I was invited to give the English-language address at the reception hosted by the Region Ile de France for the LibreOffice Conference in Paris last night. Here are the remarks I made:

"Good evening. It's a pleasure to be back in the Ile de France, especially with so many old friends. In my days at Sun Microsystems, I was privileged to be able to work with many remarkable people, especially the founders and core developers of The Document Foundation. Friends from APRIL & AFUL are also here; and of course members of the legacy StarOffice community in all its colours are here from throughout europe and even further afield.

These days, my affiliation is different. As well as helping run a successful new open source startup called ForgeRock, making identity management software as pure open source, I am now a director of the Open Source Initiative, the stewards of the Open Source Definition. It's in this role I'm honoured to open your reception tonight.

It seems hard to believe - since it's already one of the most used free software programs in the world - but it's been a year since the creation of LibreOffice. There is a way of thinking which assumes a project with the importance of LibreOffice must have a sponsor; that the path taken in the history of StarOffice, from which LibreOffice is derived, must be copied in order for the project to survive.

But here's the truth; LibreOffice didn't need a corporate white knight to save it. What it needed was two things; developers willing to collaborate, and a community willing to contribute both time and money. It turned out LibreOffice had both.

Open Source takes more than source code alone. Open Source is what happens when people who share a serious interest in some software choose to align a part of their individual self-interest and work together. For an open source project to succeed, the most important ingredient is developers who could and would write the software alone but realise it will be easier and better to work together. Where do those developers come from?

Overwhelmingly, they are from businesses which make a living from the code. The way open source works might make it look as if the developers are selfless volunteers motivated purely by delight in the code, but that's just a trick of the light. Now, don't misunderstand what I'm saying. Most of the open source developers I know have a great community spirit and are generous and giving to the point of philanthropy. But that's rarely their primary motivation; it's just that those are the sort of people who work well at open source.

So what does it take to create a strong, successful open source community like LibreOffice? First and foremost, there has to be a business value to support the motivations of the developers. That's why I reject the idea that any project like this needs "rescuing". What is normally needed is the removal of obstacles to successful collaboration. Obstacles like corporate project managers trying to inject corporate controls into community life. Obstacles like well-intentioned but endlessly noisy "bikeshedders".

That's what happened a year ago. The Document Foundation created a project with as few obstacles as possible to the success of LibreOffice, and motivated developers moved in to make code happen.

This is the lesson I'd like to leave policymakers. The best facilitation for open source is to buy it. To make a market that wants it and can buy it. To create an environment that makes it easy to benefit from software freedom. When you do this, you create jobs and communities as well as great software. So I applaud the Paris Region for doing these things, and encourage more and more of it to happen!"
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