jOOQ Newsletter: January 21, 2015 – Groovy and Open Source – jOOQ and the strong Swiss Franc

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Tweet of the Day

Today, we’re very happy to have “spied” on our users as we can now show you a whole Tweet Conversation of the Day

RxJooq, or reactive jOOQ. How does that sound!? Yes, jOOQ is growing to become a hype among SQL and fluent API aficionados. A recent discussion on reddit already puts jOOQ on the same level with Hibernate with more than 10 mentions in answers to the question “Java: What ORM to use”. Our goal has always been for a Java developer to ask themselves at the beginning of a project:

Is this a jOOQ project, or is this a Hibernate project (or both)?

It is too early to announce anything, but at Data Geekery, we’re very interested and thus putting efforts into collaborating with Red Hat to make the jOOQ / Hibernate integration work more seamlessly, so stay tuned for more goodness in that area.

Groovy and Open Source – What it means for us

You may have heard of Pivotal’s recent announcement about their withdrawing sponsorship from the Groovy and Grails ecosystem. This isn’t exactly a surprise to many people as Pivotal’s main focus has shifted towards their PaaS business quite some time ago. The interesting aspect from our perspective is the fact that a whole ecosystem seems to have relied on the benevolence of a single sponsor. Quite a risk!

We think that Open Source should work differently. Open Source is a fine means of offering freemium and (legally) riskless software to potential customers in order to help customers start engaging with a brand. The ultimate vendor goal with Open Source is always upselling. As our valued jOOQ users and jOOQ newsletter and blog readers, we obviously hope that you will eventually understand all the combined SQL value put into jOOQ, and thus upgrade to a commercial jOOQ subscription.

This wasn’t necessarily the case at Pivotal. There is no obvious path from using Groovy (or Grails) to buying Pivotal’s cloud platform solutions. To make things worse, in order to survive, the Groovy platform now depends on a new, arbitrary sponsor whose incentive to sponsor Groovy might be 100% different from Pivotal’s. For the end user, this will not be the same Groovy any more – so it is hard to believe that Groovy will not suffer heavily from any future transition.

We believe that vendors shouldn’t depend on benevolence. We believe that vendors should have a very clear strategy why they’re creating a product, and do everything necessary to satisfy real customer’s needs. So we want to take the opportunity and thank you for being with us, and for making jOOQ (both the Open Source Edition and the Commercial Editions) what it is: A platform valued by both users of Open Source and commercial databases.

More information about our take on Pivotal and Groovy can be found on our blog:

It’s jOONuary! Profit from our 20% Discount Promotion

Speaking of our customers, there has never been a better time to become one!

Your budget for 2015 has been set in stone? You spent too much money on geeky infrastructure during the Holiday Season? Not a problem for your planned jOOQ integration! If you purchase new jOOQ licenses in jOONuary (January 2015), we will offer you a limited-time 20% discount on all price plans. Act quickly!

http://www.jooq.org/joonuary

jOOQ and the Strong Swiss Franc

We’re a Switzerland-based company, and as such are heavily influenced by recent events on the currency exchange markets. The EUR (which is our sale currency) has plummeted almost 20% compared to the CHF (which is our accounting currency).

This affects all of the Swiss export industry, and many companies are starting to take measures. We will not take any measures thus far and continue with our existing EUR-based price model. For our international customers, nothing will change. For our Swiss customers, this means that in addition to the above jOONuary discount, you will now also benefit from a “Euro discount”! Did we say there has never been a better time to become our customer?

jOOQ 3.6 Outlook

The upcoming jOOQ 3.6 will not be less exciting than the previous versions in the least bit. Here is a quick outline of what we’re going to be doing in the upcoming release:

  • SAP HANA support. We’ve been talking to database vendors in the past, and we continue to do so, maintaining good relationships with the technical and community people at the vendor side. This time, the collaboration initiative came from the vendor directly, and we’ve heard them.

