[Qgis-psc] Boundless Report to QGIS PSC

Larry Shaffer lshaffer at boundlessgeo.com
Wed Apr 27 18:19:57 PDT 2016

From: Boundless Spatial http://boundlessgeo.com
To: QGIS Project Steering Committee
April 27, 2016


Recently there have been misstatements from our marketing department
regarding the QGIS distribution Boundless packages, causing understandable
concern and objection from several of the QGIS developers. Once contacted
by the PSC, the Boundless team discussed at length planned steps to not
only remedy those misstatements, but to also ensure more communications
regarding Boundless software releases are clear and respective to the
community’s work. While formulating a plan, we read Tim Sutton’s email on a
draft blog article about enterprises collaborating with QGIS and it helped
confirm several areas in our processes which need improvement.

In the spirit of open and constructive discussion, below is an internal
review by Boundless to honestly assess our actions and contributions in
relation to the sections Tim outlined in his blog post:


Summary of our results (in report card format), with discussion following:
* Respect the license: A
* Don't present your work as our work: A
* Don't present our work as your work: C-
* Friends don't fork: A
* Don't rebrand: B
* Integrate your team with the QGIS community: B+
* Integrate your work with the QGIS code base: B+
* Keep us in the loop: B
* Don't only contribute code: C

*Respect the license* A

Boundless does not disrespect the QGIS GPL2+ license in any way. We are now
in the midst reviewing of our exposure of licenses to all underlying
software, open-source or otherwise, to increase awareness to users.

Concerning Boundless contributions based upon QGIS code bases, one needs to
look no further than all of the public code repositories for Boundless
plugins and the detailed QEP for the new QGIS authentication system crafted
by Boundless:


Boundless does have a few QGIS-related private code repositories, though
these are for build scripts and plugins under in-house development.

*Don't present your work as our work* A

Boundless has not presented our work as the work of the QGIS community in
our findings. Please let us know if you find any instance to the contrary.

*Don't present our work as your work* C-

Obviously, Boundless needs to improve on this. We are currently running an
audit of all Boundless website, documentation, and installer text and will
correct any unclear or incorrect statements. The QGIS team of developers at
Boundless is now directly involved in appropriate parts of marketing for a
release and will review such text in the future.

Because Boundless support and software offerings are delivered through a
website registration form, this has led to a few concerns and uncertainty
around the Boundless offering.  There have been several statements that
Boundless installer packages containing QGIS are not different than the
official packages and that Boundless is somehow fishing for marketing data
prior to sending the user to the official downloads at qgis.org. This is
not the case.

Boundless does offer installers, separate from the official QGIS packages,
which provide added value to our supported customers. Boundless clearly
needs to improve in describing the difference between Boundless packages
that contains QGIS and the official QGIS packages to potential users before
they download, which we will remedy immediately in future communications.

*Friends don't fork* A

Boundless does maintain a graphically branded, non-divergent fork of QGIS
for the purpose of incorporating builds into Boundless installers for
several reasons, including some that require Boundless to be the origin of
the built software.

Base fork:
Current LTR branch (what is currently released in Boundless distribution):

Any non-branding edits to those branches (all commits prefaced with
[boundless]) are merely to fix support issues for Boundless customers or to
allow Boundless-supported customers to work with external Boundless
resources and content. Changes to the core QGIS code are always avoided
unless absolutely required.

Maintaining a divergent fork of QGIS is something Boundless has no interest
in developing or maintaining.

*Don't rebrand* B

Rebranding presents a conundrum for Boundless since maintaining and
incorporating a distribution of QGIS (or other open source GUI software)
within Boundless installers is a key ingredient to QGIS adoption within
large enterprise deployments. If the distributed version in Boundless
installers is not rebranded, users may become confused as to its origin or
that it is indeed a different package than one procured from official QGIS
distribution channels. This could lead to increased support issues for both
Boundless and the QGIS project. Thus, Boundless generally rebrands all
software where this might be of concern.

This does equate to light graphical rebranding, usually just the splash
screen and executable’s icon. The Boundless QGIS team has resisted any
attempt to change application strings, as we are all well versed in the
need to keep localization intact as well as keep the user’s QGIS experience
as close as possible to that of official releases. It is also paramount to
Boundless that QGIS users of its distribution can reference online official
and community documentation for the core application without hinderance
from rebranding.

*Integrate your team with the QGIS community* B+

Boundless currently has a QGIS team of six developers who have backgrounds
of contributing to the QGIS project prior to working at Boundless. Most of
those developers are core committers to the QGIS project. All have long
track records of volunteering with and helping the QGIS community. Like
other initially development-oriented enterprises, Boundless could have done
a better job of integrating with the QGIS documentation team. We anticipate
contributing considerably more documentation in the near future.

As we continue to grow the QGIS team here at Boundless, we will ensure
community integration is articulated to new members.

*Integrate your work with the QGIS code base* B+

Other than customized solutions Boundless develops for some customers,
there is practically no coding done on QGIS core code base or plugins by
the Boundless QGIS team that does not also benefit Boundless and its
customers, as well as the community, by being contributed back to the QGIS

Many Boundless customers who contract for development *require* work be
contributed back to the community once completed. This is essentially an
insurance policy on the work, since many are looking to replace
vendor-locked commercial GIS software with open-source and need assurances
paid development does not become vendor-locked as well. Similarly,
Boundless recommends to customers that contracted development be
contributed back to the community. Beyond the benefit to everyone that
community contributions provide, Boundless has no interest in maintaining a
divergent QGIS fork, let alone one specific to a particular customer.

With regards to non-QGIS-core plugins, much of the added value Boundless
brings to its QGIS-based packages that is useful for supported customers
stems from plugins. The “publicly release often and early” open-source
idiom is not always the best approach for early development and releases,
albeit the code is often publicly available. Once a plugin has been shown
to be very stable and useful to a broader base of users than Boundless
customers, it is considered for a broader public release, like the
GeoServer Explorer plugin (based on initial work of the OpenGeo Explorer
Boundless-released plugin), which is now in the QGIS official plugin

*Keep us in the loop* B

Our QGIS work is often in public code repositories and we have also
utilized the QEP process for large contributions, e.g. new authentication
system. We had marginal success using the QEP process, albeit probably due
to the earlier workflow of the process and some misunderstanding by the
Boundless team on how the process works. Commercially speaking, creating
added value to QGIS, whether by way of plugins or core features, can be a
somewhat private affair until ready to release. There is room for Boundless
to improve communication here.

*Don't only contribute code* C

Boundless can improve in this area and has already taken steps to do so.
Boundless is sponsoring the upcoming International QGIS User and Developer
Conference in Girona, Spain. We are looking to contribute much of our work
on building and code-signing Mac installers. As noted above, we are
planning larger contributions to documentation. Any further suggestions
would be appreciated.


Boundless is committed to supporting both users and developers of
open-source geospatial software as well as their surrounding communities.
Without such support, and the tireless efforts of open-source communities,
Boundless would not be so well positioned to offer supported open-source
alternatives to heavily entrenched proprietary geospatial software.

This balancing of open-source community and commercial support benefits
everyone involved, so long as acknowledgement, communication and
contribution flows both directions. Boundless has not been balanced in our
marketing and contribution efforts, but has taken this first step towards
finding a working solution. Any suggestions in this direction are welcomed.


Boundless and its QGIS team
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