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Open Source Could Learn from Capitalism 385

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the don't-give-it-away-for-free dept.
ukhackster writes to tell us that Sun's Simon Phipps challenged many open source ideals at a recent open source conference in London. Urging the open source community to look to the lessons of capitalism, Phipps called for "volunteerism" to be replaced with "directed self-interest" and denounced the perceived legal issues surrounding open source. From the article: "Phipps took time out to take a swipe at some of the exhibitors at the conference who were selling professional advice on negotiating the open source 'legal minefield'. 'I disagree with those who say who say open source is a legal minefield,' he said as he threw from the stage a brochure from one firm of lawyers. 'If you think open source is a minefield you're doing it wrong.'"
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Open Source Could Learn from Capitalism

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  • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cleon (471197) <[cleon42] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:26PM (#15623711) Homepage
    Whether FOSS is "capitalist" or "communist" or "volunteerist" is completely irrelevant, and quite frankly I think anyone who constantly tries to hammer the FOSS square peg into one of those round holes is doing so for their own purposes.

    FOSS is what it is. In some ways, it's capitalist, in others, it's communist, in others, it's volunteerist. That's really the beauty of the movement; you get out of it what you want to get out of it, and you put into it what you want to put into it.

    Maybe that's anarchy. Or maybe that's just another way of saying "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." The question is, why does it matter?
    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionar ... m ['aho' in gap]> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:28PM (#15623727) Journal
      It matters because ideology trumps everything to some people, and they won't get involved in open source if they think it is in some way "communist."
      • by bcat24 (914105)
        And that's a big problem. The Stallman-esque extremists who want to avoid anything that they think is in some way capitalist are just as bad, though. IMO, open source should be about writing software, making money or not protecting freedom.
        • Err, correction (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bcat24 (914105)
          I meant to say that open source should be about writing software, *not* making money or protecting freedom.

          (O/T: You would think the Slashdot maintainers would eventually catch on and let people edit posts.)
        • by anaesthetica (596507) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:36PM (#15623785) Homepage Journal
          On the other hand, there's something to be said for adopting ideals and sticking to them. After all, if you don't set out with a general direction, you may end up aiding something abhorrent in the end. Ideals, principles, ideology, world-view, ethics--whatever you call it, it can be useful in keeping yourself on the right track. If Stallman wants to avoid capitalism, so be it. If you want to avoid collectivism, again so be it. But I wouldn't take a stance that rejects all ideological positions prima facia. Instrumental pragmatism is just as bad, and in many cases worse.
          • by spun (1352)
            Hmm, how about figuring it out for yourself rather than blindly adopting someone else's ideology? History tells us about plenty of folks who set out in what their ideology told them was a good general direction and ended up aiding something abhorent. I don't reject or accept anything, I entertain ideas: "Here little idea, come into my head. How do you like all the other ideas here? Let's ask them how they like you." This way, every idea, good or bad, contributes something. But I do it on my terms, not becau
            • Hmm, how about figuring it out for yourself rather than blindly adopting someone else's ideology?

              That's a nice idea, but it's not very practical. We can't all be Spinoza's and mathematically deduce an comprehensive framework of ethics in our spare time. Mathematicians reduce complex problems to problems that have already been solved. To illustrate:

              When a fireman is asked how to put out a fire, if he is in a room with a bucket of water on a table, the fireman answers that he'd pick up the bucket of

              • by mrchaotica (681592) *

                Hmm, how about figuring it out for yourself rather than blindly adopting someone else's ideology?

                That's a nice idea, but it's not very practical. We can't all be Spinoza's and mathematically deduce an comprehensive framework of ethics in our spare time.

                Why, sure you can! It's easy: just start with the Golden Rule (assuming you accept it as a postulate) and go from there.

                It works for me, and I didn't have to invent any mythology to support it!

              • by Angostura (703910) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @07:19PM (#15624813)
                Actually, the fireman would evaluate the fire. If it was an oil fire he (she?) would not use the water. A more likely response would be to discard the water and place the upturned bucket over the fire to exclude oxygen.

