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In response to the WordPress/search engine spam controversy, Suw Charman has written a piece on Corante with a mind-boggling take -- open source made him do it:

The real problem here is that there are a whole raft of people who are struggling to keep the wolves from the door whilst doing something which benefits a community but for which that community are not paying. Matt saw a way to keep the wolves at bay without having to ask for money from the WordPress community, and whilst maybe it wasn't the best thing for him to do, I understand completely why he did it.

Creative people have always had a problem making enough money to live, there's nothing new in that.

There's something off-putting about viewing open source developers as struggling workers who should be able to make a living at their work, if only their users weren't so miserly. (I'm not suggesting that Matt Mullenweg has this belief.)

An open source project isn't a business -- it's a charity. Though there are many good reasons to support open source, such as mutual benefit, personal satisfaction, and altruism, the personal financial concerns of their lead developers should not be one of them.

Have you ever donated to a charity because its director was having trouble making his rent?

Charman describes a programmer in Mullenweg's position in this manner:

Yet there are a lot of people with very good ideas which fulfil the needs of a given community who have the skills to bring those ideas to fruition. What they are missing is a business model to allow them to earn enough money to make development of their idea financially viable.

Her view of the dilemma ignores an obvious question: Should an individual programmer needing a financially viable business model be working in open source at all?

There's a term to describe programmers who need the money -- commercial developers -- and they're a group whose living becomes harder by the day, thanks to voracious competition from open source software like WordPress.

Every time commercial developers create an innovative new software category, as Netscape, UserLand Software and Pyra Labs did in weblogging and syndication, open source coders follow behind with software that makes it harder to earn a living in that niche.

I'm not complaining about that -- I heart Linux and make part of my living using open source software -- but it illustrates where dollars would be better spent protecting programmers from wolves. Commercial developers stop working when you stop paying them. Open source coders who can't work for free will be replaced by people who can, if the software meets a need.

Perhaps I'm being obtuse, but if I was told an open source project's lead developer needed user donations to make a living, I'd be less likely to contribute. The long-term viability of the project would be better with a lead whose financial considerations were less acute.

-- Rogers Cadenhead

Comments

I don't find this so mind boggling. Open source is the perfect example of the tragedy of the commons. Many take, few contribute. What many who do contribute is contribute good will. Hard to spend that.

I do agree that we would be better off if we got over this good will barter mentality (my interpretation of calling open source a charity) and got back to something more transactional. That would make everyone clearer where they stood. A little less pontification when people bend to the realities of a market economy (i.e., try to monetize an asset to buy things).

Let me be clear, I like open source, but I think people who are not contributing development should pay some amount. This should be easy enough to implement as most OSS projects have maintainers.


 

If Matt were a commercial developer, no one would know his name. That's where the value for him is.


 

Rogers: "Though there are many good reasons to support open source, such as mutual benefit, personal satisfaction, and altruism, the personal financial concerns of their lead developers should not be one of them."

While I agree that most open source developers write code because they love coding, love the recognition, and want to make a name for themselves, there are open source developers that are paid by open source companies to write (whether from scratch, or based on existing open source code) open source software. (I happen to work for such a company.) In short, the dichotomy between commercial and open source programmers is a false one. Some open source programmers are being paid (by no means the majority, but more than zero), by companies or charities or donations, because those companies and charities and users get value for what those programmers produce. They (the companies and charities) also get value from those that contribute for the love.

This also goes to what says: "I think people who are not contributing development should pay some amount". I have to wonder what part of freedom 0, "The freedom to run the program, for any purpose" he does not understand. Everybody (except the very naive) who contributes to an open source project understands that the resulting code may be incorporated into a commercial (open source) project and may be used for evil, or, more benignly, for unintended purposes. I guess I agree that people "should" give back if they are not directly involved in development, but those people are under no ethical or legal obligation to do so.


 

Price is just one of the features of sofware products. If two products have an identical feature set, the cheaper one will be the more popular (ceterus paribus).

Commercial products beat open source products by offering more features. For example, no one, who has the money to buy Photoshop, is using GIMP. It is the same with blogging - if UserLand's or Pyra's products had a serious advantage over WordPress, they would still be more popular. The blogging market is pretty exhausted, though, with every product doing everything someone could need, so price is the only selling point.

You can't blame the market for not using someone's products. Every new product tries to beat the competition with a better price/performance ratio. Once the performance has been maxed out, the price falls. Look around and you'll find many more examples of that.

Sooner or later, performance in other areas will max out and open source will catch up, and GIMP would be just as good as Photoshop. A lot of companies will go out of business, but that is entirely the companies' fault. The sooner a company embraces an open-source business model, just like RedHat, Novell and IBM have been deoing, the more succesful will it be in the future.


