[svlug] Open Source Criticism Questions

Daniel Howard dan_howard at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 21 14:33:15 PDT 2003

> answers that are just as asinine as the question.
> Some of your questions are laid out that way and
> border upon asinine in my opinion.

This seems unnecessary insulting.  Although you may
have found my questions insulting on some level, the
aggressiveness served a purpose and applied equally to
both open source and commercial software.  It was
meant to test the limits of acceptable criticism, not
the average or desired level of criticism.

> In my opinion, if you have no connection with the
> Open Source Community, but you pay for Open Source
> software, and that software does not fit your needs
> - but you were deceived into believing that the
> software had features that you desire, then it is
> fair to criticise whoever deceived you and sold it
> to you.

This is implying facts from questions.  I never said
that anybody lied to me.

> If you are part of the Community and have the
> ability to merely modify  - and therefore not create
> or purchase an existing program to fit your needs, -
> then the criticism is unfair, and only a reflection
> upon one's lack of initiative.

Part of my doubts has been my experience with this
process.  Making a patch and getting it into an open
source project is not simple and is time-consuming. 
You have to get the maintainer's attention and jump
through his hoops; some legitimate but some not. 
Dictatorships, even benevolent ones, have their

> I will say that this is a political issue, so in
> fairness, I refer you to two sources of basic
> information that you need to make an educated

Thank you for the info but I've know about the Open
Source Initiative and GNU for years.  I've also
extensively read about them.  I'm quite aware of ESR's
site and Stallman's free-as-in-speech-not-as-in-beer

Sadly, my practical experience with open source simply
doesn't jive with ESR's theories.  The theories sound
great and I sure wish that they worked.  

Stallman tends to fall more under terminology and
dogma.  I'm not sure how that applies here.

> 1. Core functionality in which there is no dispute
> as to what is better
> 2. Graphical User Interfaces that do not add to core
> functionality. 

I'd have no problem rating a program better if a
command line interface was more natural and useful
than its GUI.  Perhaps if I say that I only call
something a feature if it provides value; minor
features provide minor value and major features
provide major value.  A GUI might be a major, a minor
or not a feature at all.  I'm not sure what we get by
making such a distinction.

> I have found that most of the open source
> programmers I have been in contact with are very
> kind people who do not hesitate to offer
> help, or correct a problem. 

I agree but that doesn't make open source any better
than closed source.  Lots of closed source people are
nice people, too.  Most open source people work at
closed source companies in their day jobs.  Still,
being nice does not indicate a good model for
development nor does it indicate quality source code. 
If open source programmers are not accountable for
their work, that's fine and good to know.  But, it
does raise doubts in my mind.

> Can you hire someone instead? Yes
> Can this hired person make the software exactly like
> you want it? In theory yes.

In theory, yes.  Again, I like the theory.  In
practice, I'd probably switch to different software or
live with defect, rather than do this.  Even Google
runs standard Red Hat, not their own custom Linux and
they have 1000s of machines.  (They used to have their
own Linux but they gave it up.)  Customization isn't
realistic for most people or businesses, I think.

> They do this stuff to challenge themselves to a new
> level of greatness.

No problem.  I don't have anything against open source
although I feel that I've given it too much credit in
the past and should be more skeptical going forward. 
I'm most interested in forming a policy that fits with
open source provides.  3 months ago, I had a different
opinion about what open source provides than I have now.

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