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RE: A Closer Look at GNU AutoTools

From: John Calcote
Subject: RE: A Closer Look at GNU AutoTools
Date: Fri, 12 Sep 2014 10:43:40 -0600

> On 09/04/2014 11:40 PM, John Calcote wrote:
> > If you're looking for a tutorial that walks you through the small set
> > of tasks that you personally need to perform, you're unlikely to find
> > one unless you write it.
> As I see it, this is a clear indicator that the manual is sub-par and
doesn't fulfill
> its purpose.
>  > This is just common sense.
> And this is why this is still a problem.

I honestly don't get why you have a problem with this attitude in open
source software. It's not a bad attitude - it's a natural attitude. You're
trying to treat the Autotools as if a paid team of developers is working on
it. If that were the case, you'd be paying money for the product. You're not
- it's free. Why is that so hard to understand? I personally think it's an
amazing aspect of humanity that we even have open source software (and
hardware) in the first place.

There are pros and cons to commercial software. One of the pros is that we
can rely on a strong support system of paid personnel to provide a great
customer experience. This is not always the case, though. Lately, it seems,
companies seem to think they can get away with more and more crap while
providing a paid product. However, this is likely a false perception on my
part because, in a free-market economy, market forces naturally drive these
factors. If a company doesn't provide what the market feels is reasonable
service for the price, consumers simply stop buying the product and the
company either changes or goes under. I've often thought we're stupider and
more tolerant today as consumers than we used to be a few decades ago - this
is probably because we're farther away from events like the depression of
the 30's than past generations of consumers... *sigh* another topic for
another discussion.

Open source is different - it's also driven by various forces - just not the
same ones. The market cannot *reasonably* expect primary contributors to
provide 100% of the product. Contributors are not getting the same sort of
payoff as a commercial provider gets - the payoff isn't as easily
transferrable. It's emotional and personal-needs based rather than fiscal in
nature. Once the personal needs of the contributors have been met, then the
emotional part kicks in - any additional participation in product
enhancement by these folks is done purely out of a sense of community and
pride. Open source software manuals are a great example of this aspect of
OSS contribution - did the original author NEED a nice manual? Of course not
- he wrote the software. The manual was written for others.

Stop acting like the world owes you something for nothing and start taking
part in the natural order of open source. When I started writing the book
(Autotools: A Practitioner's Guide), I didn't know very much about the
Autotools - not nearly as much as I knew when I finished (which was one of
my personal-needs based motivating factors for writing it). I had great help
- people who volunteered to answer questions on the lists, and one or two
who were invested enough in the outcome to put some real time and effort
into fact checking and content review.

(By the way - there IS a free version of the book online - check it out at
make_libtool. This was my first draft - it's not quite as complete or up to
date, but it's about 85% of the same content as the published book and
formatted in a similar manner. I could have requested that the site owner,
Tony Mobily, remove it from the site and he would have complied (because
he's a nice guy), but I felt it was important to contribute back to the
community in some way for the help they gave me in writing the book in the
first place.)

The point is, I didn't come to the list whining about why the manual isn't
better. I read through the manual several times, assimilating more
information with each pass, until I had the data I needed to create
something I felt was more palatable to the novice. I also found some
mistakes and submitted patches and suggestions to the list. As far as I can
tell, they were much appreciated. So stop complaining and start contributing
- it's the natural order of open source. Kicking against the pricks never


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