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Young Programmer, Stop Advocating Free Software!

Hemos posted more than 10 years ago | from the *click*-flame-thrower-on dept.

Software 1452

Lansdowne writes "Clemens Vasters, in an open letter to a young developer he met at a software conference, asks him to consider the consequences of writing software for free. "Software is the immediate result and the manifestation of what your learned and what you know. How much is that worth? Nothing? Think again."" While I don't particularly agree with all of the points made here, this is the type of question that needs to be answered to continue to get people involved in Free/Open/Libre/GNU/whatever source/software/code.

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Site slashdot'ed befor it went live (5, Informative)

mpost4 (115369) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428882)

So here is the text of the letter.

----

Dear Aiden,

I think you remember the conversation we had recently at this software conference in Dublin. You came up to me and told me how the stuff I was talking about was mostly useless, because it is closed-source, people need to pay for it and that companies charging for software are evil anyways - especially Microsoft. Unfortunately I don't have your email, but I am sure this will reach you.

First, I would like to thank you for the interesting conversation that developed and to make sure that none of what was said just fades away, I'll tell you here once again what I am thinking about what you do, what you think and - most importantly about your future.

When I was 21 - like you now - I was also at university and was pursing a computer science master degree. Back then, I was very enthusiastic about programming and creating stuff that mattered. And thought that I was the best programmer the field has ever seen and everyone else was mostly worthless. And I did indeed write some programs that mattered and made a difference. The program I spent some 3 years writing in Turbo Pascal from when I was 18 was for my father's business. Because the business he's in requires a lot of bureaucracy, he and my mother spent about 2-3 daily hours on average doing all of this stuff by hand. When I was done with my program and he started using it, that time went from 3 hours to about 15 minutes a day. That was software that absolutely improved the quality of life for the entire family! And his friends and colleagues loved it, too. I didn't sell many licenses at that time (I think I had 3 customers), but each one was worth 1500 German Marks and that was a huge heap of money for me. I mean - I was living at my parent's house, getting a monthly allowance of 120 German Marks and worked as a cable grip for a couple of TV stations every once in a while - maybe 2-3 times a month. And if I ever had 400 Marks per month I could really consider myself massively rich at the time and for my age, because I had very minimal additional expenses. So 4500 Marks on top of that? Fantastic. Where did the money go? I can't really remember where it all went, but I guess "lot of partying" or "Girls, Drugs and Rock'n'Roll" would be a reasonably good explanation. Hey, I was 21 and that's what one is supposed to do at that age, right?

That was in 1990 - let's fast forward to 2004 and you. All software that you and your father could possibly be interested in has already been written. That's probably not true, but it's hard to think of something, right? Ok, the software may not run on your favorite operation system and may cost money, but what you can immediately think of is likely there. So where do you put all your energy? Into this absolutely amazing open-source project you co-coordinate. I mean, really, the stuff that you and your buddies are doing there is truly impressive. There are a couple of things I'd probably do differently in terms of design and architecture, but it works well and that's mostly what matters. And you do make an impact as well. I know that hundreds of people and dozens of companies use your stuff. That's great.

However, I start to wonder where your benefit is. You are - out of principle - not making any money out of this, because it is open-source and you and your buddies insist that it must be absolutely free. So you are putting all of that time and energy into this project for what? Fame? To found a career? Come on.

If someone installs your work from disc 3 of some Linux distro, they couldn't care less who you are. The whole fame thing you are telling me only works amongst geeks. The good looking, intelligent girl over there at the bar that you'd really like to talk to doesn't care much whether you are famous amongst a group of geeks and neither does she even remotely fathom why you'd be famous for that stuff in the first place. I mean - get real here.

So once you get your degree from school, what's the plan?

Right now, your university education is free like in many places in Europe and you have plenty of time to work on your degree without too much financial pressure. Over here in Germany things are a bit extreme in that it is not uncommon that folks spend 6, 8 or even 10 years (!) in school until they finally get their masters degree. So you may not have to think about this much now and you probably don't. But let's talk about it anyways.

When you leave school, your parents will - honestly - be keen to get you out of their house. They've spent 25 years of their life being parents and now that they are in their early 50s, they want to enjoy their life and I am sure that your dad is keen to play with grandchildren - but just every once in a while. So you'll have to take care of yourself.

How so? Well, you need to get a job that pays. And you'll probably want to have your own car, your own apartment and if you really want to have a family you will have to be able to support it. All of that only works with money. Where does it come from? If you believe that the result of your own work must be free for everyone - who's going to pay for it?

No - in the end you are going to settle for a job that pays for your house, your car and your wife and children. You'll be a developer and, eventually, architect or project manager who produces software for money. That's your core skill and that's what you invested 6 years and more of your life into. That money will either come from some internal budget of the company that you work for as a "corporate developer" or it will come from the clients that license the software that your company produces. In the end, there's got to be money in your pocket. I know that's not very romantic and has very little to do with the "free software is love" sort of thing, but it's inevitable. Romantic is what you can get out of that money and that's a decent life with a house, a car and a family.

Yes, I know the argument. Software is supposed to be free and the money is made out of supporting it. Look around you. Read some industry magazines. Who exactly is making money out of "free"? IBM does, HP does and the large consulting companies do. They rake in the big bucks. But do they make the money on open-source software? No, they make that money on outsourcing deals, running data centers and selling hardware. That's not the side of the IT business that is at all concerned about creating software that you want to be in. That is the side of the IT business that runs software.

Where money is made from creating software, software isn't free. Either the software is paid for directly or it is cross-subsidized from budgets elsewhere in a company that also sells hardware or consulting services.

