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Author Topic: The Inversion of the Open Source - Big Corporation Divide?  (Read 10285 times)
mouser
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« on: July 29, 2010, 07:02:56 AM »

I try to avoid thinking about corporations and business models as much as possible, but this morning i had a thought about something that's been troubling me for a while and i thought i would try to post about it.

It has to do with what seems to me like a particularly ironic change that's happening regarding who is benefiting from Open Sourcing their software.

Note that I'm not talking about who benefits from *using* Open Source software -- I'm talking about which developers benefit from releasing their software as Open Source.



It seems to me that not too many years ago, large companies focused on profit were loathe to release their software products as open source.  Intellectual Property was their competitive advantage, and having the unique product to offer was key.  And small independent developers focused mainly on the creation of some useful tool could release their software open source fairly certain that, while they might not be making any money from their work, it was at least very unlikely that anyone else would be making money from it either.



But it seems to me that with the shift to web-based services, we are starting to see a troubling inversion of this pattern, where the bigger and more powerful the corporation, the easier it is for them to benefit from releasing code as Open Source, while for small developers, releasing software as Open Source seems increasingly likely to result in it being used by an independent corporation to make money.

I think the reason for this shift is that with the move to web services -- it's no longer the intellectual property that is valuable -- it's a combination of computational resources needed to host a large and busy web service, and the resources and money available to market and support it.

A giant corporation like google can afford to open source most of its software because it's not the software that's valuable any more -- it's the company infrastructure that enables them to serve so many users, and the cross-marketing resources they can throw at the userbase any time it looks like they might be losing market share.  Open sourcing their software is merely a way to get more free publicity and free bug fixing for their code.

For web services, making the intellectual property of the source code available freely no longer does harm to these big corporations because it's not the important thing any more -- having the money to pay for the marketing to maintain a large user base and maintain a farm of fast servers to keep the service fast is what matters, and those are things that small upstart competitors rarely can compete with.

Meanwhile with the focus on online web services, for a indie coders without the money to compete with a large corporation, the paths forward are daunting.  If you create something new and innovative, unlike the case with desktop software, you have to know that you won't be able to scale up the service to handle a large volume of users.  This means that your likely best chance of surviving is to sell out to a large corporation who can.  And perhaps it's only by preserving the exclusive rights to the software they've developed and the intellectual ideas for it that they have a chance of going down this path.



So i'm not sure these ideas are fully fleshed out, i'm just thinking aloud here -- but i'm troubled by how much more difficult i see things getting for small independent developers in this new world where online web services are king.

One sliver of hope may be the in small developers giving up some control and accepting a 50/50 partnership with these large corporate web service back-ends and cloud application services; it may mean the end of purely-independent small developers, but it may blunt the worst of my fears, and mean that small indie developers can operate on almost equal footing with large corporate infrastructures, as long as they are willing to split revenue, which isn't a terrible thing.
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EĆ³in
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« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2010, 07:42:03 AM »

This is just the nature of opensource to my mind, and it the very reason I never understood the GPL. I just don't get the logic behind "Go ahead use my software for building monopolies or managing your dictatorship, but if you link my library against your freeware app I'll come down on you like a tonne of bricks".

You need money to make money, it's always been that way. What we'll see is the further growth of middle men, people who run 'farms or rent' on which you can host your web applications, that way indie developers can get a foot in the door.
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« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2010, 10:02:08 AM »

Quote
Meanwhile with the focus on online web services, for a indie coders without the money to compete with a large corporation, the paths forward are daunting.  If you create something new and innovative, unlike the case with desktop software, you have to know that you won't be able to scale up the service to handle a large volume of users.

The indie developer can leverage those web services (Amazon Web Services, Google Code) to compete head to head with large companies.  I see the move to web services as leveling the playing field, allowing a single guy in a basement to compete directly with some of the largest companies in the world, and scale to meet the demand.
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barney
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« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2010, 06:55:40 PM »

I tend to agree with EĆ³in about the rental farms, albeit perhaps from a different perspective.  One infuriation over the last couple of decades has been finding a great app that won't run on the OS of choice.

With the tendency - trend? - to create Web apps, OS specificity will become less and less, so a developer will no longer have to pay as much attention to the user's platform of choice.  Assuming that as a given - it ain't yet, but we're moving in that direction - small developers will have a much larger audience.  If the server rental farm concept - already in process, methinks - comes to pass, the indie developers' product(s) can see a much larger audience than they currently might enjoy.

