Toxic developers

by brian d foy

Update 2005/08/03: On Wednesday morning Tony affirmatively states that there is no legal issue with Class::DBI. He indicated to me in earlier private email that there were other legal issues involved and that he could not say anything about how that related to the community. He has relented on that part of the debate.





OSCON has started off lots of gossip and queries about Class::DBI's personality problems. The news around the camp fire is that people are going to jump ship to get away from the proble.

In a previous weblog I reported on a row between Tony Bowden and Sebastian Riesel. Tony wrote to me to explain part of his story, but also explained that he has separate legal proceedings that prevent him from explaining his actions. That, along with personal attacks he made towards me and seemingly coy statements about why this such a big deal, worry me.

I've seen this sort of thing before while consulting with Stonehenge. People who want to get open source into their business have to convince their higher-ups that it's a good idea. Some developers and maintainers are so truculent, wacky, eccentric, or whatever that the business people balk at using the otherwise technically excellent software. Tony's taken it a step further by dangling threats of lwasuits over everything and everyone that comes near him.

It's easy to see the business case against this situation. What do you do when you need support, or you want to request a feature? Certainly propietary software could have similar outcomes: no patch and no feature. Open source developers, however, will also write you back with personal attacks and behave poorly in public. Now legal action is in the mix.

In Tony's private mail to me, he continued to insist on legal action along multiple axes, and made some statements that made me think he might now direct some of that at me. He wants to shut down the discussion with the threat of lawyers. What do you do when volunteers and open source developers can't get along or act like adults?

Based on my recent personal correspondance with Tony as well as my contact with the other principals involved, I think Tony's now a liability for Class::DBI, and I can't recommend the module until he breaks his association with it. He's passed the point of no return. It's too bad that his otherwise good work is now overshadowed by a personality conflict.

13 Comments

lolajl
2005-08-01 12:16:08
Link is Restricted
Strange . . . it seems that access to that post you referred to is now restricted. Even when I log into my membership.
aristotle
2005-08-01 15:08:51
Link is Restricted
It’s not, brian is simply posting the wrong link. The one he posted points to the internal view of the post on O’Reilly’s CMS.


The link to it on the public-facing site is


http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/7463

brian_d_foy
2005-08-01 15:20:05
Link is Restricted
Indeed. I've fixed the link. I apologize for the error.
Alkon
2005-08-02 13:53:38
He used to cut the grass...
"Based on my recent personal correspondance with Tony as well as my contact with the other principals involved, I think Tony's now a liability for Class::DBI, and I can't recommend the module until he breaks his association with it. He's passed the point of no return. It's too bad that his otherwise good work is now overshadowed by a personality conflict."



I think, that by stating this, brian_d_foy himself has crossed certain limits on acceptable public behavior for a good Perl community member. How could he cast a shadow on specific module to the point of "not recommending" it based only on his personal dislike of someone or his personal view of the conflict, conditional on removing someone he personally do not like. It actually looks like a blackmail, ultimatum, abuse...


Brian apparently thinks that his personal way of thinking is the only TRUE one, but even thinking that kind of thinking doesn't give him right to cast shadow on specific module. He clearly has crossed the "point of no return", in his own words. And again in his own words (see his http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/7463 for brilliant "formerly respected" labeling), it's too bad that his otherwise good work as a formerly respected member of the Perl community is now overshadowed by his abusive behavior toward the community. Its a shame...


brian_d_foy
2005-08-02 14:10:35
He used to cut the grass...
I don't recommend it based on any personal dislike, but the ambiguous legal problem that now comes with it. It's the business risk that drives my recommendation.


However, that's just my recommendation. People should make up their own minds. They can judge for themselves if they want to listen or not listen to me. I'm not involved with the project, so I have no personal interest in its outcome.


Make up your own mind. If you don't like me or what I think, that's fine. Tony's free to respond to any of my posts, but he has no response.

chromatic
2005-08-02 15:08:37
What Legal Problem?
Exactly what is the "ambiguous legal problem" for anyone wanting to use the module?


Please don't presume that I'm speaking for anyone but myself, but I certainly wouldn't like it very much if you claimed that I would take legal action against someone for using code I released as free software.


I can understand a worry if it turned out that I did not have the right to release the software, but I understand that not to be an issue in this case. What's the problem then?

Alkon
2005-08-02 16:51:29
He used to cut the grass...
"I don't recommend it based on any personal dislike, but the ambiguous legal problem that now comes with it. It's the business risk that drives my recommendation."



I don't see any material "business risk" associated with using module itself in relation to this issue. Where you see it? "Ambiguous legal problem" is between people that perceive each others actions as insult, but it is absolutely unrelated to module itself. Moreover, the very vague talks about "ambiguous legal problem" originate FUD, even though rationally there may be absolutely no reason for it.


"Make up your own mind. If you don't like me or what I think, that's fine. Tony's free to respond to any of my posts, but he has no response."



I am far from disliking you personally of course, but I definitely don't like your argument over the issue. I think this post, and partially previous one, contain subtle misrepresentation that actually amplify this rather emotional conflict instead of dissipating it...

brian_d_foy
2005-08-02 19:40:04
What Legal Problem?
Tony has indicated to me that there are other issues around this issue that he can't talk about. Other people know that he is having other legal difficulties outside of this particular issue, but he has not clarified how that affects the code base, people's right to use it, and so on.
brian_d_foy
2005-08-02 19:43:23
He used to cut the grass...
Feel free to reveal yourself, how you are connected to the events, and what evidence you may have that prove me wrong. I have the personal correspondance to back up my claims, although Tony obviously isn't going to give me permission to post that.


The FUD is already there. If Tony would come out and explain what's going on, he could get rid of that. However, he's threatening anyone who talks about it.

teejay
2005-08-03 01:44:28
What Legal Problem?
This is sounding like FUD. If there was something affecting the codebase it would have been disclosed by now - the current version is 0.96 and has been around for over a year and 99% of that code base has been around for even longer
chromatic
2005-08-03 07:16:32
Tony Has Responded
Tony has now responded, indicating that there are no legal problems related to the code. I hope this clarifies the situation and puts people more at ease:


http://use.perl.org/~tmtm/journal/26058

brian_d_foy
2005-08-03 07:52:26
What Legal Problem?
It is indeed fear, uncertainity, and doubt. Tony was telling people there were other legal issues he couldn't talk about.


It looks like he's clarified that this morning, but his clarification diverges from what he told me in private email. He made it sound as if the legal trouble he is having was related to Class::DBI.

teejay
2005-08-03 11:26:59
What Legal Problem?
How you perceive something suble like that? Either he wrote he has some legal problems with or without associating them with the cdbi code.