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What's Wrong With the FOSS Community? 348

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 Harmonious Botch ( 921977 ) * on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:45PM (#16958506) Homepage Journal
    I'm pissed. I'm disgusted. Santa is in dire need of some improvements. When he brings all the presents, he does it in the middle of the night, so I have to wait until the morning to get them. When I do get up in the morning to see what I got, all that trashy wrapping paper is in the way, delaying my enjoyment.
    Also he drinks all the milk and eats all the cookies!
    • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:16PM (#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: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Moofie ( 22272 )
        "which are inherently broken."

        Speak for yourself. I'm just fine, thank you!
        • by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:43PM (#16959800) Homepage

          I'm not broken, just unintelligently designed.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 )
            The difference between the FOSS and commerical software is that both have a lack of leadership.

            No... wait...

            The difference between the FOSS and commercial software worlds is that in commercial enterprises, in the absense of leadership, someone will be unilaterally appointed, not to lead, but to dictate.

            In the FOSS world, if there's no leader, there's no leader. People will choose their own direction until they find someone they want to follow or find others wanting to follow them.

            I think that's a major rea
            • by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:35PM (#16960702) Homepage
              Well... I don't know about you but I've seen many an open source project run by self-appointed dictators, so I don't think that's the "major" reason at all. Dictators in both worlds are plentiful and a pain. Become too painful in OSS, however, and someone will fork the project.

              Which in turn may or may not be successful. The mambo/joomla mess illustrates that some forks work and you end up with two relatively strong branches. Go the other way, and a fork splits its community, diverts resources, and eventually kills off one, the other, or both.

              And while no one wants a moron in a suit yelling at them, OSS developers are notorious for chery-picking the "cool" aspects of the project and ignoring others, and generally being insensitive to things like schedules and deadlines.

              As to "winning", you have some strange definitions. Get an OS with more than a percentage point or two of the average desktop, and "maybe" you can start waving that flag. Utill then...
              • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @12:30AM (#16961440) Journal
                Self appointed dictators, if that's all they are, can be removed from the FOSS scene with something as simple as a name switch.

                A lot of people who are given the label "self-appointed dictator" in this realm are really just people leading by doing, but leading in a direction different than those doing the labeling would prefer.

                The "I'll donate some of my time to some project" developers like the "cool" features, yes, and the real leaders will take what help they can get. As they do most of the work.

                Most successful FOSS projects seem to be based around a core group of people whose prime driver is their interest in fulfilling their vision of what the result should be, assisted in small ways by a large group of vaguely interested people.

                This is leadership. You can tell the difference between a leader and a director with a simple comparison: If the person would eventually/theoretically get the project done even if everyone else left, they're leading, and if they wouldn't get anything done when everyone left, they're not leading.

                Of course, there's no reasoning with people like that... they don't give a fuck about what you want, they're blazing trail.

                As to "winning", which do you think most people care about, their desktop, or the Internet it connects to? How many people do you know these days who can't just sit down in front of any computer whatsoever, log onto whatever services they need, finish up and walk away? There are a lot of them. The services they're logging onto are the "Network is the Machine" effect Microsoft has been fearing and fighting all this time, and that network is pretty much owned by FOSS.

                Linux might not be on the desktop, but the desktop is becoming more and more "That virus infested annoyance you're forced to deal with to get on the Internet", and the Internet is FOSS.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by catman ( 1412 )
                "Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."

                Lord Vetinari, in "The Truth" by Terry Pratchett.

                I think he's got a point.
      • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:25PM (#16959632)
        Alas the pissers and moaners get most attention while the people doing the coding get pissed on.

        Sad really.
  • Common sense says (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Josh ( 2625 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:49PM (#16958556)
    Good leader > no leader >> bad leader

    Nothing in this piece convinces that common sense is wrong.
    • Re:Common sense says (Score:5, Interesting)

      by miu ( 626917 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:03PM (#16958738) Homepage Journal

      The piece seems to be claiming that good > mediocre > no > bad leader.

      That's somewhat true, certain kinds of software and features just won't get done without a leader. That nifty little project doesn't need a leader, it'll get done because personal motivation is enough to get it done and it's small enough that a single person can handle the entire workload. Boring stuff won't get done no matter how grand the end result unless there is a leader to make sure it gets done, no one digs ditches for fun - even if the end result will be the panama canal.

      • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:30PM (#16959062)
        Yep, the boring stuff doesn't get done unless there's incentive to do.

        A leader without the ability to fire someone or give them a pay raise isn't going to be able to provide much incentive.

        But with FOSS, I (the end user) can email the coder and offer to pay him/her to finish a feature I'd like or do some other boring job. And that is one of the great things about FOSS. Once I pay for it, everyone benefits from it (including me).

