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Talk:Open source

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I'm not real happy with how this is coming out...[edit]

Okay, I started writing this section, but it wound up rambling this far without ever really quite getting to the point. Anyone want to take a stab at this? EVDebs (talk) 23:46, 30 September 2012 (UTC)

The panacea problem (or, confusing culture and principles for fun and nonprofit) (DRAFT)[edit]

Open source software certainly has a lot of advantages. Any open source codebase is potentially a wide-open toolkit for anyone who needs to solve an already-solved problem, and like the scientific publishing process, serves to allow users to review the code they're using (assuming, of course, they have the expertise to do so). However, that such things will actually happen is a huge if; It's fair to say that although open source is a feature like any other bullet point on the box, but it's not something the average user necessarily cares about or understands beyond "woo, free software that I don't have to pirate".

Quite some time ago (not long after Eric S. Raymond had settled into the abyss of abject batshittery), software pundit Joel Spolsky wrote [1] discussing the difference between Windows/Mac culture and Unix culture. In it, Spolsky discusses several important matters that still cloud the open source movement, a big part of it being its origins in Unix culture and its devotion to "separation of policy and mechanism". This curious phrase is one of the cornerstones of Unix development, and by extension open source culture; what it essentially means is that there should be a solid distinction between the interface of a program and the mechanisms that the interface controls. In practice, this means... well, consider how your scanner operates. On Windows and Mac, traditionally there's a scanner architecture called TWAIN, where a program called the TWAIN driver, which popped up a box to control the scan process. By the Unix way of doing things, this is stupid; by having the driver handle the interface issues, there's no way to automate an image scan. As a result, the open source community created the snarkily named SANE[2], which provides a backend driver and leaves the user interface to the application doing the scanning. As a unifying principle of software development, separation of mechanism and policy is a pretty good idea. However, this isn't something that is visible to the average user; the closest most users are ever going to get to using these features is running scripts and addons that other people have written. When arguments over these issues leak out into the larger open source culture, it turns outsiders off; the profusion of desktop environments and interface toolkits are attractive to developers, but annoying to users who just want to use the software without a lot of hassle. [3] This is where the cultural issues just go to hell.

The free/open source community seems to have a messiah complex, led most obviously by Richard Stallman; this is currently most obvious in the firebreathing hatred a certain subset of Android fans have for Mac and iOS and their users, a degree of obsessed rage that not even most Mac users during the dark ages of the 90s had for Microsoft. In practice, this doesn't apply to the bulk of Android fans, most of whom just like their phones and aren't looking to make a statement; therein lies the problem.

An open source project is just as much a product as any other piece of software. A lot of advocates forget this.


  1. an article
  2. Scanner Access Now Easy,
  3. It has been noted that the developers of Ubuntu and Android put their own brands first, not Linux, based on the perception that "Linux" means complexity.

The real question[edit]

The thing I find myself asking myself, after reading this fairly uninformative article, is what place it has on RW, other than that RW runs on open source software (which isn't even mentioned)? Seems like crap to me. ħumanUser talk:Human 09:03, 19 September 2013 (UTC)

