Some time has passed since we announced that we reached the goal of our 50.000 € fundraising challenge. In the meantime, we’ve updated you on our legal process via this blog, and so I’d like to post another update on where we stand and what our roadmap is.
Numbers and Figures
Let’s have a look at the Community first. In one word: I’m overwhelmed. What’s going on, what progress we make, the amount of creativity, contributions and and support we receive is just beyond imagination. Although I’m not a friend of numbers and statistics, they indeed do greatly help to understand what impact the Community has, how large it is. So, let me allow to share the most recent numbers with you: We have nearly 70 mirrors worldwide, offering LibreOffice for download. Plus, we have now about 200 new code contributors, providing patches, features and bugfixes for LibreOffice, plus 200 localisers and QA volunteers. Roughly 6,000 people contribute to our mailing lists, and about 7,500 opted in to receive announcements on new versions and releases. Plus, we’re very much in line with our release plan.
Committees and Events
We’re also breathing life to the committees set forth in our Bylaws. Not only has the Membership Committee been set-up and approved the first members already, but we have also officially appointed the Engineering Steering Committee, consisting of representatives of various corporations and individual developers. These bodies reflect our vendor-independent, neutral approach and clearly show we are eager to not being dependent on one single corporation like it was in the past, but to have a truly open process where we work together with corporations as well as individuals in a healthy, friendly, environment open to everyone. Talking about corporations, we soon expect to have news on the set-up of our Advisory Board.
With regards to events, the Community has not only begun to be part of various trade shows and congresses, but is also starting to organize own events. From virtual meetings, like our QA sessions in IRC, and local events like the German Community’s QA weekend and project weekend to global events like our LibreOffice Conference, taking place in Paris in the middle of October. What we currently plan is a LibreOffice Hackfest, most probably in Munich, within the next weeks – details on that will follow soon.
And what about the Foundation?
I’d like to give you some details on probably the most interesting question: What’s the status of the Foundation? The Steering Committee has – as you all know – voted for a Foundation to be set-up in Germany. Before that was clear, we have already been working on our Community Bylaws, independent from local legal requirements, as other countries have been in the race for the location as well. Needless to say, the Bylaws have been worked on openly and transparent in our mailing lists. After it was clear that the Foundation will be located in Germany, we have been working on translating the Bylaws into German. Of course, this has been coordinated on our mailing lists as well, and not only did we receive feedback on the wording, but also on certain legal issues, that have all been incorporated.
What we now are working on are the so-called Statutes of the Foundation. Let me explain this a bit: In German law (and probably also in other countries), there are rather strict formal and legal requirements on the Statutes. The Statutes are being thoroughly checked by the government, and after they have been approved, despite minor changes, nothing can be changed anymore – this is to guarantee stability and safety. So, anything that we hand in as Statutes needs to be very well checked. In addition, there are some legal requirements on what needs to be in the Statutes (and is missing from the Bylaws), on what can not be in the Statutes (and is mentioned in the Bylaws), and what can, but should not be in the Statutes, as you cannot easily change it. One example for the latter would be adding various additional bodies and entitites apart from the BoD into the Statutes, as then it could get problematic later on to change them or add new ones.
So, what we will essentially do is taking the currenty Bylaws as a basis, and work out the basically unchangeable Statutes that will be approved by the government. In addition, we will work out some policy that will in addition serve as the basis of our doings, but can be changed easier. So, in a nutshell: The current Bylaws will be divided into two documents – one very formal and unchangeable, the other one basically changeable, but still serving as basis of our daily work. This will retain the spirit of the Bylaws, while giving us flexibility where we need it, and guaranteeing us safety where is is crucial.
Our lawyer is working already on the Statutes, and we expect a timeframe of maybe two to three weeks from now on until a first draft is ready. Some of you may ask now why things take so long, but this is – despite the fact that we do most things ourselves to save donations for a Community budget – explained rather easy: The idea of the membership that we have set forth in our Bylaws is legally rather uncommon in the way we handle it, so it requires a lot of time to be incoporated the way it serves the Community best.
Strong legal backing
Right now, TDF is backed by the German nonprofit association Freies Office Deutschland e.V. (“Free Office Germany”), previously known as OpenOffice.org Deutschland e.V., as well as by Software in the Public Interest (SPI), where we are an associated project. This means that TDF has strong legal backing, not only for accepting donations and spending money, but also for receiving and maintaining any kind of legal assets, like trademarks.
Where do we want to be?
In parallel, the process of finding the ideal German federal state has been started. Although the Foundation law is very similar in many German states, the way it is handled on a daily basis in the various states can differ. After you have legally set-up the Foundation, you cannot move between states, so our decision has to be very well prepared. What, as far as we have found out in the meantime, is possible is to incorporate in one state, and have our office in a different state. However, this will complicate things, so we try to avoid that solution.
What is important for us when deciding on a German federal state? First of all, although decisions based on individuals are not desirable, having someone active on the spot, who is already involved with The Document Foundation and has experience in managing things, is very much welcome. Second, setting up in a place where open source is adopted and supported is a good sign and will contribute to a good local ecosystem. Third, in line with that, having support by the region where we incorporate is not absolutely necessary, but of course very much welcome and will ease things a lot.
At the moment, we are investigating three possible locations inside Germany. From north to south:
- The City of Berlin
Berlin is not only Germany’s capital, but also an important center of culture and technology, and many other Foundations are incorporated there.
The issue is that we have only very few active contributors there, which might make running the Foundation a lot harder.
- the Federal State of Hesse with the City of Wiesbaden
Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt, is the location of the German association Freies Office Deutschland e.V. Hesse is known for being very liberal and uncomplicated in setting up Foundations.
- the Federal State of Bavaria with the City of Munich
Munich is not only another important center of technology and culture in Germany, but also a symbol for free software due to their “LiMux” Linux migration project and their use of the OpenDocument Format.
I must confess that the whole process has taken longer already than I have thought, but as we are doing something important and with deep impact, and are keen of keeping the spirit of the Bylaws, using that time is justified. Our lawyer expects to have the Statutes ready within two to three weeks. Depending on how many changes we have to incorporate then, I am optimistic that we can hand in these Statutes for governmental verification in the next weeks. If all works out well, we could have our “Stiftung” (Foundation) during this summer.
Thank you so much for your invealueable contributions, your appreciation and your support – it’s your help that will finally make the set-up of the Foundation possible.