The main problem with democracy is that you give the vote to a large number of people who don’t have the slightest idea what they’re doing. They’ll believe hype, be swayed by style over substance, and vote for what’s fashionable, or blindly along party lines. As Churchill once said, democracy is the worst form of government … except for all the other ones.
I think the results of the latest Sourceforge Community Choice Awards underlines this from a somewhat less critical perspective. I didn’t promote Ogre for this years awards mostly because I felt some of the award categories had become a bit frivolous and made it seem a bit of a joke. Take “Most Likely to Get Users Sued”, and particularly “Most Likely to Be Accused of Patent Violation” - for one, all software companies are exposed to the blighting trend of suppressing innovation by patenting trivia, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t encourage it, and for two, one of the sponsors of the awards this year is Microsoft, whose execs repeatedly bleat on about Linux violating their patents so it’s in pretty bad taste to have that category in there. Red rag / bull anyone? As it happens, we still ended up being a finalist in the “Best Project for Gamers” category, so thanks to the people that thought of us anyway, even if we didn’t prompt you.
Anyway, the winners were announced at OSCON:
- Best Project: OpenOffice.org
- Best Project for the Enterprise: OpenOffice.org
- Best Project for Education: OpenOffice.org
- Most Likely to Be the Next $1B Acquisition: phpMyAdmin
- Best Project for Multimedia: VLC
- Best Project for Gamers: XBMC
- Most Likely to Change the World: Linux
- Best New Project: Magento
- Most Likely to Be Accused of Patent Violation: WINE
- Most Likely to Get Users Sued: eMule
- Best Tool or Utility for SysAdmins: phpMyAdmin
- Best Tool or Utility for Developers: Notepad++
I think this illustrates that the majority tend to dilute good sense - many of these winners are entirely illogical. phpMyAdmin as the next $1B acquisition? Come on, what planet are you on? Do you seriously think any business could make back that kind of investment on phpMyAdmin? OpenOffice.org the best project for Enterprise? Only if they actually start using it more, and in my experience enterprises are extremely unlikely to stop using Microsoft Office any time soon (it is appropriate for the Best Project for Education though, and would be appropriate in a Home Office / Small Business category too, if there was one). Linux is most likely to change the world? It’s done it already, although not single handedly by any means (at the very least GNU had a big hand in it). Notepad++ is the best project for developers? Sure it’s good, but it’s a Windows-only text editor, I’m surprised there wasn’t a cross-platform tool in this slot, like Eclipse or Code::Blocks. The “Best Tool or Utility for SysAdmins” is phpMyAdmin? I don’t know any serious sysadmins who would consider that their most important open source tool - useful though it is, in production environments doing backups on demand via a web interface or tinkering with live data directly isn’t exactly a good thing to be doing on a regular basis, I’m sure there are many other open source projects that professional sysadmins would pick ahead of it, which makes me think the majority voting for it were people running small sites and not the sort of person you’d normally call a sysadmin.
I think this illustrates that popularity contests aren’t necessarily the best way to recognise achievement and potential. I appreciate the sentiments here - after all there are already other awards picked by ‘enlightened panels of experts’ so allowing the community to have their say is a good idea in principle (just like democracy ;)) - but I think in practice the results can be pretty meaningless in some cases, because those in the community who are experienced enough to vote rationally are drowned out by those who are not.
NB: Let’s just be clear - this post is not about me being bitter that Ogre is not in the winners list, honestly!