Subject: Re: [Freesw] Re: FreeDevelopers
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 11:14:38 EST

Sorry, I must have missed this post from Jonathan Shapiro on Friday. Weekends are hectic,
because my wife and I have a commuter marriage for another couple of months, so half
the time I'm flying or training up and down on the weekend. It is no excuse, but somehow
I missed his email I think. 

>I think it is somewhat telling that the people on this
>list who are most skeptical about FreeDevelopers are
>those who have built successful businesses and

People are always skeptical about anything new. It happens with everything -- GPL, free
software, open source, democracy, etc., etc. So it only makes sense to reach out to
the early adopters and free thinkers. [And if the concept is wrong, it atrophies naturally
with the exposure to sunlight.]

>I have a working, active community (the EROS
>community) that is already known and slowly becoming
>more financially effective within the free software
>community. I don't need a new company. I'm not 
>interested in a credo. I really don't care about
>revolutionary business models that appear to be 
>totally without substance. I have a pretty strong 
>grasp on how to market this kind of product, and I
>have a very strong grasp on finance (something that
>FreeDeveloper seems to need, by the way). 

Well, with all due respect maybe FreeDevelopers isn't really for you, then. If you have
a totally free software business with no proprietary software at all and it is successful
and pays your developers, then great. Then FreeDevelopers is not for you. And if your
model can be replicated for others successfully around the world, then FreeDevelopers
may not be needed at all. This is fine, too.

The solution FreeDevelopers is trying to solve is the paying of the developers for free
software development. If there is no problem to solve, because existing structures work,
then there is no need for FreeDevelopers. Period.

But I have to see how you solved the systemic problem in the free software development
model that allows competitors to price at the zero marginal cost. 

The dilemma in free software has always been that development costs at t=0 are sunk
and therefore, the marginal costs at t=1 are zero. Since markets price at marginal cost,
not average cost, competition will cause the market price to approach effectively zero.
If an industry has a market price that doesn't even recoup the average costs that industry
fails by competing itself to death. 

This is not a new problem by the way, railways, telephones had the same basic cost structure
at the beginning of those industries where the big costs are sunk at t=0 and then the
companies competed themselves to death until a new structure was put in place.

Proprietary has a solution for this problem, because it hides the source, so the sunk
development costs are recoverable, since others have to duplicate the work and cost,
and therefore can't price at zero.

This is the dilemma. You tell me how you solved it. Of course, you have to show me how
you pay the developers. No taking the work of developers for free. That avoids the problem,
not solves it. Show me how you can pay the developers and not price free software at
zero and are viable longterm and I'll be very impressed.

>In three to five (reasonable length) sentences or 
>less, why should I care about FreeDevelopers? If you
>can't answer the question in three to five sentences
>that make a compelling business case, you really 
>aren't ready to be talking to people like me or FSB.

1. Why you should care about FD is because it solves the systemic problem of paying
for the development of free software. 

2. It solves the problem by having one marketing company for everyone as the shock absorber
between the free software developer community and the market, so they are not competing
to death. 

3. That creates its own problem of market concentration, but that is solved by having
the marketing entity owned by the whole developer community. 

4. And the developer community produces just as it does now by having thousands of independent
free software projects and leaders. 

5. The developer community also has to have a democratic federalism between the developer
company and the developer projects, so that the developer company is responsive to the
developer community and does not become a new software kingdom itself, replacing one
software king with another.

>Please understand: I'm not interested in discouraging
>you. I'm interested in making you productive.
>Preferably without sacrificing my own productivity.

That is quite reasonable and helps both of us.