Saturday, December 5, 2009

The best helmsmen stand on shore

Let me make this perfectly clear: I've been in FOSS for over fifteen years. In 1994 I created my 4tH compiler and released it under an LGPL license. Furthermore, I've provided code, documentation and translations to about a dozen FOSS projects. Whether these are important contributions or projects I leave to you, but I think it has been enough to consider myself to be part of the FOSS community. If you're insulting or simply "criticizing" the community, you're insulting or criticizing me.

Bruce Byfield is a technical writer turned journalist and I have to admit his technical articles are very good. As a matter of fact, every time he publicizes one, I wholeheartedly agree with him. But every time he roams away from that path he achieves nothing, but damage to his credibility as a technical journalist.

What most people are still unable to understand is that the FOSS community is the FOSS community. There is no central body that governs it. You can "criticize" it, but most people can and will simply shrug their shoulders and get on with what they're doing. Every time a wildfire breaks out, fierce comments are written, many blogs get updated and nothing really changes. Few people will start using Emacs instead of vi. Few people will wipe GNOME from their machine and start using KDE. The community is much more than just Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds and Miguel de Icaza. It consists of many thousands of tiny, small, medium, abandoned, forked, major and corporate projects.

Bruce Byfield is completely unaware of this too. In his latest misguided rambling 'Open Source Projects and the Meritocracy Myth' he lists a number of major projects with paid developers. As if meritocracy is and should only be applied there.

First, he obviously doesn't understand the full concept of meritocracy. Meritocracy in FOSS is about merits, not just "who is the best". If a paid developer can spend eight straight hours per day and provides most of the code he will obviously rise in the ranks, a fact that is clearly supported by the findings of the FLOSS polls, that infamous report that everybody likes to quote and nobody obviously read. Furthermore, in our capitalist world those who pay call the shots. The privilege that the community has is that if it doesn't like it, it can fork. Something that Eben Moglen recently confirmed.

Second, reducing the community to a few major projects simply doesn't cut it. Thousands of projects are not depending on paid developers. Are those projects not part of the community? Is there proof that meritocracy doesn't work there? "Yes", Bruce says, "talking about some of the barriers to women's participation in FOSS."

Ok, now it's becoming clear what this is all about: it's the whole feminist thing again! I know this trick, Bruce. As a matter of fact, I applied it as well during the previous discussion we had. Simply attack the fundamentals of an ideology and you're home free. Well, not this time, Bruce. You have to be better than that - and frankly: you're not.

Meritocracy is not the guiding principle of the FOSS ideology. It simply works best for these thousands of unpaid volunteers you're so eager to insult and attack on each and every opportunity you get. Proof? Here you got it. Source? FLOSS polls!

So Bruce, what will be your answer? Whine again that Sam Varghese and me "don't like you"? Like Sam said, we never met! I'm merely criticizing you. But before you criticize the community, note you're not part of it. You never contributed anything to it. It's like we Dutch say: "The best helmsmen stand on shore", meaning that those who have the most criticism on how to do better actually don't have anything to do with it.

We tend to use it in situations where some "advise" can better be ignored. Like yours, Bruce.

Update: Recently Bruce published an article titled "When people say it’s not personal, it usually is" on his private blog. It quickly turned out I was one of the people he meant. He accused me of being "obsessive".

The truth is I commented six times on four of his articles on three different subjects in the span of three years - with a pause of one-and-a-half year. Bruce produced about twenty-five articles on the last half year on Datamation alone. I have published about sixty on this blog in the course of three years.

Consistent disagreement? I don't think so. It is obsession or that you can't stand any criticism, Bruce? When I published these figures on his site, he conveniently closed the comments.. Nuff said.

Update: Obviously, Bruce monitors my blog as well. Shortly after I published this update, Bruce conveniently produced this post. No problem Bruce, after Caitlyn's posts concerning this subject I already had my answer ready. I didn't publish it, because I don't want to stir things up in the community. I feel bloggers have a responsibility as well - and they should be more aware of it.

Since I'm not afraid of a discussion, I also offered Bruce's post to LXer (boy, these guys are good!) and LT. Of course, since I'm unofficially banned from LT, Bruce didn't get any airtime either. <snif>! The snapshots keep piling up, Carla.. Don't say you didn't know.

Update: Although I have left Bruce alone for some time now, he continues to think "people are out to get him". Ok, it can't be me this time. I really had to bite my tongue sometimes, but it worked, I did it. Still, when he published this piece - obviously aimed at his other nemesis, Sam Varghese - couldn't remain silent, so I published this comment at his site. I'm not quite sure it will surface there, but here it is:
Well, when you choose sides (and despite your claims you're always "balanced", you do) you divide the world in two parts: those who agree with you and those who don't.

When you take sides, you're bound to have criticism - which may be on the spot or completely beside the point. Apart from some rational arguments, which is which is up to anybody.

However, those people who criticize you are not out to "get you". If you continue to think that, you're showing signs of paranoia and I advise you to get some professional help.

Making yourself into a "victim" all the time will not get you more sympathy or more people who agree with you - because the issues simply remain.

Stop whining and grow up!

Agree with me or not - that is a choice I leave to you.

Update: My comment didn't surface. Why am I not surprised..


Anonymous said...

As with many of Byfield's articles, this is the work of an apologist. He was responding to this post by Kirrily Robert, the owner of the Geek Feminism blog, where she seeks the redefinition of the word "merit" so that women can be accommodated in FOSS projects.

Byfield identifies himself as a member of the FOSS community. He has also declared himself as a supporter of feminism, even though he claims to be subjected to many vicious personal barbs because of this. What a hero!