It's one of those things that should be covered like organic agriculture, inasmuch as it's a good thing, but it's not the panacea some of its fanatical supporters think it is. EVDebs (talk) 17:38, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
I'm not sure that we need all this enormous article either. What is it debunking? And if it debunking something why is that information not up front and central?--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 11:31, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
It's not exactly debunking, just putting it into perspective. The open source movement has messianic tendencies that cause its members to overstate its (already considerable) importance, so this article covers some of its limitations and alternate perspectives. It's also relevant as background for some articles. EVDebs (talk) 17:33, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
Well, personally I'm glad this stuff is here in some form. It's not like you can find this on Wikipedia without a good deal of searching and interpreting and it's kind of a big deal in the software development world, so that's something to consider. Nullahnung (talk) 19:27, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
It seems weird to me that something as obviously on-mission as Fun:Maratreanism should be first deleted before being reprieved to fun while we have such obviously tangential stuff as this.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 19:41, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
Open source IP is like organic agriculture. They have their pluses and minuses; on balance, both are more good than bad, but both are both oversold and unnecessarily ridiculed in different quarters. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks analyzing subjects like that in depth is a good idea here. EVDebs (talk) 22:39, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
Everybody oversells everything they support, its part of supporting something. Why is that justification for an article?--Mikal | lakiM 23:03, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
The one word smartass answer: Fandroids. But I think any ideology or movement of this sort can use an article, simply because of the overselling. It's actually healthy to attack your own closely held beliefs, you know. EVDebs (talk) 23:24, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
(EC)My 2 cents... 1. What is it? 2. What it isn't. 3. What do people who believe in it claim it is? 4. Why those people a wrong. 5. Sprinkle with snark. Now it's just my opinion, but that pretty much sums up what makes a good RW article. Does this article posses those qualities? It could, with some work, but doesn't in it's present form. --Inquisitor (talk) 23:28, 25 September 2013 (UTC)

Okay, someone convince me this isn't "ZOMG HE HATES OPEN SOURCE!!!1!!ONE!!!" Seriously, though. Just because something isn't woo doesn't mean it's not something that bears closer examination. In this case, the target is the FOSS fundamentalists and the people (admittedly mostly astroturfers) who oppose it. I think anything that needs to be put into proper perspective is on-mission here, especially when it purports to have some utopian end in mind. In addition, the internal disputes alone could take a whole book to analyze in detail. EVDebs (talk) 00:51, 26 September 2013 (UTC)

Again, if the justification is "people who like it, some of them REALLY like it and oversell its benefits and downplay its negatives" then we need to make articles on everything conceivable. as for "well we could write a book on this topic" great, go to wikipedia thats what it wants to do. --Mikal | lakiM 02:19, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
The open source community is sufficiently influential that it bears discussion. I'm not exactly sure where I'd put the threshhold, but FOSS would be well above it. My question to you is this: putting aside the content of the article, what exactly is it about the article's existence that bothers you, and what does it hurt that it's here? EVDebs (talk) 03:09, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
Obviously ignore Mikal. I know very little about open source, so I read the article. Well I tried, to be honest it's just a little boring; or perhaps I am not sufficiently interested to find it interesting. To be hooked I think I need someone to be wrong in the first few paragraphs - then a detailed breakdown of why they are wrong. Find some die hard enthusiasts who have said stupid things (eg. failed predictions) and pop them in at the start. Then move onto the subtle stuff. Tielec01 (talk) 03:31, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
That makes sense. Might take a bit to reorganize it that way. EVDebs (talk) 03:37, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
It would be even better if it fit one of the mission objectives and - if it can be shoehorned into meeting one - then that should represent the main thrust of the article. Whichever mission objective you go for should be the point of the article. As we all know they are: Analyzing and refuting pseudoscience and the anti-science movement. Documenting the full range of crank ideas. Explorations of authoritarianism and fundamentalism. Analysis and criticism of how these subjects are handled in the media. --Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 06:29, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
Yup, still nothing here. What a boring article, with no apparent connection to the mission. ħumanUser talk:Human 06:50, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
This article functions better as an essay than anything else. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 06:57, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
I disagree that this doesn't have anything to do with the mission- oodles of non-critical fundamentalist thinking can be found in both the proprietary software and free software realms. This is a topic that RationalWiki should explore further. I would be particularly interested in seeing a section discussing other aspects of the sociology of open source, such as the notion that free software projects function as meritocracies (they don't; you need to grow up with substantial privilege to be exposed to all of the tools to succeed in the FOSS world). I agree that the organization could be better. Jaipel (talk) 13:25, 24 May 2014 (UTC)

I would say keep, but re-write. OR merge with an article focusing on the debate around IP and the internet. Lot of controversy/propaganda around piracy (RIAA/MPAA), and laws are being written/enacted which are mostly written by industry and shoved through gov bodies. Open source could be a section in an article focusing on the bullshit surrounding the war on piracy. ROPChain (talk) 22:15, 30 May 2014 (UTC)