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Ted Leung on the air: Open Source, Java, Python, and ...
Sat, 13 Sep 2003
I don't want to read your damned source code
I've titled this post the way that I think Jason should have titled his. I'm an open source guy and I believe in the open source method of producing software. However, I believe in open source for pragmatic, not ideological reasons, and what Jason is complaining about here is one of the ways that open source needs to grow if it's really going to be successful. We are not doing a good job of making sure people don't need to have the source. One of the reasons that I'm writing a book is that there's a need for documentation, and the experience of doing the research for the book has made me much more aware of what people are facing when they try to use some of the code at the ASF.

The source code, the licensing, and the process should combine to yield a better product. There is a benefit to having the source. But we can't neglect the other stuff either.

It's hard to have an accurate perception of yourself. I know that this book project has helped me to see some areas where the ASF, at least, needs to improve.

[01:16] | [computers/open_source] | # | TB | F | G | 8 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post


I think it's a problem of motivation.  If you really are writing software to only scratch your own itch, then why are you releasing it to the public?  If I just wanted to record my ideas for myself or my family, I could keep a paper journal, or store a bunch of files on my computer.

Publishing your code, or just your ideas (like on a weblog) is a social act.  You're trying to interact with the world.  In doing so, you're establishing a sort of community of like-minded individuals, either by attracting people who already think that way, or by encouraging them to form an opinion similar to yours.

And as I said before, it's not the failure to document that I take issue with.  Honestly, I'm as bad as the next person about documenting code.  It's the refusal to acknowledge that this detracts from the code. It's the outright insistance that is myinadequacy, not theirs, that prevents me from using their code.  This is what I take issue with.

Online communities of all sorts, including developer comminities, have this problem.  People mistakenly believe that if they throw a party, everyone should show up and be happy there's a party, without demanding anything from the host at all.  In the real world, if people show up to the party, and if the place is messy, and there aren't enough chairs or drinks, and the host tells everybody what to do, people get pissed off and leave. 

Your parents might try to use the "while you're a guest in my house, you'll do as I say" emotional blackmail, but nobody tolerates it from their peers, except online!  People, both the hosts and some of the guests, believe that it's perfectly alright for the host of an electronic community to be a complete jerk and everyone should still appreciate all they've done for them.  Why do we put up with it?
Posted by
Jason Marshall at Sat Sep 13 14:58:07 2003

ultram ultram ultram
Posted by Trackback from ultram at Sat Jul 15 07:57:59 2006

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I work at the Open Source Applications Foundation (OSAF).
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