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Should Enterprise IT Give Back To Open Source?

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the hey-wait-i'm-a-leech dept.

Linux Business 312

snydeq writes "InfoWorld reports on the fight over open source 'leeches' — companies that use open source technology but don't give back to the open source community. While some view such organizations as a tragedy of the commons, others view the notion of 'freeloaders' as a relic of open source's Wild West era, when coding was a higher calling and free software a religion. To be sure, increased adoption by mainstream enterprises has played a hand in changing the terms of this debate. Yet, as the biggest consumer of open source software, enterprise IT still gives almost nothing back to the community, critics contend, calling into question the long-term effect corporate culture will have on the evolution of open source — and the long-term effect open source will have on rewiring companies toward collaboration."

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Ah, (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167061)

no.

Of course they *should*... (5, Insightful)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167075)

But many companies are too small to make a signifigant contribution. Are we suggesting making contributions manditory in order to get free software? Doing this would simply destroy the OSS movement completely.

Microsoft requires contributions... of money. Small companies that cant help develop OSS would simply be forced back to the traditional pay-for software.

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Re:Of course they *should*... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167217)

Companies using cost free solutions can make small financial donations to those projects. Even if it's only 10% of what they're saving. The world has a lot of companies, a lot of them are using free software. I'm sure a few hundred bucks from a number of them would make a huge difference.

Re:Of course they *should*... (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167345)

Small companies that use open source software are giving back by employing those who administer this software.

Re:Of course they *should*... (5, Interesting)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167409)

They're also giving back by submitting bug reports and helping devs find problems in the software. They might also help others solve problems in mailing lists and forums.

Most users that give back give back in the same way. Why should we hold small companies to a higher standard?

Re:Of course they *should*... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167425)

They don't need to make a large contribution. Just filing bug reports can be a big help. Even better would be to write patches to fix them but a lot of these people aren't programmers.

Re:Of course they *should*... (3, Insightful)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167461)

If the administrators at those small companies see a way to improve the software then give those improvements back then that should be enough.

Re:Of course they *should*... (3, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167555)

Are we suggesting making contributions manditory in order to get free software?

That's not free as in speech, and not free as in beer. And don't get me started on measuring contributions.

Re:Of course they *should*... (1)

EatHam (597465) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167743)

But many companies are too small to make a signifigant contribution.

And the ones that are large enough to can't get anything through accounting without a proper invoice, a company to pay it to, tax IDs, terms, and contracts.

Re:Of course they *should*... (1)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167901)

And the ones that are large enough to can't get anything through accounting without a proper invoice, a company to pay it to, tax IDs, terms, and contracts.

That's easily solved by CIO fiat. I mean, companies like Sun Oracle and IBM have given generous amounts of code to the OS movement, and continue to work on said code (albeit often with a commercial license as well). It's doable. You just need to drag in the right people, usually the C*O's, and accounting will find a new process for handling this.

Re:Of course they *should*... (1)

onescomplement (998675) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167963)

Any contribution is good. I encourage small IT shops to do things like correct or illuminate documentation, contribute to relevant forums, and contribute any tools you've created or extended. You don't have to be a code hero to contribute to OSS.

Just To Be Clear... (4, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167087)

The Free Open Source Software community, that builds free, open source software, is complaining that they are not, in one way or another, being another compensated for their free software?

Re:Just To Be Clear... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167223)

They're also complaining about their users using their software.

Which is amusing.

Re:Just To Be Clear... (4, Informative)

Virak (897071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167289)

No, you don't seem to be very clear on this. While I don't agree with these complaints, you are blatantly wrong on three counts. First, it is not the community as a whole, it is a subset of it, and a tiny one at that. Second, free as in speech, not as in beer. Third, they aren't asking for "compensation".

Re:Just To Be Clear... (1)

Cowmonaut (989226) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167781)

Mod this guy up, if only for the "Free as in Speech" vs "Free as in Beer" aspect. Its still one of the hardest things for people to grasp, which is sad since a lot of the fools having problems with it are from the US which is nicknamed "Land of the Free" for crying out loud.

Re:Just To Be Clear... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167803)

First, it is not the community as a whole, it is a subset of it, and a tiny one at that.

It's large enough to get talked about a lot.

Second, free as in speech, not as in beer.

No, it is generally free in both senses.

Third, they aren't asking for "compensation".

Yes they are. They want companies to contribute patches to help develop/maintain these free software packages.

Re:Just To Be Clear... (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167405)

Agreed. The OSI during the late 1990s went out of their way to try and make Open Source palatable to businesses, and did so in large part by trying to water down the "share and share alike" ethic of the Free Software movement. These are the people like Eric S Raymond and his ilk who went around urging companies to take in Open Source software. They sold it with the whole Cathedral and Bazaar thing, where these giant companies could leverage the productive power of a large group of developers without having to pay for a large group of developers. They intentionally glossed over and marginalized the FSF's idea that consumers of Free Software should contribute to and redistribute the code, and created a split between the "Free Software" and "Open Source" concepts. They "approved" a significant number of software licenses that were technically Open Source, but were entirely against the basic idea Free Software was built on. In return for all this kowtowing to corporations and putting their concerns above the basic ethos of Free Software, they were rewarded with board positions at high flying dot-com companies, and millions of now-worthless shares of inflated dot-com stock.

Now we complain that these corporations are taking advantage of Open Source software in exactly the way the OSI told them they could? Sure, some of them played lip service to "contributing back to the community," and some of them even do. But none of them will ever contribute back as much as they get, because the entire reason they went with Open Source in the first place was so they could get all the development work without having to pay for it.

This is what you get when you take a movement based on an ideal and pervert it to try and take "market share" for a free product. You get more people using the product, but you lose the ideal in the process.

Re:Just To Be Clear... (1)

CHJacobsen (1183809) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167553)

The Free Open Source Software community, that builds free, open source software, is complaining that they are not, in one way or another, being another compensated for their free software?

It's still free as in speech, not free as in beer. I can see your point, but you are really comparing apples to oranges.

But some software is more free than others (5, Insightful)

Tinctorius (1529849) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167089)

This is exactly what the little voice in the head of everyone who firmly believes in the GPL says: everyone who uses open source software must give back, because it was free. I think people should shut that voice up. Now.

The problem of freeloaders is approached here with sticks. Although that approach may work fine for some software or other licensed stuff, they work horribly if the customer has a choice. Instead, try the carrots approach. Make users fall in love with your project, so they actually want to give back to the software. Unfortunately, I don't know how to make the heartless, money-driven enterprise IT fall in love with a bunch of code, but it would obviously be a more durable solution than punishing everyone (what about other users?) who doesn't give back.

It all gives the statement "this is free software" such a hypocritical ring to it, and that's probably the last thing you want if you're building a community. If your software is free, then everything you do with it must be a free choice, regardless of the context you're using it in.

tl;dr Forcing people to contribute to free software is (oxy)moronic.

Re:But some software is more free than others (1)

semiotec (948062) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167327)

non-GPL people are always bitching about GPL people. and can't see the brown stain in their own pants.

Theo de Raadt is always complaining how companies that use OpenSSH or BSD do not contribute back either in form of code or money/hardware, the latter being the more frequent case.

de Raadt is definitely not one of those people that "firmly believes in the GPL", and he is also definitely not that happy about companies not contributing back.

Re:But some software is more free than others (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167379)

This is exactly what the little voice in the head of everyone who firmly believes in the GPL says: everyone who uses open source software must give back, because it was free. I think people should shut that voice up. Now.

If you firmly believe in the GPL, then all you want given back are changes made to the code. If all you do is use the code, you have nothing to give back. Bug reports are of course appreciated but not required.

Re:But some software is more free than others (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167499)

Actually, under GPL you are only required to give your changes back if you distribute the modified program to others. You are perfectly free to make changes, keep them private, and enjoy the modified program privately as long as you do NOT distribute. It is the act of distribution that triggers the share and share alike clauses.

Re:But some software is more free than others (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167745)

Of course, in a company, such "private" code is not private to a single individual. The code is distributed to others in the company. The only legal way that the code can be copied internal to the company is the GPL. Even if copied internally, copyright still applies, so the GPL does also.

Re:But some software is more free than others (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167751)

So in fact there's no obligation to give back at all. The only person who you need to give anything to is the recipient.

Re:But some software is more free than others (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167529)

Bug reports are not appreciated, but ignored. The project contributors all have their own agenda, and will not fix your bug unless:

A. You pay them.
B. The bug affects something on their agenda.

Don't give people the false impression that bug reports on free software carry any kind of weight, or are even appreciated.

Re:But some software is more free than others (5, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167389)

This is the problem with the FOSS model. The vast majority of the people only care about free as in beer. Heck even the majority of FOSS zelots on Slashdot contribute nothing to FOSS. They claim that they are supporters because they encourage other people to use FOSS. The problem with FOSS is people need to eat. They want to own a home and retire someday. To do that you must get paid.
A good number of Kernel developers are getting paid by Red Hat, IBM, and Novell. Imagine that they are getting paid by companies that sell software and at in the case of IBM hardware.
Firefox developers are getting paid by Google search. Yes Firefox makes money from... Advertising!
OpenOffice developers are getting paid by Sun because Sun really hated Microsoft. Let us hope that keep up.
You can never force people to contribute to FOSS. It will not happen and that is just that. What is worse is that they models of how one can make money with FOSS are limited to only a few types of software. Nobody will every pay for modifications and support for a casual game.

This is why FOSS will never be the only model for software development. It is also why Linux if it is every really going to do well on the desktop will need to have a way for people to sell software.

Re:But some software is more free than others (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167809)

Well said, this is almost word for word what I would have said as well.

It is interesting to note that the above mentioned Enterprises (IBM, Sun etc) are the ones that are actually contributing code AND money back into the FOSS community.

Re:But some software is more free than others (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167737)

This is exactly what the little voice in the head of everyone who firmly believes in the GPL says: everyone who uses open source software must give back, because it was free. I think people should shut that voice up. Now.

I firmly believe in the GPL and I don't believe "everyone who uses open source software must give back". I believe in following the license: use it freely, modify it freely, but give back your changes if you distribute. Anybody who doesn't support this position is free to create and use their own license on their own code.

This whole thing is basically a strawman or a troll or similar. One guy who noboby's ever heard of says something stupid/controversial and then people (including you) start representing his view as if it was in any way representative of "GPL supporters".
Given how "GPL Supporters" *constantly* emphasize the key point that companies don't have to give anything back at all unless they redistribute, it's pretty clear that his view is almost totally unrepresentative.

The guy's probably either got some personal beef (wishes he hadn't released his stuff under the GPL so now attacks companies who use it and don't contribute, even thought that was his decision) or he just wants to promote his company or product.

Re:But some software is more free than others (1)

UnRDJ (712762) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167903)

everyone who uses free software must give
back changes they make to the code, because that was the deal in the first place.

That's what my little GPL-firmly-believing voice says. Perhaps I'm not fervorish enough for the masses?

 
Regardless of how one might define "free," I like these stipulations and would release code under them. Call it derpaderpasource software if you want, I'd still feel the same way about the underlying meaning

No, they should not (4, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167091)

The idea that users should give back to the community is absurd. If the "community" was at all concerned about receiving some kind of recompense, surely they would have charged the users for the software.

But Free Software is about freedom. Not only the freedom to give your source code away, but the freedom to modify and adapt software as needed. There is no concept of a user returning source code to the community except as a contributor (which, again, is a freely undertaken venture). The only time someone is required to "give back" to the community is when they seek to propagate their changes. Since the idea is to make sure everyone is able to use and modify the software as they need, it is necessary to require the new source changes.

So if I don't steal your car, but only borrow it for a day and return it washed and waxed with the gas tank full, what is the point of claiming damages? That is sheer greed. It is the antithesis of what the Free Software Movement is all about.

Re:No, they should not (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167387)

Yup. The reward for giving back is that the software does what you want it to do.

Those who do not give back shouldn't be punished, but they also shouldn't be surprised if the volunteers running the project take it someplace they'd rather not see it go.

Free software exists by and for the pleasure of its developers. Sure, most of them are nice people and are willing to do favors for end users, but in the end if you want to see something fixed there is nothing like a ready-to-go patch.

They *should*, not *have to* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167659)

If someone helps you with some problem, you should help them if they need it in the future.

But they don't *have* to.

Same here.

But (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167093)

It's not in their requirements to give something back to the OS-community.

It's in the rules (5, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167095)

If you don't like people using your code, then don't release it under a licence that allows people to use it without giving back.

If you don't like people using stuff that your "community" created, what gives you the right to say how other people should let their code be used?

What harm is done if they don't give back to the community? Failing to do so does no harm to the resource. It doesn't benefit it either but neither does using a closed source solution.

Damn right! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167097)

Right on!
Screw those leeches! They shouldn't be using our free open source software, they haven't earned the right to use it. It's not free for just anyone you know; only people who contribute to our software should have the right to use it.

Trickle Down Theory (1)

JoshDanziger (878933) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167111)

Vendors who contribute heavily to open source projects do so in large part because their products are used with open source software. To use IBM as an example, some portion of every dollar spent on IBM hardware goes towards furthering open source development. The ultimate corporate consumers do therefore contribute, albeit not directly. Whether or not they should be making more direct or more substantive contributions may still be up for debate, but it seems clear - to me at least - that IBM's model would not exist if these companies were not using Linux.

not entirely true (3, Informative)

InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167113)

Corporations pay for those hefty service contracts.

In my office we use an open source wiki and we pay thousands of US dollars a year for support/maintenance contracts.

There's probably not much code contribution as most IT people don't have a software development background. Those who do have the skills lack the time.

Re:not entirely true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167505)

Similarly to that, my company uses TrueCrypt for encryption on ALL of our workstations.

After using TrueCrypt for a few months, and determining that the software does indeed do what we need it to, We donated a large sum of money to the TrueCrypt not quite as much as an alternative non-open source program would cost, but a large amount still...

We can't contribute to the code, because we suck at coding. But we can

No they shouldn't... (3, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167121)

There should be no compulsion to contribute, as the freedom to choose to contribute or not *must* be one of the fundamental freedoms in Open Source.

Think of their usage as advertising...

Re:No they shouldn't... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167213)

No.
You are wrong.
Freedom must be earned, just like anything else. I demand you uninstall all the free opensource software on your computer.

Re:No they shouldn't... (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167707)

There should be no compulsion to contribute, as the freedom to choose to contribute or not *must* be one of the fundamental freedoms in Open Source.

If you're using imperfect software -- i.e., any real software -- but you have source, and you are a large IT enterprise, then you have the motive, method, and opportunity to make fixes.

If you don't contribute those changes back to the community, those changes won't be rolled into the next version.

So if you're making fixes to free software, it's in your own interest to contribute them back. That's the compulsion to contribute -- rational self interest.

Have your cake and eat it? (5, Insightful)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167129)

From TFA:

The Eclipse community should create peer pressure to prevent the freeloaders and parasites from getting away without punishment

How the hell can anyone consider "punishment" for people who use open-source software? If you make your code open-source then I thought the whole point was that anyone and everyone was free to use it within the constraints of the licence. Show me where it says "Thou shalt giveth back to the open-source community or faceth my wrath".

This mentality is outrageous and damaging to the very principles of open-source software.

Free Software (4, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167143)

If you have to give back, then it's not "free software". A similar thing was seen in the whole "Linux" vs. "GNU/Linux" debate. If it's really "free", then why the demands for something in return? Why the demands for credit? Why the complaints about freeloaders? Freeloading is always the result of giving something away for free.

