Regional/Local Development Groups – do we really lack them ?

In his blog entry, Pavel emphatically states that is lacking is regional development groups or to be precise

The third presentation I have seen was Louis’ “Year 6″. Nice summary of the recent and also not so recent stuff. Two interesting points in his presentation I strongly agree with: we are still missing regional development groups. The global development cooperation works very well, but we have to introduce something similar on the local level.

. However, this is a statement that I would like to contend in a small way. The issue is not about that development communities at the local level are not there but somehow they have managed to do all the development away from public view and sometimes as a fork from upstream.

For a moment consider a project like BOSS this is an operating system which is most probably a derivative of Debian but I might be mistaken. The point is that there is no way for BOSS in its present state to build a community around it. Or to extend this consider the number of C-DAC units involved in OpenOffice.org and Firefox. Some of them push patches upstream, but then again it is more of an in-house C-DAC pushing patches upstream rather than a community around it. An extreme example of this is Indix. Here again, there are binaries and source tarballs available, but no clear roadmap as to in what manner participation is solicited if at all.

Creating a local community requires a simple trick – the willingness to do development out in the open such that anyone can actually track it, contribute to it and at worst fork it (an extreme case). The lip service of “we are working with the community” while being neatly shut behind closed doors is at best a misunderstanding of the true nature of FOSS model at worst hypocrisy. Producing FOSS software includes the concepts of collaboration, community and development. Thus, the driving forces are open-ness and transparency of development. Unless we get that right the outside perception is that there is not much local development going on. Do take note before flaming that this is not an anti-C-DAC tirade. What C-DAC is doing is laudable in terms of the resources being thrown into the game, what they are not doing properly is opening up the development in terms of development mailing lists, CVS/SVN/repository, IRC channels and newsletters. Till the time that happens, the perception will remain that locally there are just consumers of code and not contributors.