Nicholas, with all due respect, I think you’re pretty seriously mischaracterizing the nature of OLPC’s problems. Laying the blame for OLPC’s shortcomings at the feet of “open source fundamentalists” is misinformed at best, and deliberately disingenuous at worst.
Now, to be clear: when you say that “Sugar needs to run on many platforms,” I completely agree with you. I couldn’t possibly agree more. But moving from that point, which is clearly correct, to an ad hominem attack on the open source community as a whole, is a frustrating and dangerous non-sequitor, and a slap in the face to the people who have been your most strident supporters for many years now.
When a man like Walter Bender walks away from your shared dream because he feels like you are choosing the wrong path, then maybe you should consider being a bit more introspective, instead of lashing out at the big bad free software fundies. Did Walter, your friend for 30 years, the guy with whom you built the MIT Media Lab, turn into a fundamentalist whack job over night? Really?
OLPC’s goals have been extremely ambitious from the very beginning. The possibility of failure has always been very real, even had you made all of the right moves from day one. Most of the issues you face are the issues that are inherent to solving really hard problems. Fundamentally changing the computing metaphor from the noun-based “file” metaphor to the verb-based “activity” metaphor is a really hard problem. Building the *only* major networking stack using the 802.11s standard for grid networking is a really hard problem. And your reliance upon open source has, to date, been one of your most effective levers in solving those problems.
From my perspective, your biggest problem has been that you have not relied *enough* on open source principles to build Sugar.
First of all, your organization has been notoriously opaque. I’m absolutely certain that this hasn’t been deliberate, but when you’re running a community project, your first job — and your second job, and your third, and your fourth — is to make damned sure that when volunteers show up, you have something useful for them to do. Volunteers, in the open source world, are gold. For most of the history of the project, you haven’t treated them that way — not out of malice, but out of neglect. There were always “more important” things to do than to help a newbie contribute.
Second of all, until very recently, Sugar only ran reliably on the XO itself. From *day one*, it should have been a priority to have stable, checkpointed releases of Sugar running on Fedora *and* Debian *and* Ubuntu *and* every other distro, all installable with a simple yum or apt command. “Release early, release often” — have you heard that before? Instead, if someone wanted to run Sugar on their own system, it involved running jhbuild, which involved installing a half-dozen different SCM clients and almost continually rebuilding from broken source repositories. Which made it devilishly difficult to write robust activities for Sugar. All understandable mistakes, to be sure. Mistakes common to young open source projects. Mistakes that are now being fixed.
The irony of your rant is that porting Sugar to many platforms, thereby increasing the number of potential users, thereby increasing the number of potential contributors, is an obviously correct move that will help you leverage open source more effectively. To conflate that correct message with an attack on “open source fundamentalists” is misguided, and diminishes your ability to recruit community talent at the very time when your project most desperately needs it.
So cut it out already. The folks at 1CC have enough problems to solve. They are really good, good quality people, and they’re certainly not “fundamentalists”, whatever that means. They’ve worked like dogs for you. They’ve sacrificed their personal lives to help make your noble vision a reality. Maybe you should think a little harder next time before you, Great Leader, slap them in the face in such a public and mean-spirited way, because *you* can’t figure out how to close deals. It’s a shitty thing to do to people, and you ought to be better than that.