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What's Wrong with the Open Source Community?

Hemos posted more than 10 years ago | from the time-to-beat-outselves-up dept.

GNU is Not Unix 751

An anonymous reader writes "We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us says a Pogo-quoting James Turner, in trying to pinpoint "What's Wrong with the Open Source Community?" for LinuxWorld this morning. But he doesn't *just* say that it's we developers ourselves, he also has five hard-to-deny reasons, including 'Open source developers often scratch the same itch' and 'Open Source developers love a good feud.' He also suggests we often approach the whole issue of encouraging migration to Linux from Windows entirely wrongly." There's also a decent rebuttal with this story as well - worth reading.

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You are all fucking fat bastards (-1)

(TK)Max (668795) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599619)

FUCKING FILTHY LINUX USERS________SWINES__ ______
________ ________________________________,i,.`.__
LINUX__\`ii-.`-._..--...-iii________```--i:_ )a)_
SUCKS____`-.._` 'asasasasasasas-..asasasasa__ia/_
_,'`..__..'' -. _ `._asasasasasasasasasasasasa\__
('';` . . ._ ,'' . .as.-'asasasasasas,'asasasa:__
_`-._ . . `*/ . . ,asasasasasasasasas'asasas.asl_
____.:._ . `-'`-'as;asa\asasasasasasasasa,'as;___
_.':::::'` . .,' \,'asasa:asasasasa;asasasasas/__
__`-..__ . . . .,'/asasas|asasasa,'asasasasa,'___
_________``---;'` \ `asasa;.____..-'`.asasa,'\___
_TROLLKORE__/asa/ \:asas:____________:asa(\ `\___
_________ ,'as.'___\asas:__________;'asa/ )__)___
_________/,_,.;::.__`.asa\________/asa,',',_(:::.
FUCK THE CORRUPT______`.as`._____,'as;'__________
SLASHDOT SYSTEM________/,_,'::. `-'`':___________


WHILE YOU FUCKING FILTH STUFF YOUR FAT MOUTHES WITH OPEN SOURCE, COMMUNISM IS TAKING OVER THE WORLD.
Trollkore - I hate you, I hate your country, and I hate your face.

What the hell's wrong with slashdot?!!! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599671)

Ye gads, man! This story really should have been posted on Troll Tuesday!

just a guess.... (4, Funny)

carpe_noctem (457178) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599621)

showering, maybe?

Actually, it's slashdot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599725)

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Re:just a guess.... (2, Funny)

frodo from middle ea (602941) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599731)

or the lack of , maybe ?

first post (-1, Offtopic)

SideouT (60964) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599624)

first post ever

fp! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599627)

fp yeah!

What's Wrong with the Open Source Community? (5, Funny)

Pingular (670773) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599628)

They're not being paid.

Re:What's Wrong with the Open Source Community? (-1)

Sir Haxalot (693401) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599727)

They're not being paid.
Really, what IS wrong with moderators at the moment? That was meant as a joke...

Jesus Fucking Christ you are lame (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599770)

Responding to your own posts with seperate karma-whore accounts.

Re:What's Wrong with the Open Source Community? (2, Insightful)

Malcontent (40834) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599775)

And yet it was insightful at the same time. The fact that they are not paid does have a profound effect on how software is developed.

Much to learn. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599629)


There is nothing inherently wrong with the Open Source movement.

Think back to when Chiang Kai-Shek took over China: before that no one worked, everyone was poor, morale was nonexistent. Under the benevolent dictator, a term used to describe Linus Torvalds, Kai-Shek ensured that everyone worked, and everyone had a purpose.

Within a few short years China was a world power.

With an identical structure, the Open Source leaders ensure a good pool of talent. Millions of identical workers producing code. There's no way the current method of the Cigar-smoking boss standing on the backs of the coders can continue. Chiang Kai-Shek died in 1975 but his methods and teachings continue to this day in China.

Open Source could learn a lot from him.


c39052b261506f846895cac6e0724290

Re:Much to learn. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599714)

Ecept, of course, that he spent the majority of his time in power in China (not Taiwan, where he was driven to in 1950) fighting a civil war against the Communist forces. (A war he inititiated, it should be pointed out.)

Wait, that is just like the Open Source community, constantly feuding with each other.

Re:Much to learn. (4, Interesting)

Ubergrendle (531719) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599757)

Wasn't he overthrown after about 20 years by Chairman Mao? Bad analogy for Open Source if you're optimistic for a future for the movement...

Re:Much to learn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599773)

And he wasn't in power for part of those 20 years, since the Japanese invaded in the late 30s.

I agree, very bad analogy.

Re:Much to learn. (-1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599847)


Under Kai-Shek everyone had purpose. It was a worker's utopia. Is it any wonder that Open Source has such large followings in left-leaning countries such as Canada, France, Germany and China?

Millions of identical coders typing all day. Without purpose we have stagnation.

941f78ac6c401ca3b2735ec9f992eb2a

Re:Much to learn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599836)

With an identical structure, the Open Source leaders ensure a good pool of talent. Millions of identical workers producing code.

What a load of communist FUD. While it can be a source of conflict at times, diversity in the Open Source community that makes it so successful. Idiot.

Re:Much to learn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599866)

excellent work, brother jihadi!

Praise be Allah!! The Jihad against the infidels is working!!

Allah Ackbar!!

Using the words 'entirely wrongly' together (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599636)

is entirely wrong.

Re:Using the words 'entirely wrongly' together (0, Offtopic)

SammyTheSnake (630196) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599837)

Not if you intend for them to mean "in a manner completely lacking in correctness".

E.g. if I say "He went about it entirely wrongly" I'm saying "The way in which he went about it was entirely wrong"

It is a syntactically and semantically valid construct, but I have to conceed that it's downright ugly!

Cheers & God bless
Sam "SammyTheSnake" Penny

Pointless contrarianism (4, Insightful)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599637)

What this author is really doing is digging up some nitpicks and embellishing them as signs of the end.

How do you know that the same feuds and itch scratching don't happen at Sun or Microsoft? They certainly do, but you don't know this because your only interface to the firm is a PR rep. I like the transparency of the open source community. I want to see the debates and bickering take place in public, where maybe just maybe I can provide some input.

Re:Pointless contrarianism (4, Insightful)

YU Nicks NE Way (129084) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599796)

Why do you care if Sun or Microsoft have turf battles? Does it make open source any stronger that we have political battles at MS? What he's saying is that your political battles get in the way of your productivity (and they do), and that their visiblity hurts you (and it does). Whether that's more true of open source or closed source does not matter.

When he talks about each of the complaints he's got, he's not talking about competing with Microsoft, or Sun, or SGI -- he's talking about problems with the community itself. You're the one who turned his observation into a negative comment about FOSS compared to closed source. He's talking about things to fix, and you want to turn it into things to compete about. Look at his point 5, and tell me that doesn't apply to your reaction.

Re:Pointless contrarianism (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599856)

> How do you know that the same feuds and itch scratching
> don't happen at Sun or Microsoft?

Have you compared the number of products for specific tasks?

Microsoft: Internet Explorer
Open Source: Mozilla, Galeon, Konqueror, ...

Microsoft: Media Player
Open Source: Mplayer, XMMS, Xine, ...

Microsoft: Word (and to a lesser extent, Works Writer)
Open Source: OpenOffice Writer, AbiWord, KOffice, ...

I'd have to say the "itch" argument is pretty accurate.

Re:Pointless contrarianism (5, Insightful)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599889)

I'm at a medium sized software company now, and if the customers knew of the arguments and disagrements between execs, marketing, engineering, support, etc they'd be amused. Seldomly do any of them have the same ideas or agree on the same thing.

