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Open Source Advocates' Attitudes Toward Profit

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the in-the-case-of-ethics-v-greenbacks dept.

Businesses 208

jfruh writes "Marten Mickos, ex-head of MySQL, was discussing his new open source cloud initiative with the New York Times when he mentioned in passing that 'Some people in open source think it is immoral to make a profit. I don't.' This has set off some predictable hand-wringing within the movement. While some community members are ideologically opposed to profit-making, that attitude isn't held by a majority, or even a plurality."

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208 comments

Always love the "some people" bullshit. (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332227)

In a large enough group, there are always "some people" (more than 1 person) who believes X.

Whether X is that they've been kidnapped by aliens or whatever. In a big enough group there will be "some people" who believe it.

So knock it off! If you cannot point to them, shut your mouth.

Mother Theresa Principle (4, Funny)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332307)

My brother calls this the Mother Theresa Principle. No matter how much of a saint you are, someone will hate your guts.

Re:Mother Theresa Principle (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332479)

Might be a bad example, Mother Theresa was a strong opponent of women's rights. Lots of people, particularly women, had good reason to dislike her.

Re:Mother Theresa Principle (4, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332531)

Thanks for providing a perfect example of his point. ;)

Re:Mother Theresa Principle (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334857)

Thanks for providing a perfect example of his point. ;)

That's a really neat way to circumvent criticism of ... well, anyone you choose, really. "Oh, you're just a hater!" I'm not sure what to call this tactic -- preemptive ad hominem, maybe? In any case, it's pretty dumb.

Re:Mother Theresa Principle (1, Troll)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333693)

How could she be that influential despite being a woman? Maybe aborting several children isn't necessary to becoming a full member of society...

Re:Mother Theresa Principle (2, Informative)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333965)

Influential? In what? She did nothing but support the status quo.

"Well-known" != "Influential".

Re:Mother Theresa Principle (3, Informative)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332651)

Mother Theresa [...] a saint

NOT! [wikipedia.org]

Re:Mother Theresa Principle (2)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333815)

Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

Isn't it nice that by the time of her death what she started wasn't needed as much and people had/have the luxury of bitching about things that are obviously much more important than when people with leprosy were being tossed out of society like garbage, or people died of tuberculosis because they couldn't afford simple treatments, or many poor died in the street from starvation or diseases due to poor diet because they couldn't afford to eat good food. Or people being crippled because they couldn't get bones set correctly because they couldn't afford a doctor. Or any of a number of things the lady started bringing to the poorest of the poor when no-one else would. Sure people can bitch now about her bringing her religion into it, or some of her methods, but at least she was actually doing something about a very bad situation at a time when others were content to just overlook the severely disadvantaged. It is easy to play armchair quarterback 65 years after she first started her work, in a completely different day and age.

I am definitely not a fan of churches in general (in my view they seem to bring a bad taste to religion for me). And even though she was a devout catholic and also witnessed her faith at the same time as giving her help, she did a lot of good for a lot of people when very, very few others were. And anyone who wants to call her down because of these relatively minor complaints compared to the work she did in the times she did it in, isn't worth my time nor consideration. And for the record I don't hate the catholic nor most other churches/religions, nor do I dislike its followers, nor most other churches' followers as long as they don't espouse discriminating against or hurting "non-believers"... or try to counter scientific knowledge and teaching.

Re:Mother Theresa Principle (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334197)

I agree. Maybe she wasn't perfect, maybe she has some ideas that people don't like, maybe she had ulterior motives, but she did something. Someone who has never even once volunteered for a soup kitchen has no ground to claim that she was an bad person. As Christ never once said, "let he who is without sin be the first to do a good deed".

Re:Mother Theresa Principle (1, Informative)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334315)

she did something

Yeah, she denied the poor wretches proper medical care and pain medication she was in power to provide.

Re:Mother Theresa Principle (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39334463)

Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

what kind of cunt talks like that? you really would have to be a monumental pompous fucktard.

Re:Mother Theresa Principle (1, Informative)

HiThere (15173) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332739)

There were a large number of women in India who didn't think Mother Theresa was any kind of humanitarian at all. Saint, being a religious term, she may be by decree. This doesn't mean she was kind to those who disagreed with her religious doctrines.

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (5, Insightful)

recoiledsnake (879048) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332345)

Stallman is some person now?

The problem comes from Stallman's idea that all software should be FOSS and money should be made from support(Stallman isn't opposed to selling the software, but having a buildable source will allow any user to post the software for any cost or free). So the money to be made is squeezed into only support. Take RedHat. The community immediately took the sources and made CentOS which is used in many small businesses instead of paying for Red Hat.

Maybe some companies and developers can live on giving support, but for the vast majority of software developers, thats not possible when anyone out there can take your code and build their own. Apply this model to the Android or Apple app stores and there would disaster with the software clones. Already games are being cloned without the source code available and this is a huge problem. Forcing the apps to be open source will lead of chaos and there will be no incentive to create big games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and Infinity Blade(cost a million or more develop). What should they do? Sell support for Angry Birds?

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (4, Insightful)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332463)

Stallman is some person now?

The problem comes from Stallman's idea that all software should be FOSS and money should be made from support(Stallman isn't opposed to selling the software, but having a buildable source will allow any user to post the software for any cost or free). So the money to be made is squeezed into only support. Take RedHat. The community immediately took the sources and made CentOS which is used in many small businesses instead of paying for Red Hat.

