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Problems With the Firefox Development Process 563

Posted by Zonk
from the eyes-on-the-prize dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Mike Connor, one of the core Firefox developers, is raising a flag concerning the Mozilla Firefox methodology of development. From his blog: "In nearly three years, we haven't built up a community of hackers around Firefox, for a myriad of reasons, and now I think were in trouble. Of the six people who can actually review in Firefox, four are AWOL, and one doesn't do a lot of reviews." In an earlier entry, he raised concrete concerns about the community involvement. Asa Dotzler recently elaborated on the process, as previously covered on Slashdot."
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Problems With the Firefox Development Process

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  • It's the Branding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Baricom (763970) on Monday March 07, 2005 @02:43AM (#11863404)
    Seriously. Mozilla's obsessive-compulsive disorder when it comes to their trademarks is above and beyond any other open source project's, and I think it's probably turning a lot of people off toward helping them.
    • Re:It's the Branding (Score:5, Informative)

      by buckhead_buddy (186384) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:01AM (#11863450)
      Trademarks (unlike patents and copyrights) have to be defended against misuse and abuse or they may be judged to be unenforcible later.

      This is probably a harder thing to do in the open source world, and also much more important to establish a trustworthy brand and indentity.
      • Re:It's the Branding (Score:5, Informative)

        by Dulimano (686806) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:27AM (#11863541)
        Somewhat related to the branding question, another Mozilla problem:

        RMS wants to rebrand Firefox. [mozillazine.org]

        This thing will surely appear soon as another sensationalist Slashdot headline.
      • by iabervon (1971) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:42AM (#11863573) Homepage Journal
        They have to be defended against violations in order to avoid becoming generic and therefore invalid, but that doesn't mean you can't license them to the general public for a variety of uses that you approve of. The trademark on "Linux" is perfectly fine, despite all of the Linux variants calling themselves "Linux", because Linus licensed it for that purpose. That doesn't mean that Sun could call their next Solaris version "Linux" with impunity, if it didn't have a Linux kernel.

        Mozilla is trying to establish a trustworthy brand and identity, as you say; however, having an identity excludes potential participants, who are being identified as not part of the project. And their fear that other people's versions would reflect badly on them excludes those other people from feeling welcome.

        One of the key strengths of the Linux brand is that people you trust for other reasons have a stake in it. Sure, there are people out there who release terrible versions of Linux, but you don't get it from them. There are also people out there who release versions of Linux with special features for just your problem, and that's part of what Linux is about (e.g., Intrinsyc ships a Linux version with special support for the hardware on their embedded devices; the Linux Audio Development project has a version which avoids skips when recording audio; these projects couldn't call themselves Linux if Linus managed the trademark the way Mozilla manages theirs, and it would reduce the recognition of Linux as something that can solve any problem you happen to have).
        • by guet (525509) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:20AM (#11864071)
          The problem is, we're talking about a browser here, not an operating system like Linux - it's far easier to persuade people to download a web-browser rather than an operating system (Linux). Maybe that will change, but right now the Mozilla/Firefox people have to worry about security and all the unscrupulous free-loaders who would attempt to use their name.

          A lot of spyware vendors for example would be tempted to ship their own special 'enhanced' version of Firefox with the same branding and call it Firefox+ or something, with built in weather, clock, terrorist headcount, free desktop pictures, plus of course key logging, pop-ups and god knows what else. Just enough fluff to make it seem useful to a non-expert user, and just enough spyware to keep them happy. Then when it all comes out that it is spyware, Firefox will be tarred with the same brush.

          That kind of thing is one good reason not to allow just anyone to use the brand.
        • Re:It's the Branding (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)
          Actually, I think Linux has already become enough of a generic term to make it to be very difficult to defend the trademark. I have heard the term Linux used as a generic term for `a free software platform' and as a generic term for `a UNIX-like OS'. OpenSolaris fits both of these descriptions, and so could (arguably) be called Linux. Most distributions do not ship the stock kernel, they ship a kernel with a number of patches. This is not a Linux(TM) kernel, it is a derived work of the Linux(TM) kernel.
          • Most distributions do not ship the stock kernel, they ship a kernel with a number of patches. This is not a Linux(TM) kernel, it is a derived work of the Linux(TM) kernel.

