22 Jun 2002 Cardinal   » (Journeyer)

Since PHP is an open source project, #php on OPN inevitably attracts the regularly repeated discussions on what free software is, should be, etc. It's always interesting to see what people think it should be, especially the people who aren't contributors themselves.

bytesplit's latest reminds me of one such discussion, since he uses the same example app to argue his point, editors. Everybody who wants to has written one, and that's fine. Are there "way too many"? Maybe, but who cares? Nobody owes you a quality editor, bytesplit. The individuals or groups that wrote these "way too many" apps that don't meet your expectations probably aren't too concerned. The reason is simple. When people work on free software projects, they do so because they want to. Everything you see around you, every little editor that doesn't have any unique features, or every major accomplishment in software development, it all came into being because somebody wanted to write it. So when you say that there aren't enough quality apps, and that this is a major issue, I can't help but feel a little indignant. But, I'm not going to start ranting about how a meritocracy works tonight.

So, there are a whole lot of sub-bytesplit-quality editors. Well, tough. The people who write them want to write them, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Moving right along...

The question I hear from many people, and mind you I am much more of a Windows user at this point than a non-Windows user, is this: Why should I move to another platform when there aren't very many great products like Office 2000 and games like Madden Football 2002 can't be played on anything other than Windows

I hear this question a lot too. Here's my answer.

Maybe you shouldn't. No operating system will ever be all things to all people. I don't know why anyone who is using Windows should feel compelled by another person to switch, as if they're doing something wrong by using one OS instead of another. If you need/want products like Office 2000 and games like Madden Football 2002, stick with the platform you can use them on. Why should you switch, if the games you like, and the tools you're used to are already available to you? Maybe you shouldn't.

As far as documentation goes, I'm not sure why you're looking to FreeBSD for a newbie-friendly system. That doesn't seem to be a high priority for the BSD community, but that's just what I've observed from afar. I don't even recommend my distro of choice to newbies, because it just doesn't feel like it's there yet. I tend to direct newbies interested in Linux towards Mandrake, because they've put a lot of hard work into that audience.

In any case, documentation isn't all that different from "low quality" editors. The folks that write it do the best job they can. Once more, nobody owes you perfect documentation. And again, I can't help but feel rather indigant about this gripe. Especially with my knowledge of some documentation groups like the PHP doc team, who have assembled and who actively maintain what I consider one of the better manuals for a language anywhere, and I know I'm not alone. We regularly get people in #php who have either started with other languages, or are starting with PHP, and almost without exception, they mention how impressed they are with the PHP manual.

You don't have to be a good writer to contribute, either. If you find it so disturbing that all the docs around you are gibberish, all you have to do is send some suggestions on how to improve it to the authors. Maybe throw in some example paragraphs, as you'd like to see them, from the perspective of a user reading their docs. Who knows, maybe that's your calling in free software. Maybe that's how you can earn the certification of Journeyer you've already given yourself.

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