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Open Source, Closed Documentation?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the now-this-is-just-plain-odd dept.

The Almighty Buck 605

sunset asks: "Recently I was motivated to look at WebGUI which looks like a pretty cool open source project. However I was having trouble making it work with Red Hat 8.0 which includes Apache 2.0. This seems like a reasonable thing to want, as Red Hat 8 has been out since September and Apache 2 has been publicly released for close to a year. Checking the WebGUI community discussion forum, I found that someone else had already inquired about this. Following the rest of the thread, you learn that the product's vendor considers this information to be proprietary, and that you must pay $50 to join their Support Forum to get the information. It gets better. The associated Membership Agreement for the Support Forum includes the clause 'You shall not to share [sic] the information contained herein with any other party.' So if I join up, I am locked out of sharing valuable information with the open source community about how to install this open source product. In the end I found out what I needed to know without giving up my rights or my hard-earned bucks, but frankly this attitude from the vendor pisses me off. Am I alone in this? What do you think?"

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Well... (4, Insightful)

unterderbrucke (628741) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968783)

considering the only way for them to make money is to charge for support, this makes sense to me

Re:Well... (4, Insightful)

billDCat (448249) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968843)

I disagree here. It is their choice whether or not they charge for support, and I agree that they need to make money somehow. That said, to prevent the information on how to fix the issue from being further disseminated is against the open source spirit, and will just lead to increased user frustration and will reduce the number of people who will use the product as they give up in frustration.

Re:Well... (2, Insightful)

Desano (611071) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968855)

if they charge for support on individual systems, thats fine, but if your having problems installing, they should at LEAST send you a few basic things to check, because im sure they've checked it under redhat and have it working. I know i wont pay 50$ before i have the product installed unless i know it works, or that i can get a refund if it dosent.

There has to be another way (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968883)

As open source picks up steam, it is time to look at the Movement from a business standpoint. Namely, what kind of metrics exist to analyze a free software project and determine whether or not it is successful? Certianly not sales, because the software is free..

I've thought of a couple of possibilities but, like everything, they have pros and cons:

First, we could measure the number of downloads or, perhaps more accurately, the amount of bandwith spent on downloads. This would be kind of a negative performance metric, in that more mney spent (and therefore lost, since no money is being paid for the software) is actually a metric of success! That boggles the mind in that the more money a free software project loses, the more successful it is! I don't think that will take off as a widely accepted metric however, fo obvious reasons. I also don't think it works, since many people may download open source software, fail to get it to perform properly, and simply never use it again, so the metrics would suffer from variance.

So, my second idea is to create a small piece of open source code that could be embedded in all open source software, perhaps as a part of GPL requirements - sort of an EULA, if you will. This code could then connect to a master server owned by a corporation who's job it is to track all OSS usage and report monthly metrics. Perhaps it should be a government organization, since a company might not want to take such a thankless task.

What are your thoughts?

FRTFP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968906)

First Reply To First Post!

Yay!

Re:Well... (5, Insightful)

BigBlockMopar (191202) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968967)


considering the only way for them to make money is to charge for support, this makes sense to me

Even so, a lot of open-source stuff has *really* sucky documentation.

Case in point: cdrdao. Burning an audio CD over the holidays became a horrible and frustrating exercise. Fired up KonCD. Wouldn't do an audio CD because I didn't have cdrdao. Downloaded and installed cdrdao, then tried again: "Error: could not map /dev/scd0 to an SG device."

To this day, that error message remains a mystery, and the cdrdao website [sourceforge.net] provides a reference section somewhat less useful than trying to run KDE on a Pentium II. cdrecord finds the CD-RW drive and burns to it happily, there are no problems with the hardware configuration. Couldn't find any explanations of the possible causes of that problem on an otherwise happy system.

Installed arson. Well, arson didn't work at all, because it was passing "--device" to cdrdao, instead of the correct "--device 0,0,0".

Finally, late at night on the 24th and planning on slapping a couple of custom CDs of old family memories under the Christmas tree, I burned the CD manually using cdrdao and a toc file which I wrote myself. It's all well and good that I can do that, but most users would never be able to, nor should it be expected.