Maybe some companies and developers can live on giving support, but for the vast majority of software developers, thats not possible when anyone out there can take your code and build their own. Apply this model to the Android or Apple app stores and there would disaster with the software clones. Already games are being cloned without the source code available and this is a huge problem. Forcing the apps to be open source will lead of chaos and there will be no incentive to create big games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and Infinity Blade(cost a million or more develop). What should they do? Sell support for Angry Birds?

Problem is, "sell support" doesn't go very far when the "buyers" are cheapskates.

Stallman's model works fine back in the day when computer operators were revered people, but falls down flat these days when 90%+ of computers are used to accomplish some task, and those knowledgable enough to fix/understand computers are tiny minority. The majority want computers that work, but they also don't want to pay for it.

If you don't believe me, tell your family member to go to Geek Squad to get their computer fixed. They'll balk at the $40/hour charges, and see no reason why you can't spend the 20 hours it takes to fix up their computer.

And if you're trying to do computer support, be prepared to have your clients spend hours dickering over every hour you charge. You billed 10 hours, they'll ding it down to 9 and waste 4 hours of your time doing so.

And no, it doesn't matter what profession the client is - lawyers will dicker just as hard (or harder) over that hour that they charge $200/hr for.

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332593)

The majority want computers that work, but they also don't want to pay for it.

...unless "they" are business and enterprise customers, and then they'll buy it even if they don't really need it. Then again, RHEL licensing does include binary patches.

If you don't believe me, tell your family member to go to Geek Squad to get their computer fixed. They'll balk at the $40/hour charges, and see no reason why you can't spend the 20 hours it takes to fix up their computer.

And if you're trying to do computer support, be prepared to have your clients spend hours dickering over every hour you charge. You billed 10 hours, they'll ding it down to 9 and waste 4 hours of your time doing so.

And no, it doesn't matter what profession the client is - lawyers will dicker just as hard (or harder) over that hour that they charge $200/hr for.

...they can dicker all they want, but professionally, the price remains the same, and in most cases you get exactly what you pay for (and professionally, you'd better already have a solid contract in place for that sort of thing).

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332895)

>>>"Geek Squad to get their computer fixed. They'll balk at the $40/hour charges, and see no reason why you can't spend the 20 hours it takes to fix up their computer."

And then they play the "I would help you if you needed help" card. Twelve years later and I'm still waiting for that payback. I don't provide much free support anymore (or free machines); if their computer really did become screwed-up badly I would copy as many files as I could to my USB: drive, insert the Windows CD, watch tv for an hour while it's being wiped, and then Copy usb: to c:

The family member can waste their time sorting it all out.

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (2)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333777)

Problem is, "sell support" doesn't go very far when the "buyers" are cheapskates.

I think that's a vast oversimplification of the problem, by far most cases people want software that works not support. I paid my 7 NOK ($1 + VAT) for Angry Birds, but I'd never pay for Angry Bird support even if you for that dollar could give me platinum 24x7x365 phone/e-mail/onsite direct-to-tier-X support. Because if it works great, if it's broken I'll move on. If I've bought a game and it's crashing and I have to spend any time in the support forums my net pleasure/utility from it quickly goes in the negative, but then I've already committed my money - at best I can insist on a refund. Support is only worth something if you know that if the software breaks I want to work with (or depending on your cynicism, fight with) support to get the problem solved and I only want that if the value is higher than the time and effort it takes.

This is particularly true if you are trying to sell support that will ask many technical questions to non-technical users. I'm not going to distribute blame for that but the fact is that many users don't feel they're able to use support and something you can't use doesn't have value. And even if you are able to work with support and reproduce the issue, it can still take a very long time if ever before it's fixed. Of course here you have support plans with code hotfixes but then you need way more at stake to balance the cost. Very often the window of benefit is right now, it is of little value to me if it'll be fixed next month or next year. Of course I know software can't be developed at the snap of a finger, but it makes support much less worth than software that would work right now.

The other problem is that most people are used to COTS prices. There you pay for the software when it works and the value of fixing a bug in support is amplified by better reviews and more sales, if fact just the idea of an enhancement that would increase sales is a net benefit. With open source you usually have to carry 100% of the cost yourself. Maybe you have an employer that's used to developing and supporting custom in-house system, but most people are not used to it. They will compare 2 days of work at minimum wage and say I can get Windows Home Premium or Office Home And Student with all the bells and whistles for that price. And if you could share the cost on a million customers, well then you could deliver for a fraction of a cent too. Using support is an incredibly expensive resource, it's one customer spending one support person's time.

Finally, when it comes to new development there's very little cost sharing. With COTS it's simple, if you want the new version with the new features you'll be paying for an upgrade, a $1000 feature can be distributed over 1000 sales of $1. With OSS you pay nothing for code that's already written, so you try very hard to not use it for anything it doesn't already do. Complain about the price for Photoshop, but is one man sinking that into GIMP development going to turn GIMP into Photoshop? Not even close. You can try various micro-transactions and crowdsourcing and whatnot but the easiest way to win is not to play, it's a free chance to get the feature for free. Even if all in total would benefit more than the cost, nobody wants to carry the cost for everybody. Everybody waits for someone else to bite the bullet.

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334237)

It did work for some time and in some places or industries. Cygnus got a lot of FSF coding done while being paid for it. I think we still have plenty of open source projects still being supported by corporate contracts and corporate workers. The real difference today is that I think it is being done more often for commercial jockeying than for a straight-up fee for services (ie, to support a project just to keep MS/Apple/Google on their toes, prevent a competitor from getting too powerful, etc).

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334455)

And if you're trying to do computer support, be prepared to have your clients spend hours dickering over every hour you charge. You billed 10 hours, they'll ding it down to 9 and waste 4 hours of your time doing so.

Hrm, doesn't happen here. Maybe I need to charge more.

