Subject: Re: Open Source shareware?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Mon, 16 Sep 2002 16:16:47 +0900

>>>>> "RM" == Rich Morin <> writes:

    >> I don't want to sound patronising, because I know you've been
    >> at this game a lot longer than I have, but isn't this FSB 101?

    RM> Yes, but let's move on to FSB 102.

Er, not so fast.  FSB 102 can't simply deny the principles in FSB 101.

    RM> Strategy                Libre  Notes
    RM> ========                =====  =====

    RM> charge for documentation  Y    RMS contends that docs need to be free.

That's not libre.  That's an attempt to restrict the usefulness
(Freedom 0) of the software.

On this, I agree whole-heartedly with RMS.  Remember, many SE
organizations treat the manual as the spec, so it is an integral part
of the "software itself."  In spirit, closed docs are similar to the
Obfuscated C "guess what this does" category.  Admittedly, on the
letter, it's hard to see how to require that "documentation" be free
while allowing "textbooks" and "training materials" to be proprietary.

    RM> charge for packaging      Y    Often includes some docs and/or support.
    RM> charge for support        Y    Support may include automated services.

    RM> closed-source add-ons     N    Only the base software is libre.
    RM> free "teaser" version     N    i.e., free version w/ads or limitations
    RM> two-stage release         N    e.g., Aladdin

    RM> Of course, it is quite possible to argue about whether
    RM> "polluting" the release with closed-source materials is a
    RM> problem.  RMS would say that it is;

Is RMS a customer of yours?  ;-)

    RM> I tend to judge these things on a case-by-case basis.

As long as your judgement coincides with the customers', great!  And in
fact, isn't that your basic point?  True, you don't say you've polled
your potential market, but you _have_ done that kind of market research.

    RM> I will note, however, that even from a strictly Open Source
    RM> point of view, keeping some of the code proprietary may get in
    RM> the way of community involvement.

Well, it seems to me that aside from a few dedicated advocates (RMS
being a prominent case), few people in "the community" are willing to
do "the last 20%" (documentation, configuration, loading up databases
of various kinds, etc) unless it's an automated part of getting what
they want.  Eg, every question/bug report that gets archived with an
answer on the Web becomes part of Google's Global FAQ.  OTOH, look at
the speed with which "the community" has adopted Microsoft fonts, none
of which are free.

So where "smart" means "handles lots of nitty gritty details" as
opposed to "does cool stuff via an insightful algorithm", you're not
going to get huge amounts of community involvement as compared to the
financial self-support from closed-source add-ons.

Everything above is IMHO, you may actually know better from
experience.  ;-)

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
 My nostalgia for Icon makes me forget about any of the bad things.  I don't
have much nostalgia for Perl, so its faults I remember.  Scott Gilbert