Subject: Re: Order entry application user group
From: "Tim O'Reilly" <tim@oreilly.com>
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 14:31:24 -0800



Craig Brozefsky wrote:
> 
> Brian Bartholomew <bb@wv.com> writes:
> 
> > But I'm surprised you don't see the free rider problem as a show-
> > stopper.  What do you do about your publishing competitors who say,
> > "I'm glad that O'Reilly is volunteering a non-inconsiderable sum of
> > cash to write this!  Let us know when it's finished."?

If I thought it likely that I'd be doing work for the benefit of
free-riding direct competitors, it might give me pause.  But in fact,
there are fairly high barriers to entry to implementing one of these
systems, such that someone will keep an inferior system for a long time
just because of the conversion costs.  So in general, the universe of
potential users is actually smaller than "all publishers."  Someone has
to have outgrown or otherwise be really unhappy with their old system
before they even start looking.  Our conversion from our earlier system
took us about 7 years, from the time we started looking, through two
false starts, till we finally got a new system implemented, only to have
the vendor go out of business...

So this is really a matter of making a shared committment by a small
group of users more explicit, and giving us more control over the
direction of the software, so that we don't all make private mods. 
(What often happens with this kind of software is that each user pays
for modifications anyway, and some of them make it back into the code
base, but they aren't necessarily shared by the vendor even though they
were paid for by the users.  So a community of users committed to
sharing is a really good thing, enough to offset any possible benefits
to free-riding competitors.)

In any event, the point is that all publishers are not my competitors;
only a very small percentage of them publish the same kinds of books.

It's much like any other kind of free software development--there are
potential losses, but they are presumably outweighed by the gains.
> 
> I can think of several reasons why it is not a show-stopper.  O'Reilly
> apparently already has an investment in the system.  They need the
> improvements and the sum they are paying is something they see as
> being recuperated when those improvements are in place, or as a cost
> of doing business.  Tho they are not paying for all of the
> development, their contribution will certainly be recognized by the
> coders and we can imagine their concerns will be handled with a
> greater priority than someone who has not contributed resources.

All of these are good points, that I agree with.
> 
> So the answer I think is that you don't do anything about them.  It's
> Free Software remember?  Do unto others...
> 
> --
> Craig Brozefsky                         <craig@red-bean.com>
> Free Scheme/Lisp Software     http://www.red-bean.com/~craig
> "riot shields. voodoo economics. its just business. cattle
>  prods and the IMF." - Radiohead, OK Computer, Electioneering

-- 
Tim O'Reilly @ O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
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