            Except Linus has no problem with this - he has openly stated that he _wants_ the packagers to patch and stablise the kernel for the end-lusers.

            By your reasoning, if I had a Ferrari and I changed the stereo I would nolonger be able to call it a Ferrari because it's now a derived work... (Sorry, every slashdot arguement has to ahve a car
        • "They have to be defended against violations in order to avoid becoming generic and therefore invalid"

          Just firefox a page on trademarks to read about how they become generic... I can thunderbird one to you if you like...
    • by dj42 (765300) * on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:04AM (#11863461) Journal
      I think right now what is needed is a strong branding for Firefox that will create a reputation among the "tech-oriented" masses that get their information from magazines and cursory reading of pop-tech articles. How else will they truly gain ground against what many people perceive as the ONLY way to get online?

      I think it's important to realize some people synonymize "The Internet" with Internet Explorer, because of IE auto-dialing, and auto connecting, as well as broad-band connections always being on and using it as default browser with windows.

      Anything you do mainstream (particularly in the US) is already being done branding first and content second. Just take a look at TV.

      We're dealing here with the WWW, possibly the most impressive achievement to date in terms of communication and information sharing. It's going to take some power to muddle through the masses, and you're not going to do it by sticking exclusively to principles at the expense of reaching the clueless.

      The infrastructure, particularly the end-user "filter" of that information, is of critical importance. Idealism about open-source initiatives has to play tug-of-war with practical ways to get a broad following.
      • The word "internet" being in IE's name is quite a bit helpful for IE as well. Consider people who don't read anything they don't have to and barely read anything that they do. Consider bad spellers, and especially dyslexic people. I've encountered MANY people with poor literacy who (instinctively?) tend to pick IE when presented with a choice between FF and IE on a desktop because of the word "internet" in the name.

        In this very same group of people on desktops with only a FF icon, I've heard questions like
    • Re:It's the Branding (Score:5, Interesting)

      by eln (21727) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:29AM (#11863545) Homepage
      The problem is, if you're an open source project wanting to become the new mainstream product in a mainstream area (such as web browsing), your biggest obstacle is overcoming the idea that open source is the realm of teenage hackers and unstable processes. The most important thing for you to do is to establish some stability in your brand, and to convince people that you are an entity that is here to stay.

      People have been conditioned to think that software is unstable and buggy. This means that a primary requirement in choosing a software vendor is stability and support. People want to know that the company they're getting their software from is stable, and will continue to support the product. If Firefox, or any other open source project, wants to enter the mainstream of the consumer market, they must have an answer to these concerns. This means building a strong brand, part of which is constant trademark defense.

      Like it or not, if you want to break into the consumer market, you must let people know that you are going to be there for them, and the average open source project cannot do that. Firefox is doing the best they can to do this, even though it flies in the face of the traditional open source ethos.

      If this philosophy flies in the face of the average open source hacker's philosophy, then that's really too bad. The goal of Firefox is to replace IE, not only in the minds of other open source hackers, but in the minds of the general public. It is not simply to prove that open source programming can produce an equal or superior product, but that open source can produce a more economically viable product, a product that can beat the competition not only technically, but also in the market. This idea puts it at odds with much of the traditional open source philosophy, which seeks merely to produce technically superior products.
  • That's strange... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Smerity (714804) <smerity@smerity.com> on Monday March 07, 2005 @02:44AM (#11863409) Homepage

    That's strange...

    From what I read on the last Slashdot Mozilla/Firefox article, people thought that there were too many coders in Firefox, thus creating bloated code...

