Subject: Re: small worlds and better than ransom
From: Thomas Lord <>
Date: Sat, 06 Oct 2007 12:47:49 -0700

Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:

> 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".

I just want to compound my investment -- to "get ahead".
You could call it my "red paper-clip", albeit using a capitalist
rather than a bartering model.

For example, why didn't I make a splashier first release by
developing and hosting some fancy web service based on
XQVM?   Answer: It's not even an option.  I don't have that kind of
money.    So, there is a prerequisite problem: getting more
capital to start with.

> 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 ....

That's absolute nonsense.   Tell me: how has the open source nature
of the LAMP stack impeded the current generation of, for example,
"web 2.0" services?

> 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.

Right.   When I think in terms of my personal "long range plan (or vision)"
I think that, if 5 or 10 years from now I've had to sell equity in something
and personally take VC money then, probably I've blown it.

The simple problem is that taking VC money is a poor risk if you
can't possibly afford to lose -- and that would be my situation in
most imaginable scenarios.

>  > > 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.

A better analogy might be performance -- as in performer and audience.

The pre-purchase business is like selling tickets to a performance.  There
is a venue there, of limited size, and with better and worse seats.  In
the course of the performance, a relation develops between performer
and audience and this relation colors and helps to shape the performance.

The experience of the audient has some value -- the ticket prices it
supports.     A live performance has value when the audience becomes
engaged in its production -- an experience that can't be obtained
from mere recordings of a performance.

The value of the performance business is the venue size multiplied by
the ticket price.

> 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.

Are ticket prices royalties?   Do they interfere with software freedom?

> 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.

Isn't it a choice, really?   Many firms and many start-up folks
regularly mine the public open source world for innovations that
can be exploited to create new products or improve existing ones.
Pre-purchases and things like them offer an alternative approach.

One thing to consider is what happens if not just me but
perhaps a few people actually succeed in starting a business like
this.   That will change the landscape a lot because many people
will try to emulate this.  That is, many entrepreneurial hackers
will follow suit and offer their work under similar terms.

Most, one presumes, will not win.   What will happen though
is a sharp improvement in meaningful, quick feedback between
the ambitious part of the open source community and the
consumer-facing parts.   That is: hackers around the world
will focus more sharply on actual hard-problem needs because,
if they come up with solutions (or even objectively plausible
advances towards solutions) then there's immediate money
in it for them.