Moral of the story: The only thing which sucks more than the documentation is the graphical front-ends.

Hence my continued conjecture that Linux isn't ready for the desktop [glowingplate.com] .

WebGUI.nl provides open support for it. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968981)

At WebGUI.nl [webgui.nl] you can find support for how to install on RedHat 8.0 for free.

My opinion will cost you FIVE BUCKS (5, Funny)

corebreech (469871) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968785)

No discounts, not even to /.

FP! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968789)

FP!

w00t! w00t!

RTFC (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968793)

[You shall to ] read the freaking code.

moderators suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968994)

yeah you

Standard Protocol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968795)

Maintaining the status quo and looking like you shifted a paradigm; it's the crown jewel of business success.

Well...as mandated by slashdot precedence... (1)

Xiarcel (451958) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968798)

I have not yet read the article (I will, though..I promise ;-))

But..at face value...it appears as though this is bad practice. Perhaps they are trying to make money at this whole Open Source thing, but somehow, giving away the source but charging for the documentation rubs the wrong way...

Mayhaps you could publish a REVIEW of the documentation? On how useful it was? Taking the useful excerpts such as:

"follow this instruction next" and saying.. "I found it really useful that they told me XYZ here"...

After all, most manuals contain 80% worthless and 20% useful shit anyway.

~Dave

Re:Well...as mandated by slashdot precedence... (1)

Xiarcel (451958) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968859)

Ok...

The Linux Installation notes appear to be freely available... (as in beer)...

While $400 seems a little steep (for a user manual, and for installation on a non-Linux OS), I guess it's not bad compared to BUYING proprietary software and then paying their maintenance fees...

~Dave

Re:Well...as mandated by slashdot precedence... (1)

unixfd0 (587586) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968891)

Mayhaps you could publish a REVIEW of the documentation?


Or maybe start the "Open WebGUI Documentation Project"?

Use and Abuse (1)

Beatbyte (163694) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968800)

So basically its open source so others can fix and contribute but you have to pay to get the documentation to use it?

hahaha

nice try..

Spoiled much? (3, Interesting)

Smallest (26153) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968801)

I thought this was how open source companies were supposed to make their money? You get the software for free, but you have to pay for support.

-c

Re:Spoiled much? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968858)

Well, yeah, but the good companies charge for support as in, "Here, let me help you with that personally", not as in "Here is a manual. Teach yourself."

Re:Spoiled much? (1)

Lussarn (105276) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968893)


I thought this was how open source companies were supposed to make their money?


And that would be ok. Now, I didn't read this but having to give up rights to spread information you know just to access there documentation is just wierd. Sounds like a new move and needs a discussion. I for one wouldn't sign a ny contract like that. At least not for getting docs for a GUI for my computer.

Re:Spoiled much? (2)

Jondor (55589) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968932)

Sure, but support is something more than basic documentation and installation instructions. After the documentation there's often enough left: examples, tutorials, intergration with other products, implementation services, helpdesk, to get things running on exotic hardware etc.

Of course this doesn't go for every piece of software, but still..

Re:Spoiled much? (2, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968990)

Paying for support is fine. Paying for a manual is fine (even in electronic form). But, having to sign away your rights to share your knowledge with other users is an entirely different matter.

Darn Corporations (5, Funny)

c0wh (445032) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968802)

I think it's completely asinine that a company thinks it can charge a fee for a product or service they provide.

Greedy bastards!

Re:Darn Corporations (4, Funny)

unicron (20286) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968904)

This is kind of different. He's not asking the company to come to his house and configure the shit for him, he merely wants to get it to work with some rather common other programs(& os's). This is equivalent to buying a car, asking the dealer "Yo, biotch, how do I get the trunk open?" and he replies "Gimme 10 bucks and I'll tell you."

NO IT ISN'T!!! (2, Insightful)

sys$manager (25156) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968922)

This is the equivalent of someone GIVING him the car, FOR FREE, and him saying "how do I get the trunk open?"

Their response is "Figure it out yourself or give us $50 for the manual. We GAVE you the damn car for FREE!"