The downside could be renting the farm space, but tech-savvy angel investors will appear to alleviate that aspect, methinks.  They show up everywhere else  Grin.
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app103
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« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2010, 08:28:48 PM »

The downside could be renting the farm space, but tech-savvy angel investors will appear to alleviate that aspect, methinks.  They show up everywhere else  Grin.

Yes, but most angel investors don't actually want a chunk of a small company that plans to be in it for the long haul. They want a chunk of the cash when it's sold to a big corporation, which they will push to make happen.

Nobody wants to risk their money and time investing in what could be the next Google, when it's easier to make the company sell to Google and they get a big cut.
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« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2010, 07:00:47 PM »

I notice that since day one on GPL'ed Open source. If wonder if they explain GPL like this:

"You will be doing all the development and support, and will I use your software for free and make a profit without paying you anything."

That is basically the deal with opensource, except that in some cases you can get other people to volunteer into improving the software. You work for big companies, but you don't notice it and don't get paid for doing so.

On top of that companies like Apple can get away of using the open source and closing the platform by abusing the DRM act. Code that is not signed by them, do not run. And you need to A. buy overpriced hardware from apple. B. Pay $99 a year for entering the club. C. Receive apples blessing for your application. D. Give apple a cut of everything you make.  All while Apple gets the software for free.

Unfortunately, it seem that this will become the norm.
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kartal
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« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2010, 09:31:48 PM »

I think that releasing "some" of their software for free and open source, they gain some benefits(naturally)

-Makes big corporations look friendly
-Looks good in the news
-They show their intellectual power(to other corporations)
-They release a product without real support and warranty worries, but if someone wants support, they probably pay to get it
-More people use their software, which makes them gain ground. Especially if they can get more developers
-Community contributions which means that some of the developement will be shifted to dedicated unpoaid community developers and fanboy developers


In the end I think that it is incredibly benefitial for Corps to release their software for free or even open source. I would not be surprised if MS would start making a free version of Windows, now that whoever has more browser users seems to make big desicions in web technology.


I actually have a good example, think about Iphone from Apple. They released it and alot people bought it including alot of developers who wanted to make money from Iphone. I bet the number of developers who wanted to develop something on Iphone would be thousands of thousands people, not that everyone developes but you get the picture. So Apple not just makes money out of selling Iphones, it also creates a platform where it gives developers hope to make money. Well probably only %2 of those developers probably could get their invetsment back. Anyways you get the picture on thate example. The same thing can be said for open source. For example Google wave platform or other opensource web technologies. They first gain ground by making it developers only and slowly they make their number up. So the way I see is that open sourcing is a way to create buzz, build some ground, make money by making real products on top of those open sourced apps or OSes like Google phone and browser stuff.
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« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2010, 10:31:21 AM »

I find it kind of amusing how the phrase "open source" got co-opted by people who are fundamentally opposed to the notion of open anything.

Put it right up there with other "made meaningless" words like: green, organic and free.

I remember in the early days of FOSS how there were some very serious discussions about possibly trademarking the term in order to prevent it from being abused by businesses and individuals who were looking to pull a bait & switch move, or otherwise get around the 'give back' part of the deal.

Interestingly enough, the overwhelming majority opposed anything because they felt people should be free to interpret "open source" any way they wanted - and truly believed nobody would be so stupid as not to know when the term was being misused.

Considering the number of bizarre notions so many people seem to have about GPL, I think I can say in retrospect - Boy were we ever wrong!  Grin
« Last Edit: July 31, 2010, 10:33:04 AM by 40hz » Logged

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Gothi[c]
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« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2010, 10:51:51 AM »

Please don't see the GPL as a product from the open source movement.

It's true that open source is easily exploited, many of it's inventors were in it for the cash.

But please keep the GPL out of that argument.

The GPL is the product of the Free Software movement, which is a completely different thing.
Richard Stallman (Founder) has to re-iterate this in almost every interview and talk he gives.

Free Software does not equal Open Source.

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zridling
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« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2010, 11:30:25 PM »

Note that I'm not talking about who benefits from *using* Open Source software -- I'm talking about which developers benefit from releasing their software as Open Source.

