cross-posted from: https://beehaw.org/post/113520

Some quotes

Twenty years ago, the phrase ‘open source’ had a definite meaning in computing which is quite different from the sense it has now…

Why is Free Software so Bad in Quality?

Most free software is poor or unusable. This is heavily disguised because protagonists like to use the isolated points fallacy to sell the idea FOSS is great.

…if you’re lucky enough to attract such a team you need to keep them together. And for that you need capital and that is exactly where FOSS falls down. This is the main reason why so much FOSS is of poor quality.1

FOSS was Built Out of Corporation and Tax Money

Open Office was derived from Star Office which was the product of StarDivision and Sun Microsystems. It was not put together by a hacker living in his mom’s spare bedroom…

Emacs was supported financially by people working at the MIT AI Lab, which means that it was funded by Uncle Sam…

Linux is…mostly a copy of Unix, despite howls to the contrary it is deeply unoriginal, being based on ideas going back to the time of the Vietnam War. These ideas were in turn evolved within Bell Labs by its creators who were also well-paid professionals. Linus Torvalds really copied an idea whose basis had been funded by university and corporation money and without that basis there would have been no Linux.

Free Open Source is not often Innovative

…lot of FOSS is poorly written reverse-engineered copies of existing commercial software. Innovation is hard; it requires time and brains. Reverse engineering is a powerful disincentive to innovation since anybody who does spend R&D capital in innovation, can have their ideas reverse engineered.

@rysiek@szmer.info
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105 hilabete

What kind of bullshit is this. I don’t even know where to start unpacking this. 🤦‍♀️

@hfkldjbuq@beehaw.org
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-65 hilabete

You gotta start somewhere otherwise you never start anywhere

@rysiek@szmer.info
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65 hilabete

Sure. Let’s start here:

  1. The author conflates the terms “free software” and “open source software”. These are similar, but different, and that difference is important. Importantly, there is no such thing as “Free Open Source”.

One can use the term “FLOSS” (“Free/Libre/Open Source Souftware”, the term I personally prefer) or “FOSS” (“Free and Open Source Souftware”), and the author does it every now and then, but it needs to be done thoughtfully.

It’s like using “busses”, “trams”, “bus-trams”, and “public transport” interchangeably. This alone shows that the author has no clue what they’re writing about.

  1. “Most free software is poor or unusable. This is heavily disguised because protagonists like to use the isolated points fallacy to sell the idea FOSS is great.”
  • how did the author measure this?
  • what does “poor quality” even mean, exactly? “I don’t like it”? “It’s hard to use”? “It’s not effective in what it does”? these are different things…
  • if it’s so crap, why is FLOSS the back-bone of everything Big Tech is doing (for better or worse)?

If you doubt that second part, just look at the absolute clusterfsck that Log4shell was, and how it affected every single Big Tech company (proving they use the FLOSS Log4j software package).

  1. “FOSS was Built Out of Corporation and Tax Money”

Plenty of FLOSS projects are supported by donations (in time, and in money). Some are supported by grants. Some are supported by corporate sponsors.

What is the point there? Can FLOSS developers not be allowed to earn a living developing their freely-shared software?

Also, in the previous point the author notes:

if you’re lucky enough to attract such a team you need to keep them together. And for that you need capital and that is exactly where FOSS falls down.

How can you get that “capital” if you don’t accept donations and don’t apply for grants?


There’s plenty of problems with FLOSS (including how toxic corporate sponsorship can be), but this person has no clue what they’re talking about. Low quality hot takes by someone with zero understanding of FLOSS.

@hfkldjbuq@beehaw.org
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5 hilabete

The author conflates the terms “free software” and “open source software”. These are similar, but different, and that difference is important. Importantly, there is no such thing as “Free Open Source”.