                I'm sure this contributes something deeply insightful to the debate, but I'm damned if I can work out what.
            • by superwiz (655733)
              Sorry, but most of your actions (everyone's actions) are knee jerk responses. Sometimes, we all (some more than others) stop and rethink our actions. But most of the time responses to situations are emotions, i.e. knee-jerk. Rational is a human skill -- it is not a human natural state. We can train ourselves to try to think rationally most of the time, but again, approaching a situation rationally has to be a trained response to the type of situation that is being presented at hand. That being said, em
          • by stinerman (812158)
            I wouldn't take a stance that rejects all ideological positions prima facia. Instrumental pragmatism is just as bad, and in many cases worse.
            In fact, I'd go as far as saying that Instrumental pragmatism is an ideological position itself. No ideology is still an ideology. Having no ethics is an ethical system. This is because one must make a choice as to the ideology they will follow (if any).
          • Re:Missing the point (Score:5, Informative)

            by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @07:12PM (#15624773)
            If Stallman wants to avoid capitalism, so be it.

            WTF?

            Do you really believe that, or are you just trolling?

            As far as I know, Stallman has nothing against capitalism. He just believes that ideas are not capital but can be the result of capitalism - just like a full belly or a feeling of happiness can be the result of capitalist production but are not capital themselves.
        • People like isms -- if something can (even inaccurately) be called "communist" they can safely dismiss it and not have to do any analysis of it as a concept. But I feel I should point out that calling someone "extremist" is basically the same thing. If rms has suggested people avoid anything that "is in some way capitalist" I'd love to see a citation.
        • Re:Missing the point (Score:5, Informative)

          by rgmoore (133276) * <glandauer@charter.net> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:24PM (#15624511) Homepage
          The Stallman-esque extremists who want to avoid anything that they think is in some way capitalist are just as bad, though.

          Not nearly as bad as the people who try to categorize others incorrectly. Stallman doesn't think that it's wrong to make money selling Free Software. To the contrary, he actively encourages people to do so. Just read the FSF's essay on selling Free Software [fsf.org]. For people who can't bother to follow the link, a salient quote is (emphasis is from the original):

          Since free software is not a matter of price, a low price isn't more free, or closer to free. So if you are redistributing copies of free software, you might as well charge a substantial fee and make some money. Redistributing free software is a good and legitimate activity; if you do it, you might as well make a profit from it.

          Distributing free software is an opportunity to raise funds for development. Don't waste it!

          That doesn't seem like somebody who's opposed to capitalism.

        • Re:Missing the point (Score:5, Informative)

          by SavvyPlayer (774432) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @07:04PM (#15624730)
          The Stallman-esque extremists who want to avoid anything that they think is in some way capitalist are just as bad, though.
          There is nothing Stallman-esque about avoiding all things capitalist. Stallman's philosophy is distilled in what he calls the "Four Freedoms". These are:

          0. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
          1. The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
          2. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
          3. The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

          The FSF supports any (legitimate) business/revenue model which respects these four freedoms.

      • by Nadsat (652200)
        I disagree in part with this "missing the point" statement.

        Who would want to get involved with open source if it were about donating your time and skills to help some company acquire wealth? If this were true, you would lose the community.
    • Re:Missing the point (Score:5, Interesting)

      by anaesthetica (596507) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:33PM (#15623765) Homepage Journal
      you get out of it what you want to get out of it, and you put into it what you want to put into it.

      Funny, because that statement alone could be interpreted as Christian, Marxist, and Capitalist all at the same time.

      "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is a slogan popularized by Karl Marx. It was derived from two parts of the Book of Acts in the Bible, Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:34-35, describing the system set up amongst the apostles. And in a more general sense, the statement comports with capitalist ideas of individual agency and self-interest.

      • Re:Missing the point (Score:2, Interesting)

        by alcmaeon (684971)
        "It was derived from two parts of the Book of Acts in the Bible, Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:34-35, describing the system set up amongst the apostles"

        That is interesting and you are certainly right that the language is similar. I wasn't aware there was similar language in the Bible.

        It's somewhat amusing that a Jewish Communist drew his rhetorical inspiration from the Christian New Testament.

      • "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is a slogan popularized by Karl Marx ... And in a more general sense, the statement comports with capitalist ideas of individual agency and self-interest.

