Subject: Re: Competition by internal expertise for F/OSS vendors
From: simo <>
Date: Wed, 03 Sep 2008 21:18:48 +0000

On Wed, 2008-09-03 at 14:42 -0700, Thomas Lord wrote:
> simo wrote:
> > > Thought experiment:
> > > 
> > > Many public or semi-public software projects have,
> > > on their web pages, a link usually named something
> > > like "get involved" or "how to contribute" or 
> > > "for developers".    The linked page will tell where
> > > to get the source, how to tie in to the source
> > > control system, where the bug reports are kept,
> > > what the coding standards are ... that kind of thing.
> > > 
> > > What if, overnight, we could do a text search and
> > > replace on all of those links so that all of them 
> > > were named "work for us without pay".
> > > 
> > > That would be completely accurate.   It would 
> > > not in any way change the infrastructure to disrupt
> > > work patterns.
> > > 
> > > What would happen next?
> > >     
> > 
> > And what would you gain or demonstrate by such move ?
> > 
> > Do you really think that the people that "donate" their time is stupid
> >   
> No.
> > and do not realize exactly what they are doing ?
> >   
> Yes.

I think you greatly underestimate people.

> > Ben Tilly and Chris Di Bona already summarized well that there are other
> > rewards than just money in this field.
> >   
> They summarized people's self-reported attitudes -- which are
> irrelevant to the question of exploitation.

How is it irrelevant to question the people you accuse of being
exploited and asking for their opinion?

> > I too started *donating* my time. I did it for fun, to help people, and
> > of course to advertise myself and my skills. This allowed 2 jobs to
> > literally fall on me when I came to the US.
> >   
> I don't fault you for doing that.  I do that myself, too.
> That's not the point.
> Where are the *opportunities to donate*?  Who creates
> the bulk of them?  Who sets the rules of where and how to
> donate?   What do the people running the show get out of
> the deal?  compared to the people donating?
> Consider a subset of the opportunities to donate:  there's a 
> subset which are those opportunities to donate that can land
> you a job.   There are other places to donate coding that won't
> help much with a job but there are a few reliable places,
> at any point in time.

Not all volunteers want a job in free software, actually I'd say most of
them do not look for a job in the field. Either they already have a
satisfactory job, or they just do it for fun.

> Those volunteer opportunities are where most of the action
> is.   The projects in the "best bet for help getting a job" category
> are a narrow set of all projects, heavily influenced by the 
> actions of the vendors and their studio-system celebs.
> They largely define, month to month, "what's cool to hack on".

This appeals only those "volunteers" that see contributing *only* as a
method to get publicity. Although I stated that I had that in mind too
at some point, I have to say that has never been my drive to work on
free software projects. It was just a nice collateral effects.

> They are mostly in the business of supporting a platform for
> non-free software.  They mostly compete by not paying for
> large amounts of the new code they use each month.

Care to make examples please?

> Meanwhile, you and 10,000 other guys are putting all of
> your "donating" efforts into that narrow range of 
> projects, completely ignoring the question of which projects
> are the most tactically important to eliminating proprietary
> software -- all while putting money in the pockets of
> shareholders of a few vendors.

So far when I decided to partecipate in a project or start one, I did it
because it appealed me or I found it interesting in some way.

In my experience the projects that are driven or started by vendors is
an incredibly small amount with respect to the total sum of projects.
And most of them require paid developers because volunteers have no
interest in them. There are notable exceptions, but I'd like you to show
some facts before drawing conclusions because I do not agree at all with
your feeling.

> > Also let's not forget that one of the rewards is getting back a lot of
> > free software from other volunteers or paid programmers alike.
> >   
> Yes, but *what* free software?   That which makes the most
> sense or that which happens to "fall of the back of the truck"
> the vendors use to deliver their platform for proprietary software?

Uhmm I didn't know that Debian used to distribute software that happened
to "fall of the back of the truck" of vendors , I must have been living
in a different place the last years.

But working for a vendor I can tell you that the amount of software that
would be nice to have for enterprises needs is not even close to what
the volunteers community usually is interested with.
Volunteers tend to volunteer to whatever project they like or find
useful for themselves, they are certainly not coerced to provide help to
vendors on projects they do not care about.

> > Most people get back ample rewards/returns even if it is not money.
> > 
> > Show me evidence of the contrary please.
> > 
> >   
> I have been.   Please see it.

Sorry, I guess I either fail to see it, or you failed to provide
evidence. I see you provided opinions, but they are not facts until you
get some real world data to sustain your thesis.

So far only Chris provided some data, and his data does not agree with
your vision (and you discarded it as irrelevant for that).