Do we need a formal, democratic, non-profit Organization for organizing the Nextcloud community?

(This is a cross-post from reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/NextCloud/comments/n671rd/how_about_a_formal_democratic_nonprofit/)

I often stumble upon posts by disgruntled people that are frustrated by the fact that Nextcloud GmbH mostly cater to people that pay them. In a world that requires money to survive, this isn’t unusual, in my opinion, and not worth blaming in any way.

The real problem IMO is the lack of a formal non-profit organization that

  • people can safely donate to
  • can hire talented people to work on features
  • people can become members of to gain voting rights
  • has it’s own committee of some sort to make decisions on how to spend money
  • has a more powerful voice in talks with the GmbH

There’s good examples out there of such organizations and the benefits they have.

Do you as contributors or users see a benefit in such an organization? Would the Nextcloud GmbH support the creation of such an organization? Are there people interested in helping to make this happen?

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I like the idea in general. Something like “The Document Foundation” is for LibreOffice. Though this idea stands and falls with the support of the Nextcloud GmbH of course.

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I would like to second this idea, I imagine it would benefit Nextcloud GmbH as commercial entity as well in term resource and corporate PR. There is chance to do full focus on enterprise without being accused abandoning community–the foundation will take care of community.

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Not so long ago, there was another discussion about this topic here on the forums:

Of course. And that’s why the idea is doomed…

Risking to be labeled “raining on your parade”, the title-question is not the one you are interested in answering. The right question is “Can a non-profit branch of Nextcloud - catering to the people using it today for free! - be sustainable?”…

And the answer is simple: unless you fork it - no!

Nextcloud the company has no interest in it (see thread linked in @Chartman123 post above).
And there is no reason to NOT believe they are doing quite well financially.

Hence, why would they bother to address the needs of non-paying users? No reason…
They are a commercial entity and profits is their primary - if not only! - goal… Live with it!

It did not meet your expectations? You thought better of them?.. Who cares…

from the previous posts I see the community feels Nextcloud Gmbh somehow doesn’t do what is expected. This may or may not be the case (my personal opinion this is the case and there is no room for community voice when decisions are made).

I feel Nextcloud develops pretty well but the focus is definitely not on the home user but more dictated by the enterprise customers. There is no question Gmbh looks for paying customers and fulfills their needs. I don’t generally disagree with this way to go - they have to compete with global players. When it comes to RFPs there are no points for goodness but only hard fact telling you meet or fail specific criteria.

Maybe there is a way to bundle the power of the community with the strength of Gmbh to hit our goals. Given the fact Gmbh is the most powerful player within Nextcloud development and the community is the basement, Gmbh could establish community voice department. This could have independent finances and review, coordinate and prioritize requests and needs of the community. It could collect funds from the community and provide financial value to needs and requests from small and home users.

I see the drawback as well, so far this council is not separated from Gmbh chances exist decisions are made just by money and user count but for me it’s worth to choose the cooperation path rather the competition by establishing another formal entity…

I would appreciate @frank and @jospoortvliet would comment to this discussion.

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on first sight @marcelklehr 's suggestions sounds pretty good to me. I just would be happier if he would have given out more examples of working organizations like that.

In general? Yes. count me in.

I’d be very careful about such comments since NC would easily tell you that e.g. OnlyOffice Community Server was only made for the community.
So there are (more) examples of things NC GmbH did for the benefit of the community.

But what IS the community? I mean what are the aims and goals of “the community”? Right now it pretty much is a very divergent acting forum. Some individuals want that others want something else to be implemented and a third individual wants just another thing. So how to moderate and/or prioritize something here? We should be aware that “the community” is no construct that speaks with one voice - and thus could gain more attention. I mean “the community” even consists of volounteers just coding for the project without even talking here on the forum, just doing what they love doing or feel is neccessary to add.

So how to get there? Just founding a club/society? Like the Official Nextcloud Club - ONC - with access for everyone? With a small monthly fee you could get some things done, of course. But maybe not the most neccessary thing: a real support for homeusers (other than this forum offers)

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I agree. Some people say they speak for the community but how can we be sure they represent something except themselves ?
We can compare with WordPress community and development. WP was a blog/CMS engine. Now it’s more a store/CMS engine and the community is not the same than in the beginning. Automattic is pushing toward this direction because there is profit. The “old” community may be sad but WP is more and more popular and the new community likes the evolution.

I remember a similar discussion some time ago…

I am not against a formal non-profit organization.
Sadly I remember some obstacles to it that emerged also previously.
Let me write them down just as a recap (and a tool to further the discussion).

