Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Thu, 4 Nov 1999 12:20:29 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Jean" == Jean Camp <Jean_Camp@harvard.edu> writes:

    >> RMS objects that economic considerations cannot capture the
    >> true benefits 9I would say costs) of intellectual property
    >> rights.

    Jean> This is true, but this is not the only problem with simple
    Jean> c/b analysis of free or open software.

Who's talking about doing a pure c/b analysis, let alone a simple one?
RMS and you, not me.  If I were going to do such a thing, I would just
go do it using market data, fake up a couple of extrapolations, and
the paper would have been submitted 18 months ago and appeared some
time ago.  I wouldn't hold it up to the searching opposition of RMS
and the ridicule of the Greek chorus.

In any case, any competent practioner of cost-benefit analysis will
advise you of the potential measurement biases in presenting their
results.  As you wrote, the critical thing for readers is "don't rely
on the executive summary."

    Jean> The stickiest question in cost/benefit for many years has
    Jean> been: What is the value of a life? According to any orthodox
    Jean> economist we have far too few plane crashes.

Counterexample.  Me.

Jean, I wish you would stop with the FUD; it is possible to do bad
analyses, it is possible to lie by choosing favorable cases or using
distorted scales for evaluation, it is possible to stop with the first
result because you like it and not do sensitivity analysis.  Many
self-proclaimed "professionals" do do those things, unfortunately.
But most do not (at least to the best of their ability).

It is highly insulting for you (in particular, to your colleagues,
whose work you presumably know best) to present in the way you do such
possibilities before seeing the work.  Certainly, you should advise
the unwary layman that these practices/pitfalls are common (among your
colleagues at the Kennedy School? surely not!), and perhaps hard to
avoid; but to say that a competent professional study can't be done is
FUD.

And so is bringing up the cost of a death.  Not the value of a life;
if we still have life, we have choices, and those choices are marginal
relative to the value of a life and therefore much more amenable to
quantification and measurement than the cost of death (although not
easy outside of the air-conditioned environment of the market).
Living programmers and users are presumably what we are talking about
in discussing the differences between free and proprietary software.


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