Subject: Re: OpenSource: build or buy?
From: "Tim O'Reilly" <>
Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 08:50:46 +0100

I think Frank Hecker's analysis of the parallels with the Nature Conservancy
are right on.

One interesting point:  I spent some time trying to persuade both the
Internet Society and the EFF that they ought to try to model themselves on
the Nature Conservancy (or the Sierra Club).  In their cases, I was arguing
that they needed a large membership base to have credibility as speaking for
a large community.  (Politicians etc. pay attention to large groups only.)  I
believed (and still do) that the Internet is a "common good" that is
endangered in the same way that the environment is endangered.  I've given a
lot of "We need a Sierra Club for the Internet speeches."

But I digress.  The point I wanted to make was that in talking with TNC
executives (which I did as part of my research), it became clear that large
membership is also the key to those large donations that Frank was talking
about.  They told me that they break even on those 750,000 $35 memberships
that they spend a lot of direct mail money raising, but those 750,000 people
are the donor pool who they are then able to hit up for more significant

The point here is that this won't happen in a vacuum.  It is extraordinarily
difficult to create an organization of that size.  It's a great idea, but
like many great ideas, not an easy one to bring to fruition.

Tim O'Reilly @ O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
101 Morris Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472
707-829-0515 ext 266, Fax 707-829-0104,