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    It doesn’t feel like a solid line of thinking.

    From his conclusion:

    • “I can’t get a job” - Apparently because all software companies are evil. Except not all of them are. And there are plenty nonprofits out there that are really trying to help people. He’ll just have to take a small paycut.

    • “I can’t make money from writing Open Source software” - Sure, it’s harder, but not impossible. Also, that’s not really the point of OSS.

    • “Open Source software I do write could end up harming more users than it helps.” - Yes, software can be used for bad purposes. So can hammers. Is it unethical to create hammers?

    There are real issues with open-source, that can be seen in some of the examples he gives, but he doesn’t address them in any meaningful way. Sorry if I’m being insensitive, but it sounds more like whining than philosophy to me.

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      Nothing on the site feels like a solid line of thinking to me. The author believes and argues, at length, for things that are demonstrably false. For example, they think that vaccines are more dangerous than COVID-19.

      But I think you’re over-reading the piece. There’s an implied “For Me” in the question the title asks. Clearly this individual can’t get a job working on FOSS, they can’t otherwise make money from it, and they fear that it harms users in some way more than it helps them. If they’ve done that math, it obviously isn’t worth working on it for them.

      I don’t think it’s generally applicable either, and I think your analysis of it is correct in that context. But I’m not sure that argument was being made.

      1. [Comment removed by moderator pushcx: Covid vaccination is off-topic.]

        1. [Comment removed by moderator pushcx: Covid vaccination is off-topic.]

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            weeeelll, there is more history here around ‘opinion’ pieces by the person, e.g. these and the surrounding discussion:

            1. [Comment removed by author]

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                Author here.

                I did not post that here; someone else did. In fact, I didn’t even have an account and was told by someone else that it had been posted here. I had to scramble to get an account to defend myself from people attacking the messenger, just like they seem to be here.

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            “Releasing open source software under capitalism just leads to exploitation. But releasing closed source software under capitalism is even worse! I guess there just isn’t any good solution here.”

            Maybe the problem isn’t the software, my dude.

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              Author here.

              It doesn’t feel like a solid line of thinking.

              I fully admit it’s not; this is a post where I put feelings in more than anything else. I feel discouraged because I always believed that I could make a good difference in the world with FOSS. That belief has been recently challenged, and I’m feeling a little lost as a result.

              From his conclusion:

              Perhaps I should not have mentioned any of that, but the real point of mentioning them was to say that I had to leave the software industry earlier, but not software. Now, it feels like I have to leave software itself.

              Yes, software can be used for bad purposes. So can hammers. Is it unethical to create hammers?

              No, it’s not, and I guess I did not articulate well. What I was trying to say is that, even though I try to write my code as ethically as possible, it would still do more harm to users. I think software is different from hammers in that the harm that can be done by them scales far faster than the harm that can be done by things like hammers.

              For example, a hammer can be wielded for harm, but it can only harm as many people as the bad guy can personally reach. But software can be taken by a global company and harm billions in the process.

              And that’s not even to say that create software is unethical; I don’t think it would be unethical for me to make Rig and to make it Open Source because I would try to do everything I can to make it helpful while preventing harm.

              It just feels like the harm scales so much that no matter the ethics, it could end up accomplishing the opposite of what I want.

              There are real issues with open-source, that can be seen in some of the examples he gives, but he doesn’t address them in any meaningful way.

              I admit in the post that I don’t have answers. Instead the real point of the post was the last line inviting people to contact me with their thoughts.

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                Merry Christmas, Gavin. This problem is solved. It will be rolled out after the New Year. Up to individual maintainers to adopt it. I can let you know when it drops in case you miss it.

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                  I presume you mean the problem of scalable harm? Your post is really cryptic.

                  Regardless, I’m intrigued, so yes, please let me know when it drops.

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              A company “bought” Audacity and added spyware. The same company also did it to MuseScore.

              You know, it really was and still is a stretch to describe basic, opt-in telemetry as spyware just because they made the unfortunate decision to use Google Analytics as a backend.

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                Also, from what I heard they are doing decent work, actually paying maintainers to work on the software. You know, the exact thing that OP is complaining about not happening.

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                  please explain how Google Analytics isn’t spyware? it is software that monitors user behavior and reports it to a 3rd party, all typically without user consent.

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                    Audacity/GA would be spyware if it was monitoring usage of other things the user was doing on their computer. Using the term to describe the app recording usage of itself is hyperbole.

