To SHARE or not to SHARE. A dilemma.

sharing

I am an enthusiastic supporter of the “open source” culture/trend/society. I also believe that I have proven this over the years, by providing code – procedural designs and making them available for free to the public as many others do in this small computational design community. Most of the times, help has been successful, others less successful. A common factor though, to all of these cases is that I have never asked anything in return.

And that’s simply because I DON’T WANT ANYTHING IN RETURN. Never asked, nor will ask for in the future. (Although I have made a little experiment, see below).

You have to understand that I also do this for ME, for my own entertainment, for FUN, for becoming better. YES, you are becoming better by solving other people design / coding issues. Surely it’s not possible to encounter many different riddles, niggling situations and dead ends in your daily work routine. But, if you pick up from a collective pool of problems coming from other colleagues, professionals and students, certainly you have access to a wider range and a plethora of similar or dissimilar case scenarios. All these, are making me capable of seeing more, solving more and eventually enriching my design, problem-solving or mathematics, or complex geometry, or whatever you want to call it.
Have I asked for help? Yes! And I will definitely do it again.

Who’s asking? From my experience roughly 70% of the questions originates from the academic context. The other 30% from the industry mainly disguised to look like dummy questions. I don’t mind them at all, they are usually clearer, less blobby and more interesting to tackle.

Why am I mumbling about sharing?  To be honest I am feeling quite frustrated lately. At first I didn’t care about people’s ungratefulness and lack of manners, but I guess as you are getting older your tolerance hasn’t got the analogous effect, more like the opposite I would argue.
Not only that, people have become demanding. “Send me this file, I need it” , “do it working like this” ect.

I understand that maybe sometimes there are difficulties in the verbal or written communication, not native English speakers for example, but I believe there is one word that everybody knows of. That word is “please“. It’s not begging, it’s not loosing face, it’s simply asking someone politely.

This word, combined with another famous one, “thank you” can be pretty powerful when used in the same or in consecutive sentences. Trust me. I know.

I had a chat a few months back with two friends, fellow developers of a very successful free software, on whether we should license software or not. The answer was NO. Not only because we like to share stuff for free, but also because we are not exactly software developers, rather than a fusion between designers and programmers.  They were though frustrated by the arrogance and rudeness of firms asking to use their software for commercial purposes, hence making money out of it, and then denying sharing the projects where this software was implemented, with the developers, that only wanted to put them together in a paper for a publication.

In a funny way, you are awesome while you give something, but when you ask the simplest thing in return, something worthless, the same people that you’ve helped turn their backs on you without second thoughts. How proper of them.

The little experiment mentioned earlier in this text, is a paypal donation button I added to my website about a year ago. “ if you like our stuff and want to keep digital [sub]stance up and running please consider donating“. Eleven donations so far, most of them by students, roughly 5 $ each. Compared to 600.000 unique views, 6000 downloads of Nudibranch on the food4rhino website, and a total of 25.000 downloads of the shared scripts and procedural concepts shared  on box.net.

I would like to thank these few people, not for their money, as I said I am not expecting to make any money out of this. But because they felt they had to give something back. Although for me, a simple thank you is more than enough. But even this is hard to get.

The simplest and the academically appropriate method of saying “thank you“, is referencing. Professors ask for it, journals ask for it, conferences as well, so why on earth you don’t properly reference, people?? It costs nothing and it displays your integrity. It also indicates that you have actually conducted some research, that you are not a supreme human being, but you used something, cut it out on your own requirements and hopefully advanced this something to a greater level of importance.

I asked my students at exparch earlier this year to go out, research, study and use something that they found online but by properly referencing it. I know it’s impossible to learn how to code in one month, but if you study something enough to understand it, you’ve made a small step towards this goal. I didn’t even ask for something new, I just asked to understand the process and comprehend the reality that you have to reference anything you present.

It’s not that professors can’t keep up with new developments, new processes and research of others, which architecture students present as their own. That’s impossible. The problem lies deeper, into the fact that architecture, design and their visual output is something ambiguous and difficult to enclose within copyright boundaries.
Code and procedural thought, is not however. That’s why in my own naive opinion any kind of so wannabe called generative, algorithmic, parametric blah blah blah processes and its output SHOULD BE PROPERLY REFERENCED.

Conclusion

Please pardon my long introduction to this set of rules that I decided I am going to implement from now on, while sharing stuff online or helping on demand.

1. Help someone that asks politely.
2. ALWAYS help out someone that thanks in advance (quite a powerful set of words this one)
3. If you are helping out a student, ask for a cc to their professor tutor in the e-mail.
4. Never ask for people to reference your work even though you know that they’ve used your tools. Just blacklist them and do not help them again. Whether you can find them or not, that’s another story.
5. Do not help someone that provides nothing as a starting point, at 90% of the cases they are just too lazy to do something on their own and expect from others to solve their problems. Only guide them with references.
6. ALWAYS help with something that you are interested into, or seems intriguing.
7. Do not spend more than 3 answers explaining the same thing. More than three is probably useless anyway, your work is done there.
8. Let people know about google and website embedded search options. (Saves a lot of time)
9. Don’t give out stuff, give out the process. This is helpful for the other, to learn by replicating your thoughts!
10. Create a grading system, I found websites such Stack Overflow are quite successful on how they provide help for their users. I believe such grading systems make everyone’s life much better.

FYI: Even though this text might seem kind of offensive, but no means it consists a declaration of me giving up on people’s eagerness to learn, and I will always consider this my driving motto.

Written on a train towards London on Cinqo de Mayo.

M.

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18 thoughts on “To SHARE or not to SHARE. A dilemma.

