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Airing Open Source Dirty Lanundry 51

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the its-not-as-bad-as-it-sounds dept.
Christopher Bibbs writes "News.com is carrying the story of the Open Source split between Raymond and Perens. Basically their infighting is now open to the whole world. Its embarassing really. " It's not flattering, but it's interesting to see that this whole movement is made up of people (RMS/ESR/Bruce/Linus/+ zillions of others who often deserve even more credit but don't get it simply because a few people are all the world can handle). It's always been much more open than corporate software. Anyone can be on most of the lists. That human factor can be scary, but its often possibly our greatest asset. I mean- if Balmer and Bill fought, would we know? Everyone knows when Linus and Alan argue (hell, someone submits it here as a story every time they disagree over anything) But what about if it mattered?
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Airing Open Source Dirty Lanundry

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  • It's good that these things don't matter. Of course, ZDNet will get a hold of it and never let go, like they did when the LSA hoopla. In any case, these events are good for reassessing our identities as members of the community for Software Libre (as I prefer to call it).
  • This is another example of the mainstream press not understanding the process.

    It might not be pretty when these blow-ups occur, but by having it all out in the open I think the matters are settled quicker and generally for good. When things must be settled publically, it's much harder to try to push a hidden agenda 'cause someone is going to see through it and call you on it.

    Conflict is normal. The press just isn't used to seeing it behind the nice, warm and fuzzy facade which wraps traditional development processes.

  • Posted by Matt Perry:

    Disagreements between people are normal. So what if they are broadcast for the world to see? It's not as if individuals don't have differences. And the best way to work through differences is by discussing them and finding a solutions.

    This doesn't make us look bad. It makes us look like people who are activly seeking to better ourselves.
  • Posted by The Famous Brett Watson:

    As has been observed already, this "infighting" is little more than people expressing their different ideologies on the matter. It can't hurt free software in the long term, because unlike corporatesville, the free software "leaders" don't drive the community. The community has its own momentum, and the various leaders arise only because they express the opinions of a large subset of that community eloquently. These "leaders" hold a useful, but non-essential position. The free software community has no head to cut off.

    There are a wide range of philosophical stances one can take on the free software issue. Rather than expound them here, I refer you to my (lengthy -- approx 70KB) essay on the matter. Interested parties can find it at the Nutters.org website [nutters.org], or a marginally out-of-date but slashdot-effect-proof mirror copy [vix.com].

    The Famous Brett Watson, famous@nutters.org

  • Dirty Lanundry ??

    Spelling errors in article text is one thing, but in a header?
  • disagreement? isn't that a basis of conversation? if everyone agreed with each other the world would be pretty boring...

    (coffee tawk) no big woop...

  • Actually, RMS called Tim O'Reilly on that one about 6 months or so ago at an Open Source convention. They then decided that RMS wasn't going to be invited back, because he was "a loose cannon" ...

    I don't personally think there's anything wrong with O'Reilly books. In fact, I got started on Perl with them, and since, it has greatly enhanced my life. Well worth the $30 or so for Learning Perl, IMHO.. And, now that I grasp all of the fundamental concepts, the on-line documentation is far better than any book, O'Reilly or otherwise could ever hope to be. That's the way it is for most any free software.
  • The difference between this kind of argument and the kind of arguments you hear about within Microsoft or other places is that this argument demonstrates the fundamental split in beliefs and intentions of those behind the free software and open-source movement.

    RMS and Bruce Perens are activists. They believe that people have an inalienable right to have source code for their software, and that all software should always be freely redistributable. That is the fundamental philosophy behind GNU.

    ESR and Tim O'Reilly, on the other hand, are pragmatists. They believe that software developed in the bazaar model is likely to be higher-quality than proprietary software, but they don't talk about rights.

    The big difference is that the activists resent the development of proprietary software for Linux -- the database products, WordPerfect, etc. -- while the pragmatists welcome it, because it means that Linux will have that much better a chance to make inroads with the general public.

    Personally, I find myself much more sympathetic to the pragmatic cause, because I believe that an open-source infrastructure like Linux is infinitely more valuable than any single piece of open-source application software, so I hope it succeeds.

    Adam
  • by tjones (1282)
    When there is no news, they'll have have to make some.
  • If it hadn't appeared on slashdot. I cringed when I saw it, knowing that this would happen....
  • I also think we should have free documentation for free software, but the GNU way[1] to achieve this is to demonstrate the free documentation can be better (and more profitable!) than proprietary documentation.

    O'Reilly does a lot of good for the free software community, just employing Larry Wall should count for much. I don't really think that his motives matter, but if profit is one of them, we should show him that free documentation can be profitable, and he will be ours.