 

"In short, the dichotomy between commercial and open source programmers is a false one."

It's about as false as "Does a bear poop in the woods?"

"'The freedom to run the program, for any purpose" he does not understand.'"

I'm not naive, but I don't understand the benefits and the costs and the fact that there are both.

@Robert Sayre

"That's where the value for him is."

Yes in a limited sense. Apparently young Mr. Mullenweg's name recognition didn't pay as many bills as he'd like. And, btw, I'm guessing his name would be pretty well known, say as well as Ben and Mena Trott, if he sold his product cheap enough but for more than zero.

I'm not sure where Rogers stands on this issue, even now. OSS is largely responsible for the stagflation in the Software Industry, is my view.


 

as a WordPress user and having set up 5 WordPress blogs for others, I have this to say:

Niether I nor the 5 others I set up WordPress for have ever given Matt anything other than that link back to his site. If I had donated any money to him, I might feel differently, but for now I have to say that he has the complete right to make money using any means he feels is okay. I believe in my freedom of choice and I extend that freedom to him.

However, I feel his comment about Lockergnome was totally off-base, childish, and hopefully an attitude he has outgrown.


 

I think the software industry requires healthy commercial and open source projects. I don't blame WordPress for helping push commercial developers out of the mom-and-pop weblogging space; it happens all the time. When free is good, it's tough to compete. (I'm facing that as a computer book author because so much great reference information is out there on the web.)

I'm not opposed to open source programmers making money for their efforts -- Richard's example of a company serving as a developer's patron works because three entities benefit: the project, the programmer, and the company.

My concern is with Charman's suggestion that a programmer's need to make a living should be considered by users of an open source project.

Consider a hypothetical open source project lead by a single, strong person who is suddenly faced with an unexpected $10,000 tax penalty. What solution's better -- collecting the money from users or replacing the lead with someone else?


 

"When free is good, it's tough to compete."

Agree to an extent... It's tough to compete on feature set, but then, "good enough" has always been the enemy of "best". Iow, when user expectation-levels sink low enough, there is less innovation in software. Stagflation, as the cost of using the software dwarfs the development costs in most cases.

Take this pretty-inadequate blogging software we're using here, by my standards.

"My concern is with Charman's suggestion that a programmer's need to make a living should be considered by users of an open source project."

Can't disagree more.

That's what limits OSS because it becomes (has become, actually) a game that only the wealthy few or untrained students can participate in... Again, less quality innovation, unless you think only the wealthy come up with good ideas.

That's because programmer's who don't fall into these two categories still have to be concerned make a living, right?

And because their income comes from derivative sources rather than the product of their software innovation, there's a major disconnect.

So, given, it would be better for the lead to produce something that is worth the $10,000.. and if he doesn't have enough users' to do that, then he probably already has another job.

Why substitute an inexperienced lead for 10 grand, Rogers (or anybody)?


 

Not sure I see why open source is all that special in this particular instance, except that (in combination with license changes in certain commercial products) it boosted the popularity of WordPress at an opportune time. If it had been cheap shareware instead, would it have been any more OK? The fact that pagerank is a (pseudo-)commons seems like more of an issue.

After all, making money has to do with customers and profits vs. expenses; software (of any kind) does not lead inherently to cash. (I've made more off of Free Software than commercial, at this point, because Cygnus was actually a successful business, even if you discount the bubble years entirely.)


 

SirShannon,

"If I had donated any money to him, I might feel differently, but for now I have to say that he has the complete right to make money using any means he feels is okay."

This is my major gripe with all OSS.

Those who benefit get somebody else to pay for their software.

(0) It is unusually unfair to those who do make donations.

(1a) It is an 'unfair' benefit to the users but a benefit to the developer that the developer doesn't hafta try to meet the standards of those who do pay and little incentive to do so.

(1b) The so-called users of 'free' source sure can't make any complaints about the quality. Sure, they can offer feedback and quality suggestions and all that.. And IF the developer has the wisdom to heed the good suggestions and discard the bad ones everybody benefits...

But how many have that wisdom and what's to prompt the developer to do so?

(1c) There's an inverse correlation, in my experience, between those who are primarily motivated to get name recognition and those who listen to the market to innovate.

(And, ooops.. Didn't mean to harp too much on the author of this blogging softwares comments tool, but it sux compared to BBS software in vogue years ago... No preview or editting, etc...)


 

Take this pretty-inadequate blogging software we're using here, by my standards.

Ouch. Workbench is running my homebrew PHP/MySQL code that hasn't been released in any form yet.


 

Mark Eichin,

"If it had been cheap shareware instead, would it have been any more OK?"

I think it would have been for the reasons above. And also it would probably be a better product to boot.