  1. An interesting post, I understand your feelings and I agree with your thoughts.

    Leaving aside these many people without manners, for me, that I’m a design student and I hope in the future to share code, I see the code designers that share their developments as authentic gifts that make me feel with the illusion of a little boy with a new toy. So not only admire them for their achievements, also to making the world a different place for sharing your knowledge, for betting on the learning of others to the detriment of his personal interest, I want to live in that world. But the important thing that you must not forget that you will have the admiration with other developers like other people admire you the same way.

    I understand the lack of recognition, the need to thank the work of the other, but not understand why you do not let people freely donate their money if they can, what’s the problem? I do not think begging is freely return the support…

    I love the community of Grasshopper, just bothers me having not encountered before. Really, I do not say this to encourage you to continue to share, is because I really think about it … Piker, Rutten, Tsiliakos, you and many others, for me are models anonymous to follow, yourselves are “the bigs” for those who we are starting.

    • Thanks Dani,
      It is true that the feeling when sharing stuff is great! There is no lack of recognition, i just don’t want people to take advantage of others work without even mentioning the existing research! This is bad only for the community and the academia. The development/ previous research background linkage is broken.

      I sincerely hope that you reach at a point that you share code as well.

      Best,
      M.

      • I see. Have I ever posted the result ( as photo ) from a script without mentioning the development of others. Although mention if someone asked. I say it because maybe the problem in the community of Gh is the lack of knowledge / not thinking about it for new users.

        Perhaps one solution is to add to the GH community a scoring system, beyond the “I Like”, as the web of Taringa, where rated helps and good scripts, and penalizes bad rules as no mentioned… is a way of involving users in appropriate behavior .
        I think the community grows increasingly and it is important, also culturally, the need to have an appropriate conduct basis for the general public, so people will be concerned to read the rules of conduct that will not lower your personal score.

        There will always be people who do what they please, but with more complex systems of collective interaction will surface the most optimal ways for the development of open source. This may be an idea worthy of comment in the GH wiki.

  2. hey Marios, you get 600.000 hits exactly because you give away open source material, result images and ready-made defs for people who come looking for free stuff. What did you expect? rocket scientists following you?

    next time man take the airplane and save us all the whining

    • Dear Bob,

      Nobody made you read this article, I believe. Also its generally not a good practice to reply to something after you clearly only scan and skimmed through the text, and utterly missed the point.

      Which is referencing in architecture and design in general.

      As I wrote, I only do this for me, views are getting me neither knowledge nor money. However, I think it was about time to set some boundaries, mainly for economy of time.

      I find your comment about rocket scientist followers greatly disturbing, as you are in no position to be the judge of that. Maybe some of them are smarter than you, you never know. And I am familiar with many people that because of the existence of communities and blogs have become quite significant within their field of expertise.

      There was no plane where I was travelling from, so unfortunately you got stuck with this article.

      Best,
      M.

  3. Another suggestion would be a board of rules on common behaviour while moving through each knowledge space which – like in the undernet – should be complied to. Nothing new to it but a chance to create awareness for the ones in hurry forgetting the simple rules of human interaction common in real space. 😉

    • Hi Ante,
      Rules need someone to moderate and make sure they are implemented.
      Human interaction on the digital level is the answer as you quite successfully pointed out.

      Thanks for your comment.
      M.

  4. Very nice post. I feel the same 90% of the time when I help other students, albeit in a lesser fashion as I’m an undergrad student. It sometimes can be very frustrating. Your tips are very valuable, thanks!

  5. Hi,
    I am not a good coder, or a good developer, but I can’t afford to read this and not thank you for writing this. And I might not be thanking you enough.

    Anyhow, I will save the space, cause “thank you” might sum it all up.

    All the best,

    A.R.

    • Hi Mostapha,

      Thanks for your comment and your kind words. The title of the book is indeed somehting that I really want to believe in. To be honest I was quite upset with a certain individual when I started typing in the post, but I believe that I have managed to kind of justify most of my arguments in the text.
      No need to get me the book, I have already order it, but thank you very much for offering.
      Thanks as well for your tools, I have downloaded them and had some fun with them, but I am not a specialist in sustainability so I leave other people taking care of simultaions and analysis like that. I appreciate even more the fact that you (and co-authors) made the code for this open source.

      Hope we meet at some point, even though at a different continent, at a conference or something and exhange ideas.

      Kind regards,
      M.

  6. Dear Marios,
    Your point is quite clear. In fact you speak for an entire community of anonymous contributors in creative fields. In my naive desperation to learn, I have downloaded codes, scripts, definitions, video and text tutorials, seen and read online, which might or might not account to really helping me truly, nevertheless means a lot because it is present out there. I have contributed financially, in my capacity, to things which might not even benefit me directly but engages people for good, at large. I don’t want to sound defending myself because I am a student, but there are people like me also, who might have slipped to thank in great capacity but you know, me and many many more will still be thanking you somewhere, somehow. So, anyway, thank you on behalf of all the thankless people. I also would wish you to see, downloads and views as regard for the work not undermining the fact that citing, referencing, appreciating and thanking is a pre-requisite of civility. The world is a great place because people care to share. Have a great day and thanks.

  7. Lack of sharing is creating suffering all over the world, not only with respect to source code but even simple stuff as food , energy and water. It is world problem nr 1. This creates dark markets in which the wolves which do not understand sharing can make their money. As I read reactions also wolves react without understanding the process, the developing of eg a culture and seeing only their material profits. Yes share , please and thanks a lot for source which is useful for many to create good things from which we can cure wolves. Also in Holland we have these wolves and sadly we are not allowed to shoot them, so the only thing left is to cure. Happyness is living with empty pockets knowing the content is a brick of a higher culture.

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