Subject: Re: Opportunity lost? Challenge declined!? (LONG. COMPREHENSIVE)
From: Adam Theo <adamtheo@theoretic.com>
Date: Thu, 10 May 2001 07:02:37 -0400

Hello, all. I'm going to try to properly capitalize for this important
post (I've long since gotten into the bad habit of just running
through an email without hitting the 'shift' key...).

I just want to start off by thanking Mr. Dave Blankley for starting
this discussion, and attributing it to my post. I'm honored.

I would next like to explain my position on OSS, FS, and IP (Ack!
TMA!). Not to shift positions, just to have my stance and intentions
all in one place here.

* First, on the matter of the software (here-on called 'work') I am
wanting to publish (An alarm clock program written in Perl/Tk and
using XML. I know, what a little program to bring me to this list
asking about licensing.): On this matter I have wanted to release it
with legal "back-up" (At the time thinking using software licenses.)
that would allow me, as Mr. Blankley put it, to be compensated for my
investment in development while still allowing the*source* of my work
to be widely viewable by users and third-party developers alike. I
want to allow users (or third-party reviewers) the open opportunity to
completely evaluate the work before buying and using it, so they can
rest assured it does not contain bugs, trapdoors, or will send
personal information back to my servers. I also wish to allow
third-party developers the freedom to "work-off" of my work, to
develop patches of bugs or security holes, add-ons or plug-ins of new
or improved features, or allow their own works to use features in my
work, all without having to jump through legal rings of fire or pay
royalty fees. I would not allow these users or developers freedom to
re-distribute my work without my permission, so therefore any works of
theirs that makes use of mine would have to be independant and reliant
on whether the end user has my work installed as well. This may seem
foolish, obvious, or impossible in many ways, so I apologize. I am
just stating all of this for completeness.

* Second, on the matter of future projects I plan to be true open
source (namely, an email-to-jabber gateway, a WebBBS-to-jabber &
vice-versa gateway, and far into the future a jabber-based automobile
automation system that would allow cars to seamlessly communicate with
each other for purposes of automation and removing the human error in
transportation, the ultimate cruise-control.): I have nothing against
OSS, which I will clarify in point Three. I do understand the
philosophy and purpose of OSS and FS, if not exactly where it's
boundaries are in the legal and economic worlds.

* Three, on the matter of the OSS and FS philosophy: I do like and
appreciate OSS & FS. I think "community code" that no-one has to
worry about licensing or royalty issues on and can freely improve
and re-distribute is a good thing, in moderation. While I have my
deep reservations about an all "Open Sourced World", my biggest
issue is on the matter of an author's IP rights, which is point
Four.

* Four, on the matter of Intellectual Property (specifically the
rights of the work's author): If an author creates code, and knowing
the full issues of the action, decides to release it as open source
(or free software, acknowledging the differences between the two.),
not only do I see that as okay, but even greater as a noble and
selfless act that benefits his peers and all of mankind alike. My
concern is for the authors who desire assured compensation (Not
speaking in context of supply-demand where people could find his work
un-desirable and not wish to buy it. This is in context of assured
compensation for every copy of his work others do use.). For those
authors who for one reason or another want to keep their work
proprietary, I feel they should have that right (and of course face
any consequences of not having a desirable product). I feel the free
market, with it's consumer choice and supply-demand forces at work
should decide what business models float or sink, not the will of a
few making others feel their only choice is to follow. I know that
sounds harsh, but it is only to explain that I feel the consumers, end
users, should be able to choose how they aquire software, even if it
is from authors holding on to proprietary source. I do not feel
authors should be given the choice of only OSS when it comes to
releasing their works. I fear the consequences, which is in my Fifth,
and final ("hoo-ray", right?) point.

* Five, on the matter of consequences of an all-OSS/FS world: I do
believe many software developers would be seriously hurt if they could
not make a living from their livlihood. I do not agree with the
argument that this would just result in the "weaker" (using a
Darwinian outlook) programmers being forced out of the field. I
believe it would hurt the "strong" and the "weak" alike. I then do not
agree with the follow-up argument that this is simply my own beloved
"free-market forces" at work, that it is natural for formerly
money-rich industries to sink, and other, new ones, rise. It is not
the free market forces at work because it is not the result of the
consumer's decision. It is the result of authors feeling they are
between a rock and a hard place when it comes to profiting off their
work.

