Browse Tag by Strategy

A new model for BlueSpice

BlueSpice Website

We set ourselves a couple of goals for 2015 and 2016 at our strategy meeting at the start of January. The most important ones relate to the MediaWiki distribution BlueSpice. We are making this successful product truly open source, offering new prospects for customers and partners.

100% subscription, one product, no more modules.

We have been developing the BlueSpice service model further and further over the last five years. In the future, BlueSpice will be made available in an integrated distribution. This means that the additional modules that require payment will be collected together in a single edition. Customers will thus be able to use all the modules from the outset. And, above all, you will gain tremendously from new developments as all our latest innovations will be contained in this distribution. This means that those new developments will always be available for subscribing customers whenever they want. This will save you the trouble of having to purchase them separately. Furthermore, as there will no longer be costs for each module, getting started with a professional solution will be significantly better value.

In parallel, there will still be the popular distribution BlueSpice free, which is downloaded 20,000 times a year, and used in over 130 countries and more than 20 languages. The free distribution contains the same scope of services as before, and remains the ideal first step in collaborative knowledge management.

Supporting growth and propagation

Why are we doing this? Firstly, because now we can. The major Linux distributions Red Hat and Suse have always been the examples we have followed: The best open source models for customers and developers are made in the Linux environment. However, moving away from project business and without outside capital, we are only now able to take this step.
Another reason is that we want to build the best open source wiki with new partners. This is only possible with extensive openness, technically and economically. The module system has been good for us and our customers. However, it is now blocking us from developing MediaWiki further into the most popular Wiki software for businesses. A module system will become too complex and opaque for customers and developers as we grow further. Also, we do not want to lose our way in administration, but rather to concentrate on development, integration and quality assurance.

Radically open source

For this reason too, we are radically opening the development to external developers. They can, from this year, contribute to all BlueSpice extensions, including those which had been previously unavailable. In this way, we open up the project for other developers, accelerate the programming and improve quality assurance.
Last but not least, BlueSpice should become more compatible with SemanticMediaWiki (SMW) so that customers and partners need no longer decide whether to choose SMW or BlueSpice. Using both is already a possibility. But, by the end of the year both worlds should interlock better.

It will be a busy and interesting year. The new version will already be ready for examination and ordering at Cebit. We have already set out the stages which will follow this. We will be moving towards an ecosystem, which is a familiar concept from other open source projects.

We look forward to all your support and cooperation.

BlueSpice, MediaWiki and the outlook for libre knowledge

BlueSpice for MediaWiki is a commercial project. The plan to develop an enterprise distribution for MediaWiki was driven by the aim of making a profit and creating jobs.

Nevertheless, it is time to say a few words about other aspects of the BlueSpice project. For BlueSpice is also a project that should push along the development of MediaWiki and the construction of free knowledge platforms on the Web.

I will consider three aspects here.

1. Wikis are society’s future repositories of knowledge and BlueSpice should make a contribution

An open society needs a place to gather knowledge, to organise it and to map it. In the future we will find society’s memory on the Web. Political Wikis show how important this memory is. Lobbypedia and its English predecessor powerbase from spinwatch are two good examples. NGOs collect information there about lobbyists, politicians and organisations making networks and strategies transparent and making the information available for research. Think Tank Network Research is a similar research project. I could go on and on with this list.

It is not just in politics that we need a central platform on the net where we can collect free knowledge centred on particular themes, but also areas like leisure, culture, sport, business and health. Regional and city wikis have already become the trailblazers here.

And there will be wikis which save content from other websites so that it can be further developed and worked upon.

There is no system better suited to such tasks as MediaWiki software. And MediaWiki has a special role because the software is available under a free licence and, being an integral part of the Wikimedia projects Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and Wiktionary, has the best outlook for development.

So that the operators of wikis can carry out their work with significantly less technical personnel and budget than Wikipedia, they need MediaWikis which can be expanded with inexpensive software packages fitting their needs.

So BlueSpice publishes its free version, not only for marketing purposes, but also so the software can make life easier for those involved in such projects.

2. MediaWiki is becoming a software framework and BlueSpice is a step on that road

More and more projects are starting using MediaWiki as a basis and putting further pieces of software on top. With MediaWiki, you can operate an online encyclopaedia. However, if you does not want to do that, you will need another user interface but you can continue to use the basic structure. This means that the basic system stays the same, MediaWiki, delivering authentication, rights management and categorisation. On top of this comes, for example, BlueSpice, making the system into a company wiki.

A couple of further examples:

  • Translatewiki extends MediaWiki into a collaborative translation management system.
  • There is an initiative in Germany, which builds on MediaWiki to safeguard the basic provisions for media. For this, MediaWiki needs a additional layer which can provide and manage films.
  • At Hallo Welt! we are doing something similar, working with the project LinkTank, a collaborative link directory, and with Musikwiki, a place for collecting musical score. In one project one edits music scores and on the other collects links related to a theme.
  • Wikimedia Commons also only needed to further develop the user interface to make a really attractive platform for a picture library beyond Wikipedia.

MediaWiki has a very special role in open source applications. The software is completely unrivalled as a framework for “collecting open knowledge”. WordPress would be comparable as a basis for communication and social networking solutions.

Thus, we see BlueSpice as one of many steps in the development of MediaWiki into a general framework for free knowledge. This process tests out new possibilities and builds up knowledge which can be useful for other projects.

3. MediaWiki needs an ecosystem and BlueSpice is a contribution to this

The most successful and innovative open source software projects have developed a vibrant ecosystem that putting together both non-profit and for-profit agents, each driving the development in different ways. A large circle of developers is created. The software can assert itself over propitiatory systems and even force them back.

MediaWiki has a very underdeveloped ecosystem compared to other software projects. This means that commercial development in the whole project can be put to good use. Many projects need, for example, a user management system in the backend. In this form, this is not necessary or possible for Wikipedia. All others, however, need exactly this extension. Now these were firstly developed for companies and are now available as free software. I could add many further examples from the development of BlueSpice.

We need, therefore, better general conditions and more energy for a MediaWiki ecosystem. It is true that the Wikimedia Foundation has recently invested more money and energy in software development. However, this will not be enough on its own. Even for sister-projects like Wikimedia Commons, the capabilities necessary are often not there. For this reason, the focus is on third party developers and one wants to support the development of a MediaWiki ecosystem.

This is a step in the right direction. The new initiatives from the Wikimedia Foundation, to develop MediaWiki further and to create a new economic setting is bringing new energy to the whole project. This will open up new vistas to free knowledge projects.

Here, BlueSpice is just one cog in the machine. But it can and will be the basis for completely new types of project.

The decision, in the end, will be made by the users and the community.