Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
GNU is Not Unix

For The Love Of Open Source 252

Jim Madison writes: "Is the open source movement about the joy of hacking? The latest edition of FirstMonday has an interesting academic study that says "No!", it is only natural in our traditional political economy that software be developed with public funding in the safety of academia when the markets are immature. Have moved into a post-scarcity gift culture or is the report correct that open source uses and needs the subsidy of public investment to grow within traditional industrial capitalism?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

For The Love Of Open Source

Comments Filter:
  • Mostly seem to be in central Europe, Canada, and Australia. Why is that? Is it that the more "leftist" governments are prone to "commie" software :-)? Quite an interesting thing.
    • Free software is no more "communism" than, say, commercial software (by which I mean the Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle, etc. business model) is "fascism," or the academic (e.g. BSD) model is "theocracy." Using terms which invoke the suffering and death of millions of people to argue about software isn't just absurd; it insults the memory of those who suffered and died under the real thing. People who call Linux "commie software" ought to try living in Cuba or the PRC for a while to learn what real communism is like.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Great, you can scring a bunch of poly-sci terms together. Congratulations. We all bow to your wisdom. Now, could you say something (preferably in english) that actually makes sense?
    • If I can't read a certain piece of code and accuse the author for the mistake of writing something which is incomprehensible to me, I'm the idiot; not him.

      So here you are, too poorly educated to make sense of perfectly understandable expressions used in the article. You're the idiot, not him.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10, 2001 @05:33PM (#2684051)
    I've asked a lot of people and it seems to me that most people who evangelize and use OSS are using it because OSS projects are usually (but not always) free software (as in free beer not free-dom). Why did Loki fall into trouble? Because the million linux kids out there use linux because its free of cost and wouldn't spend a dime to keep a great company alive. As such, I think OSS is failing...
    • I've asked a lot of people and it seems to me that most people who evangelize and use OSS are using it because OSS projects are usually (but not always) free software (as in free beer not free-dom)

      You may be right. But the article asks:

      Have [we] moved into a post-scarcity gift culture or is the report correct that open source uses and needs the subsidy of public investment to grow within traditional industrial capitalism?

      The question is not about why people use open source software, it's about why people develop open source software.
  • ...of everything decent and holy! At least make it readable for us idiots that speak the English language half-way decently!:

    "Have moved into a post-scarcity gift culture or is the report correct that open source uses and needs the subsidy of public investment to grow within traditional industrial capitalism?"

  • by Artifice_Eternity ( 306661 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @05:34PM (#2684057) Homepage
    I'm no economist, and can't pretend to have fully understood the technical jargon in this piece. (But that won't stop me from posting about it on Slashdot... ;) )

    It seems to me there are two factors in the creation of open source projects:
    • Need/desire, and
    • Opportunity.

    Many open source programmers (Linus, the guy who started PHP, and others) say they set out simply to "scratch an itch." This is the desire/need that underlies so much of what's been done...a small number of individuals who have a burning idea, and who start making it happen for their own reasons.

    But not all programmers are free to spend endless time and money on their pet ideas. If you have a very tolerant and generous employer or a lot of free time (and no spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend), I guess that helps. But it also helps if you are working in an environment -- university, gov. agency, etc. -- where the prevailing values support your work.

    I.e., in a for-profit company, you are unlikely to get official recognition/resources for your open source work. But in an academic or government setting, where profit is less important than the usefulness of the software, you may well be able to pursue your personal "itch" with the backing of the institution.

    Just my $0.02...
    • >It seems to me there are two factors in the creation of open source projects:
      • Need/desire, and
      • Opportunity

      You are forgetting one _very_ important factor:

      It's not a definite factor but without it nobody would program for an open source project if it was a drag, boring or something else negative?

      Why do you think Linus is still plugging away at the Linux kernel? Not because he's absolutely needed, but because he likes to do it.

      Prove me wrong: show me a developer who is part of a open source project who absolutely despises the project he/she's working on. My bet is you won't find one.

      • Why do you think Linus is still plugging away at the Linux kernel? Not because he's absolutely needed, but because he likes to do it.

        In other words, he finds it desirable. I would include that under "need/desire."
      • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @06:11PM (#2684264) Homepage
        The article quotes Eric Raymond,
        • "The 'utility function' Linux hackers are maximizing is not classically economic, but is the intangible [product] of their own ego satisfaction and reputation among other hackers."
        and then says
        • While this may be a rational-choice explanation (it seems to assume that individuals are goal-oriented actors who rank-order their preferences), it is far from an economic one [5]. By portraying developers as driven at least in part by "intangible" desires, Raymond undermines the most critical assumption of classical theory: that all actions have a quantifiable opportunity cost, and that individuals can consequently act in ways that maximize their material welfare [6]. In other words, although his argument is couched in the language of economics, Raymond implicitly suggests that open source development occurs outside of the market.

        In other words, if Linus Torvalds says he does it just for fun, he must be lying because fun is hard for an economist to quantify. Likewise if Eric Raymond says he does it for ego, he must be lying, based on the same reasoning. Personally, I write open-source textbooks because I hated all the choices from the big publishers -- my motivation is my own professional satisfaction and maximizing the enjoyment of the work I do as a teacher. But don't believe me. I must be lying, because professional satisfaction and enjoyment are hard for economists to measure.

        If we don't want to admit that fun is an economic motivator, then why do people go to Las Vegas to gamble? They lose money on the average, but the point is that it's fun.

        The author doesn't make his point very clearly, but he seems to be saying that there is more open-source development per capita outside the US because programmers in the US can make loads of money, so they want to do that instead of relaxing with a nice free software project. OK, so there are differences in the amounts of money lost by doing free software, but what do these people gain by doing free software? The author only seems to want to talk about the loss, because the gain is cultural and personal, and hard to measure. But if he believes the gain doesn't exist, then why doesn't open-source software development cease immediately?

        • In other words, if Linus Torvalds says he does it just for fun, he must be lying because fun is hard for an economist to quantify. Likewise if Eric Raymond says he does it for ego, he must be lying, based on the same reasoning.

          That's not what he's saying at all.
          As I read it he's criticizing ESR by saying that he tried presenting the rise of the open source movement as an economic theory, when the factors ESR introduces are completely cultural. He also puts forward the completely rational view that too many scholars accept ESR's thesis uncritically. ESR doesn't just say that HE writes software for the ego boost, he says that's the primary goal of ALL hackers. Trying to interpret his criticism of that as an ad-hominem attack just doesn't make sense.
    • It seems to me that the hypothesis of the gift culture and the findings of this study are entirely compatible. This research does not show, as it author seems to be suggesting, that "scratching an itch" is not the primary motivation for free software development. Rather, it shows that this motivation does not trump traditional economics.

      How many people do you know who would work on projects X, Y, and Z ... if only they had a bit more time, or wouldn't be giving up tremendous potential income if they did...? How many times have you thought that yourself?
      • It seems to me that the hypothesis of the gift culture and the findings of this study are entirely compatible. This research does not show, as it author seems to be suggesting, that "scratching an itch" is not the primary motivation for free software development. Rather, it shows that this motivation does not trump traditional economics.

        Very well put. First you have to eat... then you worry about the particulars. Academia is a traditional haven for activities that don't have any other immediate economic return, but seem worthwhile to someone.

        Remember, though, that producing Free Software is not by any means the only expression of this, even among computer programmers. Much commercial software has its roots in academic work which was closed instead of opened.

        • A more important observation he is making is that you are more likely to proprietize the code if you can make money doing so; otherwise, you're more likely to leave it open. So the US, which far outstrips Europe in per-capita IT spending, lags behind Europe in per-capita open source development.
  • by psyklopz ( 412711 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @05:35PM (#2684060)
    you can't label it as being done purely for joy or purely for economic reasons.

    some people do it for the love of the art.

    some people do it to make a political statement about our economic system.

    some people do it as pure research to benefit the body of knowledge in the software development field.

    to try to say that all open source software is done for reason X is a little shortsighted.

    It's precisely that type of linear thinking that makes other people say 'open source is communism' or 'open source can be taken seriously because it's done as a hobby'.

    as with anything in life, the motivations for any one movement are so complex that pinning them down is something of an impossible task.
    • However, you can note that in one country, 60% of the work is being done for pleasure, 20% for scratching an itch, and 20% for other reasons, while in another country, those same distributions are 30%, 50%, and 20%. And then you can make observations about the amount of development done in those countries and the different factors behind them. Oh, that's what the writer did, isn't it?
    • ...or more particularly the melange of software development. (-:

      Thinking about this should give one great confidence in OSS's ability to weather Microsoft's attacks, since in order to win they need to destroy all of the contributing factors.

      This becomes a really hard thing to do when many motivating factors turn out to contradict (e.g. some people contribute for fun, others because they have to (work not fun) in order to make something that they need work; some people use it 'coz it's free, others couldn't care less about the price; some like it for its disregard of borders, others like it because of significant local content; sometimes being on the bleeding edge attracts, sometimes stability is the drawcard).

      Pinning down your own reasons isn't that hard, cataloging them all might be a different story. I like OS for a wide variety of reasons, but mostly for the ability to tinker with it.

  • Hmmmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @05:40PM (#2684088) Journal
    I _think_ his argument is that free software developers are motivated not by altruism, as journalists frequently claim, or by the desire for ego gratification, as Eric Raymond frequently states (in his typically pretentious way and frequently including the suggestion that coding can get you laid) but by economic self-interest. Working on free projects can help create a reputation and a portfolio that can help you make money, and developers in countries who are forgoing less money by concentrating on free projects therefore are more likely to do so.

    Interestingly, he picked GNOME and Linux as the projects to analyze -- had he used KDE instead of GNOME the numbers would have come out much more strongly in favor of his hypothesis.

    I dunno, though -- I do it for fun, not because I expect any financial gain from it.

    • I don't necessarily do it for fun, I do it because I'm very nitpicky. I will rarely start up a project of my own, but I'm always glad to send in a few patches for others, especially when it boils down to little things that are often thrown on the back burner. I tend to mop up all those specks of brain dust.
    • People have been publishing things as long as there has been writing. Their motives have spanned from public interest to concealed private interest to crass comercial writing. All motives have produced their share of worthwhile works.

      The only difference between now, movable press, and a room full of monks is the cost involved. Lower costs made comercial publishing for entertainment possible. Now it's making it a difficult proposition again.

      Oh well. Lately, it's the publishers that have enjoyed the proffits at the expense of the artist. Once upon a time someone like Poe could open up a magazine of his own and almost make a living at it. Hemingway, Thompson and others managed to get by. These days, forget it. Warner Brothers vrs. the author of Harry Potter, who's got the profits? When then the comercial rewards have become so poor, why not just give your work away? I've always enjoyed the works of love better anyhow. Hesiod, Homer, Virgil, Dante, RMS.

      The danger comes from those who would keep you from sharing to protect their interests. This has happened before, but never on such a wide scale as popular culture. In the west, the church has fought specific puclications on natural philosophy and governments have fought political tracts. Today, however, many people can only hum tunes sold to them by five music publishers, have images placed into their heads by four different media giants, and so their very hopes and dreams forged by a small number of corporate interests. As these attack all forms of knowledge trasmision, including Public [] Libraries [], private devices [] even private thoughts [], and we might do best to avoid helping those who would tax us. Why not preferentially use free works?

      • Oh well. Lately, it's the publishers that have enjoyed the proffits at the expense of the artist.

        Nope, that's been the case for much of history. In fact that's why copyright was originally invented.. So that the author (artist) himmself could control distribution of his works rather than being ripped of by a pirates, fakes, and imitators. It's also worth considering that most works of art are created for money. Read a bio of Leonardo Da Vinci sometime and see how often he jumped ship to someone who would pay better.

        Once upon a time someone like Poe could open up a magazine of his own and almost make a living at it.

        Then like now very, very, few small scale business ventures make a living for their creators. That Poe was an exception speaks for his talent rather than anything else. (There are many small presses in the US that provide a very nice living for their owners and authors however.)

        Hemingway, Thompson and others managed to get by. These days, forget it. Warner Brothers vrs. the author of Harry Potter, who's got the profits?

        Oh? King and Clancy and Michner (who endowed an entire school) and Heat-Moon and Foster and (on and on) haven't made money in gobs? They have, as has J.K. Rowling (Henry Potter).

        When then the comercial rewards have become so poor, why not just give your work away?

        When rants are so cheap, why buy clues and research facts?
    • I code for fun, reputation, and to scratch an itch. I'd rather code than play games or watch tv. I enjoy knowing people are downloading and using my code and love feedback. I enjoy watching the download statistics for my newest releases. I always want to do new things and experiment so I do. I never buy software I write my own that does exactly what I want and again lets me enjoy myself while making it.

      I do put my code on my resume but thus far it's never made a difference for me so I do it mostly to show off. I'd love to be paid to write opensourced software and would love someone to like my work enough to make donations but that is not why I do it. Even when I've had a good job I've still written opensourced software. It is true that I've been more active since being unemployed but that is directly related to the amount of free time I've had to scratch itches and keep myself busy. I hope it does help me find a job but I think that sending resumes out is more effective than coding.. but coding is more fun. :)

      This was an interesting article and I'd like to see deeper studies that included other opensourced projects. I strongly suspect that the U.S. would have a high number of new projects as we've always been creative as a nation. I also suspect that if you broke us down into states and drew a line between hacker-types and visual basic weenies that our numbers would be much more interesting. You also should consider how strong capitalism is here and how strong the internal battle sometimes is between our giving nature and our greed. Take 9-11 as an example. Billions of dollars and lots of time have been given to help those harmed. At the same time you have lots of companies trying to cash in by getting government gifts, selling patriotic crap, and trying to make people think that buying makes them more American. More so than any other country America is buried into capitalism so it makes plenty sense that while many of us are generous and giving we also have a strong materialistic side.
  • I only do it because it turns me on. The way those letters roll on the monitor while I'm typing, so sensual :) And how about that Shell? Simply gorgeous.
  • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @05:41PM (#2684094) Journal
    I agree that academia tends to support open source software, which has several reasons, in my experience. Firstly, academics are accustomed to peer review, and are comfortable with the notion that inspection by an independent expert tends to improve research. Secondly, academics' livelihoods depends directly on the scientific and not the commercial significance of their work. Most academics have an awareness that their salary is paid for by the generosity of government and industry, who (usually) don't expect anything specific in return; this leads to a desire to give something tangible back (such as the software that results from a research project). Finally, it is usually true that the software produced by academics is not important in itself; instead, it is the idea behind the software that academics want to promulgate; releasing the source code is the quickest way to spreading this idea.

    Personally, I release my simulation software in the hope that another researcher continuing my work won't have to waste six months writing his/her own software from scratch.

    • I agree totally. Academics may support open/free software and academics create free spftware, but the most popular free software projects today are just (higher quality) rip offs of well know commercial projects.. with the one execption of emacs and it's hardly new today.

      Heck, popular free software dose not even copy good academic projects because the author is not really up to date on hot research. I would say that Jobbs is the most likely person to deploy a real new idea today.. and his are not even noticed by the main stream geek culture. Microsoft has firmly staked a claim to buzzword compliance and Linux seems happy to adopt the buzzwords too, but that hardly counts as innovative new technology.
  • Well, if I had a job where I had to read articles like that I would most certainly pick up writing encryption algorithms as a diversion that I can understand.
    • I think this article makes very easy reading--maybe because I'm an academic too. There is a tradition on Slashdot that people who reveal their pathetic ignorance of technical matters get flamed, and we all think they had it coming. In the interest of fairness, we should extend that privilidge to people who reveal their pathetic ignorance of the methods and language in social sciences.
  • Hmmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chundra ( 189402 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @05:43PM (#2684108)
    I could be wrong, but I swear this article was "written" by the Postmodernism generator [].

    • Or perhaps you have trouble dealing with topics outside your expertise.

      This paper was not written in po-mo babble, it's straightforward and reasonable. It's just dealing in a complex way with things that we usually deal with by taking for granted. Instead of parroting the platitudes that the topic usually get (I can't believe that would-be computer scientists are so comfortable bandying about anecdotes instead of data) he looked at the numbers and made causation/correlation observations that usually get glossed over.

    • Yes, this is not Harry Potter. It's a light but serious academic piece. So you might actually need a well-rounded education before everything about it makes sense to you, but it's not the author's fault you don't have one.
  • The raw data (Score:4, Insightful)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @05:48PM (#2684135) Homepage Journal
    Since many will post without actually reading the study, everyone should note that the raw data came only from the kernel and GNOME. I doubt that kernel+GNOME developers make up the majority of open source developers. And I wouldn't consider it an accurate sample set of developer's either. Kernel hackers are a special breed, to say the least. And GNOME developers certainly don't completely encompass the average application developer, such as command-line, internet, or just plain x-window.

    I'm an open source application developer (in my personal time), and find this study does not at all include my perspective. Obviously I'm not the majority, but I think it's missing a lot.
    • Re:The raw data (Score:3, Informative)

      by nomadic ( 141991 )
      If you read the whole thing, he does address that point:
      Selecting case studies in an ad hoc fashion is counterproductive. Cases should only be selected which best represent the phenomenon under investigation. In this case - since we are evaluating the empirical validity of challenges to economic theory - the critical projects are those most universally cited as proof of non-economic rationality on the part of developers.
      The point wasn't to pick programmers who represent the entire open source movement, but those whose actions (seemingly) contradict contemporary economic theory.
  • Well, duh. (Score:2, Funny)

    by athakur999 ( 44340 )
    It is important to fully evolve to the correct paradigm when thinking outside of the box. How will we ever fully synthesize the correct model for stabilizing the algorithm for a disruptive system?
  • No way (Score:5, Insightful)

    by conan_albrecht ( 446296 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @05:50PM (#2684145)
    This discussion comes up on Slashdot every couple of months or so.

    The article's assumptions might be true for some people, but there are still many, many people who still develop out of love for doing something useful. In fact, there are probably more today because the Internet has allowed people to contribute and connect that never could before. The network effect has been made possible by the Internet.

    I develop open source software because, yes, I do love it and I want to do something useful. One of the primary reasons I got a PhD and live an academic life is so I can do this and still support my family. I have must students contribute to my projects as part of their assignments, as well. Many of them have gotten the open source bug and are contributing now as well.

    I develop open source because:

    1. I don't want to support it. Let people find usefulness in it. Let them contribute as well. But I don't want to spend 80 percent of my waking hours solving naive questions.

    2. I don't want the risk that comes with marketing software for money. I don't want to risk my livelihood by starting a business to support my software, either. Really marketing something takes 3-5 good years of your life to do it right, and it involves risk.

    3. Yes, I like to help people and I benefit from what they contribute. I'm not anal about having to have GNU software only, but I do support what they do. I feel like I am giving back to the common pool when I develop open source apps.

    4. I am not a competitive person. In fact, I absolutely dislike it. I prefer to develop a useful app to the best of my abilities. I find joy in the fact that if someone else solves the same problem I do, we can e-mail each other and combine our efforts and be friendly to each other rather than compete and try to drive one another out of business. Everyone benefits when we work together.

    Disclaimer: I am not socialist. I love free and open economies. IMHO, competitive business economies are the best thing we've come up with yet. They keep people honest. But in those economies, there is plenty of room for community-welfare ideas as well.
    • 1. I don't want to support it. Let people find usefulness in it. Let them contribute as well. But I don't want to spend 80 percent of my waking hours solving naive questions.

      Which is why OSS has not made the inroads it's proponents hope for. Most computer users, while not naive, are not programmers. They don't want/have the time to unravel the program in order to use it.
  • by jamesl ( 106902 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @05:50PM (#2684146)
    I've always seen parallels between people who contribute to open source projects and people who build their own airplanes, boats and cars. They get pleasure from creating something useful or beautiful. The pleasure is enhanced by sharing it with others, receiving positive feedback and belonging to a group.

    Some manage to convert their hobby into a business, occasionally a thriving business. Sometimes they make an important contribution to the field. Mostly, they just enjoy creating and sharing.

    This is not a topic for economic analysis. This is not a topic for any kind of analysis. It is something that is rewarding to its participants and that's enough for them.
  • Meta /. Comment (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Baba Abhui ( 246789 )
    (Blanket assertion about the inherent superiority of free/open-source software)

    [Optional rant about how author personally will stick with free/open-source software come what may]

    (Cheap, yet not undeserved shot at a large, famous software company (guess who!))

    (Angry rant about unfair biz practices of aforementioned company)

    (Random mispelling due to unusable nature of free/open-source spell checker)

    [Optional signature that you've seen before]
  • It's hidden way down in the footnotes!

    21. Critics of KDE focused in particular on its reliance on the QT library, which was not wholly free at the time of initial Gnome development, although it has since been released into the public domain. It seems reasonable to speculate that Gnome development influenced the decision of QT developers to release their software under a general public license.

  • Is the open source movement about the joy of hacking? The latest edition of FirstMonday has an interesting academic study that says "No!"

    If this is the question the statisticians had in mind when composing the study, then they started from a logically flawed position. This study supposes an either-or dichotomy, which is not atypical of this type of study. A good deal of open-source work, according to those who work it, is done for altruistic reasons, even if there are [potential] commercial benefits. For instance, getting Winmodems to work in Linux isn't going to spawn another .com company [probably] but there is economic incentive in that people with winmodems wouldn't have to purchase regular modems if they could get their winmodems to work.

    Moral of story, open source development done for the reasons of economic benefit or open source development done for reasons of pleasure are not necessarily mutually-exclusive entities. There is more often than not a middle road, wherein it seems the majority of developer's intentions lie.
  • To me, at least, the OpenSource seems to be the magic solution to the getting all three of: Better, Faster, Cheaper.

    For the most part, if I'm interested in substance and functionality over glitz, OpenSource projects have what I want -- with the added benefit that if it isn't precisely what I want, I can fix that. If there's a problem, it usually gets noticed and fixed sooner. Authors take pride in their work, as their very name and reputation is attached. And amazingly enough, all this comes at a very low price tag.

    That doesn't say that OpenSource comes at no cost. The economics are slightly different. To be a consumer in this market, I have to have about the same amount of knowledge in my head about how my computer worked when I was running DOS back in the '80s. I recognize my computer is not a do-all appliance with pre-canned solutions I have to accept or not use. I can mold it to my will... and surprisingly with relatively little effort. OpenSource lets me venture into the realm of the unexplored if I so choose, or I can stay well within my comfort zone.

    On the flip side, to be a contributor, I recognize I may never get rich directly from my contributions. However, I can get noticed. I can get famous. I can get appreciated. I can be worth more to my employer, whether from experience or name recognition.

    It's personally rewarding, providing personal growth, a sense of community, and is fun to boot. I've yet to get this experience out off a sealed package off the shelf.

    If you're the type of person who find yourself doing a View Source when you visit an interesting website, then you've got enough of a streak of curiosity to survive consuming OpenSource.

    With familiarity and tmie, it's easy to contribute. Contributions don't have to be just code. They can be suggesting ideas, reporting bugs, play testing, or even proof reading.

    • To me, at least, the OpenSource seems to be the magic solution to the getting all three of: Better, Faster, Cheaper.

      For the first two, I'd add "if you're lucky enough to attract interest from competent people." Not that this isn't true for proprietary software.
  • A PhD candidate who starts his discussion of open source with Eric Raymond's 1998 book clearly has a superficial view of the subject. He needs to go back through the history of academic software prior to the Bayh-Dole act. He needs to study the vendor-oriented organizations of mainframe customers (SHARE, GUIDE, USE, DECUS, USENIX). He needs to look at the early history of personal computing. And he needs to look at the policies of the ACM on sharing academic software as they changed over time.

    Most of what this guy has written could have been hacked together by any literate Slashdot reader.

    And he needs to provide a color key for his maps.

    • It looks fine to me; all you have to is read the abstract. This isn't a grand attempt to describe the history of the open source movement, it's a questioning of an assumption that ESR made and most other scholars accepted uncritically (which is why ESR's work is so prominent in the article). He's simply saying that classical economic theory might hold true where ESR and the rest of the OS proponents claim it fails.
      • Quite right, but even in this limited endeavor, it seems to me that much of his evidence was pretty equivocal. In any case, he's right about the lack of questioning behind ESR's naive thesis, and this does advance the debate. I'd like to see a response in the same style, footnotes and all.
  • It's no surprise that free/open source software thrives in the academic community, and is treated with suspicion by the business community.

    Software companies make their money by selling copies of software. Obviously, for a software company to make money, it can't give away its primary product. Otherwise, it won't make money! Duh!

    Academic institutions, on the other hand, make their money not by selling products, but by selling access to their prestigious programs/courses/professors/faculty in the form of tuition. A university can give away computer source code written by its faculty and staff, because they make their money not by selling software, but by attracting students, and creating incentives for those students to spend ever increasing amounts of tuition money to attend the institution.

    The way that professors build their reputation and prestige is by having their work published openly in peer-reviewed journals. This leads to tenure, job security, and, in the long run, career satisfaction. Gift Culture, Schmift Culture. The correct term is "publish or perish", and university scientists don't make their money on sales of their research papers.

    So why is it so mysterious and incomprehensible (to Eric Raymond, at least) that young computer programmers, fresh out of four years of immersion in the university "publication = prestige" culture, would be interested in openly publishing their programming work for peer review? No mysterious "gift culture" convolutions are necessary to explain things. Just the understanding that some business ventures produce software as a primary product for sale. Others produce software as a by-product, and actually benefit in giving it away by increased sales of their primary product.

    Boring old capitalism.
  • Typical academic economist. Always saying what everyone else already knows. Let's get a real working stiff economist in there and we'll get some real analysis.

    Why do people work on Open Source projects?

    Because they are self-interested individuals. They do it because it's fun, they need the program/fix/feature and no one has written it yet, they figured out a way to sucker folks out of their money with free-beer software, they get paid to do so, or someone has duped them into thinking they can get paid to do so. And a million other reasons besides. But it all boils down to: if there is no perceived benefit to the coder, they won't work on the project. Period.
  • Gee... (Score:2, Funny)

    by iplayfast ( 166447 )
    and here I was doing it for the fun! Guess I'll have to stop now.

  • There's too much of a rush to justify Open Source. Just looking through the responses here shows that. Most of the justifications are self-serving and romantic. It's great and all to talk about scratching itches, millions of eyes, and survival of the fittest, but those are not what make or break programs. Think about it: Is some middling coding-job from a bored 17 year old with no software engineering experience whatsoever going to be more significant just because the source is available? That's overly cynical, but there's truth in there.

    Also remember that very few people give a damn about open source. People who *use* programs sure don't (read: "the 99.9% of Windows users and the 99% of Linux users that are not programmers"). I'm a programmer who works on large (usually commercial) projects. I only looked at the gcc source once, just to see what it was like, and besides being repulsed at the verbosity of the code, it made no difference to me. I'm not going to hack up hundreds of thousands of lines of code without understanding the architecture.

    Open source is a small issue, but it's still the path of least resistance. If 99% or more people don't give a hoot about the source, you might as well ship it because it's easier than being paranoid about trade secrets. But there's no reason to endlessly rant about the new economy and sticking it to the man and all that. How boring can you get?
  • We are Marxists (Score:4, Insightful)

    by XBL ( 305578 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @06:23PM (#2684329)
    Hasn't it been obvious? Open-source developers are Marxists, working towards a common good, trying to move software development along to benefit everyone.

    If Carl Marx were alive today, he would probably be astounded. His ideas have lead to failed societies, and much suffering. Yet his ideas prevail among a group of geeks working in capitalists societies, collaborating all over the world.

    I think that it's only possible to be a partial Marxist. I develop open-source software because other people are developing software that I use for free. They use mine for free in return. However every other aspect of my life is capitalist, and I am cool with that.

    One thing that will be interesting is to see how open-source affects the software industry over the long term. States are proposing that Microsoft spill out the source code for some of their products, and also Micrsoft has the lame shared source thing going on. These are baby steps towards a big revolution, IMHO.
    • You can find the Project Gutenberg version of Marx's Communist Manifesto here [].

      The trouble with referencing Marx - well, one of the troubling things - is that you implicitly invoke an association with any number of unsavory ideas he had, in addition to anything valid he may have said. For example, I'll quote a bit:

      Our bourgeois, not content with having the wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other's wives.

      Bourgeois marriage is in reality a system of wives in common and thus, at the most, what the Communists might possibly be reproached with,
      is that they desire to introduce, in substitution for a hypocritically concealed, an openly legalised community of women. For the rest, it is self-evident that the abolition of the present system of production must bring with it the abolition of the community of women springing from that system, i.e., of prostitution both public and private.

      There are plenty of other interesting tidbids to be had as well. In other words, it might just be best to let the old boy Marx rest in peace.
    • That's "Carl Marks", not "Carl Marx". Can't you spel, you idiot?
    • I'm having a hard time figuring out how much of your post is meant seriously, but it is interesting to consider whether and how open source is anticapitalist.

      Although Marx was pretty pathetic if judged in modern scientific terms, he did have at least one good insight, which is that historical development determines what kind of economy you can have. You can quibble with his classification of feudal/capitalist/socialist, but it's certainly true that your average peasant of millenia past could never have conceived of going to the library and reading Consumer Reports to decide what kind of refrigerator to buy. Capitalism isn't a natural phenomenon -- it had to be invented, and someday it may become obsolete. Maybe the free information movement is a sign of something like this, although I don't think I'll really see it in historical perspective in my own lifetime.

      Another important thing to realize is that even after the advent of capitalism, there have always been pockets of noncapitalism. No, hippies didn't invent the concept of a commune in the 60's -- it goes back at least to 1920's-era anarcho-syndicalism. Then you have the shakers, the amish, the amanas, etc. So even if the talk of "the new economy" is overblown, that doesn't mean the whole world and everyone in it is behaving like some kind of textbook idealization of capitalist economics.

      BTW, on the off chance that the parent post was really meant seriously...sorry, nope. Marx conceived of a dictatorship of the proletariat, not a let-it-all-hang-out, find-your-own-bliss nonconformist hippie-hacker paradise. He also theorized that capitalism would be destroyed by its own internal contradictions: as the poor got poorer and the rich got richer, increasing class antagonism would result in revolution, led by the factory workers, who are the most politically advanced part of the proletariat. Even if you want to argue that his prediction came true in some cases, I hardly think kernel hackers fit the profile.

  • Laziness (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zutroy ( 542820 )
    I release software open source because of laziness and fear of angry mob reprisal. It's time-consuming to try to get software published, and if I tried to release the software as shareware, I'd have to publish my address, or get a PO Box.

    The ego boost you get from people telling you how much they like your software ain't bad either.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...throws doubt on the Schumpeterian assumption...

    (fscking lameness filter.)

    This study is not about the motivations or economic implications of open source.

    Neither is it about our "having moved into a post-scarcity gift culture".

    Face it. I bet you 20$ that the author just really wanted to use the word "Schumpeterian" in a research document. (and maybe to have it posted to slashdot.)

    (Seriosuly, can you imagine someone beign named Mr. Schumpet? Sounds like a promo character for a cookie company.)
  • I said this a couple of weeks ago. OSS programmers develop because OSS programmers want the recognition and the prestige of having written something 'kewl'. This is meaningless prestige in the real world, but to the academic halls and places where they live, it means something.

    It's like doing things for 'school spirit' in high school - means nothing after you graduate, but it's the world you're in at the time.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with this, if that's what you choose, but don't think that one hierarchical structure is inherently better than another. Linus or RMS are at the top of the OSS totem pole, just like the captain of the football team was at the top of the high school totem pole.

    Humans are followers and tend to latch onto leaders and examples, it's as simple as that. I do it, you do it, your mom and dad do it.
  • by vscjoe ( 537452 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @06:30PM (#2684361)
    Sustainable open-source development is driven by simple, hard-nosed economic considerations and cost-benefit considerations. Given that almost all the costs in commercial software development are due to marketing, distribution, and testing, rather than development, it shouldn't be hard even for an ecnonomist to figure out why it makes economic sense for people to develop, and support the development of, open source software.

    Commercial software companies are an inefficient means to avoid the tragedy of the commons for a good that otherwise costs essentially nothing for the public to enjoy. But with software, as opposed to many other goods, it turns out that development costs are so low that the benefit you derive from non-programming users, who still contribute bug reports and suggestions for enhancements out of self-interest, usually more than makes up for the development costs. And open source software as a marketing tool, as a tool to establish standards, and for establishing reputations is also very valuable.

    • Commercial software companies are NOT a fucking inefficient way to develop software. Get it through your fucking head that the target of commercial software are end users, not often times developers. Open source shit doesn't appeal to most end users because it's too much of a hassle trying to figure out how to merely install a fucking program, let alone use it with any amount of aptitude. Software companies produce for this end user population. They spit out some v1.0 code. Marketing research figures out what people like and don't like. They give that back to the developers. They then bust off v2.0 that complies better with end user requirements. The marketing folks are a thousand times more adept at talking to real human beings and don't get annoyed when users complain and flame them. A good example of this is the shit happening with fink and MacOS X. The fink maintainer became a whiney bitch over people
      "misusing" his program and stormed off to take his toys elsewhere. Do you think he could fucking sell his product? Shit no. Some programmers are better than others but most think they're so fucking badass they don't need input from anybody. Thus you end up with Linux distributions with upteen thousand text editors and ftp clients. That will not sell and can not be marketed, that is certainly not capitalism. Don't go preaching RMS horseshit like you're on the fucking mount. Open source software isn't a fucking marketing tool. What the hell are you on?
  • by jonabbey ( 2498 ) <> on Monday December 10, 2001 @06:55PM (#2684503) Homepage

    One of my biggest reasons for working on open source projects is that the software world is driven by network effects. If my employer had decided to go with ActiveDirectory for everything instead of developing Ganymede (if ActiveDirectory had even existed when we needed a solution), we would have tied ourselves to the wheel of Microsoft fees and upgrades, in perpetuity, forever. I personally didn't want to see that happen, for ego reasons and for the sake of my l33t UNIX job skills. My employer didn't want to see that happen, because it might have given far too much power to Microsoft over our operations. No sense being too dependent on any one vendor when you can do something about it.

    It's the exact same reason why AOL is supporting the Mozilla project.. if AOL had to depend on Microsoft's good will to provide Internet services to its customers, it might at any time have its customers taken away from it, assuming a compliant DOJ.

    So, yes, there's economic rationality there, there's also cultural issues, there's also ego, and pride of work, all of it.

    • Spot on! I find it ironic that Mr. Lancashire dismissed Raymond's "Scratch an itch" theory by stating that "Individuals tend to rationalize their actions to present themselves in the best light possible," and then went on to present a paper that emphasized the importance of government subsidies to the Free Software movement.

      Imagine that, A Berkeley Ph.D. candidate espousing the importance of government subsidies and institutionalized academia.

      Perhaps someone should point Mr. Lancashire to the Linus/Tannebaum debates so that he can see how helpful the academic community was in the formation of Linux. Sure, some University might have hosted the FTP server, but the academic community is about as responsible for Linux as Al Gore is for the Internet.

      The fact of the matter is that researches and academics need software. And all too often they find themselves needing software that has either not been written, or that is too expensive. Why should anyone be surprised when these researches base their work on freely available tools. They have got tons of students to do free grunt work, and writing useful Free Software is way more fun than reimplementing the Bubble sort in yet another toy language. Besides, if the project does take off then the researcher, and the students, inevitably gain a valuable reputation that they can easily monetize.

      And researchers aren't the only folks that need tools, either. Free Software is flourishing because more and more organizations are realizing that building your own custom software has economic benefits, especially when you can lower the price of this software by using publicly available pieces. As someone who has modified some of this freely available source and not returned my changes to the community I can also tell you why there are so many folks eager to get their source into the various CVS trees as well. There is nothing worse than the Hell of having to maintain an ancient version of a piece of Free Software simply because your patches no longer merge into the "new" versions. It is much easier to share your source and unload some of the maintenance costs on other people who might benefit from your code.

      I also couldn't agree more with your take on Mozilla. AOL needs a web browser. They can't afford not to have a credible alternative to IE. However, even though they desperately need to develop a web browser, there is no way that they could ever recoup their development costs by selling Netscape licenses. Every single CVS commit that comes from an email addresses that doesn't end in is a victory for AOL. That's work that they are essentially getting for "free" (minus the cost of infrastructure). Last time I checked there seemed to be quite a few folks outside of Netscape that were getting stuff done. Mozilla would be deader than a doornail if it weren't for the fact that the source were available. As it now stands, however, Mozilla is turning into a very credible contender, and it is being used as the core of Microsoft's greatest threat. Since AOL is in direct competition with Microsoft on several fronts I think it is safe to say that the release of the Mozilla source can be seen as a net economic gain for the folks at AOL.

  • Has anybody else noticed that the author, while talking about Finland and its contribution to Linux, only colors Sweden as 'red' in his map, and leaves Finland blank?!?

    Oh well, Americans and geography don't mix apparently!

  • To understand open source, you half to understand that copyrights ard patents are not free market, but government monopolies that artificially manipulate the market. In order to get arround the damage this causes, an established and well founded University system is required to get information and knowledge out into the open. Now the GPL and internet are changing this and making it so that people can actually learn, share, and apply knowledge in the free market way it was always intended to be.

    • To understand open source, you half to understand that copyrights ard patents are not free market, but government monopolies that artificially manipulate the market.

      No. Copyrights and patents were (originally) demanded by inventors, artists, and authors so that they might enjoy the fruit of their works free of pirates, and go on to produce more works. By the 17-1800's almost all goverments realized that protecting the people who produce their economic and intellectual gold was a Good Thing, this protection created jobs and engendered trade and economic prosperity.

      The current OSS movement exists from that prosperity and the time available in modern society for people to work on OSS in their 'free' time, or to be 'paid' to create it using other peoples money for which they are not expected to produce actual product.

      In order to get arround the damage this causes, an established and well founded University system is required to get information and knowledge out into the open.

      No. Universities were created to, and function best, when they train the minds of the younger generation and pass on the learning of the older generations in an organized fashion. They were originally created to share existing knowledge, 'publish or perish', the creation of knowledge is a rather recent development historically speaking. The effect has been to warp education and to transform schools into economic entities.

      Now the GPL and internet are changing this and making it so that people can actually learn, share, and apply knowledge in the free market way it was always intended to be.

      A simple minded restatement of the Hacker Ethos, which was created by students searching for a justification for stealing other peoples work. There is nothing inherent in information that causes it to 'want' to be free.
      • No. Copyrights and patents were (originally) demanded by inventors, artists, and authors so that they might enjoy the fruit of their works free of pirates, and go on to produce more works. By the 17-1800's almost all goverments realized that protecting the people who produce their economic and intellectual gold was a Good Thing, this protection created jobs and engendered trade and economic prosperity.

        BZZT WRONG! Just the opposite, copyrights were created as a reward for publishers not to say bad things about the King. In order to fight this censorship, US copyrights were intentionally made available to everybody, to have an expiration date, and allow heavially for fair use. "Protection" and demands of creators have little to do with it - getting information into the public domain was the only goal. Prople who treat copyrights like property ruin this for everybody, and can only lead us to a DMCA like police state.

  • by re-geeked ( 113937 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @08:06PM (#2684872)
    The author presents essentially two pieces of evidence:

    the historical migration of free software development from US to worldwide, and

    the fact that being a programmer in the US has become a good gig lately

    then jumps to the conclusion that this means that US programmers weren't altruistic, merely opportunistic (worked for universities before, corps now).

    But he doesn't examine other areas:

    the US/Europe ratio may be declining over time, but the US hacker/US population ratio has likely been increasing -- overall free software activity in the US has certainly not been overrun by the lure of proprietary software's lucre.

    the appearance of free software predated widespread online use in US -- maybe the story will be the same elsewhere. That is, is the situation in Hungary today similar to US in 1984 -- only the hackers are online, so the hacker/online ratio is very high?

    But I think the main flaw in his argument is inflating ESR's gift-economy rationale (which I suppose he does so purposely to puff up the importance of his conclusion). Even ESR isn't so much saying that free software hacking is completely without regard to economic conditions, but that it's an unexpected response to these conditions (hence post-industrial).

    I'd claim, and I think ESR might agree, that free software is an efficient means of production (shared resources), niche penetration (scratching itches), and market penetration (network effect) made possible by BOTH the economic (free time + university grants + young single contributors) AND cultural (want props + want to contribute + crave technical knowledge) situations of hackers.

    In other words, the fact that hackers could do some coding for free without starving, and that they were wont to do so, ran into the happy accident that doing so could produce some really good shit.

    This would explain the experience of the 1990's -- unbelievable growth in free software and simultaneous insane (literally :-) growth in economic opportunities for programmers.

    The author's argument might lead one to believe that open source would wither and die if the corporate world paid programmers well enough. The simultaneity of the dot-com boom and the Linux boom deny that.

    I'll grant to the author that the European countries present an economic situation more favorable to free software. In fact, I'd amplify the fact by saying that European government support for free software has largely economic motivations -- they don't want to lose to MS/Sun/Oracle/IBM any longer.

    But this fact may support a post-industrial thesis as well -- workers in northern European countries enjoy more free time and have a better safety net than US workers -- so they have less to lose from partaking in a little free coding.

    This is the crucial distinction: a post-industrial explanation for free software contributions doesn't put them outside of the economic situation -- it relies on the coders having the opportunity to engage in non-economic activity.

    That still leaves intact two "revolutionary" conclusions from the history of free software -- that significant production can occur outside of the wealth motive (if the survival motive has been taken care of and the infrastructure exists), and that that production can (in the case of software) be more efficient in creating use value than a wealth-driven model.
    • If I read the author correctly, he suggested that there is a monetary incentive of some sort. If so, one would expect that for the few in places like mainland China, Zimbabwe, India and Taiwan who have both ability and internet access, there would be incredibly strong motivation to be noticed in, and an important part of, an open-source project. My reasoning is that this might be a ticket to a job at home ( it would say to employers: ``Look, I can collaborate in English!'') and far more motivational, it might be a ticket to a U.S. work visa. This would be the ultimate success for most of the folks in most of these countries.

      It's hard to tell from his maps, but it looks as if folks in these places just aren't getting into these two visible-in-the-US opensource projects in a big way. I know that in Taiwan at least, there are quite a few who have the English and computer ability to do it, and internet connections are affordable for the middle class. This suggests to me that there IS a strong cultural component; it appears that folks there aren't very willing (yet, at least) to give away free samples.

  • People come to open source for a whole range of different reasons.

    • Some people want to make public some idea, but:
      • There is not a viable commercial market for the idea.
      • The person can't find someone to look after the comercial market
    • altristic and ethical reasons: one or more of
      • "ideas should be free"
      • "commercialisation is evil"
      • "should not charge for god-given ideas"
      • "giving" culture
    • tactical reasons
      • By giving the stuff away, you deny others the right to sell [eg MS giving away IE to kill Netscape: but they have the resources to not have to open source it.]
      • fear of the legal quagmire
    There are lots of different reasons, just as there are lots of reasons to be at different places. Open source is an outcome, not an input. That is, it is something that one does, not a reason

  • Using the number of people connected to the internet as a measure of the population that each country is able to contribute to OSS projects is just plain nonsense.

    The USA has a much higher proportion of 'programing illiterate' on the internet than any other country in the world.
    Of course it would then appear that the USA isn't keeping up with the rest of Europe.

    The underlying statistics he uses are meaningless and as we all know you can create any conclusion you want from false data.

  • There is heavy competition for programmers among open source projects. But the product of the work has zero incremental cost of distribution.

    Therefore, users are free but programmers must be lured and kept. Without users a project can continue -- for a while, at least, or if the goals of the programmers don't require users -- but without programmers, the project will die.

    Many people make the mistake of assuming that if the software is free for users then everything about it is free. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • While it's refreshing to learn that Open Source has matured enough to garner some interest in the academic Economics community, the author's admitted lack of familiarity with the subject of his thesis--that exotic and enigmatic creature, the Open Source Developer, comes through. Less pretentious jargon in the vein of "the gift-economy" (is this some economist appropriation of Claude Levi-Strauss that I missed in the sixties?) and more pragmatic observation would have been welcome.

    1)The importance of the English language. Completely underestimated in this study. Why else would France, a very Socialist economy with a 35-hour work week have such a low level of Open Source activity? Compared to Sweden and Germany, the English language proficiency in France is extremely low.

    2)Personal fulfilment. Most dedicated Open Source developers share a joy in creation. Ego is involved, but not so much as related to recognition from others, but a desire to prove something to themselves.

    3)Desire for a community of peers. Once you create something you want to be able to share it with people capable of appreciating it. If your expertise is pretty obscure or high level, you're going to have to go to an online virtual community to find people with the same interest or proficiency.

    4)The Corporate IT world is a cubicle wasteland. From a personal point of view, this is hardly a validating world for engineers. Even at so-called "technology" companies, it's rare to see engineers promoted to any positions of true importance. It's all about marketing sales and MBAs. Engineers tend to see something in scientific terms, things either work or they don't. This makes most of them poor players in corporate politics. Even if they are any good, they are likely to be pretty turned off by the process. How many technology decisions are dictated by top-down partnerships, which make absolutely zero sense from a technological point of view? Far too many.

    If I were to profile the Open Source developer, the person most susceptible to the phenomenon would be an individual with something to prove, someone not experiencing any (or much) fulfilment in their day job, where they feel isolated, not in contact with their true professional peers, someone who is given insufficient control over and ownership of their work.

    Abstract economic theory is well and good, but it very often fails to credibly explain human behavior.

    As for de-bunking myths about Open Source, a far more interesting story was Slashdot's post a week ago on Marc Fleury, leader of the JBoss project. JBoss delivers Enterprise class software. You'll have to get past the J2EE jargon and the ego, but Marc makes some interesting points: he and his developers are mostly not students, they have worked in the corporate IT world, they do care making money, and thus have a vested interest in delivering solutions that meet the needs of the corporate IT community.

    While I feel basic psychology as opposed to economics has far more to do with the source of Open Source contribution, economics has everything to do with Open Source success--but that's another thread :)
  • The reason people work on OSS is really quite simple: It's the only place where you can escape Microsoft's dominance. OSS is primarily a non-Microsoft phenomenon; there are few major (emphasis on "major") OSS apps that originated and are primarily Windows-centric, usually because Microsoft typically already has solutions for such things.

    One of the effects of a monopoly is that innovation in that particular industry ceases. Microsoft has no real drive to do true innovation. As a result, people who want to do things that are interesting flock to OSS.

    It's simply about wanting to do cool things. You can't do them and make money as long as Microsoft has a monopoly; thus, OSS flourishes.

    I'm willing to wager that the end of the Microsoft monopoly (inevitable, IMHO, but that's another topic) will also bring about the end of the OSS development explosion we see right now. Because people will HAVE an alternative where they can do innovative things AND make money.

    But right now, you can't really do both on the desktop. You're either pushing the envelope, XOR making money.
  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @12:18AM (#2685556) Homepage Journal
    Considering the title of the paper: The Fading Altruism of Open Source Development

    I think it's safe to say that this is just another of those anti-oss works designed to discourage OSS.

    But the thing is, OSS evolution has many variables that each contributor only needs enought to inspire them to do it. Which may be a very small number compaired to the list of reasons total.

    But the fact of the matter is that OSS is a natural evolution in software development. And as such it will not be addhearent to the wishes, desires and attempts to control it by those who find it threatening. For if that could be done then MS would have been able to do something to indicate this to all those in opposition to OSS.

    The natural place for OSS is that of establishing the common base of software development. For without such an OSS baseline the actual potential as to how far we can really take software would be a great deal less. The Baseline of OSS will advance and as such the proprietary industry will have to continue to move forward themselves. It's called competition in an industry where the proprietary holders thoiught they cornered the industry with control over it. Only people, developer, students, users can't be so easily cornered in mass. For you'd have to get them all in the same mass first.

    It should not be supprising to see stuff like this article and there will be more, until the hard reality of nature is finally accepted by those who want to deny nature of humans to not be constrained by false limits.
    • Considering the title of the paper ... I think it's safe to say

      I really don't understand how someone gets +3 interesting for reading the title of the article and then replying to it, and naturally coming to completely the wrong conclusions about what it says.

      • I did read it, the paper. More or less, as it "used alot of big acidemic words" and found it difficult to follow what it was saying. But I was able to conclude a few things. The least of which is the title. If the title is not representitive of the content then it's a non-sequitur. Even the conclusion suggested a big "if" and I read even more, I read other postings in trying to get ahold of the essence from different perspectives.

        The conclusion I came to is what I posted. So what if I did what I could simplify my comment to it's essence. Even now there seems to be posted another story regarding more along this line of analysis of what is happening, an interview with someone about social impact...

        People are trying to define something in terms and concepts that are not advanced enough to properly identify it.

        Read the interview [], then see my home page (see my url above).
        Then reconsider what you said. Don't judge a book by it's cover, right?
        • I did read it, the paper. More or less, as it "used alot of big acidemic words" and found it difficult to follow what it was saying.

          Yeah, it's not the easist to follow. As far as I can tell, it seems to be an anlaysis of *why* open source comes into being.

          One conclusion that I got is that public funding (eg via universities, (e.g. Linus at U. Helsinki)) plays a larger role than is acklowledged.

          From the abstract This finding throws doubt on the Schumpeterian assumption that the efficiency of industrial systems can be measured without reference to the social institutions that bind them. I think translates as "public funding and other social institiutions (European progmatism/Social tendencies rather than USA'ian free-for all coporate capitalism) creates open source, despite wahat ESR says, open source makes your industry more efficient, this is not what was expected by an orthodox economist called Schumpeter.

          And I think this is just so right: this affinity hackers hold for cultural assertions of their uniqueness is probably a manifestation of the basic human need to imbue meaning into those activities which define the individual's place in society.

  • Wanna make money from writing Open Source software? Do OSS consulting and provide people with complete hardware/software solutions for all their needs. If something doesn't exist, develop it yourself and somehow tack that onto their bill, even if it's just labeled as a raw labor cost. Guaranteed, they'll still be saving boatloads of money in comparison to proprietary solutions which must be replaced every couple years. And if enough OSS geeks start doing this, it'll become easier for everyone since less of the needed software will be missing when starting out on a job. Granted, there will always be in-house programming customizations to do, but they too will become smaller.

    If you truly believe in Open Source, become a master programmer make it your livelihood. Word will spread quickly if you do a much better job than all those MSCE certified dolts and help businesses reduce their fixed costs in the process. And if you find yourself earning too much money, you can always take a year off for leisure, personal education, and coding on pet projects. Sounds like a dream, but its not. However, first you must move beyond the mental box that says the only "stable job" is working 9-5 making somebody else rich. Small, flexible business are the key to the further expansion of already successful OSS. I'll let y'all know when I finish my book. (-:

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal