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Software

Is Open Source Recession Proof? 285

DaMan writes "ZDNet asks Is open source recession proof? 'So, how might a recession affect open source software? Well, first off, I think that any business model that relies on volunteers could certainly see interest decline if times get tough. There are a lot of businesses that rely on people working for them for free because they get a pay check somewhere else, and I think that a recession would make people question working without getting any dollars in return.'"
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Is Open Source Recession Proof?

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  • by DeeQ ( 1194763 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:57AM (#22035214)

    somebody-submit-a-better-story-please
    This made me laugh
    • No kidding. When even the editors are calling it a slow news day, it's pretty bad.
      • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:52PM (#22036004) Journal
        Recession isn't when there isn't enough money, recession is when the money is hoarded and no longer used for exchange, leading those who are the owners of the real capital to foreclose on everyone and scoop up ownership of anything that isn't already theirs, and causing hardship because everyone just stops working.

        The problem with a recession is that everyone just sits around doing nothing with no direction, not that the money supply dried up. It's a testament to the power of sheeple.

        So, if people have nothing to do that will make them a quick buck one way or the other, and they haven't yet lost their tools of the trade, there's every reason to think they might contribute more just because they are idle.

        Of course, when they've taken your house, it's kind of hard to write software while you're living in a tent city...
      • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:21PM (#22036468)

        No kidding. When even the editors are calling it a slow news day, it's pretty bad.

        Maybe someone could dig up some dirt on Intelligent Design people and post it on Slashdot ? Then we could once again have a flamefest about whether or not God exist or atheism is a religion.

        Maybe we could tie it up with Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition and Jack Chick for good measure ?

        Or a flamewar to end all flamewars: heartless Rayndian let the poor starve on the streets -style Libertarianists vs. Socialists who steal every last penny which you have righfully earned with your very own hands to build a Gulag and lock you there for your own good with a robotic nanny named "State".

        Or just type random queries to Google and post an equally random summary which links to the first hit. No matter what it's about, the discussion will naturally turn to the topics mentioned.

    • Or cry, because people still think Open Source unnecessarily means developed by volunteers?

      Why are journalists so bloody useless?
  • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:58AM (#22035222) Journal
    Do they think OSS has a problem with recessions? Quite the reverse.

    I got nailed in the Bomb, like a lot of us. Went through 4 companies in 3 years, and only one of them still existed after I left it (for another 3 whole months). Leaves you with nothing but crap on your resume; can't even prove the companies existed, more less get a reference.

    I got left with skills that no one wanted, and no money to buy professional tools to start my own business. So I turned to Open Source. I'd hardly used it to that point; hadn't had any real need. But the ability to churn out products using nothing but freely available tools put money in my pocket, let me undercut my competition, and basically saw me through a rough patch. I've never been as active in OSS development as I was in those days...It wasn't because I had so much free time, it was because I needed that stuff, and if it didn't exist, I damn well had to create it!

    So they think OSS is something that comes out of people being well off? All of us volunteer because we're all so bored, and have so much money and free time that we just sit around coding things? Are they nuts? Did Linus start programming Linux because he was bored with working with all the fancy Unix code people were throwing at him? No! He started it because he couldn't afford the expensive stuff, so he damn well made his own. Did anyone pay him to do it? No! Did he end up making money off it none-the-less? Yes!

    Far from being bad for OSS, recessions are GOOD for OSS. You lose your job, and freelance while looking for another one...What are you going to use? Companies have a need, and no budget to fill it with commercial software...What are they going to use? Sure, if you specialize in zillion dollar OSS deployments, you've got problems (problem #1: You're mythical), but the true strength of OSS isn't in giant deployments, but in filling in the gaps...When the gaps get bigger, there we are.

    If you've got a track record of doing more with less, recessions are always a good time for you.
    • by AmaDaden ( 794446 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:04PM (#22035306)
      Totally agree. Plus hard core coders who NEED to have an interesting app to work on might end up working on OSS in their free time because they were forced to take a boring job in a shitty market.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        And that's assuming they could FIND a boring job in a shitty market. Until that happens, they have plenty of time to work on open source.

        Granted, job hunting is a time-consuming enterprise, but it only takes a few hours a day to scan the new opportunities. Meanwhile, people want to continue making accomplishments worthy of a resume. People can contribute to open source and get positive publicity for doing it, at a time when they have nothing else to do.
    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:04PM (#22035318) Journal
      There are three kinds of people who fund open source development:
      • Those selling complementary products / services.
      • Those who actually need the software.
      • Those developing in their spare time to pad their CVs.
      There are likely to be more unemployed people in a recession so those looking for some form of differentiator to make their own CV more attractive will be more common. Those who need the software will continue developing (or paying third parties to develop it) it, because they have no other choice. They may even become more common since open source development is more efficient than off-the-shelf development and can be introduced as a cost-cutting measure by companies looking to reduce expenditure in a recession.

      Those selling complementary products, like IBM, might well cut back. They likely invest a fixed portion of their profits in open source development and if their profits drop then so will this investment. They may increase it to try to spend their way out of the recession, but it's unlikely. The fact that they aren't the only people paying for the development might well mean that they consider that they can cut back a lot and still retain good open source products to build solutions on top of.

