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Letters to the editor should be sent to letters@lwn.net. Preference will be given to letters which are short, to the point, and well written. If you want your email address "anti-spammed" in some way please be sure to let us know. We do not have a policy against anonymous letters, but we will be reluctant to include them.

April 5, 2001

From: "Leather, sean P" <Sean.Leather@MW.Boeing.com>
To: "'letters@lwn.net'" <letters@lwn.net>
Subject: Three years ... and still counting!
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 09:12:00 -0600

Dear LWN,

I was very excited to see your article on Mozilla and how that project has
significantly improved.

In the weeks before this issue, I had researched Bugzilla (Mozilla's
web-based bug-tracking software) for use in a local setting. At first
download, I tested it out and, to my dismay, found an obvious bug.
Disappointed but not without hope (in the open-source philosophy), I logged
into the real Bugzilla to report my first bug.

As I was about to submit my report, a certain florescent light bulb went off
above me (i.e. the lights went out ... several times, but, fortunately, the
electricity stayed on): somebody else may have already sent in such a
report. So I queried. Somebody, actually several people, had already
reported it. Then I searched more and found a long discussion on the best
methods for squashing this particular insect-like problem.

It appeared as if three or four hackers had been submitting patches while
others conjectured about each. After each new patch was submitted, there
were less "I like this, but..." statements made. With this, I could read
through the steps of how a bug was fixed. I thought to myself: this is how
it should be, this is Open Source.

Cheesy though that thought is, my spirits were lifted (no, that does not
mean I was drinking). I realized that open-source software is where all the
action is (meaning inter-action). It also dawned on me that Mozilla has put
together a darn good collection of open-source projects that even facilitate
other open-source projects (Bugzilla, Bonsai, Tinderbox, etc.).

To say the least, I was impressed with not only Mozilla's software, but also
their methodology. Even though their programmers may not write the panacea
of programs or the code that solves every problem the first time (believe
me, I found several other bugs), they resolve their problems with expediency
unfound in most places.

Then I downloaded the latest "unstable" version and returned to my work.
Fortunately, it fixed all the bugs I had found and then some.

On a side note, if a user cannot have this kind of communication and
interaction with a developer, that person (who may see a solution right away
like I did) cannot propose the kind of answer or question that may be
needed. For example, a certain well-known large company that recently
announced the "release" of their source to other certain large companies
will not profit from the true benefits of open-source development.

The moral of the story is: "learn from the best, or die like the rest."

Yours truly,

   Sean Leather                    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
   Cooperative Education Employee  . Sean.P.Leather@Boeing.com .
   Simulation Networking R & D     .                           .
   The Boeing Company              . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
From: Richard Kay <rich@copsewood.net>
Subject: Re: http://www.redpepper.org.uk/x-open-source.html
A World Without Microsoft
To: scott.redding@virgin.net
Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2001 14:49:46 +0100 (BST)

Thanks for this on-line article. Software network economics have more to
do with the "chaordic" form of organisation than anarchism. You will
find some relevant articles about this on http://www.chaordic.org/

While the "chaordic" term was coined relatively recently it covers
structures which are not entirely new. The shape of such an organisation 
is fractal and not heirarchical, where the information needed to replicate 
the entire organisation is present in small parts of it and it exists 
on many levels.  A chaordic entity is capable of refining information. 
Here the chaotic patterns and experiments of creative change are balanced 
against there being just sufficient order to enable the entity to 
function coherently without centralised control, other than through
the shared guiding principles which underpin the existence of the 

This chaordic form of organisation is present in natural languages,
traditional markets, the telephone system and more recently the VISA 
and Internet networks.

In the case of open-source/free software the unifying principle behind this
movement is the benefit gained from the sharing of computer source code.
Does it matter that this benefit is partly moral and political and partly 
practical ?

In your otherwise excellent and balanced article Heather Sharp writes:

"It is the opposition between the pragmatic and the idealistic/libertarian 
rationales which now threatens to split the movement." 

I must disagree, because you might as well talk about splitting
the Internet itself or the telephone network, because not everyone
who uses these things agrees with everyone else. These ideas are 
non-starters and seem based on fundamental misconceptions based on
a complete lack of technical understanding. 

Given that software once made available to the free software/open source
pool cannot be taken out of it, the benefit is greater than the loss if 2 
development groups go off and create competing programs or promotional 
initiatives, as they sometimes do, because no differences of
opinion on technical or ideological issues can prevent the best software
from migrating between these groups unless they deny to themselves the 
evolutionary advantages of wheel-reinvention avoidance and open public review 
and contribution which derives from code sharing in the first place. If 
one part or another of this movement denies to themselves these benefits 
they are no longer part of a movement which derives from no more than 
these benefits in the first place. Consequently a movement based on
this definition cannot be divided QED.  