The whole thing about "free software" is a lie. It's a dream created and made popular by people who have a keen interest in having cheap software so that they can drive down their own cost and profit more or by people who can easily demand it, because they make their money out of speaking at conferences or write books about how nice it is to have free software. At the bottom of the food chain are people like you, who are easily fooled by the "let's make the world a better place" rhetoric and who are so enthusiastic about technology that writing open-source - or any source for that matter - is the absolutely best imaginable way to spend their time. It doesn't matter whether you love what you are doing and consider this the hobby you want to spend 110% of your time on: It's exploitation by companies who are not at all interested in creating stuff. They want to use your stuff for free. That's why they trick you into doing it.

And I sure understand the whole altruistic aspect of this and the idea of helping people to have better lives through free software. There's a saying that goes: "If you are 20 and you aren't a communist you have no heart.", but it continues "if you are 30 and you still are a communist, you lack rationality".

In the end, Aiden, it's your choice. Do you want to have a car, a house and a family when you are 30? Do you love being a software engineer at the same time? If so, you literally need to get a life. Forget the dream about stuff being free and stop advocating it. It's idiocy. It's bigotry. If you want to put your skills to work and you need to support a family, your work and work results can't be free. Software is the immediate result and the manifestation of what your learned and what you know. How much is that worth? Nothing? Think again.

With best wishes for your future

Clemens
---

Re:Site slashdot'ed befor it went live (1, Offtopic)

dnoyeb (547705) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428937)

Good catch considering there are only 10 posts and I can not read the link already.

Ahh the wonders of DSL...

Re:Site slashdot'ed befor it went live (5, Funny)

MotherInferior (698543) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428946)

So once you get your degree from school, what's the plan?

To get outsourced.

Amen. (5, Insightful)

sosume (680416) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428964)

I couldn't agree more wholehearted. Indeed, when I was 20, I thought that all software had to be free. Now that I'm (past) 30, I sometimes wonder where all the paychecks get paid from.

Re:Amen. (5, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429028)

The problem is when people start using words like "all." Does all software need to be free? Of course not. Does all software need to be proprietary? Again, of course not. Stallman on one end and Gates on the other are both fanatics. (It's a pity that we live in a society that categorizes the former as a fanatic but gives the latter a free pass, but that's a whole 'nother argument.) In between are those of us who recognize that a mix of distribution models is both possible and desirable.

I work for a small company that makes money by selling proprietary software. I'm the DBA, and get my work done using primarily free tools (MySQL, PHP, Perl, Apache, Linux, BSD.) I also write open-source software on my own time. Everybody wins.

PS to letter (3, Insightful)

ScottGant (642590) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428971)

I need to clarify what my letter just said:

Don't help your fellow man, it's a screw everyone before they screw you world.

The only thing you need to measure yourself with is money. If you do something and don't make money from it, you're a failure.

Don't try to help your fellow programmer and accept no help from them, and beware their code! After all, they may be after your job...so best you be private and screw them before they screw you (see above)

If you learned to do something in school, you MUST make money from it, or you're a failure (again, see above)

With best wishes for your future (but not really)

Clemens

Re:PS to letter (5, Insightful)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429087)

Harsh. He doesn't say don't trust your fellow programmers, he says don't trust the companies making a lot of money using software they didn't have to pay to develop.

His letter is basically "What's your plan for moving out of your parents' place?"

Linus (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8428998)

Linus has a very nice car, and house 8)

Re:Site slashdot'ed befor it went live (1)

Xipe66 (587528) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429003)

Amen.

The smell (0, Funny)

Muda69 (718162) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429030)

Ahh, the smell of a karma whore in the morning makes me smile........

slashdotted, article text (-1, Redundant)

Reinout (4282) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428885)

Dear Aiden,

I think you remember the conversation we had recently at this software conference in Dublin. You came up to me and told me how the stuff I was talking about was mostly useless, because it is closed-source, people need to pay for it and that companies charging for software are evil anyways ? especially Microsoft. Unfortunately I don?t have your email, but I am sure this will reach you.

First, I would like to thank you for the interesting conversation that developed and to make sure that none of what was said just fades away, I?ll tell you here once again what I am thinking about what you do, what you think and ? most importantly about your future.

When I was 21 ? like you now ? I was also at university and was pursing a computer science master degree. Back then, I was very enthusiastic about programming and creating stuff that mattered. And thought that I was the best programmer the field has ever seen and everyone else was mostly worthless. And I did indeed write some programs that mattered and made a difference. The program I spent some 3 years writing in Turbo Pascal from when I was 18 was for my father?s business. Because the business he?s in requires a lot of bureaucracy, he and my mother spent about 2-3 daily hours on average doing all of this stuff by hand. When I was done with my program and he started using it, that time went from 3 hours to about 15 minutes a day. That was software that absolutely improved the quality of life for the entire family! And his friends and colleagues loved it, too. I didn?t sell many licenses at that time (I think I had 3 customers), but each one was worth 1500 German Marks and that was a huge heap of money for me. I mean ? I was living at my parent?s house, getting a monthly allowance of 120 German Marks and worked as a cable grip for a couple of TV stations every once in a while ? maybe 2-3 times a month. And if I ever had 400 Marks per month I could really consider myself massively rich at the time and for my age, because I had very minimal additional expenses. So 4500 Marks on top of that? Fantastic. Where did the money go? I can?t really remember where it all went, but I guess ?lot of partying? or ?Girls, Drugs and Rock?n?Roll? would be a reasonably good explanation. Hey, I was 21 and that?s what one is supposed to do at that age, right?

