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Software Ethics

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i don't know what incentives we can give to our (source-code) suppliers to produce meaningful code.-vizacc (December 30, 2007, 02:00 AM)
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If there is a lack of quality software in any particular niche, see it as an opportunity. Hire a developer and write the library for your own product then sell the library. Take advantage of the market and put the other guys out of business.


Well, obviously, I do not know nearly as much about all this as you all do, but I do know that one of the reasons that I am so increasingly drawn to freeware and open source software is that larger picture  - on the one hand, there are people doing work for which they deserve to be paid.

On the other hand, the products produced by that work are freely available to the end user at no cost.

So from whence shall the money come to pay the people doing the work?

It is one thing to debate the ethics and shoulds and shouldn'ts, and Lord knows there is no shortage of such debates.

The problem is that while the debates rage, and the sermonizers sermonize, there are still people working to produce stuff that is there for the taking by the end user.

So clearly, there are some extremely large elephants to be recognized and led out of many, many drawing rooms, and a whole lot of complicated economic questions and fundamental profit models of entire industries that need to be worked out, and I am not the person to do it.

But as a user, I like the open source idea, and I think it has a very interesting future.


I think that the great majority of people are honest and want to support good software developers.  Most, but certainly not all.

I use freeware also, especially if it is something that for the most part only comes that way.  An example of that is Google Calendar. Sure, there are a few good online calendar applications that charge money. I used one all through its beta testing, but then it was released and the price was set at a few hundred dollars, US!  Yikes! Beyond my means - apparently they wanted to sell primarily to corporations.  So I use Google Calendar.  Free.

Other free software I use often has a link for donations via PayPal.  When I use those, if I end up liking it and use it often, I donate.  For real.  In every case.  Those I don't like and stop using get no donation from me.  And I think that is how most treat freeware.  At least, those who can afford to donate or to purchase commercial software.  If someone truly cannot afford to pay for , say, an office suite, then I have no issue at all with them using it and never considering donating.  That is usually the intent of the Donate buttons.  I don't like those who use free software and never donate, even though they can well afford it. But, hey - that's life!

Personally I feel very blessed indeed that before becoming disabled I was able to work in a very good field and earn good money for years.  Thus I have always been able to purchase most of the software that I have ever wanted.  I will admit that since the disability hit me I have become much more discriminating as to what I can purchase, but I still manage.

And I really do think that most people want good software to continue to be developed, and are perfectly willing to pay for it.  Sure, Ad-supported Web 2.0 applications will definitely cut into good software developers' pockets, and some will no doubt fail because of this.  But I also think that good development will still pay off ultimately, and that we will always see the better ones available.

If not, then I am very wrong about all this.  And it will sad to see real software development disappear.

But overall, I have faith in ingenuity and hard work, and I will always do whatever I can to support good software development!


I think you are right that most people who can - and I would add who actually USE a particular program - are more than willing to pay for it!

But let's take, for example, Adobe Photoshop. Of all the copies of that program that are downloaded daily, how many of the people who download it are A) able to purchase it, and B) really going to use it?

I have heard, and can't really refute, the argument that the small-scale bottom-feeding freelancer who downloads photoshop via "unofficial" channels, if s/he is hired one day to work for a company, is most likely to choose Photoshop as the image editing software for the company's advertising department, and thus cause Adobe to make a multi-license sale, but that is not going to be a very large percentage of all those people who are downloading it.

I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure that probably 90% of the people who download Photoshop not only are never in a position to cause their boss to buy even one copy, but after fooling with it enough to see that there is a pretty steep learning curve involved, simply leave it in their Program Files folder and forget about it. (And go download some other wildly popular program that they will probably never even learn to use!)

So Adobe's flagship product, like all its products, and like just about every other piece of "commerical" software, including the Windows operating system itself, is freely available to the general public at no cost, and there is not really anything that the software companies can do about that.

I know that there are all kinds of plans and schemes and task forces and digital millennium pronouncements, and that has been the case for some time, and I imagine will continue to be the case for some time, and no doubt all that provides the people who are involved with a very real psychological benefit.

But there is not really any way to change that downloadable reality.

You mentioned honesty, and a lot of the discussions I have seen on this subject, especially those where most of the participants are from the US or Europe, will sooner or later get into the subject of intellectual property, and ethics as related to that. For many people, to download Photoshop without paying for it constitutes theft - the theft of intellectual property. That is, for them, a core value, it is part of their cultural context, and the laws in the US reflect that cultural norm, that core value.

But you might discuss the subject with someone from a different culture, and their view could be completely different! To that person, honesty might not even enter into the picture. Their concept of honesty might be completely different from yours - and both views equally irrelevant to the ones and zeros that populate the download directories all over the globe!

Although some governments have tried, and continue to try, dividing the web up according to cultural tradition, value systems, and legal jurisdictions, or isolating particular populations from the larger body of internet citizenry, does not seem to be working out, and I do not intend that to be a diss against the very bright and talented people in any particular country who have done such hard work on those kinds of projects, nor those who are just as talented and work just as hard on "copy protection."

It is just that there are many, many people who use the internet, many, many people who click mice, and whatever programmatic strategy I might come up with to, for instance, prevent you from viewing web pages that reside on servers outside of say, Malaysia, somebody somewhere in the world is going to develop a workaround for that, and make that workaround available to you, even if your computer literacy stops at checking your email and a couple of favorite websites.

Similarly, whatver scheme I devise to prevent you from being able to run a copy of Photoshop that you download from a website not authorized by Adobe to offer the program for download, somebody somewhere is going to come up with a workaround for THAT, and so on.

The web, unlike laws, or beliefs, or cultures, is universal! And it is that universality that is presenting entire industries with the challenge of developing new ways of doing things on a very fundamental level, in order to adapt to these new realities.

Meanwhile, the open source Gimp project continues to steadily improve, and come closer to being a truly realistic replacement for Photoshop, and a larger percentage of people who download the GImp are actually going to use it, despite its learning curve, and the ones that can DO support it.

There is already a Gimp product, Gimpshop, that openly seeks to resemble Photoshop more closely, and I think that we can expect to see that march apace, and in a couple of years, Gimpshop will attain or surpass Open Office in its "open source alternativehood," precisely because as you say, most people are willing to support good software - Whether they would consider it dishonest to download Photoshop or not, those with the skills would definitely embrace the opportunity to be part of a project whose goal is to produce image editing software that is BETTER than Photoshop!

In other words, that very universality of the web that challenges all those traditional business models has the potential, in my opinion, to form itself into a new and, to use one of my pet peeve born-cliche memes, "reality-based" model.


sorry for the late reply. i got really busy.

advantage of the market and put the other guys out of business.

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good idea.


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