Re:NO IT ISN'T!!! (2)

unicron (20286) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968957)

Ok, it was a bad analogy, I'll admit. The truth of the matter is, this company is only doing open source to kiss the asses of the open-source community while operating a rather sad and underhanded support system meant to get the money they would've otherwised not received due the free-as-in-beer nature of their software.

Re:Darn Corporations (1)

Brandon T. (167891) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968926)

That's a false analogy, because he didn't pay for the software. The vendor should not be expected to provide any services at all for him.

Brandon

Re:Darn Corporations (1)

Eravau (12435) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968941)

I think it's more along the lines of someone giving you a car and you complaining that they didn't give you free driving lessons as well.

Re:Darn Corporations (5, Funny)

JordoCrouse (178999) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968960)

"Yo, biotch, how do I get the trunk open?"

Not calling him biotch would be a good start.

O'Reilly's Missing Manuals (2)

masonbrown (208074) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968803)

Sounds like the books O'Reilly publishes - the Missing Manual series. Software released with minimal "help" documentation, so someone comes along and actually makes a book about it.

Or try to learn Checkpoint FW-1 NG with documentation they provide. You have to go to a multi-thousand dollar week long training just to get a decent, helpful manual.

Re:O'Reilly's Missing Manuals (0)

evil_pb (622775) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968951)

Yes, but Checkpoint is hardly open source free code, now is it?

And as a long-time CP user, ANY documentation they provide sucks. Their service sucks. Their software is cool, but if you need help, go elsewhere. Hence the other sources of help that have sprung up (books, phoneboy, etc).

Nothing new (1)

pr0c (604875) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968807)

Many open source projects sell support, they just usually offer some form of it for free...

mySQL is kind of a good example as well as Mandrake Linux, or WineX, although those companies sell versions of their product too unlike it sounds like in this case;

Re:Nothing new (1)

pr0c (604875) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968828)

Allow me to correct myself source/limited source. Full open source should have community support atleast though..

Write a HOWTO (5, Insightful)

ninewands (105734) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968812)

Well, now that you've found out, write a HOWTO and contribute it to the LDP. This will undercut their revenue stream and teach them that trade secrets won't protect them in a world where they publish the source ... wait ... I MAY have made an unwarranted assumption that there are people who will READ a HOWTO ...

Re:Write a HOWTO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968899)

No...you made an unwarranted assumption that the HOWTO will be written in a clear consise language and won't be out of date in 6 months with no one working on it.

document it yourself (1)

miltimj (605927) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968815)

Maybe a few people could check out the source code, make documentation themselves (without signing the membership agreement), and distribute it themselves. Beyond just this project, it would discourage the ridiculous OS/CD model.

And they want to charge you FIFTY BUCKS... (0)

nrvous6 (590059) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968818)

"You are not to share the information..."
...with grammar like that?

hmm (1)

fandelem (559908) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968819)

my view is: commercial usage should pay the support (or any other) fee. personal usage should be exempt throughout the open source community.

but that's just my .02 cents.

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968952)

Shouldn't that be "my 2 cents"? 0.02 cents is a LOT LESS than 2 cents :) Oh well, I'm just being picky.

Cheapskate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968821)

How else can a company survive besides making money?!

Re:Cheapskate (1)

Kojote (636710) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968910)

Well, they could start by making the product good enough that people would want to pay money for it in the first place...

Of course you should be pissed off! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968824)

Those naughty developers trying to *CHARGE* for their work!

Almost as bad as those free ISP's that charge for support lines! (SHOCKING!)

Boycott them all! Make sure they never develop again! HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Good going.... (4, Informative)

reaper20 (23396) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968825)

Inline WYSIWYG content editors. Built in editor (IE Only), and integrated support for Real Objects Edit-On Pro.

Wow, IE-specific features. Good to see that stupidity crosses all license barriers.

Of course not (2)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968989)

What,s so stupid about that? It's not as if non-IE users are locked out, since they can probably use an external editor quite easily.

If IE provides a native feature that will enhance the product for those users without hurting other users, it'd be stupider not to enable it. Would you say it's stupid for someone to design a website that works either way, but only gives advanced layout features to browsers that support SVG? If there's any stupidity, it only starts when you lock people out.

