Subject: Re: FW: Why would I pay for Ximian software?
From: "Perry E. Metzger" <>
Date: 03 Jan 2002 16:29:26 -0500

Ian Lance Taylor <> writes:
> I disagree.  There are some cases where an economic model can help.
> But most of the time it is more important to understand how your
> customers consciously view the world.  Their conscious concerns may be
> irrational.  But if you don't speak to them, you won't sell.
> An economic model can help identify unexploited opportunities, if
> there are any.  But other than that, it won't help you sell, and it
> won't help you cut costs.
> So I don't agree that the lack of an economic model is a significant
> problem.  It's a nice-to-have, not an essential.

I think it is useful both to have the practical experiments and the
theoretical insights. Economic models *are* useful. Ask any oil trader
why he checks the weather reports for the northeast during
wintertime. If you didn't have an understanding of what the link
between cold temperatures and heating oil prices might be, you
wouldn't have as much success.

> > Can we similarly reduce the information costs of participating in
> > pools sufficiently to allow better transfer of resources from
> > consumers to producers? I don't know, but the entire area is in
> > desperate need of study.
> The area doesn't need study.  It needs experimentation.

Experimentation is one sort of study. Theoretical ideas motivate
experimentation as well, of course.

> The studies will follow--economics is largely the study of existing
> institutions, not descriptions of hypothetical ones.

You're right that much economics is descriptive rather than
prescriptive, but that doesn't mean that all the consumers of economic
ideas are academics.

> An example of a successful pool in the free software community is gcc.
> The gcc steering committee has 14 people at the point.  The members
> are employees of at least 7 companies.  They help coordinate gcc
> development efforts from a number of paid and unpaid contributors.

I don't think that's a pool in the money sense, though. It isn't much
different from things like the NetBSD core team or the Apache group or
what have you -- we understand pretty well how to coordinate large
distributed groups of developers at this point. What we need are
better ways to get a fraction of them paid.

BTW, I'm by no means claiming there are no ideas out there. Wasabi
wouldn't have revenue if there weren't mechanisms available. The
question is, are there better mechanisms than I know about, and one
hint on that may be economic thinking.

Perry E. Metzger
NetBSD Development, Support & CDs.