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Pidgin Controversy Triggers Fork 1104

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-gotta-bit-kidding-me dept.
paleshadows writes "Pidgin, the premier multi-protocol instant messaging client, has been forked. This is the result of a heated, emotional, and very interesting debate over a controversial new feature: As of version 2.4, the ability to manually resize the text input area has been removed; instead, it automatically resizes depending on how much is typed. It turns out that this feature, along with the uncompromising unwillingness of the developers to provide an option to turn it off, annoys the bejesus of very many users. One comment made by a Professor that teaches "Collaboration in an Open Source World" argued that 'It's easy to see why open source developers could develop dogmas. [...] The most dangerous dogma is the one exhibited here: the God feature. "One technological solution can meet every possible user-desired variation of a feature." [...] You [the developers] are ignoring the fan base with a dedication to your convictions that is alarmingly evident to even the most unobservant of followers, and as such, you are demonstrating that you no longer deserve to be in the position of servicing the needs of your user base.'" Does anyone besides me find this utterly ridiculous?
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Pidgin Controversy Triggers Fork

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  • Pigeons (Score:5, Funny)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @02:56PM (#23253988) Homepage Journal
    Just can't get our act together. It's why we've never been able to get past our image as disorganized and in general lower than the other birds.
    • by Tackhead (54550)

      Just can't get our act together. It's why we've never been able to get past our image as disorganized and in general lower than the other birds.

      Pigeon controversies triggering forks is nothing.

      For a fork, you'd have had to go all the way to Soviet Russia, but a dart was close enough to prove that In Moderately Liberal Seattle, dart triggers pigeon controversy [nwsource.com].

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Curtman (556920)

        Pigeon controversies triggering forks is nothing.

        Seriously though. Pidgin and its predecessor Gaim are forked every 6 months or so. It's what happens when developers enforce their petty "HIG guidelines" over common sense. Someone please tell me why it is necessary to forbid the user from resizing a window or widget that was previously resizeable. The preferences window is another one. There's no reason at all that they had to set it as nonresizeable, and occasionally it pisses me off enough to port

    • Re:Pigeons (Score:5, Funny)

      by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:15PM (#23254352)
      Mmmm, forked Pidgin, reminds me of my last Thanksgiving dinner.
  • GET OFF MY LAUN! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bananatree3 (872975) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:00PM (#23254046)
    This whole situation reeks of some crusty developer stuck in his ways.
    • Such a developer would have abhorred such a crazy idea for a feature though? :P I can't see much point in this one. It would make a nice novelty but I doubt I'd use it myself.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:18PM (#23254408)
      There are two "U"s in lawn.
  • by Paradigm_Complex (968558) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:01PM (#23254058)
    If there's no technical reason not to allow both options with a simple option in a menu somewhere, then yes it is ridiculous. If there is some downside to allowing users to resize the text input area then a fork is exactly what is needed. Open source is awesome.
    • Maybe the developers don't know how to do scroll bars
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grumbel (592662)
      I think the main reason to not make it an option is because it is such a tiny obscure detail that you wouldn't even think to look for an option in the first place. And thus adding the option to the GUI would be useless clutter. Good usability is often about removing options and make things behave the right way at default.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NickFortune (613926)

        I think the main reason to not make it an option is because it is such a tiny obscure detail that you wouldn't even think to look for an option in the first place. And thus adding the option to the GUI would be useless clutter.

        Tcha. Then make it a compile time option and let the people who feel that strongly about the issue enable or disable it at build time. The can stick the instructions in the FAQ.

        I really can't see the point of refusing to budge over such a trivial issue.

        • by Sancho (17056) * on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @05:28PM (#23256626) Homepage
          Honestly, the best way to deal with it would be to auto-resize unless the user explicitly changes the size. From that point on, give them control of the window.

          But if you look at the images in the linked page, there definitely appear to be some usability concerns here.
      • by _Swank (118097) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:25PM (#23254534)
        While I completely agree with your premise - that usability is often the opposite of allowing configurable options for everything - I think that the way they made the dialog behave is not the right way. I have never seen another application do what pidgin now does. In general, that doesn't necessarily make it the wrong thing to do but in this case I think it does.
      • by QCompson (675963) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:31PM (#23254636)

        I think the main reason to not make it an option is because it is such a tiny obscure detail that you wouldn't even think to look for an option in the first place. And thus adding the option to the GUI would be useless clutter.
        Which is why Pidgin offers the use of plugins. Yet the developers refuse to add a "resize input area" plugin to the list of default plugins (despite the demand) for fear of cluttering up the plugin area.
      • by FatMacDaddy (878246) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:34PM (#23254684)
        I agree that simplicity is almost always better, but I would say that good usability is always about listening to user feedback. Basically this change flunked the usability test for a lot of folks and the developers should find a way to elegantly implement that option. There's undoubtedly a way to add this ability without adding "useless clutter." And I would say this clutter wouldn't be useless since people are asking for it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by arodland (127775)
        And sometimes things have to be options. Look, clearly there's a class of users that finds the resizing feature to be useful -- which is why it was requested and added. At a guess, it's really nice on platforms with really small screens -- displaying a single line of input field lets you see as much conversation as possible, most of the time. So that's nifty.