    SAP HANA is an emerging cloud SQL and in-memory SQL platform, with a big Java and Scala based tool chain, which constitutes a perfect match for the jOOQ ecosystem. We’re going to support both HANA’s SQL features as well as HANA’s SQLScript features in the jOOQ 3.6 Enterprise Edition. If you’re an SAP HANA user and interested in details, or in a free preview of jOOQ 3.6.0, please contact sales right away. We’re more than happy to provide you with more info.

  • Nested records and tables. One of the SQL standard’s most underestimated features is the capability of nesting records and tables. In a true ORDBMS, tables (or MULTISETs) can be nested any level deep. If your SQL database supports these features, it is very easy to materialise a nested object graph directly in the database, instead of relying on the JOIN-based workarounds provided by modern ORMs.

    Nesting of records can also be very useful when reusing common data structures, such as audit columns (creation_date, creation_user, modification_date, modification_user). JPA supports the @Embedded annotation for this, and we’ll delve into these features as well.

    We believe that true MULTISET support will obsolete our competing products’ most important asset: mapping. Once you can declare all mapping already in SQL, you will no longer miss JPA once you’ve migrated to jOOQ.

  • A new ConverterProvider SPI. Converters are great for supporting custom data types, but having to register them all the time is tedious. What if jOOQ just supported T <-> U conversion right out of the box, for any combination of T and U? We’ll let you register all your favourite converters and jOOQ figures out the conversion path through the converter graph.
  • Even better PL/SQL support. PL/SQL types are ubiquitous, but they are not easily accessible via JDBC, and thus via jOOQ. We’re researching a variety of possibilities of working around JDBC’s limitations to allow you to use your favourite PL/SQL types: BOOLEAN, RECORD types, perhaps even table types.

 

Upcoming jOOQ Events

Have you missed one of our talks and presentations in the recent past? No problem at all, we’re back on the road after a short winter break. Here are all of our upcoming events:

Keep up to date with our own and third-party jOOQ events on our news website:http://www.jooq.org/news.

We’re looking forward to meeting you and to talking about all things Java and SQL!

Suis-je Groovy? No! What Pivotal’s Decision Means for Open Source Software

Today there was great news in the JVM ecosystem.

Pivotal, the company who is committed to OSS has become a bit less committed:

committed

The reaction in the community were largely summarised by the hashtag #jesuisgroovy:

The interesting part in Pivotal’s announcement is this one:

The decision to conclude its sponsorship of Groovy and Grails is part of Pivotal’s larger strategy to concentrate resources on accelerating both commercial and open source projects that support its growing traction in Platform-as-a-Service, Data, and Agile development. Pivotal has determined that the time is right to let further development of Groovy and Grails be led by other interested parties in the open source community who can best serve the goals of those projects.

The official announcement can be read here.

Groovy is not a viable business (for Pivotal)

In other words, Groovy is not a viable business for Pivotal. And it’s hard to disagree here. Groovy has never been created with any commercial interests. Like many Open Source projects, Groovy was created in order to make something “better”, mostly for the sake of it being better. Of course it was useful as it introduced a lot of nice features into the Java ecosystem at a time before all these new JVM languages popped up. And before all these new JVM languages finally had an effect on Java-the-language itself.

On the other hand, the Groovy website’s rather geeky look-and-feel has never made it seem as though virtually anyone had any commercial interests in the language or the platform for that matter. I’m not trying to be harsh here, Groovy is an awesome language, created with love. But maintaining an Open Source ecosystem is hard work. It costs a lot of money and effort. And in the case of Groovy, it is just very hard to disagree with the fact that there is probably little money to be made out of it.

How to make money out of Open Source

When we moved on from a purely Open Source jOOQ to a dual-licensed one, we were criticised a lot by people who realised that they might fall into the dual-licensing category who no longer gets to ride for free. This was of course a disappointing evolution for those people. We see it as one step forward for a product that doesn’t just want to implement l’art pour l’art. We believe that we’re adding value on a small scale to a select set of customers with real SQL problems, and we want to continue to do so. Thus, commercial interests are now the driving force behind our developments, and dual-licensing is the easiest way to achieve that on our own small scale.