      • by ADRA ( 37398 )
        For all the uneducated masses like me who didn't know what the hell CV standed for, it stands for "curriculum vitæ" or everyone else in the english world just says Resume.
        • by mrbooze ( 49713 )
          Despite what Wikipedia (currently) says, a CV and a Resume are not the same thing at all.

          The primary differences between a resume and a curriculum vitae (CV) are the length, what is included and what each is used for. A resume is a one or two page summary of your skills, experience and education. While a resume is brief and concise - no more than a page or two, a Curriculum Vitae is a longer (at least two page) and more detailed synopsis.

          A Curriculum Vitae includes a summary of your educational and academic

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ashridah ( 72567 )
          Actually, Curriculum Vitae is still fairly widely used.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curriculum_vitae#Terminology [wikipedia.org]

          Lots of places use it interchangeably, although there is supposed to be a difference in style between the two. I'd definitely use CV when applying to anything remotely academic, and might tend towards using Resume when applying to a business.

          ash
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jonbryce ( 703250 )
          Correction. In the American speaking world, everyone may well say Resume. But in the English speaking world (ie England), we say CV.
    • by OptimusPaul ( 940627 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:08PM (#22035388)
      That's gotta suck, bringing down 3 companies like that must really depress you. You should try and get a job with a company to take a job at their competitor. But seriously, I agree, I think that a lot of people will move to support OSS when times are tough. That kind of thing can really beef up a resume, especially if you can prove yourself on these projects.
    • by Otter ( 3800 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:14PM (#22035440) Journal
      Did Linus start programming Linux because he was bored with working with all the fancy Unix code people were throwing at him? No! He started it because he couldn't afford the expensive stuff, so he damn well made his own.

      Linus did not decide to write an operating system because he couldn't afford Minix or Xenix. That would have been crazy.

    • by yerM)M ( 720808 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:15PM (#22035456) Homepage
      Agreed. In fact from my own professional history, if you have a job and convince your employers that open source is a good idea, when they fire you you can take your work with you. Open source is great job security from the perspective of keeping your toolset alive from position to position.
      • by Dareth ( 47614 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:27PM (#22035616)
        If an employer pays you to work on an open source project, but they never distribute that project since it is for in-house use, can you legally take your work with you when you go? Experience, sure they can't keep that, but the actual code, changes and fixes, would belong to the employer?
        • by yuna49 ( 905461 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:06PM (#22036218)
          In the US, working on a project for an employer constitutes a "work-for-hire" under the terms of the Copyright Act, specifically 17 USC 201(b) [cornell.edu]. The employer owns the rights in these cases, not the coders. You'd have to have negotiated a specific contract with the employer in advance granting you copyright, which I doubt rarely happens in practice.

          • You'd have to have negotiated a specific contract with the employer in advance granting you copyright, which I doubt rarely happens in practice.

            If having such contracts isn't rare, what's the problem ?-)

          • by ashridah ( 72567 )
            Not so sure about America (since it's not as based on common law as Australia is) but it's certainly happened in Australia.

            Low brow version [abc.net.au]
            Medium brow [wikipedia.org]
            High brow legal paperwork [austlii.edu.au]

            Remember, if you're going to work on OSS stuff, it's a really REALLY good idea to make sure that it's on an area that's not related to your line of employment, and only done in your spare time. If it is work related, discuss it with your employer first, and get it in writing if you're allowed to do it and release it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by iabervon ( 1971 )
            (IANAL) If the license on the code that they paid you to modify requires that changes be licensed under the same license, then they own the copyrights but they'd have a hard time arguing that you don't have a license to it. (So far as the changes are a derived work of the code they don't own; separate stuff that you did along with the open source project doesn't count.) Just make sure that the copyright notices credit the company (not yourself) and that the license is GPL-like rather than BSD-like. (If they
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          If they put an open source license on the stuff you are working on, then you can take it with you, even if your employer never distributed it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Sloppy ( 14984 )

            If it never got licensed to anyone, how could that work?

            I'm not saying you're wrong, but I think the words "put a license on it" deserves extreme scrutiny. What does that really mean? Are we just talking about some text that is at the top of top of some source code files on an inhouse project, or are we talking about a license that was actually offered to someone outside, or what?

            What I do see is intent and that probably counts for something, if it gets to court. But aside from the intent, did it happe

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by SirGarlon ( 845873 )

          ...can you legally take your work with you when you go?

          It's unclear.

          Very likely, your employer would try to stop you on the grounds that they, not you, own the copyright to the source code. However, this is deeply ambiguous. If they wrote the code from scratch then obviously they own the copyright and can stop you. If they are instead modifying and extending a pre-existing code base, they will probably claim to own it anyway, but one could argue that constitutes a "derivative work" under (U.S.) copy

    • by Applekid ( 993327 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:17PM (#22035474)
      I think the main difference between the Bubble and today's impending recession is that back then the tech industry fell down and the "holdouts", namely brick and mortar stores, physical goods and services, etc were propped up because they could point to the .coms and say "We were never that audacious, we have business plans and 20+ years of experience blah blah blah."

