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Open Source is Not About You

Open Source is Not About You

The only people entitled to say how open source 'ought' to work are people who run projects, and the scope of their entitlement extends only to their own projects.

Just because someone open sources something does not imply they owe the world a change in their status, focus and effort, e.g. from inventor to community manager.

As a user of something open source you are not thereby entitled to anything at all. You are not entitled to contribute. You are not entitled to features. You are not entitled to the attention of others. You are not entitled to having value attached to your complaints. You are not entitled to this explanation.

If you have expectations (of others) that aren't being met, those expectations are your own responsibility. You are responsible for your own needs. If you want things, make them.

Open source is a licensing and delivery mechanism, period. It means you get the source for software and the right to use and modify it. All social impositions associated with it, including the idea of 'community-driven-development' are part of a recently-invented mythology with little basis in how things actually work, a mythology that embodies, cult-like, both a lack of support for diversity in the ways things can work and a pervasive sense of communal entitlement.

If you think Cognitect is not doing anything for the community, or is not listening to the community, you are simply wrong. You are not, however, entitled to it being the effort, focus or response you desire. We get to make our own choices as regards our time and lives.

We at Cognitect have to show up to work, every day, to make a living. We get no royalties of any kind from Clojure. We are in no way building Clojure for profit. Far fewer than 1% of Clojure users are our consulting or product customers, and thus contributing to our livelihood.

We take some of what we earn, money that could e.g. go into our retirement savings and instead use it to hire people to work on Clojure and community outreach, some full-time. To be honest, I could use that money in my retirement account, having depleted it to make Clojure in the first place. But I love working with the team on Clojure, and am proud of the work we do.

Alex Miller is extremely attentive to and engaged with the Clojure community. He and Stu Halloway and I regularly meet and discuss community issues. Alex, at my direction, spends the majority of his time either working on features for the community or assessing patches and bug reports. I spend significant portions of my time designing these features - spec, tools.deps, error handling and more to come. This is time taken away from earning a living.

I am grateful for the contributions of the community. Every Clojure release incorporates many contributions. The vast majority of the user community doesn't contribute, and doesn't desire to contribute. And that's fine. Open source is a no-strings-attached gift, and all participants should recognize it as such.

The Clojure process is not closed, but it is conservative. I think Clojure benefits greatly from that conservatism, in contrast to some other projects with high churn rates and feature bloat. If you disagree or imagine otherwise, that's too bad. It's my life and I'm not going to spend it arguing/negotiating on/with the internet. Write your own things and run your own projects as you see fit.

We can always do more, but it is specious to claim that the core team is standing in the way of meaningful contributions to Clojure, as opportunities abound: in library development, outreach, training, tutorials, documentation, giving talks, tool building etc.

And yes, on patches to core. Did you know that most patches/issues have poor problem statements, no description of the plan (read my code!), no consideration of alternatives, no tests, no designs, and are ill-conceived and/or broken in some way? Community efforts to triage matter a lot in moving things forward - thanks Nicola, Ghadi and many others!

The time to re-examine preconceptions about open source is right now. Morale erosion amongst creators is a real thing. Your preconceptions and how you act upon them are your responsibility and yours alone. I am not going to answer for them or to them.

If the way Clojure works isn't for you, a process which produced Clojure in the first place, paradoxically, so be it. I'm sure you know better about the one true way to write software. But kindly don't burn the community down on your way out, with self-serving proclamations. Yes, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but, tragedy of the commons and all that.

I encourage everyone gnashing their teeth with negativity at what they think they can't do instead pick something positive they can do and do it.

Rich

p.s. My partners and coworkers at Cognitect were not consulted regarding this message - I am certain they would have dissuaded me. These opinions are mine alone.

p.p.s. I think the vast majority of people in the Clojure community are wonderful and positive. If you don't recognize yourself in the message above, it's not for/about you!

