Weekend Discussion

Friday April 28th, 2000

What does Open Source mean to you in terms of user feedback? Does it mean that you are given more power to interact with the developers? That you are given more power over those developers? That the end-user takes on a more active role in determining the direction of development?

And the big question (which feeds off a discussion in a forum today): what kind of responsibility do third party developers have to meet the deadlines of commercial entities who are utilizing their Open Source code? What if these deadlines are being advocated by end-users? What role should the end user play in directing the time of volunteer coders?

For example, should the third-party volunteers implementing XSLT or SVG or MathML have a responsibility to meet the deadlines of Netscape 6? Even if Netscape didn't promise the technology for the 6 release? What if end-users are telling them that they need to get it done for that release? How much can or should an end-user expect in this situation? How much responsibility should the volunteer developer feel to deliver?

We're interested in feedback from both end-users and developers. Let us know what you think. It's a complex question, but one that I think needs a public airing.

#1 Simple Answer, Mozilla /= Netscape

by ERICmurphy

Friday April 28th, 2000 4:31 PM

The advantage to separate Mozilla builds is that more releases can be made with cutting edge features before Netscape issues their releases with the feature updates.

Say, XSLT is brought into Mozilla in a couple of months. Mozilla builds would have that, but Netscape would not get it until the next major release.

Anyway, deadlines are always moving targets, so that would not be a good idea.

I think it will soon become apparent that many of us will be using the Mozilla instead of Netscape. Right now, there is not much difference, but there will be.

<sidenote>Also, I really hope XSLT comes along soon. At first, I was skeptical of the idea, as I thought it should all be done on the server-side, but now I understand why having it on the client-side has its benefits.

Anyway, doing these things on the client-side or server-side is going to be a mixed-bag for years to come.</sidenote>

In conclusion, I look to see Mozilla one or more steps ahead of the Netscape releases. It will keep us happy, and allow us to get our ducks in a row (as website developers) before the next big Netscape release does come out.

#2 good questions

by asa

Friday April 28th, 2000 5:48 PM

The open source environment has given me the oportunity to do a lot more than provide feedback. It has certainly done that but more important it has allowed me to track the results of my feedback, to follow its path, to rethink and restructure the feedback along the way. Before open source user feedback was like a message in a bottle. You put your thoughts into this container and tossed it out to sea hoping that someone on the other side would pick it up and act on it. That was it. If you were lucky in a year you might see some change and wonder if it was your bottle that got picked up or someone elses. But with open source you have the oportunity to participate in the debate that you touched off. You can rally support for your ideas, you can modify your arguement, adapt it or adopt a new one alltogether. The Mozilla project has the tools and the people that make this a very cool and empowering process.

The second part about external development, deadlines and responsibility....hmm. That's a difficult one. I look at it something like this. Netscape doesn't have any significant obligation to deadlines the implementors of MathML have placed on themselves. It's very cool that Netscape is interested in contributing to Mozilla in ways that are helpful to the MathML developers and their product. But the MathML developers can't expect Netscape be bound or responsible for their self-imposed product deadlines.

Well, I'm sure I'll revisit this discussion as it grows.


(You know it --posted with Mozilla 042808)

#3 Much more control

by thelem

Friday April 28th, 2000 6:19 PM

I love the amount of control Open Source gives end users.

For example, take bug16216 I created this as an RFE a while ago, not really expecting much to happen. Yet now there is quite a bit of activity around it. Whats more I have a chance to add some input to that activity.

The developers assigned to this particular bug wanted to take it in a differant directory, and we are now trying to find the best solution together.

All parties benefit - the end user gets better features, the developers get more end user feedback and interested end users can help shape the software.

#4 Deadlines

by thelem

Friday April 28th, 2000 6:32 PM

I think external developers can never be responsible for Netscape deadlines. Their work always has to be a bonus which lets development progress faster.

If netscape decide that something is important for the next release, then it is their responsibility to bring it into (differant from mozilla, I am talking about bugzilla etc) and assign employees to it.

So long a someone is a volunteer you can't ask them to do too much.

#5 Sorry, not meant to be threaded. n/t.

by thelem

Friday April 28th, 2000 6:34 PM


#6 re: good questions

by RBS

Friday April 28th, 2000 6:34 PM

There are no rigid deadlines for MathML.

Mozilla 1.0? Netscape 6? Netscape 7? AnyGeckoDerivedBrowser? Perhaps one or some of these, provided the implementation is ripe to consumption by the general public.

