Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
You must be a felon, ’cause you done stole my heart.

You must be a felon, ’cause you done stole my heart.

(I was going to send this as email, but when the title occurred to me, how could I resist posting?)

In reference to Dan Williams’ latest post on the latest NetworkManager improvements: I just wanted to let you know this blog post is superb, and you are MY NEW HERO.

Not just because of all the new NetworkManager editing hotness, even thought that’s smoking hot. Not just because of the at-boot goodness of having your networks up earlier, even though that rocks. Not just because of the better VPN support, even though that’s killer too.

No, you are my new hero because you called out the crackrock-in-a-candy-wrapper that subtly undermines the whole FOSS spirit. It has never been a better time for Fedora developers — developers EVERYWHERE in FOSS — to talk about “Upstream!”

The whole point of FOSS, one of the defining features of the global community of developers, is to share code for the purposes of making it better, more elegant, more secure, and more functional. Brittle downstream crack is damaging to the spirit of true FOSS community. Not only does that strategy result in easily broken code, and unreasonably consume resources for maintenance, but it also limits the peer review and criticism on which FOSS thrives. Doing that in service of non-free bits is just the height of ludicrous. Fedora prides itself on the “Upstream!” mantra because that’s how true community building happens.

I spoke to a group of students and FOSS enthusiasts at the University of Maryland LUG last night. Being able to tell stories like this, and talk about what differentiates real community development from nasty used bandaids, is one of the best parts of my job. Thanks for making it that much easier for me.

Oh, and thanks for making NM so freakin’ great. ?


  1. Chris Jones

    I’m not an Ubuntu developer, but I do notice that Planet Ubuntu is always really upbeat and motivating. You seem to want everyone to shout from the hills about how much Ubuntu sucks and I am seeing more and more such posts on the various FOSS Planets. I would like to point out that every project needs lots of different kinds of contribution, some people write code, some docs, some translations. Some people do advocacy and community building and these are where Ubuntu’s strengths lie. Also we have a hell of a lot fewer paid developers than Red Hat. When Canonical has the kind of revenue that RH does, it might be fairer to whine.

    It’s a shame really, we all have much bigger problems to work on than childish fighting. Both sides need to do better, and there are better ways to go about achieving that than this kind of post, I think.

  2. I totally agree that advocacy and community building are vitally important to free and open source software. That’s why I’ve spent the last ten years of my life doing it — whether it’s encouraging users via email, IRC, or in person; speaking to community groups; teaching in classrooms; or writing about FOSS here and elsewhere. And since my background is not in code at all — which anyone who’s ever seen my attempts at programming will confirm 😉 — my investment has been almost entirely in the ideas around it.

    But that code, and the philosophy around the generation and distribution thereof, is the entire point of what we do. A community without purpose is just a cocktail party… or rather, without any drinks being served, it’s just being a crowd. A crowd isn’t necessarily good or bad, it just… is. But our purpose as members of the FOSS community should always be more than mere existence, and rather promoting creation, improvement, and use of FOSS. Without the software, and the concomitant freedoms that produce and nurture it, there’s no point to there being a FOSS community. I think everyone agrees on that, right?

    One of the central tenets of the open source model is strengthening the code through constant review, participation, and contribution by many people. That’s what openness and transparency give us — adaptibility, auditability, and maintainability. The idea of “upstream” is not just a buzzword. It’s about full participation in the ecosystem as a consumer and a contributor, working with developers directly to find the best technical solutions to problems.

    Contributions are what sustain FOSS, and those contributions need to be driven upstream to be relevant over a longer term than a single point-release of software. Participating upstream, and encouraging the growth of projects that do the same, is the best way to ensure the health, vitality, and longevity of FOSS. Making that practice — the foundation of open source development — secondary to accommodating code that doesn’t play well with the rest of the community is an unsustainable model. Practicing a sustainable and healthy model of upstream contribution and participation is something that all members of the FOSS community can and should do, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with money.

  3. Pingback: i, quaid › Fedora at Sun’s Community One event

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