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Posted Oct 22, 2012 17:01 UTC (Mon) by man_ls (guest, #15091)
Parent article: Heilmann: Don’t call it “open source” unless you mean it

Am I the only one to think that this post is a bit abusive? So you spend your free time developing something out of love, generously put it at the disposition of your peers, take some time out of your presumably busy schedule... and then people demand that you do a lot of grunt work to help them, out of the goodness of your heart.

We could also get pedantic and argue that the open source definition does not mention "spending your free evenings answering unpaid mail instead of being with your family or whatever else you fancy". Not even Free software (which is philosophically more demanding) demands anything like that. No, releasing code at the disposition of others so they can improve on it is perfectly valid morally.

The guy might have a point if he was talking about companies doing code drops, but only because the cost of developing in the open is not significantly higher than otherwise -- it is only a matter of trust in the community. As it is, it feels a bit trollish IMHO.

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Posted Oct 22, 2012 18:25 UTC (Mon) by michel (subscriber, #10186) [Link]

Agreed. Perhaps this is targeted at companies as you point out.


Posted Oct 22, 2012 18:32 UTC (Mon) by av500 (subscriber, #66665) [Link]

even companies doing "code drops" is still fine, since when did it become mandatory to develop in the open in order to be called open source?


Posted Oct 22, 2012 19:40 UTC (Mon) by man_ls (guest, #15091) [Link]

Yes, you are right. It is not a good measure for community-building, but as our editors always point out and as others have commented on this very item, community-building is not equivalent to open-source (in either direction).


Posted Oct 23, 2012 12:00 UTC (Tue) by Corkscrew (guest, #65853) [Link]

Morally it's fine... but it's not Open Source.

I'd draw a distinction here between Open Source and Free Software. As we all know from reading RMS's highly entertaining rants, Free Software is a moral philosophy. Software is Free if it obeys the four freedoms. "Dumped" code is certainly Free.

In contrast, as we all know from reading Torvalds & co's equally entertaining responses, Open Source isn't a moral philosophy; it's a very pragmatic development methodology. The point of Open Source is that, when you structure a community in certain ways, and give them a certain level of access to a code-base, good things happen.

Code dumps do not follow the Open Source methodology, hence they don't get the Open Source results. Calling them Open Source regardless is like saying you've used the Waterfall model because someone scribbled out a half-page spec a year ago. You may have ticked one of the boxes, but you certainly haven't gotten into the spirit of things.

As another example, OpenOffice under Sun was Free Software because you could download the source code, but it was about as far away from Open Source as it could get without a spaceship. As a result, the software basically worked but had lots of annoying long-term bugs that no-one at Sun cared enough about to fix.


Posted Oct 22, 2012 19:09 UTC (Mon) by geofft (subscriber, #59789) [Link]

I think he was specifically responding to people who are under the impression that merely releasing your code under an open source license will cause the open source community to embrace it.

In other words, it's the folks who go "look at my code, my code is amazing" and don't attempt to cultivate a community who are feeling entitled when they complain that no community spontaneously arises.

If you just want to do a code drop under an open source license with no expectations, by all means do a code drop. If you have expectations of the community helping you, the community expects you to participate.


Posted Oct 23, 2012 8:10 UTC (Tue) by khim (subscriber, #9252) [Link]

If we are talking about "community building" then why all the talks are about "answering mails" and "cultivating a community"?

There are other way and it may be easier for the companies (as opposed to the individuals): just create a competitive product. Android is as "open-source-hostile" (in the terms of discussed article) as they come (hidden development, no community involvement, most principal authors never answer questions, etc), yet there are vibrant Android-related communities. Why? Well, because there are over million new Androids activated every day.

Similarly with "pasture source": yes, project can be popular and even thrive when company closes it's development - but only if it's the only if other real alternatives are proprietary (and popular).


Posted Oct 23, 2012 8:41 UTC (Tue) by cabrilo (guest, #72372) [Link]

I think the author makes the case. Obviously there is nothing wrong with just showing your code without further involvement, but from my perspective many people do it for completely wrong reasons.

I may be a selfish coder-for-hire, but my time is expensive and my tools are valuable. I only consider open sourcing my code when:

a) I want the project to grow and be seen by many eyes and I expect patches and improvements,
b) or I want somebody else to take over the project eventually - because I might find it useful in the future but currently don't have time to develop it any more.

Such projects, which are open source for selfish reasons, tend to flourish.

Projects which are put up on github or sourceforge or whatever kids these days use, just to get the free hosting or to be able to put on a resume "Leader of an open source project (and in fact the only contributor to it)" tend to be just noise (with some notable exceptions).

So, it's not about bashing people who don't engage the community, it's about telling them that if they want to have a successful and meaningful project, they should know it's a full time job.


Posted Oct 23, 2012 11:39 UTC (Tue) by man_ls (guest, #15091) [Link]

Think about the following situation, which seems to fit the case mentioned in the blog post. (I think that most of us can relate to it; at least I do.)

A developer creates some software which she hopes will bring her fame, glory and dev-cred. She spends considerable time building the package and polishing it. Patches and improvements are slow in coming, but user requests pile up. After a while help has not materialized, and she has little else to learn from it: maintaining the package does not make sense any more. But still the project is useful in its current form, or it may be some day; some people from all over the world are using it.

So the world is a better place because of the package, even in deep maintenance. But judging from the blog post the software is not "real open source". I cannot agree with that view.

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