Software is too important to leave it to programmers

Update 2011/02/22: I have answered to the comments by “Anonymous” in a separate page

After reading Software piracy is also the Government’s fault a website developer wrote to me (synthesizing):

  1. trying to write programs or websites “for everybody” is something that requires a lot of development time; therefore, unless the customer paid to have something viewable with any browser/operating system, you do it. Otherwise, you DON’T. You try to make happy the makority of users and who gives a f**k if not all versions of Linux support Vmw (a video format) out of the box. Sure, that’s ugly to say, but that’s the way it goes
  2. I don’t even care much for people who use Open Source Software that they didn’t pay and then demand to be treated as those who paid something
  3. Here’s a (deliberately) stupid example: if I build my own car myself with my friends, in our spare time, I certainly don’t expect the same performances as an Audi


Strictly speaking, point 1 is absolutely correct (not always, but often) from a purely technical point of view. That’s why I’m not upset, in general, with Web developers who try to follow it. I am upset with their CUSTOMERS (who, in the article this guy is criticizing, are mainly Public Schools and Administrations) that pay developers to get things half-done, or do things badly themselves. Even when there is no real need to do it, violating the mandate they receive from all their users, that is citizens. I’m also upset with those customers that are private businesses but go against the interest of their own customers, including the ones who normally use proprietary software. Home banking is a perfect example: I may only use Windows and Internet Explorer in my home or office, but my bank must still set up a remote banking website that works on every browser. Because it is my right (being a paying user of their services!) to access my account even from a resort in Polinesia that only happens to run Linux or Windows 95. Otherwise I go to another bank.

Point 1 also seems to completely ignore what vendor independence or software neutrality mean and the fact that, at least on paper, these principles are already acknowledged or imposed by law in many countries. The cases of software piracy for which a Government is responsible (that is the ones I was actually talking about) are exactly those where the Government itself doesn’t enforce those principles.

In the same context, this is how point 2 sounds to me: “if a student, after paying all school taxes and fees has no money left to buy a computer powerful enough to open files in .docx format, that is to run recent versions of OpenOffice, LibreOffice or even a cracked version of MS Office, and his or her teacher only publishes courseware in that format (out of pure ignorance or lazyness, certainly not out of a real need)… I don’t care for that student, that demands to use that courseware just as much as his classmates who could afford a computer!”

Point 3 is so off topic that it doesn’t even matter if and how much it’s stupid. This said, if I build myself a car that uses the same fuel as an Audi, of course I don’t expect the same performances. But a gas station that refused to serve customers who don’t own an Audi would go bankrupt in one week.


So, it’s the Government’s fault or not?

Software piracy is the fault of Public Administrations in all cases when they produce or let use in public contexts, but without any real need (as it happens in the great majority of real world cases in the context of my article), closed file formats or computer protocols, that force other people to only use certain programs.

Every citizen is entitled to have public services usable with any operating system, including those that are legally usable without paying any license fee, because he or she already paid in advance for those services and, very often, the software isn’t a problem at all. A public website made with proprietary software may be acceptable, as long as it’s completely usable by everybody, with any browser or operating system, including Open Source ones.

Instead, in the context of that article, production or demand of document and service compatible with one specific software program (whatever it is, even Open Source), rather than with open standard, is an intrinsically stupid thing. The fact that this is just what actually happens in many real cases can only be explained remembering that we’re still at the dawn of the information age. Therefore, the committents of some works (I repeat: I have an issue with them, rather than with developers) don’t realize yet that tolerating or giving that kind of specifications is just as smart as saying “please develop paper forms that can be filled with Bic pens, we’ll also make them compatible with Mont Blanc pens if there will be some money left”.


If today it still seems naive to demand only open computer protocols and file formats that’s just a reason to be patient, not to give up. Because software, like it or not, makes legislation (read the computer health certificates story). Therefore, since making or obeying laws is and must remain the responsibility of lawmakers and (all!) citizens it is essential that these people understand that strategic decisions about software (like which kind of formats are acceptable in public contexts) are too important to be left to programmers and other technical specialists.

