Russ Allbery schreef op 19-09-2016 21:55:
The relationship absolutely exists. But it's not a customer
It's much closer to the relationship between a gift giver and a gift
recipient. If you use that as a guide, I think everything becomes
I am just going to respond point by point. I was not merely talking
about open source here.
I think responsibility is a confusing word here, and the situation
clearer when you look at gifts.
Again, I was not just talking about open source here. You are
confounding things by treating open source as an explicitly separate
category, and thereby pollute everything that you speak of, because now
suddenly my baker giving me bread is also a "gift" received by me.
The idea of a gift is that it is free. You most assuredly know that in
open source software is not considered to be a free gift, but something
that requires a "retribution" (contribution in return).
Above, I was speaking of stuff you put out in the world. In a sense that
can apply equally well to some commercial entity. The difference of
course is that with a commercial entity there is a contractual
relationship even though in the real world it is very hard for a
customer (consumer) to make good on that relationship.
I mean that as an analogy. You can treat open source as a completely
separate phenomemon: but witness and observe that as a "customer" you
often have a hard time getting your voice heard as well.
And what you phrase above (that I didn't quote) is, in commercial
enterprises, often known as the "support burden".
In fact I have known people who made a living (or partly, at least)
selling computers or configuring them and who also became burdened by
support demands they could not fulfill.
Again, your case is not all that different from what commercial entities
(or persons, doing it for a living or making money) go through.
And of course I recognise that. But it's the same for /everyone/. You're
not special here. The problem is that you think you're so special, and
you're not. EVERYONE has to deal with support burdens.
Some people profess to never ever do anything again for an acquaintance,
for instance, because what looked like a 2 hour ordeal turned into a
many week nightmare, for example.
This was not "open source", this was "sure, I'll do that for you". I
myself have witnessed that and probably left some sour grapes back when
I was young even. I had promised to write a little software program for
a little database thing a friend's father needed.
But as these things go they expected free work from me without having to
do anything for it themselves, so I did not get any visits, nor any real
interest, only demands for when the thing would be finished. In
retrospect, I do not blame myself for taking on the task, I just think
people are or become extremely ungrateful when something is "free".
I was about 15 back then, or even maybe 14. Don't know. In general what
you do for free, the other person will throw in the dump.
They didn't have to do anything for it, so it held no value for them.
(Disclaimer: this is from a very American concept of gifting, and I
realize that gifts work differently in other cultures. I don't know
enough of the overall anthropology to be able to translate; hopefully
concept is still clear.)
Native Americans had a different concept ;-).
They called the whole tribe "cousin" and expected, basically, that if
anyone had food, they'd share it.
But one of their most glorious moments was when they gave away
everything they had. They held celebrations where the only purpose was
to give away everything until almost nothing remained. Until they had
almost nothing left. This they considered the greatness of their
culture, because it ensured that no one would ever go without.
Maybe, given the above, you can see how weird this looks for you to say
this about someone who gave you a gift.
I don't agree with your gift statements. I hold a different tenure about
this. If I gave my sister a computer that would not be as easy to use
(which all computers are, in a sense) then for the living hell of me I
would be expected to take care of it indefinitely.
Anything else would be a lie and an insult, for I would be giving
something that I knew would be broken, or at least something I knew, or
could have known, that she had not the skills to deal with. Then I
should either not give it at all, or give it knowing that she will
require my aid for the most part if something goes wrong with it.
My relationship with her does not end the moment I give her something
that she needs me to use. If I give something, I stand behind it (or at
least want to stand behind it) -- in fact many times I would rather
destroy something than give it to someone, because I do not want to give
people stuff that I consider not having any value or worth.
Moreoever, if I give someone something with the idea that it will enrich
their life and they trust me and become dependent on that thing, thereby
not acquiring something else.
And then the thing lets them down, then it's my fault, yes. Had I been
honest from the start, they would not have depended on me, or my gift,
but would have chosen something else that would be closer to them and
what /they/ could manage.
Be very very careful in what you accept as gifts, for it may shackle
Many people in Open Source, Debian is not one of that because Debian
does not go around and advertize itself as the perfect and foremost. But
some end-user oriented applications do.
KDE might be counted among them, or LibreOffice. They /advertize/ with a
sense of /better than anything else/ and then they let you down, because
it was a lie, and advertizing claim.
What you're essentially arguing
for, perhaps not intending it, is for us to abandon volunteer free
software entirely. You're saying that it's not possible to give a
that all gifts create an expectation of future support, and therefore
only people who can give gifts of free software in the world are the
that can promise to support it indefinitely. In other words,
So the only Linux distributions that should exist are ones like Red Hat
SuSE or Ubuntu that are supported by companies.
