Subject: contra-ESR and the principle of infinite exploitation
From: Adam Di Carlo <apharris@burrito.onshore.com>
Date: 16 Dec 1998 18:25:43 -0500


After reading Tim O'Reilly's article on Esther Dyson's Release 1.0,
I'm starting to realize how much everyone in the business world
swallows hook, line, and sinker Eric Raymond's (ESR's) message to
corporate culture about how companies can and should interact with
"Open Source".

However, I think ESR's analysis is fundamentally flawed, and moreover,
is predicated on an economic principle which is not sustainable:
something for nothing.  This applies mostly to the "Loss Leader"
category from ESR's <URL:http://www.opensource.org/for-suits.html>.
As more and more companies like Netscape free their software, I
believe it's inevitable that there will be diminishing returns from
Net Hackers (using a broad term, could also include companies who are
repurposing and redistributing software).  It's difficult to see
corporations who use this model as doing more than rather brazenly
exploiting Net Hackers in order to get mindshare.  Ok, well, Netscape
is an early case and we *do* need a free browser.  But what is Opera,
MSIE, etc etc all went open source.  Do you think they would all
receive the same benefit?

What is the upshot from an CEO reading opensource.org?  To start them
slavering for a way to exploit net hackers, it seems to me.

[ Notably missing from those business models, BTW, is the integrator
  model.  Our company, onShore, Inc., is such a model -- we integrate
  free software whenever it makes sense and provides a better
  solution.  And of course we're active participants in the
  community. ]

The flaws in his arguemnts also indicates, to me, that he doesn't seem
to understand the fundmental motives of the free software community.
That motive is to participate and increase a community of sharing.

I believe in this community, but I'm not anti-capitalist.  I just
think that we need to give much deeper thought to the issues of
intellectual property.  I find it hard to conceive of a free software
business with non-linear profit potentials (ruling out most of the
models ESR presents) assuming the embrace the ideal that software
ought to be community property.  This poses a fundamental problem for
venture capitalists looking for fsb investment opportunities.  It also
poses a fundamental conflict between the CEOs and the Net Hackers.
 
--
.....Adam Di Carlo....adam@onShore.com.....<URL:http://www.onShore.com/>