      Freelancing at that time was pretty clear because there still was a genuine need for getting wired and with the times and with the bust those still standing didn't want to invest heavily on an in-house version of what failed in the wild.

      This US recession, at least, is being lead by the plummetting dollar and conversely skyrocketing oil prices along with just about every other commodity. Sub-prime fallout isn't helping and even with an impending intrest rate cut from the fed it's still not going to right itself anytime soon. This particular pain hurts every industry equally and IMHO there will be less money to go around altogether. With a shrinking pie, OSS might get a bigger slice of it but overall I don't see it getting better in the immediate future as far as funding.
      • Weakening dollar also means products and services produced in the US become more globally competitive; that means more work done here. Rising oil prices give good incentives for conservation and efficiency...Relatively modest increases there will drive energy prices back down.

        I don't think anything is inevitable at this point...It'll all depend on how people handle it, as always.
      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@wo[ ]net ['rf.' in gap]> on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:06PM (#22036214)

        This US recession, at least, is being lead by the plummetting dollar and conversely skyrocketing oil prices along with just about every other commodity. Sub-prime fallout isn't helping and even with an impending intrest rate cut from the fed it's still not going to right itself anytime soon. This particular pain hurts every industry equally and IMHO there will be less money to go around altogether. With a shrinking pie, OSS might get a bigger slice of it but overall I don't see it getting better in the immediate future as far as funding.


        Actually, the US dollar is plummeting because of a very costly military expense. To pay for it, the US Treasury Department has been pumping out tons and tons of US dollars. In most cases, this causes devalulation immediately, but as the US dollar is a reserve currency, it held value purely because everyone wants to hold US dollars.

        Oil prices skyrocket because of huge demand (China), and uncertainty in the supply market (rattling sabres in the middle east and in South America makes people nervous, which makes the oil production unsteady). THe devaluing US dollar also encourages it to rise, and oil-producing countries (which pay in their own currency) require more US dollars to pay for the oil extraction.

        But this has been going on for years. What really brings it on is the change in the credit laws and the subprime mortgage crisis, as that leads to shortages of cash for borrowers. Companies can't borrow to expand operations and they lose potential profits, and the subprime mortgages causing foreclosures and a sudden glut of homes on the market (impacting construction and related industries, and the trickle-down effect).

        Huge chain of events, but it looks like the subprime mortgages may be what broke the camel's back.
        • by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:45PM (#22036792) Homepage Journal

          Actually, the US dollar is plummeting because of a very costly military expense...Oil prices skyrocket because of huge demand (China)...But this has been going on for years.
          Indeed, it's been on a slow but steady boil for a long time: I wrote about these problems back in 2004 [kuro5hin.org]. What I find more worrying than the problems themselves, however, is how blithely they've been ignored for the last 5 years or more. It really didn't take a genius to see these were potential issues that were only getting steadily worse (if I could see it, surely anyone could). It required little or no insight to see that, while they weren't presenting an immediate problem, if nothing was done they would simply simmer away under the surface getting worse and worse and waiting for some catalyst to really bring them to the fore. Despite the obviousnes of this, however, US politicians and US media seem to have been happy to largely ignore them. Indeed, even with the arrival of an appropriate catalyst there seems to be little or no interest in the deeper underlying issues that, as you say, have been going for years.
        • by photomonkey ( 987563 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:09PM (#22037096)

          I agree with everything you said, but would also like to add a few others.

          Consumer credit ab/use is out of hand. People are spending themselves to insolvency, and then the first speed bump they hit (lost job, new roof, unplanned medical expenses) drives them under.

          I'm not ascribing blame to corporations completely, but in the end every business sells a product. In order to increase the amount of money they make, they need to sell more product and/or cut operating expenses. That means, in part, cutting jobs and benefits while going out of their way to sell more product to people who can not, across the board, afford to buy more product.

          Less-than-intelligent banks and people took advantage of too-good-to-be-true loans to do/afford stuff that they otherwise couldn't.

          My personal bank account is at an old and large bank, still held in majority by its founding family. My business account is at a local credit union because they don't screw me on fees nearly as badly.

          When I went to the credit union on Friday, I noticed banner ads suggesting people take out a second mortgage to go on vacation and take a 100-month car loan so they can drive a luxury car on an ecobox car budget.

          The bank isn't forcing people to do it, but those are both such bad ideas that I can't even begin to clear the bile from my throat.

          People just finance everything these days. First off, they don't realize how much extra they're paying in interest and second, it just allows them to eat up every dollar in their paychecks before they even get them.

          My wife and I splurged a bit around the holidays and bought a relatively large flat panel TV. Across most of the stores we went to while shopping around, we had a hard time figuring out what the "buy it now" price was for the hardware. In most cases, the pricetag would say something like $129/mo in huge print and then $1699 in small print somewhere. Needless to say, we weren't interested in financing a TV.

          I'm not saying credit or financing is inherently evil. Immediate needs (shelter, transportation, medical etc.) are ripe for financing. If you can pay cash, all the better. People confuse needs and wants. We didn't buy the big TV until just now because we didn't have the hard currency to do it. No way were we going to buy an unnecessary TV on a credit card.