    I guess that's a myth, eh? Community misconception?

    • by SubTexel (715118) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:09AM (#11863482)
      Funny how people always bitch about products when they dont have X feature, etc.. But when they include all of those nice features everyone wants they bitch about how bloated it has become..
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:36AM (#11863562)
        Well it makes sense, people want the products they use to only have the features THEY want. This is why plugins/extensions are nice. I don't believe that Firefox is bloated.
      • Re:That's strange... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:00AM (#11863612) Journal
        Uh, compared to at least one of its rivals, Mozilla/FireFox is bloated.

        Compare the feature sets of FireFox and Opera. Now compare their relative footprints when installed (or even the size of the downloads). Pound for pound, Opera is faster, lighter and does more (it even includes mail and IRC clients in it's small size).

        Also, almost without exception, those features that are common to both (a great many of which were browser innovations by Opera itself) are far better implemented in Opera than they are in FireFox.

        So, Opera seems to be proof that you can have your cake and eat it too. It's small, fast, powerful and bloat-free. If the guys at Opera can do it, then other people can do it too, can't they?
        • by mrchaotica (681592)
          Well, the Opera guys just set out to create a web browser. Since Firefox is more of a web development environment, it's kind of hard to compare them, ya know?
        • by MrNemesis (587188) on Monday March 07, 2005 @08:38AM (#11864278) Homepage Journal
          Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with your comment (I'm an Opera user myself, under Linux and windows) and I was quite surprised you weren't modded into obliviion by some of the seemingly anti-Opera /. members, remember that Opera makes most of their money from the embedded market, especially mobile phones and PDA's. Hence there's an awful lot of incentive to get the browser to be as lightweight as possible. Similarly, alot of Opera's innovations have been related to making a browser useful with limited screen size (tabs, small screen rendering) and navigation tools (gestures, incredibly extensive shortcuts).

          Conversely, FF's main aim was to develop a leaner browser than the Moz suite whilst still maintaining a Moz/Opera-like level of functionality. Now that the browser is more-or-less set in stone, expect to see alot of work being done in the smaller/faster areas. Especially with the up-and-coming Gecko-powered embedded browser that's being worked on.
        • Re:That's strange... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by FireFury03 (653718)
          Also, almost without exception, those features that are common to both (a great many of which were browser innovations by Opera itself) are far better implemented in Opera than they are in FireFox.

          Disclaimer: I am a FireFox user.

          Unfortunately, FireFox is more standards complient than Opera (yes, I know that every time I say this on Slashdot some Opera fanboys flame me for daring to suggest that their precious browser might be flawed, but it happens to be true). Having done a fair amount of standards com
      • No so strange (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fm6 (162816)
        That's perfectly consistent. Missing features are bitchable as bugs if they're features you want. Actual features are bitchable as bloat if they're features you see no need for.

        Which sounds funny, but isn't. The only objective definition of bloat is trivial features whose maintenance cost far outweighs their benefit to the user community. I've worked on projects that had really nasty feature bloat, because individual developers were given too much independence, and wasted time working on features that app

    • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:52AM (#11863595) Homepage Journal
      There are a few tens of thousands of Linux kernel coders, but there are only about five or six people you can actually say are "maintainers", who filter the code and turn the chaos into order.


      One maintainer for Firefox would be fine, if it were a little more modular. The problem is the same one Linus had, fairly early on. People don't scale as easily as lines of code. Basically, the Firefox code needs to be ripped into managable parcels, such that the maintenance that is done can concentrate on one parcel, rather than ALL interactions in ALL parts of the code.


      Monolithic code is problematic, because for N lines of code, there are potentially !N interactions that can occur. !N gets big, very very quickly. When you use procedures wisely, then N is the number of procedures, rather than the number of lines, but it is still a VERY big number, far too big for ANY finite number of maintainers to handle sensibly.

