Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Economist's Take On Open Source Development

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the big-brother's-hayday dept.

Software 416

An anonymous reader writes "Economist Dean Baker outlines alternative funding mechanisms for software development in a new report called "Opening Doors and Smashing Windows" [PDF Warning], available at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. One proposal is to create a US government-funded Software Development Corps of public software corporations, which compete and produce only free and open source software. Baker estimates that through the resulting lower prices in software and computers, the government would recoup its annual $2 billion appropriation to the program and US consumers would save $80-120 billion each year -- all while 20,000 software developers are supported to work specifically on open source projects."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Typical Slashdot Response (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960626)

"No, because then the government would order programmers to create an open source intelligent design simulator."

Hm. (0, Redundant)

dismiss (922421) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960631)

Sounds good to me. And if it sounds good, there's gotta be a catch. What's the catch?

Help me ban the Super 8 hotel (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960833)

Hi everyone. I'm out of town this weekend for work, and my hotel has free wireless internet access. While I'm sure that the patrons of this hotel don't visit slashdot as much as, e.g. the people at IMC [slashdot.org] , I'd still like to do my part to get this subnet banned.

So, here goes: fuck slashdot. Fuck them up their stupid asses. Slashdot is a disgrace to the geek community, and the curators of the holocaust museum should make an exception and fire up the gas chambers one last time for the editors.

Re:Hm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960849)

"So you're saying this 'Linus'... 'Lunix'... 'operating system' is better, more secure, and free. Okay, what's the catch?"

Other government initiatives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960899)

Subsidize Microsoft to keep them from over-producing software.
Use prison workers to code for 3 cents an hour.
Invade China and free their software development projects.
...

The possibilities are endless.

The catch... (1)

kandresen (712861) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960919)

If the consumers save 80-120 billion uSD every year, this would mean the govenment in the narrow view may loose sales taxes and profit taxes on all of those billions (asuming people would not spend the money on other things...)

Remember that much US software also sell abroad generating US tax benefits on profit brought home...

It is very unlikely that the US Government would do something like this even though it may help US in the long run... Free software sounds socialistic, and the current Government only believe in pure capitalism...

Re:Hm. (3, Insightful)

BerntB (584621) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960943)

What's the catch?
Off the top of my head:
  • In the 90s, we had (/have) a monopolist that takes over all businesses that earn money and most people complain.
  • Why didn't it work for Soviet?
  • It would hurt too many companies which can afford to buy laws

One reason it didn't work for the communists was bad communication. I had a boss that had done work in the early eighties there. He said that there was no reason for someone to share info; it was better for the boss of e.g. a university or company to build their own little mini-empires. With the net and rules for organizations, that might be avoided this time.

I think another problem would be the "NASA effect", when good people get old and couldn't move anywhere since there was no other place to go, then started to stay around for the paycheck. Or whatever it was that happened to NASA in the Shuttle era, forward.

The Ransom model is cool (2, Interesting)

Psionicist (561330) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960634)

The ransom model works pretty well in RPG communities and is already used for programs, but I don't remember where. What, you may ask, is the ransom model? Joel from Joel on software (who is a much better writer than me), says this about the subject:

Have you ever heard of the ransom model?

In short it works like this: you create some sort of downloadable product and set a date at which a specific amount of money (the ransom) has to be donated. If that amount will be collected before the deadline, the product will be released for free for everyone. If not, the money will be donated to a charity organisation and the product will never be released.


I wonder how this would work for software. It is, after all, a different beast entirely than Dungeons & Dragons books.

Re:The Ransom model is cool (3, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960700)

In contrast to my earlier post about this article, this one is going to flamebait.

Joel from Joel On Software is the software and internet equivelant of Star Jones. Isn't as interesting as he thinks he is. Isn't as revered as he thinks he should be. Isn't as authoritative and insightful and entertaining as he probably feels he is.

By the sheer number of craptastic "articles" (lame blog entries) he's had posted on Slashdot, I had been certain there was a little Joel on a Pole going on backdoors at Slashdot. It's only been trumped by the recent flooding of "the Escapist" craptastic articles.

Re:The Ransom model is cool (5, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960715)

Oh - by the way - it wouldn't work.

What genius is going to "donate" money for some software that hasn't been released yet? With the sheer amount of garbage software out there, the last thing I'm going to do is put up $10 for a piece of software that may never come (in which case my share of the money would get dumped into some frigging charity) or, when it does, is absolutely nothing like what I thought I was paying for.

Here's what I call the ransom model:

You make the software I want and if I like it, I'll buy it from you with cash. If you don't make the software I want or I don't like it, I won't buy it and will keep my cash. That's the true ransom model.

In the scenerio presented above, it's a lose/lose situation.

Re:The Ransom model is cool (5, Interesting)

hawkeyeMI (412577) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960812)

It works better for requested features/improvements on existing software. For example. I'd pay a lot of money for a Tiger upgrade to the ext2fs plugin for OS X. Unfortunately, no (reasonable) amount of money will convince the author to make time for the upgrade right now.

