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Re: Obliterate and auditability

From: C. Michael Pilato <cmpilato_at_collab.net>
Date: Mon, 21 Apr 2008 12:12:13 -0400

Karl Fogel wrote:
> The answer "people can use svndumpfilter" applies to most obliterate
> cases. But my point is that if users are resorting to svndumpfilter to
> do something, that must mean *they want to do it* -- so why should we
> make them jump through hoops?

I think you know the possible answers to this question already, but for the
sake of openness, I'll note a couple. We (and indeed any group of software
developers) make people jump through hoops any time it is believed that:

   * the cost of implementation and maintenance of some feature exceeds its
benefit ("cost" here is vague -- misaligning priorities incurs cost;
overcoming design shortcomings incurs cost; overcoming basic shortages of
time/people/skills incurs cost; ...)

   * the feature is not aligned with the purpose and vision of the software

With some time I could probably make the case that this latter reason is
actually just a flavor of the first.

Now, I don't claim to know the current cost/benefit balance for this feature
as a whole -- that's part of what we're exploring here.

> Of course auditability should be the default, and I'm not claiming that
> removal of revisions is the common case (feedback indicates it is not).
> But it's easy to implement along with everything else, so why not do it?
> If we're telling people to use svndumpfilter, for something we could
> easily give them in Subversion itself, that's silly: we should just give
> it to them outright.

(As you well know, initial implementation isn't the only cost.) But is the
initial implementation even "easy"?

> By the way, the argument that we shouldn't help users do illegal things
> doesn't really hold up. We could just as easily make up an example
> about an admin trying frantically to eliminate all evidence of a data
> event before some repressive regime's police show up to seize the
> servers and put everyone in jail. You really can't know in advance
> whether you're going to morally approve of the uses of your software
> (hence the clause about "no discrimination against fields of endeavor"
> in the Open Source Definition and the Debian Free Software Guidelines).

I agree with this, but didn't appeal to this argument to support my
opinions. (I'll take "By the way" to mean you were just using the mail you
were already writing to state a general belief to all those following the

C. Michael Pilato <cmpilato_at_collab.net>
CollabNet   <>   www.collab.net   <>   Distributed Development On Demand

Received on 2008-04-22 09:32:46 CEST

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