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[flagged] Why I’m Losing Trust in Open Source (gibson.ws)
23 points by bodegajed 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 31 comments

> Open source maintainers abandoning projects due to lack of time and interest.

And the occasional demanding users who would rather have us working on their problems instead of our own.

Only about a couple of hours ago, I received an issue[1] which from my perspective was lacking in details and appeared like an issue due to not having read the project documentation. Unclear issue details and demanding behaviour can take a toll on the morale of a maintainer of an open source project.

Many open source project maintainers maintain their projects in their spare time that they carve out of their busy schedules, family, personal engagements and often a full time job. I wish more people would appreciate this. When an author makes a project open source and maintains it, one should appreciate that they are practically offering the project to others as a gift.

[1] https://github.com/susam/texme/issues/21

Your project has one of the highest star-to-issues ratios I've ever seen (for folks from the future: ~two dozen issues created while having ~two thousand stars), impressive.

Sorry you had to deal with this bullshit.

The way some people feel they are entitled to demand stuff off of hobbyist open-source project maintainers is absolutely infuriating.

The gist of the article for anyone who wants to spare few minutes from having to read it themselves (honestly, spare yourself.

Google, facebook etc used open source and cashed out and are now driving sports cars, and Linux Desktop is dead, therefore the author has lost trust in open source.

That really is the extent of it.

aka "People used what we offered under the license we granted them and they're successful and I want more in return than I'm entitled to"

Not really, he's just saying that if you don't reward working on open source, eventually people will stop building stuff that's open source.

The most generous individuals are usually taken advantage of by the greedy, so it's funny how you're accusing the generous party in this situation of greed...

I will have to respectfully disagree with the author.

Linux desktop isn’t dead because big companies and VCs are chasing ROI. Linux on the desktop is dead because most current Linux desktop developers don’t want or use software the same way as the average person. So they don’t build what the average person wants. So the average person doesn’t want to use it.

VC funded companies using open source isn’t why there are so many abandoned projects. ROI isn’t the reason for issues. For example, a bunch of open source that’s dead is because people experimented and the experiment didn’t pan out. That’s normal and has long been the case. We just see it now with so much open source

> Linux desktop isn’t dead because big companies and VCs are chasing ROI. Linux on the desktop is dead because most current Linux desktop developers don’t want or use software the same way as the average person. So they don’t build what the average person wants. So the average person doesn’t want to use it.

That's not necessarily a failure mode though. If Linux developers are producing the desktop they want to use then that's fine. They don't owe the "average" person anything, whoever that is.

(BTW, I don't think the situation is quite so dire. From experience, dropping non-technical users into a modern Ubuntu is not really all that hard. The fact that most custom software these days is web based makes that much easier)

I'm typing this on Ubuntu 18.04. The desktop is perfectly adequate for my purposes. Mac OSX drove me crazy because the designers kept adding features I didn't need and kept breaking features I depended on.

IMHO it's important to separate "open source - the political ideology" from "open source - the pragmatic software development process", both have their place, sometimes they even go hand in hand, but they're just too often confused, resulting in disappointment.

Then there's the whole "Open Source (TM)" vs "Free Software" vs "free as in beer" mess. For myself, I just slap the MIT or zlib/libpng license on my code, and hope the projects don't become popular enough to attract the lunatics ;)

Claiming that one thing is "political" and the other is "pragmatic" is a good example of ideological thinking.

Maybe I should have written "idealistic" instead. At least I have chosen my open source licenses for pragmatic reasons, not out of idealism.

Same thing. One can justify anything by labeling the current behavior "pragmatic" and another "idealistic".

Edit: amazing how I'm getting downvoted for this on a place called "hacker" news.

This reads like something written by GPT-3.

> I’ve believed in it much so I joined sourceforge joined a team, also started a project myself even.

> Their founders built an MVP and took money from VCs and then had to responsibly return their money 10x. They eventually all cashed out and now driving luxury sports cars.

What a ramble.