Many of those who had criticised us claimed that we should create a support-based Open Source business model instead (like Pivotal!). In other words: Let “them” pay for support – whoever “they” are. But that is not a viable model in the long run.

We create fishing poles. We don’t want to compete with our customers, the fishermen.

In software, the vendor of some product shouldn’t commoditize the main driver for innovation: The product. They should sell the product and create an ecosystem and a market for consultants that will be much better at applying the product to some concrete customer’s business. It is a win-win-win situation for everyone:

  • Vendors get money from licenses
  • Consultants get money from their specialist knowledge
  • End-users get a better, cheaper solution with a lower cost of ownership

Although, the consultant is always the one whose work is commoditized in the long run as demand for the product increases, and more consultants pop up trying to make money from their consulting business.

Joel Spolsky has written an extremely interesting Strategy Letter on the idea of commoditizing a complementary product (support, in this case) to increase the demand for the primary product (license, in this case). In the case of a PaaS company like Pivotal, however, we can only guess that even the commoditization of a whole programming language and ecosystem is no longer sustainable enough to increase demand for their PaaS offerings.

If that is the truth, then other platforms like Spring are at the stake as well! If Groovy is not sustainable, why should Spring be?

Am I Groovy?

Suis-je Groovy? To get back to the original claim:

No, I’m not Groovy. Groovy and every other piece of Open Source software that does not in any direct way produce a commercial value for both the vendor and the consumer is doomed to fail in the long run. Open Source software has created a tremendous amount of value in our industry. Companies like ourselves wouldn’t be possible if we’d still pay millions for an operating system license. The question is not whether software is free as in beer or as in freedom. The question is whether anyone has any viable commercial interests in making a particular software element cheap or even free. If they don’t, well, the joke will be on you as the vendor might just stop doing it. Open Source or not.

The “Free”, “Standard”, “Open” Software Heresy

There are those people that have a strong, dogmatic belief in what they call “Free” or “Standard” or “Open” software. One of those individuals is Jimmie (let’s call him Jimmie in this article) who has responded to an article about Java persistence by Marco Behler on TheServerSide.

Let me cite Jimmie’s response here:

JPA is difficult but complete. It has a learning curve, and you’ll have surprises if you try to shortcut its complexities. But they mostly are there for a reason. Difficult stuff is difficult using JPA, that’s true.

JOOQ is quick to learn. And is proprietary stuff. Not free. Only one implementation. No public review, only one body involved in its evolution. SQL-oriented, not OO (ok, they say it’s a feature).
As a serious professional, learn JPA. Fully. There is no excuse for not knowing which sql queries are generated in your production app. Replacing it with a more basic framework is no solution.

Let’s not go deeply into the concrete difference between JPA and jOOQ / SQL. That topic has been discussed already in lengths on Reddit. Let’s consider the essence of the comparison as perceived by Jimmie. Because, Jimmie would probably say exactly the same thing when comparing

  • JSF with Ext.JS or ZK
  • PostgreSQL with Oracle
  • MS Office or Google Docs (probably OK cause “gratis”) with LibreOffice
  • Linux with Windows or MacOSX (although he might perform some doublethink as a Mac user)

Software not being free

Jimmie, Is YOUR software free and “not proprietary”? If so, how do you finance it? How do you earn a living? And why are you doing it? What really motivates you? What really motivates your customers and why?

Only one implementation

How many people actually do use alternatives to Hibernate and why? Are they using EclipseLink mainly because they used to use TopLink for the last 20 years and the learning curve (or benefit) to switch to Hibernate is too high? How often do you actually switch implementations? What keeps you from implementing the jOOQ API, and open-source its implementation?

And most importantly: Do you always adhere to the JPA API, even if Hibernate has lots of awesome, proprietary extensions that just happen to work so much better / easier?

