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More Thoughts … DNN Corp Acquires Document Management IP From Xepient Inc.

Over the last 48 hours, I have been both watching and receiving responses related to our recent announcement.  Andreas Di Palma has also reached out to the existing Xepient user base and received their initial reactions and responses as well (see Andreas' post).  Overall, the responses to the blog and to our communication to the existing Xepient customer base have been positive with some expressing their concerns at the move.  The discussions in our Forums, though, have been mostly of concern and fairly high discomfiture.

I said the following in a core team conference call when we launched the Professional Edition and also said numerous times at the DevConnections conference. One thing that won't change in the company, irrespective of funding OR the launch of commercial editions of the software, is that we will always ENGAGE with our community.  We will listen to people when we agree.  We will also listen to them when we disagree.  If anything, we will listen harder and more carefully when we disagree because we want to get our decisions right.

A great open source company is built on the foundation of a strong community.  Community and company are essential if we are to get this right and do well.  This doesn't mean we always agree with each other on everything but it does mean we always actively dialogue and dialogue with an open mind.

On the responses/reactions of different individuals, I do believe the concerns of different people are different: the concerns of an existing user/customer are different from those of possible new users and those are different from those of module vendors which are different from those of system integrators.  Broadly speaking, the concerns may be classified into the following generic themes:

Why will O-DL no longer be available as a standalone module? 

How will existing Xepient customers be supported? 

Is DotNetNuke Corp going to gobble up the most popular third party modules into the commercial version of the product, thereby affecting the add-ons market? 

What is DotNetNuke Corp's commitment to the Community Edition?  It seems like all they are focused on is 'differentiation'.

Each of the above decisions was made after careful internal deliberation or thought but, having said that, nothing is sacrosanct.  The only thing that is sacrosanct is having open dialogue, listening carefully, and deliberating thoughtfully to ensure we get our decisions and actions as right as possible.

So, what was the internal thinking/discussion on each of the above?

Should O-DL be continued as a standalone module?

Our first inclination was to have it both 'standalone' and as a part of the Professional Edition.  Like I said, our market research clearly indicates that the two markets are different. The market for add-ons (Average Transaction price of $80 to $100) is very different from the market for commercial platform editions (average sales price of $4K to $5K).  This meant we could get the benefit of both markets by leaving the module as is on our online marketplace.  However, as some of my colleagues (including Shaun Walker) pointed out:

This shouldn't just be about commerce.  Is this the right thing to do?  If we keep the module available as a standalone (i.e., a la carte) on the Marketplace, are we going to support, maintain, and enhance it separately as well?  If we did that, aren't we essentially becoming a module vendor?  Aren't we targeting the same market segment that our module vendors have built their businesses catering to?  Won't other module vendors feel that DotNetNuke Corp is going to build modules and go after the same market segment as theirs?

However, if we didn't keep it standalone, we would be taking an excellent, well developed module off the market and therefore it would not be available to Community Edition users. The good news, though, is that there is another mature document management module, Bring2Mind's DMX, that does fill this gap.

As you can tell, the decision wasn't easy or straightforward.  There were multiple dimensions to it that had to be considered.  Finally, we decided to ensure that all existing users of the module continue to be supported (i.e., our arrangement with Xepient and Andreas) and the module will continue to be available for a fixed period of time while we transition out.

I am not telling you our decision was right or wrong.  All I am saying is that the decision wasn't easy and the decision was made after a lot of deliberation.

How will existing Xepient customers be supported? 

We are in discussions with Andreas about this. We definitely won't leave Xepient customers at a dead end. That is something we just won't do. The possibilities being discussed are making compatibility patches available for existing customers of Xepient, availability of source code at a discounted price, upgrades to PE at a discounted price, or some combination. Either Andreas OR we will communicate this to the existing Xepient customers in due course. 

Is our strategy to acquire module vendors to build functionality?

There are over 8,000 modules and skins on Snowcovered.  We acquired two.  Both in terms of the number of modules and revenue share of the module market, this is miniscule.  This is not a strategy.  This is one instance of a feature being requested by many corporate customers and we developed a plan to build the feature.  However, on discussing this with Andreas, and when we explained what we were doing to him, we reached a mutual decision to complete a business transaction. This transaction decision was made by both of us and Andreas will tell you the transaction is benefiting both of us. 

I request that we don't read more into things than have actually occurred.

Our commitment to the Community Edition (CE)

Yes, there is some feature differentiation in the commercial versions of our product.  But please make no mistake, we are very clear that it is to the long-term benefit of the community, the corporation, and the ecosystem to ensure that the Community Edition is strong, stable, valuable, and very well received by the market at large.  In our minds, this isn't about the Community Edition and the Professional Edition. This is about ensuring that the open source version of our software is better than our open source competitor's products, irrespective of which technology stack they belong to or whether they are big or small.   In 2008, we had 1 FTE dedicated to development on CE, today we have 3 people who spend 60% of their time on CE bug fixes alone. We also now have 2 people dedicated full-time on CE feature development. I understand the 'feature progress' on our core platform (both CE and PE) has been slower than you (and we) would have liked and we fully expect that to ramp this year as the new hires understand the platform better and integrate better to become a much more productive unit.

Just to be clear, I am not saying the Community Edition is better OR best. All I am saying is the importance of the Community Edition is very well understood by us and the importance of an ecosystem is something we deeply appreciate. We will be very focused on ensuring that the Community Edition gains in strength over time.  My product and engineering team will be as focused on the Community Edition as on the Professional Edition, without doubt.  We will NOT build the Professional Edition at the 'expense' of the Community Edition, just as you don't build a building without a strong foundation.  Even in our internal discussions, this isn't a discussion item. Everybody in the company understands the need for the Community Edition to be strong, valuable and powerful for everybody's benefit (including our own).

Thank you for your feedback.  Thank you also for the open comments and the time you spent in communicating this to us.  We appreciate it.  It is this open dialogue that will ensure we don't skip a beat as we continue on this journey together. 


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