          We, especially the children of the platinum card spend-all 1980's need to take a minute (or a class) in personal finance and household economics. Where our parents might not have even had credit cards in their 20's and 30's, we grew up in their midst, moreso without the feel and smell of Bejamin Franklin in our back pocket on Friday. Plastic spends easier than cash.

          Credit is a tool, but a dangerous one. We need to use it wisely.

    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      I got nailed in the Bomb, like a lot of us.

      I had visions of car bombs and rusty nails... I think I've been drinking too much. Or maybe it's just that I saw the dot-bomb third hand, having been with the same employer for twenty years, last month.

      Or maybe a little of both. But more on-topic, I think the article's author is drunk! As you said, not having a job gives one a bit more free time; I haven't written any non-employer-related software since I got my present job. I do write prose, but prose is quite a b
  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:59AM (#22035232)
    1) Employees of major corporations assigned to opensource could be laid off or reassigned to directly profitable projects.

    2) People who work on opensource in their spare time could be laid off and
        a) Be unable to buy computers, maintain an internet connection, etc.
        b) OR... have lots of spare time and do a lot of cool stuff to build their resume.

    3) Folks who are depressed are not every productive. In a deep recession there will be a lot of fear, anxiety, and depression.

    4) Donations to opensource bandwidth, download sites, and so on could falter and lead to blackouts of key opensource resources.

    • by at_slashdot ( 674436 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:22PM (#22035534)
      3) Folks who are depressed are not every productive. In a deep recession there will be a lot of fear, anxiety, and depression.

      I bet most of the people program in their free time exactly because they are depressed, otherwise they would just waste their free time screwing the prom queen.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You sir have never worked on OSS if you think #3. Depressed programmers are the hardest working. Whats terrible is when they find love. Everyone whos worked on a project knows what i mean. Depressed coders stay at home all day and code their brains out. Ones who have found love are gone to you forever in the real world.
    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:30PM (#22035654) Homepage

      Of course, there is the outside chance that if a lot of programmers find themselves unemployed, they might decide to spend some portion of their now-excessive free time participating in the OSS community.

      But here's the way in which FOSS is particularly recession-proof: If your average proprietary software vendor gets hit hard by the recession, they could go out of business and take their source code with them. If you're that company's customer, then the possibility of updates and support would disappear. When it comes to FOSS, that's not really possible. The project might dry up and support might disappear, but if there's money to be made updating and supporting that software, some other programmers can take up working on the project again.

    • by lwriemen ( 763666 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:31PM (#22035680)
      5) A bad job market means employers can ask employees to work more overtime without the fear of turnover, leading to less free time available to work on open-source projects.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CherniyVolk ( 513591 )
      1) Employees of major corporations assigned to opensource could be laid off or reassigned to directly profitable projects.

      2) People who work on opensource in their spare time could be laid off and
      a) Be unable to buy computers, maintain an internet connection, etc.
      b) OR... have lots of spare time and do a lot of cool stuff to build their resume.

      3) Folks who are depressed are not every productive. In a deep recession there will be a lot of fear, anxiet
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Klaus_1250 ( 987230 )

      1) Employees of major corporations assigned to opensource could be laid off or reassigned to directly profitable projects.

      Or Major Corporations decide to cut back on their licensing-expenses, search compatible Opensource alternatives and assign a few employees to them to make it "Just Work". I'm sure a (US) recession could affect Open-Source, but it in the long term, it will be good. Sure some projects will fall, but only because they had inadequate backing in the first place. Recession is bad from many perspectives, but it does a great job in weeding out inefficient, ineffective or otherwise poorly performing projects/busin

      • Or Major Corporations decide to cut back on their licensing-expenses, search compatible Opensource alternatives and assign a few employees to them to make it "Just Work". I'm sure a (US) recession could affect Open-Source, but it in the long term, it will be good. Sure some projects will fall, but only because they had inadequate backing in the first place. Recession is bad from many perspectives, but it does a great job in weeding out inefficient, ineffective or otherwise poorly performing projects/busines
    • by drmerope ( 771119 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:54PM (#22036026)

      Employees of major corporations assigned to opensource could be laid off or reassigned to directly profitable projects.
      Bingo. This is precisely what happened to the FreeBSD probject when the dotcom bubble burst. Half of their developers got laid off in the middle of major architectural work (fine-grained locking). It took years for them to recover. Conversely, Linux in 2000 was much more of a hobbyist world (unlike now) and kept going without a hitch.
  • The requirements (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sigma 7 ( 266129 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:59AM (#22035236)
    For open source to succeed, it needs money to host the project (or at least be placed on a "free public" server), and time from volunteers.

    A recession may impact the first portion, but as long as there are programmers for the second portion that have free time, development will continue.
    • What a goofy question.

      The Open Source movement has been around how long now - 20 years? 30? Longer? Recessions have come and gone, the movement has only grown.

      You only have to look at the 1999-2001 period to see that Open Source can not onyl survive a recession but thrive in it.
  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:59AM (#22035246) Journal
    There are a lot of businesses that rely on people working for them for free because they get a pay check somewhere else, and I think that a recession would make people question working without getting any dollars in return.'