  • by PalmMP3 (840083) on Monday March 07, 2005 @02:45AM (#11863411)
    Microsoft has been getting away with bloody murder for years, shipping buggy products. So who's to make a fuss if Firefox has a couple of measly problems for a while? They'll definitely get fixed before IE, that's for sure...
    • by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Monday March 07, 2005 @02:49AM (#11863421) Homepage Journal
      *SLAP!*

      Don't set your standards low just because the competition does. Set 'em high because you can and should.

      (I've just been in the mood to slap someone lately. Nothing personal.)
    • by shadowmatter (734276) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:17AM (#11863508)
      From the article:

      Of the six people who can actually review in Firefox, four are AWOL, and one doesn't do a lot of reviews. And I'm on the verge of just walking away indefinitely, since it feels like I'm the only person who cares enough to make it an issue.

      What good is people submitting patches if no one is there to review the code prior to commit? Indeed, I submitted a very trivial usability enhancement to Firefox [mozilla.org], and it was quickly swept under the rug. Perhaps it should simply be made into a plug-in, I don't know. Just thought I would share it as first-hand experience.

      - shadowmatter
    • It's sort of funny to watch how some people will compromise their morals just a little bit further as open-source projects become increasingly complex and start to suffer the same pitfalls as their closed-source brethren. The first slide occurred when Firefox security holes went unpatched for weeks. Now I see that at least one person is attempting to justify this latest concern by comparing Firefox to IE - how ironic considering the former is considered to be a completely different alternative to the lat
  • Firefox (Score:4, Funny)

    by blobzorz (864386) on Monday March 07, 2005 @02:49AM (#11863422) Homepage
    Yeah, IE has been horrible with security and whatnot, who cares if firefox makes one mistake? They're still perfect in my eyes.
  • by TelJanin (784836) on Monday March 07, 2005 @02:59AM (#11863444)
    Many of the devs are hard at work for plain Mozilla. This makes the development of Firefox seem slow, but a lot of code from Mozilla can be (and is) used in Firefox through the Gecko engine. You don't have to exclusivly work on Firefox to help Firefox.

    That said, I wish there were more devs working on Firefox-specific issues.
  • by Vthornheart (745224) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:00AM (#11863447)
    Have they produced any Documents that new programmers to Firefox could use to quickly begin becoming useful to the cause? It sounds to me like their problem is that the overall architecture of the system is under-documented (either that, or they're just not allowing sufficient access).


    If it is a problem of documentation, then those two remaining programmers had better work on documenting it... and quickly. If they want the architecture to be preserved when new programmers who don't understand it come along.

  • by rsborg (111459) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:02AM (#11863457) Homepage
    to work on frickin Windows, when the MoFo [mozilla.org] has a hard time getting people to do work with sexy Firefox/Mozilla?

    I think some things need to be funded, and if Mofo needs the cash, then Cashdot should be able to help out (maybe do a sidebar-fundraiser or something)... I'd pitch in a couple of bits for my fave browser! Hell make it a contest so people can win firefox/mozilla SWAG [mozilla.org]!

  • Same ol', same ol' (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:04AM (#11863463)
    It's nothing new, really, just a little more extreme.

    Mozilla has for years made a constant and ongoing argument that they're open to all comers and want all the help they can get, only to turn people away without consideration. I don't know what it's all about, and I'm not sure I care anymore.

    It's a shame, because while (for example) Ben Goodger is obviously a talented programmer, his belief that he is the only person capable of doing what he does is just crippling the effort. Allowing a few people to prove they're as good as he is (hmmm... maybe he's afraid to find that out) could move things along tremendously.
  • by adepali (749748) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:07AM (#11863475) Homepage
    I believe the main reason for this is lack of developers-oriented documentation. Even for simple extensions, one has to search around the web and hack through existing modules to see how things work; things get harder when you try to work with the actual code, which comes with a whole bunch of its own graphics toolkit, scripting etc. Sure some people may know the entire code by heart, but these things need extensive, robust documentation if more independent developers are to get involved.
  • His blog... (Score:5, Funny)

    by digitalchinky (650880) <dtchky@gmail.com> on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:08AM (#11863478)
    Best he be careful, blog entries regarding 'conserns' might get him sacked :-)

  • by Gopal.V (532678) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:11AM (#11863487) Homepage Journal
    > because this isn't fun anymore.