Could you please quote the author in that? Because I do not think Mark Tarver conflates them. The author begins by contextualizing the shift in meaning of the term “open source”, also explicitly states the meaning in text of “free open source software”

In what follows I will use the word FOSS meaning ‘free open source software’ to conform to what the OSI call ‘open source’, reserving the term ‘open source’ or ‘readable source’ in it’s original meaning.

then even mentions the term free

Stallman’s ‘free as in speech’ vs ‘free as in beer’…

In point 2, the author did not actually measure it other than having an opinion. But historically many free software (or most software in general) has bad usability: GIMP (try drawing a circle or adding text), KDE apps and Element matrix (convoluted interface with so many buttons), Emacs (its proposition is different, but still the oldest example of a hard to use free software). IMO mostly GNOME apps are easier, more intuitive to use in general, but in many ways it is a clone of MacOS. Bad UX/UI is because historically there are only constructors (aka programmers) doing the job, so they do not mind designing, iterating, assessing the UX/UI first, also taking into account accessibility, etc.

if it’s so crap, why is FLOSS the back-bone of everything Big Tech is doing (for better or worse)?

Plenty of FLOSS projects are supported by donations (in time, and in money). Some are supported by grants. Some are supported by corporate sponsors. What is the point there? Can FLOSS developers not be allowed to earn a living developing their freely-shared software?

That is the exact point. That generally relying on donations (as many free software do) is not a sustainable model, or at least a great risk as exemplified with OpenBSD and OpenSSL. That is, for developing good quality, software that is continuously maintained, developers need to be financed by companies or a commercial ecosystem (https://www.gwern.net/Complement) so they can have decent living instead of doing impossible volunteer work forever or just stop maintaining the project entirely.

Many (probably most) companies just will not donate or contribute code back to free software they use. They just want to profit the max they can. do read

Lvxferre
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35 hilabete

you never start anywhere

A good start would be Brandolini’s principle of bullshit, stating that “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than to produce it.”

@hfkldjbuq@beehaw.org
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5 hilabete

That does not add useful info to the discussion, quite the contrary. I prefer having insightful discussion when people have different views so that maybe we can learn some pertinent info instead.

Lvxferre
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35 hilabete

It does add meaningful info to the discussion: it shows why people would be less-than-eager to reply to a post to contradict it. It also shows that good faith discussion, trying to achieve a consensus (or at the very least better understanding) should start with simple and basal claims, otherwise the other side will not answer.

Now analyse your own post, and notice how many claims you did to chain your argumentation:

  1. That the meaning of “open source” has changed over time; did it?
  2. That “most free software is poor or unusable”; is it?
  3. That “protagonists like to use isolated points fallacy to sell the idea that FOSS is great”; do they?
  4. Who are even the “protagonists” in #3?
  5. Taking #2 as true (something that plenty people here won’t), the alleged poor quality is due to lack of capital. Is it?
  6. Are the examples mentioned (OO, Emacs, Linux) representative?
  7. Is free open source “not often innovative”?
  8. How those attributes compare with commercial software?

You’re also making a definition mess, for example at the end you’re contrasting “open source” with “commercial”, even if both attributes are orthogonal to each other. (i.e. you can have non-commercial closed source, and commercial open source). There’s also the issue with “free-as-free-speech software” and “open source” being conflated together.

I won’t bother defending free and open source here because, frankly, I’m more of a lurker than a debater, but this is not the way to introduce a discussion.

@hfkldjbuq@beehaw.org
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15 hilabete

Just in case, I did not write that piece. I just found it interesing so I shared it. It is interesting you point those out, but I cannot do anything about the way it was wrote; still I find many of the arguments to be relevant.

So all I wanted were strong counterarguments, but nobody was able to provide such.

Also on your points, it seems to me the author assumed some knowledge from the reader; indeed should have provided more references. For example for the 2 first points

  1. https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html
  2. https://doi.org/10.5755/J01.ITC.35.3.11776
Lvxferre
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5 hilabete

Then my bad on claiming that those were “your” claims, what I said should apply to the original author.

My point still stands though. Those questions are still better addressed individually; for example, gathering some data on software quality and contrasting open and closed source, including the reference that you linked in #2. Then I bet that you’ll get better arguments, as the matter is more approachable for discussion.

🪝🐟️ I smell bait 🪝🐟️

Mr. Upsy
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25 hilabete

This is particularly rancid bait.

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