That was in 1990 ? let?s fast forward to 2004 and you. All software that you and your father could possibly be interested in has already been written. That?s probably not true, but it?s hard to think of something, right? Ok, the software may not run on your favorite operation system and may cost money, but what you can immediately think of is likely there. So where do you put all your energy? Into this absolutely amazing open-source project you co-coordinate. I mean, really, the stuff that you and your buddies are doing there is truly impressive. There are a couple of things I?d probably do differently in terms of design and architecture, but it works well and that?s mostly what matters. And you do make an impact as well. I know that hundreds of people and dozens of companies use your stuff. That?s great.

However, I start to wonder where your benefit is. You are ? out of principle ? not making any money out of this, because it is open-source and you and your buddies insist that it must be absolutely free. So you are putting all of that time and energy into this project for what? Fame? To found a career? Come on.

If someone installs your work from disc 3 of some Linux distro, they couldn?t care less who you are. The whole fame thing you are telling me only works amongst geeks. The good looking, intelligent girl over there at the bar that you?d really like to talk to doesn?t care much whether you are famous amongst a group of geeks and neither does she even remotely fathom why you?d be famous for that stuff in the first place. I mean ? get real here.

So once you get your degree from school, what?s the plan?

Right now, your university education is free like in many places in Europe and you have plenty of time to work on your degree without too much financial pressure. Over here in Germany things are a bit extreme in that it is not uncommon that folks spend 6, 8 or even 10 years (!) in school until they finally get their masters degree. So you may not have to think about this much now and you probably don?t. But let?s talk about it anyways.

When you leave school, your parents will ? honestly ? be keen to get you out of their house. They?ve spent 25 years of their life being parents and now that they are in their early 50s, they want to enjoy their life and I am sure that your dad is keen to play with grandchildren ? but just every once in a while. So you?ll have to take care of yourself.

How so? Well, you need to get a job that pays. And you?ll probably want to have your own car, your own apartment and if you really want to have a family you will have to be able to support it. All of that only works with money. Where does it come from? If you believe that the result of your own work must be free for everyone ? who?s going to pay for it?

No ? in the end you are going to settle for a job that pays for your house, your car and your wife and children. You?ll be a developer and, eventually, architect or project manager who produces software for money. That?s your core skill and that?s what you invested 6 years and more of your life into. That money will either come from some internal budget of the company that you work for as a ?corporate developer? or it will come from the clients that license the software that your company produces. In the end, there?s got to be money in your pocket. I know that?s not very romantic and has very little to do with the ?free software is love? sort of thing, but it?s inevitable. Romantic is what you can get out of that money and that?s a decent life with a house, a car and a family.

Yes, I know the argument. Software is supposed to be free and the money is made out of supporting it. Look around you. Read some industry magazines. Who exactly is making money out of ?free?? IBM does, HP does and the large consulting companies do. They rake in the big bucks. But do they make the money on open-source software? No, they make that money on outsourcing deals, running data centers and selling hardware. That?s not the side of the IT business that is at all concerned about creating software that you want to be in. That is the side of the IT business that runs software.

Where money is made from creating software, software isn?t free. Either the software is paid for directly or it is cross-subsidized from budgets elsewhere in a company that also sells hardware or consulting services.

The whole thing about ?free software? is a lie. It?s a dream created and made popular by people who have a keen interest in having cheap software so that they can drive down their own cost and profit more or by people who can easily demand it, because they make their money out of speaking at conferences or write books about how nice it is to have free software. At the bottom of the food chain are people like you, who are easily fooled by the ?let?s make the world a better place? rhetoric and who are so enthusiastic about technology that writing open-source ? or any source for that matter ? is the absolutely best imaginable way to spend their time. It doesn?t matter whether you love what you are doing and consider this the hobby you want to spend 110% of your time on: It?s exploitation by companies who are not at all interested in creating stuff. They want to use your stuff for free. That?s why they trick you into doing it.

And I sure understand the whole altruistic aspect of this and the idea of helping people to have better lives through free software. There?s a saying that goes: ?If you are 20 and you aren?t a communist you have no heart.?, but it continues ?if you are 30 and you still are a communist, you lack rationality?.

In the end, Aiden, it?s your choice. Do you want to have a car, a house and a family when you are 30? Do you love being a software engineer at the same time? If so, you literally need to get a life. Forget the dream about stuff being free and stop advocating it. It?s idiocy. It?s bigotry. If you want to put your skills to work and you need to support a family, your work and work results can?t be free. Software is the immediate result and the manifestation of what your learned and what you know. How much is that worth? Nothing? Think again.

With best wishes for your future

Clemens

Re:slashdotted, article text (3, Funny)

Dreadlord (671979) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428917)

cool, this will be useful in case the other comment gets /.ed :)

OT: Re:slashdotted, article text (1, Offtopic)

Reinout (4282) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429047)

Yeah, right, thanks :-) I kept the article window open when I noticed the site was pretty slow already. Copy-pasted the text once the story went live. Thought to do a bit of a service. Got modded down "redundant" within a few seconds.

I actually landed the second comment, which is *fast*. It's just that somebody else posted the same article text a few milliseconds earlier. I mean, what is the chance of the first two posts being actually useful.

Ah, being redundant with the second comment :-)

Reinout

worth? (4, Insightful)

fyonn (115426) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428887)

How much is that worth? Nothing?

why is worth always measured in money?

Re:worth? (3, Insightful)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428924)

"why is worth always measured in money?"

Do you have a better idea? I cannot think of one.