The worst thing about the open source community (5, Funny)

dereklam (621517) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599639)

We slashdot each other's sites!

Name-calling doesn't help (5, Insightful)

shystershep (643874) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599645)

the biggest problem that the Open Source community faces in taking Open Source to the next level is . . . the immaturity and insecurity of some of the members of the community.

I obviously cannot vouch for the maturity and security level of everyone in the Open Source community, but I disagree with this conclusion. The partisanship and the sometimes irrational emotional responses are a problem (maybe the problem) with Open Source, but are not the result of "immaturity" or "insecurity." They are a natural human reaction to perceived attacks on X, where X is something into which a great deal of time/work/hope has been invested.

I agree that the community could advance more rapidly without all of the competing distributions, standards, etc., but that very same diversity is what gives Open Source its strength. The redundancy may slow things in some ways, but it helps guarantee that -- when the standards are winnowed down -- the strongest and best survive. Calling the members of the community "immature" and "insecure" is mere name-calling that is more likely to induce the exact emotional responses the author laments rather than the needed calm, rational debate on this important issue.

Re:Name-calling doesn't help (5, Insightful)

Frymaster (171343) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599732)

the biggest problem that the Open Source community faces in taking Open Source to the next level is . . . the immaturity and insecurity of some of the members of the community.

ballmer screams "developers! developers!" like a cocaine-feulled monkey. steve jobs is well known for his temper tantrums and "reality distortion field". darl and the sco crew are running around like paranoid schizophrenics with delusions of grandeur (or even just plain adequacy)...

and the open source people are "immature and insecure"?

Re:Name-calling doesn't help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599785)

And of course, the primary strength and beauty of open source is it's customization. You can usually remove what you don't want/need from a distro,keep what you do, and make your system function cleanly and efficiently, depending on it's use.

Re:Name-calling doesn't help (5, Funny)

no reason to be here (218628) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599840)

They are a natural human reaction to perceived attacks on X, where X is something into which a great deal of time/work/hope has been invested.

It's not just X, either, but also emacs, KDE, Gnome...

Re:Name-calling doesn't help (1)

BW_Nuprin (633386) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599843)

But is it not human nature to be insecure and immature?

But I thought... (0, Troll)

oberondarksoul (723118) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599651)

Judging on the usual reactions of most /. trolls, open source is clearly infallible and shall never die. There is absolutely nothing wrong with anything from attempting to convert Windows users to making clones of original apps. Move along.

Re:But I thought... (2, Interesting)

akaina (472254) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599844)

'clone' is a bad way to put it. The whole idea isn't to trick users into thinking they're in Windows. It's to build a spreadsheet program that isn't part of a $600 package, that doesn't truncate data after 65535 entries.

A spreadsheet is a spreadsheet is a spreadsheet. A browser is a browser is a browser (that's why product placement played the final role in the browser wars), a word processor is a word processor (he forgot the fued over VI and Emacs) etc.

Cloning software usually denotes heisting something, or just flat out copying. Microsoft 'clones' their own product line on a regular bi-yearly basis. Open source people build better standards like PHP, Apache, Perl etc.

why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599656)

Why must Open Source migration only thought of as going from Windows to Linux... other Open Source platforms exist, and are just as good if not better.

blah blah (3, Insightful)

XO (250276) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599665)

Well, one of the things that is definitely wrong, is that if you go into an IRC channel for any non main-stream OS (os/2, linux, mac, etc) and ask a question, you're going to get beaten up by assholes.

case in point, i just logged into the #debian channel on freenode, and asked why the package servers hadn't updated in several days.. at least 15 people got really nasty, ranging from "read the fucking channel topic" to some very nasty insults. Strangely enough, the channel topic had absolutely nothing to talk about the package servers, and the link in the topic was broken.

Re:blah blah (4, Informative)

JofCoRe (315438) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599717)

is that if you go into an IRC channel for any non main-stream OS (os/2, linux, mac, etc) and ask a question, you're going to get beaten up by assholes

Uhhh.... I think that's just IRC, dude. :)

Re:blah blah (1)

ViolentGreen (704134) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599872)

Uhhh.... I think that's just IRC, dude. :) Yeah, it's amazing how arrogant people can be under the guise of anonymity.

Re:blah blah (1)

konfoo (677366) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599759)

... the same goes for almost every other IRC channel. I wouldn't call one linux channel like #debian the exception to the rule. Most IRC channels are havens for brats who need attitude adjustments and have only one place to play god (i.e. online), or act like an asshole.

Re:blah blah (1)

maximilln (654768) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599797)

If you join any mainstream software company from the bottom level and ask a question which requires any thought to answer, you're going to get beaten up by assholes (managers). I don't see how it's any different.

Such is life. You're going to get beaten up by assholes, repeatedly, and no, you have no rights, and no, no one is here to help. Stay warm, keep breathing, keep your head down, and don't attract any attention.

Re:blah blah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599871)

I never worry about the assholes, they're just blowing hot air.

eeeeyew. That didn't come out the way I meant...

Anonymous Kev
Proudly posting as AC since 1997

Re:blah blah (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599813)

My problems with the OSS community start there. The first was when I was having a lot of difficulty adapting to KDE compared to my experience with other GUIs. That's OK, it just meant I had a lot to learn and had to ask quite a few questions on it. The responses ranged from "RTFM" (there's a manual?) to "You obviously shouldn't be using Linux" to "It's far more intuitive than a mac or windows, you're just not fucking trying hard enough".

It doesn't happen all the time, no. But it's far far more common than in the Windows, BeOS and Mac communities I've been a part of. Why doesn't Linux get the uptake on the desktop? It's because people who're ready to make the switch and may have almost all they need in the way of open source software get the cold shoulder from the community side. That's sad. Still, I persisted and am using Linux now DESPITE that.

The same reactions come when I mention I'd like to see feature X. Now I'm not a demanding person, I don't go about saying "If Linux doesn't fucking have Feature X then it sucks", but I comment that I'd like to see that. Whether it's a comfortable iPhoto clone, or a feature an Amiga shell had, or being able to use a device my old Mac could, I'm more often than not shouted down as wanting meaningless shit, and "besides nobody else would want that". (Yes I could learn to write software/drivers myself, but believe me, my coding skills would be a detriment to the code quality in almost anything. Windows included.) A few months of that from enough people in various parts of the open source community and I end up getting the feeling that unless I already know the software inside out and already match what the software wants, then I'm not the kind of person who should be using OSS.

When it comes to who can benefit from OSS though, there's more like Me than there are who do know linux etc inside out.

Re:blah blah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599862)

> asked why the package servers hadn't updated in several
> days.. at least 15 people got really nasty

If you had any clue whatsoever you'd know their servers were compromised. Don't you read any news sites? Don't worry about how debian may be faring, just sit there like a retard on a log and think it's all me me me. Well sometimes not everything can go your way buddy, think about others for a change.

No... (5, Insightful)

autechre (121980) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599877)

I didn't get flamed when I went into #debian and asked a bunch of questions. Neither did anyone else that came in while I was there, and I sat on the channel for several days.

Perhaps the problem has more to do with your question. The Debian server compromise has been "all over the news", which I believe is why the package servers haven't been updated. It's reasonable to assume that people in #debian might have assumed you knew about the compromise, and they might have been a bit sensitive about it.

Also, you didn't mention /msg'ing the "apt" bot for news before asking your question, as (IIRC) the welcome message to the server asks you to do. Did you do this? And did the channel topic say something about the break-in, but you were unable to connect it to the servers not being updated?