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (4, Insightful)

Vanders (110092) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332635)

Take RedHat. The community immediately took the sources and made CentOS which is used in many small businesses instead of paying for Red Hat.

Well hang on a minute. Yes, let's take RedHat as an example. CentOS and it's cousins like Scientific Linux may well exist, but RedHat are still turning $1b a year in income. RedHat add enough value to their products that apparently there are plenty of people out there who are very happy to pay them rather than use the free alternatives.

If anything I'd argue that the likes of CentOS actually help RedHat. If a company starts on CentOS they may well decide later to "trade up" to RedHat to get access to the benefits of RHEL (perceived or real).

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332653)

Stallman is some person now?

No, not in this context.

Take RedHat. The community immediately took the sources and made CentOS which is used in many small businesses instead of paying for Red Hat.

And then RedHat promptly went out of business.

Maybe some companies and developers can live on giving support, but for the vast majority of software developers, thats not possible when anyone out there can take your code and build their own.

The vast, VAST majority of software is built to order. Hardly any is prepackaged stuff. Almost all money is done by writing stuff to order for people who want it. OSS works very well in that environment and brings down costs.

I actually put my money where my mouth is in this regard. Me, via my company does the majority dev work on a couple of OSS libraries. It's worth having them OSS with a small comminuty as it helps build better libraries for everything. I've never had a problem losing business because of the existence of them.

Already games are being cloned without the source code available and this is a huge problem.

No, not at all. This has been the case since games existed. They are very rarely pure clones, and usually add something. Besides, no game in existance now can claim to be truly original and take no influence from previous games.

Forcing the apps to be open source will lead of chaos and there will be no incentive to create big games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and Infinity Blade(cost a million or more develop). What should they do? Sell support for Angry Birds?

How about try selling Angry Birds? The only version I could find were the free ad-supported ones. I dug around a bit to see if I could pay to make the ads go away. No luck. So, I switch off networking while I play. I'd still rather pay to support the developers and avoid the hassle of ads.

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (3, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333239)

Unfortunately the RMS method of making money means there is a economical motive to make software that is complex and hard to use. The simple and easy to use software is often reserved for closed source applications as there is a motive to make easy to use software so they can get paid for the software license, and not deal with the trouble of support.

Revenue options for open software. (2)

Mandrel (765308) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334357)

Providing support isn't the only revenue option for software that's freely modifiable and re-distributable. Other than the most common revenue source, which is using an OSS project to attract an employer, there's:

  • Donations, which most OSS projects handle poorly by offering nothing in return. Kickstarter got this, or
  • Using a near-OSS licence that removes the freedom to run (freedom 0 [gnu.org] ) but keeps the important freedoms to tinker and to break-away, which makes it feasible to charge for the software. This could work in an app store by forcing any forked app to be listed on the same store, with the original app author getting a cut equal to the price of his original app, and the authors of the new app keeping any premium.

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334975)

The community immediately ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H ten years later took the sources and made CentOS

FTFY.

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332361)

Most people don't matter, or take it as a validation of their views, and if you point specific people who matter out then you risk having their fanbois rape you.

The disdain of profits in the OSS movement is usually evidenced by shit such as "$un", "Micro$$$$hit", and "Bill Gates is an evil profiteer!" that free software used to be known for.

It's usually better and more polite to just reference them, lest they revel in the attention.

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (3, Interesting)

HiThere (15173) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332803)

One datapoint. I despise Microsoft, but it's mainly due to their EULA. And when Apple changed their EULA to copy terms from those MS had used, I extended my disdain to them.

I don't disapprove of their making a profit, but I purely despise their attempts to control me.

I don't believe that mine is a minority opinion. And when people write Micro$oft, I interpret that as meaning that Microsoft is eager to shaft people if it earns them more money, not an inherent disdain for profits. But I could be wrong about that, in any particular case. (I don't recall ever seeing the term "$un" before.)

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (4, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333329)

"Bill Gates is an evil profiteer!"

1. He is.
2. Profiteering is not the same as making a (fair) profit.

I, for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332367)

...am only opposed to profit-making when it is done by other people at my expense.

Mickos says... (2)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332453)

"I completely agree with you that it is a very very small minority that thinks so (and I said that to Quentin). And I am specifically not thinking of Richard Stallman. I know that he is not against business. He is only for freedom. I have no issue with RMS; on the contrary I have huge respect for his consistent insistence on software freedom. I don't think the world gives him enough credit for that,"

It seems that Mickos said "some people think it's immoral to make a profit" when he actually meant "some people don't like particular open source business models that emphasize profit over the software project". The allegation from the article is that Eucalyptus refused to integrate source code modifications that had been developed at NASA for their open source product, instead insisting that NASA should buy a license for the closed source version of their product. This sounds a bit familiar, I remember similar comments being aimed at MySQL AB when they insisted that anybody using the MySQL client library had to purchase a commercial license or GPL their application, which was also a decision that, on the face of it, benefited the MySQL corporation more than its users.

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (2)

DRJlaw (946416) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332629)

In a large enough group, there are always "some people" (more than 1 person) who believes X.

Whether X is that they've been kidnapped by aliens or whatever. In a big enough group there will be "some people" who believe it.

So knock it off! If you cannot point to them, shut your mouth.

Yes, shut your mouth. There's no point in arguing that believing in X is wrong unless you can point to a specific individual with that belief. Forget that rational discourse would address the belief rather than the characteristics of the person(s) holding it. Forget that others may be on the fence concerning the belief or developing their own beliefs and would benefit from a discussion concerning the merits of the belief.

If you cannot point to the damn dirty hippy who believes it, then you have no license to speak.