Silly goose (3, Interesting)

unterderbrucke (628741) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968826)

"and you must pay $50 to join their Support Forum to get the information. It gets better. The associated Membership Agreement for the Support Forum includes the clause 'You shall not to share [sic] the information contained herein with any other party.' So if I join up, am I locked out of sharing valuable information with the open source community about how to install this open source product? "

No, you're just limited from spreading information around for free that they own.
If you wrote a book, would you want people copying it and giving it away for free outside Barnes + Noble?

Re:Silly goose (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968913)

If I wrote a book that was so good people wanted to take the time to copy it and give it away outside of stores, I'd be flattered.

If they did that with my second book, I'd sue. :)

Re:Silly goose (5, Insightful)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968961)

Apples and oranges, kiddo. The book is covered by copyright; the techniques for using a software product are not. This is equivalent to including an NDA with a fiction book stating that you won't describe the plot to someone else.

Then don't use it (1)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968830)

If you don't want to pay for support and it's more trouble than it's worth to figure out with freely available information, then don't use the product.

They have the choice to charge for whatever services they want, and you have the choice to use them or not. That sound pretty fair to me, and a lot better than having to pay $50/user for a proprietary solution.

Jason

Figure it out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968837)

You have the source code right? You can hunt and peck through it until you figure out why it doesn't work. Then you can share that answer under your own liscense terms.

Open docs? (4, Interesting)

Soulfader (527299) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968839)

I'm not entirely familiar with the terms of the GPL, but would it be possible for someone else to read the source, document the system independently, and then provide that documentation for free?

Not a solution for the original poster, obviously, unless they have a lot more time than I do. Still, it could save the next guy's bacon, and discourage what seems to me a rather underhanded letter-not-the-spirit implementation.

I love doing documentation. Too bad I can't program my way out of a batch file.

Re:Open docs? (2)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968940)

I'm not entirely familiar with the terms of the GPL, but would it be possible for someone else to read the source, document the system independently, and then provide that documentation for free?

Sure. And at that point, you probably have a better manual than the one that the company produces. And you can share the information. If I were a user, I'd buy that manual instead of the company's crappy proprietary support membership.

If I were these guys, I'd remove the non-disclosure clause, pronto.

Where's the motivation for Open Source? (5, Insightful)

zaqattack911 (532040) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968845)

Every company needs some sort of motivation for creating Open Source software.

I'd hate to state the obvious, but if you want to make the opensource community attractive... there needs to be money involved somehow.

RedHat charges for support, some charge for documentation. Aside from the hobbiests out there, you expect large companies to throw away time and money into opensource, and getting NOTHING in return by making everything 100% free?

Did you really expect a free lunch? You know the saying I hope :)

--Zuchini

Re:Where's the motivation for Open Source? (2)

Jonny Ringo (444580) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968979)

Every company needs some sort of motivation for creating Open Source software.

What kind a crap is that? Why does every comany need some motivation for doing open source? It sounds to me like this company would have been better off being closed source. Shit, that's like giving away the car and selling the keys for 20 grand. The guy just wanted some documentation, sounds resonable to me. And worst of all he's not allowed to share this documentation? That's freakin nuts! Is the document copyrighted? To me this goes against the idea of what "Open Source" means. It means free information.

Expect to see more of this (4, Interesting)

atgrim (103715) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968847)

This is a way that companies are getting around the gpl, lgpl, et al... I am not surprised by this tactic at all. With the economy the way it is, IT spending is at a near all time low. Companies scrambling for survival are going to use any and every dirty trick in the book. A previous post at the right of it. Post a review with the 20% relevant info and dump the rest. Reverse it on them. They use the law to get around issues they don't like or that affect the bottom line (read Cable Companies), so why not us?

Re:Expect to see more of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968930)

Yes you'll see more of this because nothing's
free. Take a look at mysql they're now stating
that if you use it in a comercial product
you gotta pay for it and that's only fair.

Do you pay for food, gas and clothing so why
should software (a manufactured product)
be any different???

Not every OSS project has the luxury of IBM
pouring money into it...

