Subject: Re: Successful FSBs
From: "Benjamin J. Tilly " <ben_tilly@operamail.com>
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 16:53:31 +0500

"Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org> wrote:
> >>>>> "ben" == Benjamin J Tilly <" <ben_tilly@operamail.com>> writes:
> 
>     ben> "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org> wrote:
> 
>     >> How to be a perfect businessman: become perfectly One with The
>     >> Market, and then do what comes naturally.
> 
>     ben> I disagree.
> 
>     ben> What you describe is good advice for making the right
>     ben> short-term decisions.
> 
> Oh, c'mon, Ben, you should know better than that.  Neither Tim nor I
> was talking about a gradient algorithm.  Tim's gradient is a property
> of reality, and I'm talking Musashi's strategist (or Gordon Dickson's
> Dorsai if you prefer a modern Obscure Reference)---making _globally_
> correct decisions intuitively.

Ah.  So the secret to succeeding in business is to be
just shy of omniscient so that you can figure out
everything about the market before anyone else does?
With a talent like that, stock speculation might be an
easier way to wealth!

[...]
>     ben> PS Why is it a big deal to decide what the label "fsb" should
>     ben> refer to?
> 
> (1) Ethics are always a big deal.  In this case, I'm thinking of the
> people who dislike Red Hat, and allow their dislike for some Red Hat
> activity or other to spill over into claims that Red Hat isn't an
> FSB.  This is just the flip side of "we like Tim, and he likes FS, so
> ORA must be an FSB."  I think the "ORA is an FSB" position is much
> more defensible, but I still think both are fallacious and for the
> same basic reason.  Talk is already cheap, let's not debase the
> currency further.

Ethical issues always generate lots of conversation.
Particularly if RMS is anywhere near.  But there is no
connection that I see between FSB strategies and your
beliefs about the ethics of free software.  Indeed
there are some very well known people who have written
a lot of free software who don't believe that it is an
ethical issue in the slightest.

> (2) Slippery slopes.  How often do we have newbies come in and say,
> "Well, in _my_ market niche I have to use proprietary licenses.  Can
> I still say I'm an FSB because I develop on and for Linux and my
> website runs on Apache and Perl?"  How about s/Linux/Cygwin/?

Tell them that if you use free software, then you are a
free software _consumer_.  I don't see the problem.

> (3) As a matter of practical advice.  We've been through this before,
> but another example, as long as I'm here.  If some bright college
> student comes to you with a neat piece of code and says, "I want to
> make a business out of this," is your immediate reaction going to be
> "Take a look at O'Reilly, they're an excellent FSB"?  Are they even
> going to be on the radar, or are you going to say "look at Aladdin,
> SleepyCat, Sourcefire, ..., but not Red Hat or SuSE, they're something
> else again, ..., and see which looks most like your kind of market"?

I am going to look at what the code does before I say
anything.  One size doesn't fit all.

>     ben> O'Reilly made a lot of money from Perl,
> 
> Indeed?  Which brand of Perl do they sell?

http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/prkwin32/desc.html was
bought by a lot of people for the software inside.
(Not all of which was free or open source.)  Lemme see
if I can find a better description..ah, look at
http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/addserv/NH/97-11/97-11-07/0021.html
(the Unix version of the same).  Note the use of a
mixed proprietary/free software strategy.

> This is just the old "Q: How do you make a lot of money from the
> lottery?  A: Write a best-selling book about how to make a lot of
> money from the lottery." fallacy.
> 
>     ben> and supported it in return.  Said support included hiring
>     ben> many well-known Perl people, and helping resolve at least one
>     ben> bitter dispute with a significant investment.  Judging from
>     ben> the articles from the time which they have on their site,
>     ben> this was a deliberate business strategy.
> 
> This business strategy is called "patronage."  A society hostess does
> the same for an author she thinks has potential.  A patron of the arts
> need not be an artist, nor does a patron of FS need to be an FSB.

I just pointed you at an actual product that O'Reilly
shipped which contained software written by Larry Wall
which was not generally available elsewhere.  There
may have been a large element of patronage, but it
doesn't seem to have been straight patronage to me.

[...]

Cheers,
Ben
-- 
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