Subject: Re: the GCC steering committee
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 15 Mar 2002 12:10:28 -0800

"Jonathan S. Shapiro" <shap@eros-os.org> writes:

> [Tom writes]

Actually, me, not Tom.

> > Part of
> > leadership is integrating contributed changes.
> 
> While understand what [Ian] is trying to say, we are talking about different
> types of leadership. The only leadership that matters is leadership in the
> eyes of the customer. The customer deeply doesn't care who provides the
> changes. They care about results. Therefore, in the "capital is king" view
> of open source, the leadership incentives do not include integrating changes
> if one can do enough work solo to keep the customer focused on the idea that
> you are the leader.

Agreed, and you are correct that we were talking about different types
of leadership.

But your original point was that there was little incentive to
integrate changes.  Now you are describing somebody who does ``enough
work solo.''  At some point, it's cheaper to integrate changes than to
do the work solo.

After all, customers don't live in a vacuum.  If there are good
patches from other people, word will get out.  For example, I just
listened to a short talk from Tiemann about two different patches to
the Linux kernel to improve real time performance.  I've also seen
these patches mentioned on Slashdot.  At some point, customers of real
time Linux will start demanding that these patches or equivalent
functionality appear in the sources which their vendors are providing.

> > That is, as others have said, the right to fork is the force which
> > creates equity in the open source world.  It's a blunt instrument, and
> > one which only creates a limited form of equity, but it is real
> > nonetheless.

> How many forks of the RedHat tree have happened over the years? How many has
> the market actually payed any attention to? If I forked the RedHat
> distribution tomorrow, would *anybody* -- even those of you on this list --
> give a damn? Heck. Would anybody even *notice*?

No.  That's why forking is a blunt instrument.  By itself, it does
nothing.  But it's the power which gives the ability to unseat the
leader.  If you forked the Red Hat tree and then consistently
performed a better job with it over time, while pointing out your
accomplishments to everybody within earshot, you would eventually
become the leader.  It's a form of equity which does not exist in the
proprietary software world.

Ian