I generally try to stay out of the real flamefests, but there are a
few things here which I think can be said constructively.
Jim's posts over at arsdigita.com were flames, no doubt. And
they were, as others have pointed out, broad generalizations with
no facts to back them up. But I think the fact (ok, my impression)
that his remarks have been received fairly positively by the
community at large indicates that he has done a pretty good job
of capturing how the community feels. Not necessarily in the
specific points he raised but in tone and meaning.
Those who have pointed out that aD has a business to run and
should be making decisions for that business, not for the benefit
of the community, are also right. But that doesn't mean that
members of the community can't disapprove of those decisions,
and express their frustration. aD is then free to incorporate or
ignore that feedback, as they see fit.
My personal feeling is that those of us who came to aD because
we believed in Philip's philosophies feel that a sort of "bait and
switch" has taken place. Let me explain:
We came to use the ACS and to be contributing members of the
aD community because we were enchanted by the "keep it
simple" approach to software design, and the innovative,
non-corporate way the company was run. We saw that lots of
people were joining the community without a lot of programming
experience and were able to learn how to work with the ACS and
build their dreams, and it was good.
aD has never really been truly Open Source in a bi-directional
sense, but back then it was accepted that the company was
small and overworked, and that they didn't have time to accept
fixes from the masses. We shared fixes among ourselves on
web/db, and occasionally one could develop a direct relationship
with a developer who would accept simple patches and
incorporate them with their own work.
I don't know what made Philip decide it was time to go for IPO
gold. I do know that he lost at least one good person over it, and
that many of us in the community were a little concerned about
how things might change. But we tried to look at the positive
benefits VC could bring.
So, what has happened in that last year or so? The toolkit has
become more complex, but quality has not improved much. It is
still exceedingly difficult to get fixes into the toolkit, but harder to
develop those one-on-one relationships with developers (there
are more of them, and most don't hang out in the bboards).
Folks without prior programming experience have a much harder
time using the toolkit. And now there are layoffs, and talk of
proprietary modules. A reader of Philip's book today would
hardly recognize aD the Company at all.
arsDigita has come a long way... opinions clearly differ on
whether the changes are positive or negative. I think Jim's
posts, though crudely phrased, served the important purpose of
expressing some of the anger and disillusionment that's
hanging around out here.
For the record, though, as an aD partner, I don't feel that we've
been treated like sh*t. Ignored, yes, but not mistreated.