Open Source is what you make of it. I think that's what makes it so hard. I make some software, share it with the world... and then what? That's the question. Most open source projects end up in one of three buckets:

* Minimally maintained. Could be because it's good software and feature complete. Could be any number of other things (i.e. lost interest, no users)

* Original author and contributors stay highly involved and guide the project. See Fossil for a great example. Python, too.

* Users drive development by contributing. A lot of times, this looks like companies contributing code and money for specific features. It's not bad, but sometimes these projects evolve in bad directions for my specific use case. Sometimes these projects wouldn't exist (many of the Apache projects are of little utility to individuals, but great utility to organizations).

The one thing that is certain is that the choice of a license has less to do with adoption than the quality and functionality of the software being adopted. I'll take on my own or my customer's legal department (who often makes rules that are not nearly as well thought out as one would expect) for good software.

> They say why not just use GPL but if you license your code using GPL you will not have users.

Linux, GNOME, VLC, WordPress... I hear this a lot but I really think it's overblown. There's plenty of GPL software with lots of users.

And so many of the ecosystem problems people talk about with FOSS would be much less of a problem with copyleft licenses.

I mean, a lot of those big companies are contributing back to the open source community. Look at Netflix for example, they publish a lot of really great libraries. Google has published an entire open source operating system (or 2?)

I also don't quite get why "Google is making money" is an argument against open source...

I somehow missed this article from 3 days ago https://daniel.haxx.se/blog/2021/02/19/i-will-slaughter-you/

Here's the HN discussion of it:


Doesn't address the main issue plaguing open-source, which is the loophole that Amazon used to push out services like Aurora. It's not a new problems (hence various incarnations of the AGPL), but AWS has pushed this to a whole new level.

So the gist of the article is:

* Big companies use FOSS but don't contribute back

* Small developers that want to contribute to FOSS can't use GPL because it's not business friendly

* Contributing to FOSS can be life threatening

-> The author is losing trust in FOSS, presumably as a viable alternative to proprietary software.

While I'm pretty sympathetic to pretty much all of these points, I find it kind of contradictory.

Big companies do contribute back to FOSS, though not nearly as much as is needed to maintain the critical FOSS infrastructure that we rely on. I think this is the most salient of the points and this is an issue we're trying to figure out. My only suggestion would be to try and devote more tax dollars to funding people or organizations that create this critical infrastructure instead of relying on the goodwill of large corporations.

In terms of using some permissive license rather than GPL/AGPL, all I can say is that if you want to change the state of things, you have to fight for it. There was a point when any FOSS license was considered toxic and there was a lot of FUD around it. You want to make sure businesses contribute back? Create an environment of copyleft software so that proprietary software will be left in an island that is ever shrinking, so they're either forced to devote more resources to their proprietary walled garden or they adopt the copyleft infrastructure.

And in terms of being in the public eye and getting public scrutiny or hate, with the occasional death threat, that sucks but it's also indicative of the nature of our connectivity and anonymity. There are many online celebrities, from "A-list" all the way down, that get a lot of hate that never mention FOSS. It's not right but it's also not restricted to FOSS.

But the overall sentiment, "there are problems with FOSS so I don't trust it", seems pretty cynical. For all of it's problems, the reason it's so successful is because it offers such a dramatic benefit. My personal take is that copyright is so deeply broken, without any clear path to fixing it, that workarounds like FOSS are so successful because they provide a relief from intellectual properly overreach.

My view is that FOSS is wildly successful. The problems we're seeing are "second order" in that they're coming to light because we've changed to Overton window so much that FOSS is the norm rather than the exception and now we're trying to improve the models we have to support it rather than merely fighting for its right to exist.

> we've changed to Overton window so much that FOSS is the norm rather than the exception

No, the window has been changed so much that open source under weak/permissive licenses is very popular.

Corporations love unpaid labor with no strings attached. They successfully ran FUD campaigns to paint Free Software and reciprocal / cooperative licensing as "ideological" and push it at the edge of the overton window.

