[svlug] Re: Open Source Criticism Questions

Richard Sharpe rsharpe at richardsharpe.com
Wed Aug 20 17:12:32 PDT 2003

On Wed, 20 Aug 2003, Don Marti wrote:

> begin Daniel Howard quotation of Wed, Aug 20, 2003 at 02:36:18PM -0700:
> > The motivation behind this question was to determine
> > if open source advocates welcome the same mistreatment
> > and fault-finding that commercial software vendors
> > endure in reviews.  Lots of reviews have mistakes and
> > some fault-find to the point of abuse.  It is not
> > uncommon for reviewers to use the word, "suck", when
> > reviewing Microsoft products.  So far, open source
> > software has gotten a free ride.  Nobody ever uses the
> > word, "suck", to describe open source software, no
> > matter how bad it is.  Open source products are often
> > held to a lower standard; open source software is
> > often rated better than it should be.
> Which software, and by who?  Can you provide any examples so people
> know what you're talking about?

This actually raises a bunch of interesting questions.

In some sense, Open Source Software is not a product. That is, Ethereal, 
for example, is not a product!

It is a piece of software that many people have contributed to.

It happens, however, that a number of Linux vendors ship Ethereal and a 
number of other open source software packages on their CDs and have turned 
the whole thing into a product.

'Product' has certain connotations in my mind, including some level of 
> > It also helps to clear up whether open source
> > programmers owe anything to their users or whether
> > being an open source product relieves the open source
> > programmer from all responsibilities.
> All open source programmers are relieved from all responsibilities,
> and owe absolutely nothing to anyone, unless you specifically hire
> one for development or support.

This also raises issues of did the creator of the spear or fire or any one 
of innumerable other inventions over a very long period of time owe 
anything to their users.

As a person who has worked on open source software I would be highly 
offended if someone claimed that I owed it to them to fix the bugs that 
might be in Ethereal or Samba, whether or not I introduced them or not.

I never asked anyone for a cent for my contributions [1], nor have I ever 
forced anyone to use the software. I have however suggested that they use 
the software.

I do, however, take pride in the software, and will fix bugs where they 
can be adequately described and reproduced and so on. I am especially 
quick to fix bugs where they effect me, as are others who work on this 

[1] I have accepted money in the past to work on aspects of Ethereal and
    Samba, but that is different to what we are talking about here. That
    was work for hire, and no employee has any big responsibilty for the
    code they work on beyond their employment. If they don't want to fix
    the bugs, they can give notice and leave.

> > Example
> > responsibilities might be: having a clear statement of
> > their level of dedication to the code, being clear
> > about the quality or lack thereof, being clear about
> > their own qualifications to write good code or lack
> > thereof, committing to a certain minimal schedule,
> > quality and feature set, statement of intent about
> > their competitiveness with similiar projects.
> Two words: NO WARRANTY.
> If a customer wants support, there are certainly companies that will
> sell you a support contract.  If you want a feature, there are people
> you can hire to add the feature.  But it's completely inappropriate
> to ask a developer to provide this as a "responsibility".

Moreover, commercial software product vendors have abandoned customers 
before now. Larger ones, of course, will offer support for some period of 
time, and so on.

However, some of this comes down to a certain confusion between what a 
product is.

Richard Sharpe, rsharpe[at]ns.aus.com, rsharpe[at]samba.org, 
sharpe[at]ethereal.com, http://www.richardsharpe.com

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