If, however, he did perhaps have time, he could say something like, "I'll add this feature once I get X dollars of donations toward it."

Then people can chip in, he does the work, releases it open-source, and everybody wins. There's some website now that will help facilitate this -- it holds the money in escrow, and returns it if the minimum is not raised. I can't remember the name of the site though.

Re:The Ransom model is cool (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960827)

The ransom model, in that respect, is fine. (That's the model I already described and is essentially how everything is already done in and out of open-source). But the idea of "If I don't finish the program or I dont' get enough money, whatever I did get goes to charity" is kind of... silly.

Re:The Ransom model is cool (1)

hawkeyeMI (412577) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960922)

It's a little different... you pay for the development of the software, not for access to the software itself. The software remains freely available. The thing about charity and whatnot -- I just don't get why that would work as an incentive (i.e. I agree with you).

Re:The Ransom model is cool (2, Funny)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960850)

What genius is going to "donate" money for some software that hasn't been released yet?

Anyone who pays programmers. Think about it.

Re:The Ransom model is cool (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960908)

VoucherWare? :P

RPG (2, Funny)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960796)

So what the hell is a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) community? Sounds distinctly middle eastern...

Re:RPG (2, Funny)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960871)

"I used to think D&D was cool, but then I found out this [howstuffworks.com] gets me much more respect than my original mint condition Dungeon Master's Guide ever did!"

Re:The Ransom model is cool - Not so (1)

xquark (649804) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960916)

This ransom model you speak of and credit to spolsky, is actually called
"THE STREET PERFORMER PROTOCOL" suggested by Bruce Scheiner. Stephan King
tried to implement it for one of his stories, but he failed to do it properly.

Arash

Accelerate that slashdottin'! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960639)

Way to link directly to a PDF there, ScuttleMonkey

Those poor bastards never knew what hit 'em.

Re:Accelerate that slashdottin'! (3, Funny)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960875)

Poor Bastards? The Economist?

Am I the onlny one who got the pun?

Since when is that the job of the gov't? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960640)

Since when is it the job of the government to promote open source?

Do we really want the government to actively go about picking winners and losers in entire areas of the worldwide economy?

More to the point... (1)

Urusai (865560) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960749)

...since when is the government concerned about the best interests of the people? The government is just the enforcement arm of the robber barons, make no mistake. These robber barons are only concerned about protecting their wealth. The government will take no action against them, any more than the government of Mexico will take action against the drug cartels--because the government exists to serve them. Ergo, there will be no actions beside the occasional populist sop to thwart the monied men.

More specifically, Microsoft won't like it if the government promotes open source. I fully expect the state-level open source stuff I've heard about recently to be quashed at a federal level as "anticompetitive" or some other stupidity.

Re:More to the point... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960880)

Not anticompetitive - it'll 'interfere with interstate commerce', one of the most overused and abused exuses for government regulation of which I am aware.

And for the parent commenter: the US gov't already tries to pick and choose winners in the global economy all the time. Look at the way we subsidise agribusiness, for instance. And this isn't exactly a recent development - look at our seizure of Hawai'i for Dole pineapple, for instance.

Re:Since when is that the job of the gov't? Yeah! (4, Insightful)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960767)

Since when is it the job of the government to promote open source?

Do we really want the government to actively go about picking winners and losers in entire areas of the worldwide economy?

While I agree that free and open source software is fine without the governments help (in fact, we don't need it or want it), since when is it the job of the government to enforce and impose restrictions on copying for the sake of large media companies??

This first paragraph ....

Copyrights and patents are forms of government intervention in the market that are relics of the medieval guild system. They are an outdated and inefficient means to support creative and innovative work in the 21s t century. These government-granted monopolies lead protected software to sell at prices that are far above the free-market price. In most cases, in the absence of copyright and patent protection, software would be available over the Internet at zero cost.

.. blew me away and is probably the most insightfull thing I've ever read in a government publication. What a hero, the author will probably get fired for such blatnet honesty.

Gov't Stands to Lose (1)

Ubaid (920694) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960843)

Is it just me or does it seem as though the government has a lot of revenue to lose from this proposition. If the government indeed backs open source software, what ever happens to the tax that big software companies don't pay anymore because of reduced profits? The government is a business like any other in a capitalist economy, it'll watch out for its interests, which sometimes happen to coincide with the interests of the people.

Re:Gov't Stands to Lose (1)

Skye16 (685048) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960933)

Well, when you have the consumers using free software, they're also keeping the money they would have spent on software. They can use this on other things - like, say, research and development, or maybe another office building, or employ a few more workers, etc, etc.

I'm not sure which one would net the government more in the way of taxes (I'm nowhere near being an economist), but it's not as if this money is just going to go away.

Re:Since when is that the job of the gov't? Yeah! (2, Insightful)

shmlco (594907) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960931)

"...probably the most insightfull thing I've ever read in a government publication."

When did the Center for Economic and Policy Research become a branch of the government?