Now, I understand many will call this a rant at best, and be inflamed
by it, considering me a mannerless barbarian. How dare I come to this
list, set for discussion on free software, and spout all of this
anti-OSS rhetoric? Before you proceed to reply (in anger or anything
else), I strongly urge to to go back and re-read my Second and
especially Third points. Then, I will gladly welcome any replies, no
matter what they say, to my personal email <theo@theoretic.com>. If it
is something the list can benefit from, then by all means send it
here, but no need to fill up this list with stuff meant only for
me. Thank you.

Now, with all of that out of the way, I will proceed to replying to
all of these posts on this thread and begin to construct and further
develop this open call of Mr. Blankley's.

"Dave Blankley" <dblankley@iwon.com> wrote:
    Rather than use this as an opportunity to brain-storm and develop
    a viable means for this person(and the community at large) to see
    a return on their investment(development time) we have squandered
    it shouting what amounts to opinions, rather than arguments, that
    closed source is bad.

While I am certainly not turning away this call, I must say the
previous replies to my thread have not been a waste at all to me. I
have learned a great deal, and been given a clear direction which I
previously did not have. But, overall, I am thankfull for your
challenge, and think it is *great* idea.

"Dave Blankley" <dblankley@iwon.com> wrote:
    Here are the challenges:
    1.  To brainstorm for solutions to allow
    developers to be compensated for their development work.

A lot can be gained from such a hard-hitting discussion. Gain for
everyone, inside and out of the FS community. I am all for this, and
will participate actively and constructivly.

"Dave Blankley" <dblankley@iwon.com> wrote:
    2.  To convince Mr. Theo that the among those solutions exists a
    business plan which provides an expected return on investment at
    least equal to his proprietary license model.

Again, I am all for this, and am open to anything that can come out of
this open discussion. If it is practical and fair, I am willing to
ditch all of my previous opinions and persuits for it. Won't be the
first time I've thrown out hard-held ideas or admitted I've been
wrong.

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    It's true that we probably assume that somebody who walks in is
    already aware of the arguments we have been through so many times.
    As seen by your posting, that assumption is a mistake.

I feel it is a good thing for every fluctuating group of people to
re-hash old ideas and discussions every now and then. It is often not
only the member bringing up the old topic that is the new member to
the group. Other new people can benefit from this discussion which
would be new to them, and people who have been through it before can
always gain new insights or express opinions that have changed since
the last battle.

"Simon Cozens" <simon@netthink.co.uk> wrote:
    Then we ought to ask whether there's any point in talking to them
    about Open Source licenses. After all, Open Source isn't a
    license, it's an attitude.

This is a dangerous route to take. Open Source is more than a license,
it's an entire philosophy, and a good one that shouldn't shun people
who are ignorant to it. Anything that not only turns people away but
does so "with their tails between their legs" (Quoted from Tim
O'Reilly in this thread) is doomed to eventual failure. We should
instead try our hardest to show them the clear benefits of open
source, and not be preaching, but by example. Take them, very
carefully and patiently, step-by-step along the many paths of how they
can save money by using open source or releasing their currently
closed source in part or in whole to the public, in some way that
works for them and that they are comfortable with. We will not be able
to open all eyes in a day, but we can help them take "baby steps"
(ahh... Bill Murray).

"Glen Starchman" <glen@enabledventures.com>
    it is a start and rather than telling my client, "Okay, now, you
    know all of that code that you have spent millions developing? I
    want you to release it to the public."  and promptly being fired,
    I began what I hope to be a cycle of more openess within that
    organization.

Yes, I strongly feel this is the way to bring previously closed
source-dependant companies closer to OSS/FS, or at least something
*other* than closed source. As long as the organization is fully aware
of the risks and consequences of going open source, and do so
completely willingly, I say "gung-ho, and away we go!".

"Tim O'Reilly" <tim@oreilly.com> wrote:
    The recent flap about Craig Mundie's comments is another case in
    point.  Yes, Microsoft is spreading FUD about the GPL.  But he's
    also acknowledging that open source has a lot to teach.  Yet
    almost all the responses have focused on the FUD,

Yes, I agree. Although I didn't hear about the whole "Mundie Affair"
until a week after it had already hit the O'Reilly Network, I've since
read up on it, and had to pick my jaw up off the floor. Could any of
us have forseen the Microsoft of today (or rather the very near future
Microsoft) 5 years ago? Heck, even 2 years ago would have been a
stretch. The Microsoft that at the time was world-renowned for heavily
integrating their internet browser into their OS which effectively
destroyed Netscape's last hold on the desktop, for taking the
protocols and systems of other developers and claiming them as their
own after giving them their own M$ twists and dependencies. And now my
shock when I heard Microsoft would not only use XML in it's future
products without trying to alter the standards in their favor, but
would be embracing it to such a degree as they seem to be doing in
their Office suite and .Net initiative. True, they are still a long
way from winning "Fair Player of the Year", but with this recent
announcement by Mundie, they are showing they can change, and with
them, the entire industry.

