Open Source Myths?

As noted on Slashdot, Neil Gunton has attempted to “rebut some open source myths”. Unfortunately, most of his comments miss the point of the “myths” he claims to be debunking.

“Open Source software allows you to get under the hood and fix problems”: He has missed the emphasis in this sentence; the emphasis is on “allows”, not on “you”. If you don’t have the necessary skills, you can hire someone else to do it for you. The usual analogy is the car a mechanic can fix vs. the car with the bonnet/hood welded shut. You can’t do that with proprietary software.

“All software should be free”: He confuses the two meanings of “free” massively here. He needs to address RMS’ assertion that if all software was free, engineers would still get paid, just as lawyers are.

“Open Source software is always better than closed, proprietary software”: He is knocking down a straw man. I don’t think anyone ever argues the point that he is arguing against – that Open Source software is always technically better. People do claim that free software is morally better – but that’s an argument which he doesn’t address.

“Scratching the personal itch”: I’m not quite sure what he’s saying here. He seems to be saying it’s not a myth at all, but it’s not a good idea. Perhaps, but what is this point doing in an “Open Source Myths” document?

“More choice is always better”: He doesn’t address the issue of who the choice should be presented to. “More choice is always better” and “Linux distributors should make choices on behalf of their users” are not incompatible viewpoints.

If this is any guide, it seems to me that people who don’t agree with these statements don’t understand what others mean by them :-)

One thought on “Open Source Myths?

  1. To be fair, I think that part of the problem is that some of the open source users/fans don’t understand these statements when they put them forward.

    For example, I’ve seen people in the Mozillazine forums put forward the argument that extensions are safe and secure because they are open source, and therefore someone else must have carefully reviewed the code. I’ve also seen the assertion that Firefox’s code must be better than anything in IE because it’s open source.

    Just because your bonnet isn’t welded doesn’t mean that it will magically have good mechanics tending to it all the time.