Open Source Software Development: No magic bullet

I got about 2000 words into a long diatribe that nobody, not even me, would read.  I boiled it down to this: Since the 1950s, developers have variously, given away, sold, or denied access to the source code for the products. Some gave it away without any consideration about what would be done with it. Others imposed a range of restrictions on how the source code could be used. If the source is not available, or only available at a cost, it is said to be closed, or proprietary software. If it is available at no cost, it is said to be open software. Advocate of open source assert that because it is developed in a different way than proprietary software that it is superior. Among other things, it is said to have fewer bugs, including security holes, then proprietary software.

This claim is admirable in theory. In practice, it turns out to be erroneous. Direct comparisons of proprietary and open software intended to perform the same task, for instance operating systems, routinely shows that there is no noticeable difference. Both turn out to be just as buggy and insecure as the other.

The difference between theory and practice in this case is that the claimed advantages either do not exist, or are balanced by other factors. A stated advantage of open source development is that because the source is inspected by many people, bugs will be found and fixed by developers before they reach users. In practice, few people other than the original developer examine the source code looking for bugs. Even the developers, once they have finished their initial testing, will rarely read the code again, unless they are examining it to find a bug reported by users.

Simply put, the idealized model of open source development proclaimed by its proponents is not the way in which open source is developed. 

The right side of history or “Nazis are evil, m’kay”

Let us be clear up front. American white supremacists are Nazis, in the literal senses, or, to be more precise, the modern US evolution of Nazism.  There is no need to mince words, and even Goodwin has said that calling them what they are is proper and doesn’t invoke Goodwin’s law.

There is real evil in the world, and these people embody it.

“But the left” is the start of a bullshit argument. It doesn’t matter what follows. Your opponent using the same tactics that you do does not make the tactic legitimate. It makes you both wrong. Even worse, the arguments that follow are, themselves, usually bullshit. The left, in the US, even the extremists neither espouses nor practices anything as repugnant as white supremacists do.

The president of the United States is a disgrace and his behavior labels him as one of them.  Anyone who doesn’t condemn them roundly is complicit, even if they profess not to be a supremicist Anyone in power who fails to act to oppose them is complicit.

Not all of us are able to take direct action. This does not excuse inaction. If we take no action at all, then we are complicit. If you can’t act directly, then contribute.

  • Call your representatives and remind them that inactivity is complicity.  Demand that they take action.
  • Donate to organizations that are able to take direct action. If you are uncomfortable with the ACLU, donate to the SPLC. Find local groups that are active and support them.
  • Speak up. Call out your friends and family on their racism. Even if it is uncomfortable for you. If you see such behavior in the workplace inform your manager, and Human Resources department.
  • Speak out. Use social media. Write letters to editors. Call talk radio programs.

Complacency is complicity.

Going on a twitter diet


Yesterday, I was following 205 accounts on twitter. I purged last night. I quit for the evening still following 60.  All of the accounts I followed were worth following. I stopped because, to me, twitter was too time demanding, too depressing, and had become too much of a liberal echo chamber.  Who I followed formed a list unbalanced too far towards the political spectrum.

I didn’t have a precise filter. I went down the list of people I followed. In each case, I made a snap judgement whether to continue. My heuristic was to eliminate anyone I didn’t recognize, anyone I had muted, and most of the accounts that made up my echo chamber.

I tried to retain accounts that tweeted about more than just politics, and seemed to have a reliable expertise in some aspect of current affairs. I tried to limit myself to one account in each area of  political expertise. I automatically kept accounts that were not political and seem interesting. I automatically kept accounts of people I know outside of twitter.

Now I have a relatively balanced feed, with some humor,  some photographs, some technology and some politics. I noticed that some of my interests were not represented in the list.  I am trying to remedy that now, and have already added four more accounts, related to science.

It will be hard to “keep the weight” off.  Now to see how well that works.