The Support Vacuum: Feedback

My article on El Reg has attracted quite a lot of feedback. Some of it appears as comments on the site; others as email. I don’t know the criteria for how that works, nor whether my correspondents are clear on where their feedback goes.

Most of the feedback falls into two camps, with a clear majority in the first:

  1. Yes, this is a real problem, and [ people make a range of supplementary points ]
  2. This is Apache’s fault for not shipping something better as its default.

Two messages fall into a third category which is particularly useful: people volunteering to fill gaps in the Wiki page for other distros (Slackware and Mandriva). I’ve forwarded those to pctony, who is one of the leading lights of the wiki effort.

To deal first with the negative feedback. Yes, I’m sure there are good reasons for your changes. But that misses the point, which is the confusion they cause amongst (some) users. Special message to Thom: yes, Debian/Ubuntu has a README, but lots of users still come to us thinking their setup is the standard.

The constructive side of the criticism can be summarised as “people should get together and decide on a single standard”. Well, please do: you’re very welcome to join the Apache developer list and argue your case for changes to our defaults.

Personally I don’t think that’s realistic: the lessons of history show Unix fragmentation in the 1980s, Linux fragmentation today, and even Windows fragmentation within a single-company-controlled environment. Probably the nearest we can come to eliminating it is the kind of legalistic restrictions imposed on ADA or JAVA, or in Dan Bernstein‘s controversial licensing of free software (religious fundamentalists, please note, I do know the argument that DJB is non-free).

Now, the majority of the feedback agrees my point, and correspondents make supplementary points. Some of these can be summarised as:

  • This same problem affects lots of other packages. There’s a similar Exim-vs-Distros argument raging.
  • This is a problem at the heart of [Linux|FOSS], and is doing a lot of damage.
  • Thank you for saying that. Now I don’t feel such an idiot for having struggled with it.
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Posted on November 6, 2006, in apache, linux, open source. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. To address Nick’s very first point, comments to Reg Developer articles go up online semi-automatically (after a quick check to make sure they’re not dangerously libellous or misleading). They can be anonymous when posted.

    You can also email the author of the article, which may or may not get a response from the author or an editor. Such emails are not published, without specifically asking first.

    And the article was actually in Reg Developer, not El Reg, although it’s a fine point…

    David Norfolk, Associate Editor, Reg Developer

  1. Pingback: Apachecon: raising the support issue? « niq’s soapbox

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