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35 thoughts on “Software is too important to leave it to programmers

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  2. Kenny Strawn

    In my opinion, it’s not the government’s fault that software piracy exists but rather the fault of those corporations that influenced the government to make software copyrights and patents legal. It’s all about those greedy software robber-barons, that’s all they care about, and it has got to end.

    1. anonymous

      Are you referring to autocracies or democracies, because globally, both exist. In my country, the government is democratically elected, so morally (and contractually), are bound by centuries-old constitutional laws which require them to be (at all times whilst in office) to be representative of the moral majority ( remember the physical majority that they required in order to attain that status?), NOT a wealthy minority. So if those same politicians choose to abide by the wishes of the latter instead of the former, then certainly, it is the politicians that are to blame. (Lord Ashton’s “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”.)

    2. TK

      Well, careful about the copyright part. Without copyrights, the GPL wouldn’t exist.

      Perhaps you mean unreasonable copyrights, in which case I agree.

  3. oiaohm

    “Software is too important to leave it to programmers”

    Not correct. Software is too important to leave to money men.

    “I don’t even care much for people who use Open Source Software that they didn’t pay and then demand to be treated as those who paid something”. Person is wrong normal problem here is providing open source without providing a support contract option. Open Source means sell support. Study of games being sold on Linux Windows and Mac. Linux users will pay the most.

    Next the Linux people want support with there software. They want to pay programmers to fix issues they have. Long term effect with open source it works for more and more people. Everyone gets met one day. They don’t want to pay someone like MS who does not let them talk to coders and does not allow them to get there problems directly solved.

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  5. anonymous

    This is all nonsense from the get-go.

    Even when there is no real need to do it, violating the mandate they receive from all their users, that is citizens. I’m also upset with those customers that are private businesses but go against the interest of their own customers, including the ones who normally use proprietary software.

    So, who has the crystal ball to know what the users “mandate?” Who has the magic 8-ball to know what the “interest of [a business's] own customers” is? This is an attempt to wrap what YOU, the author, want and parade it around as though everyone agrees, or should agree with your viewpoint on what users/customers want. It’s interesting you touch on the gas station analogy later by saying that “a gas station that refused to serve customers who don’t own an Audi would go bankrupt in one week.” That seems to say that customers will vote their displeasure with their wallet. There’s no need for the magic 8-ball to determine when the interests of a business’s customers have been “[gone] against.” The market will handle it. You also allude to it in the next block that I’ll address:

    Home banking is a perfect example: I may only use Windows and Internet Explorer in my home or office, but my bank must still set up a remote banking website that works on every browser. Because it is my right (being a paying user of their services!) to access my account even from a resort in Polinesia that only happens to run Linux or Windows 95. Otherwise I go to another bank.

    You are not entitled to ANY service that your bank did not explicitly agree to provide you. You cannot demand that the bank bend to your every whim to use their online banking portal on any conceivable combination of hardware and software. You have NO RIGHT to any such accommodation. You cannot walk into a store and demand that the employees push you around on a cart to let you browse because you have a sprained ankle. You have a sprained ankle? You want to browse the hardware store? It’s YOUR responsibility to figure out some way to browse–not the responsibility of the hardware store.

    In the same context, this is how point 2 sounds to me: “if a student, after paying all school taxes and fees has no money left to buy a computer powerful enough to open files in .docx format . . . and his or her teacher only publishes courseware in that format . . . I don’t care for that student, that demands to use that courseware just as much as his classmates who could afford a computer!”

    That is ridiculous. The substance of point 2 is that people who are not making material contributions to the project are at the whim of the developer–if and when the developer feels sufficiently generous with his or her time to turn their attention to the requests of non-material contributors. “Material” here means anything that proactively advances the project–financial resources, code contribution, providing a server (e.g. web hosting), etc.–NOT empty complaints that user X wants program Y to do task Z to their liking.