        Try doing that with closed source products. You can't even find out the names of the coders working on it, much less contract them directly.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Zonnald ( 182951 )
          Firstly, offering to pay does not guarantee that he/she will be in a position to drop everything and take up your offer. There are opportunity costs. I for one would not give up my day job to take twice the pay to finish a feature over 1 or 2 weeks.
          Secondly, you can contact most software companies and they will finish a feature. They would more than likely take payments to customize the system to include the feature. It probably wouldn't cost too much if they can see an ongoing benefit to their current
          • myes, the Canadian government wanted to contract Microsoft to extend support on Windows NT (cuz upgrading a network of server farms across the country is a pain in the ass)... Microsoft said "sure, for $20 million a month" ... so now we're upgrading. It would have really sucked if we were using a FOSS product where 1/20th of that would get us a couple of developers to maintain the damned thing for us instead of upgrading a system that was meeting our needs perfectly.
            • oh shit... I forgot the quotation marks around "upgrading" and the heavy use of the <sarcasm> tags... my bad...
              • And I am in complete agreement.

                And if I may expand a little bit upon your example ... it's even BETTER than it seems on the surface.

                That's because a LOT of the patched software can be "backported" to your existing systems. So there's no reason to spend money maintaining your own "fork" of the entire system that you started with.

                Example: If 'ls' is patched, some testing should show whether the patched version is compatible with your current system. So you can upgrade some of the parts while still maintaining
                • Sorry, but according to, 2.2.x was last updated on 1/12/2005, that's almost 2 years ago. That's not support, they will say you need to upgrade to the latest kernel. That's not any better than Microsoft. At least I get decent drivers with Windows.
        • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:24PM (#16959628) Homepage
          But with FOSS, I (the end user) can email the coder and offer to pay him/her to finish a feature I'd like or do some other boring job. And that is one of the great things about FOSS. Once I pay for it, everyone benefits from it (including me).

          However progress will be slow because most of us will wait for someone else to pay for the changes we want. Most people will freeload if given the opportunity, Econ 101. Since you are reading this right now, I will thank you in advance for your future gifts to the community. ;-)
        • But with FOSS, I (the end user) can email the coder and offer to pay him/her to finish a feature I'd like or do some other boring job.

          yeah, maybe. if you have that kind of money. and if he wants to take on that kind of job.

          successful proprietary/closed source projects do tend to pay attention to their users. that is, after all, how they make their living.

        • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @06:37AM (#16962988) Journal
          You know what the funny thing is? That people are stuck on assuming a Bazaar model, and Bazaar methodologies (rangin from "someone else will volunteer to fix it for you" to your "I can pay one of the coder") when basically it doesn't work like that any more.

          The bazaar model still worked when the pinnacle of software complexity were "cat" and "vi". That's it. It stopped working almost completely when complexity meant Open Office Org.

          The Asperger's Syndrome kind of coder (and I'm one, so I can make fun of myself if I want to) which finds more joy in coding something cool instead of going out and flirting with a girl, also has a very narrow focus of attention and gets bored easily when he must deal with stuff either (A) outside that focus, or (B) which is basically homework instead of getting to the cool stuff. That's how we ended on the bad side of teachers in school, after all. Spending weeks understanding someone else's framework and code before you can even start on your cute "number paragraphs in Klingon" idea, is boring, and it's even more boring to understand and test all dependencies so you don't break something else.

          So today in F/OSS the only ones making any progress nowadays are, sad to say, the Cathedrals.

          Yes, everyone likes to use the Linux kernel and such as an example of why the Bazaar is strong, but have a look at the actual contributors some day. It's _not_ bored nerds like you and me working in their free time. Most of them are paid employees of Red Hat, IBM, etc. Linux as the work of bored nerds in their free time was a security shithole until Red Hat spent some real money doing a code and security review. And it was a joke in the enterprise arena until IBM started pumping some real money and formerly Cathedral-developped closed-source code into it. There's a reason why IBM looked like a believable target to SCO (as opposed to just a tempting target, by having deep pockets), and that's the sheer quantity of Aix code that IBM donated.

          The same goes for OOo: practically all development is paid for by Sun, and it's bleeding Sun a ton of money. The same goes for Apache, which everyone uses as an example of why OSS is better than MS's software on a server: it, and most other Apache projects for that matter, is mostly IBM work. Go figure. IDE's? Both Eclipse and Netbeans are paid work by respectively IBM and Sun and a number of other corporate contributors. Compilers? You'd be surprised how much in GCC actually comes from Intel and the like. Browser? Mozilla was mostly paid work by Netscape, then AOL, and now it's mostly sponsored by Google. Etc.