    Mmm... "Just for Fun !!"

    If you look at very successful FOSS projects, you'll see a comitted 3-5 member team which does pretty much everything for that project (projects like KDE or gnome don't classify as projects, they are meta-projects).

    A project needs lots of users and around 3-4 x times the core team contributing bits and peices to keep it alive. Once that is reached, the project is pretty much self sustaining.

    I feel that firefox has got a bit of elitism in their top level. Maybe those developers should take a look back into where THEY came from.
    • by Afrosheen (42464) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:34AM (#11863557)
      Yeah, take a look at Linus Torvalds. He was the beginning kernel dev, but he sought help from individuals while the kernel was growing. Now he's pretty much a yay/nay guy that makes a few decisions now and then.

      Basically, if you document what you're doing, it's fairly easy to turn your project over to more people. If you don't document, then you're cementing your position as 'the coder' and making it that much harder for others to join in.
  • by earthbound kid (859282) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:11AM (#11863490) Homepage
    Lack of new, innovative names. Look, I like "FireFox" as well as the next guy, but let's face it, that name is getting a bit stale. Sure, 6 months ago, FireFox had a "hip," "edgy" feeling, but today, FF just isn't cutting anymore. Only Korean old people use browsers with such old fashioned names. We all know that the most productive period in FF's history was the period in which it was changing its name every other week. Features got added like crazy during those couple of months. Some people look at that as coincidence, but as I always say, "Correlation is causation." Therefore, if we want to add new features to FF quickly, we're going to need to start changing the project name weekly, if not daily or even hourly.

    In order to help out the FireFox team, here are my suggestions for new, catchier names:

    Fox Fire

    Brush Fire

    Brush Fox

    Foxy Britches

    Fancy Pants

    Panda Britches

    Moz Illa Than You

    Moz Def

    Linky Clicky

    Clicky Linky

    Spider Webby

    The Amazing Spider Webby

    Ultra Browser

    Supa Browsa

    Supa Browsa II: Supa Browsa Remix

    and finally,

    Internet Explorer II: Electric Bugaloo
  • Quick Clarification (Score:4, Interesting)

    by _defiant_ (120560) <stephen.butler@gmail.com> on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:12AM (#11863492) Homepage
    His problem seems to be with the development process of Firefox itself, not with stuff that happening in the main Mozilla trunk. For example, the following projects he doesn't have problems with: XTF, SVG, XForms, E4X, and xulrunner (lifted from the comments).

    What I gather this means is that Firefox 1.1 will get some cool new backend features but that its front end stuff will remain mostly the same (excepting the preferences dialog). Is this really a bad thing?
  • Reading code... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tuck (41529) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:17AM (#11863511) Homepage
    ... can be harder than writing it. When you're writing code or fixing a non-trivial bug, your understanding is built up as you work on it. When reviewing someone else's patch, you're starting cold and it can take a significant effort to comprehend it enough to even attempt to review it.

    Brian Kernighan is widely quoted as saying: "Debugging is twice as hard as writing code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it."

    When you're debugging, it involves rereading code you're already familiar with, so I suggest a corollary: reviewing someone else's code can be harder than writing it in the first place too.

    That said, don't let it stop you from trying! Pick a patch from your favourite project and review it. Try to understand it. Look for places where it could be wrong.

    Reviewing is a related but distinct skill from developing, and it can be improved with practice. A good reviewer is worth their weight in gold but it's often a thankless task (so let me take this chance to say a big thank you to markus and djm for putting up with my diffs :-).