No public review

Who exactly is “public”, and what are their main interests? Did you know that one of the major driving force for the JDK is Credit Suisse, being a large customer for Oracle in the Java environment, for instance? What is your stake and relation with Credit Suisse as your “public” representative?

Only one body involved in its evolution

Do you say that to YOUR customers also, about your own software as well?

SQL-oriented vs “a serious professional”

What’s not serious about SQL? In fact, SQL is reviewed by more entities than the JLS, let alone the JPA specs. Have you ever thought about that?

More basic

Fair enough. But don’t forget: You probably replaced your sophisticated EJB 2.0 framework (still a standard!) from the early 2000’s by a more basic one, which was (at the time) proprietary, had only one implementation, had no public review, nor multiple bodies involved in its evolution. It was, at the time, called Hibernate. And let me take the opportunity to cite Gavin King (creator of Hibernate) about when to use Hibernate:

gavin-king-on-hibernate

My reply to you, Jimmie

According to you, JPA has to be learned fully. So I challenge you to also FULLY learn SQL, including all the SQL:2011 clauses, including

  • window functions
  • grouping sets
  • common table expressions
  • distinct/match/type/submultiset/unique predicates
  • time periods
  • partitioned outer joins
  • lateral joins
  • standard OFFSET pagination
  • contextually typed value specifications
  • quantified comparison predicates

… and of course all the details of interoperation between SQL and XQuery, one of the most popular aspects of the SQL:2011 standard!

And please, learn this FULLY, regardless of whether these things are part of your specific implementation. Because as a serious professional, you shall fully learn SQL. And while you’re at that, learn also everything about execution plans, and join, fetch, buffer caching, cursor caching and all other sorts of algorithms. Because there is no excuse for not knowing which SQL transformations are generated by your database’s CBO.

I know you like standards, Jimmie. But beware of the fact that there are some people out there who cannot wait for a standard to evolve to solve their problems. They may have more immediate problems. More specific problems. Simpler problems. Problems that might be solved only by proprietary software, so far. Or problems that are solved by proprietary software, that can be put into production with much less effort than your standards, Jimmie.

Lower time-to-market is what your customer might consider “professional”. Not whether this or that tech is used.

Someone always invents something proprietary at some time. It might just evolve into a standard. It might have been a bad idea and not evolve into anything. Or it might evolve into a standard and then be the worst standard ever. See again: EJB 2.0. I think we all agree on that, today.

No, Jimmie, the world isn’t black and white. It isn’t just about standards vs. proprietary. About free (libre) vs. commercial. About free (gratis) vs. “closed”. It’s about creating value for your customer.

Oh, and Jimmie. I sincerely hope you’re neither a Windows, nor a Mac user, because that wouldn’t be free, and there is only one implementation of each OS, and no public review, and only one body involved in their evolutions. And yet, the whole world runs on one of them.

Thanks for your attention, Jimmie.

Free as in Beer has caused Heartbleed (and Much More)

heartbleedHeartbleed is a bit over one month old now. A bug significant enough to have its own Wikipedia page. Today, we’re going to look into how wrong we have been in assuming that Open Source software is more secure than commercial software, because of our thinking that source code is open and that many developers are looking into it.

Free as in Beer

One of the core principles of Open Source software is, well, that it is open and that this openness is free in one way or another. This allows us developers to browse source code of third-party software and libraries for various reasons:

  • To learn from it
  • To copy it (under the terms of the respective license)
  • To modify it (under the terms of the respective license)
  • To verify it

Proprietary software often does not have the above attributes in exchange for warranties. When you read through the millions of lines of unintelligible legal Microsoft text, for instance, you will see that Microsoft gives a couple of guarantees, also with respect to security and how security flaws are remedied.

The warranty that is legally shouted at you by OpenSSL is this one:

THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE OpenSSL PROJECT “AS IS” AND ANY EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE OpenSSL PROJECT OR ITS CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

In fact, you don’t have any warranties. Specifically, there is no liability for direct or indirect loss of data, as has happened because of Heartbleed.

