20 Mar 2003
(updated 20 Mar 2003 at 23:31 UTC) »
Wow, has it really been that long since I posted? Guess it has...
Life has been through it's usual cycle of ups and down since my last posting, though generally on an upward slant. I'm still developing and writing code though not in as public an arena as I have been for the last few years. My decision to get involved in what is essentially a closed source project will surprise some folks I'm sure so I'll try to outline why :)
Open source projects need only one thing to function well - a large body of interested people actively developing the code. That's the conclusion that I've come to after several years of being involved in various oss projects. The lack of a large body of people working will result in one or two doing the majority of the work, with little or no review of the code and the resulting bugfest will be immense in proportions! Bugs are only one of the problems though. OSS projects by their definition don't tell people what to work on so people scratch their own itch. With alarge body of developers this isn't a problem as invariably there will people scratching all the itches, but as the body of developers shrinks so to does the number of itches being scratched. The recent spate of postings about XF86 seem to echo my feeling quite well.
In the situation where you have a few developers working on a project the other problem that gets generated is all the "hangers on" who feel that they can comment on all aspects of the project. done correctly and in a constructive way this can be very helpful, but more often than not the comments are along the lines of "why don't you do this..." with no suggestions or helpful comments. How often have you been working on a prohject and read such emails? Let's be honest, they're not very helpful or encouraging are they?
The combination of these problems has led me to where I'm currently devoting my time. The source may be closed and the development team is small, but we are following the best OSS principals in how we approach the work - CVS, mailing lists, IRC and peer review of commits.
Don't get me wrong, I think OSS is a great motivator and in many cases produces better software than would otherwise result, but I don't think it's right for all projects. The existance of openly available code is wonderful and empowers much development that wouldn't otherwise be possible.