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The Battle Between Purists and Pragmatists

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the driving-out-in-all-directions dept.

GNU is Not Unix 213

Glyn Moody has a thoughtful piece taking a long look at the never-ending battle between pragmatists and purists in free and open software. "While debates rage around whether Mono is good or bad for free software, and about 'fauxpen source' and 'Faux FLOSS Fundamentalists,' people are overlooking the fact that these are just the latest in a series of such arguments about whether the end justifies the means. There was the same discussion when KDE was launched using the Qt toolkit, which was proprietary at the time, and when GNOME was set up as a completely free alternative. But could it be that this battle between the 'purists' and the 'pragmatists' is actually good for free software — a sign that people care passionately about this stuff — and a major reason for its success?"

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All I know... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28813175)

All I know is that my gut says maybe.

Re:All I know... (3, Insightful)

sconeu (64226) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813245)

Bloody Neutral.

What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?

Re:All I know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28813371)

It is not justice or equal treatment that you grant to men when you abstain equally from praising men's virtues and from condemning men's vices. When your impartial attitude declares, in effect, that neither the good nor the evil may expect anything from you — whom do you betray and whom do you encourage?

sitting on the fence vs. unbiased (2)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814137)

So, should you get off the fence before you figure out which side to come down on?

Or are you saying you are inclined against both sides?

Re:All I know... (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814611)

Come on, Lefty Schlesinger works for a Linux mobile patent troll and incites flame wars with Richard Stallman about the virgin mary... The definition of a troll is someone who attacks in order to incite public attention. Lefty adheres to the definition.

Schestowitz on the other hand just insists on his core messages and write his sloppy articles. He is an information spammer and surprises us sometimes. That is something entirely different. Schestowitz is sloppy but he does not optimize his buzz, he is no "agent provocateur".

Purists are just pragmatists who... (5, Insightful)

Roxton (73137) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813323)

Purists are just pragmatists who believe that moral imperatives are an adequate tool for achieving effective collective bargaining.

When the bargain fails to materialize, the purists blame a defective culture. And the pragmatists just roll their eyes.

Re:Purists are just pragmatists who... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28813761)

Pragmatists are just ungrateful. Without rms and his insistence on freedom, and the years of work on GNU, there would be no fame for Linux nor Linus (whom, to this day, is ungrateful and rude to the very provider of the tools and freedom that led to his project success).

Once they have benefited from the purist efforts, why must pragmatists be so ungrateful and rude? Why must they bite the hand that fed? Why must they whine like a free-market-Republican when the adults counter their bullshit?

Re:Purists are just pragmatists who... (3, Insightful)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814207)

Pragmatists are just ungrateful. Without rms and his insistence on freedom, and the years of work on GNU, there would be no fame for Linux nor Linus (whom, to this day, is ungrateful and rude to the very provider of the tools and freedom that led to his project success).

Once they have benefited from the purist efforts, why must pragmatists be so ungrateful and rude? Why must they bite the hand that fed? Why must they whine like a free-market-Republican when the adults counter their bullshit?

I don't hear the pragmatists whining that often.. They're too busy getting shit done.

Re:Purists are just pragmatists who... (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814323)

... too busy getting their stuff done or drinking beer.

I see a false dichotomy here.

Re:Purists are just pragmatists who... (3, Insightful)

NonSequor (230139) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814211)

RMS didn't invent the collaborative software culture. He's just the leader of a sect of it.

My broad-brush observation is that a purist who manages to win over everyone is a hero and a purist who doesn't manage to win over everyone is just a dick.There are vastly more of them in the second category.

Re:Purists are just pragmatists who... (0, Redundant)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814045)

Purists*1 are just pragmatists*1 who believe that moral imperatives are an adequate tool for achieving effective collective bargaining.

When the bargain fails to materialize, the purists*1 blame a defective culture. And the pragmatists*2 just roll their eyes.

I've added the *1 and *2 because to me the above reads like a pot smoking existentialist version of who's on first.

Success? (1)

SoupGuru (723634) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813349)

Define success.

Ha! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28813429)

Define "define".

Re:Ha! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28814095)

Define "define".

#define define

Can we move on?

Re:Ha! (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814781)

What do I mean by the word mean? What do I mean by the word word? What do I mean by what do I mean? What do I mean by do, and what do I do by mean? What do I do by do by do and what do I do by wasting your time like this? Goodnight.

Re:Success? (2, Insightful)

Estragib (945821) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813465)

My definition: Achieving what you think is right.

Popular definition: Being rewarded by the majority.

I like mine better.

Re:Success? (0)

jgostling (1480343) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814249)

I think being rewarded by the majority is right.

Cheers!

Re:Success? (1)

oatworm (969674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814283)

So do I!

