Please help us spread the word on Roundcube Next

Georg C. F. Greve greve at
Tue Jun 16 12:08:06 UTC 2015

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I'm not quite sure I can muster the 
same level of depth, but allow me some quick points:

On Monday 15 June 2015 22.28:44 Paul Boddie wrote:
> Now, it is interesting that you mention things like Mail-in-a-Box as an
> intermediate solution. Presumably, the "intermediate" label refers to the
> targeted nature of that solution in that it does not seek to provide support
> for every kind of communication. 

Mail-in-a-box is specifically aimed at self-hosting.

That is something that technical people can do, and it makes their life 
easier. So I think it is a very useful project. But I would be surprised if it
managed to get traction outside the geek world. A vast majority of
people have neither the technical skill nor the inclination to do this
sufficiently well. 

These people still ought to be able to enjoy the benefits of Free Software.

And yes, I did not explicitly mention all users of Roundcube.

Mostly because there are too many, and any kind of list would of course be 
incomplete. That is not to exclude anyone specifically. In fact we've been
talking to ownCloud as well as Mailpile, and the expectation is that we'll
all be staying in close touch throughout the Roundcube Next effort.

And of course we appreciate their public support, e.g.

> However, where I see a problem is the way that people always decide that the
> solution to a given problem is *one* single thing that does it all.

This is actually about one thing that does one specific thing well.

Ultimately it's an optimization problem. Ideally there will be fewer than 7 
billion individual solutions to any given problem. But it is usually healthy 
to have more than one.

Having at least one solution that does the job well, has a sane architecture 
and sufficient flexibility to serve those 7 billion users would be a good start.

The second solution then becomes a luxury problem.

But in the way many Free Software advocates preach fragmentation over 
cooperation, we too often end up with 10 solutions of which none is sufficiently 
complete to compete with the proprietary applications.

Breaking out of that cycle is what Roundcube Next is about.

Also, you are right adoption is not always driven by parameters that seem to 
be largely focused on freedom, technical perfection or even cost. 

Which is why UI/UX is an essential part of making sure adoption happens. 

might provide an interesting reading in that regard. 

For Roundcube Next we actually have some extremely capable UI/UX and design 
resources on board to create something that is not just powerful, versatile 
and technically solid, but also beautiful and offers a great user experience.

> What I want to know is how organisations can build on their existing Free
> Software infrastructure within your vision, [...]

Making sure that is possible is indeed one of the overarching design 
parameters for the Roundcube Next effort -- and a reason why we want
to get others involved.

> Is Kolab available in Debian yet?

Yup. It has been for some time:

We're also offering professional support on Debian for those who want it.

> If what you want is people's money, you probably don't need any advice or
> opinions from me about getting it. But on notions of community, where a
> community is more than a collection of individuals and organisations that
> have pledged donations in a funding campaign, I see cause for concern.

Of course a community is more than people who pledged money.

Community arises from contribution, involvement, participation. In the 
professional world, time and money are close relatives. So it is one form
of contribution -- but not necessarily the most important one. And if
people want to contribute time, that is also very welcome.

Just because you have money does not mean you'll have community. But it means 
you already have buy-in and personal investment into your goal, which is not a 
bad starting point for further community building to begin.

Which is exactly what Aaron Seigo and Thomas BrĂ¼derli will be working on. 

> I will admit that my own efforts to contribute to Kolab were not always
> optimal or well-formulated, but my impression was that if something did not
> serve the direct interests of Kolab Systems, it was considered a liability
> and not to be encouraged or entertained in Kolab "proper".

Kolab Systems is a full Free Software company, we release it all and do almost 
everything out in the open. We are also encouraging contributions from various
parties, and are happy to work with them.

But indeed our own primary interest is in making Kolab a viable solution for 
everyone. Which means we won't prioritize contributions which break Kolab for 
large groups of users, or lead into dead-ends in certain installations.

We'll be happy to share with people insight on what such contributions would 
need to take into account to not cause problems for these kinds of users that 
not all contributors are aware of. And there are several contributors who are
not working for Kolab Systems who do that kind of mentoring these days.

But some people prefer not to seek that input, or ignore it, which is their 
prerogative. We still enable them by providing infrastructure to run their 
experiments and make their own experiences. 

I'm not convinced it would be an improvement of our practice if people went 
far beyond that and spent substantial time on supporting efforts that we know 
will cause disruption for many users - at the expense of not having that time 
available to work on improvements that will benefit all users.

But indeed if you want Kolab Systems to spend paid time on something it helps 
to show how this will benefit our users or the community in general since we
never seem to suffer from a shortage of things we could be working on.

And one of these points where such large gains for large numbers of people is 
possible is Roundcube Next -- which is why we are grateful for any help you
and others may be able to provide!

All the best,


Georg C. F. Greve <greve at>
Member of the General Assembly
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