Bad bad bad (4, Interesting)

LinuxInDallas (73952) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968849)

You know, charging for support is one thing. I can understand the need to generate revenue by having people pay for service.

This however is a whole other issue. What they have in their license agreement is "You shall not to share the information contained herein with any other party."

Sounds to me that if they help you resolve a technical issue in the forums then you can not share that resolution with any other person. Not on IRC, not with a person in the cube next to you, not in USENET...nowhere!

If Free Matters, Screw 'em (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968850)

If Free Software matters, tell 'em to go screw themselves. Start posting loudly and vocally on their boards, grab some code, put it on Sourceforge, and compete.

If it doesn't matter to you, shut up and pay the money.

Other than finding something else, those are your choices. It is their software, they can do with it what they please. They have chosen not to GPL their stuff. That is their choice. IMHO, it's probably a wrong choice, but it is their choice, nonetheless.

Re:If Free Matters, Screw 'em (1)

AGTiny (104967) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968942)

WebGUI is indeed GPL. From docs/legal.txt:

WebGUI is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it
under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or
(at your option) any later version.

It bites, but big deal. (4, Insightful)

Xzzy (111297) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968851)

These guys do have a reasonable expectation to be able to profit off their inventions. Many linux distros encourage you to pay for support, how is this any different from them requiring you to pay for the manual?

Since it is open source, one could argue that all the documentation you could possibly need is already available to you.. just read the source. ;)

Is it a little underhanded, yes. But there's nothing terribly unethical about it.

Depending on the license of the software (site is already too hosed for me to find it myself), there's nothing stopping you from forking your own branch of the source, documenting that, and continue on your merry way.

Re:It bites, but big deal. (2)

glwtta (532858) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968890)

how is this any different from them requiring you to pay for the manual?

Except that you are not prohibited from telling others what you read in the manual. At least the way I understand it.

Re:It bites, but big deal. (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968950)

"These guys do have a reasonable expectation to be able to profit off their inventions. "

Actually, they have a reasonable expectation to try to make a profit. Nobody gets paid just because they invented something.

I know its a nitpic, but that belief is why corporations believe they can sue you, if you come up with a different way to do the same thing, and people by your product instad of theirs.

From thier open source explained page.... (1)

Kojote (636710) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968860)

"The truth is that these are all very valid concerns. We don't want to get ourselves into a spiraling nightmare by using crappy software either. We created this section to help you make a more informed decision."
But I guess its ok to release an open source program with crappy documentation knowing people will pay you to tell them how to get it working right eh? Theres nothing I hate more than a lack of documentation with software.

Well (1)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968865)

They're already giving you the software for free. Must you bitch about them wanting to make a few bucks off the docs?

As I understand it, the business model for open source software relies on services and support. Isn't the documentation considered a value added service and support?

Since the justification for the poor support inherent to free/open software is "you have the code, figure it out", I can't see why you can't look at the code and, well, figure it out. YMMV of course, but isn't that the point? They're giving it to you for free.

And this may sound like a troll, but I've never been able to understand this sort of attitude. Gimme, gimme, gimme. And if the giving is not absolute and complete, we're pissed off. If anything, this is the one of the things that keep companies from opening up their products.

Re:Well (1)

ez76 (322080) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968962)

As I understand it, the business model for open source software relies on services and support.
Yes, much like communism but not quite as glamorous.

Would it be possible... (-1)

Trollificus (253741) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968871)

...to explore the package and write your own set of documentation, which you can distribute freely?
There shouldn't be any legal trouble. I've seen plenty of how-to's online.

Paying for support is fine, but docs? (1)

superfoo (632803) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968877)

I can understand paying for extra/quick/guaranteed support. However, paying for documentation on how to install or use something? That's a bit much. Maybe some sort of optimization guide for $$. But if you make people pay for docs just to install your program, I think you're doing a bit too much.

JBoss as well. (3, Informative)

digerata (516939) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968879)

JBoss [jboss.org] follows this same idea. The software is open source but the documentation must be paid for. I don't disagree with this because its a business model supporting open source that may work. To JBoss's credit, they do offer a basic manual for free.

