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Setting up independent PhysicsOverflow mirrors, releasing all code

+ 0 like - 2 dislike

Sorry Polarkernel for being suspicious, but the recent issues make me worry about code review. My main concern is with the fact that there have been unresolved issues regarding the comment deletion. Vladimir tells me that comments were deleted wholesale, I believe through blanking edits. I saw one edit in November, and honestly I don't believe that it happened via spam filter, no matter what you claim. I would like to see the spam filter algorithm which selected that comment, as the author of such a spam filter is totally incompetent. I made a comment disappear once by editing to whitespace, and although it never happened again, that just makes me more suspicious that there are some subtle bugs, or else features that randomly turn on and off by random chance, due to some coding issues produced by lack of review (review is essential--- that's part of what the GPL is about). I am perfectly willing to take all the costs of mirroring myself, to put the same code up at another site, and sync the two sites together. I will share the password and financial burden with all other academic administrators, to make sure the site is properly hosted and owned. Should there ever be a loss of trust in one site, the mirror would be available, and the hosting of content and mirror would allow the site to get duplicated, in case of problems. But it is essential that the site is run on completely open code which can be reviewed by anyone. I would like to review all the code, others will too. It is GPL, and it is simply good manners to return the patches to the Q2A community, as they would be useful to others, and also to us, for mirroring purposes. This is academic convention regarding free software, and it would also be good for you, and get you some credentials. This is not to diminish from your fine unpaid work, but to get it proper recognition.

asked Jan 28, 2015 in Conflict Resolution by Ron Maimon (7,535 points) [ revision history ]
recategorized Apr 2, 2015 by dimension10
"It is simply good manners to return the patches to the OSQA community" - and it's simply bad manners, to attribute the work of the Q2A community, to the OSQA community : ) I edited your post to fix this error.

2 Answers

+ 3 like - 0 dislike

Spam filter

You as administrator may find the spam filter in the admin panel under postings. There you find a list of censored words. If one of these words is found in a post, the post gets deleted. This is original Q2A code, I did not make any change on it. There have been several spam attacks last year, and once, we continuously received a comment (Edit: this is not a quote, rather it's a crude lookalike made by Dimension10 based on memory of the actual spam. The actual comment was longer) 

Welcome to 變速器! 變速器 a revolutionarry reformulation of solar wi-fi transmission! See for more knowledge on solarwifitransmission-reformulate.cn!

I have found the found the phrases "變速器, revolutionarry, reformulation, solar wi-fi transmission, solarwifi-transmission-reformulate.cn" together in the field of censored words, so some moderator must have been foolish or hasty enough to add them there due to the spam we were receiving. I assume this was the reason for the deletions.

Sharing Code

I will not share my code as long as this community is so small. It is not GPL code and I even could sell it, as for instance some companies do (an example here). Who would give me any guarantee that you would not use it to set up your own site, as you announced somewhere in the actual discussion?

Should this community once grow to a respectable size, I will publish the code, as open-source, on GitHub. However, to be usable for others, still a lot of work would have to be done. Until now I concentrated on solving the requests of this community.

Your mistrust hurts me. I tried all the time to be as neutral as possible, I did not even vote to posts on Meta (as long as they haven't been in a direct relation to the development requests), although morally I would have some rights to do so. I am completely independent and I am not an employee of PhysicsOverflow. My contribution was thought to be a gift to this community, also almost no one ever noticed this, or even said thank you.

answered Jan 28, 2015 by polarkernel (0 points) [ revision history ]
Most voted comments show all comments
Thank you, polarkernel. I did not know you had done such a great work.
@dimension10: Can this spam filter remove a phrase from a comment? Or it blocks the entire comment/answer?
@VladimirKalitvianski As far as I know, it would block the entire post.

But isn't modified Open Source code supposed to still be made freely available to the public?

At least, that's what's implied here under 3.derived works

3. Derived Works

The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.

Rationale: The mere ability to read source isn't enough to support independent peer review and rapid evolutionary selection. For rapid evolution to happen, people need to be able to experiment with and redistribute modifications.

@physicsnewbie See this answer (at the bottom) of one of the Q2A main developers to this question. I do not (yet) distribute the code.

Most recent comments show all comments
@RonMaimon Not after you pointed it out (what do you even mean, you "pointed it out" only after I explained to you about it), maybe after you read it.

You're seriously just over-reading into all this, all I was saying is the explanation for why "transmission" translates incorrectly - because the original spam comment is lost, and this is meant to be a re-construction (which was, admittedly, forgotten in this answer). The point is not the actual comment, it's the fact that it contained the term "reformulation" (in a different context of course), and that I was silly enough to add that into the spam filter because of this.

