Subject: Re: Open Source shareware?
From: Simon Cozens <simon@netthink.co.uk>
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2002 00:11:20 +0100

Adam Turoff:
> Who wouldn't?
> 
> That's an idealized model though, available to a select few
> individuals in this world -- people like Steven Wolfram and perhaps

Wait! Wolfram's self-supported, thanks to the fact that he wrote a rather
brilliant piece of c****d s****e software.

> the brilliant folks at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Studies,
> PARC, or whatever AT&T Bell Labs is called this week.

Wherever We Can Get Funding From, Inc. You'll notice that AT&T Bell can't
afford to pay thinkers any more. The whole "tenured engineer" (or "senior
scientist" as some labs call it) idea has unfortunately become a victim of the
.com age.

> Bucky Fuller and John Brunner had some interesting ideas in the 1970's 
> about paying people to "just think": one person in a thousand is likely
> to come up a really killer idea that would easily carry the other 999.

Out of that, we got Freeman Dyson. Nice (although expensive) vacuum
cleaners, no new world order.

Look, I'm not known for beating around the bush: Bucky Fuller and John Brunner
may have produced more crediblity for their ideas if they weren't drug-addled
maniacs. That's to say, if we're trying to convince the capitalist world that
they ought to be stumping up more cash for "pure research", we probably need
to find better poster boys than these two.

> That's a nice model on paper, but I've never seen it close to being
> workable in this world.

I've seen something like it, because I live in academia. In academia, people
get tested to determine the extent that they can "just think" and then (the
cynics would say "once those who *can* are got out of the way, the rest are")
given free reign to just think about precisely whatever it is that they want
to think about. 

This is the mystery of tenure; they need not worry about such fleeting
concepts as social relevance (those lower class people, they don't drink
Pimms, do they?) or financial responsibility. (this college has been around
since 1142; it's unlikely to shut down any time now.) 

These people ought to be able to change the world, if the "lone thinker" model
is to be believed.

The problem, as usual, is that we naturally know much better who these paid
thinkers ought to be than anyone else does.

> All examples of people working full-time on open source that I can
> think of involve (1) someone of significant means that doesn't need
> to worry about income, (2) an organization large enough to devote
> a significant amount of money on R&D, or (3) a business that's
> created to address a specific need in the tech sector through a
> dual-pronged open source strategy (some free code + fee-based
> services; Zope, Sleepycat, MySQL, Aladdin, and Easy Software (CUPS)
> come to mind).

Amusing. Adam, you of all people should be aware of the work that
Larry's doing, which doesn't fit into any of these categories, unless
you class donations from users as being in category 2. And if you think
O'Reilly's doing too much of category 2, then Damian Conway's year off
was entirely funded by community donations. (if you take away the
substantial amount raised from private tuition and consulting) 

There is a fourth way (my Prime Minister would be proud) which is
"coming up from the streets".

Whether or not it is a sustainable model for research is not something I'd
like to comment upon at this time.

-- 
3rd Law of Computing:
	Anything that can go wr
fortune: Segmentation violation -- Core dumped