Community "space"

In some other communities most community participants have a strong drive to participate. As an example I think to LibreOffice.org: the community members are in several cases representatives of firms that have an economic interest in it (Linux distributions or other software houses) or representatives of “big users” (like the representatives of big government offices of Countries that picked that suite as the one that they use). My impression is that this creates a sufficiently big environment that allows enough room for other volunteers.
In addition, being a project with such visibility, and old enough, helps in attracting people with different motivations (like helping the existence of an office suite in some under-represented language)

Effort

Having a big enough “space”, with people that participate in the community for work-related reasons, helps in diminishing the effort to participate because it decreases the probability of having to do menial tasks, or legal ones.
While I see @marcelklehr perfectly fit to be one of the community representatives, I am fully aware that this would mean that the development of his apps would slow down a lot. He would have to face a lot of tasks in being one of the ones that set up such an organization.
Likewise, let us suppose just for the sake of discussion that I could be a community representative. I doubt I’d have enough time and motivation to deal with the legal aspects of setting up a foundation for free and maybe under the laws of a foreign country. Would you?

A lot of differences

As @JimmyKater and @la00 rightly noted, given the characteristics of this software the community is really different.
App developers, home users, users of hosted instances, NGOs, small instances admins, installers,… have really different point of views.
Even within the same group you find often really different point of view: for example if you are a passionate photographer, you probably hate the photos app. I have a lot of family photos on my Nextcloud instance and I struggle to understand the hate, even if I could appreciate some improvements.

A problem of scale

One of the other differences with e.g.: LibreOffice.Org is that us users are not a huge number.
Let us assume that 1% of the users take part in the foundation, paying an annual fee of 10 €. From the money you have to pick the administrative and legal expenses (probably 5% or 10% of the foundation money). Would the foundation have enough money to pay for the development of a single feature… I think that the answer would be “only the small ones, maybe”, also because I remember some of the numbers @jospoortvliet gave us in some other discussion.
Of course I could be wrong and I am just too negative on the total number of donations.

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@JimmyKater may by words are not very clear don’t get me wrong . there is no question Nextcloud Gmbh gives a lot to the community. The question is more who and how decides in which direction the software moves.

In my eyes the “community” we talk about is not related to big customers - in my eyes this part of the community has good chances to place their needs through support contracts they have with the Gmbh. My personal definition of “community” would be people who work and use Nextcloud software without support contract with Gmbh (and ideally participate in development, evangelism/marketing and support). I absolutely agree with @JimmyKater there is no monolithic community with single voice and clear ideas in which direction to move, but this fact remains the same if there will be another organization non-profit or commercial.

this definitely a good idea!

many different income channels could exist for the foundation like membership, paid support - as mentioned above, maybe bounty programs for specific features - I’m not completely discouraged it would be enough for small features only.

But I think another organization like suggested could lead to some concurrency and competition between “the good foundation” and “the evil Gmbh”. For this reason I don’t like the idea of another player and would prefer the points we expect the “foundation” would take care of are covered by the Gmbh - without additional complexity, legal issues and overhead related to the foundation.

I trust Gmbh makes efforts to hear the community voice but this efforts are not really visible now - there should be more communication about this. My suggestion is to setup more direct discussion. Maybe some Polls regarding new features and maybe pain points would be good starting point, some way to have “open discussion” with key players and decision makers, Nextcloud devs from time to time visiting this forum to feel the spirit of the base.

well you may be right considering the outcome of the forum. but there are other ways to communicate with devs and NC GmbH. Don’t forget the live-meetings (pretty much online now under C-circumstances), Github, IRC, Twitter, Mastodon, etc. All of these are tools to communicate with the “community”.

I haven’t read the discussion of the aims of NC-foundation I need to admit. But in general from my point of view aims of a foundations are different from those of a club or society. For me a foundation has more of a charity-aspect that a club.

In general I would as well expect a foundation to be more charity-like but The Document Foundation doesn’t list charity in their Foundation Statutes. I would care about the naming and legal form as a second step after the idea is born (commited? - by whom?) and the focus is set.

in my eyes this are there too many channels. Github and Twitter are not suited for real open discussions. And the biggest issue (correct me if I’m wrong) there is no clear definition of this is the preferred/official channel where “the community” can talk to “the Gmbh”. as frequent user I would appreciate this forum but I’m open for other platforms (until this is Twitter or facebook).

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Personally, it would be enough for me if people can put bounties on issues again (bountysource is not used anymore, is there anything else we can use already?).

In my experience, Nextcloud GmbH is not opposed to ideas/feature requests that individual users want. The response is always: it’s open source, pull requests are welcome.

So if you can’t code, do bounties. Or pay soneone to do a specific pull request. Btw I tried that once – it was pretty hard finding freelancers that have the skills and the time. And if you find one, they are much more expensive than I thought.

If you want to influence the general direction Nextcloud is going, people could show up en masse at a NC conference and just discuss it.

