Mixed messages

I am glad to see that PTFS and its LibLime division have contributed the developments that PTFS has been working on for the past year or so, including features commissioned by the East Brunswick and Middletown Township public libraries and others. The text of LibLime’s announcement makes it clear that this is meant as a submission to Koha 3.2 and (more so) 3.4:

The code for the individual new features included in this version has also been made available for download from the GIT repository. The features in this release were not ready for 3.2, but, pending acceptance by the 3.4 Koha Release Manager, could be included in release 3.4.

Chris Cormack (as 3.4 release manager) and I (as 3.2 release manager) have started work on integrating this work in the Koha. Since 3.2 is in feature freeze, for the most part only the bugfixes from Harley will be included in 3.2, although I am strongly considering bringing in the granular circulation permissions work as well. The majority of the features will make their way into 3.4, although they will go through QA and discussion like any other submission.

So far, so good. As a set of contributions for 3.2 and 3.4, “Harley” represents the continuation of PTFS’ ongoing submissions of code to Koha in the past year. Further, I hope that if PTFS is serious about their push for “agile” programming, that they will make a habit of submitting works in progress for discussion and public QA sooner, as in some cases “Harley” features that were obviously completed months ago were not submitted until now.

But here is where the mixed messages come in: “Harley” is prominently listed on koha.org as a release of Koha. Since no PTFS staff are among the elected release managers or maintainers for Koha, that is overreaching. Ever since Koha expanded beyond New Zealand, no vendor has hitherto unilaterally implied that they were doing mainstream releases of Koha outside of the framework of elected release managers.

Before I go further, let me get a couple things out of the way. If somebody wants to enhance Koha and create installation packages of their work in addition to contributing their changes to the Koha project, that’s fine. In fact, if somebody wants to do that without formally submitting their changes, that’s certainly within the bounds of the GPL, although obviously I’d prefer that we have one Koha instead of a bunch of forks of it. If any library wants to download, install, test, and use “Harley”, that’s fine as well. Although there could be some trickiness upgrading from “Harley” to Koha 3.2 or Koha 3.4, it will certainly be possible to do so in the future.

What I am objecting to is the overreach.  Yes, “Harley” is important.  Yes, I hope it will help open a path to resolve other issues between PTFS/LibLime and the rest of the Koha community.  Yes, I thank PTFS for releasing the code, and in particular publishing it in their Git repository.  That doesn’t make it an official release of Koha; it is still just another contribution to the Koha project, the same as if it came from BibLibre, software.coop, Catalyst, Equinox, one of the many individual librarians contributing to Koha, or any other source.

“Harley” is available for download from LibLime’s website at http://www.liblime.com/downloads.  This is where it belongs.  Any vendor-specific distribution of Koha should be retrievable from the vendor’s own website, but it should not be presented as a formal release.  Perhaps there is room to consider having the Koha download service also offer vendor-specific distributions in addition to the main releases, but if that is desired, it should be proposed and discussed on the community mailing lists.

Updating koha.org to remove the implication that “Harley” is an official release is a simple change to make, and I call upon PTFS to do so.

Please see my disclosure statement. In particular, I am release manager for Koha 3.2 and I work for a competitor of PTFS. This post should not be construed as an official statement by Equinox, however, although I stand by my words.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Mixed messages by Galen Charlton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

6 thoughts on “Mixed messages

  1. I would like to point out that koha.org is no longer the official website of the Koha Library Software project. The Koha Library Software project does not post official releases at koha.org anymore, the reasons why have been stated on the official website: http://koha-community.org/home/.

    I agree with Galen that it is admirable and good for PTFS to release Harley. They have the thanks of a grateful global community for it. Many libraries will benefit from the great features and fixes, once they are integrated into our upcoming official releases of 3.2 and 3.4. What I disagree with, wholeheartedly, is PTFS claiming that Harley (available at http://www.liblime.com/downloads) is an official release. Is it an official PTFS release? Yes! Is it an official Koha Library Software release? No. Are we grateful and appreciative of all of the effort, time, and money put in to developing this release? Of course! Is it an official, community vetted release of Koha Library Software? No.

  2. Thanks for the clarification, Galen. I’ve been waiting to jump for joy until the other shoe dropped. Too bad we can’t just jump with wild abandon! But maybe we’re getting closer. Thanks to PTFS for releasing the code. Now fix that language problem and we’ll be all set.

    Well, okay, there’s a couple more things….

  3. LibLime did not intend to suggest that our customer sponsored work is the community version of Koha – (Koha 3.0.5) and we hope our FAQ on Harley makes that clear. We specifically did not use a version number to make sure we did not present a conflict or introduce confusion with the community developed releases. Our desire in releasing a full functioning, ready to use version of Koha, was to give librarians a chance to see it and use it immediately to gain benefit of significantly more features than in community version 3.05 (December 2009). We have updated the Koha.org Website to fix the potential confusion – by indicating that 3.05 is the Official Community release.

  4. It’s probably fair to point out that nearly everything in Koha has been sponsored or contributed by libraries, and that the next official release of Koha will be 3.2.0. It is currently going through rigorous testing (it is on it’s second alpha release) and contains patches from a multitude of vendors, developers and libraries, of which PTFS/Liblime are one.
    While Liblime may not have intended to cause confusion, by persisting to call Harley a release of Koha, and to label the actual releases of Koha, ‘community version’, they are indeed doing so.

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