        However there's also a class of users that finds the whole thing stupid and annoying and inconsistent. For one, UI elements aren't expected to change t
  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:01PM (#23254060) Journal
    More options are always better, right?

    I mean, sure, forking a project means that we now have fewer developers concentrating on a product than before, but it's for the best because now we'll have two IM clients that are nearly identical except for some minor things. All because some programmers are egotistical assholes!

    The Open Source world needs to grow the fuck up. More options aren't always better - more good options are better, more options for the sake of having more options or because you can't learn to play nicely with the other kids are stupid.
    • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:17PM (#23254374) Homepage Journal
      I'd take this fork as an extreme example of the Open Source world "growing the fuck up," as you put it. The original developers choose not to fulfill a need of their user base, so a new crowd with the wherewithal to do it decides to work on achieving that rather than exchanging flames with the old guard.

      If the kid with the ball doesn't want to play fair, you either cry about it, or get your own ball and play like reasonable people. These folks did the latter.
      • by spun (1352) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {yranoituloverevol}> on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:22PM (#23254460) Journal

        If the kid with the ball doesn't want to play fair, you either cry about it, or get your own ball and play like reasonable people. These folks did the latter.
        Thankfully, open source has lots of balls, and you can always clone someone else's balls and use them if you don't like the way that someone is playing with their balls.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:01PM (#23254066)
    I know some will probably tag this as a troll or a flamebait, however IMHO this is exactly why Linux will never be able to really replace either Windows or Mac OS X for desktop usage.

    Too many people who think they know better than the end-users, and too much work being done by lots of people on different, competing projects. You need to unite your efforts, not work against each others. This fork is just another proof (and WTH is with that "premier multi-protocol instant messaging client" remark? Nobody uses that on Windows and Mac OS X).

    The whole KDE vs Gnome debate is one of the things that keeps Windows on PCs.

    Posted as AC because of Linux and OSS zealots.
    • by sqlrob (173498) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:05PM (#23254148)
      All the Windows clients here use Pidgin for their IM, and it's one of the clients recommended by IT for the internal IM server.

      • by Yvan256 (722131)
        All the people I know either use Trillian or MSN Messenger on Windows and Adium on Mac OS X.

        Anecdotal evidence isn't a strong argument, unless you only wanted to prove that AC wrong.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by peragrin (659227)
          want to know something silly. Adium is based off of the same libraries as pidign. Just a different set of devs. In fact there are so many ways to customize adium it is scary.
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Most people I know who use Windows use MSN. Of course, they don't have a "multi-protocol" instant messaging client. If you want a multi-protocol instant messaging client on windows, you pretty much have to go with pidgin. Does KDE4 Kopete work on Windows yet? Maybe i'll see if I can get that working. There isn't much choice when it comes to multi protocol IM clients. And Pidgin is probably one of the better ones (as sad as that is).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brigadier (12956)


      Why do people think linux should replace OSX or Windows ? That's the whole point it isn't OSX or Windows. I hate people who treat it like a cult, or a company. It isn't that. It's purpose is to evolve based on the need of it's users. Thus the different varieties. This allows people to choose based on there specific application. Something you cannot do with OSX or Windows, or Solaris, or HPUX.

        steps down from soap box, and seeks cover
    • by spikenerd (642677) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:52PM (#23255036)
      How is this any different than what Apple does? I want my pull-down menus at the top of my windows, but they are so confident that being able to bump your mouse against the top of the screen is a better UI design that they absolutely refuse to give me the option. I want a second mouse button, but they know that the second button leads to UI confusion, so they will not give me an option to turn on support for another button. I want to run on hardware that I built myself, but they know I'm better off running on their hardware so they won't let me. Apple has the same complex in spades, so don't diss on the Linux community by trying to compare with Apple.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by myowntrueself (607117)
      IMHO this is exactly why Linux will never be able to really replace either Windows or Mac OS X for desktop usage.

      Ok Windows I can understand.

      OSX? No, I can't understand. An OS in which you have to hack the FUCKING KERNEL (or something almost equally low level) to change the color of the gumdrop buttons on the windows? And when you do this and you install a system upgrade your Mac can end up unbootable?

      Apple are downright *hostile* to end-user customisation.
  • All Too Often (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:01PM (#23254068) Journal
    All too often on software projects, I see someone spend several days figuring out a neat thing to implement that they personally think is a great addition.

