Today I got a tweet from Mark Fernandez pointing me to the article "The Disappearance of Open Source?" It was mildly depressing. Basically it affirmed a concept set forth in everything from "The Little Red Hen" to "Atlas Shrugged" that says those who can do for themselves and those who can't sit around until its done and then whine about it. I hate saying this, because I am a true believer in the value and concept of open-source, even when it's not free as in free beer. If you haven't read it, perhaps now is a good time for you to read Eric Steven Raymond's "The Cathedral and the Bazaar".
My rant is essentially this: If you are reaping the benefits of open-source software, especially if you are getting it for free then you should be grateful. The world has not always been this way. It is not an entitlement, but a gift from people who are willing to solve their own problems and then make the solution available to you because they think such things should be shared. They don't owe you a gorram thing! (a little Firefly lingo, there... See how I am right now?)
If you can create your own solutions purely with open-source software and don't need any outside help then go for it! Be proud. You are in an elite minority. You are someone with knowledge, drive and determination to pioneer. You deserve every benefit you can gain from that. You are one of the haves.
If you cannot do this because you lack the skills or don't want to take the time and you need someone to fill in those blanks for you then you are one of the have nots. You have a few options:
- Do without. You've lived without it until now, maybe you can get along without it.
- Wait until it's easy. Open-source projects evolve and it's likely that over time the problems you have now will be resolved by others who have stuck with the project during the rougher times and given it some polish.
- Get help from one of the haves. Find someone with the knowledge and experience to carry you through the problem.
If you choose option 3, you should bear in mind that the person helping you is going to need some motivation. That may require some paying. Don't like it then you really ought to go with option 1 and 2. If you act as though you are entitled, if you criticize and complain while demanding help then you really need an attitude adjustment. At first that will be tolerated, but eventually the "haves" will realize that there is no value in what they are doing and that they should focus on solving their own problems rather than yours. Eventually this will leave you only with option 1 - do without.
Open source culture provides a great deal of benefit by removing barriers to people who are willing to work and learn to use technology. It provides an unblockable path for people who are have nots to become haves by putting in the required work to reap the benefits. (Did you read "The Little Red Hen"?) Those who are willing to take that road will find it remains open. The licenses However, you can create a situation where no one will give you a map, nor directions, nor the time of day.
Companies having to de-emphasize their open-source qualities in order to not confuse customers is troubling. If you are one of the ones who makes them feel that's necessary then you need to walk away from open source and go invest in some very expensive solutions. Open source just isn't for you. If you understand the value of Open Source and you know people who seem engaged in this struggle, then please try to help them to appreciate its value.
Right now I'm going to go make a donation to some open-source projects that I used today because they need the love.