Answer: It's not. It looks like a blue-sky, privately funded, 6-year old non-profit. In fact, from their site, "It is an independent nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, DC. CEPR functions as an economic "truth squad," conducting professional research and getting it out to the media, policy-makers, and advocates."

A "truth squad". Yeah, that sounds like a totally unbiased organization with no agenda whatsoever...

help me ban the Super 8 hotel (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960894)

Hi everyone. I'm out of town this weekend for work, and my hotel has free wireless internet access. While I'm sure that the patrons of this hotel don't visit slashdot as much as, e.g. the people at IMC [slashdot.org] , I'd still like to do my part to get this subnet banned.

So, here goes: fuck slashdot. Fuck them up their stupid asses. Slashdot is a disgrace to the geek community, and the curators of the holocaust museum should make an exception and fire up the gas chambers one last time for the editors.

Nice but... (3, Interesting)

Dark Coder (66759) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960645)

As much as I'd like fostering software competitions, it still doesn't address the following issues:

  1. Software QA, particularly SW Security QA
  2. License type (GPL IV?)
  3. Interference by intra-politics meddling
  4. Posting encryption SW
  5. Control, who maintains it


Re:Nice but... (3, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960682)

As much as I like fostering open source software competitions, I don't want my government funding or operating it. These are things that private individuals, contributors, users and corporations can setup. I don't mean to sound like I'm flamebaiting here, but the first thing that went through my head is "Hippy-haired RMS-style socialism".

And, if you live in a socialist country, that's great. But let's pick one.

Heck, while we're at it, why not put automotive companies out of business by having government-funded and operated initiatives to build and sell cheap or free cars in regional co-ops?

Re:Nice but... (1)

mosch (204) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960725)


Heck, while we're at it, why not put automotive companies out of business by having government-funded and operated initiatives to build and sell cheap or free cars in regional co-ops?


If the free market had failed for cars, I would be all for it. A better comparison would be to modern health care.

Every industry other than health care would benefit from a streamlined, socialized health-care system. Similarly, every company other than Microsoft would benefit from a high-quality open-source OS and office suite.

Re:Nice but... (2, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960774)

I'm still failing to understand how the free market has failed for software. Between home and the office, I have multiple flavors of linux, OSX, Solaris, HP-UX and Windows. I have the choice of paying for the standard $400 MS Office suite or downloading OpenOffice or StarOffice (or even others). I have a plethora of decent browsers, music players, art programs, entertainment, games and everything else under the sun between free, cheap, costly or expensive.

How exactly is the free market failing? If it weren't for the free market, what incentive would there be to operate at anything higher than 50mhz? Who would care about 128bit audio when 8bit audio is just fine? The incentive is in the mass market and that market is not going to be served with good products by guys getting paid with in coupons and vouchers from random users.

Yeah, Microsoft has a huge chunk of the market. Yeah, microsoft sucks. But Microsoft isn't the only game in town. As I mentioned above.

Tell me some things the government has taken over that have been exemplary? They really have that welfare thing nailed down. Efficient. No fraud. No waste. You bet. Oh, and that Amtrak. What with it being friendly, efficient, on time, clean and accessible in every destination you could possibly want. And that telephone thing always goes so well, too... And utility companies. And.. yeah everything they touch turns to gold. I definitely want my software funded by government beauracracy that can't even fix a pothole.

Re:Nice but... (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960802)

Yeah, absolutely! And that DARPANet thing? Total bureaucratic government waste. Never went anywhere. Stupid long-haired hippie socialists, with their dumb ideas about standardized protocols and decentralized networks. Fortunately, that failed like all wasteful government programs, and we now operate on computer networks such as Compuserve, Prodigy, and GEnie developed and run by the free-market genius of efficient private enterprise.

Re:Nice but... (1)

jhoger (519683) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960926)

If you didn't notice, we already have this system... they are called "research grants."

Would you say our system of funding the basic research that creates prescription drugs is socialist? The problem is it is rarely in the interest of a corporation to devote money to basic research. Sometimes the government needs to step in, or at least try to affect the direction of R&D.

Anyway, socialist/communist/etc is just a label. Engineers are more practical... we're in favor of whatever works in a particular situation. Sure, we could have a free market... get rid of patents, copyright, environmental regs, taxation, etc., etc. But most non-anarchists don't think that such a system would work.

-- Johh.

Re:Nice but... (1)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960939)

Heck, while we're at it, why not put automotive companies out of business by having government-funded and operated initiatives to build and sell cheap or free cars in regional co-ops?

Now there's a great apples to apples comparison. Let's try and consider some other analogies. What if the government went around spending money to build some sort of interstate highway system? That's just going to put all the private toll highways out of business and be a complete waste of money. What about government providing funding to develop an open standard for computer network communications? Again, an obvious waste of money.

