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Sharing code a nudge towards reciprocity Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I tend to share a good proportion of the code that I write to enhance my own use of Omni apps like OmniFocus, and I often benefit from others finding bugs and suggesting enhancements.

In short, my willingness to share is based on an assumption of reciprocity. I give and gain, and generally hope that the store of public goods on the Omni site will thereby increase. I'm beginning, however, to wonder whether that assumption is correct, and whether I should really continue to share in this way.

It seems that enthusiastic consumers of shared code on this site are not always quite so enthusiastic about feeding their bug finds and fixes back into the public good of the Omni forum.

I recently received a private message on this forum along the general lines of:
"I thought I'd take a quick look at why your code wasn't working for someone, and with a few tweaks, it seems to be working now.

Would it be okay with you if, once I'm done playing around with it a bit more, I placed it on my site (With proper attribution and links to you, of course)."
Well that's perfectly fine, but even in a subsequent (private) exchange I was surprised to notice that there was no offer at all of any detail as to what the bugs or fixes really were ...

Was the Paypal button on the site in question a clue to that lack of spontaneous reciprocity ? Enthusiasm for taking shared code, but less enthusiasm for feeding bugs and fixes back to the site where it came from ? A preference for diverting traffic elsewhere, towards what would now be the canonical and properly functioning version ?

So I had a quick look at my code again, tested its output with the receiving apps, and found within two minutes that the edits required boiled down to just two bytes - the removal of a linefeed, and the addition of a space.

My assumption was that anyone who spotted that kind of thing would feed it back to this site, so that users of this forum could benefit.

The real preference appears, however, to have been to fork away from free discussion and exchange of code on the Omni forum towards a site which sports a coy but still noticeable ('feel free to contribute') PayPal button (leaving the functionality and reputation of the original code looking a bit neglected :-)

Well, understandable, I guess, but it's not the spirit in which I have personally been sharing code, and it undermines the assumptions on which that sharing has rested.

Time for me to reflect ?

Any thoughts ?


Last edited by RobTrew; 2012-09-08 at 03:01 AM..
I have greatly appreciated your help, suggestions, and code; and I would be disappointed to see this disappear. OTOH, my experience suggests, absent a disclaimer on distribution permissions, the rule now-a-days seems to be ... whatever gets posted on the Web is treated as belonging to anyone who takes it, with full rights to use it further as their own. I am not saying that I agree with or support this trend, just that it is the growing reality.

The decision on how to proceed in this light is certainly a tough one. As someone who has also seen my own freely-distributed work "repackaged" in other places, I empathize with you. In the end, I have taken to putting copyright stamps and disclaimers on documents that I post openly on the Web, at least as a heads-up. Beyond that, I do not openly post what otherwise should be respected as significant effort.

And ultimately, a concise statement to the effect ... "Tell me what the bugs were and I'll send you the fixed code back." can go a long way too.

I may be revealing my ignorance of the GPL, in that it may not be workable in relation to scripts running on top of proprietary software, but might it help if you opensource your (hugely appreciated!!) scripts "formally"?
Originally Posted by VincentA View Post
I may be revealing my ignorance of the GPL, in that it may not be workable in relation to scripts running on top of proprietary software, but might it help if you opensource your (hugely appreciated!!) scripts "formally"?
Having a software license designated for publicly released/available code and software removes ambiguity and could help.

If I were in RobTrew's situation I'd probably put my scripts in a GitHub repo and pick a software license and selectively let people make pull requests when they want to contribute bug fixes or enhancements.

Personally I think putting up a tip jar for a (monumentally modest) modification of someone else's code is the very height of douchebaggery, but maybe it's the canary in the coal mine that a collection of (very) helpful scripts and utilities is entitled to some direction and protection.

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