Open Software, Closed Documentation (1)

Ridgelift (228977) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968884)

It seems like a compromise between commercial and open source software. Not ideal from an OSS perspective, but ideal from a commmercial standpoint. You buy documentation for one copy and load it on as many as you like.

Perhaps it may act as a depreciating cost. That is, the initial use will require an outlay of cash, but over time as a company/SA becomes familiar with it, even newer versions require less dependance on the documentation. Of course over time if the product becomes popular, support books will be release ("WebGUI in a Nutshell"?)

How often do we have to say this? (1)

Jennifer Ever (523473) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968885)

Quite simply, if you don't like the product, don't use it. If you don't find the support terms to be acceptable, find a different piece of software from a vendor with different policies. Etc etc etc.

And the rest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968889)


Most open source software has crappy docs, and you buy O'Reilly books to fix that. Half of gnome doesn't even have basic man pages. At least with these folks, you have the choice of buying better docs.

I wish more companies did this, so I could get worthwhile docs. Because demanding free docs doesn't seem to work.

Opps the ./ effect strikes again... (2)

bovinewasteproduct (514128) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968896)

Well I went to read the site and guess what? It don't work...

I wonder if pointing the ./ effect at site could be considered a terrorist attack?

(A :) for the humor impaired)

BWP

It is one thing... (1)

pulse2600 (625694) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968897)

...to charge for tech support, but to say that you can't pass the information along is another. And how would they enforce this? How would they find out that Joe Hacker called their tech support line about a problem, then told his friend about the solution? Does this also mean that a third party such as a private software consulting company can not offer or perform service on this product?

Re:It is one thing... (1)

Langley (1015) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968984)

They can't enfoce it. It is that simple.

Some people will honor their request, others won't.

They're betting on the fact that some people have pride in their honor.

From the tone of some of the posts in this thread, it appears they may be mistaken.

They don't get it. (5, Insightful)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968902)

It's plain to me that they don't get it.

Quoting Sarah from the list:

I also think it is a bit unfair for you to assert that we are violating the spirit of open source by selling said manual.

Of course, selling the manual is a completely different matter. What they're doing isn't selling the manual; they're selling the manual and then telling you that you can't share the information.

These guys are shooting themselves in the foot. The main strength of open-source software is that open source empowers the user community. By segmenting the user community into those who pay vs. those who don't, one hobbles a large segment of the user community. It doesn't help, either, that someone publicized their behavior on Slashdot.

I certainly hope they "get it," sharpish.

Re:They don't get it. (2, Interesting)

Kenja (541830) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968920)

If by "get it" you mean that they will come to learn how users of Open Source software refuse to pay for anything then yea, I bet the'll "get it".

Re:They don't get it. (2)

dubiousmike (558126) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968993)

But the main weakness of open-source software is lack of profit. Maybe someone forgot to write a business plan where they actually make money.

:P

Buy the solution and give it to the world!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968903)

What, are they going to arrest you for smoking?

HAAHAHAHA - Playing Devil's Advocate since 1737

It works for JBoss (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968907)

JBoss [jboss.org] has been using a similar model for quite some time now.

They do have public forums and mailing lists that provide user-user help with some assistance from the core developers.

But if you want to get the 'real' documentation right from the developers you've got to pay for it.

Which reminds me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968911)

Which reminds me of NNTP nowdays.. Darn, had some lowlevel problems with LVM/Reiser and I couldn't ask/share that with anyone without paying. My ISP doesn't have one and I didn't want to spend $/signup to post on a newsgroup.. Hmm wasn't that free before?

umm... k? (2)

Lxy (80823) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968912)

I thought the open source model was "give your software away, charge for support". Am I wrong? Why is this really a problem?

Here's what I really don't get. If it's OSS, why not start digging into the code and start finding answers for yourself? Start a forum, find some other hackers who want to help out, and tear apart the source to find answers/solutions. If it's truly OSS, there's nothing saying you can't start writing your own docs.

What? That's too much trouble? pay the $50 or use something else then.

Re:umm... k? (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968980)

nit pic

the open source model is about sharing code and information.

If someone wants to start a company to support OSS, then fine, but hat is not what OSS is about.