    [1] Yes, I know this is not how RMS talk about free software, but it is the way he act. He helped demonstrate that free software could be as good (even better than) proprietary software, and with the help of Cygnus that free software could be profitable too.
  • Hey, is this one of the guys they used to have beating on OS/2 while the world waited and waited and waited for Windows 95? I lost several years of my life to your kind. Instant Karma gonna get ya.
  • The best is Perens on Tim O'Reilly. Hate to say it, but I sorta agree. Althought I love their books.
  • The most interesting disagreements happen at large companies. Even though things have been great at work the last few years, we had a class on workplace violence this morning. Great stories of people trapped in dead end jobs and going postal or terrorizing colleagues.

    The world of free software does not compare. Colorful language is even rare and is hard to find on C.O.L.A. too. If I disagree, I feel very free to patch, cobble together, and distribute. So there!

    These are good times anyway. Very good times! :)
  • It must really be a slow news day. I think that if the Impeachement trial was still going on, you'd never hear of this tempest in a teapot.

    Gee, those Open Source folks have arguments. As long as we're not run by a totalitarian regime, we're going to have them. I'd hesitate to call any software company a totalitarian regime, but isn't it funny how this illustrates the difference between us and them?

    Want to see an argument? Hit www.nocode.org [nocode.org] to see info on a ham radio organization I founded that is trying to get rid of the laws that require Morse Code tests for radio hams. The arguments I get from hams are much more virulent than anything that ever happens in the free software arena.

    Thanks

    Bruce

  • I like O'Reilly books and I have quite a few of them. That's not where my complaint is.

    The main problem I see is that while we need people like Eric Raymond to speak to the non-hackers, hackers need to stay in control of the work they produced. There are a few ways in which hackers are losing control:

    We no longer control our information sources. Hacker-produced web sites, news groups, and mailing lists are being displaced by commercial news sources and book publishers. That would be OK, except they seem to want to control the information, too. That part isn't acceptabe.

    One person who I feel is mainly interested in profiting from the community is posing as a leader of the community. Most free software merchants know better than to get in a conflict of interest like that.

    Thanks

    Bruce
  • Spellchecker's time !

    Laundry spells LAUNDRY

    "lanundry" just ain't gonna do.
  • Linux succeeds on its quality, not because of Bruce P. or ESR. They may have made their own contributions in their own ways, but IMHO those contributions have not been crucial to Linux and the whole open source movement (which they didn't invent). Linux would still be steamrolling forward without them, with programmers continuing to contribute patches, users telling their friends about it, etc.

    Whether or not these two individuals get along will hardly affect Linux' progress. They may be able to do some good if they work things out, but I'm not worried if they don't. Fortunately, the more they argue, the less relevant they become. These kinds of organizations may help a great deal if they ever get their act together, but Linux has done pretty well without them so far.

    We shouldn't be distracted by these events like this; we should keep improving the quality of the code (notably ease-of-use), and educating the world about OSS.

    "Stay on target... stay on target..."

    James
    james@jmarshall.com

  • First off, let me state a couple of things up front:

    • I've met and talked fairly extensively with RMS. Though I doubt he'd remember my name (face, maybe...)
    • I've listened to ESR and Allman on Open Source on numerous occasions.
    • I've never heard Tim O'Reilly speak, though I've had a couple of conversations with some of the Sr. Editor/Publishers at ORA.
    • I'm an admin; as such, there is precious little code out there that's got my name on it; however, I like to think that significant portions of code that developers I've worked with is due to me. And lots of that is out in the World, Making Things Better(tm).

    I'd agree with the majority of posters here that the fracture actually represents a healthy community, complete with stress and differences. That all being said, I really dislike the massive chip on the Open Source community's shoulder about Business, in general. Many businesses are closed-minded, hording everything they own, unwilling to share, extorting every last penny from those that need their service/product. Others protect what they have, yet are willing to sell it at a very friendly price (ie, they make money, but aren't being greedy). Still others see that they can share what they have, and still make a living. Far too many people see only the first and last categories, and refuse to accept the middle one.

    I just don't get the argument over ORA. In my mind, they definately fit in the middle category. Sure, they have copyright-protected works. And they're not about to give that up, since that's how they make money. On the other hand, I don't consider their pricing outrageous (hey, anyone looked at what Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment costs these day?), and they definately consider it to be neighborly to cosy up to the O-S community - look at the resources they expend to sponsor and promote various O-S stuff. Sure, in the end, they make money, but that means they're actually good, smart people.

    One of the major things that galls me about people who complain about the cost of books, and how information should be free, is that it is. Let's take the Bible of SysAdmins: ORA's Essential Systems Administration.

    I can read through the book, writing down interesting concepts and thoughts it points out. I can also read The System Administrator's handbook, Advanced Solaris Systems' Administration, and go dig up the Design and Implementation of the 4.4BSD Operating System. By my very own willpower, I can take the best ideas from each of those books, plus my very own ones, and come up with a complete documentation. What I can't do is outright copy the entire books.

    The difference between code and books is that often, the major effort in code is production of the actual algorithm (ie the code itself) that results in a certain functionality. Of course, we 'd like to promote that duplication of that massive effort is avoided, thus we want people to be able to copy code.