Now, I happen to think that Eric Raymond is a jerk, and wrong about a great many things, but he and Rick Moen wrote an essay on how to ask questions that should be required reading for pretty much anyone, and can easily be applied to fields other than computers. My father is a mechanic, and his job and mine have amazing parallels.

http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.ht ml

Our LUG has a mailing list, and I've been on it for about 6 years now. I've rarely seen anyone flamed, even for asking really basic questions. One person in particular did ask several basic questions in a row, and was eventually pointed to the above document by several list members. Sadly, he decided to be an ass about it, and some flames were exchanged, but that's the only problem I can remember.

Re:blah blah (1)

ad0gg (594412) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599879)

STFU NEWB
ASL?

Re:blah blah (3, Informative)

damiam (409504) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599890)

The current topic on #debian begins with

Compromised machine info: http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2003 /debian-devel-announce-200311/msg00012.html || Down: gluck (people, packages.d.o); || more info at http://www.wiggy.net/debian/

While lists.debian.org is down, a little bit of digging would have given you the Google cache [216.239.37.104] . Also, it says right there that packages.debian.org is down. How much clearer can it get? I agree, it'd be better if someone had explained the situation instead of flaming, but the information was right there.

What's wrong: (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599666)

Zealots, excessive geek pride, NIH syndrome, and Slashdot.

My take on this: [article text quoted] (0)

Captain Goatse (715400) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599669)

This is what I find is wrong with the open source community nowadays:
  1. Too many developers "scratch the same itch."
  2. Open Source developers love a good feud.
  3. Open Source developers often scratch the wrong itch.
  4. In the Open Source Community, you're either "with us or against us"
  5. The Open Source Community has a huge chip on its shoulder...called Microsoft


James Turner: 5 problems with the Open Source community


There's no question that the Open Source community has a lot going for it. Besides a staggering amount of developer power that can be turned against important problems, the Open Source movement also has a passion and commitment to its work that the commercial software world often envies. But sometimes, the Open Source community can be its own worst enemy. Here are a few reasons why.

1. Too many developers "scratch the same itch."

We hear that Open Source developers come up with new ideas because they "had an itch to scratch." In other words, there was some need they had for a new application, and they "scratched" it by coming up with a tool. The problem is, it's not uncommon to end up with two or three (or more!) different packages doing the same thing. For a specific example, look at what's happened with the Linux sound systems, where there are now several competing packages that have to be supported by each distribution. Or in the Java world, look at how many competing MVC frameworks there are now for JSP development.

A little competition can be a good thing. After all, Linux is all about offering a competing vision for the operating system domain. But when too many competing visions exist, and aren't winnowed down to a small number of options over a short period of time, you end up with a mish-mash of conflicting standards, and a user community that ends up having to download and install a plethora of different packages that all do the same thing.

A perfect example of the "too many itches" syndrome is the absurd number of Linux distributions that exist out there. There's absolutely no reason for there to be more than two or three distributions. And because each one does things slightly differently, we've ended up with the problem that applications and drivers are rarely made available in binary form, because there are too many versions of too many releases of Linux to support.

As an application developer, you would have to provide 5 - 10 different binary installs, one for each distribution. Now multiply that times the five or more active releases of a distribution that may be in active circulation, and you see why so few packages are available as anything but source (especially the most recent releases of packages that have not been compiled and included into Linux distributions yet.)

The next question to consider is, why don't we see more consolidation of technology? The answer: because...

2. Open Source developers love a good feud.

BSD vs Linux. Gnome vs KDE. Debian vs Red Hat. For every interesting Open Source technology, there are two bitterly feuding camps that spend as much time taking potshots at each other as in improving their own products.

It's hard to imagine how much better a lot of Open Source software would be if these groups cooperated and consolidated their efforts, rather than act like the Hatfields and McCoys. Unfortunately, the downside of personal commitment to projects is that people come to use them as a measure of self-worth, and it becomes increasingly difficult for rival groups to admit the good points in each other's efforts.

3. Open Source developers often scratch the wrong itch.

The problem with commercial development is that the developers often aren't the consumers of their products, and thus don't feel the pain of their mistakes. The problem with Open Source development is that the development community often doesn't fix problems or develop new features that aren't directly interesting to them.

Usually, this isn't a problem, because the developers (as users) encounter the same problem set as their user base. Unfortunately, one way that Open Source developers are different from a general user base is that they have significantly more technical training. This means that they are willing to put up with the need for a much higher degree of technical savvy to use something than a non-technical person might.

Restated by example: an Open Source developer might think nothing of requiring users to create and configure an XML file to make something work, where an end-user might require dialog boxes.

4. In the Open Source Community, you're either "with us or against us"

A typical complaint of the Open Source community is that proprietary software vendors use legal means to stifle criticism of their detractors. But the Open Source community can be just as unforgiving of internal critics. Attempts to point out flaws or places where there's room for improvement in an application usually lead directly to defensive rebuttals, character attacks on the critic, or complete rejection of the validity of the issues.

Consider that recently I posted a story on the linuxworld.com Web site listing some problems I saw with the current set of desktop Linux distributions, problems I thought could severely hamper consumer adoptions of Linux in the short run. The posted responses ran in a couple of themes: "It works fine for me, you must be an idiot." "You're nothing but a Microsoft ass-kisser." And the ever-popular "Windows sucks too."

Until the community learns to listen to and internalize negative feedback (oops, almost slipped into Pointy-Haired Boss speak there...), it will be staring at its navel.

5. The Open Source Community has a huge chip on its shoulder...called Microsoft

Although SCO is also a popular a target lately too, the merest mention of MS is like a bull having a red cape waved before his eyes. All reason and sense of decorum flies out the window. And while I'm first in line to throw rotten tomatoes at Bill Gates, it's harmful to the community. The reality is that Microsoft owns the lion's share of the non-server OS market. If the first thing you tell all these people who own Windows is that they are idiots, you're not starting out on very good ground to convert them.

Like it or not, the existing Windows user base may not like the dreaded Blue Screen of Death or Microsoft's pricing and licensing, but they know how to use Windows and can usually get the applications and hardware support they need for it. Linux has a wonderful and growing suite of tools that let people migrate away, but they are going to need a lot of hand-holding to decide to make the move. They have to be told why Linux is better (and it really has to be better for them), not just why Windows is trash.

Especially unhelpful is the "who cares about X" attitude, where X is unsupported hardware, non-existent game availability, complicated multimedia support or anything else that Linux has or is perceived to have problems doing. Just because someone wants to do something that you don't, it doesn't mean that what they want to do is less important.

I had a number of comments when I complained that I had great trouble getting my DVD player on my laptop to view commercial films, comments that essentially said "why are you watching DVDs on your laptop?!" Some even suggested that I buy a dedicated portable DVD player. Leaving aside the hassle of having yet another piece of electronics to drag through security if I want to watch a movie on a plane, these kinds of comments are the worst kind of evasive nonsense, based on: if Linux doesn't currently do something as easily as Windows, attack the need to do it at all.

To sum up, the biggest problem that the Open Source community faces in taking Open Source to the next level is not some legal challenge or Microsoft marketing campaign. It's the immaturity and insecurity of some of the members of the community. As was once said in Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Don't bother with this article. (5, Insightful)

IGnatius T Foobar (4328) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599674)

Before clicking through, you should know about a little bit of background information.

Check this Linux Today article [linuxtoday.com] . James Turner wrote an article about how Linux is DOA on the desktop because it was missing two drivers he needed for his laptop. He was scathing and he basically baited the readers into giving him the takedown he deserved (and possibly was expecting, if as is suspected he was just trolling for clicks).

