Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A new home for Rover

There's a new link over there on the right: Rover for HomeSeer. This points to a second blog I've set up specifically to be support, news, and updates for a bit of my free software, Rover for HomeSeer.

Rover support used to be done on the HomeSeer web forum. However, several times I ran into hostility leading to outright censorship at the hand of Justin Gould, author of a similar program called WAPseer, so I was forced to remove it from that forum.

Justin has a good program in WAPseer. It started as a web interface for HomeSeer for WAP protocol cell phones. However, as WAP itself declined, WAPseer soon outgrew it and started doing the same things that Rover now does. However, when the day came that I wanted something like Rover, I didn't consider WAPseer because its unfortunate name led me to imagine it was for WAP, and I wasn't using WAP, I was starting from a PalmPilot. So I never even looked at WAPseer or thought about it. Instead, I imagined what I thought a program would look like that did what I wanted, and then wrote it, and named it Rover.

Unsurprisingly, some similarity of intent (supporting small screens, specifically) led to a few superficial similarities of design. And the first screen of Rover in particular, a simple list of locations, looked like the first screen of WAPseer. (And also like any other list of locations.) Justin saw the announcement of Rover and only looked at that screen, and went off the deep end, outright accusing me of theft on the forums. All the other screens didn't really look similar at all, but it took a somewhat acrimonious exchange before we got to that. This was enough to reveal that Justin was essentially carrying a huge chip on his shoulder; his defensiveness and territoriality were really disturbing, and I immediately realized to give him a wide berth.

For years, this was fine. Justin's program continued to grow, at $30 a pop, gaining new features and updating to more current software and platforms. Entirely independently, Rover got hundreds, maybe thousands, of free downloads; its advances were slower because the process of building my house and me dropping out of the HomeSeer community during that time. HomeSeer v2 came out during this time, causing Rover to not quite work right; for a while there was some demand on the forums for a new version, which I didn't see because I wasn't reading the forums.

Then I got back into the HomeSeer scene and put Rover v2 out. All well and good, still no real overlap between our products. By this time Justin had his own forum for WAPseer support so even less reason for us to run into one another. Rover v2 was a big success. Rover v2.1 came out a little while later and was also well received.

That's when I broke my own covenant to keep Justin at a distance, to my regret. Someone had posted a thread asking how to get WAPseer to support a particular style of thermostat. Justin replied saying it did not and never would. I was somewhat surprised by this. In the interest of helping the original poster, and thinking he couldn't be offended by the idea of "stealing" a customer he'd already dismissed, I posted a brief one-line post saying that Rover could, and including a link.

Justin went on a tear. He posted in response a list of all the reasons why WAPseer was superior to Rover. Unfortunately, half the things on the list were simply untrue: they were things Rover could do just fine, thank you very much. And half of the rest were things that were of no value to the end user, like the fact that it was compiled -- he depicted that as something valuable for speed, but since the whole premise of the program ensured the bottleneck would be at the client side, its only purpose was to ensure that he controlled the program (a necessity in making it pay-for-play).

The few that remained I took as ideas for future enhancements to Rover, since I had just posted, with the release of v2.1, that I was running out of ideas for future improvements, and I posted accordingly on the Rover support thread. I also responded to his list with a hint of vitriol, but not much, suggesting that the list was inaccurate and deceptive, and more importantly, not helpful to the original poster's question, so maybe we should focus on helping him, as I'd been trying to do.

Well, Justin is, as previously mentioned, hugely defensive and entirely quick to get nasty. Furthermore, it seems he has an entirely unfounded idea that I'm some kind of "information wants to be free" crusader, merely because I release Rover for free and sometimes speak with nostalgia about HomeSeer's long-gone hippie-commune days. (The forum shows the record, though; though I enjoyed those days, I was one of the first to say that they couldn't last if HomeSeer was to grow, and to suggest some of the changes that would facilitate pay-for-play plugins. Several of the key elements of HomeSeer's current plugin methodology match things I was the first to propose.) So he went off the deep end even farther, thankfully in private message.

Eventually when my private response got around to pointing out how he could take my post as an invitation to steal code from Rover and thus help the original poster while also helping improve his own program, so everyone wins, he responded to that with courtesy, albeit a complete lack of understanding of what this was actually all about. And I thought that was that.

A few days later by sheer coincidence I discovered a remarkable thing. All of my posts in this matter on the forum, every single one of them, had been deleted. Including the one on my own thread for my own product, listing future plans, which contained only a fleeting reference to WAPseer (not even by name). But Justin's inaccurate and deceptive "feature comparison" list post was still there, even though it no longer made any sense since it was a reply to something that had been excised. No notification had been made about these deletions. No copies of the originals were available. No effort had been made to correct the imagined problems in these posts. No effort had been made to correct the actual problems in his posts, either.

I objected strenuously, but my objections were summarily dismissed without consideration. As of this writing, I have received over 20 private messages, emails, and IMs expressing support for my position, and revulsion at the unconscionable actions of HomeSeer's administration, along with many accounts of other incidents of censorship and suppression of complaints. I even learned of other developers who'd been driven from the forums -- which of course I'd never heard about, since all trace of the incidents in question had been expunged.

The only consideration made was deletion of the now-extraneous "response" made by Justin, which is of course wholly inadequate inasmuch as it doesn't address the problem of one-sidedness, distortion, and mishandling. Consequently, I have withdrawn Rover from the forums and will be withdrawing myself and all my other contributions entirely as soon as time permits.

And to think, I was beginning to feel an easing off of that stress. How do I attract these insecure idiots, anyway?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Hunter, its sad when it comes to this but alas you are not the first and I doubt will be the last.

A fellow contributer to Homeseer (Blade) has also been driven off the forums so he can give support to his plugins .

There are those of us who really do appreciate the time and effort you all put in to making Homeseer better (usable?) and I for one will visit here often..

Keep up the good work... Rover Rules