        Man, that's a good one. Look, in a market situation, you may have abilities you don't feel like selling, and you may have needs you can't possibly meet (or, far more likely, a wildly distorted sense of the word "need" means - as in, "I really need that new Sony console.").

        Any system
    • I see this as a circuitous way of saying "FOSS types need to have different values." Replacing emphasis on "free" with an emphasis on "connected capitalism" sounds to me adopting the gamesmanship-and-dealmaking approach.

      I'm looking in vain for something concrete that Phipps thinks FOSS "could learn" from capitalism... wish I had the complete text. Open source has always -- to me -- been about having more [badosa.com] capitalists

    • Essentially creating open source is work. One can do volunteer work or capitalistic work or work just for the fun of it. If I was to build a boat, couldn't somebody then take that boat and alter it, or simply use its plans to make another boat. No difference here, we just happily ignore stupid IP laws in the process.
    • by CptPicard (680154) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:51PM (#15623894)
      You are very correct. Why is it that some people are seeking to dogmatize some other people's way of doing things to fit their own world view -- so it could serve some "purpose" according to their ideals -- is beyond me. One shouldn't always seek to see everything through some-color-coloured lenses...

      On broader terms, this sort of developments in society worry me in general. Certainly the market is good at some things, and people are at least partly motivated by self-interest, and it's fine with me. However, I am getting the feeling that more and more we are being shoe-horned into mandatorily self-interested behavioural models, simply because some powerful people believe that this is the way things "should" work. This kind of thinking can eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy -- people will eventually forget that alternative models of behaviour actually EXIST, even though they may be perfectly viable choices. Thus higher ideals like altruism and advancing the general good get edged out "just because" and because you have to play by their rules if you want to play at all. This is nicely demonstrated by all the ad hominem attacks against co-operatively behaving people branding them as "Communists" who seek to destroy Western civilization. Soon basic decency is going to be a thought-crime as it reduces the competitiveness of a society and "is bad for the economy".

      OSS is, to me, similar to the way science is done through open discourse. It's a joint, open effort to create something cool. No amount of money would actually help me do any better at writing the hobby code I write, because I don't believe that my talents and abilities increase with pay -- in the world of work it tends to be the other way around. The point is that most OSS people are motivated by the project they are involved, not the peripheral benefits they may derive from its commercial success... of course, this is beyond the grasp of all-monetizing bean-counters.
    • That's really the beauty of the movement; you get out of it what you want to get out of it, and you put into it what you want to put into it.


      I call shenanigans.

      I'm not getting what I want out of FOSS, even though I've been putting in all I want for years.
    • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @05:04PM (#15623995) Homepage Journal
      I think what Simon is saying is Open Source needs to fit Sun better. But of course, the problem is that Sun doesn't fit Open Source well. Sun's forte' has always been systems programming, not hardware, and in their heyday they charged 70% margins for their hardware and could pay for all of the systems programming they wanted to do. No longer. Computers are commodities and Sun has to function in a commodity market that doesn't even like it when Sun differentiates through systems programming, because the customers don't want to be locked in by Sun's differentiation. On top of that, Open Source has driven systems programming into a commodity and thus killed whatever differentiation was working for Sun.

      I don't see how Sun is going to survive this. My fear is that on the way down they'll become the next SCO, because they have been talking the way Caldera did on its way down.

      Bruce

      • Sun's forte' has always been systems programming, not hardware

        I'm going to disagree with you on that. Having purchased a fair amount of Sun hardware in my day, I never chose Sun for it's systems programming. We picked Sun because of a) rock solid hardware and b) excellent support. I mainly designed Oracle systems, so I could care less (over exagerating) about the OS, Oracle ran/runs on all the big ones. We could just as easily chosen an HP-UX, or DEC VAX, or SGI system. That said, that was then, when mid
      • by WebMink (258041) <slashdot AT webmink DOT net> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:56PM (#15624691) Homepage

        In fact I said and routinely say nothing of the sort. Matt Asay does a fine job of summarising the main points I made [infoworld.com], which you will note do not include claiming "open source could learn from capitalism". In fact I wonder if the other reporter was even at the same event. Reading through the whole thread here I'm amazed that people feel they can come to any conclusions about what I think based on an intentionally provocative and ill-informed article by a ZDNet reporter who badly summarises the thrust of my keynote in reported speech apparently intended to garner Slashdot coverage.