Re:Success? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28814291)

I think being rewarded by the majority is right.

Then feel free to call yourself a success when that happens to you, but you don't get to define other people's success or failure in those terms.

Re:Success? (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814665)

Majority is populism.

An aristocratic view is entirely different. You can also read Horkheimer/Adorno [stanford.edu] .

Re:Success? (1)

Lawand (1345185) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814209)

Simply, you succeed when you reach the goal you had in your mind earlier.

Purist and pragmatist (4, Insightful)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813353)

The purist seeks to change the world to fit him, whereas the pragmatist changes himself to fit the world.

Ergo all progress relies on the purists. :-)

Re:Purist and pragmatist (4, Funny)

dkf (304284) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813575)

The purist seeks to change the world to fit him, whereas the pragmatist changes himself to fit the world.

Ergo all progress relies on the purists. :-)

While the purist is sounding off about some moral crusade for cuter kittens or something, the pragmatist will have finished what they're doing and be in the bar with a beer. The purists see this as proof that they are right. The pragmatists see this as proof that they've got a beer.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814237)

The purists see this as proof that they are right. The pragmatists see this as proof that they've got a beer.

*Shang Tsung voice* Pragmatist wins!

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

exley (221867) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814845)

Not to go all purist on your ass, but you mean Shao Khan, not Shang Tsung.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (4, Funny)

gbarules2999 (1440265) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814357)

The pragmatists see this as proof that they've got a beer.

But it's not free beer, now is it?

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

ioshhdflwuegfh (1067182) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814469)

While the purist is sounding off about some moral crusade for cuter kittens or something, the pragmatist will have finished what they're doing and be in the bar with a beer. The purists see this as proof that they are right. The pragmatists see this as proof that they've got a beer.

So who's gonna get the girl then?

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

blackpaw (240313) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813605)

The purist seeks to change the world to fit him, whereas the pragmatist changes himself to fit the world.

Ergo all progress relies on the purists. :-)

Short, Simple and Correct. Choose any two.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814365)

Short, simple, correct, and ambiguous.

Ambiguity does not mean incorrect, although it does kind of water down the meaning of "correct".

(Ambiguity shows up in questions like, "What is progress?", not to mention all the other assumptions flying around here.)

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813629)

Eh, depends on what the pragmatist thinks will be easier.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28813727)

The only thing purists ever accomplish is to convince pragmatists to do the necessary work.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814559)

which isn't too bad of an idea.

In a world where anything goes, effort is a precious commodity which needs to be spent efficiently.

Having a purist able to convince the pragmatic masses that his way is the right way can be a big help.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (3, Informative)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813741)

With all of our technological advances, people can still manage to be pretty miserable. Look at the rates of anti-depressant usage in the US. Having things do not make you happy.

No matter how much create comfort we add to this world ( and don't get me wrong, we've added a lot ), the ultimate dysfunction of the human being is that they want utopia. As good as it is, it's never enough. In Buddhist terms, this is usually called "Suffering", but I think a better term is "Anguish", because it's more of a mental-emotional state then physical pain, which 'suffering' implies.

So yes, the purists changes the world, and this is 'progress' in the physical sense, but I don't know that this necessarily engenders enjoyment of life to its recipients. I spent some time with an indigenous family in the Amazon for a summer field school when I was in college. They basically lived in plywood, thatched-roof huts. They had the typical family/society drama, they always complained about not having enough food, clothes, and goods from the town, and not having access to medical care, but their day-to-day life seemed like a big, casual party. They were always gathered around the fire, cooking their next meal, making jokes, laughing. They would walk to take the bus into town, go hunting, wash their clothes in the river, and work in their gardens. It was a shock for me to get back and interact with my friends, whose main topic of conversation seemed to be the utter injustice of a traffic incident or a snafu at a bureaucratic office, and how it totally ruined their day. Then in the weekend, they would watch a mega-blockbuster movie with crazy special effects, and feel ripped off because there was some nonsense thing in the plot. For all the conveniences and entertainment we had, day-to-day life had more anguish for my wealthy western peers! It really sucked hanging around them initially.

So the world will always suck, if you have that attitude, no matter your material circumstances. If you enjoy yourself, life will be good. I think the pragmatists enjoy themselves more. There's a Buddhist saying that goes something like "The world is awash in thorns. You cannot cover the world in leather, but you can cover your feet in leather."