I think you'd understand why I'm not in agreement with that. :)
I realize that you're trying to moderate this position a bit, but your
frame is still entirely wrong, in my opinion. You're putting an
obligation on me and then saying that, well, you might deign to relax
if something makes it impossible for me to maintain software, or if
challenging situations come up. If you think my reasons are good
But you don't get to do that. I refuse to grant you that sort of
authority over my life; I find it intrusive and, despite your generally
polite phrasing, exceptionally rude at its core. I don't think you're
intending to be rude, but that is the result. Just imagine saying
things to a family member who had given you a gift, and I think you'll
understand my feeling.
I don't think you understand my family.
My family has constructed 3 modern brick houses for its own children, in
addition to some cattle stables, I guess, and other stuff like that.
Mutual aid is at the core of my family, in that sense.
If my father constructs something for me, for example, he creates, for
himself, and for me, the prolonged relation that if anything ever needs
to be changed about it, I can get back at him.
In reverse, the same.
We "own" our creations. Apparently, you, do not?
Even in commerce, giving time constraints perhaps, If I get a haircut,
or even a dentists job, and I am not content with it, I can go back, and
they will make it right. It is still part of the deal.
In Japan it is said that if even a single stitch on some piece of
garment is wrong, or off, they go back to the store and demand a refund
I don't think you really understand what family means, I'm sorry.
Apparently to you it is some distanced and disconnected thing. Aliens,
strangers to each other.
With a family member, normally, the relationship does not end, nor does
the relationship of the created (or gifted) good. In that sense they are
not even seen as gifts, but natural occurrances. They are stuff you do.
People don't think about that, and they don't think about them as gifts.
Particularly, there is no sense of having to be extremely grateful for
the gift. There is no "oh thank you so very much". It's more like "let's
grab a beer after", if you know what I mean.
This is getting long, but to prove my point here.
When I was living in a student's dormitory or house with 8 other
students, one of my housemates needed to move to a different room in the
same house. Naturally, we all helped move stuff. On another occassion a
different housemate had to move out. When it was finished she apparently
said her goodbye, I don't remember, but another housemate became
extremely disgruntled that she had not even "rewarded" our help with say
a crate of beer.
"Free" was apparently not free and the help given, was apparently a lie.
It's a different culture for sure but something I don't quite
It was not a free gift and in open source, it is never treated as a free
gift. So your entire "gifting" is a lie here, there is a compensation
That other housemates boyfriend. I had spent hours working on his
computer trying to fix it. Then he said "Well, I think you can borrow my
camera at some point if you want. You've done all this for me, then I
can do this for you as well".
Do you see how weird that is? If we all wait before the other makes a
move, nothing ever happens. He considered borrowing his camera something
extremely "generous" but it only demonstrated how ungenerous he was.
I will simply say that a gift is only a gift from the heart if the heart
causes a prolonged relationship to exist.
If you see no separation between you and the other person (for example,
because you are family, or consider each other family in whatever form)
then no great display of protocol is required, no "etiquette" comes into
play, no "gratitude" needs to be displayed, in overt form or whatever.
Also, the relationship does not end after the gift, and hence, there is
no /reason/ to say "no, you can't get back at me".
If you gift something, is it not intended to /deepen/ relationship?
Of course if people become /ungrateful/ that's the other sign of the
story. I Mean it is the other side of the story and a clear sign that
the relationship you thought was there, was a lie. And maybe you
shouldn't have gifted it then.
And in that case there is absolutely no reason to keep maintaining that
thing for them. Because they don't think it holds value anyway.
Nevertheless, I applaud and commend your skill and ability to take care
of yourself and to guard your own boundaries, and not to let people
cross it, for your own health and others.
But again: this extends to commercialism as well.
Where I live the retailers will try to CUT THE RELATIONSHIP of a good
they have sold AS QUICKLY AS THEY CAN and law dictates that you have 3
months to make a defect known to the vendor and after that you are done
for, the vendor has no obligation to you anymore whatsoever.
In your writing above you claim this is specific to gifts. It is not.
The same sense of feeling and sense of being extends to sales.
Are you responsible for the continued operation or wellbeing of some
device you sell? For how long? Unless there is warranty involved (which
is a different thing) law here apparently dictates that consumer
purchases cease having any contractual obligations after a very short
period (from my perspective).
You have very little time, in fact, to go back on some purchase because
it did not suffice, and it is rather HARD to prove a breach of contract
because expectations were not met. In general as a consumer you are
pretty much screwed unless you can make a very strong case.
Customer is king, but they still have your money.