  • by mccalli (323026) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:18AM (#11863514) Homepage
    OK, so it's Thunderbird not Firefox. But I since I was an OS X user on a laptop and Windows user on a desktop, and since I could find no way to synchronise my address book, I decided I'd do the coding and write the vCard import module for Thunderbird which many people have been crying out for.

    I downloaded the code, posted up onto the relevant bugzilla entry, and waited for a response.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    Still no response.

    Seven months later, the bug flickers into life again and people start asking why this isn't here. Again, I post up reminding people that I offered to write the code, and still would. Again, utter silence. Tumbleweed drifts across the face of the bugzilla page...

    Have a look, entry 79709 if you're interested (Mozilla's bugzilla set-up disallows direct linking from Slashdot). My main motivation for writing this has now gone, as I bought an OS X-based desktop too and can synchronise contacts fine now. I might still have a crack at it just for interest's sake though, but I wouldn't count on getting any contact from Mozilla people.

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • Solution (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:21AM (#11863522)
    Switch to IE...

    Bill Gates says "i told ya so"
  • GPL It? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MBoffin (259181) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:32AM (#11863553) Homepage
    The source code is out there. If development completely stalls on this project, maybe they should just GPL the thing and let some other group of developers take over. I'm sure there are holes in this suggestion, but it seems a sensible thing to if things really grind to a halt.
  • by krayfx (694332) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:34AM (#11863558)
    why are we obsessed with firefox being too perfect! c'mon this is a community based product and even though they strive for perfection and do quite a good job at it. they are humans and bound to be prone to problems. and we arent paying them. its our fault that we raise them to some levels and then expect them to be there just because we praise them and raise them to exhalted levels and get a free download of our favourite browser!

  • I've posted bugs to Firefox Bugzilla. All I know about the Firefox "community" comes from that.

    One of the bug posts, about a serious memory leak that causes a complete crash, was handled in an angry way, even though I had spent hours documenting it on two computers and two operating systems.

    This is an extremely common phenomenon among Open Source authors. They often use their position as a way of acting out their anger. I was criticized because I use Firefox in a more intense way than other users! When I posted a carefully written response to the criticism, I got criticism for posting a long response.

    I offered to re-write the manual for another Open Source project, and got a negative response that was encouraging and discouraging at the same time.

    On another project, I entered a minor bug. The program was crashing if it saw a DOS end-of-text-file character in its text file input. I got back a long, philosophical discussion about why they were not willing to fix the bug because it was a problem that came from DOS.

    One person with an anger problem can literally control the development of an Open Source project by scaring away potential helpers.

    In my experience, the anger is often not expressed in a way that is obviously angry. It comes as opposition, sometimes very subtle opposition, even to good ideas or to useful help. The opposition vastly increases the amount of time required to contribute to a project.

    The serious Firefox crash I reported in October 2003 was still there in February 2005 in version 1.0, even though it was verified by others in a careful way.

    The background for all this is that Firefox is apparently the best browser, and an important window to the world for millions of people.

    This is an important subject, and there is a lot more to say, but I don't have time now.
    • by oo_waratah (699830) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:24AM (#11863662)
      This is a real concern. The whole process of programming 'should' be egoless. The person who writes and maintains the code often feels to much ownership and instead of taking the the change in good grace and thankfulness they often approach the whole thing defensively. "The code was never intended to do that".

      This is NOT a problem with Open Source development but with programmers as a whole, myself included but I try and suppress it. You have to 'give up' code that you have too much ownership in.
      • by nberardi (199555) * on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:50AM (#11863731) Homepage
        I think you are partly right and partly wrong. With Open Source all that you get is the recognition of your project in most cases. If one person draws all the attention away from the group then you can feel left out and angry. How many people here can name any of the people on the FireFox team that haven't been in Wired Magazine. No cheating...

        There are probably not many and personally I think this is what drives some of the negativity.