Or not. Nobody needs your permission to use their mouth.

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332769)

"Some people say..." - FOX News, MicrosoftNBC, CNN, .....

I don't have any problem with profit. The more you make the sooner you can retire and enjoy life. (Or keep working and hand-out the excess to homeless people.)

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332789)

Clearly this bothers you, more than I suspect it would if he said "some people in open source think it is perfectly acceptable to make a profit." The fact that there may be profit-opposed open source community members is, to you, highly suspect, deserving the level of skepticism of alien kidnapping "or whatever."

I have just one question for you: are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?

Re:Always love the "some people" bullshit. (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 2 years ago | (#39335111)

Oh I think there is more than "some" people in the OSS community. There is the whole Stallman drone subset that think charging for software is evil. I'm guessing we are talking about double digits not single digit fringes.

Heck I've worked for start-ups that wouldn't even consider free software that needed windows to run. They were so focused on open source that even a platfrom that wasn't open wasn't interesting to them. This was a company that sold THERE software in closed source format. There is a large number of people, not the same issue I agree, that some who are skeptical of all closed software except the products they sell.

Profit on open source (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332289)

I like people who take open source code and sells it for use in closed source proprietary software. They're nice.

Re:Profit on open source (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333335)

I like people who take open source code and sells it for use in closed source proprietary software. They're nice.

Great! What are your contact details? I'll sell you all you want, for a nominal packaging and delivery fee.

Profit vs. revenue vs. working for free (4, Informative)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332303)

It seems there's really three different situations we're talking about here, not two as the summary suggests:

  • For-profit: the goal is to make money
  • Non-profit: the goal is to have a steady revenue stream, but only to break even.
  • Working for free: no money ever enters the equation.

The majority of major open source projects are one of the top two options, but I'd venture to guess the majority of open source projects in general are the later.

In any case, I wouldn't want to confuse the last two options in the list as they each have a different place in the open source ecosystem.

Re:Profit vs. revenue vs. working for free (2)

DangerOnTheRanger (2373156) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332403)

I think you hit the nail on the head. As far as I've seen, it's just part of third group that frowns upon commercialization - why, I don't know. But anyway, the amount of people who hold this view aren't very numerous.

Re:Profit vs. revenue vs. working for free (5, Insightful)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332597)

Why do people work for "free"? Unless they're forced to do it, they're getting something out of it -- recognition, personal satisfaction, utility, resume padding, to get laid at LUGs, etc. Hell, even if there's a gun at head, you're still getting something out of (i.e., not being killed).

Is it better if someone fixes a bug (for free) in gnumeric because it helps him keep track of all his rape victims vs someone who fixes a bug (for money) in gnumeric because he's being paid to do so?

Re:Profit vs. revenue vs. working for free (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332963)

>>>to get laid at LUGs

What?!?!?

I wonder how these people pay their bills? I mean if they took their philosophy to its natural end (everything should be open source, and they work on OSS as volunteers), then they'd be doing their full time jobs for free too. How would they pay their bills.

linus actually said on NPR one time (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333435)

that if he hadn't been born and raised in a socialist country, he probably never would have open sourced the linux kernel. it was on the 'fresh air' show with Teri Gross.

Re:linus actually said on NPR one time (3, Informative)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334267)

He was born and raised in Finland, which was not a "socialist" country. It was mostly Social Democrats for a long time which are not at all the same thing as "socialist".

Re:Profit vs. revenue vs. working for free (2)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334671)

I'm currently employed at a small local software shop. Closed-source software, but heavily built on open-source frameworks and resources (Linux, Apache, Postgres, PHP, OpenOffice, and so on). That pays the bills.

In my free time, I work on an open-source video game (expect to see a /. story on it as soon as I can kick my artist's ass into gear). Beyond some vague pipe dreams of selling "Limited Edition" boxed sets with all kinds of feelies, I have no plans or expectations of profit. I make it two other reasons:
1) To try to break into the game industry (it would be one hell of a resume if I ever finish it)
2) For fun

So yeah, it's entirely possible to make a living, and also run an open-source project. Not as the same thing (that's possible too), but separately.

Re:Profit vs. revenue vs. working for free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39334755)

"Personal satisfaction" i.e. "fun" definitely counts as "free".

Re:Profit vs. revenue vs. working for free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39334823)

Pimping out resumes. I frequently send patches to developers if their software has a bug, and it's a language I know. For me it's comparable to posting a bug report.

if i knew how i could monetize my crap... (2)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333429)

i would monetize the hell out of it. right now i can barely pay my bills with my day job, the open source thing is just kind of an interesting diversion that i spend way too much time on.

people make fun of 'marketing' all the time but people who can market things are actually kind of geniuses. if i knew how to properly 'market' this stuff, i could quit my day job and hack open source 40 hours a week instead of pushing paper around a desk that nobody cares about and will probably be automated within 5 years.

profitable business model (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332353)

If you create or add value, I think a reasonable profit is a good thing. It is not necessary to have gouging to attract people to invest in or participate in a profitable business model.

Re:profitable business model (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333539)

Those who promote open source always ignore the complexity and costs of switching to open source. The licensing complexity tends to stop using open source because the possibility of a lawsuit regarding rises. The change over to open source can be daunting when you are talking about 100,s or +1,000s changes needed to make it viable. Retraining leads to significant cost to the change over. Modifying existing data from one program to another can be a bitch. User retraining is costly. Support departments also need to be retrained to use the new software when implemented. I believe there are no restrictions when using and modifying open source source code as long as they do not make any profit by sailing open source code. But they do use the code internally to enhance their system. A non-profit open source project also removes the incentives to develop programs in the first place. I am severely allergic to doing anything for free. The biggest problem is with the open sourced Linux variants. A company would need to convert most of their existing software which is expensive and a major headache. It would also require it's developers to adapt a new skill set.

