So Marc Fluery has left JBoss/Redhat and thus brings to an end a chapter of the story of professional open source.

One would have to say it has been a very successful chapter and has shown that OS can produce high quality enterprise infrastructure. As Marc leaves the project (or the professional part of it at least), we should note that the project owes much of it’s great success to the energy, enthusiasm, advocacy and leadership of Marc. Without these, JBoss would not have penetrated the enterprise as it has and nor would there have been the commercial activity around the project that sustains many developers and spin off projects.

We should applaud Marc that he at least partially delivered on his promise to distribute the rewards of success to the contributors to the project.

But the problem with this OS fairy tale is that the distribution of reward was simply not fair or balanced. While Marc deserved to be well rewarded for his part in the success of the project and business it sustained, I simple cannot see why his reward was several orders of magnitudes larger than that given to the people that actually wrote the software and implemented the business he inspired. Nor can I see why members of his family who contributed only moderately also received payouts far far far in excess of key developers who committed years of effort.

As well as building a project and a business, Marc built a personality cult based on ego worship. While this in itself was a great marketing machine (any publicity etc.), it was also used as a mechanism to control dissent within the project and distract from the fact that the egalitarian rhetoric did not match up to the reality of firm control over commercial interests and trademarcs. In the formative years of JBoss group, few dared to question the insanity of “we’ll pay you to fix any bugs and keep the all of the support revenue if there are none – please be available 24×7”. Too many let the “honour” of commit status, access to the “inner circle” and payment by the hour, substitute for real equity or profit share.

Those that did question, were soon made the target of Marc’s bile and bad mouthing (more Hani than Hani) and received zero or paltry allocations of the developer “frequent flyer” points that would one day turn into Red Hat stock.

Continued decent would result in ejection or departure from the jboss group cult followed by excommunication from the project, deletion from the contributors lists and being moderated out of the forums and mailing lists. Marc was happy for many to tend the commons, but there was only one shepherd whose flock was allowed to graze.

Open source is about standing on the shoulders of giants so that greater heights can be reached. But it is also about showing a bit of respect and fair treatment to those shoulders. Marc fluery didn’t just stand on the shoulders, he trampled and kicked heads as well.

The OS story of JBoss story is about how the many created something for the benefit of all. Unfortunately the business story of JBoss is about how the many were exploited for the benefit of one. It didn’t have to be that way.


Anonymous · 12/02/2007 at 19:33

Here, here – it’s nice to see someone finally make light of this – that the ‘Professional Open Source’ company used some not-so-professional tactics in its operation and treatment of people within it’s own community. Given these past actions within it’s own community, I’m not surprised that Marc’s family is reaping large benefits from the sale to RedHat. It’s a shame that the rewards weren’t dispersed more evenly amongst those who sacrificed their professional lives over the last five years.

When you consider that nearly 60% of the JBoss team has left since the RedHat acquisition, I’m not surprised at all that Marc is leaving.

Anonymous · 12/02/2007 at 23:30

Norman Richards doesn’t mind being ‘exploited’

Exploitation is borderline. The factory workers in China are slaved from westerners point of view. But from their point of view, most of them need the money. Just like Norman.

For me personally, Marc is simply an unethical person. ASTROTURFFFFMANNN is here, behold! That alone is totally unprofessional.

Someone should’ve made a hero’s costume called Astroturfman with a big A on the chest, brought it to JavaOne, and tell him to change from the red baret to the more suitable superhero costume.

Greg Wilkins · 13/02/2007 at 05:06

Norman Richards says he is happy to have been "exploited" by jboss. Well good for him and I don’t begrude his success.

It is really great that those who joined the project AFTER the early risky years (and were paid salary from day 1) have been rewarded by the sale.

But while the return to some developers was better than your average startup, JBoss was not your average startup and Marc was not the venture capitalist who got his large share of equity in return for putting money on the line.

In the early years, Marc was just one among many and he risked no more than many others who put >100% effort into JBoss.    Many of these early contributors are now unrewarded, yet they helped take JBoss from a husband and wife show (literally in their parents garage) to a serious services company with multi million dollar turn over – all for no salary and on the promise of a fair share.

Those that left the project often did so because they could see how Marc was breaking the fair share promise.  Others that did stay were rewarded, but certainly not in fair proportion.

Just because JBoss was/is a success does not mean that Marc can do no wrong.

Anonymous · 13/02/2007 at 06:36

Thanks for writing this down. I agree with your conclusions, and my experience with the whole thing, which was admittedly and thankfully limited to the first few phases, are similar to what you describe.
For me the whole JBoss experience was a very educational period, and it gave me something much more valuable than money: a brief glimpse into the darker side of the human mind. And that has been very useful to have. I have since had the opportunity to study psychology and the many pathological personality disorders that might possibly explain why so many on the project behave the way they do.
For but one example, I have a fascinating book on Narcissism called “Why is it always about you?”(/Hotchkiss), and the first part entitled “The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism” list the following symtoms:
* Shamelessness
* Magical thinking
* Arrogance
* Envy
* Entitlement
* Exploitation
* Bad boundaries
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? I can recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand some of the seemingly strange attitudes that is becoming alarmingly common in society in general and our industry in particular.

Norman Richards · 13/02/2007 at 07:18

“… most of them need the money. Just like Norman.”
There’s no shame in needing the money.

Anonymous · 13/02/2007 at 13:35

What pathetic, bitter, whining losers you folks are.

Anonymous · 13/02/2007 at 14:11

Your post and the above comments kind of make me feel weird. I mean, it feels like you guys were forced to work for the evil Marc fleury with a gun pointed to your head. If it was not profitable enough for you, then why didn’t you just stop contributing. Don’t forget that in "Professional Open Source", there is "Open Source" as well, and thousands of Open Source projects out there leverage the work of their contributors to build a business without ever giving back to the developers.