          So yes, as you aptly put it:

          Yep, the boring stuff doesn't get done unless there's incentive to do.

          A leader without the ability to fire someone or give them a pay raise isn't going to be able to provide much incentive.

          And that's why most of F/OSS nowadays is nothing more than a way for various corporate Cathedrals to pool their resources against MS. Sure, it's a good goal and I have nothing against benefitting from it. But let's stop pretending that ESR's Bazaar is anywhere _near_ relevant any more. The actual "Bazaar" projects are the thousands of unfinishet things on Source Forge that noone gives a damn about, either to help develop/debug or to use seriously or to pay the developper for features.
      • I think the article tries to have a point but fails short even if they may be right. FOSS projects do need a strong leader if they are going to do well. Projects without strong leadership go all over and tend to die or splinter. Just having any leader is not an improvement over no leader though. Neither is having any vision instead of a good vision. The vast majority of PHB projects are never completed or never go anywhre commercially. Mostly because the people in charge are bad leaders or have a bad vision
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          That's exactly what I wanted to say.

          I thought the article's comments about GNOME in particular were wrong. The problem with GNOME was not that it had no direction and therefore suddenly became bloated and unmanagable with feature creep. Far from it. It had a relatively popular leader who had an idea about how it should work. It gained feature creep because the "vision" of that OSS leader was to emulate a UI that itself was bloated, poorly designed, and suffering feature creep, both on the outside and the

  • In my opinion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ditoa ( 952847 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:50PM (#16958562)
    There is nothing wrong with the FOSS community, however there are a small number of very vocal people who are total assholes towards people new to things such as Linux. I am not a Linux n00b as I have been using it on and off since 1996/7 however 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. There are a small number of groups within the FOSS community who give it a bad name, however this is the same with most communities IMHO. Ubuntu are doing a lot of good not just with their decent distribution but with a positive and helpful community as well. Infact this is probably the best thing about Ubuntu.
    • Re:In my opinion (Score:5, Informative)

      by finiteSet ( 834891 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:20PM (#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, 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.
      • Re:In my opinion (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:45PM (#16959240) Homepage Journal
        I find the reaction to questions is entirely dependant upon how the question was asked.

        A knowledgeable person who is simply inexperienced in an area will generally phrase a question better than a 12 year old kid demanding attention NOW.

        "Gentoo is shit, it won't install why not?"


        "I attempted to install Gentoo on my computer (an aging P2 on an Acer motherboard) and came up with a number of problems during the install. It spent about 20 minutes compiling before it stopped saying 'The XYX system could not be compiled: missing file xyz.c'.
        I tried looking around the furum but couldn't see where I am going wrong. Can somebody give me some assistance please?"
    • Re:In my opinion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:23PM (#16958992) Journal
      There is nothing wrong with the FOSS community, however there are a small number of very vocal people who are total assholes towards people new to things such as Linux.

      Ooops, I think you got that wrong.

      There are a small number of very vocal people who are total assholes towards people.

      Does it matter what the subject is?
      • by Jack9 ( 11421 )
        There is a subset of the population who are total assholes towards other people. I do not have a reckoning of what the average asshole to non-asshole ratio is, but it's certainly not a number I would trivialize as "very small". In all subjects where people have a voice, this is shown true.
    • by joe 155 ( 937621 )
      I think you're right on the whole, when I first started using Linux I ran into a little of the "OMG N00Bz!!!" type thing but I did find that when I started using Fedora the people on the forum are really helpful and always have a lot of time for people (even so I have seen a couple of RTFM flames), I now like to give back because of all the help I got when I was first starting out with it and have never said any of the things that originally made me nervous about going onto linux to people, instead just bei
      • by rvw ( 755107 )
        Asking questions can also be a way of giving something back, although many people don't see that. I admit that most of the time I ask questions, more than I answer. But I put a lot of effort in those questions. If I'm going to ask someone to look into my problems, I may as well give them all that I have. I report back if someone answers, and try to make it into some kind of solution that hopefully other people will find using a search engine.

        The bonus is that in doing this, I make an overview of the problem
      • Re:In my opinion (Score:4, Insightful)

        by The_Wilschon ( 782534 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @12:51AM (#16961550) Homepage
        Just in case you were wondering, RTFM is very rarely a flame. If someone says RTFM, chances are they know what they are talking about and the information you are seeking is in TFM. So go read it. By providing a pointer to the information, they have in fact answered your question.

        Now, it may be that you lack the experience to discern what portion of TFM is the information you are seeking. If so, say so! Say that you have looked in TFM and not found an answer. Ask for help explaining specific parts of TFM, or ask for a more specific pointer to what part of TFM you should be looking in.

