Plonegroups has unique features for democratic organising and collaborative deciding on texts. The code is owned by a foundation set up by Partecs from Rome: telematics freedom . It aims at democratically run organisations (postal stamp collectors club, democratic parties, etc.).
They're doing something funny with their license. The default current GPL license doesn't cut it because everyone can use and change the code without the need for distributing the changes as long as they run it behind a webserver. This is a known loophole in many open source/free software licenses. They're closing this loophole with some additional limitations ("this code is more free" :-) ).
They want to release a first alpha by the summer, based on plone 3.0.
They have added ways to comment on text. Individual words in the text are highlighted according to the amount of comments those words have gotten. Seems like a pretty good idea. You can suggest changes to texts and people can vote on it.
Rocky asked about the name. The reply was that they're happy to change the name if the plone foundation wants them to. It can go either way: it can be nice marketing or it can be a marketing risk.
He got some questions about the license. Everyone who wants to look at the code has to sign a very short non-disclosure-agreement. If you want to modify the code, you need an additional (and longer) modifier agreement.
Rob Miller mentioned the open planning project which hasn't got the same goal, but is mostly in the same area. So there could be quite a number of areas where they could share code. Open planning releases most of the code under the GPL (or zope's ZPL if needed). Using code from and mixing code with something with a somewhat modified GPL license sounds a bit hard to him. The reply was that this is a known problem of this type of licenses. Another point is that google/yahoo/etc can take all GPL code and use it to strengthen their commercial offerings without needing to give something back. Plonegroups thinks this is something that needs to be fought.
In the end I was left with the impression that they're taking away some of the rights I'm used to in order to give me more rights. But it still smelled like I ended up with less rights. It is probably something that is very hard to explain. I do doubt whether they can generate a lot of traction in this way, as you've got to get people to agree, which takes time: which is often in short supply.
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TFF recognizes that the model is still being refined, and we welcome any suggestion you have to improve "usability" of this model. What you can't do is just deny the problem. Also, the license does not require you to give the key to anyone, but to share the access so more than one user should be present to "audit" the code in high-security use cases (such as political parties, or important decision-making elections in large orgs).
There will be an <a href="http://www.telematicsfreedom.org/innovation">event in Rome now in June about privacy, ePaticipation, voting and software-as-a-service</a>. Would be nice to hear some voice about it, so we can take it to the public. :)
That's a shame, because I love the vision of the software. And the "GPL loophole" is indeed real. But I think you're right -- they're going to have a very hard time getting anybody to contribute with such draconian licensing terms. The cure in this case is worse than the disease, IMHO.