Obviuous, right? Because it’s free as in beer, any consequences resulting from the Heartbleed bug are entirely your own fault, if you’re using OpenSSL, or any other open source software that includes OpenSSL under similar terms.

Yes. You should have known that you were vulnerable, because you actually could verify it. Did you? Of course not. Did we? No way we’re delving through all that C code. Did our “suppliers”? We don’t even know. We’re using WinSCP extensively, and check this out, WinSCP was affected by Heartbleed! The developers over at WinSCP have been nice enough to fix this issue quickly and release a new version. They didn’t have to do this. You know what? Let’s hit that donate button, right now to thank them.

“They” should pay

OK, but again, wasn’t Heartbleed supposed to never even happen? Isn’t this Open Source? Doesn’t anyone (read: “they”. Because, I don’t have time) review such code, especially if it’s that widely used? Isn’t Open Source security much better than closed source security, which is essentially security through obscurity?

Eberhard Wolff, a well-known German freelance consultant and trainer recently replied this to me:

Yes, I’m sorry, Eberhard. But that’s just the case. Security is often neglected in many pieces of software, both commercial and open source. It’s not that the openness helps anyone discover things, security issues are very hard to discover per se. Also in commercial software. Remember GOTO fail? GOTO fail also affected SSL, but only in Apple software.

The issue lies elsewhere, though. Because Microsoft somehow manages to patch all security issues in virtually no time. They fix things so fast that users get frustrated about the sheer frequency of fixes ;-)

But Microsoft has a lot to lose. Pretty much 90% of desktop OS market share, that’s what they’ve got to lose. They’re paying a high amount of insurance money, invested in security teams that are penetration testing their own software to look for leaks. Yes. The vendor themselves are doing this. And yes, it costs money. And yes, you’ve already paid that when you bought Windows (or Office for that matter).

Money that OpenSSL never had. Read this frustrated section in the following public letter by Steve Marquess:

Thanks to that publicity there has been an outpouring of grassroots support from the OpenSSL user community, roughly two hundred donations this past week[3] along with many messages of support and encouragement[4]. Most were for $5 or $10 and, judging from the E-mail addresses and names, were from all around the world. I haven’t finished entering all of them to get an exact total, but all those donations together come to about US$9,000. Even if those donations continue to arrive at the same rate indefinitely (they won’t), and even though every penny of those funds goes directly to OpenSSL team members, it is nowhere near enough to properly sustain the manpower levels needed to support such a complex and critical software product. While OpenSSL does “belong to the people” it is neither realistic nor appropriate to expect that a few hundred, or even a few thousand, individuals provide all the financial support. The ones who should be contributing real resources are the commercial companies[5] and governments[6] who use OpenSSL extensively and take it for granted.

I can feel with Steve. US$9,000 to improve OpenSSL, a software that has added so much value to all of our servers and clients. That’s hardly enough for even 2-3 bug fixes, depending on whose salaries you’re paying.

But Steve tells off the “commercial companies” and “governments” to not have paid enough. But who are these “commercial companies”?

Meanwhile, at Data Geekery

We know similar stories, of course. When we have transitioned from completely Open Source to dual-licensed, we heard a lot of complaints by users that we have never heard of up to that moment. Users who have never donated or contributed code, bug reports, manual improvements or anything. This is OK. We were giving jOOQ away for free under the terms of the ASL 2.0 as part of a extended market analysis. We didn’t expect donations.

Of course, we have also disappointed one or two people who were hoping that jOOQ would remain “free as in freedom”, who have contributed, who have participated, and who now felt deceived. And we’re genuinely sorry about that. But participation doesn’t pay for our bills, money does. So we reached out for money (luckily, we always owned the code as we paid contributors of larger contributions, and had them all sign a CLA, so we could actually do this step, from a legal perspective).

But let’s again focus on the people looking for free beer. No contributions. No feedback. Free rides. And then, when asked for money, they’re pissed (even 8 months later!).