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                      If my business was audio engineering, having a tool that started reported on my usage of it would be problematic. I would immediately start looking for alternatives. Why should I have to look through the code to find out exactly what it’s logging? File names? My use of licensed plugins? The inference that the lead singer needs pitch correction on every single track, or that we brought in a pro “backup” singer who is actually 85% of the lead on the final mix?

                      When I am editing my family’s amateur instrumental work, I think I can reasonably feel equally peeved at having my sound editor report back to base.

                      Calling it spyware is not necessarily hyperbole.

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                        Fortunately the scenario you described doesn’t exist since the telemetry is opt-in.

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                      all typically without user consent

                      Except here it is opt-in, as pekkavaa said.

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                        thanks, i missed that.

                        I was curious what kind of consent was involved, and honestly it’s better than I expected. Based on the issue linked in the OP it seems Audacity now displays a dialog asking users to help “improve audacity” by allowing them to collect “anonymous” usage data. They don’t seem to mention that it also reports this to Google.

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                        Counting how many people clicked the big red button and bought products, or how many users have a 4K monitor, or how fast the page loads technically involves monitoring.. but it’s not really the same as what you would typically imagine when you hear the word “spying” is it?

                        It’s rather silly to equate performance metrics, usability studies and marketing analytics to a secret agent carefully reading all your messages.

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                      I don’t blame the log4j developers for letting a bug occur in their software, even one with serious consequences. To the extent that I blame anyone, I blame the Java ecosystem as a whole - it’s too difficult for a software developer to quickly swap out a library with a bug in it used by anything in their project’s dependency tree, Java doesn’t provide good enough tools to ensure that no unwanted network access can occur at a given callsite or for guaranteeing that state can’t leak into log messages in the way that the library was specifically designed to permit. Certainly I don’t think that the fact that a particular open-source project had a bug in it (that is now fixed) means that the entire project of free software is worthless.

                      None of the rest of the phenomena cited seem to have anything to do with free software (or ethical/practical cases for free software) specifically. TikTok violated a free software license because they could get away with it, just as many Chinese companies do with non-Chinese IP that isn’t free software (and just as many non-Chinese companies do when they feel they can get away with it). The GPL that OBS is licensed under is ultimately a hack of the (American) IP law system created by people who dislike intellectual property in general; and it doesn’t necessarily work in a legal environment where no one can be sure that their IP claims will be enforced in a given jurisdiction. In any case, there are free software licenses that explicitly allow TikTok to use code in the way they did (such as the MIT license), on the grounds that the user freedoms that are worth protecting apply even when the user is a Chinese corporate entity selling a commercial product.

                      Ads in paid products are an argument for FOSS software - because that’s the sort of software that lets the end user remove the ads, or lets someone fork and distribute a version without them. Subscription models are a way of getting around actually distributing software at all, and I agree that this is in general a bad trend - but refusing to write FOSS software doesn’t make subscription services go away.

                      In other words, what’s to stop companies from using an Open Source Rig to harm users more than it would help?

                      Nothing, and this is a good thing. It’s a good thing specifically because the question of what constitutes “harm” is political, and I don’t trust random software project maintainers to have the same politics as I do. If it’s possible for the maintainer of a software project to decide that certain ways that an end user might use their software are harmful and legally or technically prevent this, then I myself I won’t consider that software to be actually free and I’ll try to avoid using it myself (I do not zealously refuse to use non-free software in all cases, but I prefer to use it where possible).

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                        I feel kinda bad about how far my angry rant about the state of the industry has gone and how many people it has touched. I’m sorry if my angry nihilistic feelings influenced this line of thinking at all. I don’t know what to do about it.

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                          Oh, no, you didn’t make me feel this way.

                          Behind the scenes, what really happened is that your article (among others) woke me up to what companies actually do. I asked my wife, and it turns out that she had been trying to get me to understand this for years; my idealism had just been blinding me to it. It was talking to my wife that actually brought the discouragement, though you could say it was really ignorance that caused it by blinding me to reality until reality slapped me.

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                            And yet, you have not really harmed people. Without giving a parade of horribles, I think that you already know about the crimes and harms being perpetuated by our industry, and writing an angry rant does not stack up to what any such paradegoer has done.

                            It is typical and understandable that reading or writing about history, including the history of our field, is uncomfortable and produces negative feelings. But you must remember that the endless positivity of our society serves to shame historians for their honesty without fixing the problems of the past.

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                            Yes. It’s not worth working on open source without compensation, but Free Software is still worthwhile.

