The previous post about Scott Hanselman's resume was a result of me writing this post after reading Scott's post.(No you haven't wandered into Calahan's, I started writing this post and got distracted by Scott's resume.)
Now just imagine that dasBlog wasn't open source. You didn't have access to the source code and had to wait for Clemens to get your suggestions and put them into the source, if he did at all. I see a lot of people knocking open source mainly because they dislike the GPL. I can understand that. The GPL is a big, gnarly looking piece of legalise. When I open source something, I could care less about the licensing, I want to make sure that people have access to the source code so they can make any modifications they see fit for their own use. I view OSS as a gift, not a curse.
Way back a long time ago when I started a BBS I chose WWIV software. Mainly because it's what all my friends were running, but also because if you purchased a license you *gasp* got a copy of the C source code. Modding your WWIV BBS was a big thing to do back in those days. I remember pulling down mods that other people had created, plugging them in, firing up Turbo C, and recompiling. I get the same sense of satisfaction today as I did back then after a successful compile. On top of that it was FUN to change the software that someone else had written, it made the software your in a way. No one else had the same combination of mods that I did. Well they might have, but they didn't have the same slammin' ANSI art that I did.
Then somewhere along the line it became "bad" to share your source code. If someone else had access to your source code, what did they need you for anymore? They could make any changes they needed for free. You couldn't charge them for an upgrade. That's fine, that's your decision. To me, software wasn't "fun" anymore. It was business. You better not release the source code because whatever code you wrote is your IP. No one else should have free access to your IP. The lawyers and businessmen co-opted my hobby. This was a big blow to me, who had grown up typing in machine code and BASIC code line by line from Compute and BYTE magazines. Suddenly I couldn't find out how the program worked, I couldn't change how it worked. I had to just sit there and live with whatever bugs were in the programs. Granted, a lot of the time there wasn't anything I could DO because I didn't have the technical expertise at the time to really change the programs.
Then somewhere down the line I discovered the OSS movement. Suddenly I had access to the code again. I didn't know much C++ and the C I knew was just enough to corrupt memory. But then I found out there were some open source programs written in languages I did know. Languages like Visual Basic (one or two programs at least) and Java and PHP. That's what I like about WordPress. If I don't like the way something works, I *CAN* change it. Robert Scoble, Dave Winer and others talk about transparency in corporations. Well open source is the ultimate in transparency when it comes to software development. You can see when a developer makes a change in the code and you have the opportunity to ask them why. If you find a bug, you can fix it and either just keep it to yourself or send the fix back to the developer.
At some point programming became less about programming and solving problems and became more about IP leverage and politics. It became about who could get their software on the most computers. Who could get the most lock-in. Who could gain the most converts. Who had the biggest user base. In short, it became more of a religion than a hobby or a business. People argue about open source and whether or not it can create better software than closed source can. They always seem to forget that the code and the problems it is meant to solve should come first. Not the kind of license it is under.
So to the Richard Stallman's, the Bill Gates, the Microsofts, the Oracles, the IBM's, the Eric Raymond's, and the Steve Balmer's of the world. You get the Johnny Cash finger from me straight to you for trying to turn my hobby into a religion.