        And I disagree with your outdated analysis of Sun, naturally.

    • Whether FOSS is "capitalist" or "communist" or "volunteerist" is completely irrelevant, and quite frankly I think anyone who constantly tries to hammer the FOSS square peg into one of those round holes is doing so for their own purposes
      There is a very simple reason why you can fit FOSS in those holes. Capitalism, communism, volunteering and so on are all about managing scarcity. In FOSS, there is no scarcity.
  • Freedom (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nadamsieee (708934) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:27PM (#15623717)
    Free Software is about securing freedom [fsf.org]; keeping yourself free is a self-interest.
  • by willtsmith (466546) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:29PM (#15623735) Journal

    Any good capitalist will trumpet their value based on supply and demand. Then when someone decides to give something away they'll cry like babies. Remember the banks suing the credit unions.

    Yes absoluetly people have the right to make free software. And as long as dedicated hobbyists are willing to give it away for the sake of personal satisfaction and being able to control their tools, the corporate guys are going to have to work harder.
    • As a fanatical anti-capitalist myself, I approached the article in the same way. However, I think he was honestly just trying to promote open source to a particular audience, one who presently equates it with some kind of communism.

      • I'm not anti-capitalist. I'm a "fair trader" who believes in a refereed marketplace where rules are maintained in order enforce basic ethics and preserve the "multi-producer"/"multi-buyer" model (the only way capitalism can work).

        What disgusts me are these coyotes who eat other peoples lunches like crazy claiming it was there brilliance. Then when someone comes along and says "I can do that for free" they run to the courts and Congress and attempt to create regulatory barriers (that they previously decrie
    • Any good capitalist will trumpet their value based on supply and demand. Then when someone decides to give something away they'll cry like babies.

      I don't understand, are you calling him a bad capitalist, or are you saying that a capitalist wouldn't give away the source code? Because neither is the case. Capitalists give things away all the time--sales, promotions, loyalty rewards, bonus miles, etc. Open source is just one more way of involving your consumers. Think Darwin and Apple. This highly suc

    • Any good capitalist will trumpet their value based on supply and demand. Then when someone decides to give something away they'll cry like babies. Remember the banks suing the credit unions.

      You are maliging capitalists here unfairly. In a free market, if someone wishes to release something free of charge, they can. Anyone who whines and cries out for "regulation" or about "unfair competition" is not really into capitalisim. However, what you illustrate by that example, is not capitalists crying foul, but pe
  • by jdavidb (449077) * on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:30PM (#15623744) Homepage Journal

    Last time I checked, many open source people were pretty capitalistic. I guess the rumor keeps floating around that everybody's a commie or something, but it simply isn't true. I'm a laissez-faire capitalist, and therefore I love open source.

    Phipps called for "volunteerism" to be replaced with "directed self-interest"

    When you really get down to it, there's no difference. People "volunteer" because they get something out of it, whether it be financial, utility, entertainment, or the satisfaction of simply "making the world a better place."

    • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:45PM (#15623858) Journal
      Even if OSS was "communist", I don't think most real capitalists would have a problem with it. In fact, if free OSS is good enough to draw people away from commercial software, then the commercial software has to offer something above and beyond what OSS does just to compete. That makes all consumers better off.

      Also, there's nothing about Capitalism (a term made up by Marx, BTW...) that says people can't do things for free or out of the goodness of their hearts. In fact, in Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith says that beneficence is an important aspect of a successful free market environment. Currently, the U.S. has a mixed-economy that a lot of people like to call Capitalism, but is actually much closer to the Mercantilism that Smith was writing against. In a free market society, you're welcome to live on a commune if you choose, but you're not free to buy & sell as you wish under Communism...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:31PM (#15623751)
    ...does not qualify as directed self-interest?
  • by ThousandStars (556222) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:32PM (#15623758) Homepage
    Phipps seems to misunderstand OSS on a variety of levels, as other posters have pointed out, but I'd focus on how he divides volunteerism from "directed self-interest." Most OSS projects are created out of "directed self-interest" in that someone needs to do something (run an OS on esoteric hardware, word processing, whatever) and then writes a program to do it. In return for making it OSS, the original author collects feedback from the community and may ultimately attract patches, other maintainers, etc. If he wants his program to become better, it's often in his "directed self-interest" to make it so.

