Value open source Podcast EP01

Value Open Source Podcast – EP01 – Lior Kaplan

Episode Summary

Lior Kaplan is an open-source community leader in Israel and open source consultant, Listen to him and Chen Ravid, xs:code Head of product, talk about open source, how Lior got into open source and the biggest challenges he faced during the years.Lior shares his knowledge about the open-source community in Israel, the development of “Libra office” and how the team managed to translate 100K words from English to Hebrew. Lior also shares from his experience as an open-source consultant to big companies how to get into and use open source.

Value open source Podcast – Episode 1 – Lior Kaplan

Transcript

Chen:

So hey everyone. Welcome to a value open-source our podcast about everything that is open source and free software. Today I am very delighted to host Lior Kaplan Lior is an open-source community leader in Israel and open source consultant past board member of Hamakor the Israeli NGO for open source member and contributor at Debian, leading the Libra office. Right to Left support efforts and many many more Lior, thank you so much for coming here today to talk to us.

Lior:

Hi Chen it’s my pleasure.

Chen:

Great. So Lior tell us about yourself a bit and how you became an open-source enthusiast. **

Lior:

My first encounter with open source actually started in high school a bit before that. It was the late 90s and we started to do some stuff with the new thing which called the Web and building Web sites and HTML at some points there was a thing about the permissions of files back then on It used to be Unix systems and people started to ask questions about what I what are this is weird permission 5 4 4 or 7 7 7 anything like that, and it made me go and check what’s that thing all about. That brought me a little bit into UNIX and then shortly after into open-source by deforms then free BSD and a little bit later Debian and to the culture and ideas we are behind free software. Again it was the late 90s. This idea was just starting to kick. We soon had the term open was coined a few years later and it was really good time to get familiar with all this especially knowing them relatively early in my life at least my professional career was a big challenge for me for later years. **

Chen:

You said they didn’t call it open source before. How was it called when when Richard Stallman started the movement like in the late 80s

Lior:

The movement started as free software because we’re talking more about the philosophy on the term Open Source came much later when you started to go over the relationship between free software concepts to the business side of things and with businesses calling stuff free especially in English creates a problem for them. And this is one of the sources for the term we can go into all the whole story but that’s the day getting very. In a nutshell.

Chen:

Maybe in another podcast, we don’t have time for the history of open source.

Lior:

It will be my pleasure to coming to another episode.

Chen:

I think it would be great to learn about a bit about the history. So like as an open-source person can we say that as an open-source consultant how do you see the or as a member of the community.

How do you see the main challenges of the open-source community today?

Lior:

I think one of the biggest challenges of the community is actually some of the things about the community become open-source becoming a default in a lot of areas. So for a lot of people, the de facto do open source but they have no idea about the philosophy about free software and the meaning of their choices about licensing. And it’s really great to see. Let’s take the javascript community and especially if you look at it today about NPM models. Most of it is permissive licenses MIT, BSD and so on and people choose them by default which is a great start. But in some cases then they don’t have the concept of open source. They put that file because they see a lot of other people do that. They don’t. Sometimes they don’t really understand the meaning of open source in certain areas. It’s a term for free stuff from the Internet. No Strings Attached although sometimes there are strings attached or limitations depending on the license. Some of them are really happy to contribute back but there are not always they don’t always know that in some cases they have to contribute back and when they go into companies or they try to do something new for themselves especially in Israel with all the startups these are points they need to consider. In general, I’m really happy to see it become so popular. I would just be happy to see people a little bit more educated about it.

Chen:

Yeah. OK so you spoke a bit about the Israeli ecosystem.

So from your perspective how does the open-source community in Israel compare to other countries. Is it more vibrant or is it smaller? How do you see the differences?