        Reading TFM is an important skill, and one that must be acquired. If you have that skill, then there is no call for you (or anyone else, of course this entire post is directed generally) to go demanding that other people use their energy and time to do what you are perfectly capable of. If you don't have that skill, then the greatest ROI for people responding to your question comes when they encourage you to acquire that skill. If you have trouble acquiring it on your own, then generally you can still find someone who is willing to help you acquire it. But not many people want to spend their time and energy doing something that either you can do or that you should be learning to do, unless such an expenditure will help you learn to do it yourself. If you expect someone to put down little arrows on the ground in front of you when you are lost in an unfamiliar city, then you'd better have some cash in hand. Similarly, many distros offer paid support contracts.

        When you spend 5 minutes saying exactly how to do something in detail, you are often setting yourself up to spend another 5 minutes saying exactly how to do something else in detail later. If someone figures out the answer themself, even if it is with guidance and aid (think Socrates), then they are much more likely to be able to figure out the next answer as well.

        Required reading (or it should be): []
  • by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:51PM (#16958574)
    When did the 'FOSS community' become an entity that could be analyzed as a single group so that you could point at it saying that's what's wrong with it?
    • by kaiidth ( 104315 )
      There's a Terry Pratchett quote which, loosely paraphrased, goes something like 'Like all uses of the word `community', it gave the feeling that they were using it in a very specific case that does not include you or anybody you know'.

      There's also a very active research set that delights in sending out mindless little questionnaires to evaluate this and enumerate the other features of said F/OSS community. Personally, I've long since stopped wasting time actually answering said questionnaires, and so I susp
    • When did the 'FOSS community' become an entity that could be analyzed as a single group so that you could point at it saying that's what's wrong with it

      then perhaps what is wrong with FOSS is its lack of cohesion. what can't be defined, can be ignored.

  • Hmm.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by El Lobo ( 994537 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:51PM (#16958576)
    I kind of dislike the Open Source fanosophy... Sorry, philosophy, but that article was a waste of bandwidth. Of course, in free/Open Source everyone does as they want. Yes, it's a Bazaar, but that's the way it's suposed to be. I do whatever i want in my freetime, but I must do whatever I'm told at work. And that is not going to change.And that has been so since the creation or the evolution from monkeys. And the world has not ended because of that.
  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:56PM (#16958650) Homepage Journal
    That one thing is that FOSS can not be the end all and be all of software.
    Not every software need will be be solved with FOSS.

    There needs to be freedom to write Open and Closed source software. That is what bugs me are people that think selling a closed source package is evil. I just don't think that the FOSS model can work for every program.
    • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
      Sorry, I still think telling people what they can and can't copy is wrong. And threatening to take away everything they own (cause no average person can afford to defend a copyright lawsuit) or send them to jail if they disagree with you is just evil.
      • Would that be more or less wrong then telling someone that their creation cannot be protected under law and that they must allow the entire world to profit from its free usage rendering the salability of the creation by the original author impossible?
        • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
          Yep, cause the right to restrict others by employing men with big guns so you can make a buck is something that we never wish to see perish from this earth.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dreamchaser ( 49529 )
            You are absolutely right. We should do away with police as well, and no longer treat theft as a crime either. No, Copyright Infringement is not theft, but it is a crime and Copyrights exist for a reason. If someone wants their work protected they should have that right. You do not have the right to copy it at whim, nor should you.

            If you don't like it, don't patronize the people who enforce it (RIAA, MPAA, etc.). Nobody is forcing you to listen to music or watch movies either.
            • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
              WTF. Seriously dude. "If someone wants their work protected they should have that right." Huh? How can you make such a blanket statement? Just so we're both sure as to what you're saying here, when you say "protected" you mean "protected by the government" right? You don't mean they should actually have pay for it to be protected do you? So what you're saying is that if someone wants everyone in society to pay for a police force to stop people from doing what they want to do with the work then they s
              • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

                What if, ya know, society doesn't want to pay for a police force to stop people from doing what they want to do with the work?

                Apparently by "society" you mean you, and in this case, the answer is "tough shit" ... because, yes, in this case we as a society have enacted copyright laws and, yes, we do pay law enforcement agencies, district attorneys and the like to enforce those copyrights. The fact that you (sniff) don't want to is in no way representative of the wants of "society."

                • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
                  Excuse me, but I was simply making the point that you left the will of the society that has to pay for these things out of your bullshit blanket statement about what rights people should have to "protect" their work. You, like many people, fail to phrase your arguments as anything more than commentary on our current society. Many things in our society are immortal and evil, to appeal to the current state of law is to do nothing more than beg the question. Fundamentally, I see the issue of copyright as on
  • F(L)OSS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Potor ( 658520 ) <farker1@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:57PM (#16958662) Journal
    Clearly, when ideological differences get in the way of even naming the community, you have a problem. Then again, having a common enemy will never be enough to guarantee harmony.
  • no leadership? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HAL9000_mirror ( 1029222 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:58PM (#16958674)
    From the article:
    Unlike in the Cathedral, the Bazaar has no official leadership.

    Isn't this what enables FOSS? Most of the FOSS don't have official leadership (other than the creator of course :-) ) until it matures and shines. The linux kernel is a wonderful example.
    • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:17PM (#16958904)

      Unlike in the Cathedral, the Bazaar has no official leadership.

      Sometimes that is preferable to Archbishop Balmer flinging the Holy Chair of Antioch.

      • Sometimes that is preferable to Archbishop Balmer flinging the Holy Chair of Antioch.
        You've been waiting to use that for a long time haven't you?
        • You've been waiting to use that for a long time haven't you?

          Peter: Hey, Brian. If cops are pigs, does that make you a Snausage?

          Brian: Clever. Did you stay up all night writing that?

          Peter: I got to bed around 2:00, 2:30...

    • Isn't this what enables FOSS? Most of the FOSS don't have official leadership (other than the creator of course :-) ) until it matures and shines. The linux kernel is a wonderful example.

      I've always thought that the Linux kernel was a great example of a cathedral. Access to get anything into the kernel is strongly controlled by a set of "bishops" if you will - just that the bishops are somewhat more approachable that a commercial vendor (but only somewhat). ESR's attempts to generalise a set of rules abo

  • I read the article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by matt me ( 850665 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:02PM (#16958712)
    I read the article, and I still couldn't tell you what it says. It talks about bazaar, and Gnome and development, but it has no content! I don't think it said *anything*. From the book: Harmless.

    I challenge thee to summariser it.

    This is what (/usr/bin/ots) a text summariser said (interesting to note it tents to focus on cathedral-style, bazaar-style, and gnome bashing)

    A few years back, Eric S. Entitled The Cathedral and the Bazaar, he wrote about how the Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) community does what it wants when it wants to. In Cathedral-style projects, your not-so-friendly neighborhood PHB (fueled by the lies from various ugly hunch-backed minions), although wrong 120% of the time, says what goes in a project. Backed by the Free Software Foundation and the FOSS community as a whole, the GNOME project for many years just added lots and lots of feature creep and otherwise unnamed bloat.

    The GNOME project lacked true vision for those years, and feature creep and other long term development problems rushed in to fill that hole. Problem is, many projects are just like GNOME. Incidentally, few Cathedral-style projects suffer from lack of vision: those that do simply die off and are never heard from again. Bazaar-style development allows projects to be in a zombie state for long periods of time, where it is vastly expensive for a Cathedral-style project to do the same. someone with vision (corrupt or not) would control a project, driving development behind it, and have the project reach goals in specific time frames.
  • Of course... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dedazo ( 737510 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:04PM (#16958744) Journal
    Another thing that's wrong with the "community" is writing an article detailing what's wrong with the community and then bashing a project like GNOME, which for all its failings does what it needs to do, is very much active and has a large user and developer following. So I guess this guy must be a "KDE fanboy"... and so it goes.
    • I'm a KDE fanboy, but he's right gnome has kinda floundered around for a while. I enjoyed the KDE/Gnome wars of old, it kept everybody on their toes trying to out-do the BadGuy(tm)s on the other side. Maybe Gnomemenistas will come out of their comas now that there employer gave in to the darkside and is in league with Mircrosoft.
  • Here's my rimshot: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:04PM (#16958752) Homepage Journal
    The biggest problem with the FOSS community is its tolerance for whiny fuckers who can't understand that we do this for fun and you have absolutely no right to complain about something you got for free.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      you have absolutely no right to complain about something you got for free.

      I'm sorry, but you have utterly failed to explain:
      (1) why you have a right to complain about something you got in exchange for money, through barter, etc.
      (2) why you do not have a right to complain about something that you got for free, stole, etc.

      In fact, if you're willing to justify #1, then I can prove that #2 is not true by simply introducing that elementary concept known as opportunity cost. A free pile of crap in yo

      • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
        Why not advertise the entire deal? "Our software won't cost you a dime, and if you don't like it exactly as it is, fix it yourself or suck eggs."


