Re: [dev] Open Source DIY ethics

From: Martin Tournoij <>
Date: Thu, 27 Dec 2018 00:14:54 +1300

Thanks all. Hope you all had a nice Christmas :-) Let me reply to all
the great feedback in a single email:

On Sat, Dec 22, 2018, at 23:26, Jan Bessai wrote:
> You might add that keeping things small is crucial for the described way
> of operating. Otherwise things are impossible to understand for casual
> contributors. Suckless embodies this as a core value. In your analogy
> you can DIY fix bicycles, but DIY fixing airbags in cars is probably a
> bad idea (unless you are resourceful enough to do crash tests). With
> software, browser engines are a good example: surf currently uses
> Webkit, because writing browser engines is inherently complicated.

It's a good point, but I think the vast majority of projects are already
small. A lot of the code developers deal with are libraries (or npm
packages, Ruby gems, etc.) which are usually quite small and focused by
nature (exceptions such as Boost apply).

Even more user-oriented software software is usually fairly focused. Not
as small as suckless, but still small enough for an average developer to
understand if they spend a little bit of time on it (even large projects
such as GNOME are modular enough to understand).

Software such as browser engines is comparatively rare, and even in
those cases you can contribute (although I'm not sure how useful that is
in the cases of WebKit and Blink, as they seem to internal Apple/Google
projects with "source provided" and little community input).

Exceptions to this are projects that are simply badly designed, and hard
to figure out even for experts. systemd and Docker are known examples of

On Sun, Dec 23, 2018, at 03:53, kdsch wrote:
> I remember reporting a bug to the Upspin mailing list. I wasn't expected
> to fix it; the team reacted quickly and was prepared to take advantage
> of my observations. This is atypical, and I'm not sure how to explain
> it. Could it be significant that Upspin's core group, many of whom are
> long-time colleagues of Rob Pike, has a lot of joint experience? Or that
> they're mostly Google employees?

When I wrote:

> Open source software isn’t a service I provide to the world; it’s
> something I DIY’d myself and make available to the world so everyone
> can benefit and work on it with me.

Then I was talking about *me*. I think there are many people with a
similar attitude (many reading this for starters), but it's not
everyone's attitude. Well-known examples would be Firefox or the GNU
project; they both exist to make – in their view – the world a "better

I'm not really familiar with Upspin, so I can't tell you too much about

> A guess: the DIY ethic is an indication of how much resources are
> available.

Yeah, probably. If only because larger projects have different kinds of
people with different motivations participating.

On Sun, Dec 23, 2018, at 18:11, Thomas Levine wrote:
> I am mostly interested in software that works as I want it to.
> Consequently, I pretty much require that the software be freely
> licensed, that the source code be short, and that the software be
> developed by volunteers. The terms "free software" and "open source"
> describe only the first of these points; they may suggest DIY, as they
> originate from hacker groups, but they technically only describe
> particular legal mechanisms that happen to be useful in the context of
> DIY software. Furthermore, elegant software is often easy to
> reverse-engineer based on the documentation and interface, so the free
> licensing of the source code is not necessarily important.
> I imagine that "DIY" will lose meaning as companies market proprietary
> products (perhaps internet of things) as DIY, but, for the moment,
> I think "DIY" suggests that people are encouraged to learn, run, and
> modify the software to suit their own wishes.

"DIY software" is probably a much better term than "open source
software". Or rather, a more specific subset of open source. Other
subsets might be "free software", "source provided", and perhaps some

I don't know why I didn't think of this before. I think I will modify my
article when I have some time to emphasise this neologism. Thanks!

On Sun, Dec 23, 2018, at 20:00, Alessandro Pistocchi wrote:
> On the other hand, regarding features and bugs, people sometimes don’t
> know and they often tend to assume you are a large and evil corporation
> with a lot of resources available.
> It happened to me with a small video game I have out there for free.

Why would it matter if it had a "large and evil corporation with a lot
of resources available"? You wouldn't go around asking rich people for
free stuff, or jobless people to clean your house?

> I think that people need to be told ( politely ) that they are dealing
> with a single individual doing it for free in his free time.
> Then they end up being more understanding.

Yeah, part of the reason I wrote this is so that I have a "standard
article" to link to.

Thanks again all!
Received on Wed Dec 26 2018 - 12:14:54 CET

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