Lior:

I think first on number wise Israel is a relatively small country. And our men let’s say work about open source is with countries overseas. Europe the US the Far East and because of that at least in past times community was a little bit of a challenge because you had relatively few people and they were scattered around Israel and meeting was not something that common you might meet someone over the Internet but not face to face, today the community here is very vibrant and usually based on a specific language or topic

Chen:

And also projects so other people are grouped around specific projects.

Lior:

Yes sometimes it’s obviously based on a project but sometimes there’s is an ecosystem of a few or related projects. It could be to you a project or two just to project which one is more infrastructure and the second one is more maybe UI or middle layer or things like that.

Chen:

Okay.

Lior:

I think the community here because it’s relatively small even with the large growth in recent years it’s easy to bridge gaps between communities relatively. The connectivity of people the interconnect of personal interconnect is very easy. You can always find if you trying to reach someone you call as a friend of a friend or someone which went into high school university the army whatever and it’s really helpful to close gaps like that or to expose something to what you do in one area something is completely different and having hmm that’s interesting. I might take some of your ideas into my field or project.

Chen:

OK so there’s like mutual mutual benefits from working together and sharing ideas.

Lior:

Yeah completely. And I think in a lot of cases it’s also easy relatively easy for me to identify people with an Israeli name even in an international project. Just been going on the list of names and sometimes just sending point-blank emails to people like hey you’re Israeli you’re on that and that open source, we should meet and in a lot of cases like OK let’s do that or let’s meet at that event or whatever or that’s my number just give me a call.

Chen:

OK. So you meet people. You did not know before via an open-source project and you didn’t even know they’re a member of the Israeli community.

Lior:

I guess the Israeli or check other resources and relatively easy goes into face to face or something less formal than an email or the project mailing list.

Chen:

Yeah that’s cool ,well I think that the most powerful thing in a local in a strong local community is the face to face time is the events and the time that people are actually meeting face to face and not behind the keyboards and monitors I think it gives us a stronger sense of community and belonging.

Lior:

Exactly. And also the fact that it’s easy to get advice from people not only on the open-source part, if someone is looking for a job and Israel being relatively small then it’s easier to help friends with something near you or that you know people of, and sometimes I know people that do this and this on a very special project and sometimes that might be interesting for some other company but that’s how you get a job. Hopefully a job which contributing to open source is part of the description.

Chen:

**Got it. OK. Is that like a thing job positions with open source contribution being part of the requirements?

Lior:

Yes, especially for open-source people call open-source people who want to do it on a day to day basis.

Chen:

Even non-open-source companies like a person going to work for a red hat. I’m assuming he’s going to write open-source all day.

Lior:

Yeah, that’s correct but you see a lot of companies which use infrastructure which is open source and jobs description which required them to cooperate or work with open source projects or other companies working on the same open-source project. For example, Israel has a few companies who do open stack and that is part of the requirements, and sometimes you see at least in recent years Israelis from a different company and meeting up in a conference abroad and trying to help each other like review features within the company at and without. Which is really cool.

Chen:

OK great, So just finishing up there at all local and Israeli topic. You spent a lot of time working on localizing Libre office to RTL and to Hebrew. Can you share some of your experiences working on it?

Lior:

Sure. The idea started back then when it was actually open office then controlled by sun and at some point in mid 2000s the government tried an idea to fund support for right to left Hebrew for the audience is written from right to left and then we need then added layer of support for that in the software, s ometimes it comes from ———, sometimes it’s needed to be added and when the government decided to fund the project I said well it’s going to be open source because that’s the base and I want to be involved as a member of the public making sure my tax money going back to open source, and I joined the project on a voluntary basis and tried to smooth things with the developers to the best of my ability sometimes using my open-source connections in translation was one of the things back then the company wanted to do it by itself in order to maintain quality. First, it was a lot of work. There was a lot of strings to translate and second it was always well let’s say if lesser priority comparing two essential bugs. And I was always doing the case that should be done by the community. The community was to make sure the standard is good enough

Chen:

OK good enough in terms of code quality?

