In case you missed it, the these are part one, part two, part three and part four.
The last time I wrote about this was the beginning of 2018, where the outlook was bleak with Spectre etc. Well here we are in early 2019. The world didn't collapse, so there is still hope; so I too would end this series with a hopeful note.
Part V: Can we do anything about it?
The article was originally a four-parter. But I don't want to end it with a depressing note, so here is the final part, and hopefully more uplifting that the previous parts.
Let's start by observing that "only in democracy the people can vote to elect a dictator". Yet, we don't see hordes of democracies tumbling into dictatorships. So there is still hope for democracy.
Which, I hope, also means that there are still hopes for FOSS.
One way I can see, is to have independent talents that oversees the project; as well as independent talents that actually contribute to the project. (Being an independent leader is meaningless if all the do-ers are against you - remember this is do-ocracy right?).
FOSS flourishes when there is a constant flow of talents going into the community. People don't become expert overnight, but those with enough motivation and effort can always start at the bottom of the ladder and acquire the skills as they continue to participate over time, with mentoring from the older guys.
Alternatively, when a project becomes too unwieldy; perhaps it is a better idea to start with a new codebase, clear from "legacy" stuff and therefore easier to understand - but with still remembering the lessons learnt from that legacy code (or else the new code will be doomed to repeat the same bugs are the legacy code ...).
How can we keep the independent talents coming into FOSS?
I don't have an answer. I can only say that hope springs eternal. Everyone has an itch to scratch: I have seen people take up impossible projects or coming up with impossible replacement projects. New FOSS software coming out from research projects or from student thesis are still happening. So things still does happen. But the trend isn't healthy. And perhaps we all should think of what we can do to help.
Some FOSS projects are originally closed-up products opened up by the original company owner. Also, some companies open-sources their products for the "community" and changes for "premium" or "enterprise" version, which is not FOSS (the "freemium" business model). I have nothing against this; and instead applaud those companies who have chosen to open source their products.
In this situation it is normal and fair to expect that the direction of these projects continue to be dictated by the original owner, especially when most of the development are still done by the company's own employees.
The FOSS projects that I'm concerned with are those original grass-root community projects (or once-closed-but-now-opened projects that are no longer controlled by the original authoring entities) that have risen to the top of the mindshare, but are no longer recognisable as such due to these undue influences.
One must not conclude from these articles that corporate contribution (in terms of money or employee time) into an FOSS project is automatically bad and unwanted. It is not; and in fact many projects won't be as successful or survive without them.
We welcome contributions from anyone in any form, but what we need to ensure is independence from external influences.
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