I agree the commons issue is the issue. But I understand you Mr. Mullenweg hired a programmer to help him. Which is the better way??? I think it'ss clear.. but mebbe thaz jes me.

(To make a short story long, yada, yada...;-)


 

Sorry 'bout that Rogers.

Dag, that hoof'n mouth mad cow stuff goin'round my place... ? Ya know?

What happens if I don't rekey my name and website, I wonder... No biggie, I'm taking a break cause I wanna catch some b-ball, not cause the software.


 

Sorry 'bout that Rogers.

That's OK. There's a good reason I haven't released any of this yet. :-).


 

I've dealt with many commercial developers on many projects over the years, and I don't know if they're just the bad ones, but it seems rare that the work they do outdoes much of the open-source stuff I find out there. I often have to ask people if it seems wrong that the custom development work we get done lacks so many features or smart design decisions that a few devoted open-source hackers put into a project they produce in their spare time.


 

I think Matt Mullenweg should have asked for donations for Wordpress instead of exploiting his Google rank to make money.

>>Perhaps I'm being obtuse, but if I was told an open source project's lead developer needed user donations to make a living, I'd be less likely to contribute.

I may a bit idealistic but if you ask me I think if people are getting benefit from Wordpress, they should consider donating time, code, or money to the effort.

Open Source is not charity (ie. no suffering children unless you count Matt :) ), it is either a hobby or a form of citizenship. So I am guess I am saying don't donate money to Matt because other developers also contributed to Wordpress.


 

Rogers, I can't deny there's something not quite right in the revenue thing with open source (where it led Matt is evidence), but neither do I think your characterization is quite right. In particular the "harder to earn a living in that niche" bit seems back-to-front, it's up to the commercial orgs to figure out a business model that works, rather than blame the open source community when it doesn't.

btw, I think with the WP case it's important to remember that WP *is* an open source project, so the software is independent of Matt and any dodgy things he might do on the support site (for his own sake, I hope this was a blip). As a WP user that helps me sleep at night ;-)

I suspect the biggest problem is that software isn't like most other products or services, so the shrinkwrap kind of commerce doesn't work well. The same applies to other forms of software, like media.

There's an analogy: what about the poor professional journalists, tech authors and analysts you're putting out of business by publishing your blog for free?


 

To clarify what many commenters seem to be getting wrong, I am in no financial need or want for the money that WordPress brings in, however little or much it might be. I've always covered any costs above donations for the project and will continue to do so as long as I can. I have not hired a programmer to help me.


 

I've always covered any costs above donations for the project and will continue to do so as long as I can.

Why are you doing that?

If the open source side of WordPress is taking money out of your pocket, you should tell the community what the costs are and give them a chance to sustain it.


 

Why are you doing that?

Maybe because he loves what he's doing and realizes the cost to him out of pocket is outweighed by the benefit users receive. Not that I'm speaking for anyone, but as someone who's been in similar situations, I can understand what Matt is saying.

I don't understand what seems to be disdain for someone contibuting their time, talent, and energy to a project which benefits thousands and thousands of people around the world.


 

"I have not hired a programmer to help me."

Sorry, 'heard' that off of a blog.

"I've always covered any costs above donations for the project and will continue to do so as long as I can."

There's the rub. What do you mean "as long as you can"?

That's the source of my disdain of OSS.

The software is good from what I've 'heard'. And why should the honest people that donate carry the load for the freeloading scum that gets most of the benefits.

And yes, it applies to authors as well, because the good authors go down the drain as well as the poor authors.

Uhhhhh, Danny:

"the commercial orgs to figure out a business model that works, rather than blame the open source community when it doesn't."

The business model used to be that freeloading scum were known as such. It's not so much that people much more motivated for personal glory than money are the source of the problem.

It's the mistake that there is such a free lunch and the USERS who know that's false but like a 'good deal' who are the problem.

Iow, I'd prefer to pay for a good web log if that wasn't the case. (So yeah, we're all a part of the problem.) The advantage would be the end of stagflation in software innovation, no?


 

Aggg... such a [thang as a] free lunch

And Matt, if you care to read this and introspect...

"I am in no financial need or want for the money that WordPress brings in,"

That's great your wealthy enough. Really.. count your blessings. (I'd somewhat like to design and write a weblog tool but I'm not.)

But the point is: What's the problem with getting the money other than it entails responsibilities, obligations and even worse.. a commitment to maintain the project???


 

No disdain. I just think it's an unhealthy model for financing an open source project, especially one that's as popular as WordPress.

If the WordPress community values the software, they should reread Matt's response and ask themselves whether they're asking him to take on too much: the code, the press, the fund-raising, the trademark, the bills, yadda yadda.


 

Whilst I understand your comment about not caring whether OSS programmers get paid, I am not sure I agree with it.

