What is “mostly open source”?

I read a description of a piece of software and someone used the phrase “mostly open source” which I found interesting… So I asked the following question via Twitter

How do you decipher the phrase “mostly open source”?

cruiskeencruiskeen @raster related to “a little bi pregnant”

cjibocjibo @raster 50.1% meaning the rest is crap code

gregtarnoffgregtarnoff @raster They started using open source code, until they got to a point where using it meant they couldn’t make money off it.

genehackgenehack @raster I read that as “we have no idea what we’re saying but think this advances our agenda”

mattressmattress @raster You can alter the parts that are superficial

tomhenrichtomhenrich Partly super-uber-top-triple-secret. RT @raster: how do you decipher the phrase “mostly open source”?

I know I’ve spent time in the past arguing what constitutes “open source” and I probably won’t do that here again. At least not right now. I mean, I figure if you make your code available under an open source license, then it’s open source. There’s a whole series of follow-up questions such as: Are you a good steward of the code? Do you manage the community? Do you accept code from others and roll it back into the project? Those could all be considered parts of being a good “open source citizen” but really, the code, available under an open source license, is what probably makes something open source.

(In other news, the tweet quotes included with this post are something I’m working on to make it easier to reference tweets back on my own blog. I’ve wanted a tool similar to this for years now and haven’t seen one that does what I want. I’m sick of just using screen shots and typing things into the alt tag. There’s got to be a better way, or I’ll try to make one.)


Scuttle rides again!

Because I always fear the CloudFail™, and because I like hacking on open source projects and interesting APIs, and because I like to store my own data… I’ve got Scuttle up and running again.

p2url: Bookmarks I started using in 2003 to store my bookmarks. I loved it. Over time had some issues with reliability and there were times when I could not access my bookmarks that were stored in This made me sad. Around 2005 an open source project named Scuttle appeared, which was basically a clone of you could run on your own server. I ran it on my own server, and put together some code to make it sync up with (At some point the name changed from “” to “Delicious” but I am calling it here for historical reasons.)

For years this ran on my own home server, and served as a great backup for my bookmarks in This was all very easy because Scuttle implemented (most of) the API, so syncing the data between the two was so trivial, even a hacker like me could cobble a bit of code together to make it work.

As an interesting sidenote, while ended up being pretty darn reliable (Yahoo! eventually acquired it) others were not so lucky. Ma.gnolia was another social bookmarking site. Ma.gnolia died a tragic death, and lost all data. See for details. This is why having an API is important. This is why having a backup is important. This is why you should trust yourself with your own data.

I’ve collected a few links for the blog posts I wrote about Scuttle,, and related sites.

(Most of the bits above can also be found on the page at:, and while you are welcome to browse through as it is a public site, I’m the only on who will be adding bookmarks to it, because it’s there for me. If you want your own, I encourage you to go make it happen. Let me know if you need help.


Snake or Software?

This is a game I made for the June 2010 Web414 Meeting. You have to guess… it is the name of a snake, or the name of an open source software project.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this game! Check out Web414 any second Thursday of the month at 7pm… at Bucketworks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Business Disruption

I have this problem… whenever I see some commercial service demonstrated, I start to think of the alternatives to it. Why is that?

I got a demo of an interesting service recently, and the first thing I thought to myself was “hmmm, this is really similar to what I had running in Drupal two years ago” and then I thought about how the service could be cloned with a few Drupal modules and a few days of hacking. I was relatively sure WordPress also had similar plugins to attain the feature set. (I’m probably underestimating the amount of work, but we tend o do that sometimes, don’t we?)

Don’t get me wrong, the service I saw was not without value… it had great value! But the support for the service was probably the number one value. I mean, the software wasn’t magical (it may have some magical stuff on the inside or on the backend filter that I didn’t see) but the basic functions were not in any way amazing. For someone who doesn’t want to think about it, and outsource all the technical voodoo to someone else, it would probably appear pretty damn amazing, so if that’s you, then yes, it was amazing.

At that point I start to wonder… should they have built their product on top of any open source platform like Drupal, and then build things on top of the plumbing it provides? Expertise, customization, support, hosted services… and on and on.

Maybe it’s the whole “we have tiers, it’s $XX per month, or $XXX per month or $XXXX per month depending on the features you want” where I start to think that cloning it would be a great idea for someone, because somewhere, somehow, there’s always someone who wants to build it themselves, or modify it, or make it do something someone hasn’t thought of yet, or even just not pay $XXXX per month for something.

Maybe business deserves to be disrupted sometimes.


Open Source Jumble

I’m a fan of open source… I’m a user of open source… I’m still a believer in open source… but I don’t always use open source. So by The Book of Doug, I’m a sinner…

I own/admin at least 5 Linux servers, have a Linux netbook, use Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, NeoOffice, Perl, PHP, MySQL, Adium, jEdit, VLC, ffmpeg, Audacity, Apache HTTP Server, WordPress, Drupal, and on and on… I’ve also contributed to open source software projects, typically not with code (since I’m just a hacker) but with support, add-ons, and even monetarily. I’ve written and released applications, code, scripts, and various media (photos, video, audio/music, words) under open source and open content licenses.

Look… I use Mac OS X, and I know it’s not open source… I’m a sinner. Please forgive me. I do my best by installing and promoting open source software on Mac OS X. Every Mac I set up has the best open source software on it for the user that will use it.

It’s still not enough. Doug wants me to try harder.

I’ve also worked towards putting on things like BarCampMilwaukee, in fact, we just had the 4th one, but Doug wasn’t happy because of “Microsoft putting their dirty paws on events like BarCampMilwaukee4…”

I’m not sure what they did, other than helped feed everyone there. Like all other sponsors, they supported the event financially, and go no special treatment in return. No keynote, no booth, no 20 foot wide banner. I heard no reports of Larry Clarkin forcing anyone to install Windows or insulting Linux. If anything, Brennan pushed more Microsoft propaganda my way, and he doesn’t even work for Microsoft! And Doug, I’ve asked open source companies, including Red Hat, to sponsor BarCampMilwaukee in the past, and never got any response.

Oh yeah, back to Doug… I like Doug, I really do… His intentions seem honorable, but he seems frustrated, and is convinced that talking to people won’t change things. Still, he writes a blog post about it. Doug, don’t give up! Talk is cheap, but discussion has value! Try talking to people, not at them, and follow it all up with action, but be nice about it. Nobody likes a jerk talking at them, but plenty of people like a friend talking to them.

Now go open some source and bridge that open-closed divide!