Subject: Re: Kent Beck's talk
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Wed, 04 Aug 2004 19:36:05 +0900

>>>>> "David" == David Ascher <> writes:

    David> It struck me as strange that Kent was looking primarily (it
    David> seemed) for a 'developer-as-artist'

Who would _look for_ that model?  "Poor artist" is the opposite of an
oxymoron!  ;-)

    David> 'developer-as-entrepreneur' model, given his clear (and
    David> understandable!) need to pay for tuition. There are a lot
    David> more successful examples of the latter than the former
    David> walking around.

Yeah, but the successful ones are not students.  They're professional
entrepreneurs, no matter how poor or counter-culture they may look
when you meet them.  It's hardly surprising that student programmers
prefer an unrealistic version of the artist model, just as a lot of
university town bar bands do.

    Bill, I believe this is killing me
    As a smile ran away from his face
    I know that I could be a movie star
    If I just could get out of this place

You got that backwards, Tom (or was it "John at the bar"?  I forget).
You _go first_ (to LA, or New York or Nashville is as good if you're a
musician), and then you get your screen test, or you find a way to get
that CD into the hands of the lead singer of a band you want to open
for on their next tour.  You are not going to get a recording contract
"Way Down in Athens County", not even if you're Jonathan Edwards.[1]
Nor is it an accident that the Grateful Dead, the P2P/samizdat
darlings of the music industry, were closely associated with one of
the greatest of the hippie entrepreneurs, Ken Kesey.[2]

If you look at the people people on this list who have "made their
pile", you'll see they've mostly made their peace with the requirement
to be an entrepreneur or manager (some for whom it's clearly a
compromise, but some who honestly enjoy that role, too).  The ones who
have not are mostly highly valuable _employees_, making their bread
helping _others_ fulfill entrepreneurial ambitions, and getting some
of the stock options.  They have compromised, too.  Who's left?  :-)

My take is that when your line of business is _pure_ "creative
destruction" (ie, "disruptive technology"), you had better have some
powerful entrepreneurial mojo protecting you, either yours, or your
boss's.  There's always somebody else out there about to snatch your
customer base out from under you, just the way you did your ex-rival's
from him (if you managed that).  And he may not even notice he did it.

Sure, in some cases you can create something that's new and obviously
useful, so users can just _add_ it to their repertoire and everybody
benefits.  But that's rare.  Typically your product will substitute
for something else, and that "something else" bears a higher risk of
getting fired---and may even market back at you.  Or it may be a good
but not universally applicable idea.  What makes an entrepreneur is
being self-centered enough to let that "something else" worry about
itself, or the buyer figure out his own needs, and just market your
own product hard.  The point is to make deals with _everybody_ you
_should_ make deals with, and forget about the "false positives" where
there should have been a deal with one of your competitors, or no deal
at all (except in the P&L, where they are mostly a good thing).

Such behavior is not really "nice", so it's a compromise for many
people, and they don't like it.[3]  Some prefer to point to the social
utility of their creations-sans-marketing, and daydream about a
society that will compensate them for it.  Dream on! I say, both
kindly and sarcastically[4] at the same time.

    David> The most interesting slide in his talk I thought was his
    David> analysis of the clash between Maslow's hierarchy of needs
    David> and the open source model.

    David> Kent's point was that open source tends to "go the other
    David> way", whereby people do OSS because they feel it's the
    David> right thing to do, gain esteem through their work, maybe
    David> make some friends down the line, and only late in the
    David> process do they get rewarded in ways that ensure survival.

Sounds like a classic case of rationalization ;-), but I wasn't there.

    David> The analysis is simplistic, in that I don't think that most
    David> people engaging in OSS have a real problem w/ their
    David> physiological survival needs, but it was fun anyway :-).

Maslow's followers break into two camps, one which leans toward an
biological/absolutist interpretation of "physiological", and the other
toward a social/relativist interpretation.  I don't have any problem
with Kent taking a relativist interpretation of "physiological."  I
don't know what Kent's take was, but arguing that "the eventual
conflict with physiological need satisfaction may be deterring people
from doing what's right [for them]" seems reasonable to me.

[1]  I went to school in Athens, OH.  Jonathan Edwards got noticed by
the record companies in Nashville, for that song among others, not on
stage in Mr. Bojangles in Athens.  You Hadda Be There, I guess.

[2]  There are riches not counted in gold, you know.

[3]  And that, Best Beloved, is why even though I'm "so[sic] smart",
I'm "not rich".

[4]  See footnote [3].

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.