Subject: Re: Competition by internal expertise for F/OSS vendors
From: Taran Rampersad <>
Date: Wed, 03 Sep 2008 00:14:51 -0400

Thomas Lord wrote:
> History is not going to judge the past decade of the F/OSS
> industrial complex kindly.
There is a quote by Frank Herbert from one of the books in the Dune 
series that is something of a mantra of mine.

'Every revolution carries with it the seeds of it's own destruction'.

I can't speak for anyone else. What I can say is that there is a bunch 
of media out there - some of it reading this right now - which talks 
about the wisdom of crowds, or smart mobs, or how the web is empowering 
users to make choices. But take a look around. The playing field has 
changed, but it's the same game - as Thomas rightly pointed out. Elevate 
those you can influence to influence others.

I remember having an email conversation with RMS about Mono (which ended 
up being about DotGNU instead of Mono, since Mono's principal didn't 
play well with the FSF or something like that), and why the heck that 
was done. The crux of it, as he wrote it, was that Free Software needed 
more software developers and it needed to attract more. Well, there you 
go. I remember reading about how many Linux Servers were being sold, and 
that simply made no sense to me because of the nature of the GPL. I 
suppose people needed to count something.

At the end of the day, people influence people - and I note that there 
are some people with vast influence on this list - far and above the 
reach of myself and just about anyone I've had a physical meeting with. 
Tim O'Reilly noted in his response, the world *is* a better place in 
1999 - I'm not sure that this is true, but I'll say that the world is 
what it is. I'll say that given the rope to run with, the social 
experiment has created another iteration of whatever the last social 
experiment was. Whether that actually changed the world - well, let's be 
frank: The Internet hasn't really changed the world, it just magnified 
it. Geopolitical borders and related skirmishes not only continue to 
exist - they found a new playing field.

Roughly 80% of the world is still offline. Let me make sense of that for 
you. The number of people offline is roughly the same as the World 
Population of 1995. No kidding. The difference are the elite 20%. The 
good news is the rate of internet penetration is increasing. The bad 
news revolves around every nation state wanting to control access to the 
Internet in their own ways. Someone said that the internet routes around 
censorship - but in China, Cisco routers enforce censorship. Oops. So 
out of the people coming online, how many have full access? And will 
people slow down on procreating long enough to give better internet 
penetration statistics? :-)

Tim O'Reilly also wrote, 'Fighting the old wars doesn't get us anywhere. 
 What is the right battle to fight for user freedom today?'

I'd have to say that the battle is, was and always has been along the 
lines of what the WSIS was accused of trying to address. Even RMS 
participated. There were all kinds of cool discussions about internet 
governance. There were things said about freedom, et al, and even some 
stuff on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the context of 
technology. That was 2003 or so, as I recall. I wonder why it wasn't 
seen as important then, other than being made fun of on Slashdot. Ahh 
well. It's that darned mob again.

Maybe that sort of discussion would be worthwhile now? Or is it too 
late, the time passed while managing markets and influencing folk? I 
dunno. What I do know is that F/OSS is sort of like money. It's only 
good if you have it and have something to spend it on that you think is 
worthwhile. So... what do you think is worthwhile? F/OSS is a tool, a 
weapon, and much more - but without direction, without a common bond and 
direction, it's just mercenary and we shouldn't be surprised if the 
mercenary society goes where the money is. It almost sounds like a call 
for a philosophy, but there has been enough beard pulling over that. But 
it sure as hell needs something better than, "Let's keep putting our 
feet in front of each other and see what happens!".

And that's where you influential folk come in.

Taran Rampersad

"Criticize by Creating" - Michelangelo
"The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine." - Nikola Tesla