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Offset Bad Code, With Bad Code Offsets 279

Posted by timothy
from the don't-blame-me-I-voted-foss dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Two weeks ago, The Daily WTF's Alex Papadimoulis announced Bad Code Offsets, a join venture between many big names in the software development community (including StackOverflow's Jeff Atwood and Jon Skeet and SourceGear's Eric Sink). The premise is that you can offset bad code by purchasing Bad Code Offsets (much in the same way a carbon-footprint is offset). The profits are donated to Free Software projects which work to eliminate bad code, such as the Apache Foundation and FreeBSD. The first cheques were sent out earlier today." Hopefully, they work better than carbon offsets, actually.
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Offset Bad Code, With Bad Code Offsets

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  • by Drethon (1445051) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @03:50PM (#30314986)
    The idea is ammusing and having the money donated to a open source project is cool but the prices are a tad high for my blood...
  • Re:Deliberately bad? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @03:55PM (#30315076) Journal

    No no no. Do you know how Carbon offsets work?

    My company spews out X amount of carbon a year. My Government puts a limit to Y amount of Carbon a year. Since it's detrimental to my business (reducing client base) to reduce my carbon output, I can purchase Carbon offsets so that some of my money goes towards greener projects. Thus I keep my clients Happy and I meet government regulation.

    Now, there is no LAW forbidding bad code. But the same basic principle applies: You want to reduce the amount of Bad code you may have done, but you can't go back and change it. Buy a bad code offset.

    Get it?

  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @04:03PM (#30315240) Journal

    It's actually a great idea. Essentially its a way to donate to Open Source projects and better coding without having to decide which one and going through the hassle of contacting the project manager and trying to get his paypal information to send some cash over.

    It is not so much a penalty as it is a donation, simply because no one is forcing you. They simply structured it around an already existing system (carbon offsets) - probably to give it a more meaningful feel to it.

  • More or less yes, but the principle is sound. Offsets are voluntary so those who feel "guilty" pay.

    Essentially, no individual person or company pays for pollution - we all do, all across the world. I'm talking about any and all kinds of pollution, not just greenhouse gases.

    Carbon credits - the government taxy, non-voluntary way - is a good idea because if, say, GM releases a bunch of sulfuric acid into the atmosphere, they don't need to pay for it, or any of the costs it inflicts on the planet. Instead, everybody does.

    Credits are a perfect example of free-market ideals - polluting becomes a cost of doing business, and as the cost of polluting rises, companies will become more efficient or less profitable.

  • Re:Deliberately bad? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Obfuscant (592200) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @04:18PM (#30315442)
    My company spews out X amount of carbon a year. My Government puts a limit to Y amount of Carbon a year.

    For your specific type of business. Other businesses have other limits. Other governments put other limits, or no limits, on businesses in their jurisdiction.

    Since it's detrimental to my business (reducing client base) to reduce my carbon output,...

    I don't know what you mean by "reducing client base". You won't lose clients if you reduce your carbon output. It may cost you a VERY large bundle of money to do it, or it may be technically impossible to do it. In either case, under that specific regulatory policy, it is more profitable to buy "credits" than to actually reduce your carbon emissions. Or it may be more profitable to simply move your company to a country where such silliness isn't public policy.

    ... I can purchase Carbon offsets so that some of my money goes towards greener projects.

    You are sending the money to the government, or some company making a profit off of buying and selling credits. Those "carbon offsets" you are buying are carbon emissions NOT being used by other companies, who have sold their credits. There is no reason to believe that your carbon offset payment goes to "greener projects", and no reason to believe that your payment has reduced the total level of carbon emissions.

    Thus I keep my clients Happy and I meet government regulation.

    Thus you keep your stockholders in the black, whether they are happy about being taxed or not. You meet government regulation, but not necessarily any environmentally beneficial goals.

    Now, if the system was to actually provide tax credits for actual emission reductions, that would be fair and environmentally beneficial. Just swapping "credits" is a ludicrous waste of effort.

    You want to reduce the amount of Bad code you may have done, but you can't go back and change it. Buy a bad code offset.

    You have even less reason to believe that a "bad code offset" will actually reduce any of the bad code you've already released than believing that a carbon offset will reduce carbon emissions. It's a touchy-feely, feel-good, politically-correct concept with little real effect.

  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:03PM (#30316094)
    It's from the FreeBSD shutdown.c source file.
  • by devjoe (88696) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:32PM (#30316632)

    I've never actually met or talked to somebody that thought carbon offsets weren't a scam, except for those trying to sell them. I get your point about derailing the thread, but have to ask... do you actually think carbon offsets are legitimate?

    There are two kinds of carbon offsets. The Wikipedia Carbon offset [wikipedia.org] article describes them as two markets, right up top.

    The larger carbon offset market is based upon laws limiting total industrial carbon dioxide emissions, and in this market companies buy carbon offsets in the amount of carbon dioxide they are emitting, and, yes, sell any excess ones they have to other companies. The difference between this and a simple tax on carbon dioxide emissions is that the total amount of offsets available in any year is limited. These are legitimate to the extent that companies aren't cheating on emissions, and in theory somebody is checking for compliance. The "caps" link in this discussion on Wikipedia leads to a topic on emissions trading, where you can read about similar systems, including the system limiting sulfur dioxide emissions in the United States which has been around since before anybody heard of carbon offsets. However, since there is no law limiting the amount of bad code people can write, this does not compare well to "bad code credits". This is probably why GP considered it a poor example.

    The smaller, consumer carbon offset market is what you're thinking of. This is where people effectively donate money to environmental causes, theoretically to pay activities that either prevent carbon dioxide from being emitted or remove it from the air. I won't argue with you here; I agree that at least some of these are not legitimate, or have other problems that make them not effective. And it is this kind of carbon offset which is more relevant to the discussion at hand.

  • Carbon Offsets Work (Score:2, Informative)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:11PM (#30317364) Homepage Journal

    Hopefully, they work better than carbon offsets [bbc.co.uk], actually.

    That claim of failure says:

    Consumer carbon offset schemes do not lead people to change their behaviour, the first holiday firm to run such a scheme has argued.

    But that "argument" is a strawman. Those carbon offsets are not primarily designed to change behavior by making them more expensive. They're designed to charge money for polluting behavior that is then spent reducing pollution:

    Money raised under the schemes is used to pay for carbon reduction projects in developing countries, such as installing solar power or capturing methane gas released by farm animals.

    Economics says that the extra charge will also tend to curb the more expensive behavior. But if that's not happening, it's capitalism that's wrong. The carbon offsets are still funding the carbon reduction projects. Until there's proof that those projects don't reduce carbon, that argument against carbon offsets is a fallacy.

    Now, it's possible that the carbon reduction projects funded by carbon offsets don't reduce as much carbon as the offsets pay to keep producing. Which just means that the carbon offsets should be more expensive (or offset less carbon for the same price, and make it up in volume). It's also certain that carbon pollution is subsidized in many ways that mask the true cost (which generally comes when cleaning up the mess that carbon pollution eventually makes, which is vastly more expensive than the polluting system cost to operate, but which others pay for). The carbon offset prices might just be too small and get lost in the much larger economics of the subsidies, and indeed in artificial costs making carbon reduction project prices higher (droughts in Africa interfering with solar projects, for example).

    But just because some travel outfit tried and failed to make money on a carbon offset program doesn't mean that its fallacious arguments for dropping the program are worth repeating.

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