Re:worth? (4, Insightful)

fyonn (115426) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429036)

Do you have a better idea? I cannot think of one

I hope I'm not alone in thinking thats a very sad state of affairs. I'm not saying that coding for money is a bad thing. it's good to be able to afford to put food on the table, feed your family, hell, even buy toys. however why can we not also do things for the good of mankind?

I don't recall mother teresa making a big buck out of her ceaseless efforts (unless I've missed her unofficial biography). okay, so she was supported by others but her unselfish acts had a big impact on many people.

many great artworks and musical works were done for free.

jees, come on guys. does our every act have to be for money? there are other things in life.

dave

Re:worth? (1, Funny)

notbob (73229) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428934)

have you seen my bills?

That would answer that right quick... I have more bills then I do dollar bills at the second.

So everything is worth money.

Time is money... you owe me 0.35$ for writing this. Deposit here

Re:worth? (4, Insightful)

kevlar (13509) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428935)

Because MONEY is what puts food on the table and puts your kids through college. Money is what puts gas in your car and pays your mortgage.

Unless you plan on living with your parents your whole life, money is what keeps you alive.

You can say that knowledge is priceless, should be free or whatever you want. The fact of the matter is that your knowledge is what gets you the job that pays your salary that puts food in your mouth. Knowledge has a monetary value.

Re:worth? (5, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428980)

Amen.

People will get it as they get older.

Doing stuff for free is great, as long as it doesn't interfere with putting food in my belly and doesn't stop me from living my life the way I want to.

I think a lot of the people who are screaming free everything haven't yet had the pleasure of being on their own, or being responsible for their house, car, food, clothing, utils, wife, etc.

Of course, I'm sure someone here will correct me, I couldn't possibly know what I'm talking about.

Re:worth? (2, Insightful)

Trigun (685027) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429000)

No, your knowledge doesn't get the job done. Your application of knowledge does. Knowledge is worthless. It only lives and dies with you. Application and implementation of that knowledge has a value. Transferring that knowledge has a value. Hording that knowledge has a negative value, like a missed opportunity.

Re:worth? (3, Insightful)

kevlar (13509) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429071)

Hording that knowledge has a negative value, like a missed opportunity.

You have obviously not witnessed the asshole at the company who does not get laid off because he refuses to transfer his knowledge about XYZ product. Value is all relative. In this case, Asshole has a significantly positive value on his knowledge and his abillity to hord it.

Yes, I was assuming we'd consider knowledge and implimentation hand-in-hand, although they're not.

Re:worth? (1)

Mick Ohrberg (744441) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429045)

...unless you're a freegan [geocities.com] , in which case consumerism is the devil...but you still rely on it to survive... Wait a minute...

Re:worth? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8429046)

You can't eat money. You can't live in money. We've constructed our society so that we need money to buy those things. But that's not the only solution. OSS and true communism point to another way, better or worse. It's about time things change, and we shouldn't rule out any suggestions without proper consideration and test.

Re:worth? (2, Informative)

d'fim (132296) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429053)

Even if you do live with your parents, money is what keeps you alive.

Re:worth? (1)

Trigun (685027) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428940)

Look who does the measuring.

Re:worth? (5, Insightful)

dave-tx (684169) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428962)

why is worth always measured in money?

Mostly because it's money that puts food on the table and a roof over the head. And in the end, those are two very important things in life.

Re:worth? (2, Insightful)

Titusdot Groan (468949) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428967)

Because you can't feed a family of 4 using "worth" that is measured in other denominations.

Not a troll, I use open source software and have contributed back, just I have a family to feed as well. This is why I prefer the BSD license to the GPL ...

Because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8428973)

Have you ever tried to pay the bills with love?

Re:Because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8429055)

Do you mean "romantic love" or "prostitute love"?

Re:worth? (2, Insightful)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428984)

well, what would you measure it in, bananas? Clams? a scale of 1 to 100 where 100 is 32oz of gold? Money is simply a medium of exchange that allows more freedom than simple barter. Why do we measure distance in meters, mass in kilograms and time in seconds - just most people agree and understand those terms.

Re:worth? (1)

dnoyeb (547705) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428996)

Because its what the people in power have, and if you start valuing something other than what they possess, they will loose power (over you).

They do not want that.

Re:worth? (1)

gallen1234 (565989) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429057)

You're misinterpreting the word "worth". From the context the author didn't mean worth in the sense of self-worth but worth in an economic sense.

think of it as an abstraction (2, Insightful)

SocietyoftheFist (316444) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429072)

Money has no intrinsic value other than that of the paper and ink it's made of. It does represent work and goods though. Do you think a coder can barter a certain amount of programming time for a tank of gas? The market helps drive trade, people specialize in fields and they sell those goods to those that most need them for money. You can then use that money to get things you couldn't otherwise barter for. Money is just an abstraction.

Re:worth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8429083)

Because it's convenient and practical for communicating the value of anything. Money wasn't invented by a dark lord. It was invented by someone who though, "Hey, it really sucks to try assigning value to things using units like chickens, lumber, or hours of labor."

Icculus is making the loot (2, Insightful)

ike6116 (602143) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428888)

but then again, who want's to work as hard as icculus?

The value of software (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8428893)

What's software worth? It's worth a great deal. Worth so much that it seems a terrible shame to imprison it behind a dollar sign...

You can't have it both ways ... (2, Insightful)

NightSpots (682462) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428895)

If you want to get paid for doing what you love, and you love coding, then pushing open source as if your life depended on it is going to, sooner or later, cost you your job.

It's not great, but human nature is to take the cheapest alternative that works. Sure, some companies will choose more expensive options for support, or ease of use, but most people want something that works, and something that's cheap, and if an open source / free (cost) solution does what your expensive product does, count yourself out of a job.