Lior:

We’re talking about translation good enough was like it’s usable for normal people. Someone doing linguistics might have a few comments that’s fine. But it should be good enough for your child to use it and also your let’s say office personnel.

Chen:

There is a saying it’s not just good. It’s good enough

Lior:

yet that it should be useful. OK. And the community never got access to it when it was “open office”, There was some internal politics both with the project and son and in the local company in 2000 and 10 when the project became “Libra office” and all resources went into community control. One of the things we started to do was the translation is a show of strength of what we can do and what was blocked for us previously it took a little bit of time to start to rally the people doing the translation, putting standards for translation like making sure the same items are used over and over again in different parts of the software and we’re talking about one hundred thousand words. So that’s a lot of translation to do one hundred thousand words. Yes. Wow, that’s a lot of translation and I think it took us something about two years to finish the translation. It was all done on a voluntary basis. We had a few translation parties a few sprints to make that happen and we went into the point. The project says OK your translation is full enough. I think Mark is 80 percent. We start to ship your translation with the Open Source builds off the product well off the software and then it became more popular and we went into something that comes later, The Hebrew translation is available by default which is a great achievement because if we’re going back to the government company it required additional effort just to provide a translation pack. We maintained it for a few years and then we went to focus more on the technical support of RTL. Today we don’t put a lot of focus on translation and I think the percentage declined a little bit but we’re still working it on from time to time. And I know that if I want to, do the same efforts I have the team and the people who are interested that

Chen:

And do see the adoption of “Libra office” in the Israeli government? like being adopted or is it the government still stuck on proprietary software?

Lior:

No. I’m sorry to say that the government keeps renewing the deal with Microsoft and don’t invest in alternatives. Which I think we could improve the service in Israel by far especially going into places which don’t want licensing into their software. Supporting new features and all the formats “Libra office” has both and also innovation interoperability with other software, developing stuff some things some kind of text need plugins and things like that which “Libra Office” has the ability for and of course the flexibility if the competitors are trying to go into subscription mode people might find himself locked out of their own documents which I think especially for government or local governments is not an option. And at the moment

Chen:

They don’t have control over their own content

Lior:

with the licenses, they’re being offered to, Exactly. And you might get the software as a service but the cost might be that if you don’t renew

Chen:

you lose access to your documentation.

Lior:

That’s a problem. We’re not talking about let’s say a niche uses like archiving all documents supporting old formats changing between formats sometimes software used by that for example. There is a tool for the latest vision of “Libra office” which helps to do document reduction which is important to certain areas of government on not only defense which we be the easiest one to two bear in mind and it’s actually a reduction done right because in other places people just put little black squares then export into PDF and get surprised

Chen:

people can read behind the square

Lior:

Exactly read the text and ignore the graphics. OK. Which we had a few very publicizes issues with that.

Chen:

Really.

Lior:

Yep. Confidential information or confidential reports being leaked by the government because it did into the technological side.

Chen:

Haven’t heard of that. Okay.

Lior:

I said it a reference letter.

Chen:

Great so we spoke a bit about your experience with the open-source projects and and and how they came to life and I wanted to ask you something that sometimes for people seems like taboo more a bit something that people feel uncomfortable discussing and that is open-source monetization and that asking for money for using open source you mentioned that the government paid for leap for developing “Libra Office” RTL which is I mean it might seem is a bit close to monetizing open source but I’m referring to something that is a bit different. How do you feel about developers wanting to get paid for giving out their open-source code or allowing commercial use with their open-source code

Lior:

First I’ll go back to into the free software philosophy, I want to emphasize that the free part is freedom and not money-wise. We use the free as beer term as all developers I think they should have the right to enjoy the creation and make money of it and none of the open-source licenses forbid selling the code If you write some other terms but selling the code is available you can decide to who you give the code to and you… if you sell someone the software you might be forced to give him the software. But I think we see more and more businesses proving you can make a living out of open-source and there’s a discussion between the business side like companies and the personal side because some people do Open source is a hobby and they don’t want to monetize it in the sense of the company but they want to be able to get some funding to work on a hobby, and just to make sure I’m clear being working on the project as a hobby doesn’t mean the result is in the level of for hobbyists Sometimes you see amateur project which creates the best software there is and in some cases the whole open source community and the commercial community is based on that software.

