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Comment Re:He's chanelling Stallman is why it sounds famil (Score 2, Informative) 74

You've got to be kidding that I'm channelling Stallman. He's finally waking up to an issue that I put in front of him all the way back in 1999. At the time, he said "It didn't matter." See for yourself, in the transcript of our interchange at the 1999 Wizards of OS conference in Berlin. They are a fair way through the PDF of the transcript, so read on down:

At the time I was talking about "infoware" rather than "Web 2.0" but the concepts I was working with were in the same direction.

But in case you don't want to go through all that, here's the relevant bit:

Richard Stallman:

I came up to the mike again because I wanted to address
the topic that Tim O'Reilly raised. Some of you might know about our major
disagreements on other issues, but that's not what he spoke about. And I think that
this distinction between hardware and software and infoware is an interesting one
and that you addressed it very well from the open source point of view. That being
a matter of looking for a development methodology of making things that work and
judging success to a large extent in the same concept of market share or number of
users that is used as a criterion by the proprietary software developers. Now,
looking at that same concept, that same situation from the Free Software point of
view, I bring to this a different idea of goals and a different idea of a criterion.
The goal in the Free Software movement is to extend our freedom. 'Ours' meaning
that of whoever wants freedom to work together so that freedom spreads over a
wider range of activities. And so our criterion isn't really about market share, ever
and it's only secondarily about 'Do we have good technology, does the program
work reliably?' Obviously if it works badly enough it won't be useful, but otherwise
we can fix it, so that's just a side issue. The important thing is: How many activities
can we do without giving up our freedom? What is the range of things that we can
do on a computer which has just free software on it, where we don't have to
compromise our freedom to do any of those things?

Now when you apply this criterion to things like web servers that answer certain
kinds of questions for you, that communicate with you, you find an interesting
thing: a proprietary program on a web server that somebody else is running limits
his freedom perhaps, but it doesn't limit your freedom or my freedom. We don't
have that program on our computers at all, and in fact the issue of free software
versus proprietary arises for software that we're going to have on our computers and
run on our computers. We're gonna have copies and the question is, what are we
allowed to do with those copies? Are we just allowed to run them or are we allowed
to do the other useful things that you can do with a program? If the program is
running on somebody else's computer, the issue doesn't arise. Am I allowed to copy
the program that Amazon has on it's computer? Well, I can't, I don't have that
program at all, so it doesn't put me in a morally compromised position, the way I
would be if I were supposed to have a program on my computer and the law says I
can't give you a copy when you come visit me. That really puts me on the spot
morally. If a proprietary program is on Amazon's computer, that's Amazon's
conscience. Now I would like them to have freedom too. I hope they will want
freedom, and they will work with me so that we all get freedom, but it's not directly
an attack on you and me if Amazon has a proprietary program on their computer.
It's not crucially important to you and me whether Amazon uses a free operating
system like GNU plus Linux, or a free web server like Apache. I mean I hope they
will, I hope free software will be popular, but if they give up their freedom, that's
just a shame it's not a danger to us who want freedom.

What matters with infoware and freedom is the freedom as applied to the
information we get. If we get a web page, are we free to mirror it? If there is an
encyclopedia online somewhere, can everybody access it, are we free to mirror it,
can we add new articles to it? If there is courseware, textbooks, the web-equivalent
of textbooks, you read it and you study a subject and you learn, are these free? Can
you make modified versions of it and re-distribute them to other people? So we --
humanity -- have a gigantic job ahead of us to spread freedom into the area of
infoware and that's what the free software community has to do with infoware.

Tim O'Reilly:

I agree, I think that there are a lot of interesting issues. Think about,
for example, what if it gives the wrong directions? Can we fix it?
Many of us who deal with websites, for example, that have data up there, have a
real problem if we get the wrong data. And there is a very analagous situation to
software, where for example, we provide data to Amazon, they get it wrong, and we
can't fix it. You know we've got to send them mail, and they say 'Oh we'll get
around to it later,' and maybe it never gets fixed.

But there are further issues, we keep branching out. There are types of information
that you don't want to have modified. This gets into the whole issue of identity
online and digital signing, those kinds of things, because for example, if I make a
statement of opinion, as opposed to a statement of fact, I sure as heck don't want
somebody to modify it and 'improve' it and pass it off as what I said. So there are
some very very interesting social issues that we are going to get into. I think that
the Internet is going to change everything. We think we've seen a lot of change in
the last few years and I think we haven't seen anything yet.

I really don't think Richard ever grokked the Internet.

Operating Systems

The State of the Internet Operating System 74

macslocum writes "Tim O'Reilly: 'I've been talking for years about "the internet operating system," but I realized I've never written an extended post to define what I think it is, where it is going, and the choices we face. This is that missing post. Here you will see the underlying beliefs about the future that are guiding my publishing program as well as the rationale behind conferences I organize.'"

Comment Re:the good and the meh (Score 1) 271

Not sure what you mean by the idea that we "play favorites" at O'Reilly. I'd love to hear details so I can respond.

I can respond to the idea that we pay the lowest royalty rate, and your ideas about ebooks.

It's true that some publishers have higher nominal royalty rates than we do, but most of them take big "reserves against returns" that mean that you actually get a lot less than you think you do. Or they have a higher rate for some sales, but a lower rate for others, such that your blended rate for all sales is much lower than you expect. We offer one rate for all sales. That's a feature, not a bug.

I'll also point out that a royalty is a percentage. A higher percentage of smaller sales is still less money last time I looked. And at O'Reilly, we have the highest revenue per title of any publisher except Microsoft Press (whose volumes are lower but prices are much higher.)

Regarding ebooks, it's an misconception that the costs are much lower for ebooks. The costs of printing, returns, and warehousing are only about 20% of our net dollars we get from books (or about 10% of the list price). (If you've done the math on the previous sentence, you see that the retailer gets at least half of the list price.) So the costs aren't all that much lower for ebooks. And the consumer is demanding the savings. Ebooks are generally sold at a significant discount off the print book price, so the net to the publisher (and author) is actually lower than for print books.

Meanwhile, having an aggressive program for ebooks means we've had to invest millions of dollars over many years to build the market. If you think that ebooks means just putting a pdf on your website, you're missing the boat. The differences between publishers in their ability to get ebook revenues are enormous. There are actually as many ebook channels to sell through now than print outlets. For us, Safari Books Online is the biggest, but Stanza on the iPhone is coming on strong, as is the Kindle, Scribd, with many others entering the market. (Safari is actually our second biggest revenue source after Amazon, ahead of Barnes & Noble. It's the only ebook channel right now that generates enough to make it one of our top ten revenue channels, though Stanza and direct ebook sales from are coming on strong.) Building channels like this costs money - big sales force etc. It's not actually the kind of low cost revenue people imagine.

In fact, if your publisher pays a significantly higher royalty for ebooks, it's likely that they are just treating ebooks as "gravy." If they don't take them seriously, neither should you. Ebook sales are now at least 20% of our total revenue and climbing. When they are 50% or more, you'll see all those publishers with outlandish ebook rates scrambling to

Comment Re:O'Reilly & Associates (Score 2, Interesting) 271

Tim O'Reilly here. I was alarmed by this comment, as I don't like to think that my marketing department sends out spam, so I forwarded this message on to the team. Here's the reply I got: "this person has posted this before. We've searched for his email with no luck. I responded to his comment previously on slashdot and asked for him to send me a copy of the email so we could research. He never replied. Instead of letting us fix it, he would rather be a troll."

I suspect, now that I look more carefully, that there's more than to it than trolling. I notice the link, "Find free books," the claim that we tried to send him a physics book, something we haven't yet published, and I suspect that it is the poster who is a spammer.

bcrowell - if this is a legitimate complaint, please send us a copy of the email you received from us, or your own email address, and we'll see if you've ever been on our list, and if so, make sure you aren't any more.

If not, this guy needs moderating down...

Comment Google's prediction market at O'Reilly Money:Tech (Score 1) 94

Bo Cowgill, who wrote the paper on Google's prediction market, will be talking about their project at our Money:Tech conference in New York Feb 6-7. See for details.

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about parallels between Web 2.0 and Wall Street. Because of course, the stock market is one of the largest prediction markets of all.

But it doesn't end there. There are lots of fascinating things to learn by studying the parallels, including why Web 2.0 will turn away from aggregating public content to providing new ways for anonymized aggregation, why Google and other search engines will increasingly compete with the sites they index, and why web 2.0 companies might find new markets by providing insight -- or even new kinds of financial futures (see for example to financial markets.

Comment Re:RTFA (Score 1) 468

Did you even bother to read the article? Yes, it has to be labeled as spam, but the label isn't defined. As a matter of fact, the label is up to the spammer to decide! The FTC is PROHIBITED by this law from defining the label. So how are you supposed to filter out mail based on an arbitrary label defined by the sender?

I'm not happy with this law either. It's not going to reduce spam. However, not to be the total pessimist, I have always had the impression that most laws sketch out basic guidelines that are then spelled out explicitly by regulations from the exectutive branch (FTC, FCC, etc). Does it really explicitly say the FTC is prohibited from indicating how spam must be labeled? My interpretation is that the law's intention is to mandate the executive branch to spell out how messages should be labeled. I could be wrong.

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