Openness vs. Comfort

Vincent DEFERT 20.100 at
Fri Jun 12 13:37:47 UTC 2020


The "freebsd vs. netbsd" thread and its flame war about top posting made 
me think seriously about what I've perceived in the FreeBSD community 
over the last 9 months.

My impression is that there are 2 sub-groups in the FreeBSD community, 
those wanting FreeBSD to dominate over Windows and Linux, and those 
wanting to keep every semi-colon in its set line and column forever.

[ Deliberate exaggeration here, but posts on this mailing-list and on 
the forums seldom fall in the mid-range. ]

I tend to think that this schism is caused by a lack of common vision. 
And without a vision, you have no criteria to make decisions, so you end 
up battling over and over with little results.

With a vision, it would be easy to decide what is important and what is 
not, but there are a couple of obvious things that can be discussed already.

1. Why mailing lists?

I assume all of you have perfectly healthy eyes. Great!
Unfortunately, this is not my case. For me, reading plain text messages 
is a torture. I made an effort in the beginning, but it is not possible 
in the long term.
However, as healthy as you may be, I've read complaints about the person 
recently posting from his smartphone - and yes, his messages were in 
effect as unreadable as the replies.

But what purpose do these mailing lists serve?
I've read several times they were the right place to meet developers, 
but this is mostly true for freebsd-current@ an freebsd-stable@, not 
this one.

So in the end, this mailing list (freebsd-questions@) is just to be used 
when looking for help.
Which means that at the time you need help, you must face additional 
difficulties, at least legibility and focus.
So one should only use this list when not in need of high importance help.

I don't know what you do when you have to solve a problem, but the first 
thing most people do is google for it.
And what do you get when you google something? Links to web pages.
Which mean that if answers given on this list had some value, they will 
be invisible to most people.

So using a mailing list in 2020 is reserved to things of little or no value.
Important things deserve a forum: they are visible (indexed by search 
engines), legible (web browsers accessibility features) and well 
structured (threads) so you can stay focused on what you're here for.

2. Linuxophobia / Linuxallergia

If I were fully satisfied with Linux, I wouldn't be there.
However, there are also good things in the Linux world that could 
inspire development decisions for FreeBSD.
But many people in the FreeBSD community seem to suffer from severe 
Linuxophobia and/or Linuxallergia, throwing out the baby with the bath 
So what do we get in 2020?
A ports collection with a huge dependency mess and unreliable package 
repositories that remove your applications when a build has failed.
This could be admissible in the 90s, but not in 2020.

When you report these issues, you're told "jail everything" or "use 
Those who do so set strong barriers around FreeBSD.

Using jails means every new user must learn a whole lot of things to use 
FreeBSD, even in irrelevant use cases.
Using poudriere means learning even more + dedicating a machine to build 
your packages + waiting for as long as needed to build everything you 
need + fixing bugs + rebuilding.

It means FreeBSD imposes on its new users a tremendous cost - a cost 
which is incurred only ONCE for each Linux distribution for the benefit 
of all its users.
Linux distributions have fully addressed these issues 15 years ago and 
it is the bare minimum expected from a distribution.
At least for this, Linux would be a good source of inspiration. And I 
know at least one Linux package management system released under the BSD 

The evolution of the IT landscape over the last decade shows a dramatic 
loss of appetite in more and more people for reinventing the wheel over 
and over.

3. Comfort and Openness

FreeBSD has a great base system and a great text mode installer, but 
what's the point in installing it if managing applications is a mess and 
asking for help a curse?

Obviously, what is privileged in the making of development decisions is 
the comfort of first time FreeBSD adopters.
However, comfort is a great thing as long as it doesn't turn into rigidity.
Conversely, life requires from a species a minimal interest in its 
environment and a minimal ability to adapt.
There is a word for this: openness.

Being open (or opening up) doesn't mean giving up on what matters to you.
It just means you know quite well what matters to you and you feel safe 
considering what surrounds you, and use whatever out there you deem 
appropriate to take good and continued care of what matters to you.

4. And so what?

My sole purpose was to provide you with an insight of how FreeBSD and 
its community could be perceived by an outsider in 2020.
I'm pretty sure it is of interest to some of you, it's the only reason I 
wrote this mail.
But in the end, interested or not, what you do or don't do with this 
piece of information is yours, not mine.


PS: These topics are not FreeBSD-specific, they apply to all BSD OS, the 
situation of the others is just much more degraded.

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