Subject: Re: Do We Need a New Evangelist
From: Ben Laurie <>
Date: Thu, 01 Apr 1999 13:55:56 +0100

Brian Behlendorf wrote:
> On Thu, 1 Apr 1999, Ben Laurie wrote:
> > Brian Behlendorf wrote:
> > > Which company do you think, as of
> > > today, has made more money, as a sum of (extra revenues and expenses
> > > saved), from Open Source?  I would contend it's companies like Yahoo and
> > > Hotmail and Geocities, who were able to build extremely complex sites on
> > > commodity hardware and software, that without the tools produced by the
> > > open source community, would have probably had to spend a great deal more
> > > in hardware, software, and engineering time.  Next on the list would be
> > > ISP's, both small and large.  After that, probably academic institutions.
> >
> > Err ... why is O'Reilly missing from that list? After all, not only is
> > most of O'Reilly's income based on documenting "open source", it is
> > investing substantial bucks in promoting the concept.
> Actually I'm not sure that "most" is accurate.  I personally do not have
> the breakdown in revenues, but from looking at the Winter 99 catalog, it's
> at least evenly split in terms of titles that document open source
> products, and titles which are about commercial software or networked
> computing in general, and I know that the NT and Oracle books are selling
> extremely well.
> And even if it were the majority of the revenue we had last year, it would
> be at least an order of magnitude away from what I imagine some of these
> companies (Yahoo, Hotmail, Geocities) are saving from being able to use
> Open Source tools.  Maybe I shouldn't have even started speaking unless I
> had hard numbers, but I was trying to make a point.

You are being slippery. OK, so maybe ORA doesn't come at the top of your
list, but it comes way above the bottom.

> > Missing your employer's obvious interest out is not only disengenuous,
> > it reinforces suspicion of the motives of Open Source promoters.
> Am I supposed to argue that I'm unbiased?  Um, okay, yes Ben, you caught
> me, I'm biased, biased towards believing that for some portion of the
> software universe, open source works, and hey, I managed to find a job
> which will help make it work, I hope.  Of course, we're all going to look
> really silly if we say things which are provably untrue, or without merit,
> or convince companies to make decisions that end up being bad ones in the
> long run.  If I were an executive at a company considering open source, I
> think I'd much rather hear from someone who's been in an FSB for a few
> years and learned how to manage things, than someone who has had no such
> fiscal responsibility.

I'm trying to say that when you make a list of people who profit from
the "Open Source" concept, you shouldn't forget to include the people
who write your paycheck. It doesn't look good.

As for who execs would like to hear from, I presume you are suggesting
that I'm not in an FSB, or I haven't learnt how to manage things, or
that I have no fiscal responsibility. The first I wouldn't know about,
until someone defines an FSB (hmmm ... shouldn't some marketing type
snap up that trademark, fast?) but I certainly do work for (and partly
own) a company that depends on free software, and advocates it at all
opportunities. And, hey, I'm the financial director, too. But don't let
that worry you, I don't really know what I'm talking about.

> Should we be suspicious of your motives, since you didn't reveal
> yourself to be the author of the O'Reilly book on Apache?  :)

Possibly, though criticising one's own publisher is not usually the best
way to do marketing, I suspect (but I really don't know about that, as
I've said before, I'm crap at marketing). And it is mentioned in the
webpage hanging off my sig.

> > Another similar example is the Open Source webpages themselves, which
> > give considerably more prominence to people making megabucks (literally
> > - the criterion for inclusion is 1 megabuck/year) from _exploiting_ Open
> > Source - not producing it, note - than is given to people producing Open
> > Source.
> I think, to further my point, that the OS webpages should expand their
> listings to consider cost savings *and* direct revenue in making the
> calculation of who's worthy.  Of course calculating cost savings is
> difficult.
> > Ben (who makes money from free software).
> >
> > P.S. Apologies if you find me over-cynical. I've had a long day and I'm
> > feeling damn cynical.
> It's OK, I've gotten used to your cynicism, it's healthy.  :)

Goodo - have another dose of health-improving medicine, then :-)




"My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those
who work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the
first group; there was less competition there."
     - Indira Gandhi