Re:You can't have it both ways ... (0)

PhilippeT (697931) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428919)

The problem is that people dont look at Open Source as free they see it as too good to be true, ie why goverments like the one i work for have policies that state Open Source is not to be mentioned or used.

Re:You can't have it both ways ... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8428993)

Your post shows a clear misunderstanding of the software industry and what coders do. The vast majority of coders in the world aren't working on off the shelf software, which by and large Open Source/FOSS software replaces. Most work on bespoke applications for business. I have worked on perhaps 10 different software projects, only one of which had the aim of producing an off the shelf package (which failed to sell by the way), all the others were bespoke projects.

This is where most coders work, this is where most of the money is (unless you happen to write windows or office) and this is why Windows so dominates the desktop environment, because MS made it easy for people to create bespoke applications.

People will write free operating systems and database engines and paint programs, but if I want a bespoke package written to my spec to run my company then I have to pay for it, and that's where coders make their money.

Free Software (4, Insightful)

r2q2 (50527) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428905)

I think that releasing your software under a OSI compatible licence increases the worth of your work by making it able to be used by others. It doesn't mean that when you give away your software that it is worth nothing. It means that that you want your software improved upon by the commmunity not a select few.

there is more to Free Software (0)

Tirel (692085) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428906)

... than just free software. After all, there are a number of products which are in a way free but you have to pay for them
(winex, mozilla, openoffice,...). they not only present a viable business solution, but also show that open source can
be profitable and fits well into the america corporational paradigm.

Re:there is more to Free Software (1)

Dot.Com.CEO (624226) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428951)

You have to pay for Mozilla? Are you sure you are not a little bit confused?

Re:there is more to Free Software (1)

hatrisc (555862) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428991)

you _CAN_ pay for mozilla (on cd). but of course it's not required.

not worth nothing (5, Informative)

stonebeat.org (562495) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428907)

read this: Indirect Sale-Value Models [xml-dev.com] and Give Away the Recipe, Open a Restaurant [xml-dev.com] . Eirc Raymond tells you how to make money from OS/Free software.

Giving away recipes? (2, Insightful)

IlliniDK (556831) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428956)

Please name a couple of restaurants that were opened AFTER giving away recipes. You're living in a dream world.

Re:Giving away recipes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8429037)

In fact, I can name a restaurant that had to close down after the recipes were released.

No Soup For You! Next!

Re:Giving away recipes? (3, Insightful)

ScottGant (642590) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429056)

Please name a couple of restaurants that were opened AFTER giving away recipes. You're living in a dream world.

Ok, I'll rattle off a few: Elaines, Wolfgang Puck's Spago, Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, Commander's Palace...want more? Let me know.

But please, you MUST know that a recipe is only one part of a meal at a restaurant...it's also the way it's prepared, WHO prepares it and what could be substituted at what it goes with etc etc.

Re:Giving away recipes? (1)

IlliniDK (556831) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429075)

I believe Puck released his cookbooks long after getting famous.

Not quite... (3, Insightful)

tekiegreg (674773) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428908)

Nobody can beat the market economy, as the supply of programming skills go up, the price will inevitably go down until some is written for free. Unless you're big monopoly (De Beers comes to mind) you really can't totally influence supply and demand. My advice to any programmer would be to "code what you feel" and people will pay you for customizations and new designs later.

Something like an painter, generally you're painting for free until your talent is discovered, and then you rake in the big bucks...

Re:Not quite... (2, Interesting)

mustangsal66 (580843) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429058)

Many times we've used a piece of open source software at this company, and paid the creator to modify it. Any changes he makes for us, are allowed to back into the open source project.

Don't misunderstand the issue (4, Insightful)

Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428909)

There are MANY ways to earn a living with free software.

Once you write a successful application, you have book deals.

OSS is a sure and quick way to show your prowess and become moderately famous overnight.

And Most importantly, I haven't yet met a boss who could take free code and use it. No matter how free and open code is, there is still a job market for people who can use it, tailor it, and integrate it into a business.

The list goes on. But as you can see. Writing OSS isn't throwing your time away.

Re:Don't misunderstand the issue (0)

PhilippeT (697931) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428960)

Once you write a successful application, you have book deals.
Your funny look up LibTomCrypt, it's used by alot of big names and guess what no book deals for him.

Book deals - good luck getting rich (2, Interesting)

IlliniDK (556831) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428994)

It's a well-known fact that only a very select few make good money off book deals. The rest work 80 hours a week for half a year to beef up their professional resume. It's hard work.

Re:Don't misunderstand the issue (1, Insightful)

mr_majestyk (671595) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429027)

There are MANY ways to earn a living with free software.

But most don't actually have anything to do with programming, as you show in your own examples below

Once you write a successful application, you have book deals.

But I don't want to write a book. I want to be paid for writing code.

OSS is a sure and quick way to show your prowess and become moderately famous overnight.

Again, fame does not necessarily lead to money (just ask RSM)

And Most importantly, I haven't yet met a boss who could take free code and use it. No matter how free and open code is, there is still a job market for people who can use it, tailor it, and integrate it into a business.

Does that involve programming? Maybe the "tailor" part, but how do I get into that again?

The list goes on. But as you can see. Writing OSS isn't throwing your time away.

You are going to have to think of more credible examples to convince me :(

Its a support issue... (4, Insightful)

swordboy (472941) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428918)

Do the IBM business model:

Write the software for free and then earn a lifetime's wages in supporting it.

Problem solved.

Re:Its a support issue... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8429017)

HAH! Lets see you make a lifetime job out of supporting your crappy OSS project!

