RaspBMC vs. XBian: The dark side of the (open-) source.

So we are on the open source railroad for many years now and we were really convinced that it would be all for the better for so many characteristics software should bring along. Supporting open source should mean to let people all over the world contribute to quality, security and stability of the software, either by reporting back or doing some optimizations themselves. Some licenses even allow to fork software if <random guy> thinks he or she would do it way better than the original author in first place.

But over the years, something apparently changed…

Looking at RaspBMC versus XBian, we now got another, rather sad and bitter facette of our beloved open source community. One team accused the other of stealing their source code without publishing it as required by the LGPL license. Turns out that the software was not contributed by a team member but a submission by someone else. Not a big deal either way since a friendly notice to the other team would have been sufficient to resolve the issue.

Well, apparently it wasn’t.

What we see now are developers getting pilloried in the public and community members being incited to act harassing and insulting the opponent so that one of the teams decided to shut down the web site which causes their work to be not available at this very moment until everything has been sorted out.

Something really got out of control there: Cooperation, considered to be the motor of the whole open source movement, is no longer part of the game. We are facing enviousness and distrust between communities that are – instead of helping each other out – trying to cause the other players to fail. Instead of acting in the interest of their users – something we thought to be exclusive to the closed source industry – precious resources are wasted on immature behavior.

This discussion, which has been sparked by what Xbian calls “a soap opera” in their official statement (and temporary takedown notice), has caused great damage to the open source movement and their principles instead of doing what they ought to do in first place: providing the best possible lineup of free and high quality software the Raspberry Pi community could individually choose from, depending on their needs.

You’re doing it wrong, guys. Seriously.

Update (23.09.2012):

Some Raspbmc users felt offended by this post since they read it as a statement against open source itself which is certainly not true if you really read what it’s all about. We had many discussions on this topic before Raspbmc vs. Xbian with many other incidents that showed that kind of behaviour between certain communities – take the Open Source Hardware Association vs. Open Source Initiative which costs both parties lots of energy because of a logo.

These battles are nothing that came overnight, as we can see in DJ Bernstein vs. Wietse Zweitze Venema (which translates to qmail vs. postfix). Both parties made great products and we used both products where they individually made sense but their authors also put effort into throwing dirt at each others product.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the open source movement and what it gave to us and I always will – but if there’s something wrong in the state of denmark, we gotta talk about it rather than turning away and pretending that nothing happened. We can work on these issues if we address them so that our kids get the same open source as we did, … may even a slightly better one .. 🙂




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  • Comments (2)
    • Phil
    • September 23rd, 2012 7:49am

    Give me a break. In the face of massive and increasing open-source success and uncountable cases of continuing competitive collaboration and mutual benefit (see even xbian’s statement, where they mention OpenElec), you declare the whole movement compromised and lost over one tiny hiccup that no one will even remember in a week?

    Posts like this are much worse for open-source than the events that make their subjects.

    • Thanks for your post –

      you’re basically right since I might not state the roots of my thoughts clear enough, so I updated the post above. See, we know that the communities do great things too and that Raspbmc and Xbian did not invent these issues between communities, it’s been a problem for years now that has to be addressed. You say that such posts are bad for open-source, but people always feel that when someone puts a finger in the wound of something they love, so your statement does not come as a surprise (and I don’t know if I would not have said that if I read the post on another site). But I think it is important to remind the communities that the greater good is much more important than everything else. Not talking about healthy competition which is a motor for innovation, but helping each other out is how the movement began, .. and sometimes we need to be reminded that this is still important today.