by Mark Stone on March 30, 2009 04:15pm


We should never forget that a key motivator for open source developers is fun. For student developers -- where open source really starts -- this is especially true.

We’ve been looking at several potential student projects in Croatia, and for the past several months have been lending some support to the PlugBlog project.

In many ways this is a classic open source story. Croatia is not a large country (population 4.5 million), nor does it have as highly developed a technology sector as, say, Scandanavian countries of comparable size. Combine that with a distinctive language of Slavic origin, and you have an environment in which there is very little motivation for commercial software providers to offer Croatian localization. Thousands of languages and dialects world-wide struggle with this same problem: they simply lack the critical mass and market opportunity to warrant commercial software localization.

Into this breach steps open source. Several local blogging sites in Croatia do, of course, post blogs in Croatian. But bloggers would like to have the client tools to compose in Croatian as well. Given the popularity of Windows Live Messenger as an instant messaging client, there was a natural opportunity for open source development to create a localization pack enabling Live Writer composition in Croatian. This is precisely what PlugBlog aims to do.

One of the interesting twists on life in the era of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is how enabling SOA is of open source. Plugins for Live Writer can easily be open source independent of the source code status of Live Writer itself, because these plugins need only make web services calls to the Live Writer API. Indeed, a quick search of Codeplex shows more than 60 open source projects dealing with Live Writer. This is the kind of thriving little sub-community that SOA makes possible.

The developers working PlugBlog are students, and they are doing this work as a student project. As such, it has a clearly defined project plan and specific milestones for the project. The work they are doing will provide a valuable localized tool to Croatian bloggers, but it will also serve as an example of how other languages could integrate localization with Live Writer. This is all great, but you can’t stop developers from doing something just because its fun.

So I was surprised to see a check-in on this project that creates a connector for passing data from Skype to Live Writer. This wasn’t on the project plan. Talking to project coordinator Boris, he mentioned this was an extra they threw in in their spare time. Given the huge popularity of Skype in Eastern Europe this shouldn’t have been surprising, and indeed if anyone had mentioned it during project planning it almost certainly would have been part of the original design.

But this too is part of the beauty of open source: user-driven innovation fills the gaps overlooked originally. I look forward to more Skype integration and more pleasant surprises from the Croatian team.