Roberto Selbach

About |  Blog |  Archive

Tag: open source

Caddy and the Importance of Licenses

I haven’t commented on the recent brouhaha caused by Caddy‘s decision to offer commercial licences, so I’ll do it briefly here before moving to the important part.

I am fine with it. I don’t love it, but it’s fine. The Caddy authors have every right to try to profit from their work. Best of luck to them, they deserve it. Do I think they mangled the announcement? Yes. Do I think the amount of vitriol out there was justified? No. But again, it’s fine.

But I want to talk about something else and I’ll use this episode to illustrate it. Matt Holt published his thoughts on the experience in The Realities of Being a FOSS Maintainer. It’s a nice read, but there is something there that I think we should not overlook.

Midway through Matt’s post, he clarifies the situation with their build server, that they removed1 from Github.

To clarify, the Caddy build server was once open source, but we closed it up in the interest of focusing the technical attention of our community and our limited development resources (mostly time) on Caddy itself. The build server is not generalizable, and only exists to serve the Caddy project. As such, we’re taking it under our wings to develop and maintain it as needed. If you find some old source code still online, be aware that no license file was added to the code, and we have not granted others any license to use it.

This highlights the importance of checking the license of “FOSS” software. Being open source means something. It doesn’t just mean “hosted on Github.” Just because you find a piece of code on Github, it doesn’t mean you can freely use it. It sucks, but as the above paragraph shows, it matters.

What Matt is saying here is that although his build server was open source, it no longer is and if you have the code, you were never granted any license to use it. This cannot be, of course. Either it was never open source to begin with, or you were granted a license to use it. Which one is it?

Since Matt makes it clear that “no license file was added to the code,” that means it’s the former: it was never open source, no matter what he says now. Whether intentionally or not, people were misled into thinking it was.

People would find the code on Github and assume it was open source. That’s why checking the license is important. A project without a license is not open source and you are at risk.

I’ve seen small projects on Github before with no license information at all. It always made me uncomfortable. Now I see I was right.

I want to make clear this is not about Caddy or Matt. Again, I’m fine with their decision. My points are general:

  • Properly license your open source software.
  • Check the license of software you use.

If you don’t, this will get back to bite you.

My social anxiety screwed me royally this week

By Christopher Walker (Sadness) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A few years ago I wrote about how social anxiety makes me use fake accounts on the web.

I love coding. I have done it since I was a kid and it’s the best thing I know how to do. And then there is open source. Open source projects should be the perfect venue for me to have f un. Except I am scared stiff by the idea that someone might laugh at the code. It came to a point where it is impossible for me to contribute. Then I’ve come up with a solution: an alias. For the past several years I’ve lived two different lives online: one as myself and another as an alias. I keep them strictly separate.

Actually I today use more than one single separate life. Looking at my Chrome identities menu I count four (including the real me), but I actually have more around that I have abandoned.

It has allowed me to do what I like to do. I don’t have to be afraid because I know all I have to do is abandon one account and start over with another. It’s a good solution but it has some issues.

I have been offered this great job in the past by the manager of someone I’ve worked together. It was one of the Big Tech Companies, a place I really would love to work. All great, right? Except the offer was not addresses to Roberto Teixeira, but to one of my aliases. Tough luck. I’ve soon abandoned that alias for good.

So yes, it sucks. But not as much as it has sucked this week.

I—under an alias—have been working with a developer of a big open source project out there to try to solve a problem we were having at work. And I found a solution that was pretty clever. That developer checked it out and thought it was great and then we both wrote a proposal and submitted it. And it was accepted and our change will be part of their next major release.

I’m not saying it was something revolutionary or anything. Still, it was something I am very proud of. And there will be a name there in the changelog/release notes/whatever but it will not be my name.

This happened the same week I learned that someone I–the real me; real name and everything–interviewed with a few months ago had dismissed me for not having open source contributions.

In short, I am sad and angry. Fuck social anxiety. 🙁

(photo: Christopher Walker (Sadness) / CC BY-SA 2.0 / via Wikimedia Commons)