Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Melange stinks

So the GSOC project is run on this half-arsed pile of shit called `melange' ('the spice of creation' / 'soc' / geddit?). I've been so utterly and literally dumbfounded by just how poor this application is that I simply haven't been able to find the words to describe it, but I think i'm finally willing to give it a go. But I wont do it on the mailing lists because someone will get offended by the naked truth, and there's already been enough of a shitstorm any time it's mentioned.

... half-arsed
pile of shit
called `melange'

It's very very slow, very ugly, lacks almost all of the basic features you'd expect in any web application developed since about1998, uses javascript where it doesn't need it - interfering with basic browser operation, and is generally an exercise in frustration trying to use it to do basic tasks. And on top of all that the project maintainers seem to be yahoos who like to do things like drop in new versions in a live system in the middle of critical periods of the process, and don't see 6 hours of downtime during said critical limited-time phase as any sort of problem.

Yet when anyone criticises it, the tired old canards of 'send us patches then' 'give us feature requests', and so on get dragged out - at best. Or they get all defensive and agro about it. I believe it's written in Python, so that vastly limits the pool of competent programmers even able to send patches. I believe it runs on googles app server which further limits the programmer pool - both for physical reasons and political ones ('fog computing' et al). And since the application is so poor at demonstrating its basic worth or indeed raison d'ĂȘtre - just why would anyone bother? The latter point is of particular note when it comes to feature requests - if they can't even manage the basics well (after two years?), I have zero confidence they could ever get anything more complex achieved.

This is not some toy project someone is doing in their spare time - this is a production system being used by thousands of people relying on it to ease what is a pretty difficult and tedious process to start with, and to decide how to dole out millions of dollars of real money. It shouldn't be getting in the way at every turn. We shouldn't all be beta testing what is barely a beta-level prototype at this point - this is the second year of it's use, and if that's all I came up with after all that time i'd be seriously consider whether I was capable of ever getting it to work. Even after just one day of failures (like yesterday) i'm questioning my own path.

Some of the mentors were discussing the provision of basic features like history and version control a-la-every-other-document-management-system-since-1970 and Chris Dibona had the inanity to suggest the application needs to `get simpler', not add features! What sort of nonsense is that? The app is difficult to use because it is too simple, remove any one `feature' and it would be utterly worthless - it really does the absolute bare minimum, and does that poorly.

I think what most frustrates me is this attitude more than the application itself - one, that being 'open sauce' you should expect to be a permanent beta-tester of alpha-grade software, and by implication that 'open sauce software' is always barely usable crap (which is clearly quite FUDish). Two, that you're all so privileged that Google is allowing you to bask in their glorious name in any way that you should be thankful for anything they do provide. Third, that is basically works so what are you complaining about. And finally that it's better than what they had before even if it's only because it's not proprietary.

It might not be a Google product, but their name is all over this whole thing and all it does is tarnish that name. As it does of their application server. I just hope I don't have to continue to deal with it beyond the acceptance stage (if I end up being a mentor), but I fear it is a critical component of the entire programme.

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