    • The problem with that argument tends to be the way it is either phrased or misunderstood. It is perfectly acceptable to make a negative comment on a piece of free software. For a variety of reasons, the answer that comes back seems to easily be (mis)understood as, "We don't like anyone talking bad about our baby, now piss off and do it yourself. (Noob, RTFM, etc)." Obviously, if this understanding is a natural one, and the response was similarly defensive, then it is probable that whoever made the comment d
      • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
        I don't consider constructive criticism to be a "negative comment". For example, if you say "gnome-cups-ui could do with some work in the way users enter smb printers as at the moment it is very confusing and the automatic detection of workgroups and hosts doesn't respond quick enough" you will get a good response.. from the right people you'll even get the response "this is being worked on already, check the latest cvs of gnome-cups-ui". But if you say "There's nowhere in this printer setup thingy to ent
  • by tcopeland ( 32225 ) <tom@thomasleecop ... RGcom minus poet> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:06PM (#16958776) Homepage
    > Not only did Dawes lack vision, he got in the
    > way of everyone who did have vision.

    That's rather well said. If you're the author of a successful open source project and you find yourself unable to keep working on it, do you have a duty to turn it over to the other developers for continued maintenance? I can't think of a reason not to, and if you don't, it'll either die or get forked, both of which aren't pleasant outcomes.
  • by troll -1 ( 956834 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:10PM (#16958824)
    Been a Unix/Linux admin for eight years. Been running slackware on laptop as my sole OS for the past five years. I've seen a lot of changes. It's never been better. Sure it's a bazaar, but isn't that how it's supposed to be? Hey, if you don't like gnome, choose something else among the dozens of choices out there.

    Perhaps the real problem is the plethora of side-liners, pundits, philosophers, and magazine authors who have nothing better to do than sit around and draw erroneous conclusions. I call these people OSS arm-chair experts. We don't need 'em. Seems the people with most to say write the least amount of code. Maybe they should learn to program and get involved rather than digging too deeply into what's wrong. Be positive.
    • Damn straight. I've run Linux-based operating systems since the summer of '95, and it's incredible how far the distributions have come. [k*]ubuntu and Mandriva both come with quite nice out of the box experiences even for new users, and new applications continue to increase the space where Free/OSS software can be useful. I see a lot of people complaining about why it's not ready for them, but luckily there are also plenty of people working on ensuring it will get there.
    • The problem(s) are imagined by the professional problematizers.

      I've been running Linux since 1993, alongside Windows until 2001. What we have now is a stable, fast, rapidly-evolving, feature-complete operating system that's more powerful than Windows or Mac OS and more widely compatible that anything else on the planet, all at no cost. Similar things can be said about Firefox, OpenOffice, etc.

      There is nothing wrong here, FOSS has been a roaring success and continues to be one every day. The proof of the pud
  • someday ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:10PM (#16958826) Homepage
    Someday Linux will be replaced, someday X will be replaced, someday GNOME will be replaced.

    Someday pigs will fly
    Someday hell will freeze over
    Someday bears will be catholic and popes will shit in the woods
    Someday poeple will stop using weasel words
    • Someday bears will be catholic

      Well, not a bear, but there's a story about a lion being baptized [] (note: in the early church being baptized was the same thing, and there was only one church, so all christians were catholic).

  • waste of space (Score:2, Insightful)

    by timmarhy ( 659436 )
    the foss community is a mirror of the world in general. the people in it are no different to those in any other community. i've met the most generous and helpful people, and also the most nasty. there's nothing "wrong" with the FOSS people, it's just human nature. right and wrong are just a matter of opinion.
  • by filesiteguy ( 695431 ) <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:17PM (#16958912) Homepage
    Though I may not agree with some of his details, overall he's spot on in his argument. He ascertains that the FOSS community - when lacking Cathedral-like leadership - will suffer and potentially flounder. Using the example of x.11 /, he correctly summarizes what is a partial issue with FOSS.

    HOWEVER - I think it is very good that such a review exists. As the benevolent dictator of my staff, I encourage ideas and help move software projects forward. I can learn from the FOSS community and their mistakes.

    I certainly hope that the kernel development and many other such projects (KDE) follow this type of path.
  • Too violent? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:19PM (#16958940)
    One big problem that I see if the violence inherent in the community. Everything is a "war" or a "Battle". An "OS War", a "browser war". This article is titled "inside the mind of the enemy". Community != War. If I didn't know better, I'd think that the whole OSS movement was being led by our own current war-loving government (war on drugs, war on terrorism). How about dropping the hostility, for starters?
    • by init100 ( 915886 )

      One big problem that I see if the violence inherent in the community. Everything is a "war" or a "Battle".

      I don't see that as something OSS-specific, but rather a cultural aspect of america. Many americans use words such as battle and war when discussing competition. This terminology is largely absent in other parts of the world.

