[RC5] If you were writing our next client, what would youput in it?

Jim C. Nasby jim at nasby.net
Sat Apr 24 13:44:45 EDT 1999

Jeff Woods wrote:

> At 4/23/99 06:42 PM -0500, Jim C. Nasby (aka decibel) wrote:
> >With our new forward momentum and renewed enthusiasm, distributed.net
> What?!  Have you not been reading the traffic on the RC5 list?  If anything it
> seems to me that there is more dissatisfaction now than I have ever seen in the
> 530 days I've been contributing blocks to RC5-64, not to mention the days spent
> on other projects like DES.

Well, I personally didn't see it as dissatisfaction, but rather confusion. Either
one of which was probably due to a lack of communications from us, and for this I

> >is finally in a position to begin a new era of open development.
> >What this means is that we envision all of distributed.net working
> >together to define the protocols and code that will become the
> >distributed.net of the future.
> [Details of how this is being planned have been snipped.]
> >We look forward to hearing your ideas. Thanks again for your continued
> >support!
> Well, it's obvious that this has become a "design by committee" project.  While
> it's truly excellent that input and opinions from every is of value, there has
> to be someone with a vision and the will to follow through with that vision to
> bring all the ideas that aid that vision together.  Without a cohesive vision,
> large committees almost invariably wind up designing one big kludge composed of
> compromise on top of compromise.  I fear that's what the announcements of the
> last couple of days implies for distributed.net, even though I truly hope
> that's not the case.

It has become a 'design by committee' project only in the sense that we want to
ensure that everyone who has something to contribute can do so, starting with the
development of the protocol. We certainly do not envision simply opening up a cvs
tree and saying 'there it is, have at it'. Believe me, DCTI has _plenty_ of ideas
on what to do and how to do it. But we also want to ensure that this is a shared
design; we want anyone to be able to participate in its development. We are still
trying to decide what 'format' would be best for this open development, and I would
welcome any suggestions you have in that regard. While we are dealing with this
issue, I felt it would be appropriate to see what ideas our users had for a next
generation protocol. Who better to mold the direction of distributed.net's
development but those who have been and will be involved in it's implementation,
namely, those who run the client. We're already receiving valuable input. For
example, it's become clear already that while auto-updating clients would be good,
our users definitely want control over what is and isn't installed. Very valuable
information for us to have, IMHO.

> I think Adam Beberg, as founder and apparent visionary of this organization,
> brought exactly that to the table.  Yes, I'm sure that distributed.net wouldn't
> be anything nearly as successful as it has been without the dedication and work
> of many other people.  But I wonder if distributed.net would even have been
> conceived, much less gotten off the ground if it weren't for such a vision.

Adam most definitely has a vision. I've known Adam in real life since 1991-92, when
we met in college. Although I didn't discover this until much later, he already had
a vision for a wide-area distributed computational network. He is _very_ dedicated
to seeing his vision come to life, and we certainly can't fault him for that.

Although there is no single 'magic bullet' that led to Adam leaving DCTI, I think
that his desire to 'protect it' has played a continuing role. His vision for Cosm
is very important to him, so important that he is very resistant to people trying
to make any changes to it. This has become more evident to us in the past few
months. As it became evident, we felt that it was counter to our vision of open
_development_, not just open source.

> I can't help but wonder with a great deal of interest exactly what has
> precipitated the departure of the man I understand to be the founder and
> principle visionary of distributed.net, especially with what appears from the
> trenches to be an abrupt departure.  As has been commented already, reading
> between the lines of the official announcements certainly leads one to believe
> that there's much more to the story that's not being told.  If it's a political
> power struggle that has precipitated it, I think that an open disclosure of
> what went on is due.  If it's a personal matter, then certainly nothing more
> specific than noting that such is the case would be due.  This doesn't seem to
> be the case, however.  In a grassroots volunteer organization it's especially
> important that those not at the center of things be kept informed as to what's
> going on in the organization... or does the DCTI executive board now meet at
> the Kremlin?

I can assure you that this is definitely not a political move at all. McNett was
already serving on the board as comptroller, and was a very logical choice to step
up as President. I have over 4 years experience as treasurer for my fraternity, so
I was an obvious choice to fill the role of Comptroller. This definitely is a
personality issue. I would rather not go into explicit details, but it has come to
the point where it simply would not be possible for DCTI to work constructively
with Adam on Cosm. None of us are happy that it's come to this point, but
unfortunately it has, and all efforts to remedy the situation have been
unsuccessful. This split is definitely better for both parties; it will allow us
both to push towards our goals unfettered. While Adam certain has broght a lot to
distributed.net, he is not the sole founder. More importnatly, distributed.net is
far too large to be the product of one person's efforts. There are many talented
people involved in the effort, some more 'officially' than others. Hopefully, this
new development direction will allow even more people, who havn't yet had an
opportunity to more actively be involved in the operation of distributed.net, to
contribute more than just spare CPU cycles.

> So...  I am sure I'm not alone in wanting to know much more information about
> this split in the group, about who will be the technical visionary to lead DCTI
> into the future and some supporting plans that justify why the whole bunch of
> us shouldn't follow Adam and help with the implementation of Cosm.
> P.S.  I hope that no one takes my opinions as a personal attack, because I
> don't even know who is trying to fill Adam's boots other than the interim
> appointment of McNett and Nasby to posts that I presume were previously filled
> by Beberg.  My concern is not one of lack of faith in any individual but
> focuses rather on the vacuum left by the sudden departure and the apparent new
> policy which I perceive as "Well, I guess we can do whatever we want now.
> Anybody got any ideas where we're going?"

I can certainly understand your frustration, and do not take this as an attack at
all. To be frank, I think that there has been a lack of forward direction for
distributed.net for a long time, even if it hasn't appeared that way to our users.
We now have definite plans to move us forward. As another email I received pointed
out, this could be viewed as a 'two year step backwards'. I'd rather view it as a
tremendous opportunity. For the first time ever, we are in essence handing the
'keys' to distributed.net to our users. We are also hoping to start what might
possibly be the first 'open development' software project ever. We want to involve
our users from the very beginning, at the highest possible level. There will
certainly be some snags, but I'm confident that they can be worked out. In my mind,
this is a new beginning, and I'm personally very excited about it.


> Sincerely,
> Jeff Woods
> --
> Jeff Woods
> jdwoods at bga.com  [PGP key available here via finger]

Jim C. Nasby (aka Decibel!)                                  /^\
jim at nasby.net                                               /___\
Freelance lighting designer and database developer         /  |  \
Member: Triangle Fraternity, Sports Car Club of America   /___|___\

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