Subject: Re: Opportunity lost? Challenge declined!? (LONG. COMPREHENSIVE)
From: Norbert Bollow <nb@thinkcoach.com>
Date: Thu, 10 May 2001 16:55:19 +0200

Adam Theo <adamtheo@theoretic.com> wrote:

> that would allow me, as Mr. Blankley put it, to be compensated for my
> investment in development while still allowing the*source* of my work
> to be widely viewable by users and third-party developers alike.

Ok, that makes a lot of sense.  (I also want to be compensated
for my investment in development of the Free Software program
that I'm working on.)

> personal information back to my servers. I also wish to allow
> third-party developers the freedom to "work-off" of my work, to
> develop patches of bugs or security holes, add-ons or plug-ins of new
> or improved features, or allow their own works to use features in my
> work, all without having to jump through legal rings of fire or pay
> royalty fees.

This sounds good.  Making your program Free Software would be
the obvious way to accomplish that IMHO.  Unless you pay them,
very few programmers will bother to develop patches of bugs or
security holes, add-ons or plug-ins for your program if it is
not Free Software.

> I would not allow these users or developers freedom to
> re-distribute my work without my permission

Why not?
- Because you think that granting this permission would reduce
  the amount of money you can earn with your program?
- For some other reason?

> * Four, on the matter of Intellectual Property (specifically the
> rights of the work's author): If an author creates code, and knowing
> the full issues of the action, decides to release it as open source
> (or free software, acknowledging the differences between the two.),
> not only do I see that as okay, but even greater as a noble and
> selfless act that benefits his peers and all of mankind alike.

So far most Free Software development has indeed been noble and
selfless acts as you say.  This is beginning to change, though.
For example Qt is now available under the GNU GPL not because
the company behind Qt wanted to do something that "benefits all
of mankind alike", but because the company came to the conclusion
that is was in *their*own* best interest to make Qt available
under the GNU GPL.

> My concern is for the authors who desire assured compensation (Not
> speaking in context of supply-demand where people could find his work
> un-desirable and not wish to buy it. This is in context of assured
> compensation for every copy of his work others do use.).

This is a very legitimate concern.  When you create software
that people use, and you want to make money, then you certainly
deserve to get paid for your work.

This doesn't necessarily mean that you should get paid _per_user_
of the software.  It is better if 2000 users of your program pay
you $3 each and 8000 others also use your program (or a
derivative product created by someone else) without paying you,
than if only 1000 users of your program pay you $3 each.

> For those authors who for one reason or another want to keep
> their work proprietary, I feel they should have that right
> (and of course face any consequences of not having a desirable
> product).

I agree.  With a relatively small software project (which you
can realize more or less alone), there are essentially four
options, all of them are completely legitimate (IF the choice is
made by the author of the software, and not the auhtor's employer.)
a) Not release your program at all
b) Make your program proprietary/secret-source software
c) Make your program proprietary/published-source software
d) Make your program Free Software
and there are some grey areas between these options.  The same
principle of freedom which is my reason for endorsing Free
Software is what makes me say that you should have all of these
options, and there should be a legal environment which aims to
make all of these options economically viable.

The situation is different with big projects that require many
developers.  If it's something that has a big market (like
e.g. an operating system kernel for PCs) realizing it as Free
Software should be considered the only viable option nowadays.
If it's something with a small market (e.g. specialized software
for controlling a type of nuclear reactors) doing it as
proprietary/secret-source software is probably the only option
which makes sense economically.

Developers should have the freedom of decision whether they want
to earn their money with small software projects, or with big
Free Software projects, or with big proprietary/secret-source
software projects.  Those who value their freedom as much as I
do will not choose the latter option.

> I feel the free market, with it's consumer choice and
> supply-demand forces at work should decide what business
> models float or sink, not the will of a few making others feel
> their only choice is to follow.

Yes---this is how it is.  It should be noted perhaps that there
are two markets to consider:  The market where software is sold
to end users, and the market where software development
companies recruit developers.