    The same applies to companies - Sun didn't make OO.org open-source out of the goodness of its heart; it did so to strike back at Microsoft.

    There shouldn't be the firm line Phipps draws between volunteerism and "directed self-interest" - they're interelated. They always have been. They probably always will be.

    • You are obviously not a member of his intended audience. He was talking to the Suits in Suitanese. He's just pitching open source to the kind of people who shoot their wad when they hear the word "profit." As distasteful as that is, he may actually be on to something.
      • Nah. I'd approach those sorts of people from the classical "Stallman needs to keep the contributors happy" dilemma. The contruct allows for ground rules that tend to equalize all competitiors and prevents any one of them from taking advantage of the rest. If you are in a position where you feel that you might want to co-operate on some bit of infastructure that's not a part of your competitive edge, then you can do so with Free Software secure in the knowledge that it's set up to prevent your competitors fr
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:33PM (#15623766)
    In the last twenty years, the real wages for college educated US workers have barely
    kept up with inflation. Outside the US, the situation is even worse in the majority of cases in those countries that have followed the so-called free market solutions to economic and social problems. Meanwhile, as the majority hang out to dry, the profits for those involved in capitalism proper, eg capital instensive ventures, have doubled dozens of times over. The only lesson capitalism seems to offer is that under a capitalist system, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. How long does it take this guy to get that lesson?
    • Yup, life is competition, which means losers. To believe otherwise is to deny humanity.
      • Most people I know would prefer a world of cooperation rather than competition, if it were possible. They don't necessarily have to take your word for it that it's impossible (the argument "didn't work in Russia" basically implies "if Stalin can't do it, no one can!") It's insulting to the dignity of human beings to suggest that they cannot affect how the world works -- especially the world of societies, which were created by them in the first place.
      • Yup, life is competition, which means losers. To believe otherwise is to deny humanity.

        And not only humanity but life by itself, it is the food chain and the basic rule of life to survive by eliminating others. I have always thought how this so called "reasoning" beings are the ones that kill for other things than self preservation.

      • If too many people consistantly end up being losers though they tend to revolt and kill the winners. Especially if the winners are 'rigging' the game to their advantage. That's also human nature.
      • Life is not just competition. Our ability to cooperate gives us an edge over animals that don't. Your cells cooperation in making you what you are is a prime example, as is the whole ecosystem of helpful creatures you have living in and on you, and without whom you would be unable to digest things or fight off infections nearly as well.

        Competition destroys intrinsic motivation. People are motivated to do things for personal reasons that have little to do with competition. When competition reigns supreme, th
        • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @05:04PM (#15623998)
          Our ability to cooperate gives us an edge over animals that don't.

          So what you are saying is we need to keep an eye on those damned bees.

          Damn! I knew it! All that buzzing and fuzziness is just a front!

          • Yes, bees and other eusocial [wikipedia.org] animals are a great example, not only because they cooperate, but because of the genetics involved. If evolution is about survival of the fittest individual how do non-breeding individuals such as drone bees ever evolve?
    • Facts? I Think Not (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tabdelgawad (590061)
      Wow, an AC posts completely unsubstantiated 'facts', condems a system that:

      - made the US the sole world superpower
      - made the West's standard of living what it is
      - is responsible for almost every useful innovation of the last 2 centuries
      - is lifting 100s of millions out of poverty in China and India
      - is the single explanation of the vast economic chasm between North and South Korea
      - etc and so on

      *and* offers no alternative, yet is already at +4 Insightful.

      Nice.
    • In the last twenty years, the real wages for college educated US workers have barely
      kept up with inflation.

      Except that is not capitalism. College educations provided by the state is a type of socialism. Wages, especially minimum wages and the inflation that inflicts upon the rest of the wages, is another type of socialism. Inflation is another beast entirely, an effect of economics and technology as well as interest and growth.

      Outside the US, the situation is even worse in the majority of cases in those cou

    • In the last twenty years, the real wages for college educated US workers have barely kept up with inflation.

      In the last twenty years there has been a significant increase in the number of college-educated U.S. workers. As the supply goes up, the price of their labor (i.e. wages) goes down. Only because demand for college-educated works has also gone up has their real wage level remained constant.