    And when it comes time to remove it they defend it. They may even realize that they were wrong thinking everyone would love it. But they just don't want to give up that code that cost them so much time to figure out and write.

    Coding for several days only to realize that you need to throw everything you wrote away is one of the hardest skills for a developer to learn ...
  • How to unfork: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wbren (682133) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:02PM (#23254092) Homepage
    Add the following in Preferences window:

    [X] Allow resizing of chat input area
  • I'm serious, I'm not trolling. Why on earth didn't they just, like, make it a feature people can toggle in the options? A fork over this is insane.
  • by bigskank (748551) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:03PM (#23254110)
    "Does anyone besides me find this utterly ridiculous?"

    Depends on what you mean. Do I find it ridiculous that developers are ignoring a sizable portion of their userbase and implementing a feature that many people would like to disable? Yes, I find it ridiculous. Not terribly surprising, but ridiculous nonetheless.

    Do I find it ridiculous that it's causing a project to fork? Not particularly. This is supposed to be the one of the greatest advantages of open source; if you don't like the way people play, you can pick up the pieces and start your own game. Silly me, I had secretly hoped that the threat of something like this happening would keep software like pidgin from ignoring its user base. Guess I was wrong.
  • by Bazman (4849) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:03PM (#23254118) Journal
    ...because their Trac is slashdotted. Problem solved.

  • by Lendrick (314723) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:04PM (#23254120) Homepage Journal
    here [64.233.169.104]
  • After upgrading to Ubuntu 8.04 the other day I realized this change.... but I got over it!

    I personally think that an option to turn it off would be nice, but come on, it's not a big deal.
  • I had heard a little bit ago that there had been some heated debate over this, but...a fork? Over resizing a freaking text input area manually or automatically? Holy crap people can be petty some times.
    • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Skye16 (685048) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:21PM (#23254444)
      Well, in all honesty I don't think it's over the text area so much as the fact that those in charge are adamant about allowing anyone to configure the client as they see fit. This is just a small symptom; the underlying cause is unbridled arrogance and muleheaded stubbornness.
  • by pembo13 (770295) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:04PM (#23254134) Homepage
    Seems like something that would be done to a Gnome app. Hope that's just a coincidence. Back to Kopete I guess.
  • by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:05PM (#23254162) Homepage Journal
    This wouldn't be the first time the pidgeon folk have decided to change the interface and refused to let people keep things the way they liked. Forks have been threatened before over their decision to hide protocol icons as well. I'm glad they separated the gui from the rest of the program - both this and the protocol icon decision really bug me.
  • Someone has been taking user interface lessons from the Gnome team. Why do people need to be reminded that sometimes the user really is right? Or that some users prefer doing things the "wrong" way. And why shouldn't they be allowed to?
  • I'm not a Pidgin developer, so can someone illuminate me to the positions of the two sides? Why is one group wanting resizable windows while the other does not? What are the pros and cons of each side? Is there some technical reason to require one vs. the other or are the reasons related to opinions, ergonomics, eye-candy?

    What say ye?
  • The fork page... (Score:5, Informative)

    by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:08PM (#23254224)
    For anyone interested, the fork is called "Funpidgin" and can be found here [sourceforge.net].

    The summary makes light of it, but the Funpidgin page explains that their intention is to respond more directly to the requests of the user community. In addition to the feature mentioned in the summary, Funpidgin has implemented some others [sourceforge.net], and will presumably continue adding user-requested features (while still integrating upgrades from the pidgin codebase, presumably).

    Forks are both good and bad; this one is no exception. On the one hand it "wastes effort" and can duplicate work. On the other hand, it can give the user community (which isn't homogeneous) the product(s) they want. It can encourage useful competition. Often the end result will be better than if no fork had occurred. Another example is the Compiz/Beryl fork, which created some duplication for awhile, but ultimately turned out for the best since the merged Compiz Fusion includes the best features from both (a stable core and all the whiz-bang features users wanted, in the form of plugins).

    If both the Pidgin and Funpidgin developers work to provide something that their respective users find worthwhile, then what's the problem?
  • by _xeno_ (155264) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:08PM (#23254226) Homepage Journal

    Considering my general hatred of the Pidgin UI, no, I don't find this ridiculous.

    Let's start with Pidgin's UI Sucks [xenoveritas.org], which details some of the weird UI decisions made back around version 2.1. Fortunately they've fixed almost all the issues listed in that post.

    More Pidgin Bashing [xenoveritas.org] is just a bug, so let's skip ahead to Pidgin's Crappy Formatting Icons [xenoveritas.org] which they have not fixed.

    If I ever had the time to, I'd like to write a new UI for libpurple, Pidgin's backend. I have some ideas - but not enough time to actually learn how to use libpurple.

    Maybe I can help with this fork, called... uh. Hm. The summary doesn't appear to mention it.

