Opensource Paradox

30 June, 2005 at 10:36 2 comments

I’ve had a nagging doubt for long and thought that I’d clarify it here. Please pardon my stupidity. This is inspired by recent posts of people talking about going proprietery, seeking donations, providing support etc.

The underlying principle of opensource is that the source is open for anyone to view and if they do (and understand it), build on top of it to achieve some new functionality. Or even tweak the source to do something they want. Joined-up thinking so to speak.
But then why do we see so much duplication in the opensource community? If one goes to Freshmeat or Sourceforge, some of the projects are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Even Linux. What the hell with all these distros? No wonder certain companies can release a minor upgrade to their OS and make a hullabuloo of it.
An outsider to all this would say that OSS presently is like an archive of individual studentish projects, ones where people are trying to outsmart each other (my-project-is-cooler-than-yours syndrome) which are fun to play with but not to be taken seriously. All this when we put inordinate amounts of time to do something out of a purely philanthropic motive.

It seems paradoxical that in companies we are bound to use the API’s of closed source products (like Google Desktop Search) but in OSS we just diregard the source. What is the whole point of releasing the source when people are just going to copy-paste some of the nicer parts and not aggregate? Some of my code has been used in some other projects and there is no attribution or respect of licenses either. Not that I mind but if someone was using the code (friendly or otherwise), it would have made sense to give me a buzz to see if I was already doing something similar to theirs rather than proceed individually. For all the talk, what we have here is the provebial failure of communication and camaraderie. Each to his/her own and in the end not achieving what a million brains out there could potentially achieve.

Is the fault within? Instead of fixing things, we try to create things and re-invent all over again. I think we have to set our priroties right. Is OSS supposed to be an alternative for proprietery software that our Moms could use (and call some help-desk if they run into problems) or should it be a bunch of software thrown in for the heck of it because no one would buy our code anyway? The longer I have seen things, my conclusions are leaning towards the latter.
Could someone please thrash me on this. I need to get things straightened before I release my research project as opensource.

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Entry filed under: Life-Theories, Research.

Amnesty International – People Quotes Google Personalized Search

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. John Jimmy Dondapati  |  1 July, 2005 at 12:07

    Hey srikanth,

    Like the blog. Keep up the good work. Wanna see more discussion on opensource n techy stuff…

    Not that i dont like other stuff…..But just a suggestion

    Like

    Reply
  • 2. S 'naani' J  |  1 July, 2005 at 14:00

    Thanks John. If you have never observed it before, the “commenting” system in Blogger sucks. You have to click two times to get to comment (and even to watch it). Someone should fix this but no, they are all busy doing their own version of Blogger which has good commenting but sucks because it does not provide blogging-by-email.
    That is the state of OSS. Nothing works for simple guys like me who have to dish out money for simple functionality in one single product.

    Like

    Reply

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