    • The only lesson capitalism seems to offer is that under a capitalist system, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

      That's not the fault of Capitalism as it is the fault of Interest. Interest is how money makes money without doing any work -- it is the basis for the trueism "it takes money to make money", and it is the principal means by which the divide between the rich and the poor is widened.

      Doing away with Interest wouldn't entirely eliminate the problems you describe, but it would certainly re

  • by Arthur B. (806360) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:36PM (#15623781)
    It's about freedom, and yes it's about liberalism. Although it might be clear for most people I'd like to stress that the threat to open source software is not capitalism but corporatism, and the state. They're responsible for patents, the DMCA etc.
    Now the kind of pressure found in a market economy completly apply to open source. Developpers will migrate from one project to another as interest and popularity shifts etc. There is an evolutionnary process very similar to the one found between businesses in market economy, only it is much faster and smoother due to the conditions guaranteeing freedom. Indeed capitalism could learn from open source.
    • Developpers will migrate from one project to another as interest and popularity shifts etc

      That gets the developers what the developers want. No project, commercial or free, is going to gain much traction if there isn't a commitment to maintain it for an acceptable amount of time. Also, any need that isn't popular among developers may simply be ignored because there's no incentie. I think the OSS movement could use more "bounty coding", though I don't know if that's going to get quality code or not, becau
  • by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:41PM (#15623820) Homepage
    So Phipps says the future of open source is in companies (and individuals) cooperating and each one preserving what is of value to it. He says it's not about altruism but about self-interest. Is this news? Do a Google search for "scratch your own itch" [google.com] and you end up with a whole bunch of references to open source. Hardly original thinking on Phipps's part.

  • by hsmith (818216) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:44PM (#15623850)
    I'd love to know.

    Here is an article how Linux IS Capitalist [lewrockwell.com]
  • He may be right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stinerman (812158) <nathan@stine.gmail@com> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:50PM (#15623890) Homepage
    This comes down to which side of the F/OSS coin you're on. Do you use GNU/Linux, *BSD, OpenSolaris, etc. for ideological purposes or because you like it better? Do you define success of F/OSS as having many users or simply having many free software libraries and programs to choose from? (yes, that question is not an either/or)

    The open source people are pragmatists. They actually do, for the most part, rely on self interest to get the job done. IBM doesn't really care about the politics behind free software; they just care that it does the job at the lowest cost. There is nothing wrong with this.

    For the most part, this distinction doesn't really matter. Those of us in the free software movement who work towards the volunteerism and ideals can work in harmony with those who are directed by self-interest. The only thing that we need to agree on is the license the code is using. The license doesn't require you to buy in to any politics to use the code. Stallman doesn't make you buy into his rhetoric before you get a copy of binutils. This is the great thing about F/OSS; anyone can contribute for any reason, and we all gain from the contribution.
  • by 0x20 (546659) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:50PM (#15623891) Homepage
    ... you're doing it wrong.
    i.e. stepping on mines?
  • The guy is way overpaid, with a salary more than 200 times that of the average worker in his firm, not even including his unwarranted pension, benefits, protection from lawsuits for criminal actions, and stock options he backdates for the best strike price.

    Hey, don't ask for capitalism if you can't live under it's rules yourself.
  • by riversky (732353) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:53PM (#15623916)
    I switched my small consulting business to Linux for very little cost, can expand rapidly, don't have licensing fees, and can find low cost IT labor....This means MORE PROFIT for me and my investors....Low cost input, high value output, nothing is more capitalistic.
  • Isn't software development with an opensource context already innately 'self-interested', where the supposed 'meritocracy' translates as a selfish need for recognition within a competitive technical arena?
  • Directed Selfishness (Score:3, Interesting)

    by boyfaceddog (788041) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @05:17PM (#15624080) Journal
    Let's see. I think it would break down like this:

    1) Someone gets paid some money by some group or project to write some code.
    2) Another person who also wrote code for the project but didn't get paid says "I want mine!"
    3) The whole project folds as some idiot starts equating pay to the number-of-lines-written multiplied by the moeny-per-line-of-code of the first person.