There agreement prohibits you from sharing information. what is worse then that is someone is going to do there own documentation, give it away, then when this company fails they will say the OSS is no good. in reality, it is there business model that is no good.

How is this new? (3, Insightful)

Omega (1602) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968917)

That's how lots of companies do business with OSS. They write the code, give the program away for free and charge for tech support. I'm failing to see the outrage here. If you don't want to support the company by purchasing the documentation you can always read the source code.

Perl works on a similar model. Larry Wall gets paid by O'Reilly & Assoc. to maintain perl. He adds new features, releases the code for free, and everyone's happy. The only stipulation is that O'Reilly gets first crack at the new documentation for their Perl books. I own several O'Reilly books and they're worth their weight in gold. I'm also happy to know that by purchasing these books, I'm supporting OSS coders.

I do not see the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968918)

Quite frankly I don't see why this should upset anybody. Lets get the facts straight:

- They create a product
- They let the source for the product be open
- They let you use the product for free, if you can figure it out

Now, you get the product for free. If you want it. They didn't need to do that for you. They did.

They do however refuse to give you free support, unless you cough up some money - which makes perfectly sense to me. If they don't want to give away the docs -- well -- they gave you the software, which is more than nothing.

Stop bitching, and say "Thanks for giving me the software". If you don't want to use it, then shut up and find something else -- or write it yourself.

sheez.

Lame (1)

corporatemutantninja (533295) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968921)

It's one thing to charge for support that requires expensive human intervention; it's another to intentional obscure basic product info to generate revenue.

Gong!

I don't see anything wrong with charging you (1)

sirshannon (616247) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968936)

however, asking you to keep your knowledge a secret is a bit rude. Newsgroups, Bulletin Boards, etc, are what keep many of us going. If not for people sharing their knowledge with me, I would still be trying to "learn HTML" probably.

can't bullame them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968939)

WHOaRE their eXamPulls, when IT comes to figuring out how to keep the lights on. just as fuddles doos IT, they overcharge fro something that should be free.

be like buying a car from some FraUD, to find out you wereN'T allowed to teach your neighbor how to drive it, or even sit in it/talk about it.

i DOWT there's much to be learned from this repetition of something we know has already gone whoreabully wrong.

patentdead recipe for disaster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968969)

ucann bet your .asp there'll be few/no FraUDuleNT billyunheirs in the gnu economy/millennium. IT already is/will be, self cleaning.

i DOWt there'll be much of a "market" for fuddle's style of greed/fear based payper liesense stock markup hostage ransom FUDgePeddling, for a while/ever again.

WHAT??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968998)

Look d00d, you've been posting bizarre shit like this WHOaRE their eXamPulls, when IT ... like buying a car from some FraUD, to find out you wereN'T all over /. for a while now. What exactly are you trying to say? I am very interested in your viewpoints, but am confused by your delivery. why some capas and not otheres? And what does that first sentence mean?

Ask Slashdot has become a bitch forum (5, Insightful)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968946)

Frankly, this article, as well as almost all of the Ask Slashdots in recent memory, are no longer questions. They've become "I had a bad experience with (my employer, a company, a developer, you name it) and I want to build a little bad PR to get back at them". Ask Slashdots have become just a place to bitch, not a place to ask questions.

This really is a shame, because the idea of Ask Slashdot is very valuable. Editors simply should not let articles that are not *questions* through. Articles that contain one long string of complaints about someone followed by a random "question" tacked on the end to make it fit the format do not count.

Blurry Line (1)

mugnyte (203225) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968948)


This is a blurry difference. Open Source is not halfway.

Why don't you pay the fee, put all the documentation in the code as a set of comments.

ANSWER: Because of the agreement?

SO, does this prevent you from patching/commenting/changing any code based on what you read in the Support Forum? Sounds like a thin line. What amount of change based on support forum information is considered legal?

I'd have better comments if the target wasn't /.'d

don't bother with it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968955)

Open source means you have the source, that's all. And the source code is the ultimate documentation. If you need it explained or clarified, then that's generally a service worth paying for.