    Secondly, even if we did take your interpretation of point 2 as accurate, what is your point? Ok, so a student pays taxes and fees to attend a class, but doesn’t have money to buy the textbook. Whoops! What now? Are we going to say, “Well gosh darn it, you book publishers ought to give the student a free copy of the textbook. Or better yet, the school ought pay for the textbook! I mean, the teacher is so rigidly sticking to this ONE particular book, and it’s totally unfair that the teacher will not teach from any and all other, cheaper textbooks available.” Textbooks: a necessary expense. A computer: a necessary expense. If you can’t afford the tools needed to accomplish a task, then don’t sign up for the task. Or, accept the fact that you will not be able to complete the task.

    Lastly, the notion that government agencies that use proprietary file formats causes software piracy is similarly ridiculous. Seriously, and I mean seriously, by a show of hands, how many people have you ever heard say anything like this: “Man, I’ve gotta score me a copy of Microsoft Word . My food stamp request was sent back because it was ODT format rather than DOCX!” Every government agency I have ever had dealings with has multiple means of interacting. You can scan documents and email them, you can print documents and mail them, you can fill in forms with handwriting and walk them to the agency’s office. You want to see records? You can request them in person, by phone, by fax, and by email. The records can be provided electronically, copies mailed (at the cost of the postage and copies), or in person if you get to the office. Your argument presupposes a problem that does not exist: that government agencies provide information in one, and only one manner, and you are denied access unless you have the means.

    Everything about your post shows that what you are really complaining about is that everyone else in the world has not made it their number 1 priority to make life more convenient for you. And because they have not devoted their every effort to make your life and everyone else’s lives easier, they are the cause of software piracy; it is their laziness which forces people to steal software. Irony much? Their laziness promotes stealing software, to facilitate everyone else being less inconvenienced (i.e. being lazy)?

    1. marco Post author

      Dear anonymous,

      So, who has the crystal ball to know what the users “mandate?” Who has the magic 8-ball to know what the “interest of [a business's] own customers” is?

      There is no need for any crystal ball. If you weren’t trolling, the beginning of your comment is enough to show that you simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

      In the context of this post, what the users “mandate” is very well known and ratified and written in laws and official regulations in many, many states worldwide. Not BY ME, by governments. I am not “assuming” anything at all. Regardless of my own opinion, it is a fact that there are such regulations and laws AND that the same organizations that issue them fail to enforce them in practice.

      Thanks for your really entertaining rant. It will be the basis for a follow-up of this post.

      1. anonymous

        In the context of this post, what the users “mandate” is very well known and ratified and written in laws and official regulations in many, many states worldwide. Not BY ME, by governments. I am not “assuming” anything at all. Regardless of my own opinion, it is a fact that there are such regulations and laws AND that the same organizations that issue them fail to enforce them in practice.

        You are kidding me, right? Have you ever read the laws that your are pretending to invoke? That statement of yours “is enough to show that you simply don’t know what you’re talking about.”

        Please, give a citation to which laws and/or regulations you think these government agencies have violated? I work in a law office. I’m quite familiar with legal citations used throughout the country. I would be happy to look up your citation and have a debate as to whether this regulation/law has been broken, and hence, the “mandate” violated. Want to cite to the United States Federal Code, go ahead. Want to cite to an individual state’s code, that’s fine too. Even if you cite to code in another country, I’m sure I can figure it out and go pull that statute or regulation.

        My experience is that virtually any regulation or law that you might conceivably point to uses a form of “reasonableness.” That is, an agency should make requests/information “reasonably accessible” or that the requests/information not be “unreasonably prohibitive.” They are written that way for a reason: to allow government agencies to adapt to changing technology. And if you want to ascribe a certain, specific demand on “reasonableness” then you are doing exactly what I said you were doing: trying to wrap you YOU think is appropriate in a cloak of what everyone else should believe.

        Further, if indeed you are saying that violation of the “mandate” is demonstrated by agencies that violate laws and/or regulations, then the people have the ability to haul the agency into court. Individuals, civil liberty interest groups, etc. By the same analogy you gave with the Audi-only gas station, if the agency HAS NOT been hauled into court, then it stands to reason that the “violation” is not one significant enough to encourage the public to act–which means that it really isn’t a violation of the “mandate” is it? Just as if the Audi-only gas station can manage to stay in business, the Audi-only policy is a valid business model.

