Subject: Re: towards a broader definition of an FSB
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 21:51:19 +0900

>>>>> "David" == David Kaufman <david@gigawatt.com> writes:

    David> i object!  while i (can only *attempt* to) define
    David> "lifestyle businesses" anecdotally here as the
    David> self-employed, the freelance developers, the
    David> sole-proprietors of their one-person businesses, and the
    David> independent contractors who start, fund and operate their
    David> own for-profit operations, and some small semi-profitable
    David> or as-yet-unprofitable groups doing FS-related work,

This is quite different from my explicit definition and Larry
Augustin's implicit definition as well, I believe.  A lifestyle
business is one whose owners are unwilling to change their way of
doing business to help the business grow.  Small, big, doesn't matter.

It's just that if you stop growing when you're small, you never get
big.  Lifestyle businesses are going to be heavily skewed toward
small.  That doesn't mean small, or even micro, businesses are
automatically lifestyle businesses.  (BTW, _I_ object to your implied
description of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as "lifestyle businessmen."
You're kidding, yes?)

It does pretty much automatically mean that publically held
corporations are _not_ going to be lifestyle businesses, as normally
the decisive share is owned by people whose lifestyle is entirely
unaffected by changes in the company's business methods.

    David> i think to exclude these from the discussion would be a
    David> mistake,

And so does everybody else.  The point of the lifestyle/non-lifestyle
distinction is not to invalidate the lifestyle mode (and definitely
not small businesses in general).  Rather, if that is the _only_
generally viable mode, then the possibilities for overall growth of
free software business, and especially employment of software
engineers who prefer to be employees, not self-employed, in free
software, are apparently severely restricted.

Indeed, Larry Augustin, who has been the most forceful advocate of
the distinction, simply advocates the non-lifestyle mode as "more
interesting" precisely because he believes it can support more FS
developers overall.

    David> [M]any of us measure our success not so much by the amount
    David> of money we acquire, but by whether we meet other goals,
    David> like making enough money to meet our personal and family's
    David> needs, without spending so much time as to not be able to
    David> watch our kids grow up.  Success by meeting a combination
    David> of modest monetary and other more altruistic goals is
    David> success, too.

_That_ is an accurate definition of "lifestyle business."

Not all small businesses satisfy that definition, and the ones most
likely to grow, get VC funding, produce world-dominating software,
employ lots of developers who would rather not be independent, or who
wish to work on projects bigger than feasible for typical lifestyle
businesses, etc, are least likely to satisfy your definition of
"success" (at least according to classical economic theory).  Speaking
as one with a vested interest in the success of classical economic
theory, I hope we're wrong in this case.  :-)  But I don't advise
betting on it.  :-(

-- 
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences     http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
 My nostalgia for Icon makes me forget about any of the bad things.  I don't
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