Here's my attitude... (1)

greenguy (162630) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332369)

... it's not so much a question of profit, it's what you do to get it. If you are secretive, controlling, colluding, or corrupt about it, then I'm against it. If you're transparent, responsible, sustainable, and honest, then I'm for it.

I've been known to pay for Linux software, and I've been paying for Linux-based services for years. I also use FLOSS in my freelance work.

I mean, c'mon. No less than RMS has said you can sell software if you want. Who does this guy think is more hard-core than RMS?

Re:Here's my attitude... (1)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39335017)

No less than RMS has said you can sell software if you want.

He says it, but he doesn't live it. He doesn't make a living writing software, he doesn't make a living selling software ... and the fact is he never did. He also thinks spam is perfectly okay. [wikiquote.org]

I didn't receive the DEC message, but I can't imagine I would have been bothered if I have. I get tons of uninteresting mail, and system announcements about babies born, etc. At least a demo MIGHT have been interesting.

Most people aren't sentimental about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332387)

and that's why you don't hear from them as much. People who think profits are immoral are more visible. Personally I prefer Win7 for my personal desktop but make money from closed-source webapps running on centos/php/mysql. It's more convenient for me as php gets stuff done fast even if it's not so elegant and I don't have to worry about any licensing hassles, just download whenever I feel like it.

The only project I'd never use on principle is mariadb... that guy sells his company for millions of dollars and then starts lobbying to try and stop oracle getting ownership because they cant be trusted apparently, but nobody forced him to sell out for this filthy lucre?

Re:Most people aren't sentimental about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332511)

Yeah ... Mighty Wide Anus.

MySQL required all source code copyrights to be assigned to them, allowing them (and later Sun and later Oracle) to release non-GPL versions. Then he sells out and demands that he not have to abide by the GPL. Damned if I know why FOSS supporters think he deserved some sort of exemption.

there's a difference (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332397)

between making a profit for profit's sake and simply making a living.

public companies who answer to shareholders first and foremost tend to do the former (and aggressively so), while small businesses and mom and pop operations are usually happy with the latter.

Lack of profit is why I killed my projects (2)

rongage (237813) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332431)

I developed a couple of programming libraries for talking to industrial PLCs - Allen Bradley stuff. It started to cost me some pretty significant money to keep up with new hardware releases. The amount of money I made total (gross) was maybe $500. An entry level PLC costs closer to $3000.

So yeah, nobody willing to spend money on my work killed the work right off.

Re:Lack of profit is why I killed my projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332657)

When will you learn!? Open source only works if you're scratching your own itch, otherwise it's a waste of your time.

Re:Lack of profit is why I killed my projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332661)

Yep.

Capitalism has quite a few flaws, but it's pretty damn good at allocating resources within a span of economic activity.

F/LOSS can only make it when folks or firms are willing to give their hard work away. with out any compensation. I don't see any other way.

except in 2008, when it completely failed (1, Insightful)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333489)

and the major banks 'allocated resources' to mortgage securities that were basically garbage, and housing got built that immediately started to rot because nobody could afford to buy it at the artificially inflated prices of the housing bubble.

'oh thats wasnt capitalism it was backed by the govt and evil regulations'.

yeah, well, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Deutschebank, BNP Paribas, AIG, all the monoline insurance companies, a couple hundred hedge funds, mutual funds, etc etc etc, all decided to 'allocate capital' to this "evil govt program". They weren't objecting to Fannie and Freddie, they were aping fannie and freddie. all of these private businesses then benefitted from the govt bailout too.

in other words, these are the 'bastions of capitalism'. these are the guys who fund the Ayn Rand institutions and the theoretical economists and think tanks to push "capitalism" whatever that means. what it has actually meant in reality is some kind of unholy alliance with the govt to bilk taxpayers out of money, and has very little to do with a 'free market'.

Re:Lack of profit is why I killed my projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332667)

sounds more like you needed a better business model

Re:Lack of profit is why I killed my projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332691)

Did you go into it expecting to make money, make enough to break even, or not make a dime? If you expected either of the first two options, did you have any sort of official business strategy in place? Any sort of marketing, networking, promotion? Was what you made very well known in its field?
 
I don't mean any of that to imply anything significant, I've just been working on my own software for a few years and am about ready to release, and am curious about others' experiences. I am hoping to get by on the income but realistically I know, with no marketing strategy in place and my utter disdain for networking, this will likely work better as a calling card to get job interviews. I do hope it at least pays for my hardware costs, though.

Re:Lack of profit is why I killed my projects (2)

rongage (237813) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333755)

It started off as a "scratch an itch" sort of project: Rockwell Automation basically threw down the gauntlet when I asked them about Linux support and they responded that communicating with a PLC from Linux was not possible. I proved them completely wrong - first with the PLC5/SLC-500/Pyramid Integrator series, and then once again with the ControlLogix/Micrologix.

Profit wasn't the motive at first, then after I exited the industrial automation industry, it became a burden - a huge burden - to continue to support the packages. I also started to have a change of heart regarding the value of my time. I started off by asking for donations - and got absolutely nothing back. I then took the software off the free ftp server and got a total of 2 sales. Underwhelming to say the least.

As of today, I know personally of 2 different commercial software packages from 2 different software companies that are built on my software - as in sections copied verbatim (no, neither IBM nor SCO are involved there). Do I get so much as a thank you let alone a commission of any sort, nope.