As for the question of the proportions, that sounds very much like a "worker against boss" pointless fight. Maybe he didn’t contribute all the code, but who took the business risks, who got the original idea, who took the responsibility for it?

I found you guys very ungrateful with regards to the tremendous achievements of JBoss. I’m not saying that everything if perfect (I don’t even know, I am not a JBoss contributor myself, just a user) but that’s the way Open Source works: if you’re not happy with it, propose a solution, or fork and go with it on another path. But publishing that kind of stinky post not that he’s gone seems pretty coward to me.

Jason Greene · 13/02/2007 at 15:30

I find it amusing that you keep calling your shares frequent flyer miles. If you don’t want them, I’m sure anyone will be glad to take the money.  Heck why not donate that money to whatever open source group/foundation you view as acceptable.

Greg Wilkins · 14/02/2007 at 00:14


We were not forced to work for JBoss Group and in fact we did choose to start another company to offer JBoss services (CDN).  But when we did that, we were removed from the project and censored out of the mailing lists.   Our commit privs were removed and even the patches we sent were ignored.

Greg Wilkins · 14/02/2007 at 00:18

I call the frequent flyer points because at the time they were in no way firmly tied to equity and there was no share in the business unless there was a sale. So JBoss Group could have put in years of profits and the points holder would have got nothing.   More over the points were allocated by Marc on a whim.  Because I pissed him off, my allocation was pitiful and will eventually turn into about $4000 worth of stock in return for 2 years unpaid support and allowing JBoss group to provide full stack support.

Anonymous · 14/02/2007 at 05:23

I find it hilarious that people are always talking about “why did Fleury make so much money”. Its like peeople have no idea of what business actually is. He took the risk, he put up his own money and then with his investors made the business happen. That risk is rewarded in our society. You might as well ask why your boss makes more than you do, or why the investors make more than you do.

Anonymous · 14/02/2007 at 16:41

I get a real kick out of this blog.  When you guys started CDN, what did you expect to happen?  Peace and love?  JBoss did what any business would do, and use its leverage over a new competitor.  There was nothing wrong in that, nothing unethical, and certainly smart business.

You just sound like a child, crying over your spilled milk.

solarhess · 14/02/2007 at 19:28

Folks, this is simply a matter of economics.  You contributors worked more-or-less for free. Marc retained the rights to the software.  The contributors knew the arrangement up front and still agreed to the terms. 

Let this be a cautionary tale to other contributors to professional open source projects.  If you are contributing and creating value for the project, make sure that you are comfortable with your compensation terms.  And remember, no matter what people are saying, trust them to follow only the legal documents they write.

As for Marc, you can hardly fault him for taking advantage of almost free labor.  You may argue that his rhetoric did not match the reality, but it’s not like the reality was hard to understand. 

If we developers want to to projects for the greater good, contribute to true open-source projects.  If we developers want to get paid for our work, do some commercial work.  If you want to work in the gray area of professional open source, make sure that the terms suit you. 

And for god’s sake, stop complaining about how you just got screwed when you agreed to the terms up front. 

Anonymous · 14/02/2007 at 19:58

I wonder how many of those anonymous posts are the King Astroturfer himself?

Anonymous · 14/02/2007 at 21:23


I sympathise with you — JBoss was/is a kind of an odd cult.  A lot of the people involved early ended up getting quite upset about their treatment.  Also strange how relative newcomers to JBoss feel they have to slate previous contributors who criticise it.


Randall · 15/02/2007 at 01:40

I think the lesson is that people shouldn’t mistake a commercial enterprise for a volunteer effort.  If people volunteered their time with the understanding that they would cash out when sugar daddy showed up, and they were duped, then that’s something worthy of complaint.  Were promises made to the JBoss minions?

Anonymous · 15/02/2007 at 18:13

Yep.  That’s the way it should be seen.  The real question should be, what kind of and how many promises/illusions were related to those working for nothing?

If Fleury alluded to success for all to entice his workers, with no intention of paying off (which appears to be the case), that’s pretty lousy, and all those who appear to be crying over spilt milk probably have the right to cry.

Why don’t all you who find fault with the general feeling in this blog go out and work for free for a few years for someone who’ll cash in on your blood, sweat and tears??

dvydra · 19/02/2007 at 22:07

I think this is a very important thread, a mini-retrospective on the state of professional open source. For some time now, I have tried to understand the similarities between teams of gifted developers and professional athletes. I think there are many and since software is a relatively new way to earn a living, perhaps we can learn from sports. One of the similarities is obviously that only a small percent of developers can play in the ‘major league’. I think Marc helped start a major league in the enterprise java space, so perhaps we can think of him as a ‘team owner’. You may recall that in the early days, professional athletes did not make much money. This has changed for them over time – they now have agents and lawyers who represent them and the same should happen in the world of professional open source. I have not been involved in this matter and therefore not in a position to pass judgement on anyone, but folks, please don’t give up on professional open source!

Greg Wilkins · 20/02/2007 at 08:03

Great!  so does that make me some sort of George Best who is going to die a penniless alcoholic !-)

Anonymous · 23/02/2007 at 05:57


Colin · 05/03/2007 at 19:16

I saw your car in Val last year parked next to mine,  it certainly had the penniless look about it 🙂

Interesting thread, these are good lessons learnt on dealing with opensource in a poorly defined commercial environment. Thanks for sharing. You and the other CDN peoples experiences can only help others in the future. Just a shame you didn’t earn your just rewards.


perfumes · 10/05/2007 at 00:09

hi cool story to have a look at.


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