The point of the matter is that you need to look at something in order to get going and motivate people, while knowing that people understand this point and are not expecting miracles overnight. If there is no glimmering of a goal (such as rendering a part of the specification first), one may be side-tracked into trying to do many things, and end-up with nothing really useful to the large audience. If someone wants to ensure that a (i.e., his/her) target is met, then of course, they are most welcome to come along and help!

#7 You can put a price on responsibility

by braden

Friday April 28th, 2000 6:35 PM

The persons responsible to Netscape for meeting Netscape's deadlines are the people Netscape is paying to be responsible. In other words, Netscape employees.

Independent developers don't have a responsibility to commercial entities, nor do they have a responsibility to end users. Many independent developers may *elect* to heed suggestions of other users, but that's at their discretion. The key word is "independent". And can choose to accept or reject the contributions of such developers at its discretion.

Remember that independent developers are simply empowered users. You can't tell your users what to do, and you can't tell independent developers what to do either.

If Netscape feels users' requests for SVG and MathML are important enough for their 6.0 browser, let *them* allocate *their* resources to accelerate development.

#8 My personal experience...

by wheezy

Friday April 28th, 2000 8:53 PM

As owner of bug 18722 -- -- I have a bit of something to say about this...

The contribution of TransforMiiX to Mozilla will be an incredible help to both the Moz project and the recognition of TransforMiiX as a successful implementation of XSLT. It's two sides of the same coin, in other words.

Keith is doing an incredible job at keeping the momentum of the TransforMiiX integration up, and this is obviously very much to his credit as he isn't a Netscape employee. The motivation there for him, I imagine, is both that Mozilla is a project he believes in and wants to contribute to, and that it will bring him personal success to have his code incorporated into software which will be used by millions.

The pressure is not to meet Netscape's deadlines; the pressure is to succeed.

#11 Re: My personal experience...

by ERICmurphy

Saturday April 29th, 2000 10:29 AM

I hope it works out!

#9 Volunteers, deadlines, and control

by jimminy_xmas

Friday April 28th, 2000 9:16 PM

A deadline cannot (should not) be placed on a volunteer. Open source frees the coder from tyranny - either by a company or by users.

However users benefit from knowing the stage of software development when the code is freed. The answer to the question "Is this program supported?" is to ask the developer(s) if the project is dead.

The most freeing element is that you can ask the developers. I have participated on #mozillazine on occasion to ask about bugs, status, etc. and I have always been helped. Bugs I noticed have even been fixed! I will almost always choose software that is freed over closed software because I have a voice in open software. My ideas may be bad or I may have the wrong ideas but I can ask (or look at code) and find out.

Does that give me more control? Only if I do something like submit patches or give good bug reports. The developer maintains more control over the project because in the end the developer makes the decisions, not a third party.

I don't care about deadlines anymore. As long as the project continues to improve I will continue to use it. I don't think the linux kernel has ever been declared "beta" or anything but it constantly gets better.

#10 Re: Volunteers, deadlines, and control

by Hendy99

Friday April 28th, 2000 11:45 PM

X.odd number.y is a beta version =)

You're right, things like Moz and the Linux kernel continue to improve and I'll use em if it says, alpha, beta, whatever :)

#18 Linux has deadlines too.

by MattyT

Sunday April 30th, 2000 7:11 PM

Linux has deadlines too:

#19 Re: Volunteers, deadlines, and control

by briansmith

Sunday April 30th, 2000 8:16 PM

The difference between this project and most other open-source projects is that traditional open-source projects have also been "open-marketting" projects. A lot of Mozilla's decisions are made by marketing folks at Netscape, not just Netscape's developers. From what I've been told on the n.p.m.* newsgroups, they are the ones that make decisions about features and deadlines. I don't think this is necessarily good or bad, but it would be nice if we had the same access to the marketers that we have to the developers. In particular, it would be nice to know what features they are planning on keeping for Netscape 6 having--will XSL(T), MathML, SVG, Java, etc. be easily accessible to the majority of people installing it? Even if those features are completed by feature-freeze time, Netscape might decide not to include them ("they make the download too long", "they aren't used by many people", etc.)

About deadlines: obviously, Netscape _can_ give an outside developer a deadline, but they don't have much control over whether s/he meets it. If they were seriously requiring a deadline for a particular feature, I think they would pay their developers to work on it or pay the outside contributors to ensure that deadline was met. (I believe they are already paying some outside contributors to work on the project.)