Have I learned, you bet I have. My software packages today are commercial only with no source code available. It's a matter of survival at this point - gotta take care of number one first.

Re:Lack of profit is why I killed my projects (2)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39335107)

Have I learned, you bet I have. My software packages today are commercial only with no source code available. It's a matter of survival at this point - gotta take care of number one first.

And this is going to be a growing trend. The open source model only works for some software, and it may have already peaked. The "we'll sell support" model doesn't work - if it's so broken that it needs continual support, people would rather pay $X and get something that "just works." This applies just as much to commercial software as it does to consumer stuff like games.

It's why you'll never see a "year of the linux desktop". It's why companies like Adobe are not going to continue to waste resources on linux. It's why developers are making a billion a month in the Apple Market, and next to nothing with Android (Android is just too fragmented).

It's not popular to say it, but free software (using the FSFdefintion), in terms of market share, is actually declining. Free in too many cases is just to expensive, both to the end user and to the developer.

Re:Lack of profit is why I killed my projects (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333995)

If your goal was to make a profit ... you failed!

if your goal was to have fun fulfilling your passion ... you failed!

Hello RMS! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332439)

Perhaps we should eat the skin from our feet and commit sex acts on consenting minors!

Perhaps you should do something important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332517)

Perhaps you should do something important with your life.

Re:Perhaps you should do something important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39333403)

Naa, he is living the RMS way of life.

Well, there's always one... (3, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332473)

There's always some nutcase out on the fringe.

RMS himself is entirely happy with making a profit on software---the FSF used to sel lthe GNU tools on tape to raise funds.

Pick your -ity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332489)

isn't held by a majority, or even a plurality

Maybe not, but they certainly are the loudority.

One root of the "problem" (3, Insightful)

willoughby (1367773) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332577)

A big part of the dispute is that some folks aren't happy with saying, "I don't sell my software for profit, I contribute it to the community." but instead insist on adding, "And I think that's what you should do, also."

Re:One root of the "problem" (2)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333927)

A big part of the dispute is that some folks aren't happy with saying, "I don't sell my software for profit, I contribute it to the community." but instead insist on adding, "And I think that's what you should do, also."

I've not really hard that one so much, most seem to agree you do what you want with your own code. But the way distros use applications and applications use libraries, I have heard people insist on adding "And I don't think you should be trying to make profit on my software either." I can sort of see that, particularly if there's a paid support sending bugs upstream to unpaid volunteers so they get the work and downstream get the profit.

Re:One root of the "problem" (2)

Solandri (704621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334505)

"I don't sell my software for profit, I contribute it to the community." but instead insist on adding, "And I think that's what you should do, also."

I disagree with RMS on lots of things, but that's not how it works at all. I'm all for selling software. Most people sell it for money. GNU FOSS folks sell it for the rights to derivative works being put under the same license. It's not "And I think that's what you should do, also." It's "And if you want to incorporate my software into yours, the price is going to be that you have to release your software under the same license as mine."

There's nothing inherently wrong or unfair about this. It's their software. You don't have to use it. If you don't like the idea of releasing your derivative software under a GNU license, then don't use GNU software. It's as simple as that. Go buy a commercial library which does the same thing and pay whatever licensing fees they ask. Don't like that? Then hire someone to write an equivalent library for you. Still too much? Then write it yourself. Can't be bothered to do that? Well the answer isn't to take GNU FOSS and incorporate it into your software without following their license requirements. That's the same as pirating commercial libraries and incorporating it into your software without paying.

Remember, nobody is putting a gun to your head and forcing you to incorporate GNU software into your project. Yeah they let you use their software for free (as in beer) if you don't plan to make any derivative works. So what? Just because they have one set of terms for end-users doesn't mean they can't have different terms for redistribution use. Pay software does the same thing. If you just want to use it as a user, there's one price. If you want to incorporate it into your own software product, you'll have to negotiate a completely different licensing fee. Or do you think you can buy a single copy of Photoshop off the shelf, incorporate it into your "deluxe artist's software pack," and sell that for $50 each?

Interesting but... (2)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332579)

I would also like to know Open Source Advocates attitude towards ???.

Re:Interesting but... (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334859)

I would also like to know Open Source Advocates attitude towards ???.

That's a regular expression (regexp) denoting a one to four character long string ending in a period. I'm in favour of regexps.

Variance (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332599)

I'm sure what we'll find out in the end is that people vary; many of us have pretty strong notions of what's unacceptable, and provided those notions are met we'd accept profit.
Principles:
1) I do want an end to all IP protections, and to see development of custom features and support being the primary ways support happens
2) I don't want whatever companies exist that work with open source software to sit on closed extensions forever, or for them to reject donated code that duplicates any custom code they use to support themselves
3) I think features that are not of general interest should still be opensource but funded by those with the special interest.
4) New features, if they are to be funded, can be done through bounties, but not every bit of development should be done through a bounty; there should be a main course of development for most products that happens no matter what, even if at a slow pace
5) Patents and copyright should not be used to prevent forking, clones, or competition

I would accept profits happening along the way, provided these principles are met.

FOSS and (business) models (5, Informative)

martenmickos (467191) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332673)

All,

This is a great discussion! I am glad to be back on /.

As often with press, I was not quoted verbatim. I stated my observation that in the world of free and open source software (FOSS), you find some people (some very few people, to be precise) who are judgmental about how other people perceive or act on open source. So when you have a certain governance model, business model, or development model, there will typically be some people who will loudly rule it out as wrong or improper or something. But I didn't say that I have anything against that, and I don't.

