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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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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:55PM (#16958648)
    we need more artists in the FOSS to design icons and stuff. Also, we need folks who are willing to hunt bugs to complement those who come up with features. Instead of doing a crossword puzzles why not fix bugs in FOSS?
  • 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.
  • F(L)OSS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Potor ( 658520 ) <farker1&gmail,com> 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • by tcopeland ( 32225 ) <(tom) (at) (> 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.
  • waste of space (Score:2, Insightful)

    by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:13PM (#16958868)
    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 shimage ( 954282 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:18PM (#16958926)

    This is basic economics: provide the market with the goods it wants, or get run out of business.

    But they aren't selling anything ... FOSS developers code because it's fun; that's their compensation, not money. It's no excuse to be an ass, but I don't really see why they should necessarily cater to anyone that isn't contributing in a tangible way.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:19PM (#16958948)
    One huge problem is that users don't realize that most developers do not get paid to write free software, they only do it because it is interesting and/or fun to do. Why should they be expected to work on boring features they don't want?
    Don't look a gift horse in the mouth...
  • 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?
  • Re:disagree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:26PM (#16959022) Homepage Journal
    Well, for those people who don't do this for fun, and instead do this because they want to show the world how great they are or something, you can complain as much as you like. "I'm great." "No you're not, look at this fuck up." "What do you want for nothing?" doesn't follow, I conceed that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:28PM (#16959032)
    My experience with most of the FOSS software (I know, redundant...) is that is usually just doesn't work the way it "should". I know that is an awfully broad brush, but in my experience it is the absolute truth. I want so badly for FOSS to take over (primarily because I do hate capitalism...well, American-style capitalism and copyright laws) but, being a Sys Admin, I can go to my boss only so many times and say, "Hey, I can save you a TON of money on this cool FREE alternative to _____!", only to have it fall apart after a few months of continuous use. I am sick abd tired of being made to look like a fool by some of
    this half-@ssed written software. I'm not saying that I can write better software. I am saying, however, that it should at least work as well as the (God, if you exist please forgive me for what I am about to say.) MS piece that it is probably trying to emulate.

    I don't consider myself an FOSS zealot by any stretch, but I am rooting for its success.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:28PM (#16959042)
    First off a lot of complaining can be considered constructive criticism.

    Say I give you a free tire for your car saying "it's a good tire" and you use it .. but the tire goes flat in the middle of the highway .. then what? You don't have a right to complain cause you got it free? It should meet a certain standard or you would have chosen the commercial one if the free one was crap. It would be different if you had approached me and asked me to make you a tire.

    That said, I do understand the point you were making .. but there's two sides to every issue. Oh yeah btw I did appreciate the cool stuff you guys did back in the days of V.

    That's all.
  • by passthecrackpipe ( 598773 ) * <passthecrackpipe@hotmail . c om> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:36PM (#16959138)
    This is one of the most confused responses I know of on this subject. Not your fault, I hear it frequently. I would like to clarify some things for you. There are 2 basic types of OSS devs. Those that are employed by a company with some interest in OSS, and those that do it purely for fun. The devs in the first group don't develop for end users, they develop for their company. Somehow, through some process (in which they may be involved at some point) the Company decides what they have to work on, and when it should be done. This may have some benefit for the end user, it may not - and that is totally besides the point -- for all you know these devs are hacking away at some piece of code that will never be distributed outside of the Company anyway.

    While this may be OSS development in the sense that people work on OSS code, it isn't about this topic - the "FLOSS Community" and the coders that form part of this community. Those coders tend to fall in the second camp. They tend to work for reasons other then direct cash. They do it for fun, peer recognition, whatever. For the majority of these people, "non-coding end-users" are the same bunch of clusterfucks they deal with everyday during the dayjob, and tend to not feature very prominently in the motivation chain. The things that drive them are project that are "fun" to code, "pet projects" and all that kind of stuff. They have little motivation to work on projects that are "boring", "seen as difficult" or "of no interest to the developers". This camp of OSS developers "must" do nothing, and more importantly, owe you nothing.

    You then bring in some muddled argumentations about the "market" and "running out of business". Unless the OSS coder in question is pretty incompetent, and gets fired from his (quite possibly non-OSS related) dayjob, there is no "business" to be run out of. Most of these projects *are* pet projects, and they only reason you can use them for free is because the coder in question has an urge to tell the world: "Look what I can do!!"