        You can call my post a rant all you like, but it exposes serious problems in your interpretation and your logic. Your reply simply sidesteps the issues and tries to distract readers by saying “rant” to avoid dealing with those problems head-on.

        Again, please, feel free to give me a legal citation and an example of an agency’s actions that you feel violates that law or regulation–that hasn’t been hauled into court over.

        1. Purple Library Guy

          I believe the regulations he’s talking about call for government use of open file formats, open standards, and for government websites, information and online services to be accessible to as many citizens as possible.

          Banks are one thing–banks can do what they want. They’re not a public service and if they think coding their sites to standards would cost more than they’d make from the customers they exclude by failing to do so, whatever. Chances are they’re wrong, because the effort of coding sites to be more broadly accessible is minor, so even a few extra customers would probably pay for it. Unfortunately, while in hypothetical perfect-free-market-land this would cause them to lose out to their competitors, the real world is less rosy; in reality market power generally matters more than nimble performance. Oh well.

          Governments on the other hand have a responsibility not to exclude their citizens, and certainly should not be forcing their citizens to purchase particular private software (particularly private, foreign-made software) in order to access government services or education. This is especially true when there are readily available file formats or approaches which do not force citizens to purchase private goods and do not discriminate against users of alternative software.

          You may believe that people who use Libre software are malingerers who don’t like paying for things. This is, however, irrelevant. They remain citizens, and proper use of open formats and websites coded to standards will allow those citizens to access government services which are supposed to be for all, not just for the customers of dominant foreign software corporations.

          1. anonymous

            I believe the regulations he’s talking about call for government use of open file formats, open standards, and for government websites, information and online services to be accessible to as many citizens as possible.

            Why doesn’t anyone cite to these regulations? This is at least a three-layer issue. First, do such statutes or regulations exist? I’d probably say that it’s likely that they exist in some form. Second, assuming they exist, what do they contain, what do they say, what do they require? Third, are the statutes or regulations binding/enforceable?

            For the author to say that these “mandates” (as defined through statute or regulation) have been violated, he is saying that (1) they exist, (2) an agency’s actions are objectively verifiable to breach the statute or regulation’s requirement(s); and (3) that the agency is bound–subject to sanctions, penalties, or injunctions–for a breach of those requirements.

            I want the author to point to a specific, written, and enforceable statute or regulation. Then I want him to provide an example of an agency’s actions that violate the statute or regulation. For something so fundamental to his premise, this should be a simple task.

            If he cannot do so, it means one or more of: (1) the statutes or regulations do not exist; (2) there are no agency actions that definitively contradict the substance of the statutes or regulations; (3) the statutes or regulations are not enforceable against the agency; (4) the author did not do any research and is making an unsubstantiated claim; or (4) the author believes his perspective is shared by everyone else, and that his general notion/feeling about the state of affairs is sufficient to conclude that agencies are failing to perform their “mandated” tasks.

            The last part of the quote from your reply touches on what I have been harping on from the beginning: “as many citizens as possible.” What is a sufficient number of citizens? What is the maximum amount of money a government agency should spend per citizen? When the author says an agency has violated its “mandate,” those are the types of issues he is saying the agency has failed to meet. Yet, without a written definition of the agency’s obligations (as specified in statute or regulation), then concluding the agency has violated its “mandate” is an opinion–not fact.

            Governments on the other hand have a responsibility not to exclude their citizens, and certainly should not be forcing their citizens to purchase particular private software (particularly private, foreign-made software) in order to access government services or education.

            No, they don’t, but you must establish something first: that a citizen is denied access to government services or education because they did not have the correct software. You must establish that the software is the only means of accessing the government service. As I said in an earlier response, every government agency I have ever dealt with has had multiple forms of access: telephone, fax, email, postal mail, and in-person. Some agencies provide all of them, some agencies less. All of them accepted in-person and postal mail (hardcopy) requests.