It's one of the strengths of the FOSS world. Differences in view are aired publicly, and many times (although not always) a higher level of understanding, or a new thinking will emerge.

We need to keep these discussions going, because as the world moves into the cloud, those same principles of openness that were developed for software code will have to somehow be applied on APIs and on data too.

Marten

Short memories? (1)

Shoten (260439) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332725)

Seems to me that I remember a slashdot article [slashdot.org] last week complaining about how Intuitive Surgical had patents on their DaVinci robots, and that said patents were a block to developing an open source competitor. That article didn't exactly get ignored, nor did people say "so what?"

Proffitt doesn't understand 'profit' (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332727)

He confuses 'profit' with 'getting paid'. He doesn't seem to grok the difference between an equal exchange of value and a disproportionate one. The latter leads to concentration of wealth, and concentration of wealth leads to monopolies, control of governments by those profitable entities, and wide class disparities.

Ultimately profit leads to revolutions. Simply "getting paid" does not. Can we break the ugly cycle, please?

Re:Proffitt doesn't understand 'profit' (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39335081)

He confuses 'profit' with 'getting paid'. ... Ultimately profit leads to revolutions. Simply "getting paid" does not. Can we break the ugly cycle, please?

Ridiculous. Two guys banging their heads on tech in a garage eventually came up with something that they could sell. The proceeds of that financed their coming up with something better, and so on, and so on, until we wound up with Apple.

What Apple does with its profits and power is another thing, but profit's not inherently evil.

Rhetoric backfire? (1)

Zaelath (2588189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332737)

He was just trying to make a reductio ad absurdum argument about morality to disarm, fairly silly, attacks that Eucalyptus shouldn't play nice with Amazon. There's plenty of commercial interests around that have brought a lot of added value to the Open Source movement and I'm far more concerned about the GOOG ignoring obligations than anyone making a buck.

GNU (4, Interesting)

hackus (159037) | more than 2 years ago | (#39332751)

FSF GNU, it is clear. Charging for software is completely A OK as long as the person gets the freedom to change the software without restrictions. There are some, but they do not conflict with the basic tenant.

Unlike the Paytards I would call them, that believe in licensing software only, no where does the GNU or FSF manifesto declare paying for software is bad.

I am surprised how many MBA people I talk to can't get it. No wonder these people can't handle regular calc and have to take "business" math.

GNU Linux is bought and _sold_ everywhere.

Also, given that a lot of FSF / GNU people have jobs at major corps such as RedHat, I am not sure where the documentation is to support the claim Free Software people insist on non payment of all software.

Thank God too, as I make my entire living building GNU systems and would starve if that was the case.

Stallman has never said that, and the Paytards always bring that up and make the guy out as some sort of commie from the Stalinist days or even Red China.

-Hack

Re:GNU (1, Redundant)

Teckla (630646) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333673)

Unlike the Paytards I would call them,

Very mature.

that believe in licensing software only, no where does the GNU or FSF manifesto declare paying for software is bad.

With source in hand, anyone could make your software available for free. That makes it really hard to make a reasonable amount of money selling software.

So, while you might be technically right, you're being intellectually dishonest.

Re:GNU (2)

bug1 (96678) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334269)

With source in hand, anyone could make your software available for free. That makes it really hard to make a reasonable amount of money selling software.

This whole capitalism thing we are part of is bassed around the concept of compeition.

So when you claim that having to compete makes it hard for you to make a 'reasonable amount of money' you are demonstrating an inflated self worth.

Re:GNU (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334323)

It is not hard to get money for supported software though. People and companies will pay for stuff that they can install easily and has a number for someone to call when it breaks. There are companies that have a business model of taking open source tools and adding a small value add plus support. Sure you could build the stuff yourself but that takes time and effort and money.

Ie, let's say you want an ARM or PPC or PIC or AVR compiler and build suite, and you've got 3 software employees: do you pay them to learn how to build and maintain and keep the GNU tools up to date, or do you just buy someone's package? Some companies will just have their own employees manage this while others will pay to get the headache out of the way.

He's wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332887)

FOSS has no moral problem with profit.

The actual problem is how hard it is for anyone to make a profit developing FOSS software.

Pay software *development* not licensing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39332975)

I totally support paying for, or otherwise funding sofware *development*, because that is compensation for real work, and results in the creation of new, tangible inovations. Software licensing, etc. simply does not. You can give the already developed software to 7 billion people as easily as you can give it to one, copies of it simply have very little to zero intrinsic value. I don't think software licensing is particularily immoral, people can pursue any business/funding model they wish, but I do think it is simply less viable than it used to be, and will continue to be less so in the future. No one cries for the ice (box) delivery man, they realize that era has ended.

This is not the end of the world, it's just the next era. The Humble Bundle is a good example of alternative models, but it emphasises something important: Any payment for a 'copy of the bits' is simply charity at this point. This is a good thing. This is the most direct relationship between content producer and content consumer, and that is what it is all about. It's also interesting to note the fact that the average Linux user payment is signifigantly, and consistently, higher than Windows or Mac, which makes me think people who subscribe to open/free source ideals already realize this, and don't hesitate to pay up, where it counts the most.

The bait and switch (2)

petsounds (593538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333073)

What I don't like is when open source project teams suddenly decide to make the project closed-source and for-profit. System notification tool Growl on OS X is one example. Sure, a project's community can fork the project, but entropy tends to have her way. I don't think you should get into open source and then suddenly feel bitter about the time you put into it and want to make money off of it. That's like volunteering your time at a homeless shelter and then going back later and asking to be paid for the time you spent there. It's just a dick move. If you want to do something for-profit, make that upfront to the community.

