FSFE-defined coding standards?

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Sun Feb 14 21:59:08 UTC 2021

Trimming to get the context back...

On Saturday, 13 February 2021 05:11:23 CET Jacob Hrbek wrote:
> >> The (F)LOSS ecosystem is currently mostly focusing on quantity over
> >> quality


> I would also argue that not everyone in (F)LOSS cares about their future
> job in Computer Science to have such a motivation to write a good
> software especially if their FLOSS software is their main source of
> income such as lutris example thus why we should as a community enforce
> the code quality otherwise there is really no motivation for these
> developers to care.

In my experience, it is the broader discipline of software engineering that 
upholds the quality of software products, not computer science, at least when 
it comes to the delivery of that software to end users. To clarify, it is 
often not about the best algorithms or whatever people think of as computer 
science, but the tedious automation that needs to be done to make sure that 
mistakes have not been made in producing and delivering software systems.

I have worked in academia and in commerce and have found that people do indeed 
write software that achieves certain objectives, but the process around 
writing, documenting and maintaining the software involves engineering 
activities that are neglected. Software development, like many things, is in 
most cases a continuous, unceasing process; so is the pursuit of quality.


> As said i consider this to be self-evident otherwise we would see FLOSS
> used in government (in relation to central europe) and on business level
> that is almost never the case unless the business is around higher end
> to understand the benefits of FLOSS and how to implement it in a sane
> way, but i am happy to discuss this further if you don't think it to be
> a valid argument.

I don't quite follow the argument here. Are you saying that a lack of quality 
in Free Software products causes government and business to choose proprietary 
solutions? And that this occurs because they would otherwise need to remedy 
the quality problems (documentation, deployment, and so on) in Free Software? 
And that the only way they would be motivated to do so is to understand the 
strategic case for Free Software?

I would broadly agree that the reason why Free Software sometimes does not get 
adopted can be due to a lack of immediate applicability. Indeed, I remember 
making the case that advocacy only goes so far because as soon as someone then 
turns round and asks for specific, usable Free Software solutions, there 
actually does need to be at least one usable solution in a given domain that 
doesn't involve excuses being made for why certain features are not there or 
not ready.

(There are, of course, other reasons for non-adoption of Free Software, like  
familiarity with existing products and processes, resistance to change, 
corruption, and so on.)

Thus, I ended up arguing for investment in Free Software development so that 
solutions exist that are ready for actual use. Sadly, there are still plenty 
of apologists for volunteer culture and the cost-cutting focus of certain 
factions of the "open source" movement.

And although some people are getting the message, it dismays me that instead 
of pursuing some kind of sustainable funding model, one sees the usual 
tendencies to go and ask for corporate or charitable grants, and it appals me 
that some of these grants could justifiably be regarded as a kind of 
philanthropic penance for how the money has been made (not naming any 
particular entity that I might be thinking of as I write this).


> >> or software that requires “reinventing the wheel” because of authors bad
> >> decision (lack of abstracting → Malpractice).
> > 
> > Yes, "reinventing the wheel" or "not invented here" (NIH) does also affect
> > FLOSS communities. Yet proprietary software development practically
> > depends on it.
> That was rather meant on the development process itself to avoid major
> design failures such as GTK which generates movements such as
> https://stopthemingmy.app/ composed of "FLOSS developers" that are doing
> their best to restrict Freedom-0 and Freedom-3 on upstream level.
> - https://github.com/do-not-theme/do-not-theme.github.io/issues/17
> - https://github.com/do-not-theme/do-not-theme.github.io/issues/3
> - https://github.com/do-not-theme/do-not-theme.github.io/issues/16
> - https://github.com/do-not-theme/do-not-theme.github.io/issues/15
> - https://github.com/do-not-theme/do-not-theme.github.io/issues/7
> We as a community should educate and enforce the four freedoms as these
> projects will only spread like cancer and should be labeled as FOSS
> (Free as in price and without Libre).

The phenomenon above is arguably less about philosophy and more about the 
practical issues around the design and evolution of a technology platform and 
the management and control issues that arise in the processes concerned. 
People asking that their "apps" not be themed are apparently annoyed at the 
technological churn and needless work created for them in the name of 

Their escape route might possibly be to fork the technologies on which their 
"apps" are based, but then they have to work against the entire ecosystem of 
upstream developers, distributions, and so on. The alternative is to lobby the 
upstream developers, some of whom work for rather large corporations (or are 
allied to those corporate interests) and ask for sympathy. I can tell you from 
personal experience that lobbying against needless change doesn't get much 
sympathy in this industry.

This actually leads to just one aspect of the sustainability problem our 
industry faces. Technological platforms that are ostensibly the product of 
lots of individuals turn out to be corporate endeavours after all, that their 
complexity escalates and can somehow still be supported by improving hardware 
technology, but where the experience of dealing with the technology and the 
burden of that technology itself threatens to impoverish and exclude entire 
groups of people from worthwhile progress in their own societies.

And, of course, there is the impact that escalated production and consumption 
of technology for no measurable resultant benefit has on our environment.


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