Re:Free Software (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167167)

I think everyone here should be sent to an ESL class.

There is a difference between SHOULD and MUST.

Re:Free Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167431)

That's correct, but I think everyone is taking the question to mean "should enterprise IT be *required* to give back to Open Source?", because the question as originally asked is uninteresting. Yes, of course enterprise IT should give back to open source - who would have an objection to that?

Re:Free Software (3, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167691)

Exactly right. Using free software, all companies are able to be Freeloaders. But, all good corporate citizens should give back where they can.

Re:Free Software (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167971)

If you "should" give back, then it's not really free. If you're going to look down on people for not "giving back", then it wasn't really a gift freely given.

No, and this is a stupid question. (5, Insightful)

Leebert (1694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167171)

Free software developers lose exactly nothing when someone uses their software.

Free software gains ubiquity when someone uses their software. Which translates into things like vendor support (drivers, etc.), the advantages of greater adoption for certain technologies (Metcalf's law type stuff), etc. etc.

Call me an idiot but... (5, Interesting)

StylusEater (1206014) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167173)

...I once quite a job over this exact problem. Managers at my old company constantly claimed "cost savings and ROI" by using these "new software tools" but didn't dare mention they were FOSS tools for fear of ridicule by the "CTO and CIO" folks who get their "tech news" from trade rags. Then, once I wrote a neat tool for file synchronization over several Linux boxen I asked to open it up because I needed help and also because I knew others in the community would benefit; and yes I was saving the company money. They said "No." and I said, "OK, I'm out." They offered more money and I said "I'm still out." Granted most folks on Slashdot will think I'm an idiot and not "American" or a "Capitalist" for doing such a thing but I sincerely believe folks need to start doing what I did in order to get it through the management brain that "without our code, you have no cost advantage over the competition." Now, unleash the /. ridicule hounds...

Re:Call me an idiot but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167311)

Wow, I'm impressed that you felt so strongly about it.

Re:Call me an idiot but... (1)

nitio (825314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167487)

Well, to put it simply you are not very smart. Obviously in your contract it states that every code (or anything for that matter) that you created in the company was IP for the company but nothing prevented you from taking the idea to a next level say have the process well defined and work with the community to develop it. Maybe discuss more the benefits, that you were already doing the same with other tools and that maybe, just maybe, that could make the company have a better image in front of the community

I belive we must stand for what we believe when what's being asked from us goes against it or to harm it but as far as I can tell you just acted like a snotty kid who had his precious toy taken away. Congratulations on losing a job based on that.

Re:Call me an idiot but... (1)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167799)

He didn't say he was being snotty about it --- he came to a point where it was most beneficial for the company to open the source to a piece of software - to benefit form others' expertise. They were not willing to do so, and GP decided that meant they weren't letting him do his job.

This, coming from a hardcore libertarian conservative. Free (libre) software need not be a quasi-communist religion - in many cases, it is advantageous to all parties to open the codebase to a project.

Re:Call me an idiot but... (3, Insightful)

StylusEater (1206014) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167815)

"Well, to put it simply you are not very smart."

I beg to differ. I know my worth in the market place and know there are many other opportunities out there with managers who actually "get it." Why have a false sense of loyalty to a company who won't work with you even after many lengthy discussions. Money isn't everything to me and I'm sure it's not to many others.

"Obviously in your contract it states that every code (or anything for that matter) that you created in the company was IP for the company but nothing prevented you from taking the idea to a next level say have the process well defined and work with the community to develop it."

There actually wasn't anything in my contract that said such a thing about "code." I also didn't have a contract. By law if I did that would expose the company to many many other issues. Most US companies are "at-will" and don't give their employees contracts because it makes hiring and more importantly, firing, much more difficult in the US court system.

"I beleve we must stand for what we believe when what's being asked from us goes against it or to harm it but as far as I can tell you just acted like a snotty kid who had his precious toy taken away."

I'm glad we agree about standing up for what we believe in but I didn't have my "toy" taken from me. I simply asked to publish the code and setup a way to discuss the project/process and code base with the greater community. They thought they could throw money at me; now who's childish?

"Congratulations on losing a job based on that."

Ahem, I didn't lose the job. I quit. There is a huge difference.

Re:Call me an idiot but... (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167855)

It's a pity when one must make a martyr out of himself to be heard.

Perhaps this could be the start of a shot heard round the world against our evil red-coat corporate overlords?

Re:Call me an idiot but... (1)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167525)

You are aware or rsync and power of bash, right?

Of course you will be ridiculed. You managed to rage-out for no reason at all. While you could think yourself and file-sync messiah, you should look up success rates of OS projects. Wasteland of abandoned projects is covered with 'neat tools' which reinvented wheel.

Re:Call me an idiot but... (2, Informative)

StylusEater (1206014) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167891)

"You are aware or rsync and power of bash, right?"

I certainly am. Part of the code base included a nice wrapper around rsync, monitoring, statuses and etc.

"Of course you will be ridiculed. You managed to rage-out for no reason at all. While you could think yourself and file-sync messiah,..."

I don't think I'm the file-synce messiah. I leave that to the almighty FSM...

"...you should look up success rates of OS projects."

I'm well aware of the "success rates" but it doesn't hurt to try.

No, they should not. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167179)

Open source software isn't about receiving, it is about giving.

This story shows a fundamental lack of understanding about what open source is about.

If companies, IT departments or not, should give back, then why shouldn't users at home?

Where do you draw the line?

Are people trying to say that Open Source Software shouldn't be free for commercial use?

Seems to me like someone or some people in the Open Source movement are either greedy or getting greedy. Money is not what Open Source Software is about.

Maybe the above is naive and altruistic because companies will exploit Open Source Software, but really, who cares?

In the end, if they don't give back then they're only making life more difficult for themselves because they will need to continue to maintain any private changes/patches themselves. There are significant cost savings to giving private changes back because you no longer have to maintain them yourself. Smart companies will realise this. Dumb ones won't. And so let the crumbs fall where they may... we should not care who gives back, if they give back or how or what. It's not important to us.

And by that do you mean *must not*? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167699)

Because that's the form you're taking "enterprise should contribute back" as.

Does this mean that IBM MUST NOT contribute to Free Software? Red Hat MUST NOT contribute?

this is where ... (1)

jsnipy (913480) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167191)

This is where the whole "money" thing came in. This reminds me of the south park episode where the kids are talking to first year college students.

open source 'leeches' = Canonical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167203)

Blood sucking parasite!

Speaking as an Enterprise user (4, Interesting)

RabidMonkey (30447) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167225)

I work for a large company that uses Open Source Software as its backbone. I have been pushing for us to put some money into some of the projects that we use, or to recontribute some of the patches we've made. In both cases, I am met with the stubborn answer "that is our intellectual property". Trying to argue that the spirit of Open Source to recontribute to improve products, and that we've built our company upon that spirit and so we should contribute falls on deaf ears. We've now gotten big enough that the senior management and lawyers are more concerned with our IP than with supporting the community that supported us when we were starting. It's bad enough that I'm not even allowed to post code snippets/example bind or ntp configs etc on to various mailing lists I may be on because they also belong to "us".

There is a strong push at the technical level to recontribute, to fund a couple of the projects that we use heavily, but ultimately it's the higher ups and the legal folks that say no way.

I expect things like that are the reason enterprises are leeches, and I expect there is a large contingent of technical workers who disagree with the decision. I know I do.

Re:Speaking as an Enterprise user (4, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167383)

Trying to argue that the spirit of Open Source to recontribute to improve products, and that we've built our company upon that spirit and so we should contribute falls on deaf ears. We've now gotten big enough that the senior management and lawyers are more concerned with our IP than with supporting the community that supported us when we were starting. It's bad enough that I'm not even allowed to post code snippets/example bind or ntp configs etc on to various mailing lists I may be on because they also belong to "us".

There is a strong push at the technical level to recontribute, to fund a couple of the projects that we use heavily, but ultimately it's the higher ups and the legal folks that say no way.

I expect things like that are the reason enterprises are leeches, and I expect there is a large contingent of technical workers who disagree with the decision. I know I do.

The problem is that you are not communicating with the higher ups in language they understand. You say, "We should recontribute because that is the spirit of Open Source." They hear, "We should give away our hard work so that our competitors can benefit from it."
What you should say is, "We should recontribute so that someone else can make IMPROVEMENTS on our modifications that we can then use without having to pay for it." You need to communicate to them that there are people out there who, once they see the changes you have made to the project, will make other changes that you would not have thought of, but that you can benefit from.

Re:Speaking as an Enterprise user (1)

quasigenx (843945) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167413)

I usually manage to sell the concept of contributing as a future compatibility issue. If you make a one-off change and don't get it merged back, your company is going to be the one supporting that change in the future. If you can get it merged, there is a very good chance that you will be able to deploy future versions without modifications.

Re:Speaking as an Enterprise user (1)

CynicTheHedgehog (261139) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167519)

A large part of my contribution comes from forum participation. If I have an issue, and I don't have a support contract, then I take it to the forums and iron it out there. That way the next person that comes along with the same problem can learn from that, which helps the community. Bug reports help in the same way, provided you do enough investigation on your side and provide useful scenarios and test cases. And since you are troubleshooting with others from the community, the solution is not "owned" by any one person or company. If your company doesn't like that, then they can purchase support and work their problems out privately with the vendor.

I also code and submit patches at home for projects unrelated to my employer's business. In a way, my use of F/OSS software is of benefit to me. I'm sure my employer couldn't care less if I used Windows XP and Notepad to code, but thankfully I have the latitude to choose my own tools and I choose to use Linux with a F/OSS IDE because it makes me more efficient and preserves my sanity. So I try to give back on my own time in return for the benefits I receive personally.

You may be bound by NDAs and noncompetes that preclude the above, but even promoting F/OSS software is also a way of contributing. Driving demand for F/OSS solutions will increase adoption and support on the vendor side. Most businesses like to maintain support contracts, so your endorsements can help F/OSS expand in the enterprise and increase support revenue.

effect corporate culture will have? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167241)

If corporations are leeches, not giving back, then corporate culture will have no effect on open source. In fact, open source will be in a position to effect corporate culture.

Free as in beer? (1)

Grashnak (1003791) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167245)

I think the comments above me have adequately covered what an asinine concept it is to be pissed off that someone would have the audacity to take you up on your offer of using their free software, for free.

I think some of this relates to the attitude of some developers that "business" is a bad thing, and therefore if businesses are using your open source software, they are somehow screwing you over.

Glad to see most people here understand that to be ridiculous.

Mi8us 4, Troll) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167249)

GPL? (1)

uffe_nordholm (1187961) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167271)

I was under the impression that software released under the GPL was free for anybody to use, if you respect the terms in GPL. I do not remember having read anything about contributions to the community in GPL. Therefore, a company that uses GPL:d software is under no obligation to make contributions to the community. However, should they choose to do so, I am sure the community would appreciate it.

While many companies might use GPL:d software without making (monetary) contributions to the community, I think there is something else they contribute: user base. While this is hard to measure and value in money, it is proof that GPL:d software works well enough to interest companies. And eventually word will get around: free software works, and it works well!

Further, any company using GPL:d software is likely to not use a proprietary software for the same function provided by GPL:d software. Seen from this perspective, they are contributing to the demise of proprietary software companies (or at least not contributing to their survival). With enough companies using GPL:d software instead of proprietary software, the producers of proprietary software will have to adapt to the new environment or cease operations.



I use GPL:d software as an example, replace with whatever F/LOSS licence you prefer.

Re:GPL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167367)

Doh ho ho,
I think it's a long stretch to call GPL licensed software free to use.
You have my word, GPLv4 will include a passage about giving your first born child to Mr. RMS Matthew Stallman: Supreme Emperor of FOSS and Undisputed Lord of the Universe.

form an organization, charge for membership (2, Interesting)

uncreativeslashnick (1130315) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167277)

Not sure if this is done currently, but why not offer membership for businesses and individuals in some sort of open source foundation? Then the IT enterprises can pay some sort of nominal fee and at least give money back to a foundation that can then donate to worthy projects. And it would be tax-deductible as a business or trade membership. In return for membership, the org could offer a few basic services like a trade journal, consulting classifieds and/or matching consultants with enterprises who are looking for a particular solution.

Missing the point (3, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167287)

Bill Gates called and wants his moral high ground [blinkenlights.com] back.

Seriously, if you feel some sense of entitlement because you write software that other people use, a proprietary model is a more effective way to get what you deserve. Though note, what you actually deserve and what you think you deserve may not be the same thing...

Treat them like lepers .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167319)

If you have large enterprise users not contributing back then they should just be treated like lepers, end of story.

Walter Sobchak would say... (3, Insightful)

j-turkey (187775) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167329)

Fair!?! WHO'S THE FUCKING NIHILIST HERE! What are you, a bunch of fucking crybabies?

(I know...the open source community != Nihilists, but I couldn't resist the chance to use this otherwise applicable Big Lebowski quote)

Playing advocate of the devil. (3, Insightful)

anomnomnomymous (1321267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167337)

What, so now another condition for using Open Source software is that you should be contribruting to it?
If I use Open Office for my company, this means I should be contributing to its codesource? What if my company is an accountant agency? Should I feel morally obliged to hire programmers to do my share?

I think it's quite funny how first the open source movement seems to complaint how everybody is using proprietary software instead of the open source variants, which are (in some cases) perfectly able to do the job.
But now that some companies are alowly picking up some open source software, they get bashed for not contributing.
If you're working on open source software and you got a problem with companies actually using it without contributing, I'm sure there is a license that will let you AND open your source up to other people, AND be able to say that companies can't commercially use it.

Or... just make your source closed...

Re:Playing advocate of the devil. (1)

atilla filiz (1402809) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167475)

You don't need to contribute if you're a user. You just need to make your patches/improvements open, if you have done any.

Re:Playing advocate of the devil. (1)

klingens (147173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167669)

No you don't. Only if you distribute your patched binary, then you have to give the source for this binary to your users.

missing the point (1)

atilla filiz (1402809) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167395)

The point of GPL is, it gives you absolute control of how you use the software. If someone is just using some free tools, they owe absolutely nothing. The cost comes in when you make some changes or patches. The terms of GPL are clear: if you build something on the original code, you must contribute your work. (Free software is like free speech, not free beer. Being free doesn't mean there is no cost)

Re:missing the point (1)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167595)

The terms of GPL are clear: if you build something on the original code, you must contribute your work.

You really should read the GPL again, because that's not what it says. The average enterprise IT shop would not have to contribute one line of code to any GPL project because the code is not distributed outside of the enterprise.

Re:missing the point (1)

klingens (147173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167635)

Please reread the GPL until you actually understand it. If I patch GPLed software and use it myself, I don't have to give my patches to anyone, ever.
Only if I give a my modified binary to someone, I have to give the source for this binary (which has to include my patches) to this same someone, no one else.

They are 'paying back' the FOSS community (3, Insightful)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167397)

By 'legitimising' the software, by using it. Just as IBM got people used to the idea of using PCs in a business environment, so big organisations, by using Linux and Oo, are saying that it's "OK" to use this stuff. As more and more businesses use FOSS, pressure will increase on hardware and software companies to improve support - in fact, this trend is well underway...I'm really looking forward to the time when I can go to the local store and pickup a laptop or whatever and it's got Linux pre-installed, I get home/to the client's site, plug it in and all my peripherals 'just work', I can install and run my old windows legacy apps 'out of the box' etc.

We're pretty close already...(those of you that have not tried - for example - Ubuntu lately, try again. I just installed on a brand-new laptop that came with Vista as standard and everything worked pretty well, including traditional problem areas such as video, wifi and bluetooth. Impressive.)

Yes, they do. (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167465)

... enterprise IT still gives almost nothing back to the community ...

Even by just using OSS, enterprises increase the presumption of legitimacy and value of OSS in our culture.

Perhaps just as importantly, corporations and government agencies are getting a stake in having OSS software not hurt by the exercise of software patents. This gives those companies and agencies an incentive to work against patent abuse. Like what happened to members of Congress when the Blackberry patent issue came to a head.

So all things considered, I'd say they're contributing something at least as valuable as code.

Re:Yes, they do. (1)

xgr3gx (1068984) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167689)

I'd have to agree there. Simply using OSS stuff in the enterprise is giving back in a way. Many times they release some of their source code for free.

But it would be nice if big IT companies that develop some of their stuff on the back of opensource gave some donations back to the projects they use.
I always see licenses included in EULAs of enterprise products for open source stuff, like OpenSSL, Perl, and Apache.

There are NO open source leeches (5, Insightful)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167521)

Here we go with this crap again...

Listen folks - there are NO open source leeches. It is WRONG to put open source out for ALL to use and then start calling people names because they're using the software EXACTLY AS YOU ALLOWED THEM TO DO.

If you want people to give back what they add THEN PUT IT IN THE LICENSE. Of course, that will limit the appeal of your software, but such is life.

freeloading? please.. (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167567)

InfoWorld reports on the fight over open source 'leeches' -- companies that use open source technology but don't give back to the open source community.

That's bullshit. The fact that the FOSS software in question is being used in the first place is a good thing. By being a user, you find bugs. In an enterprise environment, those bugs are usually reported back to either the distribution or the upstream project itself in hopes of getting it fixed in a patch later on. All of this "your a freeloader unless you contribute code or money" mentality needs to go. It could be worse, you could be the leader of an open source project that nobody even wants to use...

Transparent aluminum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167569)

..oh wait, Scotty was in Engineering, not IT.

One funny thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28167591)

If you ask ten thousand people on the street to describe "the word 'free' as it applies to software", and you exclude anyone who uses a computer more than two hours a day, I would believe just about zero would describe it the same way as the FOSS movement.

How is it that terms with previous definitions and connotations have their meaning appropriated in such a way that people outside of the group doesn't recognise the content any more?

As long as they comply with the licencing (1)

OriginalSolver (552648) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167597)

I've been a member of the open source community for 15 years (back before we call it open source of course). My position is that they are required to comply with the licencing, nothing more nothing less. Yes it would be nice if they did more but I don't think it is appropriate for us to complain that they didn't do more than we asked of them.

Can't have your cake and eat it, too. (1)

TrebleJunkie (208060) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167603)

Altruists who go looking for reward, recognition and contributions aren't very good altruists. If you expect rewards and recognition -- sell your product. If you expect contributions, pay for them.

There ought to be a law... (3, Interesting)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167631)

Many organizations use open source, but actively have policies that prevent giving code back. Systems to prevent this may backfire, because if an organization *had* to give back, they might just think it's safer to go with closed source. True or not, many lawyers prefer a draconian closed source license that has been paid for over an open license that hasn't. The closed source license is perceived to have been more tested by the courts. Since closed licenses are all different, while GPL, Apache, BSD, and CC are published, well researched, and not overreaching, I don't know why they would reach that conclusion. Some companies have exclusive contracts that have only been seen by a handful of attorneys, while the major open source license have been seen and debated by the World.

Most companies have an overinflated view of the value of their contributions, (although they only paid their programmers industry standard wages) so they put up internal barriers that make it difficult or impossible to give back.

Should - if they want to (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167643)

I have a small GPL project [sourceforge.net] that's fairly popular in certain circles, but I didn't write it to be popular. I wrote it because it met a need that my company had. Whether no people or a million use it, we'll get the same financial compensation: zero. But again, that's not why we released it! We have gotten back bug reports and enhancement requests that prompted me to make changes we never would have thought of on our own, and those changes have been useful to us. Isn't that compensation enough? It is for me and my boss.

Giving back is a matter of necessity (3, Insightful)

kris (824) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167647)

In the past ten years I have been working in multiple companies that have had businesses based on open source software. Very often these businesses not only used open source software, but also substantially modified it in order to adjust it to the needs of the enterprise, to make it scale or simply to fix bugs in code that otherwise has been rarely exercised.

In effect, this created a fork of the software, internally inside the enterprise.

These changes can be maintained inside the company, binding company ressources, or they can be put back upstream. Code can be part of what differentiates you from other companies, or it can be code that does stuff you do which others do as well - then it is infrastructure code to you. All infrastructure code inside your company you should share as open source quickly and reliably, because that not only improves the code but also shares your cost with others.

Very often companies do not do that - instead they are maintaining their fork of code internally, failing to integrate changes from the outside into their own fork, and binding valueable development ressources inside the enterprise in reproducing changes from the outside indepently. The reason for that is usually that there is an intellectual property regime which requires clearance of code before it can leave the company, but insufficient staffing for the actual clearance process.

As the enterprise slowly accumulates and integrates more and more open source projects to maintain their business they are slowly dragged down if they do not manage the process of giving changes back upstream properly.

As long as they don't modify the source! (3, Interesting)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167673)

Most open source licenses say that as long as you don't modify the source, you don't have to contribute.

As long as companies are obeying the license agreement, then why complain?

I would say that as long as they obey the terms of the license agreement (and whether or not they contribute themselves) then this is a win for open source software.

Bucardo.org (1)

davejenkins (99111) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167701)

I used to work at a company that used open source almost everywhere. We were pretty zealous about it, looking back now. At the core of the data structure, we were using Postgresql and had a scheme of mastermaster replication between two data centers. We developed a way to handle this. After some soul searching, and a realistic analysis, the owners came to the conclusion that the software didn't really help our direct competitors, and would be safer/better out in the open. So, we open sourced it: http://www.bucardo.org/ [bucardo.org] Here is the press release from the company: Backcountry finally gives something back [backcountrycorp.com]

Bullshit (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167729)

I call bullshit on this article.

I have written Open Source code, I have worked with and been friends with dozens of Open Source hackers, I even organized a Linux install-fest once. I have never heard one single Open Source hacker whisper the slightest hint of a complaint about the free rider problem. When you get into developing Open Source, it is almost certainly after having spent a lot of time with proprietary software, and having spent some time wondering, "How does this Open Source thing work?" If you've pondered that problem for more than eleven seconds, you've asked yourself the "what about free riders" question. If you've done that, you must've reached the only conclusion: Open Source is Open Source.

Are there some people out there who regret making their code Open Source at all? Sure, but they aren't representative of this community. They're people who don't grasp why Open Source is worth the rather obvious cost.

Are there corporations that have bought Open Source subsidiaries and regretted it? Sure, and I'll bet they try to convince the employees of the subsidiary that the free rider problem is a problem. But the complainers aren't part of the Open Source community.

The free rider problem is a natural and accepted part of Open Source development, that anyone serious about Open Source completely accepts. Not a single person I know in the community has every complained, and this article is a crock.

Who does this article identify as those complaining about the fact that Open Source is Open Source?

Matt Asay, vice president of business development at Alfresco, said in a post earlier this year.

Are you kidding me? On what planet does a vice president of business development get to talk about what contributors to Open Source think? Unless he's spending a lot of time filing bug reports, he's not a contributor and he can stick his opinion up his ass. Has he ever even posted a comment on Slashdot? I bet not. No offense to business guys, who are important parts of the US and global economy, and do many important things that I cannot. But you are not Open Source contributors, and not part of the community, even if you insist that the community does not exist.

Suppose I said, "CEOs are frustrated that their technology divisions are not contributing more to Open Source." Would you write an article in CEO Magazine about how CEOs are frustrated that their technology divisions are not contributing more to Open Source? No? Of course not. Because I'm no more a representative of CEO's than Asay is a representative of Open Source contributors.

Dave Rosenberg, co-founder and former CEO of MuleSource, and now part of the founding team of RiverMuse

CEO guy decided he doesn't like the way Open Source works? Bye. Don't let the door hit you in the ass.

Michael Scharf, a member of the Eclipse Foundation's architecture council

OK, that's one.

So this article picked two business weenies to flesh out their claims that the community is pissed off about Open Source software being Open Source software, based on a single actual technologist's gasbag blog post.

Nothing to see here. Move on.

Stay out of my source. (1)

BlueKitties (1541613) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167753)

The moment Microsoft or any other software giant has their filthy mitts inside of open source code, they're going to start pushing for ways to get $$$ out of the deal. I wouldn't be surprised to see a company like Microsoft starting a lawsuit, demanding a portion of an open source foundation's revenue (after all, they are making money off of service contracts supporting software Microsoft helped write.) Besides, what a better way to stave off a potential threat from Linux servers than to take it over legally?

Money isn't enough? (1)

kperrier (115199) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167757)

So the money that the companies pay to RedHat and/or Novell isn't enough? Voting with their dollars is a pretty powerful vote.

Forced donation? (1)

JerryLove (1158461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167811)

Isn't that the point where charity becomes communism?

I suppose we need to decide what we are as a community? The autors of free works or the traders of non-free works; an open community, or a community only of those who contribute.

Many Enterprises Already Contribute (1)

omb (759389) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167905)

Many Enterprises Already Contribute and employ OS developers, but for the biggest this needs to extend for those not directly in the IT business. Fortune 100 companies could make a larger contribution and still get FOSS essentially FREE.

More importantly large companies should try to make a contribution to the eco-system in which they live by exerting pressure and making monetary contribution to help remove the enterprise linux killers,

MS Exchange, calendar
Flash
ODF
MS apps on the desktop
AP

Do you have faith in GPL (1)

bethel (170766) | more than 5 years ago | (#28167935)

I really don't see the point in this. Do you not have faith in GPL? When a company sinks in millions of dollars and builds an entire business model around an open source project, they have economic incentive to participate in development (whether they realised it or not). With their dollars at stake, they are the best people to figure out what enhancement / fixes are needed. If they have their own "private" features/fixes", every time a new release comes out, they run into compatibility issues. Once they go down that road, it is not that far fetch to start contributing the project and have what they want be part of the main branch of development. They might also just sit around and wait for the "community" to do their work, but with money on the line, they have to start adding or making changes to the software.

Even if you don't agree with me, writing angry letters or complaining is really not going get you any where. If you really want to police this, close source your code or your project.

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