Daily Archives: November 2, 2007

A Planet test?

Miriam Ruiz reports in her blog a journalist friend being frightened off writing about open source by a strong adverse reaction from the open source community (if I may, um, paraphrase). Her article is well worth a read, and generated quite a few comments.

At other times, we hear it reported that “open source advocates say [whatever]“, with no attribution, begging questions like who the heck are you talking about? A feature of openness and free speech is that anyone can air their views. Are your reported open source advocates developers or other serious folks? Kiddies? Freeloaders? Or even agents provocateurs hostile to opensource and aiming to give it a bad name?

In a comment on Miriam’s piece, I suggested that maybe her friend needs to make a distinction between serious open source folks and “a bunch of slashdotters”, meaning of course a general rabble. That’s probably a bit unfair on slashdot: a while ago I wrote in El Reg about an article that had provoked kneejerk reactions in “the open source community” and found (somewhat to my surprise) that slashdot (unlike groklaw) carried a reasoned discussion. But it makes the point.

Thinking about it, I wonder if we can devise a “Planet Test” for the voice of open source. The rationale is that planets are increasingly ubiquitous amongst the major open source projects, and serious open source folks[1] are likely to have blogs aggregated to them. So when you want the authentic voice of the open source community, go to the planets, not to slashdot (let alone slashdot-wannabe sites).

Of course, there’s no hard-and-fast rule. But there may well be sufficient correlation to make a valid statistical test. So to Miriam’s journalist friend and others in a comparable position, here’s a simple test. How many of your critics are to be found on any reputable planet? If none, the chances are you’re facing the peanut gallery and nothing more. If significant numbers, you’re in a different situation.

Of course, none of this purports to offer a substitute for commonsense, doing your own research on a subject, etc. But it could be a useful tool if you’re faced with amorphous and unknown open source advocates.

[1] Well, at least those who like to air their views in public 🙂