Subject: Re: Open Source in E-Commerce
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 07:45:13 +0000 (/etc/localtime)

>>>>> "Rich" == Rich Morin <rdm@cfcl.com> writes:

    Rich> There may have been some academics or even experts

:-)

    Rich> involved in the review process, but we didn't select for
    Rich> them going in.  We just put out a broadcast and looked at
    Rich> the responses...  We paid no honoraria, either, but we did
    Rich> make sure to acknowledge the help we received.

I thought you didn't select for academics?  ;-)  Yes, you'll get some
cranks.  You put them in your killfile or downweight them in your
scorefile.  But people who take the trouble to respond for no pay will
be often people who like to review, and that will self-select for
academic types.

And academic types who aren't experts (in the field you're working in)
may be very useful.  When people ask me "what code have you written?" 
I have to respond "none; I don't write code, I read it".  But that
doesn't stop people who know me (well enough to know when I'm not
simply being a crank) from taking my judgement into account.  I think
it's likely that the same critical judgement that I apply to my
academic work (research and teaching) is somewhat applicable to
reading code.

The other benefit you'll get is that you are also self-selecting on
"finally, a chance to get somebody to write the book I want to read!"
You may not be giving away as many sales (by giving away the product)
as a naive person might think (I think this is what you mean by
"community buy-in", but it's worth emphasizing).

    Rich> I'm not sure if I totally buy RMS's position that free
    Rich> software needs free documentation and that, consequently,
    Rich> proprietary books on free software are "part of the
    Rich> problem".  I can see his point, to be sure, but I think
    Rich> there is room for more than one book on any given subject,
    Rich> so the presence of proprietary books does not necessarily
    Rich> preclude an interested party from writing a free one.

I don't buy the consequence at all, as long as the developers don't
think their job is done when they release the code.  A certain level
of free documentation is necessary; the source is not enough.  But
from the increasingly good documentation that the established OSS
projects (and many of the startups) are producing, I think projects
are taking the responsibility to document well very seriously now.

And obviously this XEmacs user thinks there's plenty of room for more
than one free software implementation of a given application.  :-)
So "room for more than one" applies to programs as much as books.

    Rich> It is also debatable whether books and software are strictly
    Rich> equivalent in their development needs.

I think they're pretty close.[1] It's the requirements that they place
on users that may be very different; much modern software is intended
to free the user from the need to supply wetware, whereas no book is
much use without a high-quality brain behind the eyes.  (I'm assuming
that both the software and the book are intended to be polished,
useful products; writing the typical $2.50 paperback porno "novel"
shouldn't strain the wetware of either the writer or the reader.)



Footnotes: 
[1]  Modulo my admission that I'm a reader of code. ;-)

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