> * Five, on the matter of consequences of an all-OSS/FS world: I do
> believe many software developers would be seriously hurt if they could
> not make a living from their livlihood.

Yes.  In order to make significant progress towards an all-FS
world, a way must be found how developers can get paid well for
work on _needed_ Free Software.  You are always free to develop 
some software as a hobby, but if your project is something that
others want to use, then a way must be found to provide fair
payment to the developers.

> I do not agree with the argument that this would just result
> in the "weaker" (using a Darwinian outlook) programmers being
> forced out of the field. I believe it would hurt the "strong"
> and the "weak" alike.

Yes.  And it would hurt the whole industry because novice
programmers are of course "weaker".

> "Dave Blankley" <dblankley@iwon.com> wrote:
>     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.
> 
> While I am certainly not turning away this call, I must say the
> previous replies to my thread have not been a waste at all to me. I
> have learned a great deal, and been given a clear direction which I
> previously did not have. But, overall, I am thankfull for your
> challenge, and think it is *great* idea.
> 
> "Dave Blankley" <dblankley@iwon.com> wrote:
>     Here are the challenges:
>     1.  To brainstorm for solutions to allow
>     developers to be compensated for their development work.

How about this:

I start a software development project for a BBS-like software
system that is designed to be very useful as a marketing tool.
(For details of the project see http://tbbbs.org ) This program
will be released as Free Software.  At the same time I am starting
a company which specializes on hosting electronic communities
(which may be realized as email discussion groups, or with a
traditonal bulletin board system such as Phorum, or with the new
software) and providing technical support.  When other
developers help me with my project I can give them shares or
stock options of this company as a form of compensation.  The
exit plan is that eventually this company would become a
business unit of the Free Software Marketing Company which Tony
Stanco is envisioning, i.e. at that stage the shares of my
company would be exchanged for shares of the Free Software
Marketing Company.  (And if Tony's plan with the Free Software
Marketing Company does not work out, and this exit plan cannot
be realized, we still have a hosting company that is worth
something.)

What do you all think?  Is this a viable approach?  Is someone
interested in investing into such a start-up hosting + technical
support company?

> 4.  The software Red Hat sells support to is very complex. Trying to
> sell support to more simplistic works such as what I currently have
> would be near impossible. When the open source work is simple, a
> support-driven revenue just wouldn't hold up.

It might work to build a Free Software Distribution Company
(FSDC) around the service of helping software users choose a
Free Software program then meets their needs.  The use would pay
say $5 for using FSDC's website to try to locate the right Free
Software solution.  The website would feature an automated
system that lets the user between a resonable number (perhaps
twenty) Free Software packages that may possibly be appropriate
for the specific need.  The user can download and try any number
of these packages and choose one.  When the choice has been made,
$3 go to the current maintainer of the chosen software package,
and $2 is kept by FSDC.

In most cases this "current maintainer" who receives the $3 will
be the original author.  In some cases the user would be able to
choose between the version of the original author and a
derivative product that is maintained by someone else.

This $3 fee would be independent of the complexity if the
software.  For very complex software, the customer may want to
but additional support from a specialized company.

> When donations become the primary source of personal wealth, most will
> fall through the cracks, while the few that happen to become famous
> sit on a nice sized hill of stock and cash.

Right.

> Yes, but as I think we are now finding out, former methods and
> practices of doing business and making money will no longer work in an
> open source market. We are going to have to think of new ways fast, or
> see many good programmers and many good efforts fail simply because
> they were playing by the old rules when the rules of the game had now 
> changed.

Yes.

So what are the new rules?

Greetings, Norbert.

-- 
Norbert Bollow, Weidlistr.18, CH-8624 Gruet (near Zurich, Switzerland)
Tel +41 1 972 20 59       Fax +41 1 972 20 69        nb@thinkcoach.com
> Currently recruiting:  Perl programmers  and  JSP (JavaServer Pages)
> programmers for the "Traffic Building Bulletin Board System" project
> at FreeDevelopers.Net    ------------------>    See http://tbbbs.org