#unlodsys Q&A

By Mike / On / In Technology

My #unlodsys bug was closed as a duplicate. What does that mean?

Right now #unlodsys bugs are being closed as duplicates almost as soon as they are created. Although the response you get is pre-formed, rest assured that a real person sent it. It doesn’t take long to spot another in a series of duplicates, and the fact the bugs are being closed so soon means someone has noticed the trend.

From this we can extrapolate the bug is blinking red in Radar (Apple’s bug tracker) right now. That’s exactly what we want. The more times a bug is duplicated, the more powerful it becomes, because it shows the will of the people. This campaign is the same as calling your representative in government. The contents of the individual call is not as important as the number of calls they have received about the issue.

Aren’t we wasting the time of some poor engineer?

Absolutely not. Bug reports are not scrubbed (i.e., handled) by engineers, they are scrubbed by specialists. Only then are they forwarded to the appropriate people. We are not taking them away from their usual duties. Scrubbing these bugs is their job.

Bombarding these folks with duplicate bug reports is not an abuse of the system, it is exactly how the system is designed to work. Apple wants us to communicate with them via Radar. Doing it this way is, in a word, respectful, whereas flooding the email box of some poor evangelist or Steve Jobs himself would not be.

What do engineering bug reports have to do with legal?

It is a misconception that Radar belongs to engineering. Radar and its kin are used throughout the company for tracking all sorts of issues. Moreover, big events in Radar trigger a response beyond Radar. You can bet that when Radar blows up with something, Steve knows about it pretty quickly.

There’s also the very simple fact that our making a coordinated effort makes our grievances known all over the internet. The press have already noticed the #unlodsys boycott and reported on it, which increases the pressure on Apple.

Aren’t boycotts a waste of time?

Often, yes, because the number of people participating in the boycott is tiny compared to the total number of customers. In this case, however, there really aren’t that many productive developers. Action by a few hundred people means nothing relative to, say, the customer base of Proctor and Gamble, but in terms of the developer base of Apple, it has a huge impact.

Isn’t the Lodsys patent patently absurd?

It looks that way, but even absurd, easily invalidated patents cost more to defend against than most developers can afford. That’s the whole point of #unlodsys. We can’t even afford to have this conversation, so we’d like someone else who can, and who has skin in the game, to jump in.

What about other claims from Lodsys and other patent trolls?

There is a lot going on in the realm of patent trolling lately, and a lot more to come if we don’t act in a loud and coordinated fashion to stop it. Like good engineers, we have to focus our efforts on one API on one platform with one parasite. We picked the one that is a clear-cut case for Apple’s intervention and that actually impacts their revenue.

Isn’t this unjustified panic?

Regardless of whether it is justified, panic is useless. We need to funnel whatever feelings we have into action. Filing bugs and not using an API that could get us sued is a pretty reasonable course of action. We’re not filing a class action lawsuit or picketing 1 Infinite Loop. We’re just letting Apple, and those who watch Apple, know what we need and why.

Won’t Apple fix this anyway?

Maybe, and maybe our boycott will have no effect whatsoever. On the other hand, we might make them move faster, or with more severity. Moreover the online conversation this has generated will make its way into Apple. It might educate them. It might move them. It might even make them help us. The one thing we can be sure of is that the most effective way to have no effect is to do nothing.

What if Apple doesn’t respond?

Then that will be a wonderful opportunity for Google.