[svlug] Re: Open Source Criticism Questions

Daniel Howard dan_howard at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 21 10:06:16 PDT 2003


I'm still analyzing responses to my post and will
probably continue to analyze into next week, just to
be sure.

My questions were oblique.  Rather than ask the actual
questions directly and get answers that the community
thinks that I want to hear or hopes are true, I asked
questions about writing reviews that would elicit a
more genuine response.

My true question was: When I consider using open
source software, should I give the feature set,
quality and professionalism of the code the benefit of
the doubt (i.e. do minimal due diligence) or should I
view it skeptically (i.e. throughly check out every
piece)?

I was worried that SVLUG was just say: open source is
the same or better than commercial software so, sure!,
give it the benefit of the doubt.

For the past 4 years, I've treated open source
software and commercial software that same way; I've
given both the benefit of the doubt and done minimal
due diligence.  But, within the past 3 months, I've
been given reasons to question the wisdom of that
policy on open source and have considered switching to
a policy of viewing it skeptically and thoroughly
checking out each and every piece of software.

Apache, Linux as a server, Tomcat, PHP and MySQL
originally convinced me that open source software
didn't need to be thoroughly vetted.  As I saw it,
professional software engineers sat down, wrote great
code in their spare time, took the time to do it right
and produced software that was the same or better than
commercial alternatives.  I adopted a policy based on
this.  In any case, I will continue to use these and
am glad that I jumped in feet first, rather than
waiting until I had time (probably never) to exercise
the software thoroughly.  I had hoped that my current
doubts could be disspelled and I could return to that
feeling of trust for most well-regarded open source
software that those originals inspired in me.

But I'm more in doubt than ever.  I'll study it more
before making my final determination.

If I do change, I will still try new open source. 
But, I'll avoid recommending it or relying on its
apparent feature set, quality and professionalism
until I've verified them myself.  I'll also likely
spend and recommend that others spend something like
one month verifying new software rather than just a
few days.  This will probably result in less use by me
of open source software, especially when time is of
the essence.

(Some may question my minimal due diligence with
regard to commercial software but my career-long
experience says otherwise.  Although I've had my
difficulties with FUD, outrageous claims, crashes,
viruses and bugs, most commercial products do what I
expect them to, with a satisfactory feature set,
quality and professionalism.  I'm not sure why others
have such bad experiences; there could be a multitude
of reasons.)

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