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

ammorais (1585589) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814037)

This are just questions. I'm not making any statement or judgment. Just writing some toughs.
Is it possible that human nature doesn't evolve as fast technology?
Species tend to spend millions of years in simple evolutions. How is the total unnatural world we live reflecting on the human Psyche? Is it possible that the human species is simple depressed because of the total unnatural world we live in.
Many of us who live in big cities stay months without any kind of nature contact. Isn't this depressing. Isn't also depressing that many of us spend so much of our time looking on to a computer screen, either at work, either at home.
Are we transporting big fights from the past between pragmatic and purists in to a new level of understanding? Can a specific position on this matter define us as purist or pragmatics? Is this black and white or can we be gray?
Is this a live and death issue to anyone? Are we wrongly focusing our lives in matters that are relatively important compared with the real and severe problems of mankind? Or are we at such a stage of evolution that this is the most important stuff we can care about.
What happen with the intellectuals from the past that really had to look up for their heads. Are heads rolling now?

Re:Purist and pragmatist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28814303)

You need new friends. Many of us in the Western world know full well how good we have it and are grateful for things you might not find in the Amazon, such as modern dentistry and refrigerators.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814403)

And some of us know how to take care of our teeth without two or more visits to the dentist every year, and know how to keep up a good, fresh diet without a refrigerator.

Not to say that I actually do, but I do know how.

The world is always a mixed bag. One upside I can see to all this tech is that it allows us to have discussions about what is important with lots more people than we ever could before.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28813855)

Hey purist, how's Hurd coming? (This comment typed on a Linux box.)

So no GNU userland??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28813937)

Yeah, right.

Re:So no GNU userland??? (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814495)

Although the GNU utils tend to be more full-featured, it's perfectly possible to use the Linux kernel with a BSD userland.

Re:So no GNU userland??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28814789)

Want to bet which that AC is using?

Re:Purist and pragmatist (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814587)

Linux just beat Hurd to the punch and wound up getting the first pick at programmers.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814739)

There is more to it than that, linux was:
*much more open than hurd
*aimed at what people where using
*much easier to develop
*didn't have RMS in charge (they guy is great for some things but apparently he's a complete dick to work with)

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

lostmongoose (1094523) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814083)

In other words, purists are self-centered pricks who expect the world to revolve around them and blame everyone else when it doesn't. Gotcha.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

JJJK (1029630) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814111)

The pragmatist just takes probability of success and return on investment into consideration. The purist - I don't know, has OCD or something?

Also, I'm not sure what purists have to do with progress.
You'd need a very broad definition of that word to describe what the Amish are doing, yet I'd consider them purists...

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814417)

Amish?

Very pragmatic people.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814171)

progress to what end? show me a purist that can actually give you a straight answer and i'll show you a pragmatist in hiding.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (4, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814183)

The purist seeks to change the world to fit him, whereas the pragmatist changes himself to fit the world.

Precisely.

Ergo all progress relies on the purists. :-)

No, you have it backwards. All true change depends on the pragmatist. While the purist is seeking a way to fix everything that's wrong (because it's all or nothing), the pragmatist is adapting himself/herself enough to actually solve as many problems as is practical, one at a time.

As Nietzsche put it (I think), before you can change the world, you must first change yourself. As long as you're on the outside looking in, you cannot effectively cause change. All you can do is spew rhetoric. Only when you come to accept that you can't save the world can you begin to save individuals within it, and in so doing, actually make the world better.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814231)

As Nietzsche put it (I think), before you can change the world, you must first change yourself. As long as you're on the outside looking in, you cannot effectively cause change.

Ah, but there's the paradox. Once you're on the inside, you have the perspective of the insider and don't WANT to cause change.

<looks into abyss. When it looks back, hocks a loogie into it>

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814439)

The funny thing is that the pragmatist doesn't often actually change himself, he usually just puts a few more shims between himself and the real world.

I see lots and lots of false dichotomies flying around here.

Re:Purist and pragmatist (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814585)

The pragmatist will see lots of false dichotomies, but the purist will see only one false dichotomy.

who gives a fuck? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28813373)

open source is 100% gay. all faggots sucking on faggot dick and eating shit from the ass of other faggot men.

stating the obvious (1)

edittard (805475) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813387)

Like anything he writes, it's both original and non-obvious. However the non-obvious bits are not original, and the original bits are obvious.

Obviously, I didn't read it.

The tension between pragmatists and purists (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813421)

is beneficial. It provides calibrated feedback into the guiding philosophies of information freedom, making sure that all perspectives are considered.

The Shadows [wikipedia.org] had it right, until they tried dominating their own dynamic tension. At that point, the balance was broken and tragedy ensued. The same can happen in the Open/Free movement, if it becomes dogmatic and polarized. (For sufficiently small values of "tragic". Does someone envision millions dying because Microsoft won't open-source their office productivity suite?)

As long as the relationship is at least slightly respectful and communicative, it helps.

Re:The tension between pragmatists and purists (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814441)

Would you regard this re-enactment guy [bbc.co.uk] to be pragmatic, purist or very, very optimistic?