            Are hardcopy requests less convenient than electronic format? Yes. Was anyone denied access? No. Want the convenience of the electronic format? Buy the software. Don’t want to spend the money? Then mail the request or go to the local office.

            It’s not the government’s responsibility to eliminate all forms of inconvenience in requesting access to government services. If it were, the logical conclusion would be for the government to send a representative to follow each citizen everyday and wait for the citizen to announce a need for government service.

            You may believe that people who use Libre software are malingerers who don’t like paying for things.

            I never said any such thing. In a response below, I indicate that I have five machines that run Linux. Each has OpenOffice installed. In fact, I also install OpenOffice on any Windows machines I use. I’ve used OpenOffice for years. I also use Firefox and Thunderbird on both platforms. I use emacs (again) on both platforms. I install clamwin on the Windows machines. I have donated to the Free Software Foundation. I have read (some of) the essay’s in Richard Stallman’s “Free Software Free Society.” And yet, after all that, I still stand by my arguments.

    2. twitter

      Someone’s got too much time on their hands to write BS like that.

      Students and their parents want to buy a $400 word processor like they want a hole in the head. School administrators who publish in docx get well deserved blowback for wasting everyone’s money three times. The first time was when school funds were spent on the software and training required to roll that trash out. The third time money is wasted is when the BSA comes to town and extorts millions of dollars out of schools for “piracy”. It is so much easier and cheaper to set up a gnu/linux box and publish a web site than it is to fool with Microsoft. Parents rightly tell schools to give them something they can read.

      I can also tell you that these formats have caused a delay of essential services. FEMA contractors set up a Microsoft only web site in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. This forced all of the local volunteers to set up Microsoft junk instead of rolling out more dependable gnu/linux. The direct result of this stupidity was that refugee centers were basically without working computers and everything had to be done on paper. Working hardware was thrown in the trash because XP refused to load on it, licenses were missing, and what did get up had all the usual Microsoft problems. The Red Cross, for example, had a dysfunctional, Microsoft network, filled with viruses and misbehaving software. When things need to be done quickly, non free software is a significant barrier. The owner’s intent is to make users helpless and divided. People who live that way have problems when they must act independently.

      1. anonymous

        It is so much easier and cheaper to set up a gnu/linux box and publish a web site than it is to fool with Microsoft. Parents rightly tell schools to give them something they can read.

        I have five machines I’ve collected over the years that still operate. All five primarily run a distribution of Linux. Only one dual-boots with Windows. I have set up mail servers, web servers, database servers, etc. Setting up gnu/linux being “easier” and “cheaper” are opinions. I remember struggling to set up each one, not to mention learning how to monitor and diagnose issues. There is more to cost than simply the price of the software. Given that the vast majority of computers run a variant of Windows and and that Microsoft provides a free document viewer here it only makes sense that installing a Microsoft framework will support the greatest percentage of potential “customers” out-of-the-box.

        As for parents telling the agency to give them something they can read: good for them, but don’t lose sight of the original issue. The author said that these agencies are violating a “mandate.” Until the author can cite to a specific law or regulation that specifies a requirement for handling requests or providing information that the agency is violating, then the author’s argument is baseless. If he wants to argue that an agency should handle other file formats as a matter of duty to the general public, that is an entirely separate issue. As it stands, parents complaining and/or voting out the administration’s personnel (or politicians that appointed them) is exactly how the system is supposed to work. There is no “mandate” being violated in that case.

        Lastly, if the BSA comes and “extorts” money from schools, then that is a problem with the IT personnel. There is no excuse to allow licensing to get out of control. I understand people may feel that paying for a license is wrong when there are free options available. That is opinion, and again, until the author can point to a statute or regulation that says paying a license for software is illegal, then there is no violation of the “mandate.” It is only an argument of what the author and some other people believe is appropriate.

        I can also tell you that these formats have caused a delay of essential services.

