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The future of SIELibre and SchoolTool


As you may know, Mark Shuttleworth personally funded vast majority of
SchoolTool development through the end of 2014.  As Mark's funding tapered
off, Douglas Cerna and I founded SIELibre, LLC to continue SchoolTool
development and support.  In this context, Douglas is the developer, and
the vast majority of actual work falls on his shoulders.

We found a primary client in Ark, a London-based charity that eventually
deployed customized versions of SchoolTool to three networks of schools in
Uganda, Sierra Leone and India.  We had a handful of other small clients
that supplemented the Ark work as well.  This basically maxed out Douglas's
capacity, and then some.  In software development terms, Douglas went
through a series of solo death marches over the past two years, and he's
well beyond burnt out on SchoolTool.

We have completed our last contract with Ark, made arrangements with our
other clients, and are starting the process of closing down SIELibre.

Despite our intentions, and a series of over-optimistic predictions on my
part throughout 2015 and 2016, we never had time to integrate and
re-package all the work we did for Ark, and other improvements completed
during this time, into public releases.  We were constantly behind on paid
work -- and we’ve got families to support -- so we couldn’t undertake the
unpaid process of merging, testing, documenting, packaging and supporting a
major release.

As we are shutting down, we will not be doing any further SchoolTool
releases.  We cannot obligate ourselves to the implicit or explicit support
obligations that accompany a new release.

On the other hand, all the code we’ve written for “core” SchoolTool, as
well as paid development for specific clients, including Ark, is available
on Launchpad under the GPL version 2.

All the components are listed as part of the SchoolTool Project:

The Ubuntu package archives are either under
https://launchpad.net/~schooltool-owners or https://launchpad.net/~sielibre.

Ark is going to continue actively supporting their current SchoolTool
deployments and have retained another firm to give them technical support.
What is still unclear -- one reason this announcement was not made earlier
-- is how much beyond that either Ark or their developers are going to do
with SchoolTool.  Our understanding is that they have not decided at this
point, and much will depend on how the developers feel about SchoolTool
after a few months of living with it.

Ark has been clear and consistent about their support for open source and
desire in principle to see their contributions used by others.  Whether or
not Ark or their developers will see public releases or support as being
worth the required investment of time and effort is unknown.  It is
definitely possible, based on our past discussions and negotiations with
Ark.  On the other hand, a decision will probably not be made by Ark on
that for at least six months, which is not much comfort to current
SchoolTool users or those considering taking it up in the near future.

I am going to continue maintaining the schooltool.org website.  We’re just
going to remove the landing page so it goes straight to the documentation
in the book.  Ark did underwrite quite a bit of work on the developer
documentation here: http://book.schooltool.org/developers.html  If people
have additions to be published in the book, you can request a merge here:

Essentially everything we have of importance concerning SchoolTool is
already on Launchpad or the published documentation.  We don’t have any
other secret papers, code, or brilliant moneymaking ideas to turn over to
anyone else interested in investing their energies in SchoolTool (in case
you were going to ask).

To be clear, Douglas and I would be happy to see Ark or anybody else take
on continuing to support or develop SchoolTool.  We definitely have no
proprietary feelings toward the project.  On the other hand, we don’t feel
like getting directly involved at this point in time.  It is time for us to
move on, or at least take an extended break.  As has always been the case,
the main limiting factor for new people considering stepping in is the
complexity of SchoolTool and its foundation in the Zope framework.

We’d like to extend our thanks first and foremost to Mark Shuttleworth for
initiating and funding this project.  We’d also like to thank our friends
in Virginia who made CanDo a reality, in particular Jeff Elkner, David
Welsh and Glenda Lewis.  Without them SchoolTool probably would have
quietly died a decade ago.  Finally thanks to all the developers who
contributed over the years, particularly the many outstanding Programmers
of Vilnius.

Tom Hoffman
Managing Partner

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