      Note: This post is not supposed to bash america, just highligh an aspect of american culture as viewed by a non-american.

    • Maybe we should start using Go metaphors instead. I suppose that's what terms like "mindshare" apply to (my desktop board is 60% Mac, 20% Windows, 20% Gnome, but the Mac portion has good aji and the other two are caught in a seki position). Just doesn't have the same resonance as, "we're gonna F* bury them!"

      However, it would be a good start. Image Steve B. coming out for press conference, dressed in an orange robe, calmly announcing that he Microsoft is no longer going to speak of killing competitors,
    • "How about dropping the hostility, for starters?"

      Them's fightin' words!

  • This article really only applies to large projects like Linux and Gnome. A large amount of FOSS is written by one person. I don't know of any statistics, but take a look at Freshmeat or at the authorship of programs that you use, and I'm pretty sure the majority will be single-author projects, or perhaps involve two or three people. This is often true of projects that list many authors - often only one or two people have worked on any program at any given time - there are a lot of authors because the proje

  • The big problem with open source, once you get past the major projects like Linux and Apache, is that projects get 80% done and then run into trouble. The classic troubled Sourceforge project is stuck at version 0.9 for years. The fun stuff has been done, and nobody wants to do the boring work of making it usable and maintainable, fixing the hard bugs, cleaning up the messy parts, and writing readable documentation.. Which, in commercial software, is 50% to 80% of the job.

    The problem is not open sourc

  • by Y-Crate ( 540566 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:40PM (#16959194)
    - Not-Invented-Here Syndrome: Reinvent and implement what already exists because it's not 100% the way you want it to be. Why collaborate when you can just create another duplicate project that will never make it past beta or even close to feature complete?

    - Users, What Users?: Coding for yourself is nice, but if you want users to flock to your app, you might want to actually consider what they want. Don't bitch and moan at them when they offer suggestions, even if said suggestions don't fit your own personal vision, or even if they are downright stupid. That doesn't mean you have to implement them, but it means you have to be weigh them equally with your own ideas. Try to be inclusive and open to your userbase. "Go code it yourself" is a great way to keep OSS in the geek ghettos of the computing world.

    - But It Looks Pretty: That's a snazzy looking interface you just whipped up, is it consistent? No? Does it follow standard UI principles? No? I'm sure people won't become frustrated and dismissive of your hard work. You can say that UI standards impinge on your freedom as a developer, but they make a user's life much easier, and makes people much more likely to actually use your software.

    - Ask, Don't Beg: Asking companies and organizations to open code is nice and helpful, but be careful how you go about it. It can easily come across as "The OSS community could never dream of putting something like that together. Gimme!" Don't act like you *expect* the code, and that they are evil incarnate for withholding it. Don't make it seem as if the OSS community is incompetent and needs privately-developed projects turned over wholesale to get anything accomplished. Sure it helps a whole lot, but don't make it seem as though OSS is just mooching off the investment of others.

    - Vendettas: If two projects can fight over something, no matter how petty, they will. Try coding, it's more productive and makes you appear like a mature, competent project that might help win over those hesitant to support OSS. Or you could just continue the pissing matches and flamefests over icons and licensing minutiae that could probably be settled if egos were set aside for a few moments. Public wars of words, endless forking....nothing gets accomplished but the stroking of egos. Well, except the whole "OSS developers come across as immature, childish amateurs" thing.
    • by init100 ( 915886 )

      Well, except the whole "OSS developers come across as immature, childish amateurs" thing.

      I think that it is quite childish to judge an entire community based on just a few people. It is about as fair as if I would judge all americans based on my impression of George W Bush och Dick Cheney.

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:40PM (#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 Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:44PM (#16959232)
    OSS doesn't suffer from the lack of leadership or other, supposed 'Cathedral' qualities. In fact, it's the superior leadership, based on merrit and ideals, that turns OSS into the nightmare of anything cathedral - such as MS.
    In OSS much more than anywhere else, the best floats on top. That's why Outlook mail sucks and KMail sucks considerably less. Linux works because NOBODY doubts that Linus is the chief, Blender works because NOBODY doubts that Ton is the chief, because they both do an excellent job at what they do: leading large OSS projects.
    Of course there's weedy stuff in OSS that's buggier and more twisted than Autodesk Converter and Macromedia Director together, but that sinks to the lowest bottom, and does not get pushed onto the market by monopolies and marketing budgets of galactic proportions (Windows XP anyone?).

    The article is bogus and has it all backwards. I want my 5 minutes back.
  • Just a description (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kaffiene ( 38781 )
    This article is just a description of the F/OSS world - it *is* a Bazaar, so it *is* anarchistic and that's *why* people stay interested and contribute - if they can and they want to, they do.