        That paragraph of your response is not about violating a “mandate” or encouragement of software piracy. The issues you point out are about efficiency. The FEMA response following Hurricane Katrina could have been more efficient. I certainly won’t argue with that. There was plenty of news discussion about that, and the administration and FEMA later admitted to mishandling it.

        However, you did reinforce one of my points: in the face of a failing technological infrastructure, the agency went back to paper-based forms. Requests were processed, albeit slower than they had hoped, and nobody was denied access simply because they did not have the right file format to make the request. In fact, as you point out, the only file format usable was paper, and certainly paper-only access does not encourage software piracy.

        I’m also not going to say that Microsoft products do not have problems (again, I have 5 machines that primarily run a Linux variant), but I will not go so far as to say it is impossible to create and secure a Windows network. So again, the problems you mention regarding FEMA’s response after Hurricane Katrina is one based on expertise and/or efficiency–not a violation of a “mandate.”

        1. thenewestzico

          anonymous, I really enjoy your comment about those who attend public schools:

          “Textbooks: a necessary expense. A computer: a necessary expense. If you can’t afford the tools needed to accomplish a task, then don’t sign up for the task. Or, accept the fact that you will not be able to complete the task.”

          Ah yes, I’d forgotten that public schooling requires our students to purchase additional materials above and beyond the normal pencils and notebooks. I learn the joy of consumerism every time I purchase something I don’t think I need. And poor people? Hah! just accept that you can’t “do” school. It’s just not your thing. Why don’t you become a janitor or a construction worker? A good solid working class job. But edumacation? No, that’s just not for you, and the sooner you accept that, the better off you are, right? Am I right, anonymous? Should I tell my girlfriend that she should not have gone to college because when she was in elementary school her mother couldn’t afford to pay for textbooks?
          Another thing: banks sure as hell don’t have to provide support for anything other than internet explorer if they feel that is such a good choice. But they will lose business because of it, and customers and potential customers have every right to complain to the bank to give support to alternative browsers and operating systems. The bank doesn’t have to give in to those demands, but again, they stand to lose business if they don’t. The bank has to figure out if it is worth the lost business.

          1. anonymous

            I will freely admit, when I wrote that analogy, I was thinking from the perspective of college/university. The analogy does not translate directly to elementary, intermediate, or high school.

            There is a balance to strike. The government cannot be expected to provide all the materials (paper, pencils, pens, scissors, paper clips, staples, construction paper, protractors, etc., etc.). But by the same token, if the government is going to legislate that attendance is required, the government must provide or designate a place to attend–whether by spending tax dollars to construct the location or to secure a location’s use with rent. Aside from that, where is the line drawn regarding what materials the government is obligated to provide?

            This is exactly the sort of “mandate” the author claims has been violated. In an earlier response to me, he said the “mandate” was set out in laws enacted/passed/ratified by legislatures. Fine, I’ll go with that. But he has failed to cite a single statute or regulation that defines a “mandate.” Nor has he pointed to an example of an agency’s actions that, by definition of the “mandate,” demonstrate that the agency is in violation. Until he can do so, his assertion that a “mandate” has been violated is hollow. His claim is baseless. He is substituting his personal judgment to determine where that line should be drawn and concluding that the line has been violated.

            He is entitled to his opinion. There can be a debate on whether his opinion is a good one, but he CANNOT say, as a fact, that a “mandate” has been violated if he cannot very well point to a black-and-white definition of that “mandate.”

            As for your response regarding the bank, we are in far more agreement than you might think. The author’s presentation left me with the impression he feels that “I am a paying customer at this bank–therefore, I have a right that the bank cater to my demands.” That is so totally, patently, absurdly false. The only “rights” a customer has are outlined in whatever agreement/contract was made when service began. I can’t say with 100% certainty that a bank would not promise to provide online banking for every conceivable hardware and software platform, but I think I’m pretty safe in guessing the number is pretty friggin’ low. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I would bet most banks do not obligate themselves to provide online banking at all–that the service is a “convenience” for the paying customer.