Incorrect because purism is pragmatism (1)

nathan.fulton (1160807) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813467)

On par, AIDS doesn't improve the human spirit, even though people get impassioned by it. The lust for victory that arises from a battle doesn't mean the war is an indicator of healthy relationships between the warring nations.

The battle over open source is bad not because it separates, but rather because it has created a false dichotomy. The way that the current question is phrased proves this. "Purists" are viewed as ideologues not because of existing conditions, but rather because of the failure of the open source community to understand the fundamental posit that free software is built upon: that non-free software inhibits the pragmatic use of all software. If the current argument did not exist, the success of open source software would not be viewed as a proof of a particular approach to designing software that has proven itself economically sufficient, but rather as a proof of a more fundamental rejection of non-free software.

Re:Incorrect because purism is pragmatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28813915)

Or maybe the problem is that the purists don't argue for what is better, no, they insist that doing anything else is actually unethical. There is a whole world of difference in that. For example it is better to exercise regularly, yet it obviously is not unethical to not do it. Or in general it sure is better to make donations, but you can't say it is unethical to don't, otherwise it would make that word quit meaningless.

For me that puts them in the same room as Pro-Life or PETA.

Problem with pragmatism (5, Insightful)

DaleGlass (1068434) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813469)

It can backfire.

For instance, take the whole mess with BitKeeper: The pragmatic option was to use a product with really obnoxious licensing terms, because it was good and worked at the time. Then one day Larry McVoy got really annoyed with Andrew Tridgell, and decided to refuse to even sell licenses to people associated with the OSDL, including Linus Torvalds.

That's the problem, while it works everything seems fine, but when the rug is suddenly pulled from under you, it suddenly creates a lot of complications that get in the way of getting useful things done. I think there's quite a lot of value in making sure that you'll be able to use tomorrow something you're using today.

Re:Problem with pragmatism (1)

Razalhague (1497249) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813591)

So... purists are pessimists and pragmatists are optimists?

Re:Problem with pragmatism (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814491)

purists are pessimists and pragmatists are optimists?

Definitely not without meaning.

Re:Problem with pragmatism (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813681)

But that's a terrible example, the resolution of that particular incident was the creation of what has become one of most popular (new) revision management systems.

Using BitKeeper for a while probably even gave Linus a chance to think about how he could build a better tool for himself.

Re:Problem with pragmatism (1)

DaleGlass (1068434) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813775)

Why a terrible example? Linus had to drop what he was doing and deal with the political mess, and the practical consequences. And he was quite annoyed about it, IIRC.

Granted, something good came out of it, but it's not like SCM development would have stagnated. Even if Git wasn't created, improvements could have been made to existing systems.

Re:Problem with pragmatism (0)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814197)

it's a terrible example because licensing issues are the realm of purists.

Re:Problem with pragmatism (1)

DaleGlass (1068434) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814263)

I don't get you. Please explain.

Re:Problem with pragmatism (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814389)

And he was quite annoyed about it, IIRC.

That's not what he claims; I've seen him (maybe in a Google tech talk?) claim that the parting was mostly amicable. He's also said that Linux is better because of the BK fiasco, since he and others were so much more efficient with it.

If it weren't for BK, would he have still written Git, or would he still be using email and patches? I don't know. What I do know is that Linux was around for almost a decade before they decided to take up any version control at all, and that in 2005 when they lost the ability to use BK, nothing else was still good enough for them.

Linus had to drop what he was doing and deal with the political mess, and the practical consequences.

Furthermore, it was only about 40 days from when Linus decided to write git to when he turned it over to Junio Hamano, and a few more months (about 6 from initial start) until 1.0. I'm not sure exactly when they started using it for Linux, but it seems to me that even the lost time creating git wasn't that high.

So basically:

1. Linus has said Linux is better for using BK
2. Linus might not have made Git, nor might Linux be on version control now, if he hadn't seen how things could be under BK.
2a. If Linus HAD made Git, then he would have lost the time anyway
2b. If Linus HADN'T made Git, then it seems he still would have been using patches past at least mid-2005, and the time lost writing Git was probably less than the time lost to BK

Re:Problem with pragmatism (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814423)

If Linus HADN'T made Git, then it seems he still would have been using patches past at least mid-2005, and the time lost writing Git was probably less than the time lost to BK

Sorry, I had a mind fart; that's not quite what I meant to say. What I meant was "If Linus HADN'T made Git, then it seems he still would have been using patches past at least mid-2005, and the time gained by efficiency improvements from BK were probably less than the time lost to BK because of the fiasco in 2005"

Re:Problem with pragmatism (1)

DaleGlass (1068434) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814629)

That's not what he claims; I've seen him (maybe in a Google tech talk?) claim that the parting was mostly amicable. He's also said that Linux is better because of the BK fiasco, since he and others were so much more efficient with it.