    On the flip side of that, if you have a lot of unemployed coders who want to keep their skill-set up-to-date (as well as avoid a large gap in their work history), open source provides a way to do both.
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
      On the other hand, writing non-opensource software during that time keeps your skillset up to date -and- could provide a product to sell as well.

      Don't get me wrong, I love open source and release all my private projects as such (eventually), but if I were out of a job, I suspect I'd be spending my time making what money I could and looking for steady income rather than fluffing my resume.
      • by pla ( 258480 )
        if I were out of a job, I suspect I'd be spending my time making what money I could and looking for steady income rather than fluffing my resume.

        True enough - But you can't really actively "look" for a job more than 10 hours per week, and if you have steady enough contracting work to take up the rest of your time, I wouldn't really call that "unemployed". :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
        Since when can you not sell open source software? Somebody better tell RedHat.
  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:01PM (#22035270) Homepage Journal
    "There are a lot of businesses that rely on people working for them for free because they get a pay check somewhere else, and I think that a recession would make people question working without getting any dollars in return.'""
    If this is your business model then you are doomed to fail.
    FOSS is supposed to involve you getting a return for you effort. You should be adding features that your customers want for pay or adding features you need for your own use.
    That the idea of how it is supposed to work.
    This is one of the reasons why FOSS will not replace all closed source software. Too many freeloaders.
    • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:12PM (#22035426) Journal
      Don't discount people who just deploy OSS for a living. I know a guy who probably hasn't contributed 10 lines of code over his career, but who is so effective at taking poorly documented OSS projects and making them function beautifully in commercial deployments...He makes a good living, evangelizes the hell out of OSS (he's a true believer), and drives money back into the projects.

      Most critically of all, he has the ability to see the flaws, and to visualize the next step that would make the project into something awesome. People like that, who know the features that really need to exist in the project, are almost more important than the people who end up actually coding the feature in. I can do the code, but the spark of genius behind a really good feature...That's special.
      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
        "He makes a good living, evangelizes the hell out of OSS (he's a true believer), and drives money back into the projects."
        If he really does get his commercial companies to put money into projects then yes he is contributing. The problem really is the freeloaders. Even if you love working on a project in your spare time eventually you will get sick of people nagging you for features that you don't want to do.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cbreaker ( 561297 )
      What do you consider a freeloader? Someone that uses OSS but doesn't write code for it? How is it freeloading when you're doing exactly what the software was intended to be used for?

      People make actual, real money by running FOSS software. They don't have to write code to use the software. Lots of companies use apache, Linux, etc and pay their staff to maintain it. These people will contribute by posting on message boards, asking and answering questions, and moving FOSS into the foreground more and
      • by abigor ( 540274 )
        He's talking about people who use it and give back nothing. Instead, they bug you for features and get all mad if it doesn't work exactly as they think it should. Rather than take a proactive role in getting the software up to their standards (say, by giving you money), they sit on the mailing lists/message boards and say all kinds of rude stuff. You see it on Slashdot all the time. Then in the next breath, these idiots are referring to "the community" and how much they are a part of it. Bullshit.

        The people
  • Definitely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iminplaya ( 723125 ) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:01PM (#22035274) Journal
    If you can do anything besides just counting beans, and you stay out of debt, you are recession proof.
  • by PenguinBoyDave ( 806137 ) <`david' `at' `davidmeyer.org'> on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:02PM (#22035276)
    If you are talking about the development and evangelization of Open Source, then I would say yes. People are going to volunteer regardless. However, when you are talking about companies that sell or service Open Source software, then I would say no...it is not recession-proof. Economics are economics, and money is the same everywhere. Where there is a crunch, money doesn't flow as freely, and both Open Source and proprietary models will suffer.

    Now...had they have said "Is FREE software recession-proof" then I would say, "yes...it is."
    • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:35PM (#22035740) Journal
      Open source kept trucking through the tech bubble's collapse in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I'd say it's impossible for there not to be an impact, but I don't think it's going to be that huge.

      Let's also remember here that this recession, if it is indeed one, seems largely contained to the United States. There's a whole big world out there, and for companies that have become major sellers of support and services around open source like IBM, there are other places to go.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:02PM (#22035278)
    What's the point of the original message? "You get less job opportunities from developing for OSS when there's little need for developers".

    Ok. And if you're working on CSS? What's more likely, that some OSS goes "out of business" or your proprietary company? Like someone else has already posted, what is more likely to be used in times of little money, software to buy or software to take?

    Not to mention that, well, when you have more spare time (because you're lacking a job), wouldn't it be a quite GOOD idea to develop some nifty piece of software, push it into OSS and find companies interested in using it AND hiring the guy who knows it best?
  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:03PM (#22035292)

    Developers who find themselves unemployed might suddenly be _more_ willing to work on OSS projects. It's a way to keep one's skills sharp and to stay involved in the profession. Obviously job hunting is a #1 priority for someone who's unemployed, but volunteering for a project is also a good idea for lots of reasons.

    I know if I lost my job, I would seriously considered joining a project. Right now my priorities are 1) family, 2) job, 3) everything else.

