Jamis Broke Open Source!

What a jerk that Jamis Buck is, right? He’s abandoning Capistrano and related bits. At least, that’s the position some very vocal people are taking in response to his announcement (both points it seems).

From what I’ve seen, there are two main public positions people are taking:

  • Massive amounts of thanks and well wishes
  • Major pushback that Jamis is “abandoning” Cap, or at the very least that he didn’t beg for someone to take it over.

And while I always wish Jamis the best (and thank him for all of his contributions, both code and otherwise), I don’t see why the first position is predicated on his announcement. And that second viewpoint? I just don’t get it even a bit.

Let me explain, my reaction (and since I’m the one writing, we just assume I’m right, of course), was pretty much, “Oh, Ok?” So what? If I want to use capistrano, I’ll keep using it. If I find a bug that I can fix, I’ll fix it. I doubt I’ll even need to though. With our without Jamis “blessing” a specific version, there will be updates, plain and simple.

And I think that gets to what these people are really most hurt over, that Jamis didn’t follow their idea of how OSS should be transitioned. He didn’t follow an outdated, broken, pretty much anti-open-source practice of finding a successor, training them, then reluctantly giving up control.

Here’s a brilliant comment Jamis made on Hacker News:

If you’re this traumatized by my decision, then honestly, I blame you (and people like you) for my burn out. Where were your contributions to the library, your documentation patches, your discussions of better ways to implement things? Have you been in the IRC channel, daily, helping people troubleshoot problems? Have you posted frequently on the mailing list in response to questions? If you’re so dependent on Capistrano, where have you been? If your silence was because it all “just worked”, then why are you so disgusted now? It all still “just works”.

It’s a bit defensive, but if you follow the comments leading up to you, you’ll see that’s downright tame for the amount of crap being slung his way.

I’m not going to claim that this new model of Open Source is 100% attributable to GitHub, but for me, it’s the project that embodies it, as well as opened my eyes to it’s posibility. It’s still got a long way to go (mostly with regards to authority), but I think the shift has been made, and going back to what we had by default before would be a huge step backwards.

It’s been pointed out before, but I’m gonna give the very very short version of one possible path that Capistrano could take.

  • Someone very passionate about the project, and how much it’s helped them (and trust me, there’s a lot of us) realizes there’s a gap in what it provides and wants to plug that hole
  • They fork the code on github and bring the code up to their vision
  • They tell people about this change and why it rules
  • More people spread the word about this great new functionality
  • This becomes the defacto new capistrano
  • It gets fuzzy here because there are so many paths it could take:
    • Jamis could add our mystery coder as a contributor to the “main” capistrano project
    • Jamis could give the rubyforge project over to this person, and they’d update all the info to point to their code
    • Jamis could do nothing, and people will STILL FIND THE CODE (github could feature the project, DHH can say it’s what he uses now, WHATEVER)

We are in a meritocracy (with a bit of popularity thrown in), and this new model of shifting ownership and authority is just the next logical progression. What if, instead of just being burnt out, Jamis when on an 18 month world-wood-carving-tour? Would Cap just be frozen in that time? What if he decided that coding was so last century and walked away from everything?

I think what someone should be really scared of is someone coming along and making their projects better, and since they’re a control-freak jerk-face, they don’t allow someone else to contribute, and the new version becomes the standard (*cough*emacs*cough*).

5 thoughts on “Jamis Broke Open Source!”

  1. Bravo, Erik.

    How anyone can complain about Jamis making a decision for his own sanity after he’s contributed _so_ much to the community is just beyond me.

    If you’re afraid Cap, etc, is going to wither into nothingness, stop bitching and fork it. Tell people. Step down from your soapbox and try to contribute even a _sliver_ of what Jamis has before you get all Process Prima Donna on him; he’s _way_ out of your league.

  2. I found it confusing that people credit GitHub for the fact that anyone can now fork the project and maintain it.

    Actually, there was a whole movement before GitHub that made it possible for programmers to share code, maintain it, and distribute it apart from the canonical repository…it’s called Open Source!

    The only difference now is that there’s a centralized list of forkers. It’s still up to the developer to figure out which one is the most reliable.

  3. Geoff, you’re 100% correct. What GitHub has done (for me), is give me the explicit permission to fork a project, whereas it was implicit before. I’m sure it’s not as big a deal to others!

  4. Geoff, I think what GitHub did do is help build an atmosphere where forking is considered a positive, rather than negative, activity — probably because reintegrating changes made in child forks is so dirt cheap; it’s considered an attempt at contribution vs a criticism or prelude to project splintering. While this certainly exists elsewhere in Open Source, I haven’t run anywhere else where this is the day-to-day norm with so many projects.

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