"Tim O'Reilly" <tim@oreilly.com> wrote:
    I thought I had a real victory in having Allchin effectively say
    that he understood that if the government shouldn't support GPLd
    software, it logically also shouldn't support proprietary
    software, and that all software produced under government contract
    should effectively be PD or under Apache/BSD style licenses!

Too bad I wasn't around for that. It would have been a discussion (no
matter how small) I would love to participate in.

"Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp> wrote:
    Note that many of the economic benefits that Eric pushes apply to
    published but proprietary source code, as well as to free
    software.  Those benefits are what these "people coming toward the
    free software world" are aiming at.  _Not_ the benefits that
    accrue _only to free software_, such as encouraging independent
    further product development.

First, I would just like to ask, 'Who is Eric?'. I don't think anyone
so far in this thread is named Eric, he must either be someone from a
previous incarnation of this discussion, or someone in the community
outside this list who I am not familiar with by first name alone.

Next, I must say that I think we can all agree that the currently
widespread "closed source" or "cathedral" (Using Eric S. ... oh, could
this be the 'Eric' from above?) models are, in short, "bad". And that
any movement, *any*, away from that and even just minutely towards a
more "open source" model is just as "good". True, they may not come
all the way to OSS/FS from closed source, but in my opinion, that's
perfectly fine. It's hundreds of times better than where they were
before, correct?

"Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp> wrote:
    I submit that's OT on FSB by definition.  Sinful?  Of course not!
    Important?  Yes!  Yes!!  But OT nonetheless.
	<snip>
    True, there is a need.  But should serving that need be
    in the charter of this list?  Especially when their goal is almost
    certainly not "free," and never will be?

Yes, Mr. Turnbull, you do have a very good point. If it is felt this
thread is OT enough, because it is aimed at currently
proprietary-minded individuals instead of those who already accept are
are wanting to use free software in their businesses, then this thread
should be moved. I can provide a welcome home for it, no matter how
large it should become. However, I must point out, Mr. Turnbull, that
the open call and challenge presented by Mr. Blankley *does* deal with
discussing open source/free software models, by think-tanking how
these models can reasonably be profitable for developers. It is an
important move, I feel, by seeking to clearly show how open source can
be nearly as profitable as "hoarded source" models, because
ultimately, the profitablity of open source will be the deciding
factor in its success in the business arena. And I mostly mean
profitability for the small business or individual developer, not the
multi-million dollar corporation. I have faith that corporations can
always find a way to profit, no matter what they have to work with. It
is the smaller fish I am concerned for.

"Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp> wrote:
    I wish the term "open source" hadn't been coopted as a marketing
    ploy.  It's the perfect name: "Open Source Software Business."
    Maybe "Published Source Software Business" is a good enough
    alternative?

Jeez-Luize! I like that. I had been wracking my head for a name to
call this "viewable-yet-proprietary source" dilema of mine. "Published
Source" fits very nicely. Although I believe you did not intend for
your "off-the-cuff" name to be used for such a meaning. Only with your
permission and some thought will I use it for my "model-with-no-name".

Okay, now onto the real heart of this post: to throw in my two cents
on Mr. Blankley's challenge (only 270 or so lines into this post...).

"Dave Blankley" <dblankley@iwon.com> wrote:
    Along those lines, I shall begin with a discussion of the Red Hat
    model.  Red Hat is essentially a support provider.  You pay Red
    Hat a fee and they help you set-up your Linux system.
      <snip>

I understand your use of Red Hat (who can mention open source in a
business model nowadays and not bring up Red Hat?), but as I briefly
stated above, I am confident multi-million dollar corporations can
find a way to profit. They have the resources to be able to widely
distribute "packaged" software at a reasonable price and make money
soley on the price of packaging. They also have the resources at their
disposal to staff the number of knowlegable people needed to provide
support for these works.