Re:Its a support issue... (1)

percepto (652270) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429040)

Write the software for free and then earn a lifetime's wages in supporting it.

But, doesn't this provide a bit of an incentive to write opaque and quirky code with poor documentation so that people need your help?? I mean, if you wrote a completely usable and straightforward app, then how are you going to make money?

Doesn't it seem counterproductive to have a system like this where you can be rewarded for shoddy work?

~percepto

Finally, someone said it. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8428925)

Personally, I just don't get "Free Software" myself. Sitting here, having to code for hours on end, while sometimes pleasurable is not something I want to do without receiving some sort of "payment" for my work.

How am I supposed to earn an income if all I do is sit around writing free software? Have these "OSS" programmers been taken hold by the theories of Marxism?

Oh please (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8428926)

Is it possible for me to mod an entire article down -1 troll?

Eeeep. (4, Funny)

Misch (158807) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428928)

The good looking, intelligent girl over there at the bar that you'd really like to talk to doesn't care much whether you are famous amongst a group of geeks and neither does she even remotely fathom why you'd be famous for that stuff in the first place.

<Asok [unitedmedia.com] >It only hurts because it's true.</Asok>

Re:Eeeep. (5, Insightful)

radja (58949) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429002)

and if that girl suddenly starts liking me because of my "big-load-o-cash"(tm), I probably wont like her anymore.

So in other words... (5, Insightful)

awol (98751) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428930)

A guy who has already built his reputation and established his "above wage earning" credentials in the industry wants all those that have yet to acquire that valuable resource to stop trying, or at least to start earning wages and preserve the satus quo that has served him so well so far.

Well unless the letter was a very elegant piece of irony (and I doubt it). He should STFU and help these young subversives bring down the pillars of the temple that has so elegantly enslaved us all. Ok that last bit is a little severe but it's pretty close.

Re: Yeh, like that will work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8429054)

Let's all stop working for money and see what happens.....

Question (5, Interesting)

mytec (686565) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428931)

I'm on the fence with this issue. I see the side about earning a paycheck. I understand the rewards that go along with altruism. I understand the need for standards and most importantly open standards. But, we all need to make a paycheck. Plain and simple. Say for a moment free software does continue to be successful, even enormously successful over the next few years, what does the future look like to those thinking of entering the field at that time?

So.. (0)

the_real_rs (727832) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428933)

Free software is bad? or is it just jealousy?

Jealous of Sun, IBM and JBoss Corporation? (0, Troll)

IlliniDK (556831) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429049)

Guess who's making real money off your work.

Free Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8428939)

I cant wait for the microsoft version of that

Microsoft Free 20XX

Its free but you have to pay for it.

Funny thing... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8428942)

Turns out you can work on more than one thing at once!

Most work in this world is brain-grinding, soul-sucking tedium. It isn't satisfying. We do it to get paid... and maybe we like the field itself. But the majority of any job is jumping through hoops.

So you go home, and what do you do for fun? Maybe you watch TV... or maybe you do the part of your field that was really why you got into it. The part you like... the part you rarely get to do at work.

Screwtape Letters (2, Funny)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428945)

This seems like some sort of outtake from a tech version of "The Screwtape Letters".

wow.. (4, Insightful)

freerecords (750663) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428957)

This guy has certainly lost the plot. I am 17 years old, and I have been working on open source software for a while now. I would never consider closed source software as a preferred alternative to open source simply because once I have a program "out there" as it were, the program is going to be so improved vastly by people who have vastly more knowledge than me. There is always someone in the world who can do something that you did, better, and that's what OSS is, doesn't that guy get it? I think "Aidan" was actually talking about OSS rather than free per se software anyway. Just my 2 pence Tim

Re:wow.. (2, Insightful)

hatrisc (555862) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429052)

of course _someone_ will be able to make it better? but does that _someone_ really care too? or would they rather invest their time somewhere else, possibly in something they need? of course if you start a project that is needed by _all_ you'll get lots of help and the project will be successful. it's just finding that problem.

Re:wow.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8429078)

I assume you got those 2 pence from your parents, since you
give your work away for nothing.

If free=valueless, how about the letter itself? (5, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428959)

...Consider the consequences of writing software for free. "Software is the immediate result and the manifestation of what your learned and what you know. How much is that worth? Nothing? Think again."

Applying this logic to the letter itself, offered for free (the horror!), an interesting conclusion is reached regarding its value.

I don't consider it to be given away for nothing. (5, Interesting)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428972)

My contribution is worth nothing compared to the vast resource open source gives me.

Even for prolific contributers who have give millions of lines of code this probably holds true. Even for Linus Open Source code has returned the rest of an operating system, status, and one hell of a CV - arguably more than he has contributed.

Even if my contribution of a few simple lines were enough to contribute to the downfall of the software market, then I consider the fact that I have to work in something other than programming (which I do) to be not a price but an indication that things are working well - the overall (knowlage) wealth of mankind is increasing so not so much heavy labour in software is required and energy can be focused elsewhere. That's what progress is all about.

Re:I don't consider it to be given away for nothin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8429073)

I believe your signature should be, "I use GNU/Linux ... " or maybe it should be, "I use GNU...".

How do you say? (3, Funny)

lovebyte (81275) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428983)

How do you say "self-rightous git" in German?

Re:How do you say? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8429062)

Selbstgerechter Wichser.

missing a factor (2, Informative)

2MuchC0ffeeMan (201987) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428986)

helping those who can help you.

Not only is the best way to learn is to teach, so when I give a piece of code out , not only do I learn what others want, what they like, but how they would of done it. I become more efficient and more effective. In the long run, I get a bigger paycheck by having better skills.

