Unsung by Helmet and Hpricot versus Nokogiri

August 19th, 2009

Remember Helmet? I certainly do. They were originally active from 1989-1998; sometime in that period was when I first listened to them. I guess they've reunited since 2004, but I haven't heard any of their new stuff.

Meantime, yes, that's when I first heard them: 1992. The song "Unsung" really hit me. Its about getting praised for your accomplishments. The song made me think about what the driving forces were behind our intentions. Were we all seeking fame? Something less significant, something more? Whatever the answers, the song made me think.

Why do I bring this up on a blog about open source software developers? I thought about this topic today because I read about whytheluckystiff disappearing from the stage of ruby development. I read a quote which was reportedly posted by whytheluckystiff which described open source software development as a thankless endeavor.

Whether it is or not is open for debate, but either way, do we code to get thanked? I don't. Recently on a trip to San Francisco, I spoke with a developer who shared similar sentiments as I about programming: it is liberating, empowering, and affirming to us.

What about the open source aspect? To me, its the icing on the cake. In the quote, whytheluckystiff discusses how a library created from much effort can be easily replaced with a new, better library and the old one discarded. I'll agree with this to a certain extent, but to the extent I will agree to it, I think its " a good thing "!

Maybe whytheluckystiff, or whoever the author was quoting, was referring to hpricot and nokogiri. I remember learning about hpricot about six months ago, then learning about nokogiri on that recent trip to San Francisco I just mentioned. I tried out Hpricot, and now I'm using nokogiri instead. A couple of thoughts this:

  • I appreciated hpricot and I am glad it may have influenced the design of nokogiri.
  • I also appreciate jQuery and XSL, which I believe influenced Hpricot.
  • While I liked the idea of Hpricot, I found the documentation confusing and the project in general quite disorganized and difficult to grasp.
  • One of my favorite quotes is from Sir Isaac Newton: "I can see far because I stand on the shoulders of giants." Both Nokogiri and Hpricot are notable because of at least the following:
    • jQuery
    • XSL, and especially to the awesome work by Daniel Veillard
    • Ruby
    • libxml-ruby and libxslt-ruby

So, if indeed that was whytheluckystiff feeling their work is unappreciated, let me say this: you don't have to feel that way because your work is appreciated! Another one of my favorite quotes is "imitation is the most sincere form of flattery". In open source software, I feel strongly appreciative of all the work that has been done prior to my getting involved. I also feel proud that I am able to contribute back with my own original creations. I take this all very seriously and an diligent about the licenses and copyright notices I place, so that if I am able to create software which lots of people appreciate and gain value from, their ability to benefit from it will be protected and preserved.

Off-topic: while trying to remember that phrase about flattery, I did a quick search and pleasantly stumbled upon this interesting and impressive article about accusations of copyright infringement. Good on you, Matt Blaze, for publishing a quality piece of work, standing behind it when it became controversial, and having had the integrity to remain innocent through all the accusations!

I'll have to find my copy of Meantime and crank up Unsung one of these days... and mix in a little Gratitude by the Beastie Boys! Funny, sampling and remixing is similar to open source software in some ways now that I think of it.

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