            And yes, if a bank refuses to provide online banking, they will alienate potential customers. That is a completely different issue than saying a paying customer has a “right” to demand specific service. Just as it’s one thing to say “I believe agency X’s actions do not meet the level necessary to perform their appointed task” versus “Agency X’s actions do not meet the level necessary to perform their appointed task.” There is an ocean of difference between the two. Or for a more in-the-moment example, “I think this anonymous guy has an IQ less than 0″ versus “This anonymous guy has an IQ less than 0.” One statement is opinion. One statement is objectively verifiable. The author chose to use an objectively verifiable statement and is refusing to provide the basis for his conclusion.

  6. Nevyn

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I however, don’t put the blame with the Government. I don’t think it’s quite that black and white.

    I think the reasoning is historical. MS made their money, not so much for the operating system but more on the office suite. Thus, the Operating System, nowadays, is a platform for those applications.

    The problem for me is that we don’t question whether we need those applications. The word processor could be smarter – giving me an interface in which to just type a letter or report and selecting what type of text it is without confusing the screen with loads of “format a font” sort of buttons. A spreadsheet has no concept of context. A mistyped date comes up as text for example. If you’re going to be paying out for a per-seat license, it’s well worthwhile finding out if that money is better spent in developing a custom application – a front-end to a database for example.

    Apply this to websites and you find that those sites designed for one browser contain features which either aren’t necessary or could be implemented relatively easily if given the time. Having a website that only works for half your users is worse than useless. Some people are likely to be frustrated enough to stop using the service instead going to someone who is willing to support their users.

    1. Stephen Keeling

      Insightful, thanks. All of this could be avoided by reading the RFCs more carefully. “If you want to talk to $THAT, then $THIS is what it understands.”

      What’s more basic than that? Outside of that, things “don’t work”/$BREAK.

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  8. steve

    Point 1 is the crux of the problem. Would this guy be happy if he could only buy one brand of anything. No he wouldn’t, only in the world of computing do a vast majority of people think it right that there is one dominant OS and office software. Does he think also that there should be one phone provider, where you can only use there hardware and protocols. Would he be happy if there was only one health provider who insisted you only use there brand of bandage……………No he would not.

  9. Jose_X

    Point 3?

    Since when can we compare machining of mechanical cars by computer controlled sophisticated robots to creating proprietary software.

    DIY products or services can certainly be better than the stuff you buy off the shelf or pay others to do. It all depends. But, again, let’s not make the mistake of comparing material objects that sometimes must be built with extremely costly machines in order to be created properly with writing software.

  10. Jose_X

    As for the web, it’s not about Linux vs Windows for the most part. It’s Internet Explorer, which is approaching as little as 50% market share, against a number of other widely used browsers.

    And though I have not used it, I think jQuery allows you to write cross-platform web code from the get go. It’s a javascript file that gets added to the webpage and whose api allows you to traverse the document and do a number of things using its cross-platform api. I think the javascript code initializes itself by testing the environment at run-time so that when you call the api the proper javascript is executed to match the browser. This work has already been done once so that building a webpage just means you have to learn and use the jQuery api calls instead of what one typically uses (eg, DOM) and doing browser compat hacks. [I imagine anyone who has done x-platform hacks professionally has saved the work to reuse over and over without too much marginal hassle, and jQuery will give you just this effect in a well-tested manner.]

    The down-side to jQuery is that you are forced to learn a new api and avoid using standards. However, as more people use jQuery, anyone who wants to understand what webpages are doing may have to eventually learn jQuery.

  11. IGnatius T Foobar

    Remind me never to hire “marco” for a software project. It’s just as easy to develop portable software as it is to develop nonportable software, especially if you’re writing new code. A program that needlessly requires all users to have the same platform as the initial user is, by its very nature, broken. Furthermore, portable software tends to be more well-tested and therefore more technically correct — you don’t find out later that you have a bug that happened to not get exposed on Computer #1 but causes the system to misbehave later when the customer gets a new machine or applies OS updates or whatever.

