[buug] Re: [Buug-admin] article on open source
feedle at feedle.net
Mon Mar 27 18:53:34 PST 2000
On Sat, 25 Mar 2000 TonStanco at aol.com wrote:
> Am I the only person who thinks that developers should be paid a royalty
> based on the number of accepted lines each developer contributes to a program
> that's shipped and sold? Of all the responses I got on the first question,
> only 2 discussed "how" any royalty system could be done and they both
> concluded that it couldn't. Isn't a royalty system that compensates on the
> basis of the monatary success of a program better than being paid a fixed
> salary or
> not paid at all?
I think it's ultimately up to the coder in question. The model you speak
of already exists: it's called "shareware," perhaps with a few minor
You seem completely stuck on the concept that money makes the world go
'round. Maybe this exists from your background as a business lawyer, I
Many in the open-source community are doing this because it is something
they love. They aren't _SEEKING_ money for their work. The few that are
seeking money are getting it, granted perhaps not in the "monies paid for
services performed" paradigm you seem stuck on.
> As President Clinton recently said, "don t make the perfect the enemy of the
> good." Even though a perfect royalty system may be impossible, one that
> imperfectly pays developers is still a very good thing, I think, as long as
> it keeps the core values of open source. More money to open source developers
> only means more developers for the movement. Who would work for proprietary
> software if they could get paid in open source? Open source is a superior
> development model, after all, that empowers all developers, because it allows
> them the freedom to see, copy and modify the code. Peer review both helps the
> experienced developers and mentors the new ones coming along.
I disagree with the assertion that open source is universally a superior
development model. Open source is a perfect development model for
commodity software, such as operating systems, for the reasons that have
recieved mention. However, a large body of software does not benefit
from the open source model. The easiest example of this is games... the
majority of "good" games are developed in a _VERY_ closed-source
environment. Heck, a lot of the "cutting edge" in gaming occurs on CLOSED
SYSTEMS such as the Sony Playstation2 and SEGA Dreamcast, where the very
hardware is screwed shut with proprietary screws.
> Also, aren't open applications better than closed proprietary applications?
> So why does open source tolerate anything closed?
Becuase a lot of us in the Open Source Movement understand that there is
no such thing as a one-size-fits-all license agreement. Closed source
does have it's place. That place may not be on our computers, but we
understand that others may even desire that licensing model.
There are some excellent examples of closed-source superiority. As much
as many of us think Microsoft Windows sucks, they have a superior user
interface to any UN*X platform. They also have done an excellent job (so
good, in fact, that the DoJ is worried about anti-trust) of integrating
their OS with the Internet and their applications suite.
On other fronts, however, closed source has lossage. The commonly
accepted joke in the industry is there is no greater oxymoron than the
words "Microsoft security". The blue-screen-of-death has seen much play
not only in the hacker subculture but in general society as well (see
recent Cathy comic strips as an example).
> Will money ruin the open source movement? People originally also said that
> would ruin the Internet. Has it? Why is open source different?
Money did not "ruin" the Internet. Before Yahoo! and AOL jacked in, the
Internet was a fascinating place, but a bit intelectually shallow. There
was great information on computer science and the things that the hackish
culture embraced, but there wasn't a lot of... say, for example, spousal
abuse web-boards around. Or, gay and lesbian support sites. Or, even
commercial content. It was a great place to play multi-user text
adventures, but diety help you if you were looking for consumer-based
information on alternative AIDS hypotheses or alternative religions. In
fact, if you weren't a college-age male engineering student, chances are
you couldn't even gain access to the Internet.
The same will happen to open source.
Money will widen the horizon. It may make some of the "depth" go away (I
do see things like LaTeX, for example, vanishing), but at the profit of
broadening the horizons.
Ten years ago, open source consisted of a bunch of tools you could get off
of 9-track tape (or heaven forbid, by uucp or FidoNET), and maybe get them
working on whatever bitty box you were trying to get working. I remember
trying to get an early version of emacs compiled on my AT&T 7300 UNIX PC,
after uucp'ing the sources from, if I remember right, ucbvax.
Today, open source has four COMPLETE OPERATING SYSTEMS (Linux and the BSD
triplets) with two different tool sets (GNU and BSD), plus a fifth on the
horizon (GNU HURD). There are a lot of major websites that feature
hundreds (thousands?) of similarly licensed programs for these OS'es
spread across the Internet. Even closed-source companies are beginning to
port their software (namely, at the moment, games companies) over to
Thar's gold in them thar hills.
Like the Internet, there will be problems (the Internet had spam, AOL's
users inherent lack of netiquette, and the continual propogation of urban
legends). They are not insurmountable.
We will survive.
> How will open source fight the inevitable software company backlash? Does
> really think that software companies will go quietly into the night? Survival
> is the
> most natural instinct and corporate law actually requires management to do
> what is
> best for the shareholders. Does anyone remember Halloween I? Do you really
> that Microsoft (after the trial, of course) will not use copyright and
> patents against
> open source? How does open source wage such a battle without a revenue model
> help finance the war?
Open source has already won the war we came here to fight. We wanted
better software, and we have it.
The only way Microsoft (and other closed-source companies) can "win" is to
produce software that equals the quality and performace of the open source
products they compete with. No amount of FUD is going to change the fact
that the general public believes that Microsoft's software is defective.
Microsoft's continued inability to produce an OS that dosen't have stupid
problems (like a 49-day epoch, for example) proves that they can't win.