Chen:

That started as a hobby from someone’s basement

Lior:

Yes, and some people because of these hobbies invest a lot of time in it in their efforts and their cognitive efforts, they see it as something that is really important to them and the result actually shows that both the quality of the code the quality of the engineering of the code which is obviously important in software and also about the innovation of the results, because if we go back to the open-source roots it’s people trying to fix something that they’re bothered with scratching their own itch as the phrase goes and they’re really invested in the solution.

It’s not something you do just to mark a vi on it. It’s something you do because you’re the user and then you really care about the result, so I think developers should have ways to be able to monetize the hobbyist projects, They’re more than a few options and I’m in favor of most of them because it really helps people keep on going and not to have to choose between their hobby or field of interest in the other stuff they do in life.

Chen:

Okay so one of the models that are available for monetizing open source is subscription-based open source, do you see that as a viable way or as a good alternative to other monetization strategies to offer subscriptions to one’s code, do you think that’s something that is viable or would you recommend that to developers?

Lior:

I think users contributing money would it be a one-time subscription or any other way that creates the developer some peace of mind so he could focus on the software is really good, If it’s done on a recurring basis I think it really helps the developer to plan his steps forward and I think the counterpart of that that if he knows there is a certain amount of money going to come on a recurring basis he could say well I’m going to allocate the time on a recurring basis as well. The amounts are not necessarily with one to one basis, some people or I think most developers don’t do the suffer with becoming rich in mind, that’s not their goal but at least having something to finish month with it, is good enough for them or to have a justified not doing some other stuff for money later. Having half a day off a week to do your hobby which makes everyone happy both the users and both the developers

Chen:

Like a constant influx of money can help you plan ahead and be more productive and just write more code.

Lior:

Exactly, or getting someone to help with some other parts of the project which you might not have time or something some cases even the expertise.

Chen:

Yeah. OK, so as an open-source consultant what advice would you give to companies about open source?

Lior:

First, it depends on the type of companies, some companies are into consuming open source and then the advice is to check which technology they use, sometimes you see something which is very trendy but you need to look into the roots of both the projects and the people behind it and choose wisely. As in general software things, some things are trends which go up very high and then disappear relatively fast and that’s a trend which might also be relevant to open source. Companies who develop code and not only using it or using the technology, I think they have a lot to adopt from the open-source ecosystem in terms of best practices of developing software projects which have a few hundred developers around the world doing things remotely can have best practices even for a company with all the developers in the same floor. And if we’re going to begin bigger organizations we’d have multi-sites or even multi floors in this building and then different countries have things to learn about both the technical sides and the cultural side of things.

Chen:

So you mean companies can learn from communities to how to help developers and work together how developers can work together.

Lior:

How to motivate people not only on money incentives, and there’s a lot to learn because when you need to motivate volunteers you walk from a completely different angle than giving them a bonus on the end of the year. And it also helps produce better code. And we’re talking about also code standards when people know their code is going to be checked reviewed Internally and externally they invest more times in engineering the solution. It’s not to say that quick and dirty doesn’t have its place but it might be quick and dirty in the beginning and then we refactor or do quick and dirty in sprint and refactor in spring five and it really helps to balance between being efficient and being perfectionist need to fight and sometimes open doors really do that well.

Chen:

Do you think that companies that are developing or contributing to open source, are they like what type of advice would you give them if they want to start contributing to open source?