One of your comments suggests replacing the person who has potentially been with the project the longest, just because, he may have the need to make some money.

Far too many people make money from OSS work and give absolutely nothing back. Just because an OSS developer gives his stuff away free, does not mean that you should not show your appreciation for his work. Up until very recently would you have said it fair that Google make so much money off the back of OSS without giving *any* of that profit back?

OSS *is* a charity, but one that works both ways.


 

IANAL, etc, yadda, yadda, FWIW...

If young Mr. Mullenweg puts "(tm)" after his product name he has a trademark. Better to register it with USPTO. That way first use is documented. I believe about $300 for registered trademark, plus legal fees if you have a lwayer do it. But if you find out somebody else is using it, you have to tell them not to and be prepared to defend it in court if necessary.

(Don't know extent USPTO is recognized internationally and all that.)


 

jamesjaytrouble,

(0) It is unusually unfair to those who do make donations.

Not at all. The software is free. To ask for money after giving someone something for free is unfair (not that Matt did this). For a user to donate money and then expect others to is unfair (if their donating was a mistake, it was their mistake, not mine). I'm not paying for free software. If I was going to pay for software, I'd buy it elsewhere.

(1a) It is an 'unfair' benefit to the users but a benefit to the developer that the developer doesn't hafta try to meet the standards of those who do pay and little incentive to do so.

Are you a developer? If not, I can understand why you might think this. All of the developers I know have a much higher standard for their pet projects than for projects they write "for the man". Matt doesn't get to skip bugs and missing features because WordPress is his baby and nobody wants an ugly baby.

(1b) The so-called users of 'free' source sure can't make any complaints about the quality. Sure, they can offer feedback and quality suggestions and all that.. And IF the developer has the wisdom to heed the good suggestions and discard the bad ones everybody benefits...

But how many have that wisdom and what's to prompt the developer to do so?


I complain all the time about free software because if the developer doesn't know there is a problem, they might not fix it. It is my job as a user to point out ways they can improve their software, sometimes including the source code to do so. Which is another reason why OSS is great, because I can fix it myself (in some cases).

(1c) There's an inverse correlation, in my experience, between those who are primarily motivated to get name recognition and those who listen to the market to innovate.

I'm not even sure what that means.


 

Actually, how 'bout looking at viable businesses that also release OSS? Slashdot, Kuro5hin, Wikipedia, and Livejournal all release their underlying software under an open source license, but still manage to bring in enough money to feed developers, maintainers, etc.

Although this doesn't apply to software like Photoshop/GIMP, most software in blogosphere are social software, which means the communities and shared data are much more important than the software. For example, as far as blogging software goes, LiveJournal (IMHO) is pretty crappy. But people use it because others they know use it, and for people who have friends, connecting with them is more important than using kick-ass software (Open Source, or otherwise).

As you may have already heard, JWZ said that social networking software should focus on getting college students laid. If businesses offering social networking services (i.e. most services in blogosphere) are threatened by OSS, it's probably because they're not focusing enough on getting their users laid.


 

SIRSHANNON,

Thank you for reply:

Not at all. The software is free. To ask for money after giving someone something for free is unfair (not that Matt did this). For a user to donate money and then expect others to is unfair (if their donating was a mistake, it was their mistake, not mine). I'm not paying for free software. If I was going to pay for software, I'd buy it elsewhere.

Thank you for illustrating the inherent unfairness in the issue(s).

All of the developers I know have a much higher standard for their pet projects than for projects they write "for the man".

I've developed a fair bit. So your suggesting Matt's employer is somewhat-directly paying for the development of his product? I didn't work that way, but mebbe thaz jes me... Btw, never met anybody who thought their own baby was ugly.

(Btw, again, there is no free lunch.)

Which is another reason why OSS is great, because I can fix it myself (in some cases).

This is a ruse.

I've also purchased software and most of it came with source.

I'm not even sure what that means.

As I've posted on several occasions elsewhere: It means most people are motivated by money, power/control, or sex and it's sublimates. People primarily motivated by power tend to make corresponding decisions.

Ryo Chigiiwa,

which means the communities and shared data are much more important than the software.

That illustrates why there's so much stagflation in the software industry. Users end up paying (dearly, in cash money terms) for lousy software... Unless one views the users time as worthless, of course.


 

Btw, I don't get around much but I agree wholeheartedly, Ryo Chigiiwa, with JWZ.


 

It is the same with blogging - if UserLand's or Pyra's products had a serious advantage over WordPress, they would still be more popular. The blogging market is pretty exhausted, though, with every product doing everything someone could need, so price is the only selling point.

Um, they *are* more popular. And I think I can pretty confidently say that price is one of the last considerations for many people who are starting blogging today, below a certain threshold.


 

Rogers, yet again you're way off. Ironically, Charman isn't talking about open source. She's talking about blogging!


 

Roger,

I really don't mind covering costs, they're generally small and I love WP. I have been focused lately on making WP self-sufficient, but that's not because I mind the money, it's just I want the entire project (not just the code) to live on if something were to happen to me.


 

Rogers, yet again you're way off. Ironically, Charman isn't talking about open source. She's talking about blogging!

Of course. When she writes about how "open source projects like WordPress depend on goodwill," that has nothing to do with open source projects like WordPress.

I think Charman's talking about both, but when she equates running an open source project with running a business, she muddies the subject.

I'm going to do some more research on how open source projects run their finances when they become large. I'm curious about how many establish non-profit corporations, because taking donations as an individual is problematic -- you have to report it as taxable income.

If I were in Matt's position, I'd probably pair a commercial corporation with the open source project a la SleepyCat Software and MySQL.


 

Young Anil Dash (I mean compared to your Father...;-)

"And I think I can pretty confidently say that price is one of the last considerations for many people who are starting blogging today, below a certain threshold."

If you care to: What do you mean? I mean, what is this threshold in your experience and is it based on interest or experience (or intelligence...;-)...?

Also, I think Rogers' point was meant to be interpreted as 6A products aren't as popular since they don't compete at the same price of zero. Likewise, haven't some developers defected because of this?

And.. ummmm....

If young Mr. Mullenweg puts "(tm)" after his product name he has a trademark. Better to register it with USPTO. That way first use is documented. I believe about $300 for registered trademark, plus legal fees if you have a lwayer [sic] do it. But if you find out somebody else is using it, you have to tell them not to and be prepared to defend it in court if necessary.

HTH...;-)


 

Ooooops, last was to Matt Mullenweg not Anil Dash.


 

There are lots - woah...pay no attention to that slam on this blogging software, this live comment preview rocks.

Anyway...opensource is not an inexplicable outpouring of altruism. There are solid economic reasons to opensource code. Sometimes it's just another form of outsourcing, getting a little help on something that's not your core business. Sometimes you're contributing changes you need to someone else's software, and by making it public you don't have to re-apply your changes on the next version. Sometimes you have a dual-license business model, like MySQL, and make money directly. And sometimes you're just building your resume.

There's no point whining about it, commercial developers should shut up and compete, or get out of the game. If you want to charge money for software, make it better than the free competition, charge in proportion to how much better it is, and you'll do fine. (eg., Photoshop)


 

First off, the economics of OSS are myth. The things you mentioned, Dennis, I've seen in non-OSS, non-free software, for example.

I'll spare you the details on the economics.

"There's no point whining about it, commercial developers should shut up and compete, or get out of the game."

Ummm, how does one compete with a price of more than zero against a price of zero?

"If you want to charge money for software, make it better than the free competition, charge in proportion to how much better it is, and you'll do fine."

Nicolas P from InfoWorld and Doc Searls both have said it turns out it is about free as in beer years ago.

Granted, companies that size can compete but companies smaller than that?

Why don't you shut up?


 

How does Photoshop compete against Gimp? By being better, and charging in proportion to how much it's better.

If there's economic merit to opensource (and I have a hard time believing there isn't, given the major corporate presence as well as the small but successful companies) then you just have to compete the best you can. If there is no economic merit, then you're competing against people who are doing it for fun, and if you can't compete successfully against a bunch of goof-offs then you're in the wrong business.

It's gonna be tough, because the opensource model tends to make software development cheaper...sometimes a lot of your code is already written for other opensource projects. Them's the breaks....you gotta make something nobody else has thought of, and it has to be something that's too hard for some teenager to duplicate in his bedroom.


 

Thank you for cordial reply, “Dennis”...

”How does Photoshop compete against Gimp? By being better, and charging in proportion to how much it's better. “
My understanding is that Photoshop competes because it had an established customer-base and Gimp is so inferior that anybody that had a dime would buy Photoshop. Iow, they don’t compete in the same marketspace.
”If there's economic merit to opensource (and I have a hard time believing there isn't, given the major corporate presence as well as the small but successful companies) then you just have to compete the best you can. If there is no economic merit, then you're competing against people who are doing it for fun, and if you can't compete successfully against a bunch of goof-offs then you're in the wrong business. “
Anybody that thinks OSS coders are solely made up of goof-offs is delirious, imv (in my view). The competition is between coders that are wealthy enough to supply their needs elsewhere and coders trying to make a living off of their work by selling their work.

As to the economic merit, of course there’s some. And the economics of bait-and-switch: “We’ll give it away, (by appearance only.. ..or until...)” is basically the economics of Microsoft. Yeah, it works.