    Ah, here we go: funpidgin [sourceforge.net].

  • Pidgin's trac system is /.'d; does anyone know where the fork is? Can you actually download, compile and run it? Are they going to split codebases, or simply re-package pidgin with each release?
  • can't blame them (Score:5, Informative)

    by pak9rabid (1011935) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:10PM (#23254268)
    Ya know, I can't blame the community for this fork. The gaim/pidgin developers have had a bad history of 'God complex'. Hell, just recently they refused to make any changes to the way Pidgin handles SASL authentication to XMPP servers due to a change in the 2.4 codebase that completely breaks SSL encryption to the OpenFire XMPP server, whereas the 2.3 codebase AND every other XMPP client seems to not have any issues. Their response was something along the lines of "yeah, well we're doing it right..every other client is doing it wrong". I find that hard to believe. This ultimately leaves me with 2 options: either don't upgrade past version 2.3 of Pidgin, or use another client. And yes, not being able to resize the input text box drives me absolutely crazy. I look forward to a forked version addressing this and the XMPP SASL authentication issues.
    • Oops, before anyone can correct me:

      Hell, just recently they refused to make any changes to the way Pidgin handles SASL authentication to XMPP servers due to a change in the 2.4 codebase that completely breaks SSL encryption to the OpenFire XMPP server...
      That should be "due to a change in the 2.4 codebase that completely breaks SSL authentication"
  • Yes its ridiculous, but not all together atypical.

    If there was money involved, it would never have happened. (Paying customers have a way of getting what they want, but people who develop for the karma occasionally take a "my way or no way" approach.) [/me, expecting flames].

    But the beauty of Open Source is the self correcting nature of the development community. People can take it and do what they want with it. This would never happen in a closed source product.
  • I thought the new version of Pigin I installed had a bug in it because the text input box was so small and I couldn't resize it. I never noticed I don't write more than a line of text in any IM message. Wow, I thought the software was broken, guess it's my IM conversations. It took a fork of the program for me to realize it was a feature.
  • uncompromising unwillingness of the developers to provide an option
    Good. Providing too many options, especially UI options, is a stupid mistake made by many open-source projects. You end up with software which is impossible to test and which often looks terrible.
    fork
    Crazy. But, hey, it's their time. Let the users decide; I'm sticking with Pidgin.
  • Ridiculous? (Score:4, Informative)

    by edmicman (830206) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:34PM (#23254682) Homepage Journal

    Does anyone besides me find this utterly ridiculous?
    No, not really. It's a feature that I personally don't think I'd care much about, but this sounds exactly like how the gaim/Pidgin developers are. My past experience has been that the people who develop gaim/Pidgin have always seemed to have a disdain for users other than themselves. They've been quick to dismiss any sort of criticism or suggestions for improvements to make the product better. Instead, they poopoo all of that behind the "we make this for ourselves and don't care if anyone else uses it" mantra.
  • by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:34PM (#23254700) Homepage

    Options suck.

    Every option means doubling the number of possible configurations - which makes proper testing of the application twice as hard. It also provides twice as many weird ways that the developers can have their apps configured that will prevent them from noticing issues as they personally develop.

    There are some applications and configuration options where this isn't true - for example, a text editor for programmers would be less useful if you couldn't configure how many spaces are in a tab - but for simple end-user facing applications like Pidgin and the mechanism for resizing the text input box making a choice arbitrarily (or optimizing for UI simplicity) among the usable possibilities is probably the correct design decision.

    There is always going to be a vocal minority who really wants to be able to configure every last little thing about their software. For free software, they can simply be pointed to the source code and told to have fun. As a usability compromise, features like Mozilla's "about:config" are good - as long as the user is told that weird configurations won't be supported. But in this particular case the best solution really seems to be for the Pidgin guys to just tell the forkers to "have fun" and then proceed to ignore them because the feature they're offering is silly and pointless.

    • by QCompson (675963) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @03:47PM (#23254942)

      Options suck. Every option means doubling the number of possible configurations - which makes proper testing of the application twice as hard. It also provides twice as many weird ways that the developers can have their apps configured that will prevent them from noticing issues as they personally develop.
      Fine, then with this much negative feedback about a supposed design "improvement", then perhaps the best answer is to scrap the idea and go back to letting the users resize the text input area. Problem solved.

      But in this particular case the best solution really seems to be for the Pidgin guys to just tell the forkers to "have fun" and then proceed to ignore them because the feature they're offering is silly and pointless.
      It is the auto-resizing text input area that most people feel is silly and pointless.
  • by qazwart (261667) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @04:02PM (#23255238) Homepage
    Always whining! "I want my software to do this!", "I want this feature!", "I don't like that design!".

    If it wasn't for them, programming would be much easier.
  • Or have they stopped removing features and options that are actually necessary yet?

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