Tim Nolet:- Open Source & Well Funded Adopters


There is a familiar story playing out with Mr. Tim Nolet and his open source project, Headless Recorder project.

Referenced Work

  1. The Register
    • Thomas Claburn
      • Come on, Amazon: If you’re going to copy open-source code for a new product, at least credit the creator


Story Line

Tim Nolet Work


  1. Company/Service
    • Software monitoring service called Checkly
    • His service is available here
  2.  Software
    • Developed the Headless Recorder browser extension
    • Source Code
  3. License
    • He said he hadn’t given the license for Headless Recorder a lot of thought
    • The reason being it is a browser extension full of client-side code
    • As it is client-side code, anyone can simply view the source code via his/her browser “view source code” tooling

Amazon Web Services

  1. 2020-10-15
    • Amazon Web Services launched CloudWatch Synthetics Recorder
      • It is a Chrome browser extension for recording browser interactions
      • It is copied from the Headless Recorder project created by developer Tim Nolet


Tim Nolet Response

  1. Credit
    • There is a mention buried in the NOTICE.txt file bundled with the CloudWatch extension that credits Headless Recorder, under its previous name “puppeteer-recorder,” as required by the license.
  2. Expectation about Big Business
    • There’s an expectation among open source developers that biz as big as AWS should show more courtesy.
  3. Spirit
    • “The core of the problem here (for me at least) is not the letter of the license, it’s the spirit,” said Nolet
  4. Introspection
    • “It’s the fact that no one inside of AWS cared enough to stop and think ‘is this a dick move? Is this something I would want to have happened to me?
  5. PR
    • Hence the current PR damage control campaign. They know it’s wrong. Not illegal, but wrong. Someone just had to tell them that.
  6. Git
    • Git Pull
      • Amazon should have opened a PR [pull request] and proposed ‘let’s add this feature to your code.
      • Or they could have simply kept their fork open source, he said.
  7. Credit & Inspiration
    • In the least, they could have mentioned that their work was based on my work.
    • I do this in the README.md of the project itself where I acknowledge the creators of an old project by segment.io that I used as inspiration.

Amazon AWS

Matt Asay, Head of Open Source Strategy and Marketing for AWS


Via Twitter, Asay expressed concern about the handling of the CloudWatch extension launch and said he would look into it.

Hacker News

In a comment posted to Hacker News, he sounded similarly contrite:-

“AWS uses a lot of open source, and we contribute a lot, both in terms of code (first-party projects like Firecracker and Bottlerocket, but also third-party projects like Redis, GraphQL, Open Telemetry, etc.), testing, credits, foundation support, and more,” he said.

“But open source is ultimately about people and communities, and I personally feel we could have done more to acknowledge the great work Tim and his co-maintainers have done, and try to support their Headless Recorder work. We’re talking with Tim now about this.”

Moral of the Story

  1. Goodness
    • Be a good person
    • You are not always going to see everything, but other people will see, pay attention, and say why are you doing this
    • They will say he is one of the good guys, go ____ with somebody else
  2. Family & Friends
    • I have a lot of family and friends deep into the Open Source Community
    • Ever so often, they come and share their story with me
      • It goes, I like this product, I __ with it
      • Started with it from the bottom, gave it advice and criticism
      • Now it is gone closed source on me
    • Personally, I feel if one is going to go closed source, make sure you grandfather in early adopters



Generous Mention

Considering the situation, Matt Asay, responded OK.

His response being:-

“But open source is ultimately about people and communities, and I personally feel we could have done more to acknowledge the great work Tim and his co-maintainers have done, and try to support their Headless Recorder work. We’re talking with Tim now about this.”


Digging In:-

  1. Open Source
    • About People
    • About Community
  2. Acknowledged Work
    • Acknowledging Tim
    • His Co-Maintainers


My Quick Take

  1. Support
    • Support the community’s work
    • And, not just create a new beachhead
  2. Pull Aside
    • Pull Tim Aside and work with him and the community
    • Run it by him that you are forking his code
  3. Rebrand
    • There are likely very few people that will want their hard work branded and sold by someone else


Take Away

Amazon/AWS is a well-funded company and they can outrun and out-muscle any and everyone.

People who sign up to work for big companies have to keep in mind that if “I move this way it creates a bigger shadow than if I work for myself or a smaller company“.

Think a bit ahead and see how lithe moves can squeeze and crush others barely making it.

Be gracious, be generous, and build & nourish people behind the work.

Not just take the work and place yourself ahead of their work.

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