Subject: Would people pay to choose what gets developed next?
From: Rich Morin <>
Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2001 12:35:39 -0800

At 2:49 PM -0500 2/26/01, DJ Delorie wrote:
>Is it feasible to hold back the direction of technical progress?
>Would people pay to choose what gets developed next?  I'm not talking
>about contract engineering, but of basic research and development.

I am facing a similar question with the Meta Project.  I have created
a "Meta Demo" ( which allows users
to find directories, files, and man pages, given an initial item or a
set of keywords.  Although there are still many things to be done, the
current implementation seems to be quite useful; with some user input,
it could become even better.  Consequently, I have begun promoting it
as "The FreeBSD Browser" (

The current version covers FreeBSD 4.1; I am now working on bringing up
a set of pages to cover FreeBSD 4.2.  At that point, I will be in a good
position to add other coverage (e.g., other BSDs and/or Linux variants).
If one or more vendors decides that they would like to have their OS as
part of the demo, they are welcome to sponsor the necessary work; if not,
I will simply follow my own interests in the matter.  We'll see...

BTW, there was an issue with this sort of "directed development" a few
years ago.  As I recall, RMS was concerned that Cygnus would concentrate
on things that its customers wanted, to the possible detriment of the
needs of the rest of the user community.  I think that Cygnus sailed
through that moral quagmire pretty cleanly, but others might not.

>Side note: when we were designing our house, the architect asked if we
>minded if he shows our plans to other people for ideas.  I told him I
>paid to have plans available for me when I needed them, not for the
>rights to the plans themselves, and that I didn't care what they did
>with the plans as long as I got my copy.  He seemed surprised at that.

I am acting as an informal consultant to a friend's high-end speaker
manufacturing business.  I have been promoting the idea that the repair
manual should be freely available.  Unfortunately, because there are
some VERY high voltages present in the amp, there may be a significant
liability involved in releasing detailed information about it.  We are
currently wrestling with the issue; do we simply include a disclaimer,
ask for a signed release of liability, or what?  Yurggh!

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