Subject: Re: small worlds and better than ransom
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Sun, 07 Oct 2007 01:19:10 +0900

Thomas Lord writes:

 > Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
 > >  > I do it because I'm very good at it and I'm not very good
 > >  > at many things.
 > >
 > > So far you haven't been terribly good at making money at it, though.
 > > At least not proportionate to your contribution.  So why are you still
 > > at it?

 > Because that is what I do.

Which is coming awfully close to the infamous informal definition of
"insanity".  I know what you mean, and I don't deny the validity of
that existential position.  But you presumably recall what happened to
"Phaedrus" in _Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance_.  While what
happens to *you* is up to you, there's no denying that a lot of
inventive people are scared out of their ethical wits by that prospect.

 > >  > I do enjoy it
 > >
 > > That's my guess. :-)
 > 
 > It is becoming more difficult to enjoy it.

Satan sez, "it would be a lot easier if you had money, and here's a
nice shiny apple labelled 'proprietary'" ...

 > Either I am good at this kind of research or I am not.  And if
 > I am good at it, and afforded more opportunity to do it, then
 > those most closely engaged with the process stand to gain.

No, that's very unclear.  Your existential position is that you are
creating a lot of value, which is pretty easy to verify up to this
instant, and that you (very generously) wish to recapture enough to
make it possible for you to continue, but not enough to "get rich".
Unfortunately, your ethical position is that you wish to do so in ways
that make it difficult for third parties to exploit your contribution
economically.  So much for support from VCs ....

Again, I use that word "exploit" intentionally.  That's what VCs are,
at core, exploiters of others' contributions.  It's a valuable
service, but not terribly savory.

 > > Again, the "business of having customers" is redundant.  You are in
 > > business if and only if you have customers.  The question remains: how
 > > do you attract those customers?
 > 
 > Show a little leg?   Put on the red light?

Worked for Roxane.

However, developing software is fundamentally different from fucking
(although I've heard researchers describe "aha!" moments in terms
usually reserved for orgasms :-).  Your software is a gift that will
keep on giving pretty much forever (well, eventually it falls into
disuse, but that's another story).  IP is a device for ensuring that
you get a piece of that.  There's an ethical balance to that.  IP also
creates a large degree of monopoly power, so there's a major ethical
flaw too.  If ethics were easy, we'd all be good.  :-)

RMS sez in the GNU Manifesto that programmers don't need to collect
royalties.  There's always work for hire, training, bug fixing, etc.
Someone who hustles can live well.  But "hustles", as you know, is an
oft-used euphemism for whoring.  I think it's ethically disgusting to
suggest that as an appropriate way to make a living for you, based on
the lasting nature of your major contributions.

NB I would very much like to find a way that open source as *you would
like to do it* can regularly be commercially successful.  But I don't
think prepurchase is the way.