27-Dec-2013

A wish for free content and open source

open-source

Hello dear reader - my best wishes for 2014.

Pesonally, I wish that we will see a change in attitude towards free content and open source. To some people, "free" seems to imply "not deserving any respect". Granted, this is a small minority. However, on the worldwide community of the internet, a few people in the wrong place can spoil the party for everybody.

This year's low point was the closing of All Programmable Planet (APP). APP was an online community dedicated to programmable systems, sponsored by Xilinx and hosted by UBM (known from EETimes). It was launched only one year and half ago - here is the enthousastic announcement.

Under the impulse of its dynamic editor-in-chief, Max Maxfield, APP became a very active community. There were new blog posts from many contributors on a daily basis, active comments, weekly chat sessions, and even community engineering projects.

But then, out of the blue, APP closed down and all traffic was redirected to the EETimes site. It is instructive to read that announcement too. Basically what this says is: "We were a tremendous success, and now we go out of business."

Of course, it is not hard to guess what really happened. The sponsor wasn't happy anymore and decided to pull out. But what's wrong with simply acknowledging that? Who needs this grotesque attempt to sell failure as a success?

The worst part however is that all of this happened without any backup plan. All the work, the countless hours from many people put into blog posts and comments was simply classified vertically. From one day to the next, it disappeared from the internet. And that, my dear friends, is totally unacceptable. It is ok to close a community web site, but you create an archive first. Shame on you, decision makers at Xilinx and UBM!

The final disappointment is with the public that basically let them get away with this. Of course, there were some protests. But they were remarkably few. If we want respect, we will have to claim it!

Let me make some points very clear. I understand perfectly why Xilinx wanted to pull out of APP. The ambiguity between "Xilinx content" and "Xilinx-sponsored content" was always there. Imagine that you are a militant technical lead or a marketing manager at Xilinx, and the public starts singing the praise of Altera on "your" site. Not obvious.

Also, I am personally not unhappy that APP is gone, as I wasn't achieving my goals. I had hoped to find a public that would embrace innovative methodologies such as MyHDL. In practice, most of my time went to explaining basic VHDL, Verilog and HDL methodology issues. Moreover, the comment section of my own articles was dominated by hopeless conservatives who were unwilling to engage in rational argument. And it was only getting worse.

However, the short existence of APP also did have a very positive side effect for me. It created milestones to write about subjects that I always wanted to write about. And I believe that I created some pretty good material. Of course, I will learn from experience and repost my articles as essays on my own site. Today I introduce the first one: The Case for a Better HDL. I hope you will enjoy it!