Back a while ago I had several e-mails and e-discussions with Jay Maynard of the Hercules Project (iirc). (I’m sure it’s a fine product, but it runs on mainframes and I don’t...) Finally he admitted that it cost money to develop software and the money spent was essentially advertising expense. They sold the support for their software, and that paid for the development costs. Although the development costs were apparently small, “there ain’t no sucha thang as a free lunch”(tm)...;-). It is, per usual, unfair to those who pay for the support, because the user’s that don’t pay are being subsidized by those who do.
Furthermore, that leads to developing a product that needs support, which from the user’s viewpoint is rather a backwards methodology.
And speaking of so-called methodologies: When I talk of economic merits of OSS, or lack thereof, I mean I’m looking for ones that are not available to paid-source products, if any.
As I said I’ve purchased and worked on software that included source in the price.. Ones that you had to pay either a little or a lot extra to get the source... And worked with ones where the source was not offered. Seen packages where no custom mods were allowed, on the theory that if a change was needed, it was automatically put in the base code so all customers could benefit. This in paid-for packages, so the meme that “you get to see the source!!!” don’t fly ‘round here (nor does it hunt...;-)...
So I misstated the question(s). So what are these economic benefits, those that aren’t available to non-OSS, and who do they work for and who do they work against (normally the end-user) is my question?

”It's gonna be tough, because the opensource model tends to make software development cheaper...sometimes a lot of your code is already written for other opensource projects.”
Btw, OSS isn’t a programming methodology.. it’s a marketing methodology. So it doesn’t make development any cheaper than paid development... Just a matter of cost-shifting in one form or another.

”Them's the breaks....you gotta make something nobody else has thought of, and it has to be something that's too hard for some teenager to duplicate in his bedroom. “
I believe that was Rogers’ point. It wasn’t hard for some teenager to duplicate the hard-work that developed blogging software. Takes hard work to improve it... Then that can be knocked off by another teenager and there’s little incentive to innovate.

The threshold to get somebody to plunk down some cash for anything these days? I’m guessing it has to be twice as good. If somebody is already using a “free” product? I’m guessing much more to get somebody to switch... And then that innovation can be knocked off easy enough.

Which is why people waste so much time looking for the hundred-pounder rather than incremental advancements in software. Successful hundred-pounders being scarce, and all...


 

Thank you for cordial reply, “Dennis”...

”How does Photoshop compete against Gimp? By being better, and charging in proportion to how much it's better. “

My understanding is that Photoshop competes because it had an established customer-base and Gimp is so inferior that anybody that had a dime would buy Photoshop. Iow, they don’t compete in the same marketspace.
”If there's economic merit to opensource (and I have a hard time believing there isn't, given the major corporate presence as well as the small but successful companies) then you just have to compete the best you can. If there is no economic merit, then you're competing against people who are doing it for fun, and if you can't compete successfully against a bunch of goof-offs then you're in the wrong business. “

Anybody that thinks OSS coders are solely made up of goof-offs is delirious, imv (in my view). The competition is between coders that are wealthy enough to supply their needs elsewhere and coders trying to make a living off of their work by selling their work.

As to the economic merit, of course there’s some. And the economics of bait-and-switch: “We’ll give it away, (by appearance only.. ..or until...)” is basically the economics of Microsoft. Yeah, it works.

Back a while ago I had several e-mails and e-discussions with Jay Maynard of the Hercules Project (iirc). (I’m sure it’s a fine product, but it runs on mainframes and I don’t...) Finally he admitted that it cost money to develop software and the money spent was essentially advertising expense. They sold the support for their software, and that paid for the development costs. Although the development costs were apparently small, “there ain’t no sucha thang as a free lunch”(tm)...;-). It is, per usual, unfair to those who pay for the support, because the user’s that don’t pay are being subsidized by those who do.
Furthermore, that leads to developing a product that needs support, which from the user’s viewpoint is rather a backwards methodology.
And speaking of so-called methodologies: When I talk of economic merits of OSS, or lack thereof, I mean I’m looking for ones that are not available to paid-source products, if any.
As I said I’ve purchased and worked on software that included source in the price.. Ones that you had to pay either a little or a lot extra to get the source... And worked with ones where the source was not offered. Seen packages where no custom mods were allowed, on the theory that if a change was needed, it was automatically put in the base code so all customers could benefit. This in paid-for packages, so the meme that “you get to see the source!!!” don’t fly ‘round here (nor does it hunt...;-)...
So I misstated the question(s). So what are these economic benefits, those that aren’t available to non-OSS, and who do they work for and who do they work against (normally the end-user) is my question?

”It's gonna be tough, because the opensource model tends to make software development cheaper...sometimes a lot of your code is already written for other opensource projects.”

