Open Source Can Still be a bit Closed

It's no secret - I'm a huge fan of Ruby.

I had a user recently on the ruby-talk mailing list make it known that QtRuby was acting up for him with Debian. There was some discussion, but no resolution.

A few days ago, I had another Gentoo Developer tell me the same thing. So I investigated. And I found that QtRuby worked fine with Ruby <= 1.8.3, but broke with Ruby 1.8.4.

I dove in.

My findings were that a fundamental method call in the Ruby syntax has changed between 1.8.3 and 1.8.4. It was changed for the better - that is, it was changed to be more Ruby-like. However, it caused QtRuby to break, and it very well may cause other modules that rely on its particular behavior to break in the same way.

And herein lies the crux: While Ruby is open source, it's core developer base is mostly Japanese. Communication with "the rest of us" is sometimes non-existant. There's not a clear development path. plan, or guideline. And while the creator, Matz, frequently answers questions directed to him about Ruby development, many such questions also go unanswered.

This mantra, if you will, has me a little concerned. I really like Ruby, the language, and the community that is evolving around it. The source code is open, and freely available. But the development of Ruby seems a bit closed. I don't think it's closed on purpose; more likely it's the result of just how "things are done". But it's a bit disheartening.

Granted, one could easily just take the Ruby code and start their own fork. That's sort of happened with Sydney, which is a fork of Ruby code is lots of goodies and changes added to it. It's not really meant to be a separate project, but more of a technology preview of things that could go into the language.

What's my point in all of this? Well, I suppose you can take from it what you will - make up your own moral to the story. I will say, though, that I think open source shines greatest when the entire development process is completely open - even through language barriers.