Yes governments spend money badly sometimes. Yes, even when the general idea is right money still ends up in pork that doesn't really serve the original goals (witness that lovely new bridge in Alaska). That doesn't mean that all government expenditure is necessarily bad (unless you have a particular dogmatic ideological bent), and that certainly doesn't mean that government expenditure on common infrastructure items doesn't have significant worthwhile gains. It doesn't necessarily shut out the private sector, but it does ensure that the initial infrastructure is there which, in turn, can provide a significant productivity boost for the country in general. We can, of course, debate what amounts to common infrastructure which will provide sufficient gains to warrant the expenditure, but that was the kind of detail which the article was actually arguing with respect to some software.

Jedidiah.

Death to big business (0)

Azerious (927130) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960654)

This is the first thing I've seen that supports the little guy. Software developers triumph, middle class triumphs, the only ones who lose are those trying to sell thier software. If you truly create something innovative people will still purchase it, but the mundane things that everyone needs are just being recreated over and over again for profit. For example spyware blockers and firewalls. These should be free and open because of their great need, its nearly impossible to properly function on the internet without them.

Re:Death to big business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960663)

Some of us already have free and opensource firewalls built into our kernels with a nice userland command tool and spyware blockers aren't need thanks to proper design. But I guess I won't spoil the secret for you.

"supports the little guy" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960697)

Where's that written in the Consitution?

um, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960655)

He wants to take $80-120 billion a year out of the economy and create a new tax payer funded federal agency? This is a good idea?

Last time I checked software and computers weren't expensive at all, certainly not enough that it needs some hair brained solution like this. Talk about a solution in search of a problem... yeesh!

Re:um, what? (1)

raoul666 (870362) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960743)

Software and computers aren't expensive? What planet are you from? Highly specialized software can cost thousands of dollars - that you *need* to spend in order to do your job. And if you have a few thousand windows licenses, those can add up too.

And it's not taking money out of the economy. People will always spend their money on something else. The ten dollars you save on a toaster you spend at a movie. Same thing happens here. Instead of spending money on software, companies can hire more employees, or pay them better, or give the CEO's huge raises. (Hey, I never said it was perfect.)

Re:um, what? (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960925)

And the money goes to microsoft, which pays their employees, who then buy stuff and invest in stuff. Or it goes to Microsoft's coffers to buy more companies and found more ventures in more industries to employ more people who then buy stuff and invest in stuff.

Not a Microsoft fan. Just sayin'...

Re:um, what? (0, Troll)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960832)

How does it take any money out of the economy? That $80-120 billion would be spent on cars, or vacations, or houses, or dining out, or *something*. Or invested at least. The only way it would be taken out of the economy is if people said "I'm going to put the $300 I saved on this piece of software under my mattress for safekeeping."

And if it created 20,000 more jobs, then that would be 20,000 more people with the ability to spend more money...

(Note: I'm not saying I support or don't support this idea. Just that your argument is flawed.>

is he serious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960659)

sounds like nazi communism to me.

The other proposal in the report... (2, Informative)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960660)

...sounds more interesting to me. He proposes an "Artistic Freedom Voucher", whereby people would be provided with a voucher for, say, $100, which they could direct to a person engaged in creative work (like writing open source software). This sounds rather nifty, since it would allow folks to "pay" for the projects they find most useful personally.

Of course, another way for open source programmers to make money is to publish a book [pmdapplied.com] . Programming in Java? Give it a look! Think of it as sponsoring an artist :-)

Why do you need a coucher? (4, Insightful)

taxman_10m (41083) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960673)

Why wait for a personal voucher, just personally take $100 out of your wallet and give it to the project of your choosing.

"Voucher" is the new monorail.

Re:Why do you need a voucher? (2, Insightful)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960713)

True, true... I guess I felt it was the "less evil" of the two proposals. Big government-sponsored companies trying to "do open source"... sounds DoublePlusUnGood to me... lots of UML diagrams would be produced though, I dare say.

Re:Why do you need a coucher? (2, Informative)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960783)

Because, money is evil. Vouchers require administrative personel. Staffing. Oversight committees. Planning boards. Watch dogs. All of which comes out of a little administrative fee added on to vouchers. Let's see cash do that.

Plus, I still don't want my government endorsing open-source companies. I don't want them endorsing anything. Not companies. Not churches. Nothing. I want them to do the three or four necessary things they're obligated to do and stop trying to push utopia through government process. If you and I want successful open source, we can do it without a fucking government mandate.

Re:The other proposal in the report... (2, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960748)

If you're going to be a bum, be a bum. Stop being a bum and calling yourself an "artist". If you didn't want to starve, you could have been a lawyer or something else in school that required more than the ability to coordinate color or sculpt clay between pot-smoking breaks (I grew up near Lewis & Clarke university and Reed college, so I know of what I speak).

An "Artistic Freedom Voucher" sounds like it's clearly a politically correct version of the vouchers they tried to use in San Francisco where, instead of giving the homeless money, you gave them vouchers to get services when they redeem them.

Not to mention, as creative as you might be in programming, you are not an artist. Creativity in a thing does not make it art. Nobody wrote Clippy to evoke emotional inquisitiveness or OpenOffice to convey some inward yearning for self-exposition on display.