That depends on the software, doesn't it? A single freeware-type app in 2010 probably isn't going to make a splash like it could have in 2002. As others have noted, the term "open source" has been co-opted by many industries. The biggest example -- beyond Firefox, the Apache web server, and the MySQL database format -- is Linux, and more specifically, Red Hat. However, something big that is shared can make you a lotto winner, e.g., Wikipedia, MySQL, Innobase, and an endless list of industry-specific software bought out by such industries as airlines, autos, oil, healthcare, banking, travel, real estate, mapping, etc.

But writing software is the skill, and it's not the first "open" skill around:
- Carpentry
- Math
- Cooking
- Farming
- Repair (of just about anything)
- Fashion, sewing, weaving, etc.

Writing code is just another trade just like others.

A giant corporation like google can afford to open source most of its software because it's not the software that's valuable any more -- it's the company infrastructure that enables them to serve so many users, and the cross-marketing resources they can throw at the userbase any time it looks like they might be losing market share.  Open sourcing their software is merely a way to get more free publicity and free bug fixing for their code.

As Jaden says, Amazon's S3 service is available, as does Google, but then that begs the question in a way!

Meanwhile with the focus on online web services, for a indie coders without the money to compete with a large corporation, the paths forward are daunting. If you create something new and innovative, unlike the case with desktop software, you have to know that you won't be able to scale up the service to handle a large volume of users.

At least that's the hope; figuring out what to do with success, that is. I realize I'm out of my league here when talking about coding and its economics. Looking back, it's easy to see where computing was heading -- the web -- with increasing demands for smaller and more mobile hardware. From desktops to laptops to notebooks to netbooks to phones and now tablets, we all just want to have the internet at hand all the time. As a consumer of code, I recommend working in small groups, learn to take advantage of all the open code available to come up with your next great idea... Dick Tracy internet wristwatch, anyone?!
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40hz
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« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2010, 09:34:24 AM »

Quote from: Gothi[c
link=topic=23569.msg214039#msg214039 date=

Free Software does not equal Open Source.


As Sun Software will be happy to 'explain.'  Wink smiley

--------

What do ya mean MySQL buddy? It's OurSQL now!
And don't you go quotin' me none of that communist hippy GPL crap either.    Grin  tongue

« Last Edit: August 05, 2010, 09:36:34 AM by 40hz » Logged

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rxantos
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« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2010, 09:11:16 PM »

Dick Tracy internet wristwatch, anyone?!
More likely contact lenses and brain controlled user interface. Along with people becoming dumber and dumber.

Today, whatever hits the top in google is the truth for most people.
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mouser
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« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2010, 10:25:47 AM »

So I just finished reading Eric Raymond's short collection of influential essays on Open Source software, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar".

I have long been a fan of the idea of Open Source from an ethical standpoint, and I've released a number of Open Source software packages in the past.

Although I've skimmed through Raymond's famous essay "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" in the past, I'm not sure I read the whole thing until now, and I certainly hadn't read his other releated essays collected in this book ("Homesteading and the Noosphere" and "The Magic Cauldron").

I expected to come out of reading those with a new found appreciation for why I should be Open Sourcing all of my software, and was pretty depressed and shocked to instead come out of those essays pretty depressed about the likely future of Open Source and where we are heading from the perspective of a small coder.

I know this is going to be somewhat controversial so let me elaborate.  First it may help to put some of this in a philosophical/political context.  I am not a fan of capitalism and the culture of "greed is good" -- i think the incentives we've set up for our economic systems favor giant winner-take-all corporations.

Raymond's essays paint a picture of why it's financially beneficial for companies to embrace open source, and an explanation from a largely financial standpoint of why individual hackers benefit from and enjoy open source (to simplify, it builds their reputation which pays off in the future).  Raymond does not argue that that's the only reason people get involved in the open source community, but that's the main thrust of the work.

And Raymond makes, to my ears at least, a very compelling and thorough case for why Open Source is the smarter and more profitable road for corporations to take when working on software that they use in house.  But there's the rub. The entire set of essays is predicated on the foundation that actually making a living from selling software is out of this equation.

Raymond explains that 95% of software is developed for internal use, not for sale.  It is *THIS* internal use software that benefits so greatly and thrives from Open Sourcing.  The other 5%, the software created by individuals or small companies for sale to others, is left off the table and basically acknowledged to be harmed by Open Sourcing.