        A couple times I have posted a bug to the FireFox Bugzilla, both times they have been duplicates. Both times I have been critisized by the person managing the bug to look before submitting. Both times the title of the bug has been totally different than anything I would have thought of.

        Most of the problems come from the lack of dealing with other people. Many of these developers shouldn't be doing the customer interaction. That is why even in small companies 1st level tech support is not the developer who created/developed the project.

    • An additional remark:

      The problems with reporting bugs in Firefox are trivial compared to reporting bugs to Microsoft, in my experience.

      A top-level Microsoft support technician got interested in a very well-documented bug in Windows XP that I reported. He decided, partly as an experiment to teach himself about Microsoft, to work with several Microsoft groups. Result: An entire waste of time of many, many hours, over a period of months.

      I've been reporting several bugs in Windows XP for literally years, and they haven't been fixed. If you work with both Linux and Windows XP, do you notice that Linux has a powerful, bug-free Command Line Interface, and the CLI in Windows XP is weak and buggy? (Yes, I know they are working on replacing it.)
      • I've been reporting several bugs in Windows XP for literally years, and they haven't been fixed. If you work with both Linux and Windows XP, do you notice that Linux has a powerful, bug-free Command Line Interface, and the CLI in Windows XP is weak and buggy? (Yes, I know they are working on replacing it.)

        I don't normally buy into the conspiracy theories about Microsoft, but I am absolutely 100% certain that the steady degradation of the dos box is a classic case of MS trying to herd people away from the

    • by bonch (38532) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:45AM (#11863716)
      The reason you see it in OSS more often than, say, the commercial world, is that people who piss off clients usually get fired. That sort of accountability to the consumer--mostly because consumers eventually affect the bottom-line--doesn't exist in the OSS world. We have to rely on trust and goodwill, and often people don't feel the need to follow any social rules because they're not being employed by anyone.

      Like any development model, OSS has its good points and its bad points, and that is certainly a bad one.
    • by dattaway (3088) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:53AM (#11863737) Homepage Journal
      When I posted a carefully written response to the criticism, I got criticism...

      This happens in every profession at every employer from anyone who has to do work. Its human nature to take the gravy from the plate and give others the left over bones. Of course, this doesn't help when there are no other people to enjoy the left over scraps so they get discarded.

      Next time you have a problem, bring lots of gravy. The dogs might attack the problem next time without going after YOU!

      More proof that the difference between us and other animals in the kingdom is that we have opposable thumbs. The advantage is we get to meet a lot of monkeys. And an infinite number of them are proficient at typing on a typewriter typing the Complete Works of William Shakespeare while ignoring your very simple question.
      • Warning: you have exceeded your Slashdot metaphor allotment for this month. Further use will be billed at $0.10/metaphor, or you may choose to switch to the unlimited plan for the low, low price of $42/month. Thank you.

        ; )
    • by Xunker (6905) on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:17AM (#11863794) Homepage Journal
      I feel your pain, but I disagree with that it's acting out anger -- instead, from my experiences I feel that it's not anger but a lack of ability or experience with dealing with someone who says, either directly or indirectly, that something you made is "wrong".

      One thing the FOSS paradigm has done is made it possible that people with no experience in the social aspects of software development to write code that is potentially used by millions of people. It can open up a "cowboy culture" where everyone is at odds with everyone else and where, if I may borrow a line from a certain movie, "we're all our own countries with temporary allies and enemies".

      I say this with the benefit of hindsight, to be sure: I was a once a pimply, antisocial code-contributor and inlooking back on my own exchanges I see that I was as bad as it gets: if someone found a bug in what I did, instead of fixing it I would spend all my energy in combating the person who reported it because surely this person was out to get me. It wasn't until a few years later when I got a "professional" job that my boss pulled me asside one day and gave me a half-hour verbal bitch-slap that I realized that a bug report is usually someone who _wants_to_help_me_. Basically, I was too arrogant to see that, and now that I'm "old and wise" I see that same thing on others.