    It's true that better leaders help projects produce things faster, but F/OSS has never been strong because of DEVELOPMENT SPEED, F/OSS has been strong because of diversity and the LACK of an authoritarian view. The community (warts and all) is precisely WHY F/OSS has succeeded.

    The article author assumes that there is
  • "I find your lack of vision disturbing."

    Incidentally, few Cathedral-style projects suffer from lack of vision: those that do simply die off and are never heard from again. Bazaar-style development allows projects to be in a zombie state for long periods of time, where it is vastly expensive for a Cathedral-style project to do the same.

    Reminds me of the Gegls project to re-invent the internals of the Gimp. Lots of hot air^H^H^H^H design initially, goes dead for X years, then just recently Kolas starts h []
  • by gordgekko ( 574109 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:42PM (#16959784) Homepage
    It reminds me of how Canada, land of my birth, views itself and its relationship to the U.S.

    It does somethings better, others worse. It will never admit what it does worse or will even defend it as a strength.

    It's arrogant and sanctimonious even though it often has its heart in the right place. Other times it's naive in thinking that because it believes *its* way is right, it *must* be so.

    It mocks the U.S. as backwards, even displaying a near pathological hatred for it, yet it secretly wishes it could hold the same lofty perch.

    Now replace "It's/It" with "FOSS" and "U.S." with "Microsoft".

    Frankly, what turns me off about the FOSS community in general is it reminds me of the science acolytes in the recent South Park episode when Cartman traveled to the future. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. If Linux were king it would be Microsoft redux.

    Feel free to mod me down, I have plenty of karma to burn.
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:53PM (#16960442) Homepage Journal
    FOSS is or is not better than closed source commercial code but the only way we'd ever know is to establish quantitative criteria and measure them with rigor.

    Some things to quantitatively evaluate are:

    Failures per release, time to release, bugs discovered, function points derived, cost-benefit, TCO, testability, verifiability, number of severity one bugs, number of severity one bugs never fixed, number of abandoned projects, time to next version, rate of customer abandonment.

    There are probably 50 more I can't think of right now but the only sure way is to apply engineering and project management discipline to the criteria and comparison of those criteria. Then one must capture a candidate group of commercial and FOSS projects and track them over a multiyear period.

    In other words we've been looking at the development experience instead of the results experience. How you build something is less important than what it does. Anyone who's ever seen the movie 'Apollo 13' understands this. More to the point though, development modalities reflect more the cultural aspects that the development team has almost no control over. Even in FOSS communities, they will self organize and operate according to features that have little to do with development.

    We really don't know or care that much what the differences between good and mediocre closed source projects are. They are unverifiable in either case. So one cannot focus on the method. It's a black box. Instead we need to focus on the outputs and metrics that we can see.
  • by whitroth ( 9367 ) <`whitroth' `at' `'> on Thursday November 23, 2006 @12:10PM (#16964696) Homepage
    Now, let me start out by saying I'm fully behind the F/OSS movement, and use it whenever I can. I'm working for a very large company, and we're using Linux boxes primarily. For that matter, I released a F/OSS package last year (WebFaceDB, available on SourceForge). But this is the first time I've been building and supporting as a straight sysadmin, not as a developer/sysadmin, and I've got to say that there's a *lot* of amateur, in the bad sense of the word, software out there.

    Let's starts with how much I *loathe* OpenLDAP, and the literally weeks I spent getting it working, and have yet to have it work with autofs, and I'm fighting it, right now, with Samba. I tried to find a GUI editor. The one that seemed best for my situation installed from an rpm... and had *no* useful sample configuration files, and even when I managed, using google, to set up some, it gave errors.

    PHP4 (we have our reasons for not going to 5 yet) is a royal pain, and a *mess*. I mean, php.ini in */lib?!, and not in */etc? Why? Why scatter files all hither and yon? Oh, and then there's where I have to hand-edit the Makefile to add /usr/kereros/include, since even the --includedir doesn't do that.

    On the other hand, Webmin was a literal no-brainer, and Nagios was only a bit harder. AND it came with working minimal configuration files. Even setting up virtual hosts with Apache were not *that* big a deal.

    The amateurism covers things like inadequate testing, absolute requirements of a specific library (and not allowing a *later* version of the library), and not having an easy uninstall method.

    It seems to me that a lot of folks push the envelope ->on their own system-, and don't try to meet standards that might run on nearly *everyone's* system. It doesn't have to be tested on *everything*, just follow standards. And to look at commonly-accepted practice, if not best practice.

                    mark, with more than two dozen years of software development experience, and half a
                                  dozen with sysadmin

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.