In response, he announced that he was going to use this as justification for another clickbait article about how immature the Linux community is. The article in question is the new one which this Slashdot story is about.

So don't expect any substance here. This is as much about taunting Linux users for clicks as any piece by Rob Enderle or Jesse Berst -- it's merely that this time, we have someone who writes for a supposedly pro-Linux publication stooping to this level.

Oh man. (-1, Redundant)

GregThePaladin (696772) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599675)

The trolls are gonna LOVE with this one.

Slashdot is what's wrong (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599676)

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value freedom (5, Insightful)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599678)

If we view Free Software only as a convenience, we won't progress. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to develop a Free Software package, or to migrate a system to use Free Software. It makes no sense to put a lot of effort into seeking a convenience.

Idealism is a more long term motivator, and it's not unjustified when the focus of the idealism has already proved to be very practical.

This is party highlighted by the OpenSource Vs. Free Software terminology [compsoc.com] , but we are not enemies, it's just a choice of where you put the emphasis.

ya, well.... (0)

nFriedly (628261) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599682)

open source is better.
period.

Re:ya, well.... (-1, Offtopic)

frodo from middle ea (602941) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599782)

<i>period<B>.</b></i><P&gt ;
Speaking of redunduncy in open source projects ...

Too negative... (5, Insightful)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599683)

Most of these problems are economic outgrowths of the fact that most Open Source developers write code for kudos, not bucks. The only way to change this would be to change the incentive system, roll in more capitalism to the process, or come up with ways other than dollars to align large numbers of developers interests in the same direction. Frankly, I'm doubtful about the prospect - the beautiful thing about Open Source is that there will always be more projects as there are more itches to scratch and people will always fight and bicker about which is best. I think the general public will become more aware of this over time and more understanding that this process generally creates good, useful software, and I think the community of Open Source developers has become and will continue to become more aware that adoption of their products depends on being considerate of UI design and usability issues from the outset, not just throwing them on as afterthoughts. More and more Open Source projects seem to be producing fairly usable software these days, not just software that works well if you can navigate a million command-line options like we saw a lot a couple of years back.


As for the big complaint about the Microsoft shoulder-chip, I agree. Anti-Windows fanaticism is just unpleasant to hear. The point the author makes is valid - many users don't have any love for Windows either, but don't have the level of dedication to hating Microsoft that they are willing to spend hours, weeks or months futzing with their hardware and peripherals getting them to work in Linux, or learning new applications. Developers should redouble their efforts and their committment to making ease-of-use, hardware compatibility, short learning curves, and usable GUIs key elements of major Open Source projects.

Re:Too negative... (2, Interesting)

Issue9mm (97360) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599891)

I just wanted to respond and say that yes, you're right. There are more and more user-friendly AND feature-rich Linux applications coming out now that are also GOOD. Who knew?

I just switched to Suse, from RedHat, mostly because I heard of how good the device support was, and how I'm tired of acting as a support tech for my wife when she's forgotten how to mount the camera. Not only was I impressed by the installation (I had to install XP for one of her school projects, and it went right alongside it without a hitch), but the finished product as well.

Aside from all the nice things that I wasn't used to, coming from RedHat (auto-mounting camera and placing icon on the desktop, auto-mounting the Windows NTFS drive, etc.), K3b is easily the most elegant CD/DVD burning package I've ever used in Linux. Kopete is easily the smoothest chat client I've ever used in Linux, and in my opinion, blows gAIM to bits.

These applications, as I see them, are not only the best available for Linux, but better than their Windows counterparts (at least in my opinion), and were a snap for my wife to click on and start using. XCD-Roast is by no means intuitive, so she's never been able to get a CD burn started in under 1 minute before. I can't express how pleased we both were when she clicked on K3B, grabbed a bunch of MP3 files, and then burned them onto a CD that played in our CD player... all with just a few, intuitive clicks.

I'm impressed at how good things are now, and we're definitely on the upstroke (or downstroke, whichever is better) of things to come.

-9mm-

Itch scratching... (4, Insightful)

Hayzeus (596826) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599685)

His points on "Itch scratching" are well-taken. However, this is not ever likely to change when developers are unpaid volunteers. The simple fact of the matter is that people working for free will ALWAYS be inclined to work on stuff they're interested in. I'm not convinced this is an entirely bad thing as it tends to avoid monoculture, at least in these popular areas. For instance, I LIKE having a number of mail systems to choose from. This is a good thing.

That whole.... (1, Interesting)

mikesab (652105) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599691)

Holier-Than-Thou, Self-Righteousness BS.

My Take on Things- (3, Insightful)

IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599704)

I've been trying to like Linux (and hece the OS community) since 6.1 days and I keep running across the same old tired issues that prevent me from getting anywhere.

There are, in no order:

(1) Documentation. I get far too many RTFM when the FM was written for software that is 3 versions old.

(2) 404s or links to other links which ultimately end up as 404s on web-based FM.

(3) Tired old sayings such as "Try another distro" (I have a stack of 20 odd distros burned onto CD, everything from the big players, down to things like ArkLinux and Icepak Linux) which obviously doesn't help in any way shape or form.

(4) The attitude of *nix users. When I was making the switch away from windows, I had two choices, *nix or BeOS. The Be community was (and continues to be this very day) more supportive, helpful ,patient, and understanding than the *nix folks I ran across. Hence I stick with BeOS, because when I run into issues, I know where I can turn and not get attitude and flame-fests.

(5) The old re-inventing the wheel. You know gang, instead of slavishly coping MS, why not try being different?

Re:My Take on Things- (1)

BRSloth (578824) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599788)

I've been trying to like Linux (and hece the OS community) since 6.1 days

Whoa! They released Linux 2.6.1 already?!? Man, those open source dudes are fast!

What Color Is Your Wheel (2, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599712)

I agree totally, too many people try to reinvent the same damned things, just because 'I want it a different color'.

Users only need one wheel, or they are overwhelmed.. Choice IS a bad thing in some cases..

Until there is more unity we are stuck in a rut.

A very funny example (4, Interesting)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599791)

just because 'I want it a different color'.

You'll probably like this:
A shed, any color will do [freebsd.org]

It summarises the observations of a FreeBSD hacker, on feature disputes. Also from the FreeBSD pages, is pretty ontopic:
How many FreeBSD developers does it take to change a lightbulb? [freebsd.org]
(these articles made me consider giving FreeBSD a try, but I haven't gotten around to it yet..)

Re:What Color Is Your Wheel (1)

BRSloth (578824) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599873)

I agree with you both, but only that, in a short period, reinventing the wheel will make it hard to choose "the best one".

But, in a long period, the best wheel will succed. And that's a good thing, so we all could have the best wheel in a few years, instead of waiting for decades for something really good or using the same wheel ours gandfathers used.

Motivation (1)

Camel Pilot (78781) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599718)

The Open Source Community has a huge chip on its shoulder...called Microsoft

While painted as a negative i would say that "chip" is a great motivator.

Also, someone should let the author know that Microsoft is second fiddle these days, SCO and firmly, albeit temporarily, taken their place.

Some Good Points? (1)

lithiumfrost (721304) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599720)

Perhaps the author is right about certain things. He certainly makes a good point about the anti-Microsoft zealotry. Most end-users really are turned off by all of the anti Windows speak, and I have never really gotten any results without explaining why Linux is more useful in easy and simple language. If I start mentioning why Microsoft is bad, anti-competitive and so on, that is fine and most people think so too, but nobody wants to learn a new operating system. I disagree with the assertion that there are too many distributions however. Many of them fill niche roles and expand the usefulness of the operating system in unique ways. I would never give up my Knoppix distro for use on the road etc. Two or three distributions would deprive the commununity of one of its greatest strengths: flexibility.

