Subject: Re: SourceForge (was Re: impolitic statements (business model clues for the clueless))
From: Tom Lord <lord@regexps.com>
Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 23:54:27 -0700 (PDT)



       If I understand you, you are saying that the free software
       community as a whole needs to have a coherent strategic vision,
       and then specific projects need to emerge within that vision.

Yes, but don't oversimplify.

"Coherent strategic vision" does not mean a "master plan".
Non-deterministic planning is an essential part of effective software
engineering.  The "vision" is something that emerges from various
communication games and continuously evolves.  It isn't a fixed
end-point.  It's a tendency to behave in ways that create synergies.
(Your understanding sounds like it comes from someone with less
experience programming than running a business about programming.)

"free software community as a whole" is too large a group to try to
organize all at once.  Let's start with a few hundred employees and
get a groove going that can spread from there.

"specific projects need to" *merge with*, not necessarily "emerge
from" that strategic effort.



	People are told what to work on, and if they don't like it,
	they are free to go to a different company with a different
	strategic vision and work on different projects.

Yes, but don't oversimplify.

Look, if I'm going to lead a project, I want a team who can take
orders on the arbitrary but important details: indenting style, unit
testing conventions, work-flow, log keeping, status reporting.

If I'm going to lead a collection of teams, I want the authority to
make certain calls from time to time: which of two approaches to take
when neither is the clear meritorious winner (and there isn't
bandwidth to try both), for example.  And I want the higher-level
ability to give orders: global coding and testing standards, makefile
conventions, high-level work-flow, log keeping, status reporting...

But sure, FSB engineers are classically an anarchic lot one of whose
strengths is the ability to lead the companies from below.  It would
be terrible to try to do away with that -- simply adding a little
discipline to make it more focused and effective is all I ask.

In return, companies can do a lot better giving engineers a better
view into the sales pipeline, market forcasts, marketing plans, etc.
Intellegent group action is an emergent property of groups of
well-informed, appropriately incented individuals.



	Within a company, such coherent strategic visions and
	corresponding tactical developments happen because senior
	managements says "no".

That is the ultimate power.  Still, low-to-medium stakes incentive
games can make it fun and rewarding for everyone involved to solve
problems less contentiously.




	People are told what to work on, and if they don't like it,
	they are free to go to a different company with a different
	strategic vision and work on different projects.

I'm personally convinced that, in some parts of the industry at least,
the freedom to switch employers doesn't exist.  My perception is that
there are "private" busses among employers and recruiters which are
used to propogate defamatory, career-breaking gossip.  That, combined
with a general reluctance of clubby execs to recruit in each others
shops pretty much makes a lie of "free to go to a different company."

-t