In other words -- the ultimate end of the march to Open Source is a world where individual authors can no longer expect to have money come in from people who purchase software.  Instead, our software "economy" is heading towards a future where all software is free (and open source), and everyone is LEVERAGING that software in order to make money on people indirectly (ads, locking into service contracts, selling marking data, etc.).

I think we can see analogies of this in the world of music, movies, and books.  If the equivalent philosophy was carried over into these digital mediums, we would find ourselves in a world where the artists (writers, musicians, etc.) no longer can make any money selling music or books to people who listen and read them.  All of those things will be free.  Instead, the money will flow in but through indirect routes -- large companies charging for services and figuring out ways to make real money off of the free work of the artists.

From an ethical standpoint, I think we need to find a path that embraces the wonderful aspect of Open Source / Free software, but doesn't result in a dystopia for the small artists and developers, making it harder and harder for them to be funded by the people who like and benefit from their work.

I think part of the problem may lie in the Open Source community itself.  In an effort to promote and spread the concept of Open Source, the community has embraced the message that corporations can make bigger profits by open sourcing their software.  This may be fine as far as it goes, but I do believe that the consequences of this focus by the open source community has left small independent developers by the wayside.

One possible answer is for the grass roots Open Source community to take much more seriously the plight of small developers who are interested in forming a direct relationship with their users, and are interested in figuring out a way to be paid for their work and do it as a living.  Some of core untouchable definitions of Open Source (like the ability to fork, and the ability to charge to sell distributions of software someone else wrote) make this very difficult.

From my standpoint, the ideal solution would be one where as a community were much more willing to donate to support software we used.  I just don't know if that is realistic.

I don't think anyone believes that the ideal world is one where everything is Open Source, but the only people who can afford to spend time coding are those those doing it as a hobby because they have another paying job, or those who are working for large companies that are figuring out ways to leverage free software to make money indirectly from it, and where we kill off the entire small-developer software community that is trying to make a living directly interacting with their users.

Anyway, those are just some thoughts going through my head.  Please don't take this as an attack on the concept of Open Source, or think that I am hostile towards it.  I think the Open Source movement is a wonderful one.  I'm just trying hard to figure out in my own mind, and draw a little attention to, what seems to me like a serious unfortunate consequence of our *current* thinking about Open Source, and hope that the community can find a way to address this issue and find some kind of solution.

Despite my worries that we are going down this very unfortunate path, I think the opportunity still exists to take a different route that leads us to both an Open Source future, and a future where artists and authors are able to directly connect to their users and fans and be directly funded by them, cutting out the currently dominant role of middle men.  I'm just not sure how to advance us down that path.
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app103
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« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2010, 11:19:56 AM »

Bob Young, one of the co-founders of RedHat and founder of LuLu.com (a site that allows anyone to self-publish a book) wrote a very short book you might want to add to your reading collection, for this topic.

Giving It Away (and he is giving away the digital version for free)
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jaden
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« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2010, 04:31:32 PM »

Did Bob have a change of heart?  The download link goes to http://www.lulu.com/forbidden.php
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app103
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« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2010, 06:24:41 PM »

Did Bob have a change of heart?  The download link goes to http://www.lulu.com/forbidden.php

There is a tiny icon with a green arrow, that when clicked will give you the pdf version of the book, here on his profile page: http://stores.lulu.com/machine
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jaden
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« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2010, 07:21:56 PM »

I get the same forbidden page from that link on two different computers, three browsers and wget.
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Shades
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« Reply #17 on: October 08, 2010, 08:02:56 PM »

Same here from South America, no "love" from lulu (a common short for girls named Luana over here).
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« Reply #18 on: October 09, 2010, 01:13:05 PM »

I do not want to sound cynic but this is what I think.

If people figure out that 95% of software is made for internal consumption, why they did not figure out that the ones the do most of the internal consumptions are exactly the ones that gave work for programmers? Thus changing programming from a profession (like a lawyer, doctor, accountant, etc.) to a beggar state that artist have known for a time, where a very few make it big and a most have to find alternative sources of income.

I do not like the system we live in. The sole purpose of a corporation is to make money for the shareholders. The fault here is that power holding share holders already have money to begin with. Thus the result of corporations is consolidating the money on a few people. The ones that works most are not the ones getting the most return.

Since corporations, by definition are to make money. It helps considerably to have free open source for internal consumption. AKA, less jobs for programmers. More money for corporations.  More money for corporations means that the small business have less opportunity, not more, to compete with corporations.