Compared to what? (2, Insightful)

bstadil (7110) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599721)

What nonsense. Anyone that works inside a major corporation can attest to much bigger Freuds going on inside those, but they are not (or rarely) done in public.

Take HP as an example. What do you think some of the Alpha / True64 guys have conjured up against the Itanium/ Microsoft camp and conversely. That should give you a picture of main stream corporate infighting.

Inside corportions peoples job's are at stake and they fight hard and nasty.

Open source is a polite debating society in comparison.

DVD's? (4, Informative)

IshanCaspian (625325) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599723)

The author should stop griping about the difficulties of playing DVD's, because the MPAA has not allowed linux users a free, legal way to play dvd's. DeCSS, which is what most dvd-playing software is based upon, is illegal in the US. The author loses a lot of credibility by not having his facts straight....he looks like a damn n00b.

Problems (-1, Redundant)

the real darkskye (723822) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599726)

  • They can't decide which licence is better (BSD/GPL/LGPL)
  • They can't decide which platform is better (BSD/GNULinux/Win32/Win64/OSX/OS2)
  • They assume just because she is a chick and a geek she is hot
  • They can't decide which compiler is better (gcc/icc/egcs)
  • They spend too much time bashing SCO/M$/BSD
And many more ;)

I just submitted feedback on this... (5, Interesting)

pb (1020) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599728)

Uh-oh... did linuxworld need to increase its ad impressions?

Seriously, you can't expect to start a reasonable discussion by spouting as many half-assed examples as you can think of, and then not backing any of it up with either facts or history. Although some of your points have a grain of truth in them here and there, your blind assertions do not help your case.

First, let us assume that many developers do "scratch the same itch"... why do they do it? Well, generally it's because there's something about the other solutions that are already out there that doesn't meet their needs. Sometimes it's a licensing issue, sometimes two projects spring up at the same time.

Starting with "sound systems"... the two main ones we have now are OSS and alsa. Originally OSS had two different versions--free and non-free. The free version included in the kernel had iffy support for some cards, and comparatively few people purchased or used the non-free version. Then alsa was born (originally just for better Gravis Ultrasound support!), and it will be replacing OSS in the kernel. What's this? Consolidation of sound systems? Uh-oh... Well, perhaps you meant to say sound daemons or media players or something... let's move on to another example.

BSD vs. Linux, here's a great one. Why didn't Linus Torvalds just use BSD instead? Well, he couldn't at the time, due to licensing issues. He started writing Linux both to learn about the 386 and because he couldn't afford to buy a workstation from Sun. And by the time the *BSDs were unencumbered, Linux was already a viable Unix system on its own, and certainly more functional than Minix ever was. Oh well, I guess he wasn't writing code just to scratch the same itch... let's move on.

Gnome vs. KDE. This one boiled down to--you guessed it--a licensing issue! In this case, it was the licensing of Qt, the toolkit used in KDE, that was the issue. Some of this has since been resolved, but there are licensing issues surrounding Qt even today. That's because Qt was written by TrollTech and is sold as a commercial product, whereas GTK was written for The GIMP, "to scratch an itch". Interestingly enough, The GIMP doesn't have a lot of competition--maybe that's because of its quality, its licensing, and its extensible nature. :)

Debian vs. Red Hat. Yet again, two different products with two different ideologies, one of which is backed by commercial interests, yadda yadda yadda. Interestingly enough, Red Hat's successor, Fedora, is using Debian's package manager now. So maybe they aren't such bitter rivals as you may have thought?

As for the rest of your generalizations, I resent being painted with such a broad brush. Sure, there are zealots in the open source community; they're present in any and every community. If those are the only people you talk to, then you might get some odd impressions of how that community works. For example, most of the people in the US are Christian, but the few people who come up to you on the street and shout about Christianity are inevitably zealots, crazy people who can't be reasoned with. Does this imply that most of the US consists of crazy zealots who can't be reasoned with? No, it doesn't, the sample size is simply too small.

Similarly, I won't just read this one article and conclude that the people at Linux World are totally clueless about the Open Source Community and its history, that they're all too lazy to do research, and enjoy making grossly inaccurate generalizations instead. That would be unfair of me. Nevertheless, I hope this article is just an isolated incident, and not the start of a disturbing trend. I recognize that this is an opinion piece, but that's no excuse for FUD, or sloppiness.

Wrong: (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599737)

ESR
RMS
ADHD

Oh, wait, those things are the open source community. I guess everything is wrong then.

Read the article - he has some points (5, Interesting)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599741)

I don't claim to be any kind of guru of, well, anything, but I've been working with GNU/Linux for a good 5 years now, setting up servers (Samba, Apache, etc).

About 18 months ago, I got a Powerbook, and while I still like Linux on the server end, man oh man, do I like OS X - for exactly the reasons that Mr. Turner brings up.

Simply put: it works.

I plug in a device - and it works. No compiling, no fiddling with conf files - works. I put in a game, and without once having to find Mesa drivers for X Windows and figure out why I can get video in Quake III but no sound - wait, not I get sound but no video, let me try another sound card and figure out of the chipset is the right kind - AGGGHHH!

The greatest strength of Open Source is its ability to evolve and grow and fill in gaps. It's truly software evolution - species of software fill in evolutionary needs, and the ones that work best (or are the luckiest in support/notice) get to grow.

The problem with Open Source, as Mr. Turner observes, is in some ways that same community. How many truly clear, concise, "idiot proof" manuals are written when we need to understand why some piece of Open Source (OS) software isn't acting the way you want? A cry for help will often be answered - all too often by "RTFM", though there are times when a more useful answer is given.

Probably the best thing that can happen for OS is the continued interest by businesses who want things for thier clients - like easier to use desktop operating systems (like OS X), or better office suites that can be used by secretaries (like Open Office) or administrative tools that can help configure the multitude of options easily and quickly (like what I hope Novell will do with their Suse merger).

I think that there will always be the dynamic Mr. Turner talks about - which isn't always a bad thing, but I hope the dialectic of Open Source and Business Needs helps to create a better hybrid software animal more suited to survive the wilds of the computer world.

Just my opinion, of course - I might be wrong.

Show me the code.. (2, Insightful)

XaXXon (202882) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599749)

1) Too many developers "scratch the same itch."
So what? It's not my responsibility to write code for you. I write code for me, and release it under a license that happens to allow for other people to use it. Don't tell me what code I'm allowed to write and what I'm not.

2) Open Source developers love a good feud.
So what? You have no right to tell me how I should be spending my time. Sure it's not the most productive use of it, but again, it's MY time. If you don't like it, go away.

3) Open Source developers often scratch the wrong itch.
WTF? Scratch the wrong itch? Maybe I'm not scratching your itch, but see point 1. If you don't like what I'm doing, write your own. That's what I did when I wrote this software that scratches the 'wrong itch'. It scratched mine just fine.

4) In the Open Source Community, you're either "with us or against us"
Against us? If you want to point out flaws and the people in the group don't appreciate it, you can take the code and apply your own patches and start up a distribution of that code. If the community agrees with you, then you'll be successful. If you end up being the only one who uses your new version, then maybe you're actually wrong about what you were doing and that entire community against you was actually that you were wrong and too dumb to realize it.

5) The Open Source Community has a huge chip on its shoulder...called Microsoft
So? This really is the same point as Point 2. And the arguments are the same. So most of us don't like Microsoft? I don't think there are many that won't admit they do some stuff right, but that doesn't matter. It's my time, and I will do with it as I please. If you want to lead by example and convince people there's a better way, a high road, then please, by all means, do so. But telling people who write software that you can use at no cost and have full access to the source that they need to be doing things differently is about the most egocentric thing you could possibly say.