Fair enough. Our price has risen for that particular user. From free to something. They, too, have a right to be frustrated about this change, which they might not have expected. But they, too, have taken “free” for granted without proper reason. Without verifying.

“They”

We don’t believe that “THEY” should pay for our licenses. We don’t think that “THEY” should pay for enterprise support. There is no “THEY” in free software, there’s only all of us, because who decides which project is really important enough to deserve some funding from “THEM” and which one isn’t? All attempts of “fairly” distributing money will inevitably lead to corruption, misuse, abuse, and eventually, to a lack of innovation. We’ve known that from other industries.

So, let’s simply establish two facts:

  • Free software is lying around in the streets. It is publicly acclaimed to be AS IS software. If we’re using it, it is our own risk. And if it goes wrong, it is our own fault. No one else’s. Not the big companies’ (who are already investing tons of money in Open Source software), and not the governments’ (same thing there). Stop pretending that FOSS is in any way better or less of a legal risk than commercial software. That’s just not true.
  • In fact, there is no such thing as free software. “Free” is a price we’re paying as a down payment (or non-payment). The costs will or might arise later. If we’re lucky, the thing will remain “free”. But if we’re professionals, then we’ll insure ourselves against any risk arising from free “AS IS” software. This means that we’ll give back (= “pay”) in another way. Through donations, through bug fixes, through verification.

Further reading

Bruno Borges from Oracle has expressed his very interesting views and counter measures to the current state and meaning of Open Source software in this blog post.

jOOQ Newsletter: January 22, 2014

Subscribe to the newsletter here

Tweet of the Day

We are contributing this new section of the newsletter to our followers, users, and customers. Here are:

Jose M. Arranz who has had plans to build jOOQ, when he happily discovered that jOOQ already exists

Majid Azimi who wishes for jOOQ to become the new de facto standard in all languages. (we wish for the same, shocker, I know)

jOOQ 3.3 Preview

We’re closing in on releasing jOOQ 3.3 towards the beginning of February 2014, which is an exciting release for both existing and new jOOQ users. Apart from many defects fixed, there are now also

… and much more. jOOQ Open Source Edition users can download a preview from GitHub, commercial users can request a pre-built download directly from us.

The Data Geekery Business Case at RedHat’s opensource.com

At Data Geekery, we’re in close touch with various communities, among which those by Oracle or RedHat. RedHat has been selling Open Source software as a business model for a long time. In the enterprise, apart from the flagship RHEL, RedHat is also providing support for a variety of other stacks, such as the JBoss platform, or cloud computing solutions

We’re thrilled to present to you our feature article on RedHat’s opensource.com platform, where we have published an article on our own commercial Open Source business case:

http://opensource.com/business/14/1/how-to-transition-open-source-to-revenue

This is the first part of a series of blog posts. In the next part, we’re going to talk about the five lessons learned when making a business of Open Source, so stay tuned!

Community Work

In the last few weeks, there had been a couple of excellent blog posts by jOOQ community members, which we do not want to keep from you. In December, Gregor Riegler has written a witty rant about the Annotation Nightmare, which we’re increasingly suffering from in the Java ecosystem. Declarative programming at its best.

In January 2014, Petri Kainulainen has started writing a series of excellent blog posts and tutorials for new jOOQ users. The first two posts he has written can be seen here:

Petri is a very active blogger, whom we have been following for a while now. We’re eagerly looking forward to future posts about jOOQ from him.

There are more goodies. Johannes Bühler has contributed new functionality around the loader API and JSON, whereas Darren Shepherd who is a very active contributor to Apache CloudStack has been very active on the jOOQ User Group as well, discovering many issues. Thank you very much for all your help, guys!

Upcoming Events

In January, we have been visiting the JUG-HH in Hamburg for our talk about jOOQ. This was a very exciting and welcoming event with a heavily “JPA / JEE – biased” audience. Thrilling to see how jOOQ (and SQL!) finds high resonance in this kind of industry!

