TWiki fail, Foswiki for the gold
written over 3 years ago
Note: The review of PBR (Paul Reiber) omits his TWiki connection as a "TWiki.net" (the corporate) "independent consultant". It is in his business interest to say nice things about TWiki. It would be professional if he'd indicate that conflict of interest in his review. But he didn't, so I mention it here.
Since most of the original coders are no longer listed as consultants after the coup, he has a privileged happy hunting ground he probably would rather keep to himself.
TWiki *was* a good tool when it had a vibrant community and represented a best-of-breed solution. But trademark shenanigans and a VC-funded company argued with the community who'd written most of the latter generation code, ultimately locking them out. Development, since November 2008, has been minimal, and the "community" web site is now a Stalinist zone that zealously purifies itself against any mention of what happened. The author of the lockout now styles himself the "benevolent dictator for life", but unlike other self-styled free software monarchs, he presides over a mostly Potemkin kingdom of old code and marketing.
Fortunately, *all* the developers walked out together after the lockout (save the trademark holder and one employee). They founded Foswiki, continuing the GPLed TWiki codebase. It now has 32 core contributors (compared to 2 for TWiki) -- see the listing here: http://blog.wikiring.com/Blog/BlogEntry36 . The Ohloh project metrics for development of the two projects show where the action is quite clearly: http://bit.ly/fwstats
The projects are compatible -- Foswiki builds from the same codebase with the same programmers -- and migration isn't much more complicated than an upgrade -- plus there's an active IRC chatroom for realtime help.
As to the other analogy of Foswiki as "Fedora to Redhat" -- Redhat has a large team of professionals who, with community assistance, manage both Fedora and RHEL. The Ohloh statistics are simple and to the point: TWiki no longer has a significant developer community. Let me repeat that: development almost at a standstill compared to Foswiki. Look at the SVN logs! If that somnolence defines a "stable" project, it's a somewhat different definition of stable than I'm familiar with. Foswiki has patched hundreds of TWiki bugs and though there was a period of about two months after the lockout during rebranding when it could be called "beta", it's by any reasonable definition a more mature and stable project than TWiki. It's got the same programmers. It has the last two release managers for TWiki (Kenneth Lavrsen continues as release manager for Foswiki). Essentially the *same* people who brought you the current TWiki, which is now bitrotting.
Many of the featured installations trumpeted from TWiki.org have migrated (Motorola, one of the larger worldwide installations, pays the salary of the Foswiki release manager). Others are doing so (Yahoo, which runs the world's largest TWiki instance, hired a FT programmer to oversee the migration and push Foswiki upstream development) The University of Minnesota, another site shamelessly pushed for TWiki PR, is administered by yet another new Foswiki programmer, who has migrated several UMN installs and is working on the "big" one (there's a blog entry on their site). But you'd never know this from reading the "community" TWiki site. That's warning enough. Free Software is about openness. Eliminate the openness, lock up the trademarks, and is there anything left to trust?
By the way, the twiki.org "community" site listing of consultants who understand (who *wrote*!) the codebase was peremptorily stripped of the former core programmers who were locked out -- that it was done by sleight of hand rather than outright does not change the ethics. (The page was "reorganized" and only those who had signed the imposed "code of conduct" naming Thoeny the benevolent dictator could edit the requisite new entries).
Meanwhile, expect a flood of PR and FUD here, as TWiki has started the marketing engine to reply to this (see their sparsely-attended release meeting minutes of 12 April 2010). Thoeny and Peter Jones are committed to writing hagiographies to apply CPR to the brand. Gasbaggery is its own art form: I expect masterpieces.
Oh yes -- one last request? Remove the image of my web site (with the Foswiki logo clipped) from the promotional video you have front and center. It's really in spectacularly poor taste.
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