This just sounds too hippy-ish. And I don't even really dislike hippies. But come on . . . Rather than doing useful work that people would pay you for, you're supposed to contribute to some government social program Cuba-style in return for a little redeemable voucher that someone offered in the spirit of charity?

I, for one, never want any sort of a job where I'm paid in fucking "vouchers". You might as well be coding for foodstamps for fuck's sake.

(By "you", I mean the collective, subjective "you" - not the parent poster).

You know, there was a time... (-1, Flamebait)

skogs (628589) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960662)

Socialistic programming. We could all bunch up in our own little socialist cities, with public funds paying for heat, electricity, and our own segways!

Used to be a time we'd go to war against things such as this communistic/socialistic ideal....

Re:You know, there was a time... (2, Funny)

GenKreton (884088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960676)

Socialistic programming. We could all bunch up in our own little socialist cities, with public funds paying for heat, electricity, and our own segways!

Used to be a time we'd go to war against things such as this communistic/socialistic ideal....

I guess it is a good thing we don't war against great ideas such as these still then, huh?

Re:You know, there was a time... (1, Informative)

dmiller (581) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960819)

"War"? Oh, you probably mean "proxy war", where the US government sponsored assassins [wikipedia.org] , fascist states [wikipedia.org] and terrorists [wikipedia.org] . Though you might possibly be referring to a real war [wikipedia.org] where you had the shame of killing over a million humans in the name of "freedom".

Government paying for free software? send in the troops...

Yeah, well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960910)

"Used to be a time we'd go to war against things such as this communistic/socialistic ideal.."

Used to be we wouldn't accepting a lying bag of shit like Bush as president.

Time have changed.

My Thoughts Exactly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960946)

Before I'd propose that we communize OSS, why don't we do that to the farmers. There are untold numbers of gardners who would love to be paid for what they grow. Why don't we start paying them $40k/yr to farm. I'm sure we'd see amazing crop output and harldy anyone would starve w/ all the free food...

- nolan eakins

The Economy (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960664)

I don't really see the document listing the impact to the economy if you did this all at once. A lot more than 20,000 programmers are employed writing and supporting software they're trying to phase out.

I have always been a proponent of go with whatever is the best model. Yet it seems that governments all over the world are trying to prop up open source to try and put companies (mostly Microsoft) out of business. If the product is better and the model works - why does the government have to get involved at all?

Re:The Economy (1)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960855)

I don't really see the document listing the impact to the economy if you did this all at once. A lot more than 20,000 programmers are employed writing and supporting software they're trying to phase out.

If a million people were employed making mud pies, it might look like and economic hit when they all loose their jobs, but the reality is that all money being used for their salaries is now immediately being used more efficiently somewhere esle. And they are now on the fast track to having skills that the economy can use more effectively - which is good for them and for us. Sure it will hurt, but that's why we as individuals have a responsibility to identify and avoid bad paradigms (like copyright) to begin with. (In all fairness, I've tried warning lots of people that copyrights are trash, and anti free-market and got a big "Fuck you!" many times. Now they want me to baby them when that reality kicks their ass???)

I have always been a proponent of go with whatever is the best model. Yet it seems that governments all over the world are trying to prop up open source to try and put companies (mostly Microsoft) out of business. If the product is better and the model works - why does the government have to get involved at all?

They don't and they shouldn't.

So... (1)

RoadDogTy (921208) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960670)

According to the proposal cited in the /. paraphrase, the government would have to decide which software projects to fund. What reason do we have to believe that the government could better choose how to run software development than the private sector? (just look at Katrina relief for an example of how inefficiently the government uses funds)

I'd rather Microsoft (or some other entity in the private sector) oversees development of important software than the government.

Re:So... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960722)

in my country - Estonia, far away in eastern/northern Europe, we have a model for culture funding. Every year goverment gives a lot of money to a association called Culturecapital, Estonian Film Foundation, etc, and the people who decide who should get the money are the people who work in that business. so far ~10 years it has been really effective way and produced a lot of good stuff. maybe you could use the same system for free software.

luuletaja

No, I don't see MS opposing this at all (3, Funny)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960680)

See subject for sarcasm.

Re:No, I don't see MS opposing this at all (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960724)

Why would Mississippi oppose this?! Hell, for all I know, they don't even have technology there, yet.

Re:No, I don't see MS opposing this at all (1)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960733)

Pressure from the Mississippi Abacus Operator's Union, obviously!

ahahahahhahaha gay (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960691)

fags

um, what? (2, Insightful)

taxman_10m (41083) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960693)

He wants to take $80-120 billion a year out of the economy and create a new tax payer funded federal agency? This is a good idea?

Last time I checked software and computers weren't expensive at all, certainly not enough that it needs some hair brained solution like this. Talk about a solution in search of a problem... yeesh!

Re:um, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960782)

He wants to take $80-120 billion a year out of the economy

Did you even read the summary? He wanted to appropriate $2 billion dollars, which would lead to savings of $80-120 bn. That money isn't leaving the economy. It's would be spent on other things.

[..] and create a new tax payer funded federal agency? This is a good idea?

