Friday, November 24, 2006

Personell Changes at Vivid Solutions and Refractions Research - What does it mean for OpenJUMP?

There have been recent some personell changes at Vivid Solutions ( ), the company that produces JUMP, and Refractions Research, ( ) the company that produces uDig. These changes have taken place over the last few months. These companies both cooperate and compete with each other, although it seems there is more competition than cooperation lately.

I want to discuss how these personell changes might impact OpenJUMP. Specifically, I'd like to address some comments I've heard that indicate these changes might be a reason to switch from using OpenJUMP to using uDig. I'm not going to get into the details of the personell changes. I don't think those details are important for this discussion, and if you care you probably already know. :]

Some OpenJUMP developers and users may be concerned that Vivid Solutions no longer has employees that understand how JUMP, and consequently OpenJUMP, works on the inside. On the contrary, I think the company has taken recent steps to ensure that they retain some JUMP expertise "in-house".

Some OpenJUMP developers may also be concerned that Vivid Solutions is no longer supporting the development of JUMP. I have spoken to David Zwiers at Vivid Solutions, and I don't believe this is the case at all. In fact, I have spoken to David about the future of OpenJUMP and JUMP, and about how the JUMP Pilot Project and his company can work more closely on the development of both programs. He seems optimistic that we can work for the benefit of each other, and that our goals are similiar. Stefan and I will be talking more with David and other members of Vivid Solutions about this opportunity. I will also be making a personal effort to make sure that more of OpenJUMP's code makes it into JUMP.

I think OpenJUMP developers and users need to view these recent personell changes at Vivid Solutions as an opportunity to work more closely with the company. After my conversations with David, I really believe that these changes will be good for OpenJUMP and the JUMP Pilot Project.

It is also important to remember a key difference that distinguishes JUMP and uDig from OpenJUMP. The majority of the development and administration of OpenJUMP is done by volunteers, not by paid employees. There is no primary corporate backer of OpenJUMP. (There are currently companies that are funding some areas of OpenJUMP development.) This is great strength of the program, and I think it gives OpenJUMP a more secure future.

Corporate priorities "follow the money", and they can change overnight. Vivid Solutions and Refractions Research could abandon uDig and JUMP to their respective user communities tomorrow. (This isn't likely, but it could happen.) If no other corporate backer stepped into fill that void, those user communities would have to organize and provide their own leadership and administrators. That framework is already in place within the OpenJUMP community. I can't speak for all the other OpenJUMP developers, but I work on OpenJUMP because I recognize that it is a great program, and I think the best bet for a fully functional open source GIS program that can serve the needs of the geospatial masses. I don't work on the program because it is my job, and I'm not going to quit working on it because someone stops paying me to do so, or because I change jobs. I think there are other OpenJUMP developers that feel the same way.

In summary, OpenJUMP is here to stay.

It will live one with or without Vivid Solutions. (We would prefer with, not without, of course...) :] It may just outlive both companies. There may be a lot of reasons for an individual or organization to switch to uDig for their open source GIS needs, but the recent personell changes at Vivid Solutions and Refractions Research aren't one of these good reasons.

In the future I think you will see closer cooperation between the JUMP Pilot Project and Vivid Solutions, and this will mean only more growth and improvement of OpenJUMP.

The Sunburned Surveyor

P.S. - I want to make it clear that I have great respect for the employees of Refractions Research, for uDig, and for uDig's development team. I would welcome any opportunity to work with them for the benefit of the open source GIS community, or for the mutual benefit of uDig and JUMP/OpenJUMP.