Subject: Re: appliance-based business models
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 2005 15:27:50 +0900

>>>>> "Kelly" == Kelly Anderson <> writes:

Brian Behlendorf writes:

    >> I think writing software for money almost necessarily perverts
    >> it in some important ways

    >> I'm most comfortable if I can write software simply to suit my
    >> own needs, and then if others find it handy and want to
    >> contribute to it, so much the better.

    Kelly> I don't understand why you can't do both.

_Anybody_ can.  _Everybody_ can't.

On the "can" side, if you're willing to restrict yourself to a field
where you can eat your own dogfood, or you happen to find yourself
there when the monkey lands on your back, it's quite possible.  As you
and others have demonstrated by posting "I did it!"

In particular, I suspect you're referring to experiences where some
customer requested something you at first thought dumb or irrelevant,
but now can't live without.  Then it turns out that although you make
what at first sight look like compromises, really, customer-
orientation helped you create a product better suited to your needs
than you could have possibly produced in an ivory tower.[1]

But if you start in some _arbitrary_ field and try to sell software,
you are very likely to find yourself doing work to satisfy customers
that you would never have done yourself.  You are very likely to
implement many features to good-enough-for-government-work standards,
rather than a few to your own satisfaction.[2]  Surely you can think
of your own examples.  When you're eating mostly your own dog food,
this is small, the benefits large.  But when you're not, the
compromises become more irksome from the artist's viewpoint.

And there are several people who fly the flag of open source advocacy
or support (such as Larry McVoy and L. Peter Deutsch) who openly sell
proprietary software as their primary product (and even Cygnus and
IIRC-CMIIW Red Hat flirted with it for a while).[3]

I think such "perversion" is all around us, and I don't think it's a
matter of perverts and backsliders, just normal people responding
intelligently to market forces.

[1]  In academia, this is called the "refereeing process."  Somewhat
different implementation, same psychological impact.

[2]  This is what happens when you take the revolving door from
academia to private sector or government work.

[3]  I don't have a problem with this.  "Software freedom is an art I
pursue, not a goal I expect to achieve."---ad lib on a theme by R.A.Heinlein

School of Systems and Information Engineering
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.