If the free software/open source movement were a form of organisation which
required heirarchical relationships to function as such and were incapable of 
otherwise effectively coordinating activities led through the contribution
of many centres, organisations and individuals this kind of perspective 
difference might be capable of dividing rather than strengthening our 
movement. But if this were so we would be unable to offer any 
genuinely revolutionary perspective or possibilities in any case.

Richard Kay
Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2001 06:58:11 -0600 (MDT)
From: Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org>
To: rich@copsewood.net
Subject: Re:  http://www.redpepper.org.uk/x-open-source.html
A World Without Microsoft

    In your otherwise excellent and balanced article Heather Sharp writes:

    "It is the opposition between the pragmatic and the idealistic/libertarian 
    rationales which now threatens to split the movement." 

The mistake is in the phrase "threaten to".  This is half wrong, and
half wrong.

Philosophically, the disagreements between views like mine and views
like Eric Raymond are so large that we should not be considered one
movement.  But these disagreements are nothing new--we have disagreed
in this way for 15 years or more.  It is too late for them to
"threaten" to cause a split; whatever splitting they are going to
cause has already happened.

At the same time, we remain one community, still working together much
of the time despite these philosophical disagreements.  I see no sign
that our disagreements threaten the community's overall state of
cooperation.  Of course, it is not perfect cooperation, but perfection
is too much to ask.

I have not seen the article you refer to, and I am not sure where it was
published.  Could you possibly mail me a copy, and perhaps tell me
how to send email to its author?

Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2001 09:18:46 -0400
From: "Eric S. Raymond" <esr@thyrsus.com>
To: Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org>
Subject: Re: http://www.redpepper.org.uk/x-open-source.html
A World Without Microsoft

Richard, I wrote the following in response to the article.  I'm glad we
broadly agree on the extent to which the article exagerrates the divisions.

>Way too much of this article is breathless nonsense, beginning with
>the claim that "the community is cracking along its ideological
>faultlines".  The fatuity of this claim is demonstrated by the fact
>that even the most extreme partisans of both tendencies Ms. Sharp
>describes still share code and use each others' licenses, and show no
>signs that they will ever cease to do so.  
>Throughout the article, Ms. Sharp ascribes to hackers motivations that
>most of us would find either irrelevant or repugnant. Among us, the
>act and the the personal rewards of craftsmanship easily trump
>politics and other toxic social games.  Her proposal that we are "a
>living alternative to the individualism of the average big-buck
>business environment" is particularly ironic, since we generally
>regard ourselves and behave as individualists par excellence, and
>reject the corporate world precisely for its deliberate suppression of
>that quality.  Reflexive leftist cant has blinded her to what is
>actually going on here.
>Ms. Sharp's "there is a strand to the thinking of the more radical
>sections of the Open Source community which could be classed as
>libertarian" is an amusing instance of the same blindness.  One of the
>few points of agreement between libertarians like myself and
>anti-libertarians like Paulina Borsook (the author of "Cyber-Selfish")
>is that libertarian thinking and values are not merely a "strand" but
>all-pervasive in the hacker culture.  The issues hacker activism has
>themed itself on (privacy, free speech rights, access to strong
>cryptography, DeCSS) are libertarian/individualist at their core, and
>our behavior is far more simply explained by reference to libertarian
>ideals of individualism and autonomy than through Ms. Sharp's
>distorting lens of categories like "neo-colonialism".
>Political categories aside, in the last paragraph Ms. Sharp pulls a
>clever bit of ambiguity that confuses a major collision of world-views
>with a minor and relatively superficial factional dispute.  The gulf
>between the proprietary world and the open-source/free-software
>community is vastly more important to all parties involved than the
>relatively insignificant differences between the idealists and
>pragmatists within our community.  Indeed, by exaggerating the
>importance of the latter division, Ms. Sharp plays into the hands of
>Microsoft and the proprietary-softeware behemoths.
>Fortunately, Ms. Sharp's misconceptions matter very little.  However
>much theory and rhetoric may superficially divide the hacker culture,
>practice fundamentally unites us.  We may argue with each other about
>why we do what we do, but we'll keep doing it together nevertheless --
>and that propaganda of the deed, that ongoing and successful co-option
>of the infrastructure of 21st-century society, will be far more
>important in changing the world than any amount of rhetorical vaporing
>by Richard Stallman or myself or anybody else.
		<a href="http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/">Eric S. Raymond</a>

"...The Bill of Rights is a literal and absolute document. The First
Amendment doesn't say you have a right to speak out unless the
government has a 'compelling interest' in censoring the Internet. The
Second Amendment doesn't say you have the right to keep and bear arms
until some madman plants a bomb. The Fourth Amendment doesn't say you
have the right to be secure from search and seizure unless some FBI
agent thinks you fit the profile of a terrorist. The government has no
right to interfere with any of these freedoms under any circumstances."
	-- Harry Browne, 1996 USA presidential candidate, Libertarian Party


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