06.08.20

Software Development Isn’t Social (Control) Media

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 11:05 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“I’m the last survivor of a dead culture. And I don’t really belong in the world anymore. And in some ways I feel I ought to be dead. [...] In terms of effect on the world, it’s very good that I’ve lived. And so I guess, if I could go back in time and prevent my birth, I wouldn’t do it. But I sure wish I hadn’t had so much pain.”

Richard Stallman

Summary: We’re coming to a point now where monopolies are dictating to Free software developers the way they code and behave; the trouble is, if we work/operate based on the rules of monopolies, we’ll never succeed in making these monopolies obsolete and never liberate/unshackle ourselves from them

THE FSF belatedly responded to the GitHub threat several months ago. A bunch of us had contacted Richard Stallman and months later the FSF said it would improve its development framework to make it more like social control media (we presume with Gitlab as base/template). Git is Free software; it’s simple, it’s modular, and I’ve personally used it over the years, always from the command line. We use Git on our Techrights server too (to maintain some code of ours). Git collaboration and communication can be done over E-mail; Git is designed to handle that. It may seem slow at times (e.g. PR workflow), but speed isn’t the only thing that matters. Standards, processes, ‘papertrail’ etc. must also be taken into account.

“Last year I heard rumours that users and projects — not only staff — had been fleeing GitHub (we lacked hard evidence to confirm this).”Microsoft shrewdly avoided antitrust scrutiny when it bought GitHub (fiction like “Microsoft loves Linux” helped), exploiting the ‘network effect’ to acquire a monopoly it could never build with CodePlex (not even remotely). Notice how careful Microsoft is to not associate GitHub with itself (Microsoft logo nowhere to be seen; same in LinkedIn). Microsoft is very much self-conscious about its crimes. Last year I heard rumours that users and projects — not only staff — had been fleeing GitHub (we lacked hard evidence to confirm this). This isn’t something that the chronic liars from Microsoft would ever publicly acknowledge. Heck, last month I discovered that my GitHub account that I deleted two years ago is still there and still publicly listed. Anything to maintain the illusion of size/scale/magnitude, eh?

After pushing RMS out (let’s face it, they put incredible pressure to cause him to resign; it wasn’t wilful) the FSF started resorting to wordplay of the ‘hipster’ types, not the hacker types. I personally preferred the messaging of the RMS days; nothing wrong with some abrasive words when particular companies very much deserve it. So it’s more or less expected that now they want something “social” and started pursuing “mobile-friendly” design for the FSF site (as if “smart” phone ownership isn’t a regressive development; in China they impose aggressive malware on those, introducing it in particular “hot” regions first).

“If you cannot write decent code, then no amount of “social” and “likes” (or GitHub “stars”) will compensate for it.”I myself have developed software since I was 15. I still develop software every day (at some capacity or another) and I have a general understanding of how ridiculous all the buzzwords are (“agile”, “devops”, “CI”, “scrum” etc.) because in practical terms little has really changed except formalities. If you cannot write decent code, then no amount of “social” and “likes” (or GitHub “stars”) will compensate for it. All that proprietary (non-standard) metadata associated with actions is tiresome nonsense that sometimes distracts from what really matters. If your code is bad, you may need more practice/training and experience, not more “friends”/”followers” on the platform (to “like” your bad work). Any popularity contest should be based on objective merit, not “click farming…”

Of course the FSF is free (as in freedom) to do as it pleases; but many people out there believe that the FSF ought to educate the public rather than be ‘educated’ (or lectured) by the public into a “mobile-friendly” (i.e. crap, minimal, lacking navigation options and still very bloated) design, a “social” development framework and so on.

Here in this site we still use a theme from 2006; it works with virtually all devices made in the past 1.5 decades, it’s relatively light (you don’t need to download fonts to merely render a single page) and it’s backward compatible in a lot of ways. Pages still look the same as they did 13 years ago (sans banner changes at the top).

“The hacker movement will die if we’re led to making so many concessions that we become what we fought.”The adoption of all this “social” nonsense (it’s not really social; a lot of what they nowadays call “social” — including “social distancing” — is in fact antisocial) shows that in a submissive, capitulative fashion the tail now wags the dog, instead of the dog wagging his/her own tail (can we say “bitch” in 2020?) and likewise, in the Linux Foundation, monopolists like Microsoft tell Linux developers how the kernel should be developed instead of Linux developers dictating their own trajectories, leaving dying monopolists to adapt to our own standards.

The hacker movement will die if we’re led to making so many concessions that we become what we fought. Or even taking money from what we’re supposed to replace.

“Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today…”

Mahatma Gandhi (Indian Philosopher, internationally esteemed for his doctrine of nonviolent protest, 1869-1948)

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