You go on to list 3 points of how the Red Hat model may not
work. Allow me to add more:

4.  The software Red Hat sells support to is very complex. Trying to
sell support to more simplistic works such as what I currently have
would be near impossible. When the open source work is simple, a
support-driven revenue just wouldn't hold up.
5. (related to 2) Many people point to Linus Torvalds as an example of
how people can become wealthy off of developing open source. I suggest
he is the exception, not the rule. He is wealthy mostly from stock
options freely given to him by start-ups that make heavy use of, and
greatly admire, his work. Can we think that these same start-ups would
give to all (even most) developers of the software they use or sell?
When donations become the primary source of personal wealth, most will
fall through the cracks, while the few that happen to become famous
sit on a nice sized hill of stock and cash.
6.  Red Hat, and comparable companies, are quite large compared to the
small garage business that is hoping to make some money from a nifty
new technology sprung up by one of it's genius owners. Being larger
has it's benefits here. Namely, access to critical resources that
simply are not available to this garage co. or other small
business. Resources like cash and credit lines, but also more
importantly manpower and the all-powerful "contacts".

"Glen Starchman" <glen@enabledventures.com> wrote:
    That is also a case in point. Sure, there are people who write
    software for the love of it. But there are also people who write
    software to make a living. If I run a bakery, I am not going to
    give out my bread recipe.

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    Not a great example, since 1) bread is not permanent, so people
    will always come back to you for more; 2) the marginal cost of
    making and selling another loaf of bread is significant relative
    to the purchase price, unlike the marginal cost of making and
    selling another copy of a typical software program.

True, not a great example, but it suffices. Look at it without taking
it literally. Mr. Starchman is basically saying no-one really wants to
give away the very thing they make their livlihood on. "Want" may not
even be the best word for it. "Should" might be more fitting.

"Dave Blankley" <dblankley@iwon.com> wrote:
    Which brings me to a more focused question than my earlier
    challenges: How does a developer that wants to invest his time
    developing, get compensated in the open source arena?

Well, currently this is the one part I don't have a comment on. But
then, If I did have an idea on this, this whole thread never would
have started, would it have? I'm relying on someone else to come along
and give me a spark of inspiration right now. Until then, I can just
grind my gears around.

"Dave Blankley" <dblankley@iwon.com> wrote:
    I will add two constraints to this question:
    1.  The income level must be comparable to other opportunities in
    the market place.

Comparable, maybe. I personally would not hold open source revenues up
to as high a level as proprietary development. Keeping in mind we are
talking about individual developers here, I assume, not mid- to
large-sized companies? I think it suffices for an individual
programmer to be considered wealthy with a million dollars in the
bank rather than a few hundred (although that's always nice). Although
I am all for profit, I feel that after a couple of million, it's all
the same.

"Dave Blankley" <dblankley@iwon.com> wrote:
    2.  The individual does not need to be a world renowned expert on
    the topic/software.

Why do you say this? Please clarify.

"Dave Blankley" <dblankley@iwon.com> wrote:
    Which brings me to a more focused question than my earlier
    challenges: How does a developer that wants to invest his time
    developing, get compensated in the open source arena?
"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    Much the way it works in any other area: start by teaming up with
    somebody with marketing and business knowledge.

Yes, true, however I do believe there is that brick wall, so to say,
between the small company in open source and the large one. That brick
wall makes all the difference, since it represents the manpower,
credit lines, and contacts that would be essential to muscling a
profit out of the open source field. Besides, partnering up with
business and marketing savvy people still doesn't solve *how* they are
going to turn a profit. *That's* why this thread was started.

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    Alternatively, developers who do not do this can make money by
    consulting (this require a modicum of business knowledge).  It is
    possible to consult on free software projects; our host, Russell
    Nelson, serves as an example, and there are many others.

yes, developers can make money at consulting, and that is so far the
most assured source of revenue for a programmer, but it is not enough
when more and more programmers migrate over from the closed source to
the open source fields. As the consultant population balloons, the
only way for any large amount of them to make a living at it would be
for consulting fees to increase greatly. Unfortunately, as basic
economics shows, the opposite happens. A bigger pool of workers, no
matter how experienced you are compared to the others, decreses what
you can get.

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    Trying to write your own software and sell it without marketing
    and business knowledge will most likely fail your first
    requirement above.

Yes, but as I think we are now finding out, former methods and
practices of doing business and making money will no longer work in an
open source market. We are going to have to think of new ways fast, or
see many good programmers and many good efforts fail simply because
they were playing by the old rules when the rules of the game had now 
changed.

I think I'll end this post on that note.

-- 
   /\    --- Adam Theo ---
  //\\   Theoretic Solutions (www.Theoretic.com)
 /____\     Software, Politics, and Advocacy
/--||--\ email: theo@theoretic.com   AIM: Adam Theo 2000
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   ||  "Did you ever get the feeling the world was a tuxedo,
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