[nSLUG] Article on why monoculture gets picked

Ian Campbell ian at slu.ms
Wed Apr 25 21:59:34 ADT 2007

On Wed, Apr 25, 2007 at 09:25:39PM -0300, D G Teed wrote:
> On 4/25/07, Ian Campbell <ian at slu.ms> wrote:
> But then you look at a situation like Hans Reiser, whose company
> Namesys is going to be sold to pay his legal bills (or so I've read),
> and there are people and distros backing off from using reiserfs
> by default now.  Somehow the short lived popularity of reiserfs
> didn't surprise me.  When I had my first experience with a corrupted
> reiserfs and saw the notice appear to mail $25 to get support,
> it revealed this was very different than what I consider true open
> source community centered software, of which there are hundreds
> of better examples.

Why do you say that ReiserFS's popularity is short-lived? It's still
undergoing active development. It's about as dead as XFS is.

The company might die, the project lives on.

> Bind powers the majority of the DNS servers on the planet.
> Sendmail is still commonly used, and is so core to Unix
> that a simulation of it is provided with other mailers.
> If you consider them poor quality, you have not dipped
> anywhere near the bottom of the barrel yet.

Popularity does not imply quality. The fact that something is
widespread in no way implies that it's a good piece of software. IE is
by far the most popular browser. IIS is a contender for top web
server. Surely you're not saying I can't consider those "poor quality"

BIND and Sendmail have *repeatedly* had grave security flaws. I'll
grant you that they've slowed down lately, but it's hard to ignore the

> In open source, poor quality is abandoned, rewritten, forked.
> No one is forced to use this stuff.  Bind, sendmail and mozilla
> are success stories of quality software.  With the large target,
> comes opportunities to find security flaws.  How many linux
> kernel security flaws have been documented and patched?
> Would the pure number be enough for you to rate it
> as severely as sendmail, bind and mozilla?

What makes you think I trust the stock Linux kernel?

Not even Linus trusts the stock Linux kernel.

> >Really, I'll never evaluate all 800+ Linux distros, nor try every type of
> >> shell, etc.
> >> so it is pointless to have the extremes of variety.  However, I might
> >look
>> at a few imap server options or content management options.
> >
> >'I only want this kind of variety, not that kind'
> Variety isn't a problem.  The problem is egos and the novelty
> or status of forging your own project.  These form an
> enticement which should not be nearly as cool as it is.

... which applies to imap servers and content management systems as
much as it does to name servers, web servers, domain name servers...

> I imagine the extension of that is that you appreciate variety in
> >things you're looking for an improvement in, and you don't like it in
> >things you're already happy with.
> You don't get it.  I'm arguing for the abandonment of the
> thinking "what projects can I open on sourceforge today?"
> in favour of "what project can I help on sourceforge today?"
> Perhaps that way of thinking isn't always possible, but I think
> there is lots of room for improvement.  It might start with
> some social pressure.  Years ago when people spotted
> someone needlessly printing stuff on paper they would
> say "you just killed another tree", and eventually it became
> uncool to just click "Print" willy-nilly, and more cool to copy/paste,
> save or use a bookmark or grep or something.  The same should
> happen for opening more projects. Perhaps people should
> be asked: "Did you start that project just to add bragging rights to
> your resume?" or something like that.  It should be something
> that a person does with some justification that would stand
> some scrutiny, not the automatic "ya! another
> open source project!  The more we have, the less M$ has".
> Working within community should be praised.  Working
> renegade should be questioned.

Who do you have to justify it to? What justification is sufficient?
Will playing cat herder actually improve open source software, or will
it just fragment developers for projects and cause it all to descend
into infighting?

> You may just read all of this and summarize that I complain
> about variety.  What I'm telling you is that this variety is
> too extreme, and it is hurting open source and Linux
> and the advancement of them in ways you've probably never
> witnessed, if you work in a computing environment where you
> are at the center of all decision making.

You can't help people who won't help themselves.

The companies I've worked for have always had technically savvy people
in technical decision making roles. I guess I've been lucky in that
respect. They don't say "GO PICK THE OSS WEBSERVER", they say "GO FIND

Anyone who sits down and says "Gosh, I really want a web server, but
there are dozens of unfinished OSS ones. I'm so confused! I'll just
stick with IIS" ... well you can't really do much to help that.
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