Subject: Re: A company's appeal to the community
From: Brian Bartholomew <bb@wv.com>
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 11:18:28 -0500

> There is also the question of ultimate motives and ends in all of
> this, for which I'd need to have a better understanding myself of
> what it is the company plans to do, the schedule for carrying this
> out, and the terms under which the actions are performed.

Well, here I go getting everybody all upset again.

Imagine a hypothetical situation in an alternate universe where
BigTech has the worst possible motives (from the point of view of the
community).  They secretly wish to mislead the community and the press
about their intentions, gain community goodwill they don't deserve,
produce no product, score a big IPO on vapor of vapor.  They
incorporate donated bug reports but not code, benefiting from
volunteer labor but conserving their copyright ownership.  Then they
make their product highly proprietary again, and innocently claim they
changed their mind.  Their proprietary product is sufficiently better
that it pushes the free one into obscurity and obsolescence.

Can the community hedge against BigTech motivations that are strongly
against their interests?  Motivations are really hard to test for
directly.  Is there some externally-visible BigTech behavior that will
only be present in a win-win or win-lose situation?  Detection or
enforcement probably doesn't have to be immediate or perfect.  Even a
statistical guarantee may be enough, as long as BigTech can observe
it's not profitable to cheat the community.


A member of the League for Programming Freedom (LPF) http://lpf.ai.mit.edu
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Brian Bartholomew - bb@wv.com - www.wv.com - Working Version, Cambridge, MA