  • by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <<chyeld> <at> <gmail.com>> on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:04PM (#22035304)
    Umm... yes?

    Because, unlike closed source solutions, when the company that was bankrolling the development of your favorite programs, someone else can still pick it up and run with it.

    Because, unlike closed source solutions, you aren't reliant on solely one entity to provide assitance.

    Because, unlike closed source solutions, even if no one is developing the software actively beyond bug patches, it's still avaliable.
  • by pipatron ( 966506 ) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:05PM (#22035330) Homepage

    When I was unemployed I had a lot of spare time to code on free software. Now when I have a full time job - not so much.

    You don't need an income to contribute to free software, just a computer and usually some sort of internet connection.

    However: Notice how I use "free software" instead of "open source" - When the Web 2.0 bubble comes, it doesn't matter if you can just look at the source code from the tool you used after the company went bankrupt. You need to have the legal rights to keep modifying it and/or let someone else do it.

  • Just the opposite (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <bruce@perens.com> on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:06PM (#22035358) Homepage Journal
    What was the best thing that happened for Open Source on Wall Street? 9/11.

    Of course nobody wanted it that way. But when some Wall Street firms lost data centers and desktops, Sun, IBM, and HP couldn't make hardware fast enough. So, beige boxes all over the east ended up in ad-hoc data centers, running Linux or BSD. And surprise, they ran as well, often better than their predecessors.

    Open Source is going to do well whenever IT can't pay a lot for software and has to stretch its budget. Good times might be worse for Open Source, but I don't see them being terrible for it.

    Bruce

    • by richg74 ( 650636 )
      I have heard some folks say that, in an economic downturn, FOSS might suffer because some firms and individuals that contribute resources (e.g., hardware, cash) might be less likely to continue doing so. I think that point probably has some validity, but Bruce's point that budget and other constraints can work as a positive for FOSS is definitely true. (And I can say from my own personal knowledge that his comments on 9/11 and Wall Street are absolutely right.)

      The other way that people can contribute to

      • Lots of people forget that we built Free Software / Open Source without much participation of companies at all. We started in the 80's, the operating system kernels started to mature in the early 90's, we didn't see much of large companies until the very late 90's. By then things like Linux, BSD, Samba, GCC, much of the GNU system, were hardly new.

        Bruce

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PHPfanboy ( 841183 )
      I'll second that. For PHP it wasn't so much 9/11, but the recession that came after it which drove a lot of LAMP deployments (which is what I watch). IT budgets were slashed, big projects were killed and small, cheap, business-critical implementations started mushrooming as part of the "No Purchasing Department" necessity. Then people realized that what they'd hacked together with FOSS was good enough for the Perpetual-Beta world of the web and, at least from the PHP perspective, the rest is the hockey-stic
  • Hasn't open source already gone through a few recessions? Wasn't Linux started in a recession? Of course I guess it depends on what Country you are talking about. The major apps have enough cross country development going on that I don't think it would matter much.
  • I would expect the number of projects to go down, and the quality of those that remain to go up.

    High quality free and open source contributions are great resume/CV items. It's an impressive way to stand out from the crowd. If people have to compete harder for jobs then we might see more. Remember, it doesn't have to be program code. Excellent posts on question and answer websites also impress employers. On the other hand, I imagine many free and open source projects depend upon goodwill to keep them going,
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:19PM (#22035504) Homepage Journal
    Recessions aren't supposed to happen based on Keynesian theory since all the worlds' governments and their central banks have been creating credit in a rate almost never seen before on the global scale. Print money, create jobs, right? Of course, the reality is that the central banks have been creating credit for one specific reason: to transfer wealth from the poor and middle class to the bank-connected elites.

    There is no recession -- it's just part of the cycle of credit expansion/contraction that occurs to regularly shift our future wealth to those who have been taking advantage of that credit creation since the 70s, if not earlier. Look at it this way: all that lovely money that was created via credit expansion, and then spent, still exists. If you took a $200,000 HELOC on your home that is now worth $100,000, you likely spent that $200,000 somewhere (Hummer, cruises, clothes, electronic gadgets, new porch, etc). The money didn't just cancel out the debt that was created -- it was spent, and it lined someone's pockets.

    The wealthy have been hoarding money for decades. Stick it in the mattress, in the vault, anywhere but in a savings account or in the market where the money would stay in the economies, keeping them at least operating. Now, credit is tight, because those who have it don't want to risk letting the middle class earn it to invest it in their own wealth-growth schemes.

    Open Source is likely the sector MOST hurt by a credit crunch. Those without a connection to the IP-monopolized software sector will have a tough time borrowing to develop new software, pay for payrolls, or expand their marketing budgets. They money exists, but it's not easily loaned out until the credit crunch creates a new legion of people who are desperate for a little more debt accessibility. The OSS community may not operate on debt, but I'd doubt it. Most people I know, including small business owners, wouldn't have a meal in their fridge if it wasn't for easy credit.

    My business, which generally stays away from OSS, operates on a positive cashflow, paying dividends to its owners, who also operate on a positive cashflow. The software sectors that will stay afloat during a credit crunch are those who are cash positive, and are in no rush to spend it until there are deals to be had.