Lior:

First, If you can please do contribute back. I think the biggest benefit the company can have from that is lowering their maintenance especially of the code and adapting later layers of code into it. It’s easier to send a patch had it been merged into the project and then have to deal with it on every build sometime you’d break sometimes it has bugs sending it upstream is usually the best solution especially for minor changes, If you’re trying to have a feature and sell that feature OK selling it back might be a bit more complicated.

Everything that it’s not part of the target of the company, Part of the things the company wants to give is a service tried to give back. And I think it’s also important to do it internally. when I go to bigger companies I talk to them about inner sourcing developing the open-source approaches inside the company. Sometimes that leads to open-sourcing the product outside of the company

even inner sorting creates better software for the company for its own internal uses. The second thing is when you work about releasing open source it’s not taking the code put it into Git repo, Github, GitLab, BitBucket whatever, It’s also thinking about how to help people contribute to the project. Doing a code dump over the Internet you can do in a lot of ways, It takes about four minutes, It’s usually not productive to the goals of. The of the company when you think about open source.

Chen:

So it’s not enough just to put the code out there you need to build

Lior:

Yes try not to make Github into a graveyard of code, but to something which is alive vibrant and useful for other developers and that some in some of my biggest work as a consultant.

Chen:

That’s some good advice.

So we’re about to wrap up just like an ending question.

How do you see the future of open source it came a long way since the late 80s until today and how do you see it going forward.

Lior:

First, we see a lot of the petition from companies and companies changing their business model not to fight open source but to use it, and I wouldn’t give you the names but we see the big companies changing their whole strategy over it. I think open source is going into a phase which is being shaped by some enterprise companies and becoming De facto standards in some industries. We can see the cloud sector which all to base technologies open source. I think we’ll see more and more sectors going into that, especially health, fintech, which requires a lot of standards and the ability for more and more data to be passed between companies and entities, Some of them are in jail and some under the government and making standards not only papers but also a reference implementation and with that being open source you really lower the entry points for competition into these markets, and also able to innovate because it’s really easy to get the base from reference implementation and then get your focus on your innovation and not on doing the same work is the whole other market already did, and I think especially in FinTech that’s a really big thing.

Chen:

Ok so like just fintech or specific specifically cryptocurrency I think there is a lot of work being done on crypto that’s open-source

Lior:

The market is usually open source by default because of trust issues which I think is important, but even if we’re going about let’s say regular banking. Even the standards over there of importing and explaining that doing transaction between banks. If it’s open source then we can have a lot of innovation from technology companies which there is a lot of regulation and blocks some of them **

blocks on the technical level some of them on the competition level. And the combination of open source enables the market to be open on all these levels, And to have an infrastructure being created, In a lot of cases also for competing companies to cooperate if you want to have a national standard for banking, OK, It’s OK for the let’s say a few major banks to work on that as a standard. With the blessing of antitrust and so on but that also enables new banks to go in.

Chen:

The question remains if banks which are usually pretty slow-moving or organizations will they adopt open source methodology or will allow open-source code to be you know in the core of their computing.

Lior:

**I’ll take the use of well first they use open source whenever and it has a business sense to it or technology advantage. If you look at the stock exchange most of them work on free software at different levels. A few of the exchanges and the banks in the US funding work on real-time Linux in order to get better transaction rates to the Stock Exchange because they can make money off a faster response rate. So you see that sometimes we’ll invest in open source because they want better performance and they know to make money out of it in completely different areas. But they wouldn’t do an on Linux brand or write their own operations system but they can optimize their existing features

Chen:

So we won’t see a new distribution of Linux for banks in the near future?

Lior:

We might see that but as getting it based on something very common they don’t want to redo everything they want to just do the parts which have benefit for them. For example, you see scientifically Linux or distributions which go into the educational market or the geographical GIS market and then you see people taking the base which they get which is common and then just doing the

Chen:

building on top of it.

Lior:

Exactly, I think reusing whatever you can is is a very important part of doing good open-source. And especially commercial use of open-source.

