[BLOG] The responsibility of publishing things.

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Moonchild
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[BLOG] The responsibility of publishing things.

Unread post by Moonchild » 2021-09-20, 14:20

Today I'd like to touch on something that seems to be a difficult to grasp concept for a number of people in programming, especially in FOSS, and, when looking over the various forks, rebuilds and hackjobs on Pale Moon and UXP recently, that has seemingly just gotten worse over the past few years. It is why maintenance is important, as well as transparency about what can be reasonably expected from the software.

The issue a lot of people don't seem to get is that when you publish software, you create a dependency by others on your work. That dependency can be essential to the way people work or change their workflow to fit your software into their routine or even business. Having others depend on something you create and maintain generates serious responsibility. That responsibility leads to consequences for you and for your users, especially if your published software is, or can easily become, a "daily driver" for users, i.e. a tool they will use for essential things every day.

I am of the opinion that this is why one-shot 15-minute hackjob programs really shouldn't be put out to a general audience, and why it is important to take responsibility for what you put out, and by extension, why you should never offload that responsibility on others by saying your published software is something it is not. That also means you should never use someone else's branding for something that hasn't been quality-checked or at least verified by the people owning the brand, and should not give resistance when a brand owner says what you are doing is "not okay". Close to home we've seen this happen more than once.

I think Tom Scott touched on this effectively in one of his videos[1], which I'll quote below:
Tom Scott wrote:I've talked about 'bodging' things in the past. I encourage it for hobby projects; just slapping something together as a proof of concept, just so it works for you is a great principle when you're making a thing for yourself. But if you're making something for the public, for mass consumption, particularly something that's going to be used by people in very vulnerable moments, then you've got to take a lot more care.
Every time we build something for the public, we have to start making the trade-off: how much time and money is it worth to deal with every edge case? [...]
The problem is that we're often dealing with unknown harms and unintended consequences. Far too often, a bodged-together system that was just meant to be a test [sic: proof of concept] gets rolled out into production, and everyone just has to deal with the bugs because that's all anyone can afford to do.

I will always bet on incompetence rather than malice; I will always bet on someone just not thinking about consequences rather than thinking about them and going "Eh, who cares".

Every time that we design a system, we have to minimise the potential harm. Look at the code you write, look at the systems you design, and think: How could this be abused? How could this fall apart? What are the failure states here? If you were a bad actor, if you wanted to use this maliciously, how would you go about it? Think about how you'd attack your own systems, explore those failure states, deliberately screw things up and see how your code copes. Because if you don't, someone else will.
I wholly agree with Mr. Scott here, and I do think that more people who publish software need to be acutely aware of the dependency and responsibility they create by publishing something. And that isn't even limited to software either; it goes for every kind of publication. Whether it's a program, a document, a reference, a wikipedia article, news, guides, diagrams... anything. It all comes with a certain level of responsibility and even if you can't (or won't) take on that responsibility yourself, you have to be clear and transparent to the people who rely on your publication about the potential risks and pitfalls of it. Don't try to up-sell your own work, or offload your responsibility on others. Have respect for others who you rely on to create (and help you publish) what you do. Follow the rules, be honest about what you publish is and is not, and realise: what you do can (and will) change other people's lives.

Thanks for reading.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZM9YdO_QKk
"Just because you know something is going to break in the end, doesn't mean that it can't have an effect that lasts into the future. Joy. Wonder. Laughter. Hope. The world can be better because of what you built in the past." -- Tom Scott
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Fedor2
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Re: [BLOG] The responsibility of publishing things.

Unread post by Fedor2 » 2021-09-25, 17:01

Huh forget to ban me/

So this is my farewell post

You tell about responsibility, and whos responsibility was to do all recent mess? Did i actualy harm anyone by not putting proper links? No, you decided to harm. Did i disturb you anyway or demand anything? No, instead you disturbed me and demanded.
Good bye then.

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Re: [BLOG] The responsibility of publishing things.

