Subject: Re: funding indirect services (tangent)
From: Frank Hecker <frank@collab.net>
Date: Thu, 03 Aug 2000 14:13:13 -0400

"Stephen J. Turnbull" wrote:
> This may be tangential to the thread, but I don't think so.  I think
> that there is a potential conflict between the "community service"[1]
> and "business" aspects of FSBs, and we should look closely at its
> implications for any given business model.

I agree that balancing the "community service" and "business" aspects is
one of the key issues for FSBs, arguably _the_ key issue. FSBs that are
all community service and no business are simply spending their
investors' money and not building shareholder value for the long term.
(This is assuming that such ventures are funded by separate private or
public investments; an employee-owned firm could of course self-fund,
and if they don't want to maximize their profits that's their own
business.) On the other hand FSBs that are all business and no community
service are going to find themselves at a disadvantage in trying to
leverage the cross-company/cross-individual alliances that are seen as a
key benefit of libre software communities.

> The point is that BeOpen.com has greatly influenced the development of
> XEmacs by voting with dollars, rather than convincing the review board
> that it is good for XEmacs.  _IMO_ this is good for XEmacs
> development--- we get to experiment with a GTK+ XEmacs without 
> redirecting the whole project---but since the obvious target for
> those dollars is current volunteer developers, it is debatable.

I'm sorry, I'm confused by what you're saying here; could you clarify
exactly what here is debatable? Are you referring to the fact that
offering payment for development will cause at least some volunteer
developers to do less development as part of the community, because
they'll be doing projects not approved (in some sense) by the community?
And that in such a case the FSB funding development might be seen as not
contributing to the community but as helping to weaken it?

I agree that such an outcome is indeed possible. I also believe that the
community is not defenseless in such a situation; for example, its
members' values might lead them to decline working on paid projects that
are perceived to be "unauthorized". In that case offering payment for
development would not necessarily cause a reduction in volunteer
development, it might instead attract new developers who were not (for
whatever reason) willing to work as volunteers within the community as
traditionally constituted.

Now one could go on to debate whether attracting such non-volunteer
developers would be good or bad for the community. On the plus side,
such new developers could also at a later time end up working on
"authorized" projects, or otherwise contributing in a manner seen as
positive for the community. On the minus side, such developers could be
seen as weakening the coherence of the community in terms of its
underlying values and goals.

In any case, I believe it would not be in the community's long-term
interest to simply adopt a defensive posture against corporate-funded
development, even "unauthorized" development. (Unfortunately I don't
have time right now to expand on this and explain why I believe this.)

Frank
-- 
Frank Hecker            work: http://www.collab.net/
frank@collab.net        home: http://www.hecker.org/