#12 small step into otherwise unknown giant area

by punkrider

Saturday April 29th, 2000 1:31 PM

The ability for end-users to help out with their ideas brings amazing power to the software, and the world. For example:

Back around M8 I got involved a little bit with Mozilla. Having never undertaken any large sofware programming, I was eager to see what all of this hype would be about. I posted some stuff in the newsgroups as RFE's and lo and behold, one of the most important ones gets picked up. Aphrodite has mentioned lately that they are working on a crash recovery bit. This bug #19454 was something that I brought up. I have not seen any results, as of yet, but am eagerly anticipating the first release. Had it not been for Open Source, we might never have seen this very useful and powerful enhancement.

I would have loved to get an internship with Netscape to work on Mozilla this summer.


#13 Do you mean Open Source in general...

by SomeSmartAss

Saturday April 29th, 2000 1:47 PM

...or specific to THIS project?

I think with many other, more established, OS projects, deadlines are not realy valid. Releases are pretty much just a point where some core group draws a line in the sand and says "package it!" How-ever, seeing as this particular project has soo much scrutiny being placed on it, and such a high calibre of comercial backers (NS/AOL, IBM, Nokia, Real...) I think there should be a certain expectation to "keep up, or get out of the way". Thankfully, the lizard has been created in a modular sence, so that the removal of partially completed elelments prior to the first major release isn't a huge headache (at least I don't *think* so...).

#14 not responsible

by Kovu

Saturday April 29th, 2000 6:34 PM

Developers in this case are only responsible to Mozilla, and only then not to break anything they can't fix. They certainly don't have any responsibility to Netscape 6, which won't put any money in their pockets. If Netscape needs it that bad they should hire more full-time engineers.

#15 My Thoughts

by Tanyel

Saturday April 29th, 2000 10:10 PM

In "terms of feedback", I think "open source" if a more efficient form than traditional "beta testing". I do not believe it provides more power to interact with developers. I do not believe it gives people more control over the developers with the exception of other developers, who can alter the "source code" and force other developers to alter "code" as well. I do not believe "open source" causes an end user to take a more active role in the development of software.

If the "third party developers" are not being paid then they have no responsibility to meet the deadlines of commercial entities. The "end users" mean nothing if they are not paying the developers, unless the developer holds some type of moral or personal obligation to the "end users". The "end users" should make comments and suggestions to improve the software.

If the "third party coders" promised to make the "code" ready in time to meet a deadline then they should do that. If not then nobody should expect anything and there is no obligation.

Concerning Mozilla, I have found the effort of the Bugzilla people to be mostly good. I was disappointed by the "WORKSFORME" setting but I believe they still do well.

#16 Re: My Thoughts

by krausedw

Saturday April 29th, 2000 10:29 PM

If you file a bug and it is marked WORKSFORME it is usually because either... 1. You're bug report was not written well and we couldn't reproduce what you wrote. 2. You used an older build and we can't reproduce it in the latest build. You can always reopen the bug if it still occurs in a newer build for you.

#20 Re: Re: My Thoughts

by Tanyel

Sunday April 30th, 2000 8:37 PM

...or maybe the bug only occurs on 32 megabyte computers and cannot be reproduced with "quantitive testing".

#21 Re: Re: Re: My Thoughts

by MattyT

Sunday April 30th, 2000 9:38 PM

Then reopen it.

#17 Feature Freezes

by MattyT

Sunday April 30th, 2000 6:58 PM

Firstly, let me start by saying that feature freezes are the norm in freed software projects.

I'm sure we're going to hear people complaining Netscape's agenda is keeping their code out of Mozilla. The complaints have started already and it hasn't even happened yet.

I hope that continues to do what it has done - code, stabilise, branch, stabilise. Mozilla is new, so we need that first stabilisation to be for a while, and that will inconvenience some people. Don't cry.

Secondly, the issue of deadlines. is the coordinator for this project, and what the coordinator says, goes. You can certainly argue about it, but we can't have people arguing forever.

That being said, there is of course inverse power, namely, that Netscape, being the main developer, can essentially set the development schedules. That will change as their ratio of development decreases and asserts itself as an independent entity, which it needs to do here and has not.

Some people have said here that freed software projects should not have deadlines. Untrue in my opinion. It is definitely true to say the credo for release should be "release when ready" and not "it compiles, ship it". However, this is something, Netscape and Joe Bloggs's Mozilla distribution can easily differ on.

This discussion is about the feature freeze date though. We can set feature freezes based on a date, a set of features, or a combination of the two.

Where you have a project where there is no real consensus on a set of features, date-based cutoffs are a necessity. I have seen enough evidence to suggest Mozilla is one of these. I'm pretty sure Linus sets cutoffs dates for Linux too.

