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Do Open Source programs have to be pretty inside?

by Thilosophy (Curate)
on Nov 28, 2004 at 07:48 UTC ( #410786=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Horrors abound
in thread Pearls (not really) of Perl programming

This is an interesting point you raise here: Do Open Source programs have to be pretty inside? Sometimes you have a really capable program, which does its job very well, you use it, recommend it to others, but you better not look under the surface, as the source could make you blind.

I know which project you are talking about here, because I use it frequently, and when I wanted to replace the home-spun referrer-scanning logic for my blog (code I have to update all the time to keep up with all the different search engines) with something more complete, I looked at above source to see if I could use some of their code for that purpose. And yes, I also recoiled in horror (and gave up). Totally monolithic, horrible from a software engineering stand-point.

Would this be a better project if its code was more modular, with components useful outside its primary application? Yes. But is the reverse also true? Does a useful program become less useful because the implementation is ugly?

I was trying to find a web-log-analyser tool with nice pictures for the PHBs, and google pointed me towards a site on sourceforge, where a well-documented tool was available in perl, with all the nice graphs management likes.
I will now go on my way and find something better or (yuck) do it myself. Pity - it did look promising, and I am lazy and impatient.

I would not do that, especially when you are lazy and impatient. Your PHB is not going to look at the source, the project is, as you say, well-documented, popular and works as advertised. Just treat this open-source project as closed-source (for your own safety).


Comment on Do Open Source programs have to be pretty inside?
Re: Do Open Source programs have to be pretty inside?
by htoug (Deacon) on Nov 28, 2004 at 11:25 UTC
    I agree - it will probably be best to accept the project just as any other shrink wrapped system we buy.

    I is a terrible shame though that all the effort that has gone into this project has ended with such a poor result. If it had been done according to 'proper' software engineering methods, it could have been augmented with you referrer-scanning logic and my additions.

    It does make the program less useful because you and I have had to do something else, and thus we have had to spread our tuits. The program could have saved us valuable time for something vital (like playing with the dogs) instead of having to do something that has beeen done many times already. If the implementation is 'nice' (from an engineering point of view) it adds considerable value. OK: it does as advertised, but extra value can be had if it is possible to reuse parts of it in new and unforseen ways. I think that perl (and Perl) is a good example of this.

Re: Do Open Source programs have to be pretty inside?
by ikegami (Pope) on Dec 01, 2004 at 18:43 UTC
    Does a useful program become less useful because the implementation is ugly?

    Yes, I would say so. A less maintainable program results in longer development times for bug fixes and security patches. A less maintainable program also has a greater chance of having a bug introduced whenever the program is changed.

Re: Do Open Source programs have to be pretty inside?
by chanio (Priest) on Dec 04, 2004 at 21:38 UTC
    I guess that any kind of obfuscation is, in a way, against OpenSource. Who would dare to help if understanding such criptical code would consume most of someones' spare time?

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