Something interesting, and unfortunate, that happened during Gnomedex 06 was the debate between Dave Winer and Blake Ross. It happened so that Blake was leading a discussion and talking about spreading software through grassroot means. By virtue of his association with Firefox, he mentioned how Firefox gained popularity and then showed a video – that was essentially mocking Internet Explorer.
At this – Dave stood up and said “I don’t care about what you think about Microsoft or IE – I would rather have you talk about future plans for Firefox and what are you doing for the users”. Blake mentioned that “this talk is not about Firefox”. Fair enough but seconds later, the discussion totally went into another direction with Blake mentioning that “You had written something against me at your blog sometime back and….” – and that was it.
I personally think that Blake should have stopped saying that the discussion was not about Firefox but the fact that he chose to use this forum to answer Dave was uncalled for. I don’t understand why even a small criticism or questioning of any Open Source Software is taken so seriously. Just because you are passionate for it and doing it for the love of it and benefitting a lot of others (and might not be making as much money (if any) as Microsoft or any other vendor with a proprietory product) – doesn’t mean that everybody else will be equally passionate and forgiving about that.
Software engineers build products and users use it not because they like the software vendor but because the product is more usable. Firefox is a great product and scores over IE6 – but I don’t see why will people not migrate over to IE again if IE7 indeed lives up to its promise (and Firefox doesn’t give enough reasons for people to stay with it). I, as a user, can empathize and appreciate with people creating open source software but that doesn’t mean that I will use it (or any other proprietory software, for that matter).