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it is more or less expect-able - the want to pay their bills…

this is not a solution as well as long employers of Nextcloud GmbH decide which pull requests finally enter the product. There are useful PRs not integrated into product for long time - exactly for the reason mentioned above - there is no “business case” for it…

but definitely the situation makes personal user sad and looking for alternatives/ideas how they could achieve the goals. Now communication is somewhat one-way they ask to help test! new shiny versions… and don’t even participate in a discussion here.

I’m still under impression best solution is when Nextcloud GmbH setup some kind of user voice and start talking to the personal users community - they are free choosing the format they want… otherwise I see a risk another organization is founded and works in different direction or even forks the product splitting the user base rather focus the power into same direction.

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I can’t quite understand the opinions and thought processes of some here. Yes, in an ideal world some things would run better and more smoothly. But we live in our world and everyone has to set priorities and earn money. And although Nextcloud is not perfect, their business model is still the best compromise imho.

I doubt that a purely community-oriented developer community could successfully manage a project like this. Nextcloud is not a simple ToDo list app or a Markdown editor that you just fork and add a few features :wink: Sure, you could focus only on the core. But the core works mostly well as it is. Just uninstall everything else and you have far fewer problems, in my expirience.

Most users who have real problems here are those who want all kinds of bells and whistles on the level of commercial offers like MS365 or Google Workspaces. But at the same time they don’t want to pay anything. I also think that many users here in the forums who complain about this things are using the Community Edition of Nextcloud in their businesses and not strictly for personal use. Or even worse, they offer services to other businesses or provide Nextcloud hosting services, without knowing what exactly they are doing

Don’t get me wrong. Things could always be better. And yes, the community is maybe a little bit (ab)used as a beta tester here. However, you can avoid most major issues and bugs by not always using the newest shiny features immediately on day 1, not activating every app, not updating to the latest NC versions on day 1. Same goes for PHP versions, things like the HPE backend etc…

My Nextcloud has been running for several years without any major issues. I’m currently on NC20 with PHP 7.4 and use it for files, calendars, contacts, bookmarks. Of course, not everything runs as smooth as with the Google apps and some features of these commercial apps are missing or are not as refined. And for some things like chat and video conferencing I use other selfhosted services like Jitsi and XMPP to fit my needs. But all in all, Nextcloud was reliably doing everything, that I and my girlfriend were expecting to do it for us in our everyday life. And the best part is, that the data is stored on my own server. A few small incoviniences from time to time are an aceptable trade off for me, if I have full control over my data in return.

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Depending on the goals this may or may not be the best choice…

yes this is the case - one should remain realistic but wishes and dreams always follow best available solution. even me and my wife have different views - for some reason she likes MS Office much more then LibreOffice - for me the fact I can use classic menus in the last is the killer feature already.

This is the part of the business model you mentioned before. If the vendor wants everybody to pay for the software: OSS is not the right way. And I absolutely disagree people don’t want to pay - SOHO users just don’t fit into enterprise contract model of Nextcloud GmbH.

Most likely there are users who don’t fit into fair use model and expect premium support without a fee, but this is still part of the open source game. On the other hand there are people who would like raise a bounty or request (paid) support on demand… all this doesn’t exist now - so it’s wrong to blame people when they ask for support here. Or maybe they pay in different currency - by testing, promoting and supporting the software…

at least a part of the community wants to participate, test beta software - and find the bugs which passed QA (if there is any QA at Nextcloud) - but they don’t want to do it for free. The bill could be paid in different ways:

  1. $
  2. honor
  3. open ear on the dev side

first is wrong as this is not part of the deal when using OSS. 2. exists here from time to time… 3. is missing in my eyes - especially the community (people like you and me) who spend hundreds of hours in this forum doesn’t have a good way to file requests and provide feedback in term what they are looking for and which pains they feel (not exactly bugs but improvements and new features). this is exactly what @alexanderdd pointed out:

I’m fully realistic about the the income and the need to pay bills. In my opinion the company still should pay more attention to open and free part of the OSS. What I REALLY hate is their enterprise support portal hidden behind a paywall - how this matches with open source ideals?

As I said already

My suggestion to improve the collaboration between the company and community would be they dedicate a small part of their resources to address issues raised by the community and we have a backlog (like a poll). This would immediately enlighten everybody about priorities on the community side and the company could transparently show what they (not) added in specific release. Other ways could work as well but this collaboration is what I don’t see now. They are fast when it comes to testing of beta versions but become silent when it comes to support and discussions.

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Yeah that is a bit of a problem. As a soho user you’re a bit left alone here. They could at least provide some kind of LTS release for a reasonable fee.

