Open Source This… Please!

Moses Gunesch is a nice guy and a brilliant Flash developer. Maybe the best I know. He’s so bright, in fact, that he’s in the process of writing what he calls the Fuse kit, which is a kind of all-encompassing effects framework you can use in your code. This is something that would benefit almost every mid-to-advanced-level Flash developer out there, myself included.

The problem is that he refers to his project as “open source,” and I don’t really think it is. Let’s compare it to, say, Ruby on Rails. Rails’ creator, David Heinemeier Hansson, very early on took pains to create an extensive and helpful website, including a blog (to which anyone at all can comment), wiki (to which anyone at all can add), and complete API docs. He released the source long before a 1.0 version was available, and updated it often. He took advantage of the open nature of his project to get more and more people involved, and it was so successful that it’s become an entire cottage industry, and there are a huge number of businesses who rely on his framework extensively. In short, it was a huge success, largely because he releases early and often, and shares everything (flaws and all). David never asked for money, he instead used his framework to make money and release successful products through 37signals, products that have been much-improved by community contributions to Rails itself.

Contrast this with the Fuse kit. You cannot download the Fuse kit, you have to email Moses and request a copy. You cannot discuss the Fuse kit without asking for a membership on the forum. In fact, the forum login screen even offers you a link to download the Fuse kit, even though you actually can’t. If you email and ask for a copy, you are put on a private list and instructed to use the 1.1 version, in development, and offer feedback. Notice the key difference here – it’s all private, private, private. About the only thing you can do on the public site is read broken documentation and donate money!

I’m not trying to tell the talented Mr. Gunesch how to live his life or do his job. Presumably he’s been very successful, his work is first-rate, and I know firsthand what a smart guy he is. But what does give me pause is when he publicly refers to Fuse as an Open Source project. I don’t believe that he violates the definition of Open Source, but I do feel that it violates the spirit of the thing.

Here’s hoping that Moses shares his work openly with the world of Flash designers.

Raymond Brigleb

Creative Director, dreamer, partner, father, musician, photographer. Has been known to ride the rails. Pulls one heck of a shot.