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vharishankar 09-23-2006 09:06 AM

DISCUSSION: [Hari's Linux Corner] The Karma of FOSS
This thread is to discuss the article titled:
[Hari's Linux Corner] The Karma of FOSS


I've often wondered amidst all this angst and heartburning debates over FOSS, licensing, software patents, political and technological debates which tend to split development projects and create negativity whether the issue is really about Freedom. Because the concept of Freedom can be a little confusing as different people tend to evaluate it on different planes. In a majority of cases, I believe that the last thing a developer who's newly venturing into FOSS thinks about is the implications of releasing software are FOSS. This may sound strange to many of us and indeed counter-intuitive. But I certainly think that peer approval and recognition plays a huge role when people initially release software as FOSS. It's a heady mix - people see your app, download it, use it and you get a high out of the praise and recognition in the community. Everything goes smoothly until one day the developer finds that somebody else has released a fork out of a disagreement arising either out of technical or non-technical grounds. Suddenly the world's not perfect any more.

rkelsen 09-24-2006 07:16 PM

I disagree with a lot of what you have written there.

Everything goes smoothly until one day the developer finds that somebody else has released a fork out of a disagreement arising either out of technical or non-technical grounds. Suddenly the world's not perfect any more.
I think you may have mis-understood the motivation of many FOSS developers. I'd say that most FOSS developers do it for the love of coding. Recognition and popularity take a back seat. Well, they would in my mind if I were an FOSS programmer.

Then the developer suddenly wakes up to reality and finds out that he can no longer reclaim his work as his own. Suddenly the developer realizes that somebody else has snatched away all those long hours of work put into developing that application.
Wouldn't that depend upon the license he chooses to apply?

As far as I'm aware, the GPL does have protections for the original author.

He is no longer in control of who uses, modifies and releases the code
Firstly, no-one can EVER be in control of who uses their software. As for the rest of your sentence, this has been the case for the 20-plus years that the GPL has existed.

and leads to huge splits and debates within the development community.
I think it depends upon which part of community you're in. Some parts of the Linux community are far more interested in politics than anything else. Other parts of the community just want to get the job done using the best quality tools available.

Anyhow, there are many examples where the very "failures" you've attempted to explore have resulted in better quality software. For example: XFree86 vs. Xorg. We now have a "modular" X, thanks to the Xorg project. If they hadn't forked from XFree86, we'd still be stuck using a monolithic behemoth.

Another fine example is the whole cdrecord debacle. The original developer of cdrecord has become obstinate and seemingly refuses to accept the fact that the Linux kernel can allow CD burning without the need for a SCSI emulation layer. Personally speaking, CD recording seems to work much better for me without a SCSI emulation layer, but I still have to put up with nasty messages from a recalcitrant software developer every time I wish to burn a CD from the command line. Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful for the utility that Mr. Schilling's software has provided me over the years, but we can't stand still. If he isn't willing to move with the times, someone needs to take over. Once the dust settles, we will have a better quality CD writing package for Linux.

As someone who has been using Linux since 1999, I can honestly say that I have seen this sort of thing over and over again. It has resulted in better quality software every single time.

dogged28 09-24-2006 08:01 PM

i think it is all a matter of interpretation. you both have valid points throughout and good arguments as well. but doesn't each programmer/s release there creations with their own thoughts/agendas. if you dwell on this subject this thread could go on for a long time. i'm not to bright on licenses and such, but i'm thankfull for the opensource. not only does the technology grow and become used, but it also gets improved apon and i'd like to think that is anyones wish that submits a program/app. "i hope this helps alot of people and if someone finds a flaw i missed and fixes it the better off we all are." just like the purpose of these discussions, to help others understand a subject and to also improve on the subject in general/or how to's/or tweaks for some apps/etc....understand my view, i wrote a few poems here and there and even submitted them and got published a time or two. my goal was not profit but helping others understand themselves or someone they love. it was enough for me that the poem was accepted and published. this is my opinion and understing of free open source software. to help and improve not hinder and conflict.

vharishankar 09-24-2006 10:39 PM

Yeah, there are both benefits and drawbacks of FOSS. This article merely tries to highlight the fact that it's not all plain sailing when you choose to go the FOSS route.

And also, there is always a "cost" of using FOSS to the users, whether we recognize it or not. That was another point I made.

And as to misunderstanding the motivation of FOSS, I beg to disagree. Love of coding surely cannot be the single reason why those coders give away so much of a lifetime's work for free.

If you've ever coded any non-trivial application, you will know how much feeling of ownership you have over the code. This is a natural human reaction to anything we create. The reasons for sharing for free are varied and rather complex.

rkelsen 09-25-2006 12:02 AM


Originally Posted by harishankar
If you've ever coded any non-trivial application, you will know how much feeling of ownership you have over the code. This is a natural human reaction to anything we create.

Very true, but it takes emotional stability and security within oneself to accept the fact that people will adopt or modify your creation. In fact, with a community (and talent pool) so large and well connected, it is almost ridiculous to expect otherwise these days.

The FOSS community should be working as a team toward a common goal. If we have to substitute certain players along the way, so be it. Nobody is irreplaceable. Linux can continue without Linus. Slackware can continue without Patrick V. And for a case in point: Debian has been running for almost 10 years without Ian Murdock at the helm.

These people and everyone else in FOSS are merely "spokes in the wheel." The software has taken on a life of it's own.

This is a major advantage of FOSS. If a developer dies, their code can live on. There are no secrets which die with their creators.

vharishankar 09-25-2006 02:59 AM

Very interesting thoughts, rkelsen. Nice to get feedback like this. I think whether the whole FOSS community is moving to a common goal is a debatable issue and even the argument whether such a thing is desirable or not.

Lots of things to write about :)

dogged28 09-25-2006 11:38 AM

that is why this discussion could go on for a loooong time. re-reading this, there are so many pros and con to foss and opinions that could carry on for a lifetime. i've spoke my piece and agree and disagree with all points made and spoken. i've learned more about foss which is a good thing and i hope others have learned something too. very good article and very good discussion.

tuxdev 10-05-2006 01:56 PM

This feels like a highlight of writings by ESR concerning motivations of FOSS devs. He talks about the recognition using the term "egoboo", and how showing off one's stuff is an important motivation to development. Personally, I do it first for the love of coding, then use the recognition to know I did it right.

dogged28 10-05-2006 03:35 PM

and isn't that attitude the main reason for foss or atleast the beginnings of foss. ?

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