    Finally, the reason I only hire programmers who care about portability is because they have a tendency to actually understand the problems presented to them, as opposed to just regurgitating what the Microsoft book says and trying to make the problem fit the only couple of solutions they know how to implement.

    Keep an open mind, marco. Your kind of thinking leads to extremely poor quality software.

    1. marco Post author

      Ignatius,
      have you actually read what you’re commenting about? I’m not the one who says that it’s much harder to develop portable software. I’m reacting to that attitude. Not to mention that I said to support open standards, which is something different.

  12. Ulrik Mikaelsson

    A more accurate version of point 3 would be. “If i build my own car (and manage to get it safety-approved by the DMV in the car-case), I expect to be allowed to drive it on publicly funded roads.”

  13. Anders Rovotnik

    Goodbye career. The poor joker who wrote this nonsense is now completely un-employable, and clearly incompetent. Would you hire someone with the attitude that they won’t do a professional job, just because the customer didn’t specifically ask them to? That’s what this joker is suggesting. It is actually less effort to develop portable software, because in the long term, getting the abstractions that isolate platforms differences correct makes the code cheaper and easier to maintain.
    As for point (3), at don’t know what this is meant to demonstrate. If I build a car myself in the garage, it is actually likely to perform better than an Audi, mostly due to its lower weight, and higher power to weight ratio – even if I only put a small engine in it. It will also be very strong, and safe, given that this is the nature of typical space-frame construction.
    As for point (2), open source software has a user driven development model to. It just so happens that may of the users of open source have traditionally been very demanding technical people, who are clearly smarter than the author of this article, and hence probably will never need anything that he is ever likely to write, so the point is academic anyway.
    As for point (1), even my windows box doesn’t support the ‘vmw’ video format. In fact, I have never heard of it. I’m hardly surprised to hear that no one can view this chap’s web site. In fact, I doubt that he can even write simple HTML, let alone tackle the javascript & CSS bugfest that is Internet Explorer.

    1. marco Post author

      Anders,
      probably this is superfluous, but it can’t hurt to ask since Ignatius made a somewhat similar comment earlier today: you know, don’t you, that the one you call “joker” is not me, right? This article is my own reaction to somebody else, who actually wrote to me the 3 points as I’ve reported them at the beginning of this page.

  14. Jim

    re:”trying to write programs or websites “for everybody” is something that requires a lot of development time”: It is NOT any more difficult, in fact, it’s often easier to write websites using basic standards-compliant components than it is to deliberately tailor / cripple them to speciic platforms/browsers. The internet was built on open-standards! Your analogy about building one’s own car and expecting the performance of an Audi is also poor. For one using OpenSource without having to purchase is Not like building your own versus purchasing from a manufacturer; and second – I still DO expect the public roads to accomodate it as long as I build it according to the common requirements/standards set out for cars allowed to use the roads!

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    1. marco Post author

      George,
      without copyright, therefore without GPL, anybody could take your code, modify it, compile the modified version and distribute the binary without any obligation to share the modifications. Unless, of course, the day before abolishing copyright and all that’s made possible thanks to its existence, including the GPL, you had also passed a law (worldwide…) that forced everybody to always publish the whole source code of every software they distribute.

  16. Hans Bezemer

    Who says that a hamburger at McDonalds should taste good? If you don’t like it, don’t buy it, take your business to Burger King and see if they taste any better. After all, you forked out your money, it’s your responsibility to like it. Yes, I know there are people out there who make their own hamburgers. I know I’ve flipped a few burgers myself and they were all right. To be exact, I make most burgers myself, but I do occasionally take a ride to McDonalds. And those burgers can be liked, if you give it a little effort. I mean, they’re made by professionals, right? And most burgers consumed are from McDonalds. And where is it written that hamburgers should be healthy? Of course you shouldn’t die from it right away, but where is it WRITTEN they can’t be fat and have lots of additives?

    See how ridiculous this gets once you put it to a metaphorical test?

  17. Pingback: Some comments on the invitation to take Open Gov out of the hands of technologists | Stop

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