                            I notice that you did not mention AGPL or other licenses which are known to repel corporations; why not?

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                              Author here.

                              I notice that you did not mention AGPL or other licenses which are known to repel corporations; why not?

                              GitHub Copilot. If it weren’t for that, I’d license my current code under AGPL and relicense later after getting my licenses reviewed by a lawyer.

                              Good question; sorry for not making it clear.

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                                Minor tip: your reply name is in blue if you authored the piece, so you don’t need to worry about telling people you’re the author.

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                                  That’s a nice feature.

                                  Thank you for telling me, and sorry about that.

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                                    No need to apologize! I’m letting you know so you don’t have to worry about letting people know ☺️

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                              Since companies steal Open Source software without a care in the world, what’s to stop companies from stealing Rig and embedding it into their proprietary software?

                              Nothing. Nothing has ever been able to prevent this. Even if you used a nonfree license they could do this if they thought the benefit to them outweighed the odds that you can afford to sue.

                              But what’s the alternative? Not make software at all? I’d rather help people than not, and also let’s be honest I make software for me and because I can’t not.

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                                Author here.

                                I understand your position. It was my position up until a week ago.

                                But I fear that if companies steal my code, they may end up doing far more harm than my code does good otherwise. I could be overthinking it, but it’s also a build system which could be used to backdoor just about anything.

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                                  But as I said, what is the alternative? Maybe you personally have the option to just not work on software. I don’t really, I’m not sure who I would even be. But moreover, if everyone who cares stops trying then all software would be evil all the time and that seems… Worse?

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                                    You have really good points.

                                    I guess the question is: can companies be as creative as Open Source authors?

                                    If so, then yes, it would be worse not to have Open Source anyway because we would have the same software, just evil no matter what.

                                    If not, then Open Source may actually provide creativity for the evil those companies do because without Open Source, they may not be able to accomplish as much.

                                    I don’t know the answer to the above question. I guess my discouragement is based on the feeling that Open Source is fueling the evil creativity of companies. If someone could show me that that feeling is wrong, I’d be so happy.

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                                      “Open Source software I do write could end up harming more users than it helps.”

                                      I think structure is important. Structure, moreso than license, governs how software will be used. I never really believed in the copyleft licenses providing any sort of ethical insurance or even guaranteeing that modifications get contributed back. I agree that copyleft is mostly just wishful thinking when the rubber hits the road.

                                      BUT! Software is much more than its license. Can some greedy or power hungry group “steal” BitTorrent or ipfs and make tons of money or collect tons of data from it? I’m sure there are examples, but surely they are minor/marginal compared to the prevelant “evil” uses of “big data” software like Apache Cassandra or Hadoop.

                                      I believe working on software IS worth it, and in fact, it’s really important: the way the world is structured right now sucks for a lot of people!! A lot of that comes from the structure of the software. I can imagine a lot of software that works for the common man, but wouldn’t benefit the rich and greedy. Such software would be structured differently, it would have different goals / constraints, and most likely it wouldn’t make much money.

                                      Critically, such software does not exist right now. Or at least it is incomplete or in disrepair. Its up to us to build it / fix it. Open Source just happens to be the most practical way to do that.

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                                        I hope you’re right, but I don’t see how to structure Open Source in such a way to prevent companies from stealing it.

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                                          If you’re hell-bent on this goal, try writing software that is useful to, and extensible by, regular people and not super useful to beg tech. For example, most of the tech produced at JMP.chat is not useful to big tech because it only does thing they don’t want and that don’t make sense at Big Scale but the stack and product are super useful to the individuals who use it.

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                                These two articles are completely different and should not be merged.

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                                  I’m inclined to agree: with respect to the mods, I see the similarities but the tone and content are sufficiently different, and the subject sufficiently broad, that I’m not sure I’d personally lump them together.

                                  Mostly I just think it’s a pity to risk hiding the apenwarr.ca article - I tried to submit it today and it took looking in the moderation log to find the version that had already been posted, which seems a shame.

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                                  Feels like we need FOSS more than ever.

                                  But, one question is how. I hope AGPL is successful vs that Pravda/“Truth” fork of Mastodon. Ultimately I’m not sure this is something that can be solved on the license level.

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                                    Lobster should know better than platform bigots like the author of this piece.

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                                      Let’s judge the article and not the person, shall we?

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                                        Why just the article tho, why exclude all the links on that same page leading to godawful places.

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                                          What have the links got to do with the article?

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                                      The people who thought they could change the world with some legal boilerplate got more-or-less what they deserve.