A few days ago, everyone read about this year's WalterCon being canceled, which left people with non-refundable, non-transferable plane tickets (you can read Mikesum32's reaction here) in their hands. Fortunately for them, an alternative has now been set up, and they will be able to still meet, in San Francisco, on August 11th. The venue? Picnix 16, a Linux gathering. The name? FalterCon 2007.
Read on for my thoughts on this...
I believe this whole WC debacle shows the existing lack of organization in Haiku Inc. And the person getting "the heat" about WC isn't even (as far as I know) officialy part of it, DarkWyrm. The organization, arrangements, preparations, etc, came late, very late for something like this, and after it gets canceled for lack of registered users. On top of that, it gets canceled without any warning to the three registered attendees. How difficult would it be to do so? And if there wasn't a FalterCon to go to? Asking Haiku Inc for a refund would be quite justified. Very bad PR.
Speaking of PR, in its several years in existence, it's rare that we see or hear from Haiku Inc, in official statements. We just don't hear from them. Haiku Inc has 3 members, its president Michael Phipps and 2 board members. Michael we all know, and I've had the pleasure of meeting him while at BeGeistert and having some very interesting discussions with. Very nice man but also very busy man, with not much time for Haiku unfortunately. The two board members I only know their names since Friday. It is troubling that after these many years, it is a mistery who the board members are, apparently even to many of the Haiku devs, the driving force for the project (along with its community). To quote a friend: "Haiku Inc is pretty much a ghost organization".
It's been ups and downs for Haiku Inc. They got into Google's Summer of Code this year, but missed it last year. They had Axel working full time for a while, a big boost to the project, but had another developer previously, which didn't go so well. Another poorly handed situation was the bounties topic. Karl first started HaikuBounties, he then tried to contact Haiku Inc for months,
finally getting through and ending HaikuBounties, since it would be administered by Haiku Inc themselves (with him onboard to assist). Nothing happened. Karl recently re-launched the bounties page, now part of the HaikuWare website, with great success.
Haiku Inc should make itself more visible, should communicate more, to the developers, to the ommunity and, perhaps more important in a way, to everyone else outside the community, getting the word out. But what it shouldn't do, ever, is neglect "their own", which is what happened. Haiku is a great project, with lots of promise, but it needs a strong "backbone" for it to succeed, and unfortunately Haiku Inc hasn't been one. How does it look, to the community, when the organization set up to promote the project is so passive and even distanced from the community that it is supposed to engage and inspire? It can't look good and I doubt it helps motivate the user base.
My hope is that this whole matter helps things take a 180 degree turn, for the better (maybe the Switzerland meeting, though informal, will help?). Haiku Inc needs, and don't shoot me for the following words, a focus shift. The community needs to be more involved, but both parties must want and work for it. One can't survive without the other, the relationship between them needs to be a healthy one for the project to work and be successful, allowing Haiku o reach its potential.