Subject: Re: Development Shop FSB
From: Nick Jennings <>
Date: Tue, 12 Mar 2002 22:04:27 -0800

On Tue, Mar 12, 2002 at 04:15:26PM +0900, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
> >>>>> "Nick" == Nick Jennings <> writes:
>     Nick> In that case, what is the real difference between working a
>     Nick> day job and writing software by night, and making good on
>     Nick> support/service contracts and writing software when you've
>     Nick> got some free time?
> What is the difference between working a day job and cooking gourmet
> dinners for your s.o. in the evening, and running a restaurant?  I'm
> not making fun of you---I think the analogy has an important area of
> validity.
> There is an escape hatch---but it's a wormhole to the open source
> movement.  And that is that unlike ephemeral gourmet cooking, software
> development produces a durable asset, an eternal contribution to the
> rest of the world.  What's wrong with wanting something back, at least
> enough to support the development itself?  Nothing---except that with-
> holding your software to enforce payment makes it non-free by
> definition.
> Which leaves you with my .sig, and the very fuzzy area of "if being
> proprietary now leads to much more software released as free later, am
> I a FSB now?"  I ask you: in your-heart-of-hearts, do you or don't you
> believe that Ghostscript has contributed far more to free software
> than all of the .wannabes on SourceForge who never use a license other
> than GNU GPL, and never release v1.0, either?  Is Aladdin an FSB,
> regardless of the fact that its primary free product is always quite
> obsolete (though very usable)?  Really, that's something you can only
> decide for yourself.

 Although I don't know the history of Aladdin, or Ghostscript development,
 I do see your point. And I think it's a very good one. 

 I've read your sig many times, but not until now have I really grasped
 what you are saying. You are running a business, make sure your business
 works, and use that newfound power to contribute to what you love, if
 that is free software, which it is in our cases (although I'm sure
 we both have other passions), then do what you can with what you can

 If that means delaying your GPL releases to trail your commercial releases
 (which is what I get as the gist of your decision), then you are
 giving something commercially viable to the open source community.

 The simple fact that it is "out of date" in relative terms means close
 to nothing. I applaud your success (if you are successful, like I said
 I haven't followed this issue).

>     Nick> If you start an FSB, most likely you will spend most of your
>     Nick> time on the income generator, rather than the open source
>     Nick> development.
> Well, yes.  That's business: focus on the revenue generator.  Consider
> that restaurant: administration, logistics, dishwashing, and table-
> waiting are most of the cost.  The chef is only a small part of it
> (and as McDonald's amply proves, you don't even need a chef to make
> money in the restaurant business, you only need customers).
> If that focus weren't necessary, you'd have a Free Software Hobby (or
> maybe MLM), not an FSB.  If you are very very lucky, you can find a
> free software product which can be both your business and your hobby.
> Or, you can do as much pure development as you can, you can find ways
> to turn support activities into development activities, and you can
> learn to derive satisfaction from a "non-development" job well done.

 Yeah, I just sometimes get very Dis heartened with the idea of busting
 my ass doing the ends and being too wiped out to focus much energy
 on the means. If you know what I mean(s). :)

 It would be nice to combine the two. Seams allot easier to be a 'bad
 guy' proprietary developer and continue to extend your skills and
 knowledge of all kinds of things and make money while doing so. Than
 to be true to your beliefs and never have time to become very
 successful at them.

>     Nick> Can you really only survive as a programmer by doing
>     Nick> proprietary work? Or rather, *how* can one survive being an
>     Nick> open-source programmer?
> This is no different from the researcher-teacher dilemma that
> scientists face.  Except that few scientists have any hope of making
> money "directly from their ideas" without IP---they gotta pay for
> hardware.  Software engineers have a lot more flexibility in that
> sense.
> Keep the faith, keep looking, when it looks good, go for broke.

 I'm taking what you say to heart. Thank you for the positive words.
 I think, hashing up a comment I made to the list a while back, that
 our problems really lie in the deep-seated capitalist economy.

 It's all about how much you can capitalize on your product. That fact
 practically spells out our fate: We will NEVER be as successful
 as <insert successful software company here>. I use software 
 development as the topic however I believe this applies to any
 industry. The ones who feel their work should be liberated,
 instead of capitalized, (and actually follow through with it) are not 
 able to earn livings (for the most part) on that work.

  Nick Jennings