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Open Source

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Open Source2003-11-24 07:57
34 comments
by Flemming Funch

I'm having a little bit of a conflict with myself. See, I believe that the philosophy and practice behind open source software is one of the most powerful and hopeful potentials in the world. Individuals, small teams, large networks doing good things and sharing the results. For a variety of reasons like: it needed to be done; it is fun; other people think you're cool; knowing it is the best way to do things; or just to scratch one's personal itch. The point is that money and greed has relatively little to do with it. But monetary rewards might very well follow from this approach. It all makes sense that the best way of being valuable, and being considered valuable in the world, is to get something useful into as many hands as possible, and making as few barriers as possible to further creativity and improvement.

And, now, one of the roles I've most often played is that of a programmer. I've written a lot of code, a lot of software, some of which has been very useful to others. I've written chat rooms, bulletin boards, calendars, task managers, weblogs, member databases, mailing list managers, website authoring programs, shopping carts, content managers, image manipulation, DNS administration, server monitoring, and probably much more I'm forgetting.

But I've never made a program open source. I.e. I've never created a page that you could download a program from, with installation instructions and documentation. And I've never made any meaningful way for others to contribute to the programs I created. Why not? Well, in part it might be that I still have the remainder of a belief that I somehow would be more likely to be paid if I kept the software close to my chest. Despite that a lot of this was given away freely to use on my server. But, even more, it is probably that I'm a perfectionist and my projects are usually a little too ambitious. Meaning, they were never quite finished to my own satisfaction, so I didn't feel they were ready for prime time. And I had usually made some shortcuts that meant that the programs worked alright when they stayed on my server, and when I could fix any problems that popped up. It takes some additional effort to make software solid and generic enough that somebody can just download it and use it in a somewhat different environment, maybe in ways I hadn't foreseen.

Most successful open source projects start off by doing one relatively limited thing fairly well. They might grow from there, sometimes tremendously, but they usually start by providing a small amount of well-defined functions. I know that very well. But still, I usually end up trying to include everything and the kitchen sink in my plan, so that even if I do something relatively limited, it has hooks into a bigger master plan, which I usually never quite finish. And therefore the individual pieces might not be easy to give away.

I'm considering changing my mind, and picking one of my projects as something I can make limited and solid enough that I can actually export it to other people. Best candidate right now seems to be a program I wrote to easily create databases, which automatically come with online forms submission, admin area, searches, group e-mailing etc. I wrote it first when I noticed that many of the little website database jobs I got were boringly similar. There are some forms on a website people can submit stuff at, and then we keep it in a database, which we need to manage in an admin area, and we might want to send e-mails to people who signed up, etc. That can easily be a few days of work each time. Where really it could be done in 1/2 hour if you didn't have to re-do the same repetitive work.


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34 comments

24 Nov 2003 @ 10:46 by Chris Hagglund @65.95.160.96 : Open Source: Successful Anarchy
The open source movement is one of the most successful anarchies of modern times. There are no clear cut leaders, certainly noone that has any sort of supreme authority. The people who can be considered leaders of the movement are leaders because supporters have rallied around them. Nobody will accept being coerced into doing anything, so any hierarchies in the movement are self imposed and highly flexible. The fact that all the code is free also shows how a gift economy can thrive.

What harm would come to you by releaseing your code into the wild, even if its badly documented and hackish in places? Maybe it will save someone some time, save them from re-inventing the wheel so they can focus more on work that actually benefits humanity ...  



24 Nov 2003 @ 12:14 by ming : Open Source
Yeah, that's the whole point. We don't have to keep reinventing the same wheels. And our collective resources keep growing. Self-organizing anarchy.  


24 Nov 2003 @ 13:59 by vaxen : by...
releasing your code into the wild you also open yourself up to the great benefit of having 'other' minds aid you in your quest to perfection. remember linux? hacking the kernel made the kernel great. it took a lot of 'minds,' (not just linus) to get it to where it is tommorrow! by hoarding your 'stuff' you make the same mistake that others have made and the concequence is sadly too often oblivion. i'd say: " give us your stuff m8!" we can help you get it to where you want it and most open source authors are trustworthy and not plagiarists. thanks for the inspiration flemming.

"Severely limiting assumptions in ordinary general relativity (OGR) are pointed out. In OGR, it is assumed that the local frame is always a Lorentz frame, and never curved. In other words, local spacetime is always assumed to be flat. This saves the conservation laws, simplifies relativity, and reduces "general" relativity to special relativity with distant perturbations and curvatures.

By re moving this ad hoc assumption, a much richer local general relativity results. This local general relativity is readily engineered. Note that, in OGR, the physicist has actually assumed that he can never "engineer" local general relativity! Indeed, with the scalar EM approach, he can easily do so, in contradiction to what is taught in all Western universities.

By engineering a local general relativity (LGR), the individual conservation laws can be violated locally. This includes the conservation of energy/momentum, and the conservation of charge, for example.

The major implication of this startling new engineering physics is that one can engineer physical reality itself. For example, elements can be transmuted with minuscule energy input, free energy devices are possible, action at a distance is possible, communication faster than light speed is possible, etc.

By using the zero-vector approach, the virtual state can be organized and made largely deterministic, rather than statistical. This means that the probabilities of the states propagated forward by the Schroedinger equation can be engineered and changed. Whether or not a certain quantum change shall emerge or not can be determined or substantially influenced in advance. Bohm's hidden variable theory now becomes directly engineerable. This is a drastic change to quantum mechanics and physics in general.

Another implication is that this is the final engineering, for it allows the direct engineering of physical reality itself. Humans must now find a way to resolve their differences peacefully, or shortly Man will destroy himself and his biosphere by his own hand."--Tom Bearden

http://www.cheniere.org/books/ferdelance/index.html  



24 Nov 2003 @ 14:11 by sharie : Thank you for all these words...
I've written 15 screenplays, hundreds of songs, several musicals... usually feeling they're "not ready for prime-time" and hanging onto them so I can edit them and re-work them. I get so much pressure to get into the recording studio, to get on the stage... and to handle the details of daily life... while writing screenplay after screenplay and musical after musical, song after song, and designing architecture, sets, etc., etc.

Juggling lots o' balls, always having yet more balls tossed my way...

hmmmm.... ?  



24 Nov 2003 @ 16:35 by ming : Releasing things
See, I need absolutely no convincing about the wonders of sharing and openness and collaborative intelligence. And it is not really that I'm afraid of people stealing my stuff. I'll pretty happily give everything away I do. My issues are more how to do that in a way that actually is useful and productive, both for me and others. And also finding a rhythm for myself where I work in smaller chunks. I.e. do something useful, get it out to some people who need it, and let go.  


24 Nov 2003 @ 17:42 by Roger Eaton @204.250.12.246 : open source
Good choice of starter project -- is this where you are going to use wxPython? I'm sure you know, there is a way to go open source AND make money. Issue your code under the GPL on the one hand and for those who want the freedom to embed what you have written in a non-open-source project, let them pay for a special licence to do just that. (This is how the {link:http://blog.voiceofhumanity.net/newslog2.php/_v252/__show_article/_a000252-000027.htm|Chandler} project plans to create a revenue stream so it can continue after initial funding from Mitch Kapor runs out.)  


24 Nov 2003 @ 18:03 by ming : wxPython
I was thinking of whether I could make some interface with wxPython where you can drag stuff around into folders, or arranging things in relation to each other in 2D. But, actually, where I might use it first is that for my shopping cart program for a client I need something that can run on a Windows machine to interface with a library from FedEx to print shipping labels. And it is the only thing I could immediately think of that I'd actually enjoy programming a user interface in Windows in.  


25 Nov 2003 @ 22:39 by maxtobin : unbelievable
I had been meaning to send you this link for a while Flemming and so finally got to do it today and here you are with this little gem, so try as a place to begin with some open source activity in python. You would probably enjoy to interact with David just tell him I suggested you connect if you decide it is worthy to follow up. I guess that now not being in the USA you can legally have such a program as his PSST chat which is a great one for the paranormal folks!!! http://www.freenet.org.nz/python/psst/  


26 Nov 2003 @ 05:30 by ming : PSST
Ha, great project. I hope something comes of it. Actually I don't believe it is illegal to use encrypted chat in the U.S. either. But one probably wouldn't introduce it quite like that if one were in the U.S., heheh.  


26 Nov 2003 @ 13:39 by sharie : Sharing a way that's productive & useful

Our content is different, but finding a way to share so that it's productive & useful... this could be the same forum... how about putting your stuff up on a website, and saying, "this is what I've got ... "

I've been creating a power point show choreographed to music and can make that available online... or at least excerpts from it... power point's fun and the impact is great.

How about something like that for the program's you've written, Ming?

Show what you've got to offer and ideas for how it can be utilized.  



26 Nov 2003 @ 15:56 by ming : Sharing
Again, my hesitancy is not particularly about not knowing how to present it. Rather, how to share somewhat unfinished things in a way so that they're useful rather than wasting people's time trying to get it to work if it isn't going to. All source code isn't necessarily useful as open source.

If say, I was working for years on building a flying car, but I hadn't succeeded yet. Quite possibly the plans for some of the parts I had made along the way might be useful to others. But only if they're relatively modular or clever, and only for techies who're playing with engines themselves. And if I made a promotional video about the wonders of the car, I'd probably attract some people that would end being disappointed that the car doesn't fly after they've spent a couple of months trying to assemble the pieces.  



26 Nov 2003 @ 17:28 by lugon @80.58.19.44 : so you think ...
you're not a good programmer?

:-)  



26 Nov 2003 @ 17:58 by ming : Programmer
I think I'm a great programmer. But sometimes overly ambitious  


6 May 2004 @ 09:16 by Seb @198.164.40.31 : Web services
How about offering useful Internet services through XML-RPC interfaces without necessarily exposing the code? If they get popular you can either choose to release the source to relieve the burden on yourself (and some people will have sufficient motive to go through it) or try to make a buck off it.  


6 May 2004 @ 09:48 by ming : Web Services
That's actually a very good suggestion. I somehow have trouble presenting my code in a way that can just be grabbed and used as it is elsewhere. But I could very well make most of it available as web services, where one can grab the functionality one needs, without me figuring out how to support the code and make it run in all sorts of different environments. And, yes, then one could expand from there.  


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I'd base my opinion of a language on the language itself and the attitudes of the people designing the language. (Hence my relative dislike of C++.)OCaml looks like an interesting language, OCaml on LLVM seems like an interesting project — especially if it's easy to interface with code using C linkage, and very amenable to automatic paorllelizatian.  


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