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How open source is Mahara?

anonymous profile picture
Deleted user
Posts: 30

06 May 2011, 3:30 AM

Many thanks for the clarification, Richard. My misunderstanding came from this discussion

I am not questioning the commercial. Public funding is good to get started but it much harder to secure once the project is up and running. Creative solutions sometimes need to be adopted to ensure the sustainability of OSS projects. And it does make perfect sense to expect and require companies that derive a signification income (possibly in the form of cut cost) to contribute to the project.

I am trying to understand the implications in the context of plugin development.

Case study #1. You write a small plugin sold for a small price (donation button), tiny income (unlikely to turn a profit).

Case study #2.  You contribute plugins for free. A user takes contact and asks you to do some very custom modifications, that will be available only on their custom install. That's fair enough to charge them a modicum for you time.

Case study #3. You contribute a bunch of plugins to the community. They are part of a collection of educational interactives that have been made to work on Mahara as well as many other systems, free and commercial. The plugins are free but in a freemium model. Users pay for extra services. 

For now, the terms on the wiki suggests that you should become a Mahara partner.  If you don't, you should avoid to use the word "Mahara" once in your communication, written or oral.... which is about impossible as your are supporting Mahara users. 

Is it possible to explicitly add an exemption rule that if you write a plugin, you retain the right to commercial benefit from it (provided that your money earning activities are strictly restricted to the plugin and its support)? It could well be that's what the law allow you to do anyway... but appreciate if you could clarify.

The case study that I am interested in is #3, for this project that I have just started. 

anonymous profile picture
Deleted user
Posts: 84

08 May 2011, 8:46 PM

Hi Marielle,
Yes, that scenario is exempt as it is not the purpose of the Mahara Partnership program. You are providing ancillary services, not core Mahara support services. I would very much welcome you to continue the direction you are taking and wish you every success. We will not be asking for any arteficial "rents" from plugin developers.


anonymous profile picture
Deleted user
Posts: 30

06 May 2011, 2:10 AM

Hi Francois,

Thank you very much for taking it in the spirit that it was given. I was puzzled by the low level of contribution given that Mahara is becoming increasingly popular and is quite easy to extend (easier than Moodle, which has more community participation). 

Plugins page. Cool. Good to hear that anybody gets a chance to appear there. Paying partner or not. 

Your very open reply means that I now have to contribute to help address some of the issues (that's the deal with open systems). Would you like me to write a page on how to write jQuery based blocktypes, with some easy to adapt boilerplate? Peer reviewing of this by Gregor and others would be nice Wink.

I will send an email as well if I come across any issue not covered yet... but I think I went through most of what was I concern to me. 

anonymous profile picture
Deleted user
Posts: 30

08 May 2011, 10:22 PM

I would encourage a complete rewrite rather than micro-edits of Contributing to Mahara.

I know developers are cool and nice guys. You really could do with some community help. But most would be developers, when they consider contributing to Mahara, they really want to feel like they contribute something to the community. For now, the focus of the contribute page is on how people can help Mahara development team not on how they can contribute to a better experience/product for the Mahara users. 

For instance, the way you propose to write case studies... it suggests that you are after  material that can be used  to promote Mahara and secure further funding. Of course, this will contribute to a better product and therefore better serve the community... but that's kind of indirect consequence. As a would be contributors, it is more motivating to write for the benefit of fellow users, share the experience.

The trick is perhaps to ask a non-developer to write the first draft of the contribute page, then add extra technical details if required. An old time user or somebody like Kristina might do a magnificent job. 

anonymous profile picture
Deleted user
Posts: 30

08 May 2011, 10:30 PM

One of the most helpful articles I have come across on the issue of open source project and community contribution is "Open Source Community Simplified".


  1. Getting people interested in contributing
  2. Removing the barriers to entering the project and contributing
  3. Retaining contributors so that they keep contributing
François Marier's profile picture
Posts: 411

09 May 2011, 4:42 AM

Hi Marielle,

That article is brilliant. Thanks for sharing it!



Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 3739

09 May 2011, 4:13 AM

Hello Marielle,

You have a lot of trust in my writing capabilities. Thank you. Smile If somebody else wants to give it a go, please raise your voice / hit the keys on your keyboard and make yourself seen here. I won't be able to write anything for the next couple of weeks I am afraid.

Marielle, if you wish, you could also give it a try because then the text would be written by somebody for whom the text is intended.



Kristina Hoeppner's profile picture
Posts: 3739

06 May 2011, 7:07 AM

Hello Marielle,

I am sorry that my wording in the newsletter could be misunderstood as Gregor being the only plugin developer and that the project would not want any more. That was definitely not meant to be the case. There are also plugins on the wiki page that are not developed by Gregor, and I also mentioned in the newsletter that "If you have developed plugins, please post a short notice in the Developer Forum and put a brief description as well as link to the code on the plugins wiki page." Wink

There are more plugins available for Mahara than are listed on the wiki page, but if the developers do not post them, the community does not know about them. I try to encourage the participation and adding of plugins or any other code to the project when I come across any mentions on Twitter, blog posts etc. With the growing visibility of Mahara, growing user base and more developers coming on board, there will be more contributions and we hope also more will be made available to the community.

You are welcome to send me an article for the next newsletter (publication date is set for July 1, 2011) in which you talk about your plugins or any other development work you are involved in in regard to Mahara. Ideally, articles are about 100 words long / short and then link to a blog post / wiki page etc. where more details can be found.



anonymous profile picture
Deleted user
Posts: 30

08 May 2011, 8:43 PM

Hi Kristina, 

Thanks for all these extra information.  I will need to clean up the plugin I worked on (In the form, I wrote flickr photosetid when it really is the account id). Hopefully, by the end of this week.

Gregor Anželj's profile picture
Posts: 348

09 May 2011, 7:04 AM

I've been following this discussion for some time now and I feel, I have to add some things.

As far as the title "the" plugin developer goes: I would rather have more plugin developers to exchange experiences, etc., but when I started it seemed there are very little or none...

The main reasons for writing the plugins were very selfish:

  • I (we) needed the functionality in our Mahara install, so I've tried to extend Mahara capatibilites by writing plugins...
  • I needed to prove myself I could do something like... or that I am able to do it...

1. step: we had portfolios in paper version,. that included questionnaires/surveys for multiple intelligences and learning styles - so I wrote artefact plugin MyLearning, which was my first plugin and served for introducing myself with Mahara architecture, etc.

2. step: in paper version, there was an Europass form, so I've wrote artefact plugin Europass - to add Europass functionality to Mahara. It was also presented at SIRIKT 2010 International Conference (abstract).

3. step: I was courious if I could embed GoogleDocs (later GoogleApps) into Mahara view. Out of this couriousity the GoogleDocs and later WindowsLive blocktpye plugins were "born".

4. step: When writing GoogleApps blocktype I've stumbled upon I wanted to add this functionality to Mahara and didn't wanted to write blocktype plugin for embeding every service, that is listed in service directory (there are more than 200) - so the blocktype was created.

5. step: We(and others) needed an extension, so that the users could style their Mahara views. The Skins for Mahara views were born...

6. step: There was a question on the forums if Facebook Like button can be added to Mahara view. And I've created a FacebookLike blocktype in couple of hours, which could do just that... and later changed that blocktype into TwitterTweet blocktype for adding Tweet button into Mahara view.

When writing FacebookLike and TwitterTweet blocktypes, I've stimbled upon So now I'm writing a plugin to include AddThis in Mahara views. (and Status.Net Notice blocktype to add twitter-like support for in Mahara views - this was requested by Kristina Hoeppner).

To sum everything up: My motivation was primarily "selfish" - I needed that extensions or needed to prove myself I could do that. As a side effect I just "gave back" that to the community, because I wanted Mahara to become better / more useful.


P.S.: I wish there were more developers...