Chen:

That’s interesting too, It’s interesting to see how open source will affect financing in general but with all our lives

Lior:

you can also see that with virtualization technology one company creates it another one adopts it and then no one makes it a standard and then everyone invests in the standard, I think it’s really important.

Chen:

OK. Interesting. We’ll see what the future holds. So just to wrap up we have the quiz that we ask everyone that is a guest on value open source, so we’ll do it with a few quick questions.

Lior:

Sure.

Chen:

Mac or P.C.

Lior:

PC

Chen:

Obviously, Browser of choice?

Lior:

I’m a long time fan of Mozilla on day to day I use both Firefox and Chromium the open-source version which is today the base of both chrome and soon to be Microsoft Edge.

Chen:

Yeah, OK. That’s interesting to see how that will work, the new Edge browser

What IDE do you use?

Lior:

Whenever to scripting I usually use VIM, I need something which I can also work relatively easy on low bandwidth connections SSH whatever, so I tried to keep it very simple.

Sometimes I use graphical things but that’s some that go into depends on what I’m working on. VIM is my default completely old school, and if someone gives me a graphical editor I sometimes do column queue to exit them, OK, It doesn’t work for some reason.

Chen:

OK, GitHub Bitbucket or GitLab?

Lior:

I use GitLab for internal uses, usually. I make sure some of my work goes into GitHub because of popularity, But for in most cases, especially with clients we use geek lab, is an internal get solution. I really like the fact that which is open source and we can contribute on every I think the release date is the 22nd of every month I get new features new fixes, It works best with the balance between community and commercial part.

Chen:

OK. Star Wars or Star Trek?

Lior:

I actually grew up on Star Trek but today I think Star Wars.

Chen:

Really interesting. Usually, people don’t switch sides traitor.

If you game where you’re your game of choice?

Lior:

I am using computer for so long and I didn’t actually use it for games since high school. So actually then.

Chen:

So no games.

Lior:

Yeah. Something breaking this system with packages is some kind of a weird game.

Chen:

It’s a puzzle.

Lior:

Yeah. You build something and use it, you did Opes, I did a mistake and you rebuild it.

Chen:

Okay, And what are your top three favorite open source projects?

Lior:

Well top one is Debian which I’m involved in for almost 15 years.

And also next year I’m going to organize the Debian developer meeting in Israel, DebConf, So that’s 2020 in Haifa, “Libra office” because that really helped me pass my whole time in university otherwise no papers and no grades and no degree and I’m also very invested in the project including conference and stuff, The third one, I think is actually the web browser because that’s most of my day today I have no choice.

Almost everything I do has some web relation so it’s a very useful tool. I remember when a few years ago…

Chen:

But you mean web browser what?

Lior:

But mostly Firefox

Chen:

Like a specific Firefox has an open source. Yeah. OK.

Lior:

I see a lot of innovation from Firefox and Mozilla and my Firefox and I’m really happy for it to have an alternative for the last 20 years for all the commercial software that was in the market including the commercial interest in that, And I think the fourth one is for me is actually Gnome It’s got the full code mate because it’s very easy for me whenever installing new distribution I go into my familiar UI it became a comfort zone and it’s really easy to know that these things don’t change so so fast the technology might. But the look and feel don’t.

And to the point of the fact that my mother also used that as well, My mother is a Linux user for the last ten years.

Chen:

Thanks. Yep. OK so you brought in the family.

Lior:

Yeah, And whenever a family member asked me to support a proprietary I haven’t been using that for the last 15 years, I translated the Debian installer in 2004 2005. I installed my machine to test it and since then I might have been Debian and Linux User.

Chen:

Ok. That’s awesome.

Ok, Lior, Thank you it was a pleasure having you, I think it was interesting and educational.

Lior:

Thank you very much. And good luck with the podcast.

Chen:

Thank you very much, Pleasure

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