Subject: Re: Successful FSBs
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 20:52:13 +0900

>>>>> "Tim" == Tim O'Reilly <> writes:

    Tim> Thanks for the vote of confidence in our tech support staff,
    Tim> Stephen.  You're making an awful lot of assumptions,

Well, I'm sorry if you consider that a vote of no confidence.[1]  Do
you really mean to imply that some customers identify ORA with "tech
support"?  Anyway, I didn't intend it that way.  I am a very big fan
of O'Reilly, both you and the company named for you, have been for
more than 10 years, and think that both have been major forces for
promotion of free software and the spirit of sharing in software.

My point should be obvious if you turn it about: don't you think Bob
Young et al might take offense at _your_ "strong vote of confidence"
in Red Hat's tech support staff?

So I think it's reasonable to expect better support from Red Hat (even
though you may not get it), and reasonable to change vendors if you
don't get a certain level of it.  Good support from O'Reilly based on
a book purchase is an unexpected bonus, and I'd be crazy to not buy
CJKV just because it happened that nobody at O'Reilly was willing to
answer my questions about compatibility of Linux driver-hardware
compatibility after buying the bronco book.  Right?

The question here is defining "free software business", and for the
purpose of advising would-be FSB startups, I don't think ORA qualifies
as a "true FSB" to emulate.[2]  AFAIK none of ORA's primary activities
depend on the existence of free software, nor on whether or not any
given free software product stays free.  Look at how naturally the X
Window System Series encompasses X Protocol (as free as you can get),
Xlib and Xt (multiple licensing model), and Motif (decidedly unfree,
at least it was when vol. 6 was first published).  My own dogeared
favorite, UJIP, happily advocates all sorts of proprietary software.
"To emulate ORA's contribution to free software, you find a business
model that doesn't care whether software is free or not."

How do we justify calling that an FSB in a way that's useful to
startup FSBs?  I don't have a good answer, although I'd like to have
one.  Maybe you have a generic model in mind (ie, lines of business
that are as profitable for free software as they are for nonfree
software), or perhaps there is something specific about ORA
publications and support services that is enabled by free software?

[1]  I apologize for the word "untrained."  What I meant was "prepared
for a broad range of fairly specialized questions."

[2]  I'm rethinking the issue of classifying ORA as an FSB, although I
wouldn't currently classify it as an FSB.  Cf. my reply to David
Kaufmann, which I wrote _before_ reading your post.

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
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