To top this, every new generation of programmers are told about the wonders of open source. And instead of learning to make their own stuff, they just fall into the trap, working for corporations for free. While at the same time making the consumers think that software should be free, thus they do not need to pay for something a person worked on. An expected state of slavery.

Nowadays the only way to make money is.

A. being already rich, so that you can create an infrastructure fast.
B. Find a small niche that corporations haver not noticed (aka eat the crumbles that fall out their table). 
C. Use software as a bait for another product.
D. Create a cooperative with others developers. This will allow:
- Paying once for duplicated services. (publicity,  market research, legal stuff, etc.)
- Having a store with enough products, instead of a single product.
- Having enough products to establish a business relation with retail stores.
- Having a quality control system (much like publishers have in the game business.

I being toying with the idea of an international cooperative of developers.

If we think of business as war, a big organized army has a better chance of survival than an equal number of divided fighters (aka a big corporation have a better chance than many individual developers). But if the individual developers join forces and make an army of their own, they have a fighting chance. (aka a cooperative with enough number of developers can compete against corporations).

Why a cooperative? Equal vote. Equal voice. Thus it will not degenerate on a small group controlling a large group.


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app103
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« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2010, 12:14:43 AM »

I get the same forbidden page from that link on two different computers, three browsers and wget.
Same here from South America, no "love" from lulu (a common short for girls named Luana over here).

OK, I have sent a message to the author through the lulu internal messaging system, explaining the problem. Hopefully he will get back to me, and the issue will be fixed.
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« Reply #20 on: October 10, 2010, 08:35:02 AM »

Okay, I have to say I have a big issue with this anti-corporate slant.  Mouser, I think you may be overly zealous in your distrust of corporations (not that it is unwarranted, this is just more of a reality check to ensure you are not being too pessimistic).  I feel your conclusions from the book are rather off the mark as I will present in a moment.  Also, I am particularly concerned with the way rxantos explains it (not saying you are completely wrong, just the way you explain your thoughts is making no sense to me).  Assuming all statements made thus far are true (specifically that 95% of software is for internal consumption), then I don't see the issue.  More specifically, open source software does not mean that these corporations went out and took free code from someone else necessarily.  Much, dare I say most, of this code is developed in house for business-specific purposes.  Moreover, if the 5% is all that is out there now, look at how much IS out there.  That means this is a truly mammoth market that has more than enough room for anyone with an idea and skills to bring that idea to market independent of the size of their organization.

This leads to the argument that it puts programmers out of work.  Who do you think they will have develop it/customize it for their use?  The manager?  Not in any company I have ever worked for or seen.  Indeed, I feel that the comparison of a coder to a starving artist is a gross exaggeration and negligent blindness to the realities of business.  Companies get nothing for free - sure they may download free software, for example, but then they have to pay a programmer to customize it to suit their needs.  Moreover, if this software is relied on for even the slightest bit of production, then the company will want (and pay for) someone to support it to ensure it stays functional.  Does this mean programmers will do this for free?  Again, not in any normal situation I have ever seen.  Indeed, rather than comparing the programmer to a starving artist, I see them being more comparable to the accountant.  Some will work for corporations of all sizes, some will be independent contractors, and some will be small businesses filling the needs of everyday consumers.  This is where the small, independent programmer this thread alludes to is going in my eyes.

Now, speaking directly to rxantos, With regard to your complaints about a few "fat cats" being shareholders and owning everything to their own money-making machine, I wish to ask you for specific examples?  I don't believe you can account for the staggering amount of money in the stock markets around the world with your narrow view.  At best, these "Ultra Wealthy" make up a small percentage.  By far, the largest source of money in the stock market is shareholders who represent the common man.  These are corporations investing money in other corporations on behalf of small individual contributors.  In the United States, there are two BIG examples that make up in excess of 90% (exact percentage depends on who you talk to, but I have seen numbers between 95% and 98% of market funds available) of the investment funds used in the stock market today.  These are in order - retirement investment vehicles (401k, IRA, etc.) and bank reinvestment of savings.  Sure, these companies take a small percentage of the investment in the form of fees to cover their costs and make money (as you pointed out, that is their reason for existence after all), but without this, you would not be getting any interest on deposits or growth for retirement (if you used these financial tools).  If you believe in the communist utopia as set forth by Carl Marx and therefore do not subscribe to or take advantage of these types of instruments (they exist world-wide in a variety of forms), be my guest, but this is the way the world works right now.

