Subject: Re: Opportunity lost? Challenge declined!?
From: "Tim O'Reilly" <>
Date: Wed, 09 May 2001 18:31:46 -0700

I have to say I agree very much with what you've said here.  An "all or
nothing" approach just hardens positions.  I tend to see lots of signs
of people coming towards the free software world, and many times they
are sent packing with their tails between their legs.  This has always
been true.  It wasn't just a whim that I played the "people's front for
the liberation of Judaea vs the Judaean People's Liberation Front" etc.
scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian at the Open Source Developer's
Day we did a few years back after one of the early Perl conferences.

We need to encourage signs that people are moving in the right
direction, towards openness, even if they aren't all the way there. 
There are lots of valuable contributions to the commons on which we all
depend that aren't entirely open source.  

It's the old "glass half full/glass half empty" thing.

The recent flap about Craig Mundie's comments is another case in point. 
Yes, Microsoft is spreading FUD about the GPL.  But he's also
acknowledging that open source has a lot to teach.  Yet almost all the
responses have focused on the FUD, and few on the admission by Microsoft
that source sharing is important.  I would have declared this a
victory.  I think we would have gained a lot more adherents than by
acting as though it was simply an attack.

Or back when I had my tete-a-tete with Jim Allchin after his
comments...I thought I had a real victory in having Allchin effectively
say that he understood that if the government shouldn't support GPLd
software, it logically also shouldn't support proprietary software, and
that all software produced under government contract should effectively
be PD or under Apache/BSD style licenses!  (BTW, Microsoft assistant
general counsel Brad Smith apparently drew the same conclusion when he
came down to speak at Larry Lessig's stanford law class on open
source.)  I can't believe that this community didn't jump on this
enormous opportunity to put a positive construction on those comments,
one that would paint MS into a far more difficult corner than a pissing
match about their attacks on the GPL.

Glen Starchman wrote:
> On Wed, 09 May 2001, wrote:
> > The thread begun by Adam Theo represented both an opportunity and a challenge
> > to this group.  One that so far has been squandered, yet may still be redeemed.
> >
> I tend to agree, although I, also, remained quiet on the thread... partially
> because of the beating I took a few months ago on a fairly similar topic. ;-)
> > Specifically, a developer has come to us with a product and a question on
> > semi-proprietary licensing.  Rather than use this as an opportunity to brain-storm
> > and develop a viable means for this person(and the community at large) to
> > see a return on their investment(development time) we have squandered it
> > shouting what amounts to opinions, rather than arguments, that closed source
> > is bad.
> I was recently the CTO of a VC firm and had proposed a project that used
> several open source and free software tools. After much negotiation with the
> CEO and COO, I had finally persuaded them that OSS/FS was the way to go on the
> project... until the CEO joined a *list that shall not be named* to "see what
> this free software stuff is all about". Within a few days the project was
> cancelled due to what the CEO called "those freaks that want everything to be
> free".
> Sadly, because of some misdirected posturing on that list (and, to be honest,
> some fairly radical ideas), a project that *could* have been a posterchild for
> OSS and FS was killed and I ended up looking like a fiscal idiot.
> > Here are the challenges:
> > 1.  To brainstorm for solutions to allow developers to be compensated for
> > their development work.
> > 2.  To convince Mr. Theo that the among those solutions exists a business
> > plan which provides an expected return on investment at least equal to his
> > proprietary license model.
> This can be very difficult. Many, many organizations see the opening up of
> their codebase to be tantamount to sleeping with the enemy... making source
> code freely available means that eventually that code will fall into the hands
> of one's competitors and give them an edge. Hence the real problem: the fiscal
> reality of OSS/FS in the software arena.
> Recently I advised one of my clients (who is *heavily* MS-dependent) to release
> the specifications for a portion of their product to the software community at
> large so that that portion could be ported to other platforms, etc... Is that
> Free Software? Nope. Is it OSS? To a point, but not enough that ESR would
> approve (probably), and RMS's head would probably spin about 180 degrees.
> However, in my opinion, it is a start and rather than telling my client, "Okay,
> now, you know all of that code that you have spent millions developing? I want
> you to release it to the public."  and promptly being fired, I began what I
> hope to be a cycle of more openess within that organization.
> >
> > Along those lines, I shall begin with a discussion of the Red Hat model.
> > Red Hat is essentially a support provider.  You pay Red Hat a fee and they
> > help you set-up your Linux system.
> >
> > Unfortunately, there are several problems with the Red Hat solution:
> > 1.  The software it is supporting already had strong grass-roots momentum,
> > and a non-trivial userbase when Red Hat began.
> Agreed... but only in terms of the so-called geeks. Sure, Linux distros were
> becoming easier to install, but who but a certified geek knew that in order to
> have a PPP internet connection you had to rebuild the kernel with PPP support?
> I have what I call the Mother test for ease of use. If I am going to release a
> product far and wide I think like my computer illiterate mother and see if I
> can figure it out. No distro has met that test yet, but companies like RedHat
> and SuSE are certainly getting close.
> > 2.  I am unsure of the return Linus Torvalds has seen from open-sourcing
> > Linux, but it does not seem to be on the scale of Bill Gates, Larry Ellison,
> > or Scott McNealy.  Granted, pure monetary success is not neccessarily the
> > only metric, however, most developers(and people in general) want to see
> > a return beyond the feel good of altruism for their efforts.
> That is also a case in point. Sure, there are people who write software for the
> love of it. But there are also people who write software to make a living. If I
> run a bakery, I am not going to give out my bread recipe.
> > 3.  As a developer, what I am good at is developing software, not providing
> > support.
> Once again, agreed. See response to point 1.
> >
> > Which brings me to a more focused question than my earlier challenges:
> > How does a developer that wants to invest his time developing, get compensated
> > in the open source arena?
> That's a tough question, and one that most OSS shops haven't been able to
> answer.

Tim O'Reilly @ O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
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+1 707-829-0515, FAX +1 707-829-0104,