In closing, go away and write some code. If you can't do that, then just go away.

Re:Show me the code.. (3, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599851)

telling people who write software that you can use at no cost and have full access to the source that they need to be doing things differently is about the most egocentric thing you could possibly say.

Read your own post and tell me again who's egocentric?

Your sentiment parallels that of many others, namely: "We've provided you with all these things, for free, and you complain? Peon! How dare you question us!" Sounds like you want to be God. Give 'em what you want, and if they complain, well damn them to hell.

In closing, go away and write some code. If you can't do that, then just go away.

In other words, you feel that open source should be by developers, for developers. You're entitled to that opinion, but bear in mind that it relegates the OS community to a little corner of reality, where nobody in the real world cares about what you do, and nothing that you do matters. If you want to be a useless, egotistical prick, that's your prerogative. I'm more interested in creating useful software to serve people's needs.

Re:Show me the code.. (1)

XaXXon (202882) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599878)

What I'm saying is I have no responsibility for writing code that you like. That's it. If you don't like it, feel free to join the community, but don't you dare tell me that I'm doing something wrong because you don't like my Free code.

Too Many Cooks, Not Enough Kirks (2, Insightful)

Spencerian (465343) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599760)

OSS, for all its strengths, lacks a commercial leadership.

That may sound like an oxymoron, given what OSS is. However, look at the successes in the personal computer world, and who they are led by. Bless ol' Linus, but is he really the leader of all of the Linux community? I'm afraid not. Linux is a distributed OS, with no leaders. Red Hat has come closest to this concept, but is not a popular brand name (yet).

OSS needs a common identity that ties all its parts together into something that can be recognized by the Joe and Jane Users they try to sway. I don't know if that should be a commercial company, or an not-for-profit, but if OSS wants to see itself as a true alternative to MS, it has to look like an alternative in the business and home computing worlds.

Oh, and the writer of the article was quite right in that Windows users aren't tolerant of trash talk, but can and will listen to why an alternative is better. Some Macintosh users work that way and get others to make the move, and so should the OSS community.

Nothing wrong with it! (1)

Skweetis (46377) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599763)

So what if some work is duplicated? One of the things that makes the Open Source community great is that individual developers CAN scratch any itch they want, work on any project they want. Sure, it may not be as efficient as it could be, but that's not the point. The community doesn't exist to gain greater and greater market share, it exists to create open software. Some individual developers may want their project's market share to improve, others may just do it because they enjoy it, others still for reasons not mentioned here. It's all good...

Open Source == Communism (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599774)

I think it is high time for the community to get over its self-delusion of being "libertarian" and realize that it is, actually, authoritarian communist. Every successful open source project is run in a top-down authoritarian structure. There is no room for dissent (just watch this post get attacked) and alternative (and profitable) business models are attacked ceaselessly and characterized as "evil". You guys are re-living the soviet revolution, only entirely within the confines of the internet. I predict that the open source movement will be just as unsuccessful. Deal with it.

bias (0, Troll)

linuxislandsucks (461335) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599778)

remember folks LinuxWorld.com accepts ads from Microsoft..and other closed Unixes

here as well (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599881)

Slashdot also accepts advertisements from publishers of proprietary operating systems. Your point?

Hmm... (5, Interesting)

mccalli (323026) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599779)

'Open source developers often scratch the same itch'

So, err, remind me - how many closed-source word processors can I go out and by? How many web design packages? How many commercial IDEs? How many instance messenging networks can I join? Wouldn't they be scratching the same itch too?

...and 'Open Source developers love a good feud.'

'They', whoever the amorphous they actually are, probably do. So do the closed source lot as well. The particular feuds they have tend to be called 'lawsuits', and they leave even the most bitter open source feud looking like a kindergarten spat.

Cheers,
Ian

community (1)

blanks (108019) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599790)

The problem with every community is the community its self. Its that simple.

Evolution seems to work ok (2, Insightful)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599794)

Which is basically the same model - lots of different parallel approaches to the same problem, and the best one, or group, wins.

Closed source companies cannot do this, they operate in a constant state of limited resources. We can. We should consider it a strength and play to it.

Sure, it get's acrimonious, but this is a symptom of fiercely-fought ideas. If someone feels that passionately about something, they ought to be able to convince others, or they are being blinkered - if they're blinkered, they'll wither and die. If they persuade the rest, they'll move to the next stage. Where's the problem, apart from bruised ego's ? Nature is red in blood and claw. We're slightly more civilised than that already :-)

Simon

"...you're either 'with us or against us'"... (1)

ErnstKompressor (193799) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599795)


A typical complaint of the Open Source community is that proprietary software vendors use legal means to stifle criticism of their detractors. But the Open Source community can be just as unforgiving of internal critics. Attempts to point out flaws or places where there's room for improvement in an application usually lead directly to defensive rebuttals, character attacks on the critic, or complete rejection of the validity of the issues.


I am hoping mad at this slanderous disparagement. I think the writer of this 'article' would have been a good Nazi propagandist. His points are totally irrelevant and unfounded.

true to some extent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599800)

Linux currently has a multitude of sound subsystems. making anyone short of a linux expert crazy trying to get things working for most audio apps. If my card isnt supported under alsa then I cant use the pro audio tools without a convoluted and twisted mess.

We can support multiple audio/video/whatever systems as long as someone like linus were to say "This is the way it is to be called,used,etc.. anything else is unacceptable and not allowed." and the problems would slowly disappear.

Scratching the same itch is ok, but let's at least scratch it in a way that makes it transparent to the user.

whats wrong with the open source community? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599801)

they are all fat overweight balding fellows with pony tails and no girlfriends and they live in their parents basement.

like me, for example.

I know it's you... (-1, Redundant)

MoeMoe (659154) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599802)

An anonymous reader writes "We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us...

Oh come on Bill, we know it's you... stop trying to cause trouble and go back to Redmond...

He has the wrong idea of what OS aims for (3, Interesting)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599807)

This whole article is just coming from the wrong direction. It assumes that the final goal of OS is to make usable software, that has features for everyone, to have an OS that can run all the binary drivers out there, to unseat Windows!...

What OS actually is for is, precisely, scratching an itch. Fixing what the developer wants to see fixed. Providing the features the developer wants. Having fun making something that a hundred other people made already. Many Linux developers (for example) couldn't care less about Windows, or converting Windows users to Linux.

And yes, they like bitching about Microsoft. Because it's so easy to do, I guess.

These things are only "things that are wrong with open source" if you have the idea that OS is trying to be something that it's not.

Some points yes, some points dumb. (3, Interesting)

Oriumpor (446718) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599809)

The "many itches, many scratchers" is a silly analogy. This is the case in not only OSS but also in for sale products. FOR INSTANCE, Musicmatch, Itunes, Winamp, Windows Media player. Enough said.

What is truly missing from the overall product creation standpoint is a universal bounty system. If someone were to create a universal bounty system for the application of new software ideas (that benefited the donor, and also gave incentive to the developers) there would be a drastic change in OSS development. Now all of a sudden your target audience is no longer yourself, but an ethereal goal list and a real cash dollar amount to buy some more raman and coffee.