With that said, I do not discount or disagree with your resulting statements (part of why I think it was a poor understanding of your statements and not a poor thought process).  Many programmers do come out of College with an idealistic view of open source and probably do fall for coding for free in some circumstances. I don't see this as a particularly bad thing, as they still get the experience (both of coding and of how to recognize you are being duped), and they get exposure.  I also agree with your ways of making money, though I disagree those are the only ways for a programmer.  There is no reason you can't work for a company in the IT department maintaining and/or customizing code.  Likewise, there is no reason you can't contract with companies to provide services as needed under terms you find mutually agreeable.  I get the feeling your complaint in this respect is that you can't choose your work (freelance), but as already stated there is no reason I can see to feel that way (and you even point to one potential way of accomplishing that).  Indeed, the cooperative you speak of is nothing more than yet another software house producing software to make money.  The organization and business plan may be a bit different than the existing companies, but that does not change the fact that it would be a business/organization.  There are even existing models in other industries that could be copied to attempt to achieve the desired result.  Many of these fall under the heading of non-profit agencies in the United States.  The key, though, is the same as it has always been.  Find a need and fulfill it at a price that is as cheap or cheaper than the alternative with a quality as good or better than the alternative.

Sorry for going on so long, but this thread was headed in a decidedly "me too" direction that I can not get behind.  tongue
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mouser
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« Reply #21 on: October 10, 2010, 10:37:13 AM »

I suppose the main point I am trying to make has nothing to do with big corporations and whether they are good or bad, or the role of open source in these corporations.

My main point is simply that it seems to me there are two paths that the Free / Open Source culture could go down..

  • The first path (the one i think we are currently on) for an Open Source future leads to world view that says "no person should ever pay money for software"; i think the natural outcome of this is that larger corporations will use software as an indirect leverage to make money, and small independent coders will find it increasingly hard to make a living from coding software.
  • The second path would be one in which the culture of Free / Open Source software embraced the idea that people should support authors/coders/musicians directly (through donations, small payments, whatever), and recognized that users providing financial support was integral to the health of the Open Source community.

My point is simply that the Open Source community offers a possible revolution in software and music, etc.  But that the Open Source community doesn't seem to be paying much attention to these two possible paths, and that in a zeal to spread the concept of Open Source, they may be pushing us towards the first path without consideration for its consequences, and that from an ethical and long-term standpoint, we need to be working harder to get us down the second path.



Perhaps a better way to view what i'm saying is simply that i can see a path forward where individuals directly support authors and artists, with donations that match their financial resources, and that this can create an entire ecosystem that bypasses the stranglehold and waste of the large corporations of middlemen whose only role is gatekeeping.  I don't want the Open Source revolution to take us someplace where all software is Open Source/Free but we end up worsening the relationship between independent authors/artists and end users.

I think we are starting to see a new generation of corporate management that views Open Source as a tool for increasing efficiency and profits.  Nothing wrong with that, and clearly some in the Open Source community are not concerned with bigger picture items -- they are interested in promoting Open Source as a first principle.  But I'm much more interested in Open Source as an ethical issue and as a piece of a larger shift towards bringing producers and consumers closer together as one community.  I'm interested in plotting a path towards having end users (and music fans, etc.) directly funding small developers and artists, and being part of the creation process.  And ultimately what I'm hoping for is an overlap between the Open Source advocates and those who are interested in this new way of funding small developers directly.  I'm just trying to feel my way around the Open Source community and figure out what corner of that universe i belong in.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2010, 10:59:40 AM by mouser » Logged
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« Reply #22 on: October 10, 2010, 12:21:33 PM »

Actually that is what I got from your arguments.  However, I think you are missing at least a third option.  That being where the software is seen as a product, and the author providing a service.  This option is analogous to book authors where some are paid by the masses indirectly (a publisher pays the author and the publisher takes on the risk and rewards of the works), they can work directly for companies and publish internally (they hold no ownership of their work), and the smallest third option, they can self publish and get paid directly by the consumer of their product.  The reason this is such a small percentage and is generally considered low payout for books is the advertising costs are so high that it is difficult for an unknown self-published author to get seen. 