    Now its time to bring market drivers / basic economics into the picture. You, as a non-coding end-user, want an application. There are some half-way-there projects out there, but non really fit your bill. You are angry because all the selfish devs only think of their pet projects and having fun. Some entrepeneur, somewhere, will know this, and hire a bunch of devs to create a project you, and hopefully many others, will pay good money for. Only now, once renumeration has entered the picture, can you speak of a market in a meaningful way. Now you are a paying customer, and you can vote with your wallet and feet.

    Unless you are a cheapskate, and don't want to pay for anything, but still want every little piece of functionality handed to you "just so". If you ain't paying the cash, either do it yourself, or STFU.
  • by Chaffar ( 670874 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:38PM (#16959176)
    Somebody go explain to others that software CANNOT, I repeat, CANNOT be compared with physical products.
    While it would be convenient to those who "sell" software to convince you otherwise, don't forget that the price of replication of software is ZERO. And besides, if you don't like it, you don't die, you just have to look for a different vendor. Unlike a tire going flat in the middle of the highway :)
  • 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 Negativeions101 ( 706722 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:43PM (#16959218)
    I think many F/OSS developers tend to have this attitude that they're developing software for themselves or for the F/OSS community... as opposed to developing software that is intuitive for anyone and everyone to use. And I think that's the KEY to making OSS software mainstream. Design it with OTHERS in mind. Design it to be intuitive to use right from the begining otherwise I don't see F/OSS software becoming mainstream. And I'm in no way suggesting replacing power with easy of use. The two can go hand in hand but it's not that easy.... but it's easier if you have the right frame of mind.
  • 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.
  • 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?"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:54PM (#16959310)

    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 your yard is free, but it still costs you time and effort to deal with it that you could otherwise invest in a more valuable endeavor.

    we do this for fun

    Incomplete statement. You do it for fun and then claim that every rational person should do it to because it is better, more capable, and more bug free. You then refuse to fix identified defects and bugs by hiding behind the excuse that it is free. It never occurs to you that the time, effort, frustration, and cost expended by individuals who buy commercial software could be less than the time, effort, and frustration expended by individuals buying into your claims.

    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."

  • Re:disagree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stubear ( 130454 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:55PM (#16959312)
    If you do this for fun then quit trying to foist it on everyone else. Quit trying to trick governments into developing and supporting OSS. Quit bitching about Microsoft. You guys got the commercial world interested now you have to live with the consequences.
  • by Zonnald ( 182951 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:02PM (#16959400)
    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 and future customer base.

    Remember: Microsoft is not the only proprietary software company.

  • Just a description (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kaffiene ( 38781 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:04PM (#16959414)
    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 one direction we all want to go in and we should just get there as quick as possible. This is not how we got to where we are now, and it's not required for the future. Certain projects are chugging along with speed with a vision, others are meandering along to the sound of their own drums. These are all good. No need to panic, certainly no need to criticise the VERY WELLSPRING from which this world arose.

  • Re:what is wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ditoa ( 952847 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:10PM (#16959466)
    Actually lack of leadership is a problem within the FOSS. Mark Shuttleworth has done a great job with Ubuntu because he is a good businessman. Too many FOSS projects are managed by developers who don't know how to manage which means poor decisions are made. This is fine if you don't want the project to grow however if you want to become bigger and better you need to make certain choices and sometimes they are not always easy to accept. I have seen many projects (both FOSS and commercial) die because of bad decisions being made by someone who has never managed anything in their life. Just because something is free and open source doesn't mean that they cant be managed by someone with a business background. Ubuntu is a fine example of this IMHO.
  • 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. ;-)
  • 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.
  • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:48PM (#16959860) Homepage Journal
    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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:50PM (#16959888)
    [puts fingers in ears] "la la la...I can't hear you! la la la...I can't hear you!"

    OK, just kidding. Well sort of...I have had similar discussions with folks about what is coming. If people don't think corporations can't lock up or take over a number of the efforts that under way they have no understanding of business and IP law.

    The majority of people here and in the FOSS communities are techies, geeks, programmers, engineers, hobbyists, etc. Most of us don't really have a firm understanding of business and IP law. This is the Achilles heel of FOSS.

    Do I think FOSS is doomed? No as long as everyone stays vigilant and educates themselves about things not so geeky like law and business; and as long as we start to become more customer oriented. Ok, ok...stop your screaming and vomiting. Hey, I said stop it! They is one of the major reasons Linux has NOT taken off on the desktop. Linux is a beautiful piece of work, but is it human-friendly? Come on folks.

    Any how that is my $0.02...or less.
  • by ldj ( 726828 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:36PM (#16960276)
    By all evidence, a large segment of society would prefer copyright modifications, possibly back to something similar to the original rules (i.e., reasonable time limits), with serious amendments for digital information. And I'm guessing another large segment is relatively indifferent and/or ignorant on the subject. I don't know how you can claim to know what society (i.e., the citizens) as a whole would prefer.