Btw, OSS isn’t a programming methodology.. it’s a marketing methodology. So it doesn’t make development any cheaper than paid development... Just a matter of cost-shifting in one form or another.

”Them's the breaks....you gotta make something nobody else has thought of, and it has to be something that's too hard for some teenager to duplicate in his bedroom. “

I believe that was Rogers’ point. It wasn’t hard for some teenager to duplicate the hard-work that developed blogging software. Takes hard work to improve it... Then that can be knocked off by another teenager and there’s little incentive to innovate.

The threshold to get somebody to plunk down some cash for anything these days? I’m guessing it has to be twice as good. If somebody is already using a “free” product? I’m guessing much more to get somebody to switch... And then that innovation can be knocked off easy enough.

Which is why people waste so much time looking for the hundred-pounder rather than incremental advancements in software. Successful hundred-pounders being scarce, and all...


 

Sorry for posts with errors. A li'l easier on the eyes:

Thank you for cordial reply, “Dennis”...

“How does Photoshop compete against Gimp? By being better, and charging in proportion to how much it's better.”

My understanding is that Photoshop competes because it had an established customer-base and Gimp is so inferior that anybody that had a dime would buy Photoshop. Iow, they don’t compete in the same marketspace.

“If there's economic merit to opensource (and I have a hard time believing there isn't, given the major corporate presence as well as the small but successful companies) then you just have to compete the best you can. If there is no economic merit, then you're competing against people who are doing it for fun, and if you can't compete successfully against a bunch of goof-offs then you're in the wrong business.”

Anybody that thinks OSS coders are solely made up of goof-offs is delirious, imv (in my view). The competition is between coders that are wealthy enough to supply their needs elsewhere and coders trying to make a living off of their work by selling their work.

As to the economic merit, of course there’s some. And the economics of bait-and-switch: “We’ll give it away, (by appearance only.. ..or until...)” is basically the economics of Microsoft. Yeah, it works.

Back a while ago I had several e-mails and e-discussions with Jay Maynard of the (iirc) Hercules Project (among others). (I’m sure it’s a fine product, but it runs on mainframes and I don’t...) Finally he admitted that it cost money to develop software and the money spent was essentially advertising expense. They sold the support for their software, and that paid for the development costs. Although the development costs were apparently small, “there ain’t no sucha thang as a free lunch”(tm)...;-). It is, per usual, unfair to those who pay for the support, because the user’s that don’t pay are being subsidized by those who do.
Furthermore, that leads to developing a product that needs support, which from the user’s viewpoint is rather a backwards methodology.
And speaking of so-called methodologies: When I talk of economic merits of OSS, or lack thereof, I mean I’m looking for ones that are not available to paid-source products, if any.
As I said I’ve purchased and worked on software that included source in the price.. Ones that you had to pay either a little or a lot extra to get the source... And worked with ones where the source was not offered. Seen packages where no custom mods were allowed, on the theory that if a change was needed, it was automatically put in the base code so all customers could benefit. This in paid-for packages, so the meme that “you get to see the source!!!” don’t fly ‘round here (nor does it hunt...;-)...
So I misstated the question(s). So what are these economic benefits, those that aren’t available to non-OSS, and who do they work for and who do they work against (normally the end-user) is my question?

“It's gonna be tough, because the opensource model tends to make software development cheaper...sometimes a lot of your code is already written for other opensource projects.”

Btw, OSS isn’t a programming methodology.. it’s a marketing methodology. So it doesn’t make development any cheaper than paid development... Just a matter of cost-shifting in one form or another.

“Them's the breaks....you gotta make something nobody else has thought of, and it has to be something that's too hard for some teenager to duplicate in his bedroom.”

I believe that was Rogers’ point. It wasn’t hard for some teenager to duplicate the hard-work that developed blogging software. Takes hard work to improve it... Then that can be knocked off by another teenager and there’s little incentive to innovate.

The threshold to get somebody to plunk down some cash for anything these days? I’m guessing it has to be twice as good. If somebody is already using a “free” product? I’m guessing much more to get somebody to switch... And then that innovation can be knocked off easy enough.

Which is why people waste so much time looking for the hundred-pounder rather than incremental advancements in software. Successful hundred-pounders being scarce, and all...


 

As it happens, I just came across an economic analysis of opensource production, published in the Yale Law Journal. Looks interesting.

I think there's an implication in your argument (correct me if I'm wrong) that innovation is only on the commercial side, while opensource is purely imitative. This perhaps was true five years ago, but not anymore...to me there seems to be more lively inventiveness on the opensource side. The unpleasant truth is that we may reach a point where traditional royalty-based development just isn't necessary anymore.