It is exactly the same for software, except the author becomes the programmer.  So now programmers work for a corporation with no ownership of their work (internal systems programmers), they can produce work that gets sold through resellers who buy the work up front and assume the risk and reward of selling the work, or they can self-publish.  In your thesis, it seems you are looking at the  Open Source software community as only the third option, whereas it really can be in any of the three.  In fact, the economics of Open Source Software as a way of making money for a programmer is a fallacy.  The economics of software is independent of whether or not the software is "Open".  It is the business model of distribution that sets the economic viability of the software solution and not openness of the code.  I hope this makes sense.
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« Reply #23 on: October 10, 2010, 12:44:04 PM »

Quote
The economics of software is independent of whether or not the software is "Open".  It is the business model of distribution that sets the economic viability of the software solution and not openness of the code.


but isn't part of the dilemma that the requirements to meeting an "official" open source license involve granting anyone the license to distribute your open source product and charge whatever they want for it, without any payment or arrangement with the author.

this seems to me part of why we are seeing such a move to indirect profit making from open source software, where companies give away software but find other ways to profit from users (ads, support services), since the very core of an open source license virtually guarantees an inability to raise money *directly* from users for the software.

again, i'm arguing more about a cultural issue than a legal one -- i'm saying that the culture is starting to view the idea that one should contribute financially to software authors or music artists as a foreign concept.  we are all starting to think that all software should be free of any (direct obvious) cost.  my point is that the consequences of this are unpleasant, and my worry is that some of the open source advocates are hastening our shift to this instead of trying to pair the Open Source revolution with a parallel cultural shift in supporting authors directly.

the commercial community has jumped all over the idea of providing things that look like they are free -- that are free from any direct cost to the user, in order to capture a market and capture a future customer.  think about the cell phone companies, who basically "give away" phones in order to capture long term phone plan payments.  my point is simply that we are heading towards a point where no one can conceive of paying for software (or donating to support authors) -- where they expect all software to be free and won't tolerate the concept of paying (as a donation or otherwise) a software author or a musician/artist.  they will simply conclude that if a musician/software author expects to make a living, they will figure out a way to sell their software to a large company that will leverage that work to get more customers to charge service rates or feed ads to, etc.  and i just don't think that's a good thing for the independent author/artist.

and just to reiterate a point i have been trying to make -- i'm not saying we need any new laws or software licenses -- mostly what i'm saying is that those who are interested in Open Source from an ethical standpoint (rather than as a commercial opportunity to increase profits), may have an obligation and an opportunity to try to pair this revolution with a shift in thinking about the need for individuals to directly fund independent developers/artists, and that *THIS* is as important (perhaps moreso) in terms of improving our society than is the concept of "open source" itself.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2010, 12:55:10 PM by mouser » Logged
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« Reply #24 on: October 10, 2010, 01:18:33 PM »

Oh, I definitely agree, you are arguing the cultural and ethical points of this, not the economic points - well not directly.  I notice you also are targeting a specific license of open source - the problem with this is there are LOTS of open source licenses.  Some of the more prevalent ones do include language like you said, but then the question of how open is open comes into play.  Personally, with the license language you sport above, I would think the author would have to price it to the point that no one would buy it for it to be economically feasible under those terms.  Like many points in Marx's manifesto, the idea is great, but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired.

What I have seen as the best workable solution (for an "open source license") is used primarily in business only situations where the company ends up paying loads of money to another company but gets full source code with it and is free to do anything they want with it except sell it in part or in whole.  This has it's own set of issues, such as at what point does taking parts of it constitute selling it vs. taking that knowledge and applying it to other software.  They are just algorithms after all, and there are only so many ways to accomplish any given task.  So at what point does it become a "part" instead of just a way of accomplishing a task?

Now, with where you see this as heading, I do see what you mean.  I don't like that idea much either.  Hopefully the "masses" will see this for what it is and won't stand for it, though I am rather pessimistic of that.  The whole idea of advertising and apps stores within an app seem disingenuous to me too.  However I don't see this as a issue of business pushing out the independent programmer as much as business finding ways to bring in more customers.  It is the customer's ideal of finding everything for free that is at issue there, and I don't see that ever going away.  That is why Walmart continues to grow year after year at the expense of the mom & pop shops.  They provide more selection at lower cost, so people go independent of the ethical considerations of doing so (by and large - I know many who won't go for just this reason, but we are a minority).
« Last Edit: October 10, 2010, 01:20:32 PM by steeladept » Logged
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