    People, if you want to write software for money, get a job. If you want to write software because you think the project is neat and/or worth you while, donate your time.

    Same goes for volunteering in other things. The world could use our help - for free.
  • by monoqlith (610041) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @05:31PM (#15624186)
    and also miss the point...Phipps is trying to impose a conception of how open source should function inside a capitalist system by making open source itself part and parcel of that system. From the article:

    "For open source to prosper, people need to stop thinking of it as "free" and instead think of it as "connected capitalism", delegates at an open source conference in London were told on Tuesday."


    We disagree on what the definition of open source "prosperity" is. Phipps, as a executive, is thinking entirely in terms of financial prosperity.But what's valuable for Phipps isn't necessarily valuable for open source. In other words, open source's value lies not in the revenues it earns(though that may be what makes it valuable to the private sector), but in the degree to which it is truly open. It is valuable because its sole concern is making available useful products that anyone - not just companies - can modify to suit their needs. As such, it doesn't obey any rigid economic rules or favor any particular economic entity. It is agile, and adapts to many different market circumstances.

    I'm not entirely sure, but I think that Phipps' argument here is dangerous for open source. "Connected self-interest" is not something that easily preserves openness. If we take his advice, I see open source gradually being appropriated by private entities to the extent that it becomes indistinguishable from a proprietary product to the outsider. Most corporations tend towards proprietarizing - it fits into a basic principle of capitalism(ownership). This has always been the case, and it runs in direct opposition to the openness which open source seeks to preserve. In any case, until intellectual property and licensing laws are revised, it will be very difficult to achieve the vision for open source of "connected capitalism" that Phipps has, since he seems to be ignoring the whole element of market *competition* and why it creates concerns over what constitutes private property.Open source may be a part of how companies make revenue, but open source *itself* should remain mostly independent and non-profit. That's the only way to preserve its openness, IMHO.
  • What lessons? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @05:33PM (#15624206)
    Urging the open source community to look to the lessons of capitalism

    Now what lessons would those be? Sacrificing quality to meet shipping schedules? Or butchering established standards to ensure that competing products cannot interoperate? Or ignoring security fixes to disable the latest workaround to copy protection because the first only protects customers and their data while the latter increases company profits?

    Phipps called for "volunteerism" to be replaced with "directed self-interest"

    He is ignoring the fact that any participation in open source is directed self-interest. Keeping myself free is a self-interest; keeping my computer and its abilities under my control is a self-interest; being able to design hardware and write software free of all the shlock mentioned above is a self-interest. Working as a wage-slave for some company that will pay me pennies but make millions from my designs is volunteerism of the basest sort.
    • Re:What lessons? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by khallow (566160)

      Now what lessons would those be? Sacrificing quality to meet shipping schedules? Or butchering established standards to ensure that competing products cannot interoperate? Or ignoring security fixes to disable the latest workaround to copy protection because the first only protects customers and their data while the latter increases company profits?

      I don't really have a stake in this argument. But I'd say that you have just pointed out a number of ways open source has already listened to capitalism.

  • EULAs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Effugas (2378) * on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:13PM (#15624457) Homepage
    Closed source has a far bigger anti-capitalist problem with EULAs (name a car that limits where you can drive it) than Open source will ever have.

    The assertion that a EULA can be indefinitely scoped is the most unbounded liability in the entire product marketplace.

    --Dan
  • typical Sun spin (Score:3, Insightful)

    by m874t232 (973431) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:13PM (#15624464)
    In real life, open source has almost always been driven by self interest; people and companies don't invest years in developing software unless there is open source. That is true even for RMS: his philosophy is the result of self-interest and bad experiences with proprietary software.

    But Phipps is wrong when he generically says "there is nothing wrong with self-interest". Con-men act in self-interest, but their actions are not beneficial to society at large. And, in fact, Sun's misrepresentation of the Java licenses and the JCP are an example of how, if you fail to balance your self-interest with ethical behavior, you end up screwing your customers and hurting the community; Sun's self-interest has amounted to establishing a proprietary platform by pretending that it's open, and extracting hundreds of man-years of contributions to a proprietary platform under the false pretense that what these people are creating is "open".