As for responsibility, of course non-Netscape developers have no responsibility to conform to the Netscape 6 schedule. But they have to conform to the system set in place by should stand up and say that the feature freeze date of Netscape is the feature freeze for everyone, and say that no development shall occur until decides it is time to branch into stable and development trees.

At the moment we have Netscape developers doing this sort of thing. This is very bad.

#22 Open Source does NOT benefit consumers

by danielhill

Monday May 1st, 2000 12:32 AM

I'll be the odd one out here, but I don't think Open Source benefits consumers at all. I'm talking the average Joe Blow off the street who wants to buy 'one of dem computer thingys to go on the fishing net'.

Is Joe Blow going to report bugs? No. Is Joe Blow going to get out that C++ compiler and add his own features? HAHAHA!

I'm sorry, but I haven't seen an open source project delivering superior quality to a closed source one. Maybe Mozilla will be the exception to that.

With Open Source, there are too many things to go wrong. What if somebody takes the code, chucks the license and flogs their version of the software without giving credit nor source? You cannot prove he didn't write it himself.

As for Open Source projects encouraging and accepting more feedback, well I'll dispute that right now. A while ago in this forum, I posted something about Autocomplete and Tooltips. Somebody from Netscape literally laughed at me. I think it was Tanyel who said Mozilla wasn't that great on a 32 meg machine, and was laughed at and labelled a troll. I have heard of many cases like this, with too many Netscape engineers' heads too far up their a**es.

Don't get me wrong: I like Mozilla. I think it will make a great browser. I just don't like the attitudes of a lot of people associated with it (the 'You use MS, you're scum' set of people) and I think maybe a few people have too much faith on open-source.

#23 Ignore Tanyel...

by jesusX

Monday May 1st, 2000 9:12 AM

He's the troll. Arrogant and nasty in general.

<opinion> As for Tooltips and URL Autocomplete, there are still some serious stability bugs. Right now, The goal is to get it feature complete for it's initial release, and then stabilize everything possible. I guarantee that there are people working on Mozilla who want those features, but there are some larger priorities right now.

Despite the name, type of product, and baggage, everyone needs to remember that Mozilla and Netscape 6.0 are a brand new, built from the ground up, project.

#25 Re: Ignore Tanyel...

by Tanyel

Friday May 5th, 2000 2:29 PM

"He's the troll. Arrogant and nasty in general."

How many times do I have to tell you cretins I am a woman?

You think I am "nasty in general" because I am objective rather than a blind fool like you.

#24 Re: Open Source does NOT benefit consumers

by MattyT

Tuesday May 2nd, 2000 2:47 AM

> I'm sorry, but I haven't seen an open > source project delivering superior > quality to a closed source one. Maybe > Mozilla will be the exception to that.

A large number of people disagree with you on that assessment. I can attest that Linux is more stable than Windows, and Apache is used more than all of the other web servers put together, plus some.

> With Open Source, there are too many > things to go wrong. What if somebody > takes the code, chucks the license > and flogs their version of the > software without giving credit nor > source? You cannot prove he didn't > write it himself.

The GPL requires source. Most open source projects don't, and they still work just fine. Indeed, many people encourage the use of open source code in proprietary products.

The problem of knowing who wrote source code exists no matter whether the software is open source!

> As for Open Source projects > encouraging and accepting more > feedback, well I'll dispute that > right now.

Before you start criticizing open source feedback systems it would help if you discussed some good proprietary software feedback systems, because my experience is that they are like chalk and cheese. No-one's claiming OSS is perfect, just better.

> A while ago in this > forum, I posted something about > Autocomplete and Tooltips.

Firstly, this isn't a support forum, and developers can't be expected to scour the net for bug reports.

> Somebody > from Netscape literally laughed at > me.

Could you post a link to this? I'd like to see what the situation was. As with anything, its possible to step on toes unknowingly, and it's possible to get a bad apple.

And I certainly hope you're not basing your opinion about open source feedback in general on a few comments on Mozillazine.

> I think it was Tanyel who > said Mozilla wasn't that great on a > 32 meg machine, and was laughed at > and labelled a troll. I have heard > of many cases like this,

Again, link(s) please. Maybe Tanyel is a troll. A troll could still post a valid issue, if they knew the issue had been discussed to death before.

> with too many Netscape engineers' > heads too far up their a**es.

Actually, I have never seen this to the degree you're describing.

In the case of the bug system, there are adequate instructions, and people often don't read them, so that can annoy developers. There are plenty of people like myself who are trying to improve Mozilla's processes.

The benefit of open source is not that it is perfect, but that it is naturally self-correcting through peer-review of both source code and development process. Like now, when I'm trying to find the source of the problems you're encountering.