Yeah sure, these things are "supposed" to be in existence already (sans the bounty) but I don't know how many projects I've seen on freshmeat with an empty .plan or a paltry .todo

So I'm no professional developer, if I knew there was a series of progressively increasing bounties available for me to freely distribute my ideas to the ether I would be more inclined to spend time doing so seriously. Not all of us are driven by the solution at the end of the problem tunnel, some of us have monetary requirements to fulfil.

when did competition become bad? (3, Insightful)

MattW (97290) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599812)

Feuding and scratching the same itch is merely one form of competition. In the OSS community, you often find a war of ideas, whether that's Gnome vs KDE or Linus insisting on a plaintext /proc.

I much prefer this war of ideas to the way commercial companies operate -- the war of marketing departments. Is it any wonder OSS turns out better?

The kind of troll who offends the most people.... (2, Interesting)

voss (52565) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599815)

is the one who is right.

There are still plenty of problems with linux, including a print system that sucks, and plenty of problems that need fixing. It took us until last year to get fonts that looked good without having to add more. Whats worse is our tendency to mimic features in windows instead of trying to surpass windows. Instead of yet another lecture about how everyone should do everything with a CLI, lets get a GUI that is BETTER than mac or windows. A package system that works automatically (even RPM isnt automatic) and having dependent files included with applications.

Self-honesty is your best weapon.

ONE WORD: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599819)

Gentoo

In case of Slashdotting.... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599828)

Fortress of Insanity [homeunix.org]

In case of Slashdotting, you can read the article below.

Page 1:

*POINT-COUNTERPOINT SPECIAL* What's Wrong with the Open Source Community?
James Turner leads off on the "too many itches" syndrome and other problems - Steve Suehring offers his Counterpoint
December 1, 2003

Summary
Just as, in the Java world, there are many competing MVC frameworks for JSP development, so many Open Source developers - says LinuxWorld senior editor James Turner - "scratch the same itch." In this week's installment of our "Point-Counterpoint" series, LinuxWorld editors James Turner and Steve Suehring slug it out over that most contentious of issues: does the Open Source community on occasion shoot itself in the foot? James says it does, constantly; Steve disagrees.

By James Turner Steve Suehring
Page 1 of 2

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James Turner: 5 problems with the Open Source community

There's no question that the Open Source community has a lot going for it. Besides a staggering amount of developer power that can be turned against important problems, the Open Source movement also has a passion and commitment to its work that the commercial software world often envies. But sometimes, the Open Source community can be its own worst enemy. Here are a few reasons why.

1. Too many developers "scratch the same itch."

We hear that Open Source developers come up with new ideas because they "had an itch to scratch." In other words, there was some need they had for a new application, and they "scratched" it by coming up with a tool. The problem is, it's not uncommon to end up with two or three (or more!) different packages doing the same thing. For a specific example, look at what's happened with the Linux sound systems, where there are now several competing packages that have to be supported by each distribution. Or in the Java world, look at how many competing MVC frameworks there are now for JSP development.

A little competition can be a good thing. After all, Linux is all about offering a competing vision for the operating system domain. But when too many competing visions exist, and aren't winnowed down to a small number of options over a short period of time, you end up with a mish-mash of conflicting standards, and a user community that ends up having to download and install a plethora of different packages that all do the same thing.

A perfect example of the "too many itches" syndrome is the absurd number of Linux distributions that exist out there. There's absolutely no reason for there to be more than two or three distributions. And because each one does things slightly differently, we've ended up with the problem that applications and drivers are rarely made available in binary form, because there are too many versions of too many releases of Linux to support.

As an application developer, you would have to provide 5 - 10 different binary installs, one for each distribution. Now multiply that times the five or more active releases of a distribution that may be in active circulation, and you see why so few packages are available as anything but source (especially the most recent releases of packages that have not been compiled and included into Linux distributions yet.)

The next question to consider is, why don't we see more consolidation of technology? The answer: because...

2. Open Source developers love a good feud.

BSD vs Linux. Gnome vs KDE. Debian vs Red Hat. For every interesting Open Source technology, there are two bitterly feuding camps that spend as much time taking potshots at each other as in improving their own products.

It's hard to imagine how much better a lot of Open Source software would be if these groups cooperated and consolidated their efforts, rather than act like the Hatfields and McCoys. Unfortunately, the downside of personal commitment to projects is that people come to use them as a measure of self-worth, and it becomes increasingly difficult for rival groups to admit the good points in each other's efforts.

3. Open Source developers often scratch the wrong itch.

The problem with commercial development is that the developers often aren't the consumers of their products, and thus don't feel the pain of their mistakes. The problem with Open Source development is that the development community often doesn't fix problems or develop new features that aren't directly interesting to them.

Usually, this isn't a problem, because the developers (as users) encounter the same problem set as their user base. Unfortunately, one way that Open Source developers are different from a general user base is that they have significantly more technical training. This means that they are willing to put up with the need for a much higher degree of technical savvy to use something than a non-technical person might.

Restated by example: an Open Source developer might think nothing of requiring users to create and configure an XML file to make something work, where an end-user might require dialog boxes.

4. In the Open Source Community, you're either "with us or against us"

A typical complaint of the Open Source community is that proprietary software vendors use legal means to stifle criticism of their detractors. But the Open Source community can be just as unforgiving of internal critics. Attempts to point out flaws or places where there's room for improvement in an application usually lead directly to defensive rebuttals, character attacks on the critic, or complete rejection of the validity of the issues.

Consider that recently I posted a story on the linuxworld.com Web site listing some problems I saw with the current set of desktop Linux distributions, problems I thought could severely hamper consumer adoptions of Linux in the short run. The posted responses ran in a couple of themes: "It works fine for me, you must be an idiot." "You're nothing but a Microsoft ass-kisser." And the ever-popular "Windows sucks too."

Until the community learns to listen to and internalize negative feedback (oops, almost slipped into Pointy-Haired Boss speak there...), it will be staring at its navel.

5. The Open Source Community has a huge chip on its shoulder...called Microsoft

Although SCO is also a popular a target lately too, the merest mention of MS is like a bull having a red cape waved before his eyes. All reason and sense of decorum flies out the window. And while I'm first in line to throw rotten tomatoes at Bill Gates, it's harmful to the community. The reality is that Microsoft owns the lion's share of the non-server OS market. If the first thing you tell all these people who own Windows is that they are idiots, you're not starting out on very good ground to convert them.

Like it or not, the existing Windows user base may not like the dreaded Blue Screen of Death or Microsoft's pricing and licensing, but they know how to use Windows and can usually get the applications and hardware support they need for it. Linux has a wonderful and growing suite of tools that let people migrate away, but they are going to need a lot of hand-holding to decide to make the move. They have to be told why Linux is better (and it really has to be better for them), not just why Windows is trash.

Especially unhelpful is the "who cares about X" attitude, where X is unsupported hardware, non-existent game availability, complicated multimedia support or anything else that Linux has or is perceived to have problems doing. Just because someone wants to do something that you don't, it doesn't mean that what they want to do is less important.

I had a number of comments when I complained that I had great trouble getting my DVD player on my laptop to view commercial films, comments that essentially said "why are you watching DVDs on your laptop?!" Some even suggested that I buy a dedicated portable DVD player. Leaving aside the hassle of having yet another piece of electronics to drag through security if I want to watch a movie on a plane, these kinds of comments are the worst kind of evasive nonsense, based on: if Linux doesn't currently do something as easily as Windows, attack the need to do it at all.

To sum up, the biggest problem that the Open Source community faces in taking Open Source to the next level is not some legal challenge or Microsoft marketing campaign. It's the immaturity and insecurity of some of the members of the community. As was once said in Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Page 2:

Steve Suehring rebuts James Turner
Rebuttal

1. Too much competition

The first argument made is that too many Open Source developers are "scratching the same itch" with the end result being too much competition. The economist in me is attempting to find a reason why competition would be bad, and James does admit that a little competition can be good. The opposite of competition is monopoly. As we've seen, monopoly in the software business means little or no innovation, virtually no method to make the software secure, price gouging, and much lower quality software.