Bonus: trading code, having others improve on your code, for free.

Not programmers, but companies should release OSS (5, Insightful)

Erik Hensema (12898) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428988)

There are plenty of companies paying programmers good money to write free software. They want the software, and they believe that the quality of the software will increase by releasing the source. Or they believe they will sell more hardware when the software running on it is free. Or they sell support on the software they release.

Nobody asks a programmer to work for free. The author of the letter thinks that releasing code for free equals not getting paid for writing it. Think again.

It's increasingly a two-way thing... (4, Insightful)

rsidd (6328) | more than 10 years ago | (#8428992)

While the beginnings of the GNU project were altruistic (and BSD was government/university-funded), increasingly people find it useful to build on existing work in free software rather than re-implement everything from scratch. The GNU philosophy is that the more you can armtwist them into doing this with arcane licensing, the better. The BSD philosophy is that they'll return important changes to you anyway because it's easier to let you maintain it, while if they have valid reasons to keep it closed and commercial, why not? Both viewpoints seem to have worked fine so far and I don't see that changing.

Indeed.. Only corporations should exploit (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8428995)

Corporations regularly exploit the knowledge of employees and then cast them aside under at-will employment laws.

Imagine a guy with 10-20 years of experience as a technologist.. He ends up taking a $40K/year job as a sys admin to pay the bills in the down market..

Should he follow his normal work ethic and work 60-80 hours a week or put in a 'six figure salary' effort? Hell no!

If you can't get what you feel you are worth in the market, donate your time and skills where it will be appreciated and have a greater impact.

Not getting paid as a C++ programmer because you are a sys admin? Then don't answer development questions for your at-will employer.

Did you learn by looking at machinecode or sources (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8429006)

Opensource let's ppl learn and cooperate easier. Is cooperation & free knowledge spreading a bad thing?

Free as in beer? (1)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429010)

Is that free as in beer? Or as in speech? Or as in Willy? or as in Peltier? Or as in thinker? Or as in....

oh dearie me, grandpops on the lose (0, Troll)

nietsch (112711) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429012)

I tried to read the article (it's not slashdotted you karma whores!) but i quit after the first few paragrapghs. Some dipshit telling "when I was your age..." stories to someone he didn't care about to ask his email. This rambling is not fit for public consumption.
Some people really get off on telling other people how the world works. They might even think that everybody that listens is their deciple. Now goth hither and ... well whatever.

Re:oh dearie me, grandpops on the lose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8429086)

I agree -- and I'm the same age as the letter writer. He's full of crap. OSS is how I've made lots of $$$ -- large companies do pay people to work with free software. really.

Open source != free (4, Insightful)

stripmarkup (629598) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429013)

There seems to be a lot of confusion between the concept of open source and free software. The fact that the source is visible to anyone does not imply that it can be used freely.

Someone should put together a license (if it does not exist yet) that allows a corporation to use an open source software product only after paying a fee to the project owner (an individual, a group, a community, etc).

3 words: Work For Hire (4, Insightful)

wfberg (24378) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429018)

When you work as a programmer, you get paid by the hour, you don't get royalties. So you're better off if the software you're making and getting paid for by the hour is open source. If the company folds (as even closed source companies do) you're an expert on the stuff you wrote yourself, and you can hack it somewhere else. If your employer can't make an open source business model work, fair enough, but if you're looking for one, you might as well go with one that doesn't need that "limited time" monopoly advantage going for it to make a buck, relying instead on things like expertise, service, craftmanship, trustworthiness etc.

Passion and Warfare (4, Insightful)

littlepill (234712) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429020)

One thing is passion, another thing is the job you have.
You can always code at job, and if your passion is so strong to let you stay awake and code during the night, well, what's the matter in that case?
Most of the times, coding at work is not so exciting, challenging or stimulating...just because there's some company's logic to respect...
Nothing, in the coding world, is comparable to the immense satisfaction you get when some people email and thank you for the stuff you made publicly available.

Day job (5, Insightful)

ultrabot (200914) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429021)

What if a given person already has a job?

Most OSS developers are very talented (they wouldn't love what they are doing otherwise). They shouldn't have much problems landing a good job.

Or does the old fart indeed think that a guy should found a business on a project they create during their studying days? Does he think that the guy doesn't have what it takes to get a day job, so he should grasp the first straw he can get, i.e. his OSS project.

Getting bundled on a Linux distro is a bigger honor than most of us in OSS will ever get.

Essential Infrastructure vs. Services (4, Interesting)

nonmaskable (452595) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429022)

My answer is that the OSS movement is (mostly) commoditizing the "essential services" layer - much like the roads, sewers, and electrical grid that the broad economy needs to function. Only a *very* small percentage of IT industry jobs are building these things in propriatory products.

The vast number of IT jobs is in customization, adaptation, etc. of software to solve business specific problems.

In my case (R&D), the existance of OSS capabilities means that my corporate masters can spend vastly more on my labor to develop new solutions because they have saved (literally) millions of dollars on things like operating systems, compilers, databases, etc that I previously had to purchase.

Or maybe his writing skills are worth nothing? (2, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429025)

Surprise, I disagree.

A programmer's worth may not manifest itself in the price of the software. While I am vehemently against copyright (and copyleft), I am not against the right of people to make money with their skills. I feel a good programmer is worthless without others.

A good programmer needs to first be able to produce something that others want. If that programmer wants to be able to make money, they can do it in a few ways. Sell the software (which requires good marketers, good distributors, and good retailers). They can also offer the software for free and find a way to entice software installers/consultants to reimburse the program (maybe for updates, etc).

