inessential by Brent Simmons


Ted Leung flatters me when he writes about the NetNewsWire testing process. Ted is a great tester, and it’s fun to work with him.

(For example, his subscription list is the longest I’ve seen or even heard of—but, instead of treating it like an outlier, we’ve used it to work on NetNewsWire’s scaling and performance.)

Of more general interest, Ted writes, “Is it odd for an open source guy to feel such a kinship with a closed source/proprietary software guy? I don’t think so.”

I don’t think it’s odd, either. I like very much that the two worlds mix. OS X itself as an expression of that mix, and I myself have released some parts of NetNewsWire as open source, so I’m not purely a closed-source guy.

There’s another way to slice things: there is software by large companies and software by small, independent developers. Open source and closed source software comes from both places.

But I like the small companies best: Bare Bones, Rogue Amoeba, TheCodingMonkeys, Panic—and even smaller companies and individuals like Flying Meat (Gus Mueller), Karelia (Dan Wood), and Adriaan Tijsseling. (And many more.)

I like the independent developers because they’re much closer to their individual users than large companies can afford to be. Apple, for instance, makes some great software—but you’re probably not going to talk to Steve Jobs. You’ll listen to his keynote, but that’s not the same thing as emailing or chatting with him or taking him out to lunch. (On the other hand, you may get to know some individuals at Apple, which is cool.)

If you’re like me, you like it when software development is collaborative. Collaboration can take the form of sharing source code, but it doesn’t have to.

In fact, most users of most pieces of software probably wouldn’t benefit from the source code, either because they’re not programmers or don’t have time—but they do benefit when they describe something they’d like to be able to do and then it appears in the software.

There are two languages used to create software: computer language and human language. The human language is more important.

Of course, I’ve often thought that if I were independently wealthy then NetNewsWire would be open source. Why not?

As I hope I’ve made clear, I like open source software, even though I don’t usually look at things as open-source vs. closed-source—instead I see collaborative vs. ivory-tower, and I prefer collaborative.