Subject: Re: Competition by internal expertise for F/OSS vendors
From: simo <>
Date: Wed, 03 Sep 2008 22:43:12 +0000

On Wed, 2008-09-03 at 15:47 -0700, Thomas Lord wrote:
> simo wrote:
> > > > 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?
> >   
> It is irrelevant to question them in that manner.
> The attitudinal surveys *are* relevant in other ways.  For example,
> formal and informal surveys focus on "career development" as 
> a motivation for volunteering labor to commercial efforts.
> That tells us something about how the exploitation works:
> The exploiters allow and encourage volunteers, rewarding 
> *just enough* and *just the right ones* to maintain the 
> *hope* among others that their career is being advanced.
> We learn a little bit about the structure and function of the
> propaganda behind the exploitation from those attitude reports.

I got your thesis, I was looking for proof, so far you keep saying the
the few free software firms that exist are willfully setting up a scheme
to exploit volunteers.
I do not believe in such a thesis without some proof (hand waiving is
not proof, no).

> > 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.
> >   
> Yes, this tells us more about how the scheme works.
> It was a neat trick, the invention of the concept of "open source", 
> that managed to lift the idea of volunteerism from the free software
> movement and steer it away from caring about having a free software
> job.

While I personally do not like the split between Open Source and Free
Software, I think it is a stretch to claim the "Open Source" was
invented to trick volunteers, by large.

> > Care to make examples please?
> >   
> What do paid-up RHEL installs mostly run

While I do work for Red Hat I have no access to such information.
Certainly we make RHEL work with both free and proprietary work, that's
what our customers demand. Certainly Red Hat is one of the few that is
true to free software/open source and Red Hat actions speaks of it.
We do not forbid our customers to run proprietary apps. It is not our
business to do so, but certainly we encourage them to use more and more
free software.

So in short, what a silly question is yours ?

>   How
> is the "total cost of ownership" of RHEL kept low?

Ok, so you are saying that profiting on free software is immoral.
Have you said so from start I would have not wasted my time ... I can
only say I do not agree with your way of seeing things or your ideas on
what is moral or immoral wrt free software.

The Free Software Foundation is perfectly fine with the fact that people
can profit from Free Software, their licenses are built to allow and
*encourage* that. They define software the forbid profiting non-free.

So I guess you have something against Free Software in general ?
Or what ?

> Of course.   There's nothing wrong with individuals doing pro bono
> public
> hacking.   I could just do without the manufactured celebrities and I
> think 
> that if a self-respecting corp. wants to work with the community of
> such
> individuals they should do it like a business would and speak with
> their 
> wallets.   Otherwise, we all have to keep counting our fingers
> whenever
> we shake hands with these firms.

At leas for Red Hat, I see it speaking with its wallet a lot, it employs
lots of free software developers and that's how it contributes back to
the community. It seem that you find this monstrous well you are
entitled to your opinions, but I think they are bizarre.

> > 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.
> >   
> There's a lot of junk on freshmeat, sure.   Those firms drive the main
> action.

So the fact that some firms take interest in a piece of software and
hire developers to advance it is bad? Care to explain WHY it would be ?

> > 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.
> >   
> What numbers ya got?

As I said I am countering feelings with other feelings, I am not trying
to prove a theory, you are, please don't try to turn the burden on proof
on me, I am the innocent exploited programmer here. The burden of proof
is on your shoulders I am afraid.

> > 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.
> >   
> Where did Debian get its desktop software?  (to name one
> example.)

I think that with the label "desktop software" I can probably count
packages in the thousands, what do you refer to exactly ?

> > 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.
> >   
> I have no beef with such things.   I'll put in a plug for a team I
> like:
> Oracle happens to host the developers of [Berkeley/Oracle] DB XML.
> I think Oracle picks up pretty darn close to 100% of the tab for that
> project, albeit they do put up a wailing wall where you can send an 
> email to report a bug.   They run a mailing list where users can help
> one another but more commonly, the Oracle-hired team volunteers 
> to help users with questions.   There is no obvious "entre" for public
> volunteers to sign up and "gain status" as a contributor although if
> someone made a serious effort for reasons of their own I don't think
> they'd
> be refused at the gate.    I really like the whole operation of that
> project.

So if I go and take their work, that they *voluntarily* distribute as
free software, repackage and sell it you find it immoral ?

> In contrast, another piece of code I use is Fedora and I start poking
> around there for this or that piece of information and I'm quickly
> confronted with a solicitation to volunteer to write HOWTO 
> documents for them.     This is like being a plumber invited to a 
> party where the host greets you saying "Hey, welcome to the party!
> Say, while you're here, do you mind taking a look at the drippy
> faucet upstairs?   I wouldn't normally ask but we're thinking of 
> actually hiring a plumber next week and I'd like to see some samples
> of your work.  Awfully convenient that we happened to have a 
> dripping sink, eh?"

You may feel that way, and while it is true that Red Hat hires *also*
from the Fedora community I can tell you with certainty that Red Hat doe
s not push the Fedora community to ask for volunteers with the cover
mission of hiring stars later on. The Fedora community is largely
independent and asks for contributions to anyone willing to.

Contributions like writing HOWTOS are seen as a good payback from all
users that benefit *gratis* from the work of many other volunteers.

You complain of exploitation and then fail to see how these people asked
back what they just thing is fair compensation from you the user that
benefit gratis from their work. They don't force you to thank them that
way, but I don't see what's wrong with it. certainly if you see Fedora
only as a proxy for cheap labor for Red Hat I can try to understand your
view. But if that's so I can also clearly see your view is based on
largely faulty assumptions so it is not worth considering.

I share Ben's feeling, it has been hard to try to keep polite when you
are basically telling me that I am a stupid exploited programmer that
not only is too stupid to see how exploited he is, but also at the same
time is part of the machine that willfully set up traps for other people
to exploit them, I must be an idiotic schizophrenic to be able to keep
going on ...