I may be wrong, but I vaguely remember Linus being unhappy with Tridgell. That's what I was referring to.

Furthermore, it was only about 40 days from when Linus decided to write git to when he turned it over to Junio Hamano, and a few more months (about 6 from initial start) until 1.0. I'm not sure exactly when they started using it for Linux, but it seems to me that even the lost time creating git wasn't that high.

Of course the whole thing wasn't that critical in the end, things were worked out.

The point I'm trying to make here is that in the end, the purist and pragmatist stances turned out to lead to pretty much the same place. The pragmatist way eventually ran into problems, and things went pretty much the same way the purist way would have probably gone, except with more arguments on the list and more drama.

I don't think things would have been that different without the BK mess. After all, Linus decided to try BK without having used a SCM before. The way I imagine things going is having Linus try say, Mercurial, then its technical issues leading to large improvements or the creation of Git anyway, except perhaps at a more relaxed pace due to a lack of a crisis.

Re:Problem with pragmatism (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814687)

The way I imagine things going is having Linus try say, Mercurial, then its technical issues leading to large improvements or the creation of Git anyway, except perhaps at a more relaxed pace due to a lack of a crisis.

It's possible, but it's also possible that Linus would have decided that Mercurial was too broken, decided that the present situation was working well enough, and continued without version control, at least for a couple more years.

I think it's entirely possible that Linus was of the opinion that version control was bascially fundamentally broken, that BitKeeper showed him that it wasn't, and that was possible to make one that works (for his definition of "works").

Which is more likely? I don't know. But I do agree with the guy who originally replied saying that the BK fiasco seems like a pretty poor example to point to when arguing that pragmatism can backfire.

Re:Problem with pragmatism (4, Insightful)

dkf (304284) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813715)

For instance, take the whole mess with BitKeeper: The pragmatic option was to use a product with really obnoxious licensing terms, because it was good and worked at the time. Then one day Larry McVoy got really annoyed with Andrew Tridgell, and decided to refuse to even sell licenses to people associated with the OSDL, including Linus Torvalds.

But it was pragmatists that fixed it. Indeed, purists would have kept Linux using a tool like CVS or SVN because going to a distributed versioning system would have let them to giving up their principles. It was the experience with BK that enabled the creation of git.

I suppose that this just illustrates a deeper truth: the world needs a mix of both purists and pragmatists. It's called "creative tension".

Re:Problem with pragmatism (5, Insightful)

DaleGlass (1068434) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813837)

See, I see it differently.

Linus tried the pragmatic way. It worked for a while. Then it blew up in his face.

So he ended up having to do what the purist way would have required (writing a new SCM if none of the available ones were suitable), except that since events unfolded quite suddenly, there was no time for a smooth transition, and something had to be hacked up fast.

Git is certainly interesting, but I doubt half the people who use it really understand how it works. Maybe if it was started in less a dire situation it could have been more user friendly.

Re:Problem with pragmatism (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814805)

Git is certainly interesting, but I doubt half the people who use it really understand how it works. Maybe if it was started in less a dire situation it could have been more user friendly.

Thats where Mercurial [selenic.com] comes in.

Within OSS there were these cascading projects. With Arch close to the beginning. Along the way different things are tried and the DSCM field is refined. I think git is a step along the way.

Re:Problem with pragmatism (3, Informative)

DaleGlass (1068434) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814043)

Indeed, purists would have kept Linux using a tool like CVS or SVN because going to a distributed versioning system would have let them to giving up their principles.

I just re-read your comment, and got no clue what you mean by this.

The debate I saw is that Linux should use a Free SCM, to avoid precisely what happened with BitKeeper. I don't remember people speaking against the concept of a distributed SCM and don't see why would they.

IIRC, Mercurial for instance existed back then and was considered, but rejected because performance wasn't good enough.

Re:Problem with pragmatism (1)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814551)

Yes, The purists in this case are all about users being in 'control' of their own systems. The pragmatists don't mind someone else having control as long as it is convenient. Unfortunately that means that someone else has the power to make it convenient or not (or even available) to the pragmatists. The purists are driven by the strategic picture while the pragmatists are mostly concerned with the tactical.

If it wasn't for the purists then Free Software would have been subsumed long ago. This is why a myriad of previous open development models (eg BSD) had fewer contributors. Only a few want to contribute when they know that their contribution can be taken away by an ungrateful company. The brilliance of Free Software (and its myriad of licenses to suite various situations) is that your contribution can never be taken away - which encourages people to participate in the community.

While pragmatism is usually a virtue for moderation it is actually a very impractical in the software world from a strategic point of view. Corporations and governments waste countless money upgrading software, whether they want to or not, because it suits the business interests of their suppliers to prevent the 'users' from being able to control and maintain their own systems. This money would be much better spent doing other things (see the 'Broken Window fallacy' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window [wikipedia.org] on the significance of this wasted money).

Re:Problem with pragmatism (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814567)

For instance, take the whole mess with BitKeeper: The pragmatic option was to use a product with really obnoxious licensing terms, because it was good and worked at the time. Then one day Larry McVoy got really annoyed with Andrew Tridgell, and decided to refuse to even sell licenses to people associated with the OSDL, including Linus Torvalds.

No, all that did is show that Linus Torvalds made an error in judgment that is common among the pragmatic "use the best tool for the job" crowd: Failure to consider the license as an aspect of the tool that affects its usefulness as much as the software itself.

I personally consider myself to be solidly in the "pragmatist" camp, and I argued against using BitKeeper not because I thought Linux development should be "pure" and only use OSS, but because I saw the BitKeeper license as a ticking time bomb that made the tool unsuitable for its purpose. It made some sense if you only thought short term, but I think that's foolish for such a long-term project. Then the bomb blew up faster than I even imagined, and in hindsight we can see it was in fact not the best move.

The problem with pragmatism, then, is that it involves reasoning about the future, trade-offs, risk evaluation, and so on and thus people can be and often are wrong about what constitutes the "pragmatic" choice. Identifying the "pure" choice is comparatively simple. "Is it free software or not?" Pick the free one and you did it right. You may choose to follow such a principle in part because you believe it leads to better practical outcomes too, but if it turns out not to be in some instance you were still "pure" which is what you were trying to be.

So the "purists" were right in this case because the pure choice ended up being the practical choice, but it was quite possible for a pragmatist to arrive at the same conclusion.

No. Discussion and debate are minor. (2, Insightful)

Statecraftsman (718862) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813477)

Discussion is helpful to educate and to flesh out and refine arguments but frankly it doesn't accomplish as much as taking action. For example, for Free Software(and for user freedom) to get where it is today has required: Getting the word out. Providing free software to people. Installing it for them in some cases. Educating them about cases where their freedom has been limited. Writing good software and releasing it under a free software license. Helping document and support free software.

There are so many facets that everyone can find a way to help. If debate is your thing, cool. If you can write well, great. If you can code, awesome. If you can't do any of the above, you probably buy technology from time to time. Make sure free drivers are available or that it works with free software. Just do something. Freedom is unique in that one person can not have it without a significant number of others also being able to exercise theirs.

blah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28813479)

Famous purist on game consoles - "That's why there is no possible ethical way you could use one, and so you shouldn't have it."

Fuck purists.

Good for both! (3, Insightful)

Prien715 (251944) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813585)

I think that pressure from Gnome and the fundamentalists helped make Qt change their license to the LGPL.

On the other hand, Qt's innovation list have provided the Gnome project with a lot a good ideas for feature work.

There's a give and take here...it's not so much a zero-sum battle as a mutually beneficial collaboration...without the parties believing they're cooperating;)

Re:Good for both! (3, Insightful)

ppc_digger (961188) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814155)

I think that pressure from Gnome and the fundamentalists helped make Qt change their license to the LGPL.

No, it didn't. The license was changed to LGPL because Trolltech's profits are pennies for Nokia and they figured they'd rather see more commercial development for Qt.

Re:Good for both! (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814613)

But how did (ergo, Nokia) understand that investing in software under the GPL would bring more commercial development?

Re:Good for both! (1)

pseudonomous (1389971) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814195)

I think Nokia buying trolltech helped Qt become available under the LGPL.

Re:Good for both! (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814631)

And?

GNU/GPL (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813601)

i side with the pragmatic, the GNU/GPL makes a great philosophy but a terrible religion, i will use GNU/GPL as much and as often as possible but when i cant i fudge a little, i have flash and Nvidia's blob video driver, when gnash and noveau mature enough to do just as good or better from a performance and technology point of view i will start using them and not a minute sooner...

Re:GNU/GPL as a religion? (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814663)

Some people think that religion itself ought to be pragmatic.

Not to say that I think the GNU GPL makes a good religion, ...

There is no such thing as "pragmatism" (5, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813621)

People who label themselves as "pragmatic" simply aren't willing or able to consider their own interests on a longer timeline. A lot of them tell me that they finally realized that RMS was right about something, but it took them years, including a bad experience that was their own fault, to realize.

Re:There is no such thing as "pragmatism" (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814225)

i disagree, people are only purists as long as they aren't involved in anything serious. as soon as they hit a road block they find out life is all about compromises and they become pragmatists.

You ever play that game "Ghostbusters?" (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813627)

You know, if you're playing on online match, and you only use the original proton pack in Ghostbusters:The Video Game, you will be awarded a title called "Purist." (PS3 and Xbox 360 versions only)

Are you not fascinated by the disclosure of this fact?

The End Justifies The Means (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813711)

Yes the End justifies the Means -- because the means becomes part of the end.

If you must destroy your world to save it then you have a saved, destroyed, world.

Proprietary, pragmatic, and purist are a chain. (2, Insightful)

SexyKellyOsbourne (606860) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813723)

It's really a hierarchical system based on making software a commodity -- most of the technologies in the open source world began as fully proprietary, then moved into the pragmatic domain for practical use, then became implemented by purists when the ability to develop it for cheap by hobbyists existed.

I could go into significant history of things such as UNIX, but for example, if it were not for Netscape, Firefox would not exist. Firefox would not exist in its current form if dogmatic people prevented the integration of Flash player into it. Eventually, a free and open source alternative will make a commodity of what is currently provided by Flash Player, but one able to run existing Action Script and what not. Then Firefox will finally be "pure."

Meanwhile, true purists are likely still using links2 on Plan9, which has capabilities far more than what existed commercially 15 years ago, but are practically useless today.

The bottom line is that with Open-Source Software, purists can only thrive because of the works of pragmatists, and the pragmatists can only thrive because of the works of proprietary systems.

Re:Proprietary, pragmatic, and purist are a chain. (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814577)

If you look at the phases of, say, computing, radio, or other technologies, you see oscillations between the purist and the pragmatic. The theorists are invariably purist, the inventors pragmatic, the experimenters purist, the developers pragmatic, and so on, back and forth.

Let's indeed look at the history of Unix, which was kicked off because MULTICS was just too complicated an idea (ie: more purist than pragmatic). The BSD line got back into the hands of researchers looking for new ways to do things (back to the purist) and then started getting commercialized (back to the pragmatic). The modern ix86 BSDs are back to the purists, though arguably OpenBSD's tough stance on new code is back to the pragmatic in a way.

These oscillations damp down after a while - neither radio enthusiasts nor radio vendors have added much in the way of new innovations in a while. The wind-up radio for third-world countries and disaster zones being one of the more recent, and as revolutionary as it was, it was more of an incremental improvement than a radical shift.

A technology dies when the oscillations fail to keep the technology in competition with whatever replaces it. If nothing replace it, the technology eventually flat-lines but hangs around in undead form until something new does come along.

The Battle Between Purists and Pragmatists (1)

omar.sahal (687649) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813743)

On a related note I think the whole community is becoming more pragmatic. when Eric Raymond [ibiblio.org] commented on the usefulness of the GPL licence and it was covered [slashdot.org] in a slashdot article peoples arguments were pragmatic. Examples being the GPL is better for business, not religious war on which licence was more free.
I don't agree with everything he says but, if Richard Stallman had not have taken the stance he had, there would not be any free/open source software. A GPL licence is one thing but it wont protect you if there is not an actual threat of legal action, or many eyes watching you're every move.
Don't think were in a natural environment, modern open source software, had to be built and nurtured by Stallman and those he inspired. Before anyone mentions software used to be free, that world was changed with the advent of companies such as Microsoft, who incidentally had to work very hard to change that world.

False dichotomy (5, Insightful)

orzetto (545509) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813763)

There are periodically arguments of ideological integrity vs. pragmatism in all areas. I usually react by asking "which foot do you use to walk?" or "when you climb a mountain, to you look at the path to the summit or to your feet?". Both ideology and pragmatism are required. If you use only ideology, you will not get anything practical done; if you use only pragmatism, you get something done, but it may well be in the wrong direction.

Re:False dichotomy (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813903)

I wish I had mod points.

Life is not infinite, so I go with the pragmatists (5, Insightful)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813809)

A few months ago, some usenet crackpot posted his latest mathematical research. Among the usual nonsense and ravings about a world-wide conspiracy of academic mathematicians, possibly under the control of aliens (the space kind), to suppress his work, there were some points of mathematical interest--some potentially neat patterns and relationships in how he was wrong.

I spent a very enjoyable few weeks investigating these, using Mathematica to aid in this. I was able to find things using Mathematica that I would not have found otherwise--even using the best current free mathematical software, and those taught me a lot, both directly, and from the books I then consulted.

The most pure purists, such as RMS, take the position that I should not have done that mathematical investigation, because I could not do it without using non-free software. I'm supposed to wait until I can do it with free software, and maybe contribute to developing said free software if I want to speed things up.

If life were infinite, I would consider that. Life is not infinite, so I will go ahead and use the tools that let me get done the things I want to get done during this short life. I see no difference between, say, riding in a vehicle like a boat or plane where I cannot inspect and study the engine and using a piece of software where I cannot see the code. For the boat, all I care about is that it accomplishes the task I need--getting me safely to my destination. Same for software.

