For Good Measure

Reblogging "Open Source is not enough"

by Colby Russell. 2016 January 19.

I don't know Adam Spitz, but I know that a few years back he wrote an excellent post titled "Open Source is not enough", and my reaction to reading it was vigorous, excited agreement. That URL is dead now and isn't archived by the Wayback Machine, so I decided to preserve it here. (Turns out, it's the most recent post, and the text can be recovered by visiting the front page on the Wayback Machine, but I'm copying it here, anyway.)

Open Source is not enough

The Open Source movement is great, but it doesn’t go far enough.

When I first tried Smalltalk, one thing that really struck me about it was that not only was the source “open”, but it was right there in front of me. If I wanted to see the source code for one of the classes in the Smalltalk standard library, I didn’t have to go to the web and find the project’s source-code repository and download the code. I just clicked on the class’s name in the Class Browser, and there it was. Making changes or additions to the standard library was as easy as making changes to my own code – everything was right there in the Class Browser, and changes took effect immediately.

The Morphic user-interface system, originally created for Self and later ported to Squeak and then Lively Kernel, took things even further. With Morphic, I could right-click on anything I saw on the screen and ask to see the source code for it. If I pressed a button and it did something neat and I wanted to see how it worked, I could find out with just a few clicks. If I wanted to make a second button that did something similar, I just right-clicked the first button and said Duplicate.

Convenience matters. When I feel the Urge To Tinker, only rarely does it feel like a loud voice shouting in my brain with enough energy to propel me to find the website and download the source code and figure out how to find the part of the code that corresponds to the thing I’m looking at on the screen and make the change and restart the program and retrace my steps. Much more often it’s just a quiet voice mumbling, “Hey, it’d be kinda neat if…” and then I think, “Well, it’s Open Source, I guess I could go download the source code… but… meh, it’s so far out of my way, not worth it,” and the urge fizzles out. I think that a lot of potential human creativity is being wasted this way.

Adam Spitz.
"Open Source is not enough". 2011 May 05.