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 Post subject: Open Source!
PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 1:35 pm 
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Location: Geneva, Illinois, USA
I know there's this fine line between asking for development process changes to Inform 7 and not asking at all. This is truly Graham's pet project and we're all really just along for the ride. But...

Inform 7 has become a fairly standard platform for developing parser-based interactive fiction. It's also lost many of its core team members. Emily just posted that she's no longer the primary liaison to Graham where I7 is concerned. That leaves a fairly massive hole in communication between the community and changes to Inform 7. The platform has become very complex and it really needs more than a few people working at improvements. The obvious solution is to allow more people access to the platform and change the vision from singular to multifaceted. If the code were moved to Github, developers could fork it, offer pull requests, and there could be a community driven to improving the platform.

That leaves those of us that believe in open source to do one thing. Ask. I removed my votes from everything on the user voice site and made a new suggestion:

https://inform7.uservoice.com/forums/57 ... -on-github

I have no idea if this idea is shared or if people prefer things "as they are", but I think it's fair to ask.

There's no judgement. No demand. It's just something I think would greatly benefit the platform.

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"It boots nothing to avoid his snares, for they are ever beset by other snares." - The shade of High Lord Mhoram, The Wounded Land - Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.


Last edited by DavidC on Mon Apr 10, 2017 1:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Open Source!
PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 1:50 pm 
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Joined: Mon Dec 07, 2009 9:14 am
Posts: 190
Location: Chicago, IL
As a huge open source advocate -- all of my projects, professional career and personal, are open sourced on GitHub -- I firmly support this.

I don't know all the ins and outs of the Inform 7 project behind the scenes and I didn't, and still don't, see Emily's post. I'm concerned, however, if only one person on a project this large is the "primary liaison to Graham." I'm even more concerned if Emily -- particularly given her pedigree in this community -- is no longer that one person.

I do fully recognize there are times to retain control of a project. There are also times to relinquish some of that control under a project that has core committers and an established pull request process. Is Inform 7 there? It's probably worth having that discussion.

I might add that I'm speaking as someone who has used Inform 7 in a wide variety of contexts, from helping children with autism and clinical ADHD write stories, to working with established writers in so-called "conventional fiction", to helping testers and developers explore a problem space and learn how to model situations from human-intuitive to machine-expressive. Inform 7 is an incredibly powerful system, with a very wide ecosystem, that has a wide variety of applications, which is what I'm personally attesting to here. In short, whatever it takes to see development of it continue, I am all for and will support wholeheartedly.


Last edited by Jeff Nyman on Mon Apr 10, 2017 2:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Open Source!
PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 1:52 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:56 pm
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You can ask. I've asked. (https://inform7.uservoice.com/forums/57 ... rl-license)

I try not to ask more than once every five years, though.

Quote:
Emily just posted that she's no longer the primary liaison to Graham where I7 is concerned.


That's been true for a few years now.


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 Post subject: Re: Open Source!
PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 2:12 pm 
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Jeff Nyman wrote:
I didn't, and still don't, see Emily's post.


I think DavidC is talking about Emily's recent blog post on the status of Inform.


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 Post subject: Re: Open Source!
PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 2:31 pm 
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This seems like a good place to ask about this old Inform 7 source code + commentary pdf: http://www.fsf.net/~adam/Complete.pdf

In this document, it states "As from the publication on the Inform web site of the source code to Inform 7, in 2008: a) The package is placed under the Artistic License 2.0"

So, it seems like an older version of Inform 7 was open-sourced, but then removed from the Inform website?


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 Post subject: Re: Open Source!
PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 2:48 pm 
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No, that never happened. I don't know why that document says what it says.


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 Post subject: Re: Open Source!
PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 3:44 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:13 am
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Location: The Midwest
I've put my votes behind this also.

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 Post subject: Re: Open Source!
PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 8:13 pm 
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I'd love to see Inform go Open Source, other things being equal--but from things that Emily has said, I suspect that Inform going open source would coincide with Graham not being involved in the project anymore. Or anyway, he has Reasons for not wanting to do it (since he hasn't done it), and I'm not sure what it would take to change his mind.

If I can threadjack for a bit--it seems like a fair amount of the angst expressed in Emily's blog post comes from the state of the website. The website doesn't communicate the status of extensions at all, which can make it easy for people to glom onto the outdated versions; there's that issue with the Sierra-compatible Mas OS X Inform being available only at the App Store; and... OK, I don't really have a third thing (the bit about the Skein and Transcript panels is something that might be solvable if anyone wants to write up documentation for them, but doesn't have much to do with the website).

So maybe one thing that the Community could do to improve accessibility would be to start maintaining the website? This seems like it might actually take some burden off the I7 team, whereas going Open Source might be more like a commitment to start herding cats. Maybe the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation could take it on, if the Inform folks were willing?

For what it's worth, I am currently the volunteer who emails Emily about critical stuff. This currently means when the website is down or something like that--ordinary bugs and suggestions go in Mantis/uservoice and are dealt with through the normal channels, with all that entails.


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 Post subject: Re: Open Source!
PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2017 9:51 pm 
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Quote:
Or anyway, he has Reasons for not wanting to do it (since he hasn't done it), and I'm not sure what it would take to change his mind.


Graham's answer about this has been consistent: he'll do an open-source release of I7 when he's rewritten, cleaned up, and documented the code to his satisfaction. He hasn't indicated that he intends to step away at that point, or ever.


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 Post subject: Re: Open Source!
PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 4:40 am 
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matt w wrote:
Or anyway, he has Reasons for not wanting to do it (since he hasn't done it), and I'm not sure what it would take to change his mind.
...
For what it's worth, I am currently the volunteer who emails Emily about critical stuff. This currently means when the website is down or something like that--ordinary bugs and suggestions go in Mantis/uservoice and are dealt with through the normal channels, with all that entails.

I think these might be the crucial points. Honestly, without Graham chiming in, I don't think anything we're talking about here -- or on Uservoice -- is going to matter all that much since it seems like the concern is with the "normal channels" in the first place.

What I read from Emily's post was quite literally the classic frustration at a perceived lack of engagement and transparency. I see this all the time in my professional career. When there is a perceived lack of engagement, some people worry the project is "dead" or in "maintenance mode" and will be "abandoned", regardless of whether there is a healthy user base. They perceive the so-called "Detroit Effect" -- the gradual attrition of overall value due to the parts slowly becoming out of sync or simply not working.

Reinforcing that point, what I read there was a litany of issues, many of which are talking more about aspects of Inform 7 rather than Inform 7 itself. While I personally would still like it to be open source at some point, I don't know if that would mitigate the issues being referenced in Emily's post. Even the Skein thing mentioned: isn't that more of an IDE function?

Putting on my quality assurance and tester persona, which is the bulk of my career, I would say the one thing that stood out to me was the statement about bugs. So I took a look at Mantis. Clearly there are a lot of bugs out there. Whether it's just Graham or a team, there's clearly not a lot of visible movement on them. (Which doesn't mean no movement; just not visible movement.) But even so: that's still a lot of bugs for just one release. That kind of backlog is bound to cause pretty bad regression issues not to mention more bugs. And, to at least one point in Emily's post, may lead to further issues with extensions that don't keep up with changes that need to be made.

So an open source Inform 7 would potentially (not definitely) allow bugs to be worked on more frequently, which tends to lead to a more stable code base and can ease concerns that the project will simply stop being worked on.


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