    I can't wait for a big recession, or even a depression. I sat on the sidelines on home ownership for 3 years, and finally bought again this year (after selling 3 years ago at near peak) for 1X my annual income. Easy as pie. In terms of business, I know many little IT companies and marketing companies that are on the verge of falling apart. They have assets, and client books, that are worth significant prices, but since no one is spending right now, their value is dropping. Thankfully, those of us who saved instead of spent, and contracted instead of expanded during a bubble, will have cash that is worth MUCH more than it was worth 2 or 3 years ago.

    So it isn't specific sectors that will get hurt or gain ground -- nearly everyone who existed with a negative cashflow or a debt-maintained business plan will get hurt. Their values will drop, and those who held cash or fully-owned assets (land, commercial property, gold, etc) will be ready to swoop in and pick up valuable assets at a deep discount.

    Back in the dotcom/dotbomb days, I also stayed on the sidelines. All of my competitors were spinning "Y2K!!!" marketing garbage to clients, who spent lots of money on a non-issue. We, instead, told people it was a non-issue. We didn't go public, try to create useless software, or expand more than 10-15% per year in size. When the SHTF, there were MANY assets we picked up for pennies on the dollar when things exploded.

    So if you're an OSS or a closed-source developer, and you're hurting, remember for the next time another bubble grows: stay out of it. Hold cash, pay off your debts faster than you think you should, and be ready for the mass price cuts on things you wanted to buy when you origi
    • Well, according to neoclassical economic theory, software has zero value; so at some point we know the theories break. In fact, so much of economic theory is ideal, it's hard to apply at anything other than a very strategic (years) or very tactical (seconds) time frame.

      Having said that, your point about hard assets, meaning one should be invested for deflationary slowdowns (or however you wish to refer to situations where prices drop, job growth is slow or negative and credit is hard to get), is appropri

    • The wealthy have been hoarding money for decades. Stick it in the mattress, in the vault, anywhere but in a savings account or in the market where the money would stay in the economies, keeping them at least operating. Now, credit is tight, because those who have it don't want to risk letting the middle class earn it to invest it in their own wealth-growth schemes.

      That's the silliest thing I've seen in a while. Uninvested money just shrivels through inflation. Even in the "buy in down times", almost no on
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dada21 ( 163177 )
        That's the silliest thing I've seen in a while. Uninvested money just shrivels through inflation. Even in the "buy in down times", almost no one makes money that way, it's a way to lose money.

        Inflation, meaning the expansion of money supplying, does devalue hoarded cash during bubble periods. But during the bubble popping periods, after the dead cat bounces, bubbled assets tend to crash below their theoretical equilibrium values, bringing the hoarded cash value to a stronger level.

        My home at 1X income this
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blueskies ( 525815 )
      You lost me here:

      Now, credit is tight, because those who have it don't want to risk letting the middle class earn it to invest it in their own wealth-growth schemes.

      Everyone is out for themselves. If they have money they will lend it if it makes them more money without regard to the fact that the "middle class" might earn more money.

      Besides the little fact everyone wants to ignore is that the top quintile starts around $80k a year (last census report). It's so low because the top 5% are so wealthy. B

    • by WaZiX ( 766733 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:57PM (#22036946)
      Modded insightful? That post is completely absurd.

      Recessions don't exist based on some Keynesian model (I'd love to know which one by the way, since most of Keynes' work was done in response to the great depression), and therefore it somehow transforms into reality? (Those are what? Imaginary? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_recessions [wikipedia.org] )

      Yes wealth can be created and destroyed, economy is _not_ a Zero-Sum Game.

      Of course, the reality is that the central banks have been creating credit for one specific reason: to transfer wealth from the poor and middle class to the bank-connected elites.

      Access to credit greatly improves living conditions for who? The middle class. (And the subprimes greatly improves the living conditions of the poor) Imagine the world for the middle class was there no credit, just for the housing. You'd keep putting money aside your whole life to be able to buy a house when you're close to retirement, imagine all the value lost for yourself if you had to wait that long instead of taking a loan...

      The wealthy have been hoarding money for decades?


      Are you serious? Why would someone keep their money in a vault (Return = 1 - inflation) when they can make much more money by investing in risk free securities (Short Term Gov. Bonds)? Being rich is all about investing in the market (whether it's through starting a business or investing in others), please show me one "rich" man who stacks his money in a vault... If you had kept your money (lets say $100) in a "vault" the last 50 years, you'd still have $100 dollars today (please note that 100 dollars back then is worth about 2500 dollars now), if you had put these same 100 dollars in equity, you'd have 45.000 dollars now... but yeah, stack your money in a vault, that's a real good investment.

      Credit is NOT tight because those who have it don't want to risk letting the middle class earn it to invest it in their own wealth-growth schemes (please notice that he somehow abandoned the idea of rich people stacking their money), but because the risk premium on the market is growing (AKA Credit Spreads), therefore the creditors lend money only to people with better profiles, and ask a greater risk premium, this is a normal consequence of a slowing economy, since the risk taken by creditors is higher.