    Don't confuse the wishes of society with the decisions made by our elected leaders. They're not always the same.
  • by NDPTAL85 ( 260093 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:45PM (#16960354)
    Its only a gray area to those who don't want to pay.
  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:59PM (#16960484) Journal
    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 reason why FOSS is winning. The smarter you are, the less you like having your actions dictated to you by a moron in a suit, and for all its faults, participation in FOSS projects doesn't generally ask you to put up with that sort of shit.
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:33PM (#16961104)
    These are the big problems. We see them a lot on /.

    Everytimes someone suggests something about Windows (the EULA, Vista DRM) the FOS hisses and spits that everyone should switch to Linux. When users say "but 3DSMAX" they vent and froth "Use Blender!" Photoshop? "Use GIMP you morons!"

    This is not the way to win people over. Many people point this out, but some vocal members in FOS can't move beyond it. If there is another view in FOS, they're very quiet about it.

    It's not unique to Linux. The Firefox developers have been incredibly arrogant when it comes to things like memory size, SaveAs filename. The so-called MySQL community refuse to accept the possibility that maybe, just maybe, MySQL is too buggy and unpredictable. I used an enterprise project written in MySQL and I found it to be beyond painful. But whenever I posted of my experience on /., MySQL zealots would resort to namecalling? And look at Ubuntu "Linux for Humans". Tried installing it on Connectix Virtual PC? Forget it. A kernel bug. Their answer is to follow a long, overly technical install process that requires you hitting an abort key with catlike reflexes. Linux for humans, my ass. The Ubutnu community response: "Don't use virtual. Wipe your existing PC."

    It's often said Microsoft "don't get it", and they don't. But FOS is equally arrogant and even more zealous.
  • 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: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): []
  • Portability (Score:2, Insightful)

    by merphant ( 672048 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @01:17AM (#16961676)
    One great thing about FOSS is that it tries to adhere to standards and have things be more or less portable. But people still use non-portable APIs (e.g. ALSA), and there are really not that many people with the knowledge and motivation to port things to Windows or Mac from Linux where most of the apps are written. I like GNOME, but saying that GTK is portable is only technically correct; you CAN port it, but it's not exactly easy or even possible in all cases. There is a Windows port, which is great, but the Mac OS X port is still not really usable (although there has been some great progress lately). I would love to see a fully ported GTK and QT for Windows and OS X, with established generic build systems; this would expose FOSS programs to a much larger user base, and allow more people to get involved in development too. These days it can be harder to set up the build system than to actually hack on the code. I have seen a few projects that have really focused on getting things to run on the Big Three platforms (Lilypond is my favorite example) and they have really healthy communities around them, partly because anyone with a computer can use the software.
  • Re:what is wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Thursday November 23, 2006 @02:09AM (#16961926) Homepage Journal
    I thought Shuttleworth did a great job because he pays people money so he can tell them to do what he wants. Ya know, rather than just whining to people that they should have the same interests as you, he put his money where his mouth is.
  • 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.
  • "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 The Blow Leprechaun ( 1003106 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @09:47AM (#16963780)
    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.

    This is a pretty flawed definition of leadership... While getting my sociology degree I took a few classes in small group theory and leadership theory and the definition I'd submit would go more like, "If people are following you, you're leading; if you have to pull them constantly, you're not leading.

    Leaders aren't supposed to be heroes who can do everything themselves, they're people who can get everyone on the same page so that the group can get it done.
  • Re:In my opinion (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eldepeche ( 854916 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @10:50AM (#16964118)
    You pay the mechanic to run diagnostics and find the source of problems in addition to fixing them; you're not paying for anything on a FOSS message board. Next analogy?
  • by whitroth ( 9367 ) <> 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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @06:47PM (#16968070)
    "This point doesn't need to be argued BECAUSE of our present situation, which is that of a represanative republic. The people have the ultimate power here. If they didn't want copyright to exist, it wouldn't exist. Period. Your example is analgoalous to someone not wanting to pay taxes and claiming that society is coerced into paying taxes. No. A few people don't want to pay, everyone else understands and accepts it. Same with copyright."

    I liked your parent post very much, and this paragraph of yours made me like it even more. He made a very important point about the need to think outside of what you are told, and you actually confirmed it with your post.

    Just so you know, I live in Cuba. Yes, that "communist" Cuba. I wont argue if it is true or not, but we are also told that "The people have the ultimate power here." I belive you will consider that claim to be false, as much as I consider that statement to be false when it comes from you.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner