Subject: Re: Need quotes for an article...
From: Peter Wayner <>
Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2004 12:03:21 -0500


I spent some time thinking about this while writing _Free for All_. You  
might check out the chapter on wealth. (  Of  
course, it's impossible to measure social value. It's hard enough to  
measure things like money. I wouldn't be surprised if Ford's position  
at the top of the list is more the result of an aggressive accounting  
program designed to allocate research and development costs to R&D. For  
all I know, there may be neat tax deductions that work better for Ford  
than MS.

It's probably possible to estimate the cost by counting lines of code,  
a bad metric, and then compound this by dividing by the amount of R&D  
MS does to support those lines of code.

It's rumored, for instance, that MS Windows has 20-50 million lines of  
code. If we assume that Office also has about 50 million lines of code,  
we hit 100m lines of code. If we toss in another 100m for the XBox,  
MSSQL, Slate, and other extra ventures, we might assume that MS  
contains about 200m lines of code.

How many lines of code are in Sourceforge? It's certainly possible to  
count them all. (There are even a dozen or so sourceforge projects for  
doing it.) We can estimate by noting that there are 92,821 current  
projects. Let's assume that 1/10th are actually doing something instead  
of planning and round up to get 10,000 useful projects. If there are  
10,000 lines in the average projects, then the sourceforge output  
should equal MS Windows. If there are 20,000 lines in the average, then  
the estimate of sourceforge should equal the estimate of lines of code  
in MS.

I think 20,000 lines of code is probably a slightly low, but reasonable  
estimate of the average line count in an open source project. If that's  
the case, we can start working through the amount of R&D done by open  
source people.

For the sake of simplicity, I'm just going to assume that the amount of  
R&D done by the open source world is equal to the research done by MS.  
There are terrible inefficiencies and duplication in the open source  
world, but there are just as many problems with the proprietary model.  
I might even argue that there are more of them. So I think it's fair to  
conclude that the R&D done by sourceforge members is equal to the R&D  
done by MS.

Of course, this is a conservative estimate.  It may not be fair to  
exclude 90% of the sourceforge projects. Even projects in the planning  
stage are doing research. And many open source projects don't use  
Sourceforge. If you start counting the projects like Apache and Linux,  
you can easily come up with numbers much larger than Ford.


On Dec 23, 2004, at 11:10 AM, Robin 'Roblimo' Miller wrote:

> Here's the opening paragraph of an article I'm writing:
> According to MIT's <a  
> href="Technology">">Technology  
> Review</a>, the world's top R&D spender isn't Microsoft. It's Ford.  
> Pfizer is number two, DaimlerChrysler is number three, and Toyota is  
> number four. IBM is number eight. Microsoft is number twelve. While  
> it's unlikely that all the open source software development and  
> research in the world represents nearly as much R&D investment as  the  
> bottom entry on Technology Review's <a  
> href=" 
> scorecard1204.asp?p=5">"Top 15" list</a> (Volkwagen), it probably  
> would make their (pdf link) <a  
> href=" 
> scorecard21204.pdf">list of 150 top research spenders</a>. But how do  
> we meaure the value of open source development in financial terms?  
> Should we even try to measure it this way or look for a different  
> metric that includes social value, not just money?
> Anyone want to answer these questions? This is for publication....
> - Robin 'Roblimo' Miller