      So if you're an OSS or a closed-source developer, and you're hurting, remember for the next time another bubble grows: stay out of it.

      Oh yeah because bubbles are so easy to predict... All those analysts working in banks and other investment firms are just idiots, dada21 knows better.

      God you should stick to IT, you obviously know nothing about economy...
  • by cashman73 ( 855518 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:23PM (#22035546) Journal
    If the recession is relatively short, and some folks are out of work for only a few months, it could have a positive impact on various open source projects, as folks work on those while receiving unemployment checks. But if the recession is longer, the even the open source market could be hurt, as people are not going to want to work for free too long, and really need to start actually making money.
  • Au contraire... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:24PM (#22035562) Homepage
    Recession equals increase in unemployed programmers...

    Increase in unemployed programmers lead to an increase in free time available to programmers to work on open-source projects.

    Thus recessions are a boon for open-source software. The bane of open source software is a good economy. :P
  • The problem is... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Paranatural ( 661514 )
    People do not always react logically. There is a good chance there will be a recession and a lot of people will lose jobs and look at ways to cut costs. The question is is whether they will see FOSS as a valid choice in that. As it is, I suspect the vast majority of people will not. The thing is, in the more general population, FOSS/Linux/Whatever just plain has 0 visibility. It won't grow because people don't even understand it/recognize it as an option. This is changing. As Dell offers it on their Walma
  • Recession. Where? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Peer ( 137534 ) <rene@@@notfound...nl> on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:26PM (#22035594) Homepage
    Sure it is... maybe this is a nice moment to remind everyone that the world is bigger than just the USA. There's other countries that will trive in spite of any recession in the USA.

    There are loads of projects that are being run outside of the USA (Ubuntu etc.)
  • by blueZ3 ( 744446 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:26PM (#22035598) Homepage
    I don't think OSS contributors are driven by money (the vast majority I would say are not) so I don't see that their having financial troubles would affect whether they're willing to contribute to an OSS project or not. Indeed, I think that if some of them got laid off, in between looking for a new gig (and possibly as a resume enhancing exercise) they might contribute some of that newly-spare time to working on their pet project(s). After all, if you're sitting home trolling for a job, once you've done your daily search/apply/despair thing, don't you have another seven hours to spend "working" on something you care about?

    In fact, one reason OSS software is "recession proof" is because it's (mostly) done for love rather than money. If OSS projects relied on the state of the economy, that would be one thing, but a lot of OSS projects are things that people are working on because they want to, rather than have to to put food on the table.
  • by Tom ( 822 )
    It could also be the opposite, because we geeks don't shut off our brains when we're unemployed. We need to do something, and joining some Free Software project could be just the thing to a) keep us occupied, b) train our skills and thus c) improve our chances to get a new job.
  • During the bursting of the bubble I suddenly found myself with all sorts of extra time to spend on Open Source projects. Not so today.

    I bet that a recession would be *good* for OSS.
  • During the dot-com bust, the slogan for Microsoft's server product advertising was "Do More With Less." They knew that everyone was doing business on a shoestring -- something that open source running on old hardware did exceedingly well. And they were desperate to try to fool people into thinking that running expensive Windows Server on expensive new hardware was just as cheap. They weren't really successful in fooling anyone. Open source excelled during the bust because of its economy, and there is no
  • As long as unemployed geeks (no offense meant, as I am one as well) can afford a place to live and Internet access, I predict they will continue to develop their favorite projects.
  • Is Open Source Recession-Proof?

    Fixed.

  • I would think most open-source DEVELOPMENT would be unhindered if not enhanced because all those out-of-work nerds who are coding away in their free time have much more time to work on that OSS project when they're laid off...
  • There will always be open source software. It might languish during a recession, but it won't go away. And I suspect that out of work programmers will work on OSS regardless. It will show they are keeping their skills up in hopes they'll get a better paying job when the recession is over with.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    First, I don't see a recession hitting tech. This is not 2001. I'm at a growing company and I can't hire the LAMP developers we need even with an attractive package.

    Secondly, in 2001, when my company went bankrupt under the debt load of capital investments it made that didn't pan out because of the crash, I took time off (I could afford it, thankfully) and decided to write an e-commerce package (since I knew a couple people who wanted to use it). I released it open source; some people downloaded it, used it
  • by darth_linux ( 778182 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:20PM (#22036450) Homepage
    he doesn't know much about the OSS culture. He sees the business end, but does he know the "gift culture" OSS lives in? Yeah, developers do it for the bullet points on their CV, but also because they can. They develop because they can. Some of us see OSS as the utopia where free information exchange is happening and commerce is less important. I agree that smaller project might see volunteers dry up as they spend their time job seeking. I do not agree that hardware vendors will see a recession and stop Linux driver development. Do they make their money from drivers? Or do they need to support the growing numbers of Linux users in their customer base? Do developers of Linux drivers make OSS drivers? (*caugh* *ATI* *caugh*) Do those developers get paid or are they volunteer? Are all OSS developers volunteer? See - he doesn't seem to know that money can be made from open source. Just because I publish my code doesn't mean my customers can use it on their own. Otherwise, they might not have contracted me.

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