I hid your question for a while because I thought it would just lead to duplication between here and that thread, but ok, it's undeleted now.

@dimension10: Your edit post-dates my downvote for sure, but I wasn't home when I saw it, and it took me a few hours to get to a computer where I could respond. Perhaps the edit saying "this is approximate" was between the two events, but I don't think so, because drake commented on my post, and didn't say "hey wait, they said it's not verbatim, but a reconstruction".

But ok, I can see that for sure it wasn't deliberate deception on your part, and I believe you there was some authentic spam that contained 'reformulation' in some way, possibly to do with physicsoverflow.com (as physicsnewbie suggested), and that you accidentally put the word in the spam filter. But it sure looked like deliberate deception yesterday, which could have been avoided if instead of emailing each other about what to write, you just included me in your discussions, as I have asked to be included, and as I used to be included.

+ 2 like - 0 dislike

The total length of code written by PolarKernel, is some 24,000 lines long, while the original Q2A code, for comparison, is 36,000 codes long. Needless to say, these aren't minor patches.

All this code, does not come under the CC-BY-SA license, as that only holds for user-submitted contributions. Q2A's GPL license, as well, is very permissive, and there are hundreds of Q2A developers who make proprietary plugins and patches for Q2A, so as far as the legal issues go, there is no need for PolarKernel to make his code open-source.

Now, polarkernel is not an employee of the site whatsoever. His work is purely voluntary, unpaid, and an act of kindness; in fact, he pays for the hosting (which will start to cost, I believe, next month or the month after).

This means, that any decisions about the code, are completely his own. If he decides to sell some of the plugins tomorrow, as proprietary, it's completely his decision, because it's his code, and his work is unpaid and voluntary. Given that he's been even paying for hosting, he can always choose to make the code proprietary, and sell it, if he wishes to. The fact that he's giving the code freely to us, and even paying for hosting, should be enough, shouldn't it?

Personally, I would absolutely love it, if the PhysicsOverflow code one day became open-source, but the decision is always polarkernel's, and there are technical barriers to making it open-source (complicated installation instructions, code not commented out, code made to just work for PhysicsOverflow, etc.) according to polarkernel.

Also, I wouldn't be very happy with the idea of setting up "mirrors" at the moment, when the site is still so small.

answered Jan 28, 2015 by dimension10 (1,950 points) [ no revision ]
Most voted comments show all comments
@VladimirKalitvianski What are you saying? By "sell the code", I meant that he can, if he wants, allow other people to use the software at a cost. I don't know what you mean by "exposed".
@VladimirKalitvianski If PolarKernel is to stop supporting the site (which I do not envision happening), or be unable to do so, he would move the domain ownership to some other trusted moderator (Dilaton), of course.

It isn't any more fragile than any other site with community-generated content, except that here, the domain is registered under the name of a single person, and not an entire organisation. But you eventually need to trust the owner(s) of any site you contribute to.
@dimension10: Right, but PolarKernel is not paid. Can we pay for the domain at least?
@VladimirKalitvianski Thank you for the offer but this is really not required. The amount for 2015 was 35,70 EUR and has been already payed. This is really the smallest of my contributions to the site. In my country, an amateur website designer gets this for not even one hour of work.
@polarkernel: Thank you for this clarification. I was afraid that this payment was somewhat important.
Most recent comments show all comments
@dimension10: I mean a fragile character of PO enterprise. No funds, no guarantees, all depends on good will of one person, etc. I believe in honesty of PolarKernel, I just do not want PO to disapear.
@dimension10: It wasn't a legal issue--- I know he can do whatever he likes. He only needs to release the code if he distributes it, which he doesn't plan to do. The question is one of demonstrating a commitment to openness. I just don't see it. For all I know, Polarkernel resets all the votes by hand every night, and deletes all users from Singapore. Not that I believe this, but why make it difficult to rehost and mirror?

I had complete trust in Polarkernel and Dilaton, and their work seemed like manna from heaven, they were offering water to a man dying in the Sahara. But the site is clearly going to be hosted by a person who refuses to expose or share the code, for no apparent reason, who keeps the site under lock and key. What's the motivation for helping? It could be a selfless act of philanthropy, but usually this is not done anonymously.

Please help me out @polarkernel, I am grateful, but I can't understand the reluctance to release code and mirror. It's not like you will be any less involved or any more, it would just help you with review and patches. When people offer to help you do something hard, and work for no compensation, I simultaneously become grateful and suspicious. In my experience, the only person who ever offers to do a ton of work for no compensation is myself, and I'm probably lying to myself when I say that.

(Edit: I think the fear is that someone malicious would take the code and start a competing site--- and that malicious person is ME. I guess I see.)

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