A Diatribe Against OpenOffice, But What's the Real Agenda?

by Ostatic Staff - Dec. 30, 2008

Matt Asay weighs in today on whether OpenOffice is "profoundly sick," as Novell employee Michael Meeks claims it is. Meeks argues that OpenOffice is "not getting better with age" and that a big part of the problem is that Sun Microsystems exerts too much control over the suite, not allowing more contributors to innovate and improve. Matt correctly points out that most big open source projects move along thanks to a small, core group of committers, but, whether Novell's Meeks is right or wrong here, I get the strong sense that he has an agenda that may not be apparent at first glance.

The key thing to notice about Meeks' diatribe against OpenOffice comes at the very end of his long, well-supported, graphical essay. I don't disagree with his basic argument about how Sun could pay more attention to the first word in OpenOffice (open), but this is what Meeks delivers at the essay's end:

"Will you help us make OpenOffice.org better ? if so, probably the best place to get started is by playing with go-oo.org and getting in touch, please mail us."

There are a number of forks availabe of OpenOffice, and one of them is the Novell-backed (and via pass-through, possibly Microsoft-supported) version called Go-oo. Go-oo is a lighter, faster version of OpenOffice, with its own team of core contributors. I like it and use it, but when I wrote it up in early November, more than 20 readers shot arrows at me for failing to mention the Novell/Microsoft connection. Here is one example from the reader comments:

"Maybe I'm off-base, but it looks to me like MS-infected OOo. It's coming from Novell (which I refuse to use), and is paid for by MS-license fees. Sure, I'm paranoid, but I'm not touching this..."

I do happen to find that a little paranoid, but I now recognize that the Novell connection should be called out when discussing this variation of OpenOffice. In his diatribe against the suite, Meeks saves his real message about Go-oo until the end, where his "please mail us" request appears. I agree with much of his post, and I like Go-oo, but let's be clear about mudslinging from the competition.

Am I above chastising myself for not mentioning the Novell connection when I wrote about Go-oo? No, although it was an oversight and not obfuscation, the readers were right that I should have mentioned it.