Subject: (Was Car Repair) Debian GNU/Linux project's model a good starting point for free software business models.
From: "R. Brock Lynn" <brock@cyberdude.com>
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 1999 07:19:58 -0500

"Stephen J. Turnbull" wrote:

> Software doesn't wear out, it
> doesn't go out of tune, and it doesn't break in the present tense; any
> analogy that requires that those characteristics are violated is
> suspect.

Yes.

> In fact it arrives broken---you just don't discover it for a while.

If there are unknown bugs then ok, that's just life. But if there are bugs
planted on purpose... Oh my head hurts! What is becoming of our civilization???

Planned Obsolescence: Just face it, IT STINKS. It is DETESTABLE. I REALLY DETEST
SUCH LOW FORMS PURPOSEFUL HARM done for TOTALLY SELFISH REASONS... and in the
long run such conduct will only come back to haunt you, or your children. Do
people have values any more? Is there no sense of honor left in our business
society? We really need to take the practices of planned obsolescence, and its
kin, and basically replace them with more constructive measures. Eventually you
will find a way to make money and cause the greatest gain for the whole system,
and not just for a small part of it, at the detriment of a greater part.

Anyhow, I think a "perfect" business plan for software development will take
into account many different pieces, and how everything affects everything else.
It sounds rather cosmic and "way out" but in an interconnected interdependent
economy, everything really does affect everything else. It's everyone's choice
whether they want to "rape" "the land" for their own short-term benefit (but
eventual long term detriment), or they can learn to coexist with "the land" and
have many years of long term benefits.

Providing service (including more coding) and support for projects that change
so swiftly due to constant innovation and evolution will never stagnate. It may
in fact, due to the nature of free software, begin to evolve at whirlwind speed
and the industry will be hard pressed to keep evolving with it to provide
service for it. It wont be due to planned bugs or anything of a purposeful
harmfully greedy nature, but simply as a natural extension of how fast *good*
solid code can be developed... The more innovation, the more bugs that need to
be ironed out... the more bug lists that need to be maintained, and the more bug
hunters that need to be working.

> So if repair really matters, you're accusing vendors of deliberately
> delivering broken software.  Regularly.  So they can make money on
> service.  I just don't see it.  Does Microsoft really make money on
> service contracts?

But then, do they churn out innovations several times a day? Maintaining
constant bug-report lists, feature requests, open standards development mailing
lists, and so forth. If you are unfamiliar with the Debian GNU/Linux project and
how it operates, it's time to do some homework:

http://www.debian.org/

In one week if you upgraded your system to the latest from what it was the week
previous (using the apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade) command line you'd
probably notice that the change was on the order of 30MB or so... on a weekly
basis... Just guessing at the numbers, you could probably do some data
collection and statistical analysis to get at the actual numbers, but the
project is basically constantly changing before your very eyes, always improving
on the whole. (at least in the "unstable", bleeding edge version, which in fact
are pretty darn stable!)

I think a good place to start thinking about free software business models is in
how Debian operates. True, they are a non-profit, but have a look-see, I think
you will be amazed. All you have to do is somehow graft a business system onto
it, that would work in a fair and elegant way to get money, primarily to the
developers, so that they will have more opportunity to produce better code, bug
fixes, innovations, and openly developed standards.

Debian produces an incredible system. But one of the main sticking points
remaining to be "worked out" is that these guys are not doing their work for the
project to earn their livings. Now, what if we could take this development model
and somehow create a way to supply the maintainers and also the "upstream
providers" with additional wealth so that they can spend even more time on what
they love to do... A daunting task for sure, but, nevertheless, I have a feeling
it can be done, and done well, *if* carefully thought out.

If you want to see what Debian developers, of which there are more than 400 as
of the last head count, think about that kind of system, just join the
debian-devel mailing list and post away. There is a mailing list page on the
site for anyone to have a look at, and subscribe to the extremely active lists.
The debian-user list gets about 200 - 400 emails a day now for example. Follow
the activity, you might want to study up on why there is so much sustained
activity in a software project, as that understanding may shed some light on
this whole notion of funding free software development.

Where there's smoke there's fire. And where there's fire, there's energy. It's
up to you of course to learn to tap that energy and figure out how to make it do
things for you. :)

Debian's ablaze.

I really encourage all those not familiar with Debian, but interested with Free
Software Business models to do some investigations.

--Brock

---------------------  PGP key ID: FED76A3D <brock@cyberdude.com> 4 / 5 / 1999

   __ _    Debian GNU           R. Brock Lynn <brock@nettronix.net>
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