Hence, he attempts to have a few bob each way by saying that the open source community (of which I am very definitely not a member - I merely write about it) is some kind of meritocracy _and_ that Robert also has a point. He is always wishy-washy, he never likes to take a stand.

At least Robert is definite in what she says - though she is often a close second to Byfield when it comes to a lack of logic.

As you point out, he flounders like a halibut whenever he tries to wax philosophical. His logic is poor and he wants to please all sides involved. He should stick to the semi-technical articles - and improve his language.

Sam Varghese

Anonymous said...


The problem with Linux is people like you. While I don't agree with Bruce Byfield at all, at least he's providing Linux criticism.

Linux is a joke at this point, and the "community" is to blame. Linux is the worst quality software ever given away for free.

In fact, it's people like you who make it worse, by pretending it's good software or actually improving every year (it's not).

Give a "PHP For Dummies" book to any moron from Europe, and you basically have a Linux "community" member.

My Windows XP "Space Cadet" pinball game wastes any pinball game I've found on Linux, and all the garbage Linux pinball projects.

Fact is, Linux is getting worse every year, not better. I repeat, Linux is getting worse every year, not better.

Anonymous said...

I am a FOSS community member. Because I have "distributed" some of my work under the GPL. Not that there are many who would ever use any of them.

First, a meritocracy is about recognizing merit. This means that you do not have to redefine it to include "minority" groups. If your work is valued, your merits are automatically recognized. If people like your artwork, manuals, PR work, or podcast, your status will rise even among FLOSS coders.

If you want to see why FLOSS is more efficient, read "The Emerging Economic Paradigm of Open Source" by Bruce Perens (

And the Troll above this comment already shows how "on target" your comment is. He went to the trouble of reading a post on a subject he hates and even wrote a comment showing his lack of understanding. Talk about motivation.


nanday said...

I have to say, I've got mixed feelings about having Hans and Sam after me.

On the one hand, I know that, if people like them are attacking me, I must be doing something right. I would be very nervous if either of them started to agree with me.

On the other hand, I wish they would respond to what I said rather than what they imagine I say. But I suppose that would interfer with their efforts at demagoguery.

- Bruce Byfield ("nanday")

Anonymous said...

"Fact is, Linux is getting worse every year, not better. I repeat, Linux is getting worse every year, not better"

Repeating the false statement many times doesn't change the fact that it's false.

Anonymous said...

i put that comment in the wrong place, Hans, apologies. Here should be the comment in response to your comment on Byfield's blog that he refuses to publish.

K. Sutphen
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Links to documented evidence, and links to the perpetrator’s own words admitting his guilt make the impersonal claim quite convincing to me.

You fail to address the issue of inconvenient facts, here, Bruce.

You also fail to ignore that when multiple unrelated people make the same complaints over several years, how can it then be personal? At that point, it is journalism.

Your objectivity is coughing blood, Bruce.

And some of the people you think you know are extremely devious sociopaths. They have fooled smarter people than you.

Anonymous said...

more comments Bryce Byfield will not likely publish on the same thread:

K. Sutphen
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

RMS is being slimed in the same way, by the same person.

This is what makes it news worthy.

Insults only came when you censored the comments, which are all meticulously documented.

Do you not consider it obsessional when one party is drooling over sexual photos he stole of the other party? And when he made a domain to publish them?

You are almost as good at attacking the victim as this perpetrator is, and he has slimed and harassed not only RMS in this manner, but several other people. And it is all well documented.

Comments to an article should never be censored.

The material would have only been presented one time, if you had not deleted it.

You are sinking even lower Bruce. This man’s victims include several women. It is interesting that you champion feminism but consider abuse of women “not important enough” for “any editor” to comment on.

The only obsessional one is the party with the domain, the other parties are victims Bruce. And you indulge in victim bashing like no one I have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Hans, David Lefty Schlesinger aka 'stonemirror' is actually now publishing never public photos of a pornographic nature on a domain he owns and is linked to by WHOIS. This happened as of today.

He is of course, the named party I referred to but was not able to name in the Bruce Byfield blog as Bruce prohibits that and more.

He is attacking RMS with similar tactics, as you well know.

I would like to forward you the documentation on these matters, please email if you are interested in reviewing the recent developments.

The Beez' said...

I have neither the time nor the drive to dive into that hornets nest. If somebody paid me to do it, I'd love to do it, but the fact is I'm not. Lefty already commented on this issue. Try contacting somebody else. Maybe Sam is interested?

Anonymous said...

I perfectly understand your position, Hans. And I respect it. I am consulting with an attorney at this moment over this matter.

The Beez' said...

You last two comments violated the comment guidelines of this blog: ad hominem attacks that cannot be sufficiently substantiated at this moment. Once the case is settled in court, I'd be happy to give you space to go into more detail. Further comments along this line will be rejected as well.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with your judgment of the comments, but I respect your decisions regarding your blog.

Anonymous said...

There are horrible jurisdictional battles involved in a case like this, according to my attorney. It could take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct a DMCA trial across US state lines. The statue of limitations however on "invasion of privacy" and "intentional infliction of emotional distress" are quite generous. So he will in all probability be allowed to abuse to DMCA and claim his fraudulent copyright.

Pavan sharma said...

Should a doctor be allowed to pick and choose his patients, then?”. A lawyer could not be similar to a doctor, since a lawyer may choose who he/she wishes to fight its cases on. When a victim of crime meets with a lawyer and explains he/shes case, the lawyer right than has a choice, in saying he/she is right and his justice when against law. A lawyer even has a choice, by saying i believe he/shes client is injustice to law, and still may fight a case going with the client, saying he/she is serving justice to law. This makes the case gradually harder, so basically lawyers have an opportunity to choose clients.
law directory