Subject: Re: Opportunity lost? Challenge declined!? (CLARIFICATION)
From: Adam Theo <adamtheo@theoretic.com>
Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 05:10:03 -0400

hi, all. i'm back, after getting a bit of sleep and now getting home
from work. okay, just to say in this post my replies to what's come up
since my last post, and in the post coming up right after this, a
possible solution i may have (or at least an idea) that i got as i was
heading in to work this afternoon.

replies:

"Simon Cozens" <simon@netthink.co.uk> wrote:
    Just for clarification, do you want to allow them to develop
    derived works incorporating some of your code? From what I see
    from the above, they can freely contribute to the viability of
    your product, but cannot use your product in theirs. Don't get me
    wrong, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with this, and one of
    the gripes I had long ago with proprietary software is that I
    couldn't interface to it. But another gripe I had was that I
    couldn't extend it either. Oh, hrm, maybe I can, if I create
    enough "plugins" - if I patch the source enough, I can turn it
    into something else. Do you see how fine the line is? If you're
    going to allow modification, it makes a lot of sense to consider
    allowing derived works (with appropriate recognition of the
    origin, of course) too.

i originally intended that yes, third-party developers would be able
to only interface with my work, they would not be able to
re-distribute or include it (short of working out some agreement
expressly with me, of course). but, as i will explain in my next post
(about the idea i had), i may ditch this stance, and go with allowing
free re-distribution.

"Simon Cozens" <simon@netthink.co.uk> wrote:
    I remember having to deal with a piece of software called the
    Columbia Appletalk Protocol, which was licensed in a bizarre way:
    even *vendor-supplied* patches had to be distributed
    separately. So you'd download version 1.0 of CAP, 30 or so patches
    for the vendor, a few third party patches, and patch the hell out
    of it. By the time you'd finished, you'd have version 2.0 of CAP,
    but the code was almost completely different.
"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    How are people going to find out about the program?  At a small
    sale price, the cost to acquire a customer has to be very very
    low.  You can't afford to run an advertising campaign.  You need
    information about the product to spread by word of mouth.  This
    suggests a shareware model, but my understanding is that shareware
    typically does not make money.


yes, i agree. in fact, i was able to read mr cozen's reply here
just before heading in to work, and this problem of yours is what
really got me re-considering the whole no-re-distribution thing. mr
taylor's argument, which i agree with, only serves to convince me that
i do have to allow for free re-distribution.

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    Perhaps you can make a subset of the program which is small but
    useful, and release that as free software.  Then the small version
    of the program can automatically encourage people to purchase the
    full-featured version.

i actually did think about something like this when creating the
works. my idea then was to only charge for the most recent (or when
the work actually got "up there" in the version numbers, the most
recent few) versions, and giving the older ones for free. i decided i
would not just put old versions on the back burner the moment a new
version came out (ie: stop developing the v2.00 line as soon as v3.00
comes out), but instead keep developing old versions as far as i felt
i could take them while still keeping the unique features of the
recent versions in the recent versions. make sense?

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    I'm focusing on the details here because in business, as in
    programming, the details matter.  There is no one-size fits all
    solution to repaying an investment.  If there were, we would all
    be rich, or none of us would be.

completely understood, and certainly appreciated. i prefer these hard
hitting arguments to entire pages of praise. i'd start to feel awkward
if all i got on an idea was assurances of how it will work, instead of
how it won't.

"Simon Cozens" <simon@netthink.co.uk> wrote:
    Hrm, I don't see how that's related to intellectual property. I
    still have full copyright on all work I create, even if it's open
    source.

hm, i'm going to have to read up a lot more on copyright and ip before
going too much further in this topic, i see. okay, penciling it in for
tomorrow...

"Simon Cozens" <simon@netthink.co.uk> wrote:
    Oh, I like danger. :) Besides, I'm not talking about shunning
    people who are ignorant of it - I'm talking about shunning people
    who know about it but are trying to find loop-holes and get-out
    clauses in it. There are a variety of reasons why people want to
    make use of open source:

oh, okay. i see what you meant now. i somewhat agree more here,
yes. still don't like "shun", but i also don't like your 3 & 4
examples, as well.