Losing trust is a good thing, and the ultimate form of respect. Free software, like science, is based on proof, not on truth.

They didn't killed FLOSS. It is pretty much alive :)

But things are sadly repeating somewhat:

Projects like GNOME lost their company backing (SUN & Nokia) and no laptop major manufacturer started shipping their systems with Linux. FLOSS must be available to be consumed by people and not just for professionals. Until recently, Lenovo and Dell allow at least professionals to buy laptops which run with Linux :)

On the other side information technology capitalism is probably the worst of all. First they lure in people in, then the apply incompatible APIs and force the others in with the group effect. It still works for developers with Cloud APIs an user with Zoom or just simply Apples devices.

I understand that this makes people sad. Signal is now really catching up with WhatsApp. When big IT is providing some new shiny device (well working AR-Glasses or a transplant which replaces your Apple Watch?) the broad majority of people will just by it, even when it uses permanent internet connection to the cloud - instead of working autonomic. On the other hand, using Linux is comfortable and enlightening and I'm happty that some people care about stuff like Signal :)

Dell ships linux machines

> Meanwhile present day Linux desktop is still dead.

Sure, but that's just pointing to one area where Free and Open Source software hasn't taken over the world. It's rather pessimistic to treat this as a sign of FOSS being on the decline.

> Open source maintainers abandoning projects due to lack of time and interest.

Hasn't this always been so? FOSS doesn't offer a guarantee that a package will see continual improvement forever. Unlike closed-source software, it's at least possible to fork.

> They say why not just use GPL but if you license your code using GPL you will not have users.

This might be true for a certain narrow category of server-side software. It hasn't stopped GNU/Linux from taking over the world. It also depends on your goals. The GPL isn't about maximal uptake, it's about preserving software freedom.

> Developers can’t even share the name of the software they are putting your code into because of these NDA they signed.

Unless licence terms are being broken, I don't see a problem here. FOSS licences never give the original author any special right to know how their software is being used by others. Rightly so.

I recall reading of how the FreeBSD guys figured out that Sony were using their code for the PlayStation 3, from the way there were asking technical questions. They found it rather funny, but they didn't really mind. Sony weren't breaking the BSD licence, so it was fine.

> Sometimes it’s just a simple request like attribution and compliance is still uncommon.


> Life as a open source maintainer is sometimes a life threatening endeavor

Anyone with an email address could receive a life-threatening email from some deranged adversary.

> Society, Conglomerates, and Capitalism killed free software and nobody cared. It’s all about 10x ROI and taking advantage of some poor idiot programmer clueless in business.

I'm not seeing anything to back that up.

There are some new concerns in the FOSS world such as cloud providers forking projects and making piles of money selling SaaS while the original project gets nothing. It's not good that MongoDB switched to a licence which is neither an FSF-approved Free Software licence nor an OSI-approved Open Source licence. Still though, there's nothing at the level of an existential threat.

>> "Society, Conglomerates, and Capitalism killed free software and nobody cared"

Hmmm... if it's true, then logically each computer user in ths planet must be a Mac or Windows user (or both).

Which is obviously not true, hmmm?

The author should really take a look at who the biggest contributors in many open source projects are, monetary and code involvement. Just because they don't pick up every small project does not mean that open source does not immensely profited and thrived from capitalism.

In almost all cases, the support of these giant corporations is towards feature-sets that are inherently self-serving. In many cases, they wield too much power and hijack the direction of the opensource projects. For example, there's plenty of optimizations for server-side CPU performance on Linux, often to the detriment of desktop interactive performance (see Con Kolivas' scheduler and his 10+ year long struggle).

> does not mean that open source does not immensely profited and thrived from capitalism

It certainly did not.

>Society, Conglomerates, and Capitalism killed free software and nobody cared.

Imagine what open source software could be like in a society with basic income. Maintainers wouldn't have to split their attention between their open source work and work that actually pays for them to eat.

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