They're not even putting up a good fight.
It's probably (sadly) true that at least 50% of the computing public will
make uninformed buying decisions, and buy whatever the guy at Circuit City
(or Compaq, or whoever the salesman is) says is good. This will, unless
something drastic happen in the Microsoft anti-trust trial, usually mean
an Intel-based PC running Microsoft's OS.
Do the company names "Atari", "Commodore-Amiga", and "Apple" mean
anything to you?
All three of these companies produced superior machines, both technically
and financially, superior products to the Intel boxes of the late-80's and
Atari (Computer) Corp. merged with JTS, a hard-disk manufacturer, and
largely exists as a paper-company within Hasbro... primarily only as a
"brand" for Hasbro Interactive.
Commodore Business Machines went bankrupt, and their assets and the
company name have been bounced around, first with a European consumer
electronics manufacturer (who also later went bankrupt), later with
Gateway 2000, Inc. The Amiga computer does live on, but Commodore
Business Machines, as a company, is long since lost to the pages of
computer industry history.
And Apple? Didn't Bill Gates give them some pocket change a while back to
keep their company afloat?
The point here is having a superior product does not guarantee market
success. Open source will be no different. The advantage open source has
is since it does not need to draw a profit to survive, it will continue.
Atari Corporation and Commodore Business Machines, both publically traded
companies at the time of their demise, did not have that luxury.
> My leanings are:
> 1. Developers ought to be paid. Software is the most important product in
> the world today. Developers are a new nobility based on brains. This is the
> first chance the world has had to have a real worldwide meritocracy. This is
> especially important for people in the developing world, who could earn a
> place in the world economy by producing software for which they are paid
> equally to everyone else.
Developers can be paid, if they so choose. If they choose not to, that's
their business. Open source allows them to choose not to.
> 2. Only large and medium corporations and all governments should pay for
> open source software. Small business, students and consumers should not
> be charged. [This is not a sine qua non, but only my egalitarian bias.]
My Libertarian bias states that this is the ultimate decision of the
> 3. ALL software should be open, including all applications.
It is the ultimate decision of the developer how his software is licensed.
If you want open software, it is your responsibility to only buy open
> 4. The most efficient royalty system is based on the lines of code produced
> by each developer as a percentage of the total lines in a final version
> that's shipped and sold.
This has many flaws. An elegently written one line program can be more
effectual than a thousand lines of code. It may have taken that
programmer a year to develop that one line, whereas it may have taken the
thousand-line programmer five minutes. By your model, the thousand-line
programmer would get paid more than the one-liner.
This is fundamentally wrong.
> 5. Property rights are fundamentally important. Getting them wrong caused the
> Russian people to lose 3 generations. Capitalism works best at least until we
> get to
> the point where no one has to work anymore, even if it is not perfect.
"The market will sort it out."
Let the MARKET decide whether or not closed vs. open source is the best
Unfortunately, with the recent proposed changes to copyright law finding
it's way through many state legislatures, this argument may be moot.
Open and closed source need to fight it out on a level playing field,
government not helping either side.
Again, I think your assertion that we live in an either/or world is
extreme. Open and closed source need not be mutually exclusive of each
Licensing is ultimately a contract between licensor and licensee. If they
decide on closed-source, so let it be.
> 6. Software companies are dinosaurs and will be replaced by open source
> development because the power is in the developers (at the base of the
> pyramid) not
> in the companies (with the few at the top). This is different from
> industrial companies that own the necessary capital assets to produce the
> product, so those companies have the power in those situations. With
> industrial companies if people want to work, they needed access to the
> capital assets
> to do their job. This is why third world countries have to wait for
> companies to invest before their citizens can work. This is the fundamental
> shift between the old economy and the new economy. In the new economy, there
> are very limited capital assets involved for people to do their jobs, so
> people don't
> need companies anymore. They can perform their jobs without the corporate
> eggshell. This is what open source has shown the world. It's quite impressive
> actually, if you think about it. Corporations have organized major human
> for a couple of hundred years now. The Internet and open source prove this is
> longer necessary, that people over the Internet can organize themselves.
In response to the last bit, I think your basic assumption that
closed-source will go the way of the dinosaur is flawed. Closed source
has a place, and it will continue to fill niche markets for as long as we
are using binary computers.
Can I make an observation? I haven't looked at your message headers, but
your use of AOL as a reply address places an interesting spin on all
this. Since I know of no AOL client for an open-source operating system,
this brings me to an interesting observation.
If you are such a proponent of open source, why aren't you using the
software? You have asserted many times that software _MUST_ be open.
Yet, you are using as your primary Internet provider a company that uses
the ultimate of a closed-source model: proprietary software, running on a
proprietary OS, using proprietary communications methods.
So, why do you choose not to practice what you are preaching? Are you
just playing devil's advocate, and you really don't feel the way you
believe? Or, is your assertion that software _MUST_ be open based on some
belief that the open software that exists out there now is inferior to
using AOL on your Windows-based PC?
I know you stated that you won't be sending back personal replies, but I
would like to hear your statement on this one. I've been trying to figure
out why somebody who is staunchly an advocate (apparently) that
Software_must_be_free (tm) isn't putting his money where his mouth is.
Please get back to me on this one issue, if nothing else.
Just curious, and as always, hope this provides you with more info. FYI:
Since a lot of BUUG members have asked me about how this is going, I'm
forwarding this reply to the BUUG mailing list.
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