In here they can sell you a black pizza and get away with it. "It is
rather burned". They don't really care, what you gonna do? There are
shops that outright tell you that they don't care if you never return.
You are a disposable customer and the relationship they have with you is
I do not "allow" anyone to become dependent on me. You are a human
with free will. If you choose to become dependent on a piece of free
software, that's *your choice*, and you don't get to move that choice
The dependency is not on the software. The software is in my possession.
The dependency is usually on the person who needs to be there to ensure
the broken software starts to actually work at some point.
Just from the mere fact that you cannot distinguish dependency on
software (which is a physical entity in that sense) from dependency on
the software's author (or group of people supplying it in that sense)
means you do not get at all what this is about.
If someone gives me a hammer I am not dependent on the hammer unless it
is broken and needs frequent repair.
Any truly self-sufficient gift (object) does not incur the kind of thing
we have been talking about here.
If it truly was a gift (object) that was a /finished product/ then there
would be no dependency relationship at all because the gift would be in
my possession and it needed nothing else.
If the object needs nothing from the outside, then I cannot be dependent
I don't think you understand what dependency means here, at all.
Just from your choice of words you basically admit and attest that "free
software" is not an independent thing you can be happy about without
outside aid, to put it a little something like that.
This can only imply one of two things:
- the gifts you give are fundamentally broken or incomplete or
unfinished and require outside resources to be able to use them
- the gifts you give are fundamentally broken or incomplete or
unfinished and require outside resources to be able to use them.
There is no other option here.
You give people stuff that doesn't work and then complain when they
cross your boundaries in complaining about the stuff that doesn't work.
We all become dependent on things, sometimes without realizing it, and
requires introspection and attention to recognize what things in life
critical to us. This can include becoming dependent on gifts if those
gifts are given regularly. But they're *still gifts*, and gifts, if
word is to have any meaning, have to be given freely. How they are
is the responsibility of the person receiving them.
In other contexts, if someone chooses to become dependent on regular
(such as, say, money from relatives), the common advice is to cut them
at some point and force them to take responsibility for their own life.
This is something the people giving those gifts *have* to do for their
personal boundaries, or the resentment and unhealthy dynamic of that
"obligatory gift" colors and even destroys the entire relationship and
cause serious impact on the life of the person who was trying to give a
gift. This comes up *all the time* in financial issues inside
Free software is no different.
It's a testament to how healthy, vibrant, and effective the free
community is that people *can* take free software for granted and
that people will just fix any problem they have without requiring work
their part. This is great! But I think it means people also lose
of the real nature of the underlying relationship and assume that
this normally happens, they have a *right* to *expect* this to happen.
This is not the case.
Please don't be that entitled person who assumes other people are
to volunteer their time to continue to help you just because they have
the past. Instead, please treat gifts as gifts, accept them for what
are at the time, and don't assume that just because someone has given
gifts in the past that you have any right to gifts in the future as
Otherwise, other people *will* stop giving you gifts, just for their
You have three things wrong here:
1. They are not gifts.
2. You are not the giftor.
3. There is no past and future.
First of all they are not gifts because you don't know about me. Second,
since there is no actual action of "giving" something, you cannot also
be the one who is giving. Third, since I am merely downloading something
that is available somewhere for free, I generally don't start this
enterprise by assuming this will create a prolonged relationship with
If it was a true gift it would be limited in time, to begin with. If it
wasn't limited in time, it would be because it created a prolonged
relationship in which the continued "care" of the giving person was
If you came up to me and said "I'd like you to have something" and I'd
go "But.... I can just download that anywhwere" you would quickly see
there is nothing you can give me.
If the mayor told me that henceforth I could make use of the streets, I
would be a little bit baffled and incredulous.
Debian and other such projects are infrastructure projects. They are
almost ubiquitoes and omnipresent. It is a service to the world, not to
individual people. I don't go up to individual plants to thank them for
their oxygen production.
I am sure you have something to say about that, but this is getting too
long anyway now.
I will just say that I feel you feel you are entitled to a sense of
praise as to those "wonderful gifts". Apparently you feel that what you
are giving is the best of the best, the very finest there is.
That we should be grateful on our knees to even be allowed to bask in
the presence of such splendor, right?
In that case, any sense of 'entitlement' would be a grievous offence.
You have already been given so much, and still you ask for me? You were
given the Heaven's Gates, all of the World Wonders, all of that, for
free, and still you ask for more? Such ungratefulness!
Or, maybe what they got was crappy shit. I'm not saying it is either.
I'm just saying that your perception of this "entitlement" will change
depending on how you look at it.
Should I be grateful I have been allowed to touch your robes? Or should
I be ungrateful I went to bed hungry? Your royal presence, can you
please tell? :P.