open source awareness [was Re: [FoRK] Fwd: [Processing] download thenew beta release!)

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at
Thu May 19 21:34:52 PDT 2005

Lucas Gonze wrote:
> I can't imagine not having experience with the benefits, though.  Is it 
> really possible to become a grown developer without having FOSS save your 
> ass?  How did you manage it, James?

The tools were always there, and they always worked.  Mind you, I have a great appreciation 
of open source software as I have used it for many years and some of it is ridiculously good.  
But I have never actually bothered to look at the code for the most part -- all the lovely bugs 
I discovered were in applications that I simply did not have the time to start taking apart (e.g. 
GCC).  In other words, I used the applications but I never directly used the source.  I 
understand OSS in theory, but I've never needed to exploit its theoretical development 

Only in the last couple years did I have a project that required me to do wholesale 
replacement of widely used OSS code, largely because the code was both routinely 
inadequate and I wanted to develop some Python modules that were a lot better than the 
crap that was out there ("crap" being relative -- everyone uses that bloody code).  In this 
particular case, I benefitted greatly from being able to look at the existing state-of-reality so 
that I could both borrow pieces that did not need to be modified and ascertain the source of 
deficiencies in the existing code.

I've always appreciated and benefitted from OSS.  But until recently, I've never personally 
benefitted from the fact that I can dive into the source code and take it apart.  Honestly, most 
OSS infrastructure code is sufficiently good that most people never need to look under the 
hood.  It just works.  While I've written many extensions to existing OSS, this was the first 
time I'd actually done wholesale re-engineering of OSS code.


j. andrew rogers


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