I can see how giving away software seems to value that software at $0, but that is never the case. Businesses always look at the total cost of ownership, even if they don't seem to outright. A business that pays zero for software may discover a year later that they had more outages, bugs, and employee frustrations, and the cost of ownership may have meant lost business.

On the other hand, the company may have bought $500 off the shelf software, and had no employee complaints. Even though they didn't directly assess the TCO, the software stays valuable because "if it ain't broke..."

If you're the world's great programmer, it won't matter unless you work with others. That's called the free market. Writing the most bug free version of "Hello, World" will get you zilch, because there is no market for it. It has no worth to anyone.

Writing a competitor to Windows might have worth, but only if your software can be marketed correctly, can be distributed efficiently, can be installed effortlessly, can be supported by a variety of consultants, and can run with little downtime for the end user.

If you keyhole the programming industry, you ignore the most important facets of the free market: individuals, groups, and corporations working together to provide what everyone wants. Some need software, some need money, some need uptime, some need someone to hold their hands to comprehend why they need to provide some of the above.

Don't pay attention to just one individual, you'll fall prey to those who want to control you and force you to make bad decisions.

Well, I suppose he has a point... (5, Insightful)

jmccarthy (228531) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429026)

But, to me, it's like chiding someone for working in the Peace Corps. Sure, you're not going to get rich or much recognition for it, but that doesn't mean it's not a worthwhile thing to do.

Hmmm... Slashdotted already. Here's the text: (2, Funny)

JonBovi (599577) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429035)

Dear Aiden,

Oh mein Gott, you're going to put my closed-source company out of business! PLEASE STOP!

Clemens

Hm.... (-1, Offtopic)

McNihil (612243) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429041)

I was once a very young programmer. 12 years old. I wouldn't want to charge anyone for that code.

free software? not really... (2, Insightful)

Ba3r (720309) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429043)

Open Source software is a great idea: it allows for mission critical stuff to be closely examined and transparent. However it makes no illusion that this software is freely created and distributed. People need to dedicate time, which no matter how you want to frame it, translates to money spent, even if they aren't directly being paid.

I'm a capitalist... (5, Insightful)

nsxdavid (254126) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429048)

I'm a capitalist, I believe in making money from what I do. No question about it. The programming I do does not go for free. In fact, over the years I've been rather well compensated, especially in the good times.

But when I was just getting started... when I was just a "young programmer" I wrote software and gave it away for free. This was long before the idea of GPL and such (AFAIK). My first big give-away success was FRPBBS, a piece of C64 BBS software that was unique in that it focused around running online roleplaying sessions. Those were the days!

That part of my life was absolutely essential to what I do today. I know employ a goodly number of people and contribute to our economy. And I owe a lot of that to the early experiences, encouragement and sheer fun of being able to put my code "out there".

Shall we do away with the Olympics because all endevors should yield an immediate profit? Small minds fail to graps the big picture yet again.

Google and Linus (3, Interesting)

cabazorro (601004) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429061)

Consequences?
Yesterday I read that the owners of Google are billionaires and made it into Forbes magazine.
Google runs Linux.
Linus Torvalds is not a billionaire but his
project is making people wealthy.
I don't think he cares.

Can't We Do Both? (1)

Cruxus (657818) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429076)

I can imagine developing closed-source software to make ends meet and then using some free time to work on interesting free software projects. There's no reason it has to be an either-or situation.

Of course, if you're like most people, by the time you come home from work, you don't want to spend more time doing what you did all day at work just for fun. However, I take it free software developers are not most people.

I can also see, if you have own your own software development business, the luxury of releasing your software as GPL-compatible free software after a certain amount of time. That way, you wouldn't be spending all your free time doing the same thing you do at work. More commercial software companies should do this, truthfully: Microsoft is not getting any value out of MS-DOS 6.22 anymore, so they have few good reasons not to release the MS-DOS source code under a GPL-like license.

Lots of analogy (4, Insightful)

realnowhereman (263389) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429082)

I'd like to make an analogy (despite it being the weakest form of argument) to the concepts of power and energy from phsyics (although the same is true for many physical processes). As I'm sure everyone here knows: Energy in itself is not a lot of use; it only becomes useful when something is done with it, in the case of energy that can only be the changing of the energy from one form to another. i.e the flow of energy is the important thing (power being used to measure that)...

Similarly with society: to a taxed economy, the total amount of cash available is less important than the amount of flow of cash - it is the flow that is taxed, and hence allows governments to do their (supposed) good works. Equally it is the flow of cash that causes anything to be done. (I build you a fence, you mend my car; if the cash exchanged is the same then nothing has changed other than we now have one fixed fence and one mended car)

I think the same is going to become true of software. I have maintained for a long time that if the only thing you have that makes you valuable is your source code, then you are doomed. It is the ability to create the source code that has value; otherwise when something new is needed, there is no way to make it.

If the idea of free software takes off, the software industry won't die, it will become like the legal profession (yuck ;-)): the owning of the books is not what gives a lawyer their value, it is their ability to use those books. The owning of source code will be unimportant, every company will find it useful to maintain an programmer's department in the same way that they find it useful to maintain an IT department.

Wow, is this off the mark (3, Insightful)

gers0667 (459800) | more than 10 years ago | (#8429085)

So, the guys at Redhat, Ximian, etc... don't make money? You can make money off of open source software, you just don't make it off of the code itself.

Even if you are a OSS developer, it does not mean you work for a company that writes OSS. This guy's letter is, well, to quote him: "It's idiocy". You can't assume that a company is just going to buy/get software for their needs. A lot of companies house their own developers write custom code for them.

Sorry, just ranting.
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