That is the biggest problem but not in the way many probably think it is. I think Nextcloud has way to many features. And with it’s app store concept it suggest people it is some kind of hosting platform that can replace their Windows AD, LDAP, Webhosting, Bookeeping Software, Google Maps. Hell there are people who use it as a replacement for Plex or as a music player. There is no way that one company can make all this things nearly on the same level as specialiced companys or even specialiest oss projects could do it. It has features that not even M365 or Google Workplaces has. And nobody would ask Google to integrate a music player to Google Workspaces or a Recipies management tool :wink:

Nextcloud should focus on the core functions and maybe even offer a paid subscription for home users or small businesses, wich offers some kind of LTS / stable version with limited support, like for example Proxmox does. Resulting from this they should call the current normal releases community edition or even beta. Then they should split up the appstore between core and community apps more clear with a warning who tells everybody, you are on your own, when you install this app. And they should make clearer more straight forward install instructions with clear prerequisits, maybe even provide install scripts and an official docker image, and then only “support” these installation types. Otherwise it is nearly imposible to gain something from the community if you have feedback from home users with 10 diffrent installation types, on 30 diffrent OSs, 4 diffrent PHP versons, 1000 diffrent PHP configurations, 5 diffrent webservers and 10 diffrent reverse proxys, especially if it comes to weird beheivour or performance issues.

A VM or something like an Intel NUC with 4-8GB RAM, or maybe a Raspi4. Apache or NGINX with PHP-FPM, MariaDB, Redis, a little PHP tuning like OP cache and this thing runs like a champ. But people have all kinds of wierd configurations and setups, on cheap hosting platforms, Distros like Linux Mint or Arch, which are clearly not made for server usage, diffrent docker images, package repositories from diffrent distros without the necesarry configurations for PHP and Webserver etc…

I realise that some see this as an advantage, when you can run things on everything. But supporting something like this is almost impossible. Again… There should be a few official installation types that are supported and well documented. This should not stop anyone from building appliances or using Nextcloud in other ways. But supporting this or pull relevant information out of the huge quantity of issues this generates sounds at least challenging to me :wink: And it certainly needs a lot of time and effort that would probably be better invested into the development and improvement of the core product.

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This!
Instead of discussing what features are missing, it should be discussed what features should be dumped (from the core)! Now, having said that, this is from yours and mine point of view, people using NC for free. From NC GmbH point of view, the opposite is much more interesting. Brainstorming is expensive; getting it for free from NC users is invaluable…

When CERN started their MAlt (Microsoft Alternatives) project, they had this warning on their page: make sure you don’t fall in the trap of inferior (open source) copies… BTW, they use a customized version of ownCloud…

I’m not sure if they should dump features. But they probably should not add and advertise new features like PHP8.0 support, HPE, Whiteboard and things like that, when they clearly not ready for prime time. They should marked as Beta imho. I get that they want release often and early, and thus gather as much feedback as possible. Maybe that was the right strategy at the beginning, but in the meantime this strategy is rather counterproductive imho.

But I must also say that I personally have few problems with it. I don’t use every app, don’t always update to the latest versions on day one and usually find a way to deal with the issues that crop up from time to time. Overall I am still very happy with the product. But I don’t use all the functions. As already mentioned, I use other dedicated software for video conferencing, webmail, chat etc… The basic functions as I call them like Files, Collabora integration (Docker), Calendar, Contacts, work very well for me. and that allowed me to delete my Google account and switch to an AOSP Android without Google services. Well, I didn’t delete the account, but I don’t use it for these things anymore :wink:

But for users with less experience or those who use Nextcloud productively for their small business, the whole thing can be overwhelming and time consuming. I think a paid LTS version with a predefined installation procedure and fewer releases could help these people. And the money could be used for community work and support, maybe they could even hire someone full time for that. The current continues “beta” releseses :wink: could still be releasd like they do it know, for people who don’t want to pay or feel adventurous. :slight_smile:

really cool how experienced community members nail the problem in two subsequent posts:

There is no visible direction Nextcloud is approaching… There are enterprise features… some free developed apps… few communitiy-driven pull-requests. but there is no idea what should happen with all this stuff…

  • there is community willing to participate
  • there are private users willing to accept some draw-backs
  • there is a company overwhelmed with enterprise user requirements
  • there are enterprise users looking for o365/Google/AWS competitor

all this requirements are valid and need solid, bullet-proof validation before someone writes a line of code… I don’t want to take @frank’s chair this times - not the easiest situation… on the other hand the are not on the dead end, lot of big customers join the track and trust the company to provide services for reasonable period… this makes my soul happy in terms my beloved application is not going to disappear but I fear it doesn’t fit my measures anymore once the most powerful actor choose the way apart of the community…

I’m open for discussions and proposals - hopefully Nextcloud GmbH ill stay in contact with us!

appreciate feedback from @jospoortvliet @nickvergessen @frank @system