Unread post by ron_1 » 2021-09-25, 17:44

Fedor2 wrote:
2021-09-25, 17:01
You tell about responsibility, and whos responsibility was to do all recent mess? Did i actualy harm anyone by not putting proper links? No, you decided to harm. Did i disturb you anyway or demand anything? No, instead you disturbed me and demanded.
Good bye then.
This is a laugh. It was your responsibility because you didn't follow the license. Did you harm anyone? No, but so what? That wasn't the point of anything that was done. So this statement of yours is only a straw-man. The only thing they demanded of you was to follow the license, which you did not. :thumbdown:

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Re: [BLOG] The responsibility of publishing things.

Unread post by athenian200 » 2021-09-25, 17:47

Fedor2 wrote:
2021-09-25, 17:01
You tell about responsibility, and whos responsibility was to do all recent mess? Did i actualy harm anyone by not putting proper links? No, you decided to harm. Did i disturb you anyway or demand anything? No, instead you disturbed me and demanded.
Good bye then.
I understand you're upset about the situation, but I think you should just consider it a learning experience. Yes, you messed up by not providing source code properly, but now you know precisely what to do for your new MyPal. You still have your MyPal branding and can create a new project under that brand that isn't based on our code. It must have been embarrassing for you to have us call you out like that, I know, but I think when you look back you'll realize that you're a little wiser and a little better off. You probably won't make that mistake or put yourself in that position again.

Anyway, I really do regret that it became necessary for us to go that far. I do wish the rules had been followed so that our two projects could have had a more amicable relationship. But I'm not the sort of person that can overlook rules or contracts being broken once I'm made aware of it. If people did that, society would fall apart. Rules, contracts, laws, and a system of consequences for failing to adhere to them are what hold everything together. Without them we'd have anarchy and chaos. I hope you'll understand someday, why we had to do what we did.

I don't wish you any harm. Take care, Feodor.
"The rising sun will eventually set / A newborn's life will fade. / From sun to moon, moon to sun... / Give peaceful rest to the living dead." — The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

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Re: [BLOG] The responsibility of publishing things.

Unread post by New Tobin Paradigm » 2021-09-25, 19:01

The aftermath of your followers, partners, allies, and other various opportunists operating in your name directly or merely taking advantage of the situation has cause more damage than can be calculated.

This is what I have feared all along and why I tried to stop you from going forward from day one if you were not going to do this properly. You, fedor, intentionally or not at the begining were tapping into the lowest common denominator and the most base of desires of a minority of users for your own purposes, noble or otherwise. Now, however, they are radicalized and there is no longer a doubt or possibility today that you can claim that you do not know what kind of damage via exploitation and continued subversion being done by you or commited in your name.

You are nothing in and of yourself, yes, but the idea of you is being used as a rallying cry by formerly unaffiliated groups to organize around and gather behind those once holding position and influence here but proven to be as bad or worse than your protracted annoyance.

You want your grant back then you will have to help us stop those operating in your name and admit what you have done in full and commit to forging a new path forward. One of purity of purpose to better yourself and all you represent. Else, you can just fade away into the ether as merely the token excuse for scumbag, if not criminal, behavior that will be the destruction of us all in the end.
Last edited by New Tobin Paradigm on 2021-09-25, 19:15, edited 1 time in total.
Of course, all these failures mount up and could easily end up costing more collectively than paying a proper rage would.
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Moonchild
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Re: [BLOG] The responsibility of publishing things.

Unread post by Moonchild » 2021-09-25, 19:11

Fedor2 wrote:
2021-09-25, 17:01
Huh forget to ban me/
Nope. There was no reason to ban you and in fact this has always been an open communications channel for you to use (both in public posts or, you know, using private messages to talk things through) but you chose to not make use of it and instead make this a "show" when called out on not following the license repeatedly.

If you call us "disturbing you" and "harming you", while all we did was demanding that you follow the agreement you have with everyone who ever contributed to Netscape, Firefox, Pale Moon, Basilisk and UXP, then you have learned very little to nothing from this whole ordeal, which makes me sad.

PS: Not following the requirements of an Open Source license is harmful to the entirety of free software. That harm is very real. FOSS can't exist when people don't follow the applicable licenses.

Others above have said pretty much anything else I was going to add so I'll just leave it at this.
"Just because you know something is going to break in the end, doesn't mean that it can't have an effect that lasts into the future. Joy. Wonder. Laughter. Hope. The world can be better because of what you built in the past." -- Tom Scott
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