Subject: Re: FSB Marketing
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 16:04:23 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "rn" == Russell Nelson <> writes:

    rn> What is the point of giving away software unless you want
    rn> other people to use it?

I meant it when as said "as you write;" I can draw that conclusion,
and believe most people would, immediately.  But I think the extreme
emphasis in the text I excerpted (maybe unfairly, but I tried not to
be so) does expose an existing bias.  I think that bias is bad for
social policy, and dangerous to the FSB itself.

OK, so you "want" people to use it.  How much do you want it?

Hal Varian "wants" people to read his professional economics papers,
too.  Have you read one recently?  But I bet you've read _Information
Rules._  That was not easy for them to write, you know, compared to
the technical stuff.  And the publisher made a significantly higher
monetary investment in marketing (at least, trade books on average get
a significant multiple of the investment that the journals do).  (I
made^H^H^H^Hdiscovered this analogy before reading Lynn's post, BTW.)

As you know, Russ, in economics we're generally concerned with deeds,
not thoughts.  We infer desire precisely when an agent pays a cost to
overcome an obstacle to a goal, and we measure the agent's desire to
achieve the goal by the costs paid to achieve it.

    rn> It takes time and effort to put together a distribution of
    rn> software.  So if you were indifferent to the use of it, you
    rn> would write it, and never give it away.

Oh, surely FS authors put together distributions for the fun of it,
just like they write code (time and effort) for the fun of it.  No?
Is it really that difficult to make a distribution, more than the
ego-boo one gets?  (Honest question; I only maintain a small package
that someone else wrote and organized---the ego-boo and feeling of
paying back an obligation to those who came before are quite
sufficient.  But I don't do Windows or marketing---I "hope" people use
it, but don't "want" it enough to do something that would make it
happen in large numbers.)

Consider Bill, who has paid the expenses to be sure his company's
product is on every desk in the universe.  Bill has paid for product
design, marketing tweaks, TV commercials, legal fees, (lied, cheated,
stole...).  Your approach presumes that you have a human client smart
enough to grovel through the Internet, find your stuff, configure it,
and install it.  Almost no cost to you.

Who has the desire to get product to customer?  Who has succeeded?  In
Bill's case it is no doubt derived from the desire for profit and
power, and that base motive leads to abuses.  But it's desire
none-the-less.  It is precisely this kind of derived desire that Adam
Smith characterized as an invisible hand leading to people like Bill
doing unintended public good.

Software is definitely an exceptional good.  But it is not so
exceptional that it stands up and sells itself, like an Asimovian

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