@loganpowell
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loganpowell commented Oct 30, 2019

I love Clojure. I love it. Rich Hickey has "gift"ed it to us and I am thankful for that. I also can tell that there's an underlying pattern to the nature of the responses to PRs or contribution in general. They're short. I get the feeling this culture derives from the top. Perhaps the policy should move from "respond to everyone, but be brief" to "don't respond to everyone". Less people will find themselves going down a path that has a dead end, because they won't be encouraged by any feedback. This would also prevent people from feeling hurt when they spend hours/days/weeks on something only to get a two-second response. At least until the command-line becomes less pyramidal.

This is not the first project to have a BDFL. Many other great projects follow this same model (Linux, Python [until recently], Apple [until recently], the great architects [e.g., Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Frank Llyod Wright], etc.). In fact, I believe this focused thought leadership is why Clojure is so great. Rich is a Shepherd. There's a very clear goal that Rich has and he leads from the front to execute it, but it obviously doesn't scale.

One day our benevolent dictator (emphasis on benevolent) will have to come up with a succession/committee model. Perhaps some of this energy could be directed at that plan. Doing so would give contributors an outlet for their frustrations and might even give Rich some good ideas for how to "share the load".

share the load

@Kah0ona
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Kah0ona commented Dec 16, 2019

Just wanted to say: I agree, and thanks! I, as a programmer, had my views turned upside down in 2015, and since then I haven't looked back. I write clojure for a living, and 'snuck' it in in a handful of companies, in one it actually became a full on saas product with a small team working on it now. And I now run a profitable bootstrapped startup saas fully written in clojure/script.

Truly feel I am living the dream.

Thank you.

@StanleyMasinde
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StanleyMasinde commented Jun 9, 2020

Hehe sounds right

@edtsech
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edtsech commented Jun 9, 2020

Some open-source etiquette to think about https://github.com/kossnocorp/etiquette

@Malsasa
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Malsasa commented Jun 10, 2020

"If you disagree or imagine otherwise, that's too bad. It's my life and I'm not going to spend it arguing/negotiating on/with the internet. Write your own things and run your own projects as you see fit."

Hello, Rich. I do not know Clojure, but I got this article from RuboCop's developer, and I really like your words above. I agree and thanks, you made Clojure great.

@g1eny0ung
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g1eny0ung commented Jul 4, 2020

Thank you Rich, this inspired me more.

@guruma
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guruma commented Jan 18, 2021

Thank you Rich. I love Clojure from which I have learn a lot.

@jaimeagudo
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jaimeagudo commented Jun 3, 2021

God’s word 🙏 (no kidding) Thanks a lot for sharing once more!

@nickdex
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nickdex commented Sep 5, 2021

I think we can learn something by seeing it from a larger perspective, and recognizing that a conversation regarding the balance between them
Completely agree. I'm constantly amazed how people don't even try to gain that perspective. People (maybe not all but many) have good intentions, they are coming in from different directions. Being polarized is just wastage (attention, time, resources etc).
Good to see that is not the case here 👏

Clojure is indeed a gift, and a very addictive one at that 😄 Thank you @richhickey for the clojure and all the meta talks. Some even provide great oneliners 🤣

@hinell
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hinell commented Dec 29, 2021

This blog post is nice, but could have been much shorter. Really.

@abserari
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abserari commented Jul 5, 2022

That's true. Opensource doesn't mean help you without any requirements. The community only exists in those who contribute themselves. Although open source brings so many valuable things to companies or society. Open source just opens the source and helps share the intelligence of the researcher.

Thanks for this post.

@stardiviner
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stardiviner commented Aug 27, 2022

I agree with all your points.

I don't have other words to say but this one. Don't need to explain in commenter's own thought, or any other comments. This is just a declarement. No need to comment. (So this is not a comment, just a comment to other comments.)

@rlouf
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rlouf commented Nov 24, 2022

Hey Rich, I don’t use Clojure but I have found this post helpful as a maintainer of much smaller projects. So thank you for gifting us with this explanation as well.

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