The bit about "not to share information" is vague, because you can always share facts freely, just not by cutting and pasting someone's writings. The only way to enforce this is by a contract-style EULA, which should be avoided out of principle.

I basically earn a living implementing the stuff I find in O'Reilly books. If there was a "don't tell" EULA on those books, O'Reilly would long be out of business.

I suggest avoiding the issue by dropping the whole thing. Don't agree to the terms, ever. Find someone who will look at the code and find the answer for $50 and let you share the result. Same cost to you.

Basically it boils down to: "don't like it? then don't use it". One thing I don't like is the business of revealing secrets for money, even though it cost the business nothing to generate the secret. The less business these companies get, the better.

Standard in the open source world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968971)

Most open source projects are or at least used to be, so thoroughly obfuscated or hackish, that only the most devoute would figure out how to use it.

For everyone else they either give up or get a book. OReilay has made a vast fortune on user unfriendly software.

Linux the code may be free,but the hours it takes to learn it, are priceless.

(Oh and I started using it back in 94, before the books came out (well we had some great general UNIX books))

Isn't that what Open Source is all about? (2)

bmetzler (12546) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968975)

In fact, that's the biggest problem with Open Source. This concept that people are owed something.

"I downloaded this code and therefore you are obligated to donate your time to me."
Sorry. This is my billable time, and if I support your family, then I don't support mine. And that's a problem.

You can have the source as freely as I can, but you can't have my time. Sorry. Back to our example, why should they work through the issue with you for free so that you can "sell" it to others? If you want to provide support for WebGUI, then you should start from scratch, just like they did.

-Brent

Oh please (3, Funny)

Anixamander (448308) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968976)

I fully agree...if a company won't give me the product for free and then support it for free, then I'm not going to not give them any more of my money.

Seriously, if open source is going to thrive (not merely survive) then corporations will have to take it up and that will require making money off of it somehow. If the only way this company sees to make money off this product is by selling the documentation, then they need to make sure they don't just sell one copy. If you have a problem with this, then to me that is an indictment of the feasibility of the open source model...not an indictment of the company that just wants to make a profit (or at least break even).

The right way to make money in open source (1)

BrianUofR (143023) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968977)

the product should be free. all the tools to tinker with it and make it better, too. The source, the FAQ, the makefile, the documentation, the specs. You make money though:
  • Professional Services: we'll come and install/modify/customize for you, because we're the experts
  • Support: email, chat, phone.
  • Training: webcasts, onsite, etc


It takes a long time to beat the closed-source mindset out of people, but in the end, the value proposition from free software + paid addons works, and everybody (authors, users, community) wins.

But then again, i'm just a robot.

Free Software needs Free Documentation (3, Informative)

FattMattP (86246) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968978)

Stallman has been talking about this for some time [gnu.org] . Although he's talking about free software and not open source software, the idea is the same.

hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968983)

meanwhile, people in their millions will completely ignore stupid open source fly-by-night cowboys like these people trying to charge for help on their badly documented crap, download a warez of a windows app and buy a `for dummies` book for 9.99

It is better than what some others do... (1)

Mastedon (156598) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968986)

This is more honest than what I have seen some other open source software providors do--which is purposefully degrade performance of the version readily available.

I worked with one open source product extensively, and discovered that no matter what I did I could never get a box to support more than 1200 (or some arbitrary number near that) simultaneous users.

The creators of the software had a "fix" that was available for the price of a consulting engagement...but no, they were not selling software in violation of the GPL...they were selling consulting services.

I ended up not using that open source product.

I think the fact that we are all sitting around here complaining about this is evidence of fundamental flaws in the proposed business models bedind open source software.

count your blessings (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968988)

if it was M$ it would cost $100, it wouldn't work, and you wouldn't be able to fix it yourself

amazing... (1)

zentex (176409) | more than 11 years ago | (#4968995)

i'd say 90% of /. wants a free ride. That is lame.

Can you really expect a company to produce software for free? (remember kids, there IS NO such thing a free; ever)

this is one of THE biggest misconceptions with OSS.

how about Open Source / No or Lousy Documentation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4968996)

You pay one way or the other. End of story. Next?
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