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I can’t stand secrecy

I say this as it was a defect, but I’m actually not sure if it is a defect indeed.

I can’t stand secrecy and this is something I felt to say some time ago, but I ended up not saying anything, but as now I can’t sleep, I suppose I might as well say this so that I can get rid of another weight on my thoughts.

Of course this is not a generic “secrecy” thing, I suppose there are things that have to remain secret, like personal feelings and stuff like that, that shouldn’t be opened up too easily, to avoid injurying yourself when other people misunderstand them.

There is also the secrecy needed for Police operations and similar, which of course can’t be simply ignored or underestimated. But those things I leave to CIA, MI6 and “our national” SISMI/SISDE (it’s so secret that you don’t actually hear it talked about that much here, well of course, unless one of its men is killed by friendly fire).

But again, those are not my concerns. What concerns me is secrecy in Free, Open Source Projects. By definition, why there should be secrecy in Free, Open projects? It does not make much sense, does it?

Why should someone develop something in a closed circle, would it be a softwre or an idea, or a project or whatever else? Why people have to “surprise the world”? One of the good things about Open Source and Free Software is that you can check the things yourself, no more “factory secrets”, no more “surprise moves”, at least for some aspects.

It’s still understandable that companies like Sun and Apple release their code under “surprise”, after developing it secretely, but this is just because those are commercial projects that lives on selling a product, rather than on its development.

I’m not referring to a single issue, I think I seen this happening too many times before, and every time, I still wonder why oh why people have to be so egocentric. Why I say egocentric? Because I can’t find any other reason for secrecy.

Let me precise, there are things that has to be handled in limited groups, like on gentoo-core when it’s matter of organising Gentoo itself or developer conferences or stuff like that, or the private Summer of Code mailing list where opinions, ideas and bug reports are exchanged between mentors and Google staff. There are channels that are correctly +s (secret) because they are “service channels” (like -infra), but the most of the secret channels are pointless, actually they are dangerous for Free Software (unless they have a public accessible “mainline” channel, and the secret is just for “slow noise” development).

I don’t like secrecy, and I’m somehow having problems even to accept the secrecy behind Summer of Code mentoring. I don’t trust secrecy, either by actions or by obfuscating: I don’t trust code that’s written in ways that are not understandable by public.

Maintenance is important as much as information availability, if a software is writte in such a way that only a guru can understand it, as free (on paper) it can be, as quick, as performant, as optimised it can be, I find it a bad idea to use and support.

Myself, I always try to give as much information on what I do, even on what I plan to do. My blog is also for this, I actually often blog on things before even starting them, and then, I try to keep anyone up to date on what my status is with that. You’ll never hear me talking about secret stuff. I like to think that this is something people like of me (although I still find hard to think that people like me in any way :P), and if in the past I’ve fallen on accepting exceptions to this rule, I’ll always do my best in the future to not end up stuck in “secret plans”.

Freedom (in software) is something you conquer with ideas and actions, and with freedom itself. Freedom conquered with secrecy is not true Freedom.

Comments 2
  1. Hiya you,After being nudged towards your blog I am of course curious as to what secrecy you are referring to? As to my knowledge there are none. Admittedly we try to refrain from discussing student applications in public, as well, you want to spare peoples feelings, so if person A had submitted an application that was really rather poor and crap it’s sure better that we discuss whether or not to mark it ineligible/ask for a resubmit/change or whether to rank/not rank it at all somewhere non public where the student in question can’t see people tearing their application to pieces. (This is why there’s a tick box that allows you to choose whether or not to publish a comment to a student or not yeah? )I presume this is the secrecy of which you refer? Now, if Google had defaulted it to make * available to the students I presume that people would take those things elsewhere (ie. private e-mail or similar) as again, I don’t think anyone particulary fancies hurting anyones feelings, so we make our comments, we then make a more tactful response to the student where we ask them to please changed/edit/extend/ellaborate on the bits that left us unsatisfied/confused/whatever.I hadn’t considered this as being some big secret thing, I had thought it rather fair by Google both for the mentors and the students, the mentors get a chance to discuss, the students get encouraged to fix stuff should they wish. Now, if mentors were forced to make all comments visible to students by default I suspect people would either refrain from speaking, or they would discuss applications elsewhere.I’m not entirely sure what is so bad/secret about it though 🙂

  2. Oh, and upon re-reading, “private Summer of Code mailing list where opinions, ideas and bug reports are exchanged between mentors and Google staff,” personally I don’t follow this list, but my understanding is that the list is intended to be one where Google provides information to admins/mentors like reminding them of deadlines, of the ToS, what needs to be done and by when. The list is primarily intended for administrators, but mentors are also invited to read and particpate on it. It was a bit too high traffic for me to follow, but people are good and point out any relevant bits (like paperwork that needs to be filled in, deadlines, project number deadlines etc etc).Now, admittedly, I can’t see any reasons for why the list is “private”, I presume it is to avoid high traffic/off topicness. And all code written during summer of code is public, and should be public from day one, I can’t see how there is any secrecy there?

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