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by Robin Rowe 3/17/04

Open source projects run by people who don't reveal their names or project roles aren't really open.

Open source is supposed to be about transparency, but some open source projects are quite furtive. For instance, the project manager for Jahshaka won't give out his name, not even to the press. But, Jahshaka is an obscure project. One expects popular open source projects to be forthcoming, but that isn't necessarily the case.

The GIMP maintainers say they have no project leader, that they run by consensus. However, they don't say whose consensus that would be. It is an unknown committee. This leads to a Kafkaesque development environment where a GIMP maintainer states strongly on their mailing list that some particular code will never be accepted into GIMP, but adds that he is only stating so as his "personal opinion". Asking what is official GIMP policy just gets you more "personal" opinions and recursive references to evasive answers. Significant policy is decided behind the scenes at GIMP, in meetings or ICQ. Later the mailing list announces plans already made, if they are announced at all.

Working with an open source project should feel like freedom, not like calling the phone company. GIMP and Jahshaka can of course run their projects as they see fit. And, they can be appreciated as projects that provide open source code for free. But is that enough? Why stop at open code when you could have open management too?


Response -- Thu, 01 Apr 2004 02:39:26 -0800 reply
I have been trying to figure out why Cinepaint and Gimp weren't integrated if not still the same project. As a multimedia tertiary teacher, I am excited about the possibilities for myself and my students.

Victor Renolds

Who was Jah Shaka -- Thu, 01 Apr 2004 22:34:03 -0800 reply
Jah Shaka was Africa's "Black Napoleon", the warrior who established the Zulu nation. He is remembered today by another name because of the 1987 movie SHAKA ZULU. (This is not the 1964 movie ZULU that was Michael Caine's first starring role.) During the 60's civil rights movement, reggae musician Jah Shaka adopted that name as a symbol of black power. Neither of these famous people are the developer of Jahshaka.

whats in a name -- Wed, 18 Jan 2006 03:43:03 -0800 reply
Open source developers who develop under their name do so for press and popularity. It has long been known that many developers use open source projects as a means to promote themselves and this leads to them getting large consulting deals etc. To me this goes against the thread of open source in general.

Log into any popular forum and you have a alias - this is not just for privacy but also because in large communities its not about who you are and your ego but what you are trying to accomplish.

the goal behind jahshaka was to do what we set out to do - build great, free, high end tools to try and raise the state of media in third world countries who cant afford the exorbitant prices of commercial tools. it was not for fame and fortune.


My Two Cents -- Thu, 16 Mar 2006 18:07:27 -0800 reply
I would have to agree with both sides in this instance. Firstly, Robin is 100% correct in the fact that to be "truly" open - a project should make the decision makers known. I am not sure what the situation is with GIMP's mgt (and personally I don't care - I'm not involved in the project), but if there it is not known where the buck stops - there is a problem. On the other hand, I don't see the need to know the person's name who controls things. It matters not who they are so long as I can get in touch with them and that people can make their grievances, submissions, and suggestions to them. The fact that Jah doesn't give out his name doesn't bother me at all. The fact that his project seems to be a little "lost" (at the time of this post) does.

In other words - Jah can be an anonymous internet personality and I'm fine with it. So long as the people involved in the development of Jahshaka can get in touch with him/her and (when things go wrong in the decision making process) can point to him/her as the one that made the decisions - all is good in the world for me. On the other hand, if there were a "cabal" of people posing as the common developers and yet making the decisions amongst themselves without letting the others in on who was making the decisions - that is not "open". To me, it is a factor of responsibility.