No, this is a straw-man. Nobody said they'd be creating a new federal agency. I'd think it most likely the development work would be done in the private sector.

Last time I checked software and computers weren't expensive at all

Another straw-man, nobody said anything about hardware. And yes, software is quite expensive, compared to its production costs. Ever compared Microsoft's profit margins with that of any mature industry?

Oh, and it's spelt 'hare-brained'. As in the animal.

Re:um, what? (1)

deanj (519759) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960800)

Take a careful look at the website. It's a liberal organization, so there isn't much surprise at they'd want to create yet another federal agency that could never be shut down.

The problem with starting something new up is that it already exists. There are a LOT of government agency programs that you can get money from to do software development if you're doing academic research. Some of those programs even require that you team with industry in some way (a start-up will do) to help do the tech transfer.

If they want to have existing agencies to do more software development stuff, great... we just don't need any new agencies to do it.

Re:um, what? (1)

Arandir (19206) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960954)

In a nutshell, he's saying Open Source cannot survive in a marketplace, therefore it must suckle at the government teat. Personally I'm offended.

...not so fast...! (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960696)

...let's wait for a view or even a publication to counter this view. I will admit I agree with a lot of what the author has mentioned. To what I am skeptical about, I have to say that I have no knowledge. I was a good read though.

Economist (misleading title) (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960809)

I was looking for a link to http://economist.com/ [economist.com] , especially with all the links to escapistmagazine.com [slashdot.org] That would have been your publication for you.

Bad math... (2, Interesting)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960701)

120B/yr saved / 20k new jobs = 6M.

Last I checked most software developers make less then 6M/yr, with overhead, more like 250k. So you're talking about replacing 480K jobs, with 20K jobs. Sounds great to me, they just have to work 24 times as hard. And we can outsource them so we only have to pay them 10k/yr too!

Our local McDonalds REALLY needs someone working there that speaks English, so those 460k unemployed software folks will have jobs waiting for them.

This will of course be moderated as -1 Flamebait: disturbing Slashdot reality distortion field subclause 37 - everything should always be free, and subclause 17 - people that don't get paid love taking my support calls.

Re:Bad math... (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960840)

As long as those unemployed software guys will work for sub-minimum wage. A few McDonalds' in Oregon have been outsourcing their drivethrough window to people at phone-farms in the midwest (North Dakota, I think). Minimum wage in Oregon is almost $7.50, but it's only around $5.10 in North Dakota. By outsourcing the guy that you talk to at the drive through speaker, they're saving $25/day per restaurant.

Re:Bad math... (1)

Alef (605149) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960841)

So you're talking about replacing 480K jobs, with 20K jobs. Sounds great to me, they just have to work 24 times as hard.

Only if what those 480k developers are doing is strictly disjunct. In reality, every wheel is reinvented hundreds of times, so that is hardly the case.

Re:Bad math... (3, Informative)

seebs (15766) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960879)

The amount saved per person has nothing to do with how much they are paid. Just because there's two numbers and one's bigger doesn't mean the right thing to do is divide the bigger one by the little one.

The theory is that $2 billion pays for 20,000 programmers. Calculating this out will show you an estimated cost of $100k/year/programmer, which is a reasonable figure for salaries plus overhead. The savings are not that those 20,000 programmers don't have to get paid elsewhere, but that their code will be more widely used than it would be if they were writing proprietary code, and as a result, the economic value to our society, in the form of lower software costs, would be something like $80 billion.

Which is frankly not a particularly unrealistic notion.

Re:Bad math... (1)

droleary (47999) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960888)

120B/yr saved / 20k new jobs = 6M.

The bad math is yours. You posted a tally of value, not cost. With a 2B/year allotment, the cost works out to an average of 100k/developer. If the value of their work is considered 60 times the cost, I say that's money well spent.

This will of course be moderated as -1 Flamebait: disturbing Slashdot reality distortion field subclause 37 - everything should always be free, and subclause 17 - people that don't get paid love taking my support calls.

Guess what I do in meta-moderation to anyone who mods up those who ask to be modded down.

I'm not so sure... (3, Interesting)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960703)

I doubt government funds could be appropriated in this fashion. Instead what will happen is this would be treated like any other government contract. Companites, rather then individuals would compete, and skill/quality would be low on the list of requirements.
 
I am a big open source advocate where I work, and I feel the Apache model has the most merit. Of course projects such as Apache only really succede when they are large enough to attact a large number of developers and companies to support it. As with any open source projects, the vast majority of ASF's [apache.org] projects fail, mainly do to lack of intrest. But they come out with the ocasional gem.

I Love the DMV! (1)

PiercedMedia (928851) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960704)

The government runs things so effeciently...such as the DMV. I can't wait for oversized beurocracies to get their hands on developing software. And they move so quickly and effieciently I'll bet software bugs would get corrected within seconds of discovery. ;) Not to mention the Big Brother oportunities inherent in the government developing software.