Re:The bait and switch (3, Informative)

motokochan (1118229) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333397)

Growl is still open source, you can find it over at https://code.google.com/p/growl/ [google.com] and build the source code using the instructions at http://growl.info/documentation/developer/growl-source-install.php [growl.info] . The source tracks the official releases from the developers and is still BSD licensed.

If you don't want to build from source, they do offer a pre-built binary for free, or maybe you can convince a developer friend to build it for you.

Either way, there is no bait-and-switch. The source has always been free. They just decided recently to start charging for the process of building and verifying binaries.

Re:The bait and switch (1)

petsounds (593538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333727)

Thanks for the clarification. It's been a while since the announcement and I had some details confused. As I can't update to 1.3 since they locked out Snow Leopard support for everything but the framework, I had confused the two issues. Regardless of the inaccuracies of my example, I still stand behind my basic argument.

Re:The bait and switch (1)

motokochan (1118229) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334275)

Yeah, there was a lot of confusion when the change happened. I think the support issues with Snow Leopard were due to the whole sandboxing thing Apple announced with the App Store, but I'm not entirely sure on that since I don't touch OS X all that often.

I do agree with the basic argument and think it entirely disingenous when a company or group pulls that kind of thing. A good example, although old, is the case of Sveasoft and the GPL [lwn.net] . That whole situation wound up getting pretty bad as the owner started attempting to wring money from the software by putting kill switches in the firmware and blocking customers who released the GPL source code. Even worse in that case was that the owner didn't actually own all the copyrights for the software they were controlling.

Re:The bait and switch (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333431)

Isn't it 'better' that it was once open source than never at all, even if they don't announce it prior?

Community (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#39334445)

That's like volunteering your time at a homeless shelter and then going back later and asking to be paid for the time you spent there.

To make your simile correct, it would be "it's like volunteering for a homeless shelter and then announcing that from now on you will only work as a paid employee." You may or may not get that job.

But the bigger problem here is community - open source projects are more than just code. I volunteer my time for projects that I expect to be around for a while. What you're describing is more like the facility owners of the homeless shelter telling the volunteers that they're now going to be a motel, and thank them for all their help making it a great facility, but buh-bye. "Oh, but if y'all want to open a homeless shelter next door, have at it."

Brian Proffitt again? (-1, Flamebait)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333161)

Why Slashdot editors continue posting links to writing of a known anti-Linux, anti-Open Source shill?

Cost can lend credibility (1)

Required Snark (1702878) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333243)

Sometimes charging for a good/service will cause the user to assign it a higher utility value. This happens all the time with luxury goods like jewelry and perfume. It can also apply to software. If something is open source, it can be difficult to get users to see that it is worthwhile. This happened in the early days of Linux. Given the success of the open source movement, this is not as much of a problem as it used to be.

I think that users are accepting of open source solutions in areas where there is a well defined niche. Think of Firefox and Microsoft IE. Users know what a browser is supposed to do and they know Firefox is "real", so they can choose it over IE and feel comfortable. Even though both are "free" (no overt cost), they are both seen as viable options.

In more specialized markets this is not always the case. If existing tools are expensive, users may assume that a "free" solution is bound to be less effective. Sometimes this is correct. There is not always a viable economic model for open source, because software developers need money like everyone else.

If software targets applications that are specialized and related to business/employment, customers may not be comfortable with a free solution. This is not a stupid position. They want to make sure that the vendor has an economic stake in the product. Buyers don't want to have to do software support on everything they use. It doesn't make economic sense.

The short version: one size does not fit all. A lot of software succeeds because it is free/open source. Some software requires money.

Profit (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333475)

Is it wrong to make a profit writing software? No. Why? Because there's nothing wrong with accepting money from people who want to pay you.

Is it wrong to believe you're entitled to profit for writing software? Yes. Why? Because software is like fire: no matter how much effort it takes to create it, only one person needs to put in that effort to create it and, after that, anyone can get it for no effort. If you want to ensure you get paid, take payment upfront; don't demand it afterward.

Its HOW the profit is made (1)

bug1 (96678) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333717)

People dont always object to others making money from the sweat and toil they donate to the cause. Its fine to make money from a project if your not underming its values and your pulling your own weight. But if your draining resources from the project, undermining its values, and contributing nothing, all for personal gain then expect to be hated.

Free software is driven by a desire to help people, Open Source is about helping corporations as well. So there are different attitudes from each camp to wether a specific method of making money from _Free_ software is reasonable.

Corporations and volunteers obviously have differnt cultures, if they want to play well together they need to try and respect each other even if they cant understand each other.

Unfortunately i cant think of any names of corporations that do respect Free software ideals, in sure there a dozens though !

Yet another straw-man argument (1)

Chris Dodd (1868704) | more than 2 years ago | (#39333733)

He's basically just trying to deflect criticism about whether things that he's done (or his company has done) are bad for the Open Source community. Anyone who is ciritical must obviously think that profits are immoral and so be an ignorable nut-job.

Beer and Speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39334519)

The primary contradiction embodied in open access to the internals of technical apparatus, in effect making the "means and tools of production" transparently observable, is that this indicates that the private appropriation of these is not underwritten in reality. In short: if you can see the source, you can copy the source.

The implications of this aren't necessarily anti-capitalist. It is possible to profit off land, and the secret of geography is merely observation. However, the continuous presence of the question, "What if I just copied this and ran it myself?" presents a challenge at the base to intellectual property.

Open source participants will be unable to shake this contradiction. I hope they all live well, long and in comfort; if some do this by profiting then good, if others do this by a wage then good. But underlying all this is the issue that profit in intellectual property is entirely socially constructed.

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