Here is an overview of our upcoming events. We’re very happy to talk at geecon this year!

Stay informed about 2014 events on www.jooq.org/news.

SQL Zone – DEFAULT values

We’re always surprised ourselves at the depth and breadth of the SQL language, and we love share our discoveries with you. Few people know that in SQL (in the standard and in many SQL dialects), you can use the DEFAULT keyword in INSERT and UPDATE statements. Read more about DEFAULT VALUES on our blog.

SQL Zone – JDBC Batch

In heavy-throughput environments, SQL users rely on vendor-specific tools, such as Oracle’s SQL*Loader. In slightly less performance-critical environments, JDBC batch operations are still good enough. But how good are they compared to standalone statements? The answer is: very good. But not in all databases / JDBC drivers. We have found a very interesting benchmark by James Sutherland, which we want to share with you.

The Open Source Bikeshed.

“Him” or “They”? English language aficionados haven’t yet decided what to do with a singular pronoun of unknown (or irrelevant) sex. On Stack Exchange’s English Language and Usage site you can find lots of questions like this one, explaining the context.

Let’s talk about code. When coding, we also write documentation. When writing documentation, we tend to use the English language. According to Wikipedia, roughly 5% of the world’s population speak English as their native language. For the rest of us, “Him” or “Them” in documentation is an even more remote grammar challenge than for native speakers. Some may argue that it might not be as critical as maybe fixing a bug in a core banking system that causes the bank to “lose” 1 million [your currency] per minute.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to trivialise the historic context. But if you’re not really into that context, discussing over “Him” vs. “Them” is just as interesting as discussing over “ISO 8859-1” vs. “UTF-8”. There’s a clear tendency towards doing the “better thing” in the long run (i.e. “Them” and “UTF-8”), and it’s good that better things are being established. But most people acknowledge that fact and then get back at fixing that other critical bug. In other words, most people don’t want to discuss the bikeshed.

However, this is not what 80 people on this GitHub pull request think. They take the time to publicly discuss

  1. The correct use of “Him” or “They” or “She” or “Them” or “One”
  2. The implications of the maintainer closing the pull request as “too trivial”
  3. The implications of the implications of people reacting to the offence

Now, if you follow OSS related blogs, or twitter, you will find lots of people getting incredibly involved with this topic. Take Joyent – a sponsor for the project at hand. On their blog, they reacted to this incident:

But while Isaac is a Joyent employee [having accepted the grammar-fixing pull request], Ben [rejecting the pull request] is not—and if he had been, he wouldn’t be as of this morning: to reject a pull request that eliminates a gendered pronoun on the principle that pronouns should in fact be gendered would constitute a fireable offense for me and for Joyent.

Joyent then continues by stating things like:

(Especially when that poor behavior transcended into the gobsmackingly inappropriate as Ben tried to revert Isaac’s commit.)

And then

Indeed, one of the challenges of an open source project that depends on volunteer effort is dealing with assholes

Source: http://www.joyent.com/blog/the-power-of-a-pronoun.

A reaction to the above made it on Hacker News, leading to another heated debate about the fundamentals of society, reproaches from all sides.

The Bikeshed in Open Source Software

We’re doing Open Source ourselves. We try to do it professionally, as we’re trying to make Open Source our business model. As with any business, it is not always easy to remain professional. People have weaknesses. People have convictions, visions and a cultural background. But there is one thing that Open Source has, unlike closed source businesses. It is immensely open and public. This means that a rather trivial situation about a very local problem that would otherwise be settled among 3-4 involved employees suddenly escalates, turns public and leads to tremendous ranting, shouting, insulting on social media, such as:

  • Blogs
  • Twitter
  • GitHub
  • Hackernews

People have invested a lot of energy into this particular Open Source bikeshed, going as far as publicly pilloring one of the people involved over their use of pronouns in the English language. As it seems ever so often, Open Source is not about software. It is about people, in all of their good and bad ways.