Re:I Love the DMV! (2, Insightful)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960720)

> The government runs things so effeciently...such as the DMV. I
> can't wait for oversized beurocracies to get their hands on
> developing software. And they move so quickly and effieciently
> I'll bet software bugs would get corrected within seconds of
> discovery. ;)

Yeah, because there's no such thing as bloated, inefficient private-sector software companies.

Re:I Love the DMV! (1)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960753)

Yeah, because there's no such thing as bloated, inefficient private-sector software companies.

Not for long there isn't*!

*(Does not apply to companies with a monopoly control on the market)

Re:I Love the DMV! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960857)

I think you may be missing the point. No one is saying that private-sector companies can't be inefficent, it's just that they tend to get replaced with companies that are preferred by customers. You can't replace what's controlled by the government so easily or naturally, expecially when they do things so that companies are not allowed to compete reasonably.

Re:I Love the DMV! (2, Funny)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960897)

If I was trying to make a serious point, this would be the absolute last place I would try to make it.

If you like I can smartass your argument too, i.e. which of the bloated, profiteering, hated oil companies is getting replaced by lean, mean companies that are preferred by customers?

Mass Slashdot Reaction (2, Funny)

greginnj (891863) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960727)

US consumers would save $80-120 billion each year -- all while 20,000 software developers are supported to work specifically on open source projects.
... and FEMA faces a new flooding disaster as 50,000 Slashdot readers simultaneously wet themselves in excitement.

But that would be socialism! (1)

SteevR (612047) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960736)


Really, thats what Joe Windowsuser is going to think.

Re:But that would be socialism! (1)

AsparagusChallenge (611475) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960778)

That's exactly what it it, says me, Bob Debianuser.

thanks for the pdf warning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960751)

"Economist Dean Baker outlines alternative funding mechanisms for software development in a new report called "Opening Doors and Smashing Windows" [PDF Warning]

Off-topic, but in future, will we have a bunch of Open Source warnings, especially for submissions from residents of Massachusetts?

US government-funded Software Development Corps (4, Insightful)

mochan_s (536939) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960754)

US government-funded Software Development Corps?

I thought they were called graduate schools?

Seriously, it's already there in the form of graduate schools. Just up the funding of graduate school science programs rather than create an artificial agency.

Re:US government-funded Software Development Corps (1)

Troy Baer (1395) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960831)

The problem with just increasing eg. NSF's budget for funding graduate research programs is that they've historically not been interested in funding "practical" stuff. In fact, a proposal to NSF that is mostly implementation of existing concepts rather than pie-in-the-sky research is going to get rejected out of hand most of the time.

The other thing is: Do we really want CS grad students producing software for people other than themselves? (The software engineering practices in most of the CS research projects I've seen have been abysmal.)

Hell no (4, Insightful)

photon317 (208409) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960755)


The last thing the free software community needs is the US government fucking it over with beauracracy and red tape and project proposals and grants, etc. The best thing the governments of the world can do to encourage and promote the free software movement is to officially adopt open standards (open protocols, open document formats, etc) for all official business. Don't screw over a good thing by trying to play parent to it. We get by fine on our own thanks.

help me ban the Super 8 hotel (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960760)

Hi everyone. I'm out of town this weekend for work, and my hotel has free wireless internet access. While I'm sure that the patrons of this hotel don't visit slashdot as much as, e.g. the people at IMC [slashdot.org] , I'd still like to do my part to get this subnet banned.

So, here goes: fuck slashdot. Fuck them up their stupid asses. Slashdot is a disgrace to the geek community, and the curators of the holocaust museum should make an exception and fire up the gas chambers one last time for the editors.

Govement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960765)

Sounds like more wastfull govement spending. I'm all for opensouce, But why make another govenment agaency That Does Nothing. Let A privite company do it or a person.

Bring it on to all the Speeling Nazis!!

Title (1)

42Penguins (861511) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960769)

"Economist's Take On Open Source Development"

You know you're not new to /. anymore when you assume that the ' is an editor's mistake and the story (which you DFR) is about economists taking on that evil communist open source community.

0 cost for software? (2, Informative)

mr_typo (207426) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960779)

Despite the subject dear to most of us, we shouldnt ignore the fact that he is essentially claiming that developed software is free. He is totaly ignoring the costs incured in developping the software, and only accounting for the costs incured in copying it.

In his t-shirt example he is claiming the price of $20, which without doubt is probably 99% manufacuting expenses and remaining 1% design expenses when spread over the first 100.000 copies. However, for software the ratio is the opposite, with 1% material costs (packaging, manual, cd, etc) and 99% design expenses, again spread over the first 100.000 copies or what not.

Re:0 cost for software? (2, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960914)

Actually, by the time you recouped your initial software development expenses you already spent more money on further development, bug fixes and new features, and compatibility with new devices and new OSes... so you have to claim the profits from the next 100,000 copies, and so it goes. I don't know many software products that are developed once and then frozen. They bitrot within months, and even if they still work (big if) they look ancient. If you sell a software product you just have to have people working on it every single day.