Given these two alternatives, I'd much rather have more choice.

Is there a happy medium? James calls for there to be two or three Linux distributions instead of the numerous flavors available today. I believe the market should and will play the deciding role here. The market will determine the best flavors of Linux available and those will be the most widely supported among vendors. I see no reason to stifle innovation and competition with the goal of less choice. If someone wants to build their own distribution of Linux then so be it. That is the power of Open Source. You are free to do with it as you please.

Those supporters and developers of other distributions can continue along their path and make their distro better or merge the best aspects of theirs with another. Thus the consumer gets the best-of-breed operating system. The same goes for Open Source software. I would much rather have a choice in Web servers or DNS servers to deploy than be left with one or maybe two choices.

It is this competition that is one of the strongest aspects of Open Source and it is the most widely misunderstood. I'm constantly surprised to hear seemingly smart people compare Open Source development to some form of communism. In fact, Open Source is the free market system at work. The consumer has a choice among distributions and software and is free to do with it as they please.

2. Love a good feud

Unfortunately in his article, James believes that we don't see more consolidation because Open Source people love to fight.

There certainly are strong views among developers of competing software in the Open Source community. Again, I tend to lean towards allowing developers to compete against each other because I believe that in the end the consumer wins. The strongest points of each other's software will be adopted amongst the competing software.

I don't think the goal of having one operating system or one Web server is best for the market. At the same time, I sincerely doubt that Open Source developers work on competing products because they like to fight. I think the feuds are a side-effect of a healthy market economy at work.

There are precious few commodities where a monopoly is good - and software is not one of them.

3. Scratch the wrong itch

James's next contention is that Open Source developers often "scratch the wrong itch". I see this point as somewhat valid but I see it being much more applicable to closed source software than to Open Source. With closed source software you get what you get. If a feature isn't in the software, too bad. Wait for the next release and maybe they'll put it in. You are at the mercy of the software vendor that you locked yourself into.

An example of the problem of scratching the wrong itch in closed source is pop-up blocking. Everyone's familiar with those annoying pop-up ads that appear when you surf to various Web sites. For years, the open source Mozilla browser has been able to block pop-up ads effectively without disabling all of the other features of Javascipt. Where has this functionality been in Internet Explorer? Microsoft is finally getting around to adding this feature in a forthcoming release of IE, years behind.

As an example in his article, James uses the argument that an Open Source developer might require a user to create an XML configuration file to make a piece of software work, as opposed to the "ordinary user" requirement - which might be for dialog boxes instead of manual configuration. Aside from the fact that there is an assumption of a graphical user interface which many Linux users don't use, there's an inherent problem with the argument. Having worked with numerous closed source software companies, I can say that the issue isn't limited to Open Source software. I've worked with closed source software where I had to edit a registry setting or manually change a configuration file in order to make the software work (don't forget to reboot the entire server if you make a registry change.)

The difference is that with the closed source software, I had to pay an extra 20% surcharge in order to receive that support to tell me to change the configuration file. All major Open Source software is documented. Further, the chances of finding an answer quickly using Google are much greater for Open Source than for proprietary software.

At the end of the day, consumers also have the source code, the one and ultimate resource for determining how a piece of software works and changing that software to suit their needs. If you're not a programmer, then you can request functionality to be included - which is the same process you'd have to follow if it was closed source proprietary software as well.

4. With us or against us

James' article goes on to state that there is a feeling of defensiveness in the Open Source community. That when you try to take a critical look at Open Source, you are met with harsh responses. To this point I have no counterpoint except to say that it's certainly not limited to Open Source.

When I wrote a piece last summer for LinuxWorld.com addressing the fact that Microsoft didn't include an adequate firewall in their operating systems it was met with numerous personal attacks, including many sent direct into my inbox. I heard some of the same things that James did, though from a different camp.

Simply because closed-source folks do it doesn't make it excusable for the Open Source community. Neither side in the debate between Open and closed source is without reproach in this regard. I find no valid excuse for the behavior and feel that both sides should be less concerned with killing the messenger. Of course, I have a vested interest in saying that, since many times I am the messenger.

5. Chip on its shoulder

James' piece wraps up with an argument that we Open Source people have a chip on our shoulder about Microsoft or, more appropriately from the examples, about people who use Microsoft products. I've seen evidence of this and I agree with James that it is one of the problems with the Open Source community.

I believe that Open Source software solves countless problems better than its closed source counterpart. However, as I state in forthcoming article in LinuxWorld Magazine, Open Source can win the technology battle but lose the adoption war. The technology can be better, but if we alienate the people who are just starting to use the software, we'll find that the superior technology will be usurped and we'll end up in a niche and not in the business and technology mainstream.

let's see.. (-1)

GaylordFucker (465080) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599831)

maybe... EVERYTHING!!

Gaylord's back BABY!! :-D

I would say (1)

JohnnyGTO (102952) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599832)

some of his reasons actually produce better software. Better code get merged together, differing views produce more choices.

Don't forget to read the rebuttal... (2, Informative)

XaXXon (202882) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599838)

It's a point/counter-point, so don't forget to read the rebuttal linked at the bottom of the page..

(also linked here [linuxworld.com] )

The main problem is... (2, Insightful)

RdsArts (667685) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599842)

We write software that we want. We write what we want and say what we want. This is the price you pay for software that's Free. Freedom breeds freedom, and that's the main point people seem to forget when they talk about what's "wrong" with the Free software community.

He uses the same political mistakes ... (2, Insightful)

EJB (9167) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599846)

.. as 'open source enthousiasts' often do.

If you really want to change people's opinions, you better phrase your comments in terms of "you're doing great, but you could be doing even greater" than "what's wrong with you guys". I think someone commented this in the discussion about the way us enthousiasts were trying to influence the EU on the patent directive that was about to be passed.

I guess the same applies here...

Thanks Hemos (1)

shadow255 (710534) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599855)

Maybe you could have checked the article before approving the submission and noted in the summary that there's 2 parts - it's slow as snot right now due to the Slashdot effect, but there is a rebuttal which should be worth mentioning so that those who can't be bothered to read the article will at least know this isn't a one-sided affair.

With us or against us (1)

ekephart (256467) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599875)

"4. In the Open Source Community, you're either 'with us or against us'"

Damn straight. Let it be clear. We will make no distinction between Windows proponents and those who harbor them.

I totally agree (1, Funny)

SimianOverlord (727643) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599876)

These are exactly the reasons why I upgraded to Windows XP from my Debian distro. Wow! Look at these neat cerulean blue taskbars! I've never looked back.

need for standards (3, Insightful)

agurkan (523320) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599882)

Too many developers "scratch the same itch" is a bad thing only for applications/libraries which other software depends on. We know this! This is what standards are for :-) However, for a standard to become standard we need to test lots of options and decide which is best. On the way to standardization we might merge different features, or the standard might require features from different packages which do not exist together at the moment. Different approaches make it easier to decide which feature to keep and which feature to drop.
I personally do not mind having three plotting and five music playing and twelve font editing packages, it does not hurt anybody, and as the author himself points out, people get selfworth from other people using their package. So if we try to come up with a single solution the result will be fewer developers->fewer packages, not same developers->better packages.

meta-wrongness (2, Insightful)

Savatte (111615) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599888)

they post flamebaiting articles like this one on major-traffic websites, making for pointless debates instead of getting down and coding.
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