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What's Wrong With the FOSS Community? 348

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the 500-words-due-next-tuesday dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Patrick McFarland, one of the major Free Software Magazine authors, has completed his second article on whats wrong with the Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) community, and what we face in this world. He touches on ESR's Cathedral and the Bazaar essay briefly, and warns against cherry-picking style software development."
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What's Wrong With the FOSS Community?

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  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:16PM (#16958898)
    It is very easy to say that FOSS communities are broken, but they depend on people, which are inherently broken.

    The major difference between FOSS and other communities are that the people in a FOSS community share far fewer specific goals than other communities. Some people want something fixed **now**. Others want it fixed **properly**, no matter how long that takes. Others just piss and moan.

  • Re:In my opinion (Score:5, Informative)

    by finiteSet (834891) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:20PM (#16958956)
    when I first gave Gentoo a try (back in 2004 i believe) all I got was abuse when I asked for help with some things.
    For what it is worth, in my experience I have found the Gentoo community to be nothing but helpful. Anytime I've had a problem the answer has already been provided in the forums, or users quickly (and politely) responded to my posts. And I started learning Linux with Gentoo, so I most certainly was a "n00b." Because of my experience with the Gentoo community, forums.gentoo.org is usually my first stop when I encounter any Linux-related problem. Luckily, I have long since shed my "n00b"-skin, but I am grateful to have had access to the community during that early formative stage.
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:40PM (#16959196)
    I don't think anything in it is wrong, as such, but it really doesn't say all that much. It sort of meanders through a few stories vaguely relating to the idea that "without an organizing vision, direction doesn't happen." But it seems to me that that while that's vaguely interesting, its not really a problem with the OSS community.

    While, of course, the OSS community doesn't have a single vision for any piece of OSS software, quite a lot of OSS projects do and, as his story alludes, OSS projects that have a following but languish either for lack of vision or because the project owner has misguided vision—unlike closed-source projects which, while they may not tend to lack vision, are no less likely to have a misdirected vision than their open-source counterparts—can be rescued by forking.

    And plenty of OSS projects do have a vision, direction, roadmap, etc. Sure, there's probably a lot of stuff that gets released under an open-source license (or straight into the public domain) because the author is essentially "done" with it and throwing it out to the community to do with what they will, but certainly open-source players like Apache, Mozilla, etc. have a vision for their main projects, and members of the community are attracted to and contribute to projects, no doubt, largely because of how they see the project's vision as compatible with their own. The "solution" McFarland offers is what it seems to me almost every major open-source project is already openly trying to do: allow the community to contribute, but institute a degree of top-down control in terms of timelines, roadmap, and assignments to make sure that the grunt-work necessary to have a polished project gets done.

    I probably wouldn't call it "acting like the Cathedral", the openness of many successful projects to community process and innovation, while retaining a kind of top-down vision, is something of a synthesis: the Cathedral harnessing the energy of the Bazaar, the Bazaar borrowing the focus of the Cathedral. And you see something like it in the embrace by some commercial, formerly closed-source vendors of both open-source software and increasing community involvement. If I had to name the model, I'd call it the "Congregation" or "Assembly", a less-propietary Cathedral, a small portion of the Bazaar united by a common purpose and direction to accept, in the context of a project, some degree of authority and leadership (but not the exclusive ownership and control of the Cathedral.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:48PM (#16959268)

    That tolerance has always been fed by a desire for mainstream acceptance by a certain portion of the community. Boosters and fanboys especially are susceptible to this, they don't have the self-discipline or knowledge to contribute anything - so instead they make unrealistic promises about what FOSS can do, attack ideological enemies of the community, and in general make asses of themselves.

    The funny thing is that when these fanboys are (inevitably) disappointed by FOSS they tend to retreat either into fanaticism or rabid hatred of productive members of the community. Hell hath no fury like a fanboy scorned.

  • by Latent Heat (558884) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:51PM (#16960820)
    Eclipse may be FOSS software (it is not GPL, but has some form of source license, free access to source codes, way of accepting contributions), but it has IBM behind it. You could say Eclipse is IBM developing some project in house and then opening it up for others to use; on the other hand, Eclipse seems to be a part of IBM's Java strategy in selling computing services.

    Then there is Java -- long time criticized by RMS but not trumpeted by SUN as being GPL'd. And how about Open Office/StarOffice with a strong SUN contribution?

    Yes, FOSS may be an insurgency, but I see it backed/encouraged/funded by big corporate entities who have a stake in its success.

  • Re:what is wrong (Score:2, Informative)

    by Requiem18th (742389) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @02:12AM (#16962246)
    I will state however, that a developer who don't know how to manage is still better than a manager who doesn't know how to code. Yes, in theory if you get the very, very best manager and the worst of all developers you could get a positive comparison but in any practical real world situation a developer still makes for a better manager than a simple manager, clueless managers are the root of all evil.

    As for the SABDFL, Mark delegates all his actual managent task to his developers, he is just called in when the community is in a hippcup, but here he is much more of a client than a manager.

    It should be mentioned that while a business person can organize a distro, the most succesful distros aren't run as business at all.

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