No government involvement unless... (2, Insightful)

3seas (184403) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960788)

it is done just like everyone else who contribute to open source.

If the governemnt contributes funds then it must be without strings.

What would make sence, is to simply focus in on development of the applications the government themselves would use and to make this open source on teh grounds that it is the tax payers who have paid for it. If they want to hire open source programmers to do so, then so be it. But to subsidize open source development in general is against the legal scope of the government and contridicts the competitive economic system we are supposed to have.

Open source doesn't need that kind of help from the government.

But in teh spirit and intent of open source, it is within the scope of the government to make use of and even contribute to open source as other do, by contributing code or sponsoring projects of potential use by the governemt themselves.

It is teh ability to create and modify for your use, that makes open source more what the usrs want than software dictated to the user (i.e. proprietary).
   

So in other words, Socialism (0, Flamebait)

ShatteredDream (636520) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960815)

Don't get me wrong, I like Linux, GCC, Python, Tomcat and am posting this from Firefox, but this is such total bullshit on the face of it that you'd have to be either holed up in the Ivory Tower or an open source zealot who just wants to stick it to The Man to think that this is a good idea. 20,000 developers? That's ALL?! Microsoft currently has probably almost that many working for them, so the only thing that I can conclude from this proposal is that it would be an unmitigated disaster for the developer labor market if implemented.

Why not just come out and admit a cold, hard fact: open source software has been an abysmal failure if making a lot of money and keeping a lot of people employed is the goal. This proposal is a blatant admission that open source has not and will not work as a mainstream business model for anything but infrastructure software because that's the only software where support and custom development consulting is a major source of revenue. Can anyone point to solid evidence of desktop apps like cd burners, office suites and things of that nature thriving through support models? I can't seem to find any, and OpenOffice is not a good example because the project would probably implode if Sun pulled out.

Why is it that almost every single major open source projects aimed at software development with great documentation and consistent naming conventions are based on closed source products. Yeah, Classpath and Mono have designs and documentation that rival Sun and Microsoft's products, but that's because they're functional clones of them!

One of the things that I have gotten truly sick of is the hobbyist argument used to defend open source projects in so many cases. Desktop Linux has been maturing along the same timeframe as MacOS X has been in development--I remember seeing the proclamations of its ascension RSN in 1997-1999--and yet it is still very far away in terms of quality and capability. If Windows is "good enough" and Desktop Linux cannot meet or exceed it... any guess what that says about it?

Re:So in other words, Socialism (1)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960892)

I hate to tell you this, but google and amazon, the stock market traders make heavy use of Linux. Hell even the movie industry does. Unlike this guy, I don't want a government handout, but in all fairness that's what copyrights are. They are certainly not a free market property right. copyrights: government regulation reguarding the supply and demand of information - hmmm sounds pretty socialist to me.

Danger Will Robinson (1)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960846)

... the government would recoup its annual $2 billion appropriation to the program and US consumers would save $80-120 billion each year

Whenever the government says it is going to save consumers money, hold onto your wallets!

Lots of economists are interested in open source (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13960862)

www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/WEBSUC.html

The url above is for "The Success of Open Source" by Weber. Another take on open source is by Clayton Christensen in his books on innovation. I highly recommend both.

The thing about open source is that it puts the lie to the notion that people only do things for monetary gain. It is a poisonous notion when it is used as the basis for economic policy. In that light, the notion of massive government subsidies for open source efforts, is ham handed. IMHO, economists and policy makers should make the effort to understand how open source actually works before they propose to spend billions of taxpayers' dollars. I suggest they start with The Bazaar and the Cathedral. It's available for free download.

There is a place for publicly funded research. There is a place for publicly funded open source work. The model for both is probably similar. The idea that private enterprise should fund all research and software development produces bad results. For instance, having drug companies do all medical research means that only profitable drugs are produced. A free cure for cancer won't happen in such a regime. Similarly, pouring money into private corporations to fund research is usually a massive waste of money.

I'm not against public funding; I just don't think that this proposal is sufficiently enlightened to work.

Free software and communism (1)

Slashdiddly (917720) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960915)

Consider this:

Physical product/economy -> natural scarcity -> use cost established by free market to fairly allocate resources (capitalism)

Information economy -> NO natural scarcity -> from each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her work (communism)

For those who think the latter doesn't work, consider how the scientific community worked for the last 300 years. Imagine that instead of being freely shared and published, work of every scientist was locked up by the employer/corporation.

Already happening (3, Funny)

msbsod (574856) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960929)

Since Linux came out almost 15 years ago I have seen so many students wasting their time on writing Linux software instead of finishing their thesis. Bad strategy.

Choose now: Closed Software or Socialist Govt (2, Informative)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960937)


While his argument about copyrights was genius, I didn't really like the way the conclusion seemed to force a choice between closed software and socialist government. IMHO, we are better off with neither.

Who are these two idiots? (1)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 8 years ago | (#13960948)

A really bad article by a public school graduate? It doesn't really warrant any comment. Government funded FOSS - I ask you. DARPA? Who said DARPA?
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?