    As Sun's business keeps going down the toilet, you can expect more and more of this kind of spin from Schwartz, Phipps, and the other talking heads at Sun. It's clever of them to have their "open source officer" make these statements and attempt to reinforce the stereotype of open source developers as anti-capitalist dreamers. Phipps only needs to look at his company's failing business to see how much open source means business. I'm really looking forward to that company closing its doors.
  • by Quiberon (633716) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:40PM (#15624607) Journal
    That's what the section title says in my Yellow Pages, and roughly corresponds to what my employer sells. The related services are ...
    • Use of hardware to run it on.
    • Tailoring of the software to make it do exactly what a client business wants.
    • A warranty that it will be fixed if it is found to be broken.
    • People to keep the whole supporting the client's business.
    • Consultancy to advise a client business on how to best go about achieving what it is constituted to do; whether 'software' is a part of the solution at all, and if so what kind of software.

      Sometimes he sells the software, which is a bit like selling a copy of a textbook.

      And sometimes the software is free; that's more like an exercise book.

      It's usually the warranty; the proposition that my employer will move heaven and earth to keep a client up and running, if he has paid the insurance premium; that's the valuable part.

  • by asuffield (111848) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @08:17PM (#15625048)
    Read the article carefully. He isn't saying that "open source" can learn from capitalism. He's giving the usual speech from corporations that don't get it: we want you to stop being idealists and do things our way instead, because that will make us richer.

    ...Simon Phipps, said that open source had been focused for too long on sharing code instead of what he called "the enrichment of the commons"


    He clearly means that it should be okay to not 'share' code as long as the commons is 'enriched'. This is an argument for proprietary software, thinly cloaked. My bet is that he's thinking of licenses that say "You can look at the source code and modify it to fix bugs for your use, and even distribute those bug fixes, but you may not use it to produce a product that competes with ours" - sure, it's better than what they used to offer, but it is just not good enough. It's not free software, it's slightly less painful proprietary software. It's Java - join their developer program and you can see the code, and submit bug fixes, but you can't share the code with anybody.

    Expanding on his message, Phipps said that the message of open source was that "creating and maintaining a completely independent code base was ultimately self-defeating".

    Instead, the future was in co-operation and in organisations preserving what was ultimately of value to them.


    Here he's arguing that people shouldn't be reimplementing Java (as kaffe, sablevm, etc), but instead 'cooperating' with Sun and working on Sun's proprietary implementation of it. That's what this is probably all about. Sun don't want to release Java as free software, they just want the community to help them develop it.

    The message here is: free software is bad, stop doing it because we don't want to play and that means competing implementations which is bad for everyone.

    Even the anti-freedom 'pragmatists' would have to admit that it's not really a very convincing message. Creating and maintaining a completely independent code base is, all else aside, ensuring that there is always competition so Sun will continue having to work to stay ahead of them.
    • by WebMink (258041) <slashdot AT webmink DOT net> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:54AM (#15626500) Homepage

      I am fascinated by the words you are putting into my mouth here. The things you claim I said are pretty much the opposite of what I believe - I suppose that's what happens when you use reported speech from a clueless journalist as truth. The journalist really didn't understand what I was saying.

      He clearly means that it should be okay to not 'share' code as long as the commons is 'enriched'.

      Absolutely not. In the talk I explain clearly that those who do not share their work lose out. Keeping source to yourself benefits no-one and the whole point of that part of the talk was to explain why attempting to withhold work from the community was a mistake.

      Here he's arguing that people shouldn't be reimplementing Java (as kaffe, sablevm, etc), but instead 'cooperating' with Sun and working on Sun's proprietary implementation of it.

      Absolutely wrong. See above.

      The message here is: free software is bad, stop doing it because we don't want to play and that means competing implementations which is bad for everyone.

      It's hard to see how you possibly be further from my view. If I thought free software was bad, I would not have licensed the OpenOffice.org source under LGPL, for example, and I would not be directing the staff at Sun to take Sun's entire software portfolio open source.

  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @08:17PM (#15625052) Journal
    This guy wasn't telling open source people to become more capitalist, he was telling capitalist people to do more open source. What he said was to stop thinking of open source as volunteerism and start thinking of it as self-interest -- that is, don't release source because it makes you feel good, release source because it's in your best interest.

"Be *excellent* to each other." -- Bill, or Ted, in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

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