"Norbert Bollow" <nb@thinkcoach.com> wrote, replying to me:
    > 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?

initially, yes, for that first reason. i saw (note the past
tense. that is, if my idea coming up can float...) that allowing
others to freely re-distribute my work *would* cut (and deeply) into
the revenue i feel (note present tense here :)  ) i should be
getting. reasoning: i'm a nobody, with at best at that time, a
little-known site, with a nothing marketing budget. if i release a
work created with my own sweat and blood, and a larger third-party
comes along, likes what they see, but just takes it without paying me
(nothing stopping them), to then re-distribute it themselves, making
their own money at it (revenue from any number of ways.), well, that
leaves me in the dust.

"Norbert Bollow" <nb@thinkcoach.com> wrote:
    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.

true.

"Norbert Bollow" <nb@thinkcoach.com> wrote:
    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.)

i agree completely with all of what you say in this part of your
reply.

"Norbert Bollow" <nb@thinkcoach.com> wrote:
    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.

hmmm... this does seems so, giving it some initial thought. i'll have
to think on it more before i can give any opinions.

"Norbert Bollow" <nb@thinkcoach.com> wrote:
    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.

hm, who is this tony stanco fellow, and is there a website with info
on his idea? never heard of this before.

"Norbert Bollow" <nb@thinkcoach.com> wrote:
    What do you all think?  Is this a viable approach?  Is someone
    interested in investing into such a start-up hosting + technical
    support company?

i *might*, but i only say this because i'm always interested in new
business ideas and trying them out if i think it will better the
world. but to be any surer, i'd not only have to educate myself on
this, but also hear a lot of discussion on this matter from many
different people, to feel confident it's a good idea.

"Norbert Bollow" <nb@thinkcoach.com> wrote:
    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.

no, i'm afraid i'm quite sure this wouldn't fly. first: i seriously
doubt there is a demand for this type of "software reviewing/chooer"
service. as stated by mr taylor, most people do choose software (and
are usually comfortable with them) by employer's will or friend's
reccommendations. second: paying for this sort of service would drive
the customers away. they are not used to *paying* for this type of
service when they get things like email accounts, webhosting, car loan
evaluations, even online bank accounts for free, no cost. they are
used to being able to *use* things without having to pay for it
online. third: this model seems too cumbersome, and prone to
error. don't have anything solid on this, but it just seems like an
expensive house built on a sand foundation.

"Simon Cozens" <simon@netthink.co.uk> wrote:
    Down that path lies madn^Wshareware. :)

i've heard people flak shareware, but never the reasons why. if you
don't mind, could you give me a run-down of why it has a bad rap?
never really used shareware before. i know what it is, but not that
experienced with it. feel free to contact me in private on this.

"Seth Gordon" <sethg@ropine.com> wrote:
    Why should anyone pay $3/copy for an alarm-clock or stop-watch
    program?  As you've described it, the functionality seems so
    trivial that if I needed such a program, and no free version
    existed, I'd rather write it myself than drop three bucks on
    someone else's program.  Yes, the time it would take me to write
    it is probably worth more than $3, but I would treat it as an
    opportunity to practice using Perl/Tk, and if I worked for an
    organization of people who needed the same program, the cost of my
    labor would be spread across the organization.

yes, you are right on this. functionally, it's a nice program right
now. nowhere near where i dream it to be in the future, but a step up
from basic. but yes, i agree that it could very well not be worth $3
right now. i would feel fine not charging for it at this early stage
in it's development, but that only postpones the issue of being able
to make money off it.

"Seth Gordon" <sethg@ropine.com> wrote:
    Your offer to let me view the source doesn't really give me such
    assurance, since (a) I may not have the time to audit a product's
    source code before deciding whether or not to buy it;

could you explain this point? i'm sorry, i don't really understand
it. what do you mean by audit?

"Seth Gordon" <sethg@ropine.com> wrote:
    (b) if I have the faintest interest in ever writing a program that
    does something similar to yours, I want to make sure *not* to see
    your source code, because if I ever do implement my idea, I don't
    want to accidentally infringe your copyright.

hm... a very good point here. and now that it comes up, i think i had
wondered about this same thing a while ago, but it got filed away in
the "cobwebbed filecabinet" before i could take the time to find a
solution. 'fraid i don't have one right now, but might later, after i
put more brainpower into it.

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    I think most people agree that everybody should have the right to
    keep their work proprietary.  It's possible that RMS in his wilder
    moments has argued against this.  But normally he just says that
    though people have the right to release proprietary code, he has
    the right to not purchase it.

yes, in fact i had him in mind when i wrote parts of my long post
before  :). but as for the "staw man position", i mostly wrote that
not to attack people with those views, but to show exactly where i
stood by showing where i didn't.

