FreeRunner delayed a further 6 months?!?!??

Lally Singh lally.singh at
Wed Mar 19 15:29:42 CET 2008

[snipping to keep it short]
[ for everyone who's tired of reading these -- sorry.  the community's
easily as (actually, more) important than the hardware product itself.
 debates like this are as important (imho) as those debating how much
RAM the device has or what cell frequencies should be enabled. ]

I abbreviate here for brevity, not to ignore any points you've mentioned.

On Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 10:25 PM, Kevin Dean <kevin at> wrote:
>  Perhaps you allude to this, and if so, I agree. If not, then I ask you
>  to tak a step back and recognize the varied and diverse reasons that
>  people value Free Software.

I agree.  The self-motivated, ready-to-go, already-commited ones
aren't the ones I worry about.  It's everyone else.  Two groups come
to mind: 1. The beginners who would be contributors.  2. The coders
who are looking for a project to work on.   A honey-vs-vinegar
approach would help in both areas.

>  The first day I installed Debian GNU/Linux I was told "Read the
>  fucking manual". Back then, they weren't nice enough to abreviate it
>  for me. :)

Responding to such a request like this:
RTFM: <url of documentation>
The old RTFM comment goes back to the older unix days, when you had
good printed documentation, but no google.   It's fair to assume that
people would look for documentation before asking...  They already
searched plenty to find the mailing list!

>  Every person told RTFM is a person being told to be responsible for
>  themselves. Where you see it inspiring a developer to avoid I project,
>  I see it inspiring a hacker to start hacking.

People still choose which projects to spend their time on, as we're
really competing with other projects for contributors.  It helps not
to treat them as spoiled, lazy children.

>  Again, I don't disagree with you here on principal, but I do question
>  the logic being asserted - OpenMoko is the ONLY platform advocating
>  use freedom and control so all of the evidence we have on one side or
>  the other is questionable at best.

Others have pushed conceptual products (in this case, freedom) vs
traditional functionality before.  E.g. OpenBSD's cryptographic
freedom (hence) and security as a cultural decision.  As they don't
bring (initially) any new functionality to the table at start, we
*have* to recruit heavily to build a community.  The ones who'd come
in for selfish reasons don't see anything for them until someone else
has made the system useful.  The few exceptions are folks who need
specific, easy-to-implement features easily built atop the existing,
raw, openmoko stack.  IMHO, not too many by itself.

It's like a compound interest equation for a savings account.  The
initial amount put in is how many people believed in the original
ideals of the project (remember the account starts at zero, so we only
have ideals to start with).  What they put in builds interest --- the
results of their work interests more people.  Those people's
contributions (even if it's just evangelizing) adds onto the balance
in the account --- building interest themselves.  The cycle continues

Maybe that metaphor made more sense in my head than out loud.

But, everyone's got their buy-in point.  The amount of work required
to make the device useful/interesting for them.  More work than that,
and they're not interested.  Any coder will tell you that they spend
as much time going through documentation and other people's source as
they do writing your own.  That's where the community comes in: if
it's easy to get help, the amount of work spent looking up
documentation/help reduces, and we have more developers who were just
waiting for the project to hit their buy-in point.  Open source
projects charge a price in hours worked, not dollars.  Never pretend
that the former isn't easily worth as much as the latter.

H. Lally Singh
Ph.D. Candidate, Computer Science
Virginia Tech

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