Re:Life is not infinite, so I go with the pragmati (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814091)

Exactly, however the other people see it a different way. You and me might never look into the source code of any kernel just like I rarely look under the hood of my car. However, for the people who do write kernels and other lower level software the fact it is open source may be a huge plus for them in working out bugs. Similarly, good engine documentation would help a mechanic. Most people don't care about their engine unless there is a problem, if there is an engine design that can get me a cheaper mechanic who has to do less work and cost me less money that is preferred to an equal engine that costs a ton of money to get fixed. However, you have to consider the engine, an open source lawnmower engine is good for mowing lawns but not for driving on the interstate.

Re:Life is not infinite, so I go with the pragmati (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28814317)

Wise men learn more from fools than fools from the wise.

Re:Life is not infinite, so I go with the pragmati (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814405)

So, how did the alien-math troll react when you proved him/her/it wrong? Unlike most long debates, math seems to offer the ability to have once-and-for-all results and doesn't rely on weighing a thousand factors against a thousand other factors, which just degenerates into a stalemate about which factors weigh more.

language issues? (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28813833)

Could it be that some people prefer one language to another (modified) language?

What are we up against? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28813909)

Bias: anti-Mono, feel free to skip

After a lot of discussion on why Mono may be a needed by some as a migration/interface tool -- but not as a default install and not for general purpose applications, we reached the inevitable (but perhaps intended) divided state.

Linus coherently persists in his position of being a non-partisan in a stark contrast with RMS activism.

What I find worrying is that any doubt -- no matter how well articulated -- gets dismissed by Mono folks as delusional, akin to hypochondria (interestingly, Monomania means obsession or excessive enthusiasm with one subject).

Lastly, Mono defensors started another division: they, the real FLOSS enthusiasts and we, the faux ones.

"Faux" as in fake, as in "imitation of a genuine article" (as if Mono weren't a faux .Net) -- but more importantly, "faux", pronounced as "foe" -- if I ever have seen a subliminal message, that would be a prime example.

Why don't they distribute blue and red T-shirts with "Good" and "Bad" logos?

Purism can be pragmatic (3, Interesting)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814021)

Purism may seem to get in the way at times, but if everyone was pragmatic, and no one put their foot down and demanded that things be done in a certain way, then many of the advances we have made in the last decade or so would never come to pass. For example:

As stated in the summary, purism is what gave us GNOME. Purism is also responsible for getting Qt under the GPL. Regardless of your feelings about GNOME, you can't say that it is not at least a good thing we don't have only one major DE to choose from. Also, who knows what could have happened to KDE had Qt still been exclusively proprietary when Nokia bought Trolltech?

Purism is what gave us gzip and PNG. Instead of just complaining about LZW, developers made completely new formats, and generated enough momentum around them to virtually replace their patent-encumbered predecessors, all the while creating superior technologies in the process.

Purism is what gives us Web standards. The Browser Wars were one of the worst times in Web history because everyone was being too pragmatic. Browser vendors were only interested in locking in users to gain market share, and Web developers were only interested in coding for one browser and just pointing everyone who wasn't using that one to a download link for it. The Web is becoming a better place because of the growing purism among both browsers and developers, not in spite of it.

Re:Purism can be pragmatic (1, Flamebait)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28814261)

[Your post is fucking idiotic.

As stated in the summary, purism is what gave us GNOME.

No, a lack of any halfway decent desktop environment, and the convenient creation of a widget toolkit in a different application, led to GNOME.

Purism is also responsible for getting Qt under the GPL.

Except that it's not under the GPL, and never was; while it was at one time dual-licensed under the GPL even when dual-licensed it was commercially driven outside of KDE (the developers of Qt were still being paid by commercial licensing). Your purist fuckery "lost" because Nokia realized that more people would actually use Qt if it was LGPL.

Purism is what gave us gzip and PNG. Instead of just complaining about LZW, developers made completely new formats, and generated enough momentum around them to virtually replace their patent-encumbered predecessors, all the while creating superior technologies in the process.

Where the fuck does purism come into this? Creating something to get around a patent issue is recognizing the pragmatic realities of the situation and nothing more.

Purism is what gives us Web standards. The Browser Wars were one of the worst times in Web history because everyone was being too pragmatic. Browser vendors were only interested in locking in users to gain market share, and Web developers were only interested in coding for one browser and just pointing everyone who wasn't using that one to a download link for it. The Web is becoming a better place because of the growing purism among both browsers and developers, not in spite of it.

Horseshit...again. Standards were developed--and adhered to--primarily because the only way to beat Internet Explorer was everyone else to band together and force both standards compliance and develop better browsers than IE. They did, and IE had to play catchup. Pragmatism in action.

Re:Purism can be pragmatic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28814717)

So you are saying purism gives us clones of innovative software?

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