      Of course, I'm not saying you should let them off the hook because thay don't know any better.. in fact, I'd hazard the sentement that more bitch-slapping needs to be done in the open-source world!

      I don't know were I'm going with this, but that's my two cents.
  • by Aaron England (681534) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:32AM (#11863686)
    Perhaps it has something to do with their stated developer policy?

    Q5: How do I get involved?

    By invitation. This is a meritocracy - those who gain the respect of those in the group will be invited to join the group.

    It was elaborated on slashdot [slashdot.org] once before.

  • extensions? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dhbiker (863466) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:40AM (#11863702) Homepage
    Sounds to me like there is a community of hackers waiting in the wings (just have a look at the large numbers of extensions available for firefox) - its just that they haven't allowed any of them to get past the first steps and into more involved hacking

    my $0.02
  • Typical? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m00nun1t (588082) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:50AM (#11863728) Homepage
    From my observations of lots of open source projects, and involvement in a few, this seems fairly typical. With only a few exceptions, it seems like most projects have the bulk of the work done by a very, very small number of people, usually just one. I often wonder how much the "many eyes makes all bugs shallow" maxim, while probably true, applies in practice when on most projects there simply aren't many eyes.

    [dons flame retardant suit]
  • misconceptions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TuxPaper (531914) on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:42AM (#11863840)
    - Reviewers != Coders. There are more Firefox coders than reviewers. A bottleneck is created, but hardly a crisis

    - Most of Firefox's changes come from Gecko, which is done by Mozilla coders (I guess you could call them Gecko coders, although I've never heard anyone say that). There are currently about 70 reviewers, and 20 super-reviewers for mozilla. There's about 84 coders a month (down from the 150+ haydays of the Netscape area)
  • Process (part 2) (Score:3, Insightful)

    by marvin2k (685952) on Monday March 07, 2005 @06:33AM (#11863968)
    I have worried about that for a while now until I wrote this: earlier post [slashdot.org]

    I really don't think fancy new features should (can) be a top priority right now anymore but instead the core problem of getting new developers needs to be solved not just for now but also for the future. While I agree that changing things like the versioning system won't change much I believe splitting up the codebase into more handy chunks and giving "outsiders" more power (eg regular contributers should need no code review) should be the goal. I think it's this sharp devision between core (Foundation) and outside (everybody else) developers that is the main problem here.
  • Documentation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yulek (202118) on Monday March 07, 2005 @06:55AM (#11864008) Homepage Journal
    The whole mozilla project is also in desperate need of documentation. It's nearly impossible to write applications and complex extensions without digging into the sometimes sparsely commented source code.

    Documentation would also help in the review process.
  • by fr0dicus (641320) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:20AM (#11864073) Journal
    I bet they just bought Macs and got on with real life.
  • by 3seas (184403) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:35AM (#11864104) Journal
    Ok, what about the ad campaign funding???

    Oh, you mean about software improvements?

    Here's a serious one:

    when downloading and the isp drops your dialup connection, firefox still thinks it is DL'ing, even hours later.

    On a 90meg file (over 9 hours of dl'ing with earthlinks advertised 56k, 28.8 at the very best) gettng a dropped carrier at 60% reall sucks, having no resume, especially considering there is existing wget -c that simply should be called to handle such large files.

    But here is the kicker:
    after resuming the DL via wget -c and getting it, I then needed to dl an unrar program, upon which I found firefox still acting like it was dl'ing teh file, so I canceled it and guess what? The 90meg file vanished.

    Icing on this issue:
    firefox was dling a file with .part appened, yet deleted a file w/o it.

    IS this what is ment by community support?
  • I tried (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Cowdog (154277) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:56AM (#11865314) Journal
    I tried and failed to become a Firefox developer. You have to know several people who are already on the inside, so they can vouch for you. It's an exclusive club by design, not encouraging for newcomers.

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

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