's open source software outside the tradition ETL audience to address more developers?

RT: I think we could do a whole lot more, sure. That's one of the reasons I've joined Talend. We've done a good job educating the ETL / data audience on the virtues of open source, but I hope to spend more time educating the FOSS audience on the virtues of using data integration tools. There are a lot of people out there who meet these needs through scripting, and I think our tools could help them a lot.

One of our challenges is exactly that: the broad spectrum of potential users and developers. The technology in Talend Open Studio and our other community offerings is very flexible and applies to a lot of different situations. We have to figure out how to have clear, meaningful communication with a multi-faceted community. That's tough!

The H: There's a lot of work going on around open data and getting government data sets into good order. That seems like a task Talends suited for. Have you considered working with groups in that area like Rewired State, for example?

RT: Last year, we announced the joint creation of Data Publica with Araok and Nexedi. Data Publica is currently the third largest directory of public data, and it uses Talend to manage 1,500 datasets from sixty publishers. We're very inspired by the recent open data movement, and we're always willing to collaborate with others who feel the same way.

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