Open Source related question

Is the linked question an appropriate question for P.SE?

In it's current / original form, I think it's partially there since it relates to business decisions and software licensing. OTOH, the question is a shade too close to a rant.

  • 2
    I haven't had chance to read it, but at first glance it comes over as a great big wall of text (GBWOT) which makes it very hard to decide exactly what it is.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 18:34
  • I'm sorry everyone. I didn't mean to put something inappropriate on the site. What I'm trying to do has not been done so I was having trouble getting ideas of its impact. The closest proxy I thought of was software and decided to ask this question initially from a software point of view but then decided to open up and disclose the industry. My 'GBWOT' was my (unsuccessful) attempt to point out issues that I already thought of so anyone answering would not be starting from scratch. Glen's answer was great and I learned a lot, but I am sorry if I crossed the line with my question.
    – Lostsoul
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 21:01
  • 1
    @Lostsoul - well, it hasn't been closed so I wouldn't say there is clear consensus about OT or not. :-) "On topic" has been a subject of recent debate as of late, and I thought your Q would be good for helping clarify that line. Given that this particular thread hasn't attracted too much commentary, I would say that your Q wasn't enough to rile any / many feathers.
    – user53019
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 21:42
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    @Lostsoul Just the fact that we discuss your question, doesn't make it inappropriate. Even if closed, you didn't cross any line, you clearly put effort in the question and you got a great answer in return. If it gets closed, no worries, it happens ;)
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 4:05

2 Answers 2


No, it's not on-topic and it should be closed.

The wall of text is a treatise on the asker's own thoughts about the topic, and doesn't actually ask about any specific problem the author is personally having. Rather than creating an answerable question, it creates a prompt for discussion: as an answerer, you must engage in the asker's own personal beliefs about the subject to answer comprehensively, which only leads to more discussion.

This is why this section is in the FAQ:

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here. However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain ______ to me”, then you are probably OK. (Discussions are of course welcome in our real time web chat.)

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “______ sucks, am I right?”

One possible way you can fix that is to remove the asker's own answer to whatever the question is and encourage him or her to add it as their own answer. If you do that, this is what you're left with:

My company has a very broad range of products and there are a few that are not strategic to us so I wanted to open source them (so we can focus on what makes us unique and open source the products that every firm has).

Our industry (quant) does not open source(we would be the first firm to try this) and the feedback I'm getting from my management team is either 1) we'll destroy the industry or 2) all competitive commercial firms will unite against us and we'll be wiped out either way.

Our industry is very secretive and I don't want to put anyone(even my competitors employees) out of a job yet I don't want to protect inefficient people by not being open with everyone.

I'm interested in hearing people's thoughts(doesn't have to be to my specific situation, I'm looking for the general lessons).

So what are your thoughts? Does open sourcing apply generally or is it only really applicable to software? Is it overall good for people in the quant industry and outside? I'm actually more interested in the negativeness effects(although positive are welcomed as well)

We're provided a picture of a secretive quant industry that would—according to the asker's managers—completely implode if whatever the asker does was open-sourced.

And then we're asked a series of questions:

So what are your thoughts?

Not a real question. We're not a discussion board: we don't provide "thoughts" on vague situations.

Does open sourcing apply generally or is it only really applicable to software?

Not a real question/off-topic. Because we're on Programmers.SE, it should be assumed the question's about software development, but this question presents a comparsion between open source applying to software only or "generally".

What does "generally" mean? Open source food? Open source cars? Open source plumbing?

If we're not talking about software development, this is off-topic. If we are talking about software development, this comparison doesn't make any sense.

Is it overall good for people in the quant industry and outside? I'm actually more interested in the negativeness effects(although positive are welcomed as well)

Not a real question. "Overall good" and "negativeness [sic] effects" are vague and broad correctness criteria.

This question is bad as written, and trying to save it by keeping the asker's intent is not going to help. Is there a way to substantially rewrite the question in a way that could work here?

I don't think there is. If you remove all the discussion prompts and the asker's really long answer to their own discussion prompts, what you're left with is a simple question:

Is open source bad for business?

Which, if you scope to a problem someone actually faces, can be reformulated as:

Should [my company|I] adopt open source as part of [my company's|my] business model?

We don't know. Programmers.SE users have opinions about that, sure, but there is no generally-applicable answer that can be provided in the "fun size unit of work" answer that Stack Exchange specializes in.

People write books about it, make a living as consultants defending one side or the other, or even devote their entire life to the idea. We can't possibly hope to provide a useful answer here.

Which is why we have this line in the FAQ:

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

To me, it's like asking:

  • Should my company standardize on .NET?
  • Should I learn Python?
  • Is creating a Facebook killer worth it?

All things we close here regularly because we're not equipped to decide life for people: we can only answer specific questions.

Final housekeeping note: "is open source good/bad?" is such a popular question in software development that the first thing you should be doing when you see a question like this nearly two years after this site launched is searching for duplicates.

And indeed, there are several:

So even if you don't find my argument convincing, at least close the question as a duplicate.

  • 1
    Great comments, and I definitely gained a new perspective on the question.
    – user53019
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 21:22
  • -1 great analysis, especially about question needing surgical "fat removal", but the asker never defines the industry spoiled all that. I checked timing and at the time you wrote that, question clearly stated "...quant hedge fund. We have some unique strategies blah blah..." they apparently are in financial trading software
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 6:27
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    @gnat You have an extremely liberal definition of "clearly stated", but fixed: doesn't change my answer or my analysis at all.
    – user8
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 6:51
  • thanks @MarkTrapp fixed version looks pretty convincing to me
    – gnat
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 7:35

I think it is on-topic, however needs to be cleaned up to reduce the big wall of text and to stop it from being too localized.

The basis of the question seems to be

We think it would be a great idea to release some of our lesser-used products as open-source because of A, B, and C. What are the downsides of doing something like this?

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