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    (I will parenthetically note that the proprietary software world
    is not the result of the consumer's decision either; it is the
    result of the government's grant of monopoly rights to the
    creators of intellectual property (perhaps that should be
    intellectual ``property'').

hm... more or less true. i know i have an argument to this, but my
mind is not clear enough (need sleep) for me to feel confident in
arguing it. i could very well botch it up. so i'll just have to wait
on this one.

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    But, that said, I believe the proper way to consider an all free
    software world is to ask about the benefits to society as a whole.
    It is not to ask about the benefits to software developers.

well, as i see it, while society can often take on properties and
attributes of it's own, seperate from the individuals in it, it is
at heart a "trickle up" affair. unhappy individuals creates an unhappy
society, which can be applied also to health, wealth, and intellect.

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    It is possible that society as a whole will do better if there
    were fewer software developers, just as many people suspect that
    society as a whole would do better if there were fewer lawyers.

*ack!* *reeling, clutching at heart*

*take deep breaths...*

okay, i'm alright now...

*sigh* yes, the reasonable person in me must reluctantly but sincerely
agree that it's possible...

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    I really don't understand this point of view at all.  You say that
    Red Hat is a multi-million dollar corporation, and they are.  But
    do you think they were created as a multi-million dollar
    corporation?  The company was founded in 1994 out of the back of
    Bob Young's van.  They didn't have any of the resources you are
    talking about to start with.

hm.. there is the voice in me that wants to argue that back then the
rules were still "the old rules", and they got in before the universe
shifted, but i have to quelch it and concede this point. yours is a
very good point, yes. true.

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    In my last message I explained that though Red Hat makes a
    significant amount of money from support, that is not where they
    make most of their money.

ah, okay. again, point conceded. at least i learned something new,
although i don't think this one will be coming up in 'jeopardy' any
time soon...

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote:
    No, if Linus is rich, he is rich because he is employed by
    Transmeta, a company which is so far reasonably successful.  I'm
    sure he has made money from donations.  But I'm also sure that the
    money he has made from Transmeta is far more than the money he has
    made from donations.

hm, i'm sorry i cannot refer to anything on this, since i was just
going off of memory of a C|Net TV story i saw more than a year
ago. of, course, i could very easily be wrong, mis-remembering the
details of the story.

"Ian Lance Taylor" <ian@airs.com> wrote, replying to me:
    > yes, developers can make money at consulting, and that is so far
    > the most assured source of revenue for a programmer, but it is
    > not enough when more and more programmers migrate over from the
    > closed source to the open source fields. As the consultant
    > population balloons, the only way for any large amount of them
    > to make a living at it would be for consulting fees to increase
    > greatly. Unfortunately, as basic economics shows, the opposite
    > happens. A bigger pool of workers, no matter how experienced you
    > are compared to the others, decreses what you can get.

    Isn't the same true in the proprietary software world?  Why hasn't
    it happened there?  (Of course I think it will happen eventually,
    but I also think you are begging the question.)

again, i know i have a (small) argument here, but don't want to try it
right now due to too tired a mind. maybe later, if it seems that
important (doubtful, since i'll be dropping many of these arguments
when i write up my idea in my next post).

ack! it's after 5 am! not again.... *wails* by the time i finish my
idea it'll be 7 again... *sigh*... i'll end this post here on this
note (and this is again a very long post, almost rivaling the other at
around 350 lines):

"Steve Mallett" <steve@opensourcedirectory.com> wrote:
    Well, if crynwr/Russell isn't interested in hosting/being
    responsible for  another list I'd be pleased to offer my
    hardware/bandwidth/time.  I'm not  much of a representative myself
    so...its what I can do instead of nothing.

i would also like to have my (currently non-existant, as many may have
found out) website, Theoretic Solutions (theoretic.com), host
something. at the very least i would like to archive this thread
there, in plain html, and archives of any results of this
discussion. I could provide a few dozen megs or so, a mailing list or
two, web boards, whatever. this is the kind of thing i'm intending for
theoretic anyway.
-- 
   /\    --- Adam Theo ---
  //\\   Theoretic Solutions (www.Theoretic.com)
 /____\     Software, Politics, and Advocacy
/--||--\ email: theo@theoretic.com   AIM: Adam Theo 2000
   ||    jabber: adamtheo@jabber.org   ICQ: 3617306
   ||  "Did you ever get the feeling the world was a tuxedo,
   ||     and you were a pair of brown shoes?"