    In books, the major effort is the idea, not the actual words. In many cases the actual words are poorly written, and I certainly don't want that copied. What you can copy from ORA books is the ideas themselves. Look at how they lay out the book - use their organizational thoughts. How is the material presented? What tips and pointers do they use? What's left in, and what's left out? How are things explained clearly?

    Technical manuals are by far the easiest to reproduce, since at their base, they all are talking about the same thing. So borrow from the masters - don't be lazy and require that they do all your work for you, but take what they've already expressed and produce something of your own. If you want to give that away, fine, that's up to you. Just don't condemn them if they don't feel the exact way you do. After all, you're probably not deriving your sole source of income from those works...

    One last thing. I talked with one of the Publishers from ORA last USENIX, and inquired about whether or not they would be doing more of the electronic collections (such as Webmaster in a Nutshell, Deluxe Edition). Her response was enlightening: it wasn't remotely profitable. She said that the volume of sales for such an item turned out to be below what it cost to make it and maintain it. Then she said something even more startling: a really popular ORA book (like Essential SysAdmin) sold about 25,000 copies, while less popular ones (like, say, Java in a Nutshell) might sell 10,000 or so. I used to work in the publishing industry, and I know what typical margins are (let's just say that they're not much above 10%). So, for a excellent seller for ORA: .1 x 25000 x $30 = $75,000. Oh, yeah, like they're raking in the dough on this all over the planet.

    -Erik


  • There are plenty of disagreements in this community, as in others. Lots of ego involved. Regardless, the work goes on, and when it doesn't, the reputations of the participants tends to suffer.

    An excess of ego really doesn't do much good for your reputation. Participants, please take note.

  • One person who I feel is mainly interested in profiting from the community is posing as a leader of the community. Most free software merchants know better than to get in a conflict of interest like that.

    I don't get your point. If a program source remains free, copylefted, whatnot, it's anyone's right to interpret the behaviors of the end-product, the running program, and to put it in his own manuals or books...AND to release that verbal interpretation for free or for his profit...right?

    In the end, who should care? The hackers can never truly lose control, since the source code can't be hidden. So what if someone makes money from a book; isn't that the *idea* of Free Software -- to create an ecosystem around an open product?

    Seems to me that one could keep running with the "everything must be free" argument until we'd all convinced ourselves that charging for consulting work on a copylefted OS was immoral.

    Anyway, it bothers me that we're not discussing technical merit (e.g., "some manuals are unclear/incorrect") but just about a yearning of how the ecosystem should or should not be structured. Meanwhile, buckshot gets fired at allies who'd help grow FreeSoft mindshare.

  • We should have these two along with RMS wearing his priestly garb fight it out on the Jerry Springer show~!


    Seriously, this kind of behaviour is what we should expect from free software's two largest egos.

  • But it's a GOOD sort of anarchy.

    Sure, in a real world political situation, anarchy is generally a Bad Thing. Nature generally abhors a vacuum, particularly a power vacuum, and there's probably always going to be someone around to fill that vacuum when it appears. For a good sci-fi treatment, try Larry Niven's short story "Cloak of Anarchy" which I think may be in "Tales of Known Space".

    It's no different in a large-scale closed source development project. You will have power struggles among the developers, even with a strong project manager, resulting from differences of opinions on how the project should proceed or how it should be implemented.

    But, in an open source project, these problems can't kill you. They can delay progress somewhat, but the project itself can't be killed if the source code is already out there. The worst case scenario is that you get a code fork, and that's hardly a disaster with open source. From a traditional business viewpoint, it's horrible, because you're paying for two competing projects.

    Suppose for example Linus and Alan Cox had some insurmountable difference about the kernel architecture (this is a pure hypothetical example). Alan could start his own branch of kernel development based on Linux 2.2, and he could probably attract some other developers. He'd have to call it something other than Linux, of course, and not Alanix either, because that sucks. This is probably not a great thing for kernel development, but probably not a disaster so long as Alan doesn't do something crazy like abandon Posix.

    You could also look at Linux vs. FreeBSD, which are competing projects. Fortunately, applications tend to be pretty portable between the two.

    Part of the beauty of open source is, if the main developer says, "It's my way, or the highway," you can take the highway, and the code, and not have to start over completely from scratch.

    Okay, sure, these little feuds and personality clashes aren't very helpful. The upside is, they don't kill us or our projects.

  • If the FSF wants to push the ideas of open source, what's the problem with free publicity generated with how-to manuals? The GNU license lets you redistribute and CHARGE FOR the distribution.

    ORA distributes portions of the code in book form, and charges for it. What's the problem? They're making money? Hey, they've got bills, kids and mortgages too.

    I vastly prefer books to screen reading, and printing hasn't been free since Gutenberg.

    Thanks, ORA!
  • Yup. Perens and Stallman advocate a freedom of the elite. The mass of computer-using humanity can go hang, for all they care.

    Idealists care too much about ideas and not much at all about people.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

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