Oracle GlassFish, or Why You Should Think About Open Source Again

Oracle’s recent announcement about the discontinuation of commercial services for JEE’s reference implementation GlassFish has caused many reactions in the community involved with JEE. The reactions reach from:

This event seems to have a big impact on the whole Java ecosystem as many of the above people are key players and influencers in our community, and they neither agree nor know what this step by Oracle means for the future of JEE.

The most interesting point of view among all of the above, in my opinion, is tomitribe’s, looking at things from a mere business point of view with respect to Open Source. They’re saying:

Open Source Isn’t Free

Or in other words, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. And to quote tomitribe even more, a very interesting thought they’re setting out is this:

What this says to me is that we as an industry still do not fully understand Open Source.

We most certainly do not understand Open Source. I’m an Open Source software vendor myself. I believe that Open Source is:

An excellent marketing tool

People look at Open Source as something “generally good”. When I talked about jOOQ at conferences and when it was an all-Open-Source piece of software (not yet dual-licensed), I got lots of opportunity to do free advertising. This has rapidly changed, now that I am offering an alternative commercial license.

A good tool enabler

I get free access to

The same here. As I’m now a “commercial” software vendor, some tools are no longer accessible to me.

The truth is: Open Source is a business strategy

It really is. And it seemed to have worked well for RedHat or Pivotal in the past. Has it worked for anyone else? We don’t know yet, as most other larger companies have such huge amounts of revenue in “classic” fields that they can simply “afford” Open Source. In fact, they’re so good at investing manpower and innovation into Open Source, it keeps the commercial competition in check, as it is hard to write a better and more complete JEE implementation than Weblogic or Websphere.

Apparently, even Larry Ellison is said to agree that the future of data centers lies within using commodity machines. At the same time, RedHat suggests “trying free” to Oracle.

No matter what the impact of the commercial unsupport of GlassFish on JEE will be, we’re only at the beginning of fully understanding what kind of impact this large scale “freemium” model will have on our world. This isn’t just about the software industry. The whole Internet has brought us “free” stuff. We get:

  • “Free” standards (compare W3C, IETF standards to ISO standards!)
  • “Free” Facebook and Twitter and GMail accounts
  • “Free” newspapers
  • “Free” music and films
  • “Free” commodity services for all sorts of work
  • “Free” work force as we can offshore anything to low-wage countries

This has been picked up recently by Tim Kreider, the author of “We Learn Nothing”, where he depicts how writing “free stuff” for the New York Times helps building “exposure”, and how that’s just nonsense as all this hard journalist work doesn’t pay anymore.

Does building “exposure” ring a bell?

Yes, I can build “exposure” by writing free Open Source on GitHub, and by answering complex questions for free on Stack Overflow. I personally use both tools to advertise jOOQ, no doubt. So I get a service (advertising) for a service (content). My deal appears fair to me. But loads of GitHub and Stack Overflow users contribute … just for the sake of contributing. To whom? To GitHub and Stack Overflow. And why? I don’t know.

So, should you contribute to GlassFish, if Oracle starts decreasing support and loosening interest as they have before with MySQL, Hudson, and other products inherited from Sun?

Let’s remember that Karl Marx has already taught us that our idea of capitalism will inevitably lead us to (citing from Wikipedia):

  • technological progress
  • increased productivity
  • growth
  • rationality
  • scientific revolution

Absolutely! There’s no way that productivity can get any better than by having loads of software developers world wide produce better and better tools (growth, progress) for nothing more than … for free!

So, don’t be a pawn of others’ Open Source strategies

So, instead of contemplating what Oracle’s move away from supporting the Open Source reference implementation of JEE means, become active yourself! Don’t just blindly consume Open Source, make it an option like any other option by consciously deciding in favour of Open Source or commercial software, depending on your specific needs.

Stop advertising their cool products for free at conferences, unless you pull out your own advantage from such an advertisement. Open Source is just yet another business model.