Now, one way to fight that would be for all programmers to band together in some kind of union and refuse to do opensource development. Personally I'm not real interested in making money by setting up artificial scarcities. So that leaves us with all the other ways to make money as programmers...for example, my job doing custom corporate development wouldn't be affected at all.

I don't really think commercial software will go away entirely...but you'd better be doing something that nobody else knows how to do as well as you. (A good idea even in the absence of opensource.)


 

oops, forgot:

So it doesn’t make development any cheaper than paid development

Say you're looking into writing a weird sort of word processor. You can't find any commercial richtext components that could provide what you need. You have three choices: write the thing completely from scratch (expensive), find a commercial component that will provide source (but this tends to be pricey, and you don't get to see how suitable the code is until you've bought it), or find some free code to modify.

One reason opensource is growing so fast is that the more code there is out there, the easier this last option gets.


 


"...published in the Yale Law Journal. Looks interesting."

Maybe be interesting and I'll probably take a look. But when I see an economic analysis on something as complicated as software development coming from a law journal..

..well, I get the heebie-jeebies jes thinkin' about it!

"...published in the Yale Law Journal. Looks interesting."

"I think there's an implication in your argument (correct me if I'm wrong)..."

Hard to make statements that don't sound black and white and this one isn't exactly either... But my contention is that there is little innovation on either side.

Take Operating Systems for example: Other than the i5 what innovation do you speak of? I haven't seen much from Linux but I don't follow it closely.

"The unpleasant truth is that we may reach a point where traditional royalty-based development just isn't necessary anymore."

It'll be a sorry day when getting paid to development software isn't necessary.

"Now, one way to fight that would be for all programmers to band together in some kind of union and refuse to do opensource development."

I'm sorry, I'm no fan of unions.. but most programmers do this naturally. (Due to their values or lack of disposable time/income or whatever.. not that they don't give back, mind you.)

"Personally I'm not real interested in making money by setting up artificial scarcities. ..."

You're in a 'lucky' marketspace, as there's a glut of programming internationally. And I sure hope that there are professionals that continue in fields other than corporate development.

"I don't really think commercial software will go away entirely...but you'd better be doing something that nobody else knows how to do as well as you. (A good idea even in the absence of opensource.)"

Nobody's irreplaceable. And being THE BEST as something sounds, to me, like creating an artificial scarcity...;-)-;


 

"Say you're looking into writing a weird sort of word processor."

That's what I mean, that doesn't constitute innovation.. to me anyway.

And there are so many dead projects on SourceForge I think everything's probably already been done...;-D


 

Depends on how weird you mean. Anyway, innovative projects, off the top of my head:

1) P2P protocols, including Bittorrent and Freenet. In both cases, take a close look at how they work and you'll find they definitely involve new ideas (tit-for-tat anti-leech enforcement on BT...Freenet is another animal entirely.)

2) The ReiserFS filesystem. Put a million small files in a folder with fast performance. "Dancing-tree" data structures. No difference between folders and files - any file can act as a folder, which gives you a way to attach arbitrary metadata. New generalized query system.

3) If you want something really out there, check out opencroquet.org, a 3D interface built on Smalltalk.

4) Or for incremental improvements, Firefox beats the heck out of IE. Here's a case where it's the commercial software playing catchup.

5) Tons of innovation in programming tools, especially languages.

Being the best at something isn't an artificial scarcity, it's an authentic scarcity...that's what I consider an honest living! :)


 

Dennis,

Please...

BitTorrent is remarkable similar, like identical in function, to software IBM developed around '99. (I forget the name.)

The i5 has been able to run a Wintel as a cooprocessor card since about the same time.

Not familar with openroquet.

And I'm not talking about incremental enhancements, I'm talking about innovation.

And "tons of innovation" is easier said than done.

(Btw, I don't entirely disagree at your premise about being the best, just that when the next best comes in at $15/hour I have a hard time competing with that.)

Also, from these comments of mine:

And I skimmed the abstract and conclusion of the BenklerWeb article. (Licensed under that particular CC license, I hope this here is not considered "building on" because this is (c) 2005 The Artist formerly known as J. Trouble).. And there'd not be any indication of a bias in the CC license, right?...;-)

Around page 79 there's a fancy-shmancy diagram which describes non-Open Source development.

It diagrams a conference call I recently had, for example.


 

Oh, you're right, nothing new under the sun. Might as well go back to school for that law degree.


 

I'm not discounting incremental advances, Dennis! They are useful also, but innovation is much harder.

And that Law degree..

..yeah me too...;-)-; (It'd be interesting for things.. other than economic analysis of software development.) But the time and energy thang prevents me.


 

Your perspective on open source is somewhat distorted. Maybe you should do some homework on why multiple Fortune 100 enterprises not only use open source but contribute to it...


 

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