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The Inversion of the Open Source - Big Corporation Divide?

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Yeah let me try yet another way to re-frame my thinking on this.

We are seeing some very influential Open Source advocates (like Eric Raymond) basically advancing a vision that looks something like this: "Open Source is great and it is the future; it makes sense because it is more profitable for big businesses; a side effect is that it will either completely kill off small indie developers or else they won't be able to participate in the Open Source revolution."

What I want to see is a more ambitious Open Source cultural revolution, which is focused not just on Open Source as the only end result worth caring about -- without concern of the cultural consequences for artists and small developers.  I want to see the Open Source revolution paired with a revolution in funding -- where the Open Source community is actively interested in the idea of encouraging direct micro-scale grass roots, affordable donation-based FUNDING of independent artists and developers -- to help these coders and artists survive and thrive in our economies and help them break free of the traditional gatekeepers in the marketplace (rather than make this situation worse).

I'm thinking on similar lines like mouser. If any developer wants to create software these days then he has to compete with open source+commercial companies. I just can't think of software business as hippie culture, build it for free and give it free. Who is going to pay the bills -internet, electricity etc. If any hobbyist jumps into this and develops competitive product for his use and distributes it then i can understand. But the move FSF/GNU is taking just to wipe out business seems lame to me. It is like making plenty of programmers jobless just for their aim of "software should be free" and it is going in negative direction IMO.

From reading Eric Raymond and Richard Stallman, i'm starting to get a better feel for the different philosophies behind some of the driving forces of the Open Source movement, and i'm starting to see where i don't fit in, and why.

This is a caricature but i think it captures key points:

Eric Raymondw: Open Source is a much more efficient and financially profitable way to develop great software.  Large companies can make more money from Open Source software and it leads to better software; since most programmers and companies don't try to sell their software and are hired to produce internal software, most programmers will not be affected jobwise.  The small minority of people who create software in hopes of selling it are out of luck and cannot survive in such a model.

Richard Stallmanw: All software should be Open Source (stallman actually prefers the term "free software", a subset of Open Source), where it can be modified and distributed as users see fit.  This gives the most freedom to the users of the software.  This may make it impossible for software authors to make a living creating software, while helping middlemen and large corporations to make big profits by providing distribution, consulting, marketing, and support.  This is ok because it's not important whether programmers can make money creating software, only that software users have the freedom to modify and share code.  People should donate to support Open Source projects, but it isn't that important -- if programmers can no longer make a living from creating software that is ok -- they can always get consulting jobs if they need money.

I'm still trying to nail down my own personal philosophy about this stuff, but i think it's something like this:

* As a community, the best solution in terms of maximizing happiness, satisfaction, freedom, and security, occurs when we have the freedom to modify the programs we use and when we can pay what we want for them, *AND* when we support the programmers who create such software, financially and in other ways -- such that these programmers and artists can devote themselves to the creation of content for their users, instead of try to find indirect, convoluted, and compromised ways to get their work funded by corporations with ulterior motives.
* The key is that it is the mutual compact, in terms of users directly supporting/financing the programmers/artists, which is essential in my mind, in creating a sustainable healthy system that leads to the maximum benefit for all; the more direct the relationship the more beneficial the resulting system.
* Simply advocating an Open Source future is *not* sufficient to get us to such an ecosystem.  Indeed it seems that the market forces embracing Open Source are incentivized to explicitly avoid such an ecosystem, and our cultural biases are antagonistic to this concept of voluntarily donating to support software (music, art, etc.)  if it is free/opensource.  A much more serious cultural shift is required within the Open Source and Artistic communicty is needed if we want to see such an ecosystem thrive.

It's likely that I'm misinterpreting Raymond/Stallman/, but I'm developing the impression that they advocate corporately-supplied, free, & open source software, relegating all other software to the hobbyist category.

If my interpretation is true, and should they have their way, then software such as Firefox, most bulletin-board systems, WordPress & most other blogging software, ... none of these would ever have been developed under that aegis.  OK, Google Chrome would have come along, but suggestions for adjustment/improvement would, in large, likely receive short shrift.

I particularly like - not! - the concept that if you can't make money as an independent programmer, you can always become a consultant.  If programs are only corporately generated, just how much independent consulting would be viable?  After all, wouldn't we be contacting the corporate entities for such?

mouser's 2nd bullet particularly strikes home with me.  I'd not care to count the number of times I've mentioned - read whined about - some feature that would have been convenient for me only to find that within a period of days, perhaps a few weeks, the software developer had implemented that feature, or a better implementation of the concept, then informed me directly that it was available.  That's happened as oft with freeware as with shareware, never with commercial ware.  That's a practical result of - precursor to? - that 2nd bullet.  And mouser is a prime example of just that attitude, as anyone who has followed his software threads can attest.

It seems to me that the Raymond/Stallman proposition(s) would put an end to that kind of responsiveness, an agility that no corporation will ever be able to match.  They would also take innovation out of the development arena - corporations innovate only when they perceive a likely improvement to their bottom line.  The Raymond/Stallman proposition(s), barring a significant alteration in corporate structure and attitudes, would curtail or limit, not enable, software development.

On a slightly different note, I'm not convinced that all software should be free.  It strikes me that the usage of some [types of] software should carry a financial burden for the user(s).  Perhaps be licensed, as well.  And, of course, there is the matter of financial assistance to the developer(s).  I like free as much as the next person, but I'm not averse to paying a reasonable [non-exorbitant] fee for software in order to own it.

It looks to me that Raymond and Stallman are in favor of corporations. Their message is to make free software for corporations so that they can make more money and hopefully one day give you a job.

Sorry, but corporations are not the ones that innovate. Small companies are the ones. Open source just make easier for corporations to use other guys innovations without paying them (that is how they make more money with open source). Since we live on a capitalistic world, this is unconceivable stupid. The landlord will not waive your rent. The electric company will not give you free electricity. The doctor will not see you for free. A good lawyer will not represent you for free.

Are we to expect changing from a profesional economy to an artist economy?

Let me explain;

Profesional economy: lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc.  You don't work for free, unless you want to. You can work for someone else, or you can put your own business.

Artist economy: You work for free, spending ridiculous amount of time bettering yourself, in hopes that one day someone will notice you and sign you.


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