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There is No Open Source Community

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the you-can't-see-me-i'm-invisible dept.

The Almighty Buck 367

porkrind writes "There is no Open Source Community is an Onlamp article about the economics of open source and how most people get it wrong. Really, open source is much more about supply and demand than it is about an activist community or individual drivers (individuals or individual companies) affecting change on society." From the article: "Taking the position that individuals have pushed open source forward leads to the conclusion that a core group of ideological 'believers' is necessary for the continued success of open source software. Businesses unaware of the falsehood of this claim are too afraid of running afoul of the 'open source community' and sometimes make decisions that are not in their financial interests. Both open source-based and proprietary software vendors need to challenge these assumptions."

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The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464403)

Despite the nascent success of open source software, there has been increasing concern about potential pitfalls, such as patent infringement claims from large software companies including Microsoft. Many fear that Microsoft, often seen as an enemy of open source, is looking for the right opportunity to spring a patent infringement trap. Further fueling some of these fears is the copyright infringement by the Linux kernel claimed by SCO when it filed its lawsuit against IBM. While largely seen as unfounded, SCO's claims have led to some open source leaders calling for such things as more audits of open source code and legal indemnification from open source software vendors.
You can say that again.

Allow me to provide some anecdotal evidence of this fear. I work at Corporation X. I'm assigned to a project that requires me to program quite a bit of Java from scratch. So I download the latest version of Java and try to install it. No dice. I need a system administrator because only the JRE is on there, not the JDK. I e-mail my manager that it's going to be tough ...er... impossible to do my job without the JDK and he refers me to the Free Open Source Software (FOSS) division.

So this FOSS department gives me a business process to follow which contains 31 steps that I have to push paperwork through. I say screw it and attempt to befriend a system administrator. About as far as I got was asking him to put the JDK, Apache Ant and Eclipse on my computer ... which resulted in him running around the room, rotating his upper torso, flailing his arms and yelling, "Warning! Danger Will Robinson!" Two weeks of pushing paperwork and I get my JDK. However, no one's asked for the Eclipse IDE version I want so that takes no less than 34 days (a day per step isn't bad).

What were they doing in that time? Highly paid lawyers were sitting around a desk grilling my manager about what this software would be used for. Then they debated whether or not someone could come after Corporation X in the future if they learned that their editor was used to create a project.

My frustrations abound in the corporate world but after what SCO pulled, maybe this insane precaution is necessary?

I can't help but smile at the wad of dough next to this articles on the homepage as whoever made that the icon for this category had no idea how much it applies here.

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464452)

"What were they doing in that time? Highly paid lawyers were sitting around a desk grilling my manager about what this software would be used for. Then they debated whether or not someone could come after Corporation X in the future if they learned that their editor was used to create a project."
...that seems like a problem common to all software though, doesn't it? Even further, it seems like a problem endemic to large corporate structures in general (I suspect that, for instance, the Graphic artists wanting to modify XYZ artwork and photography for corporate use would also run into a similar brick wall as regards royalties, licensing, etc).
/P

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (2, Insightful)

Walkiry (698192) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464531)

But remember, if it weren't for these patents and their precious attached IP there would be no progress at all in the software field!

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (1)

undeadly (941339) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464606)

But remember, if it weren't for these patents and their precious attached IP there would be no progress at all in the software field!

You forgot to add the /sarcasm tag ;-)

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (3, Informative)

DDLKermit007 (911046) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464629)

Actually in the graphic design filed with editing such stuff most "photography" is bought as "stock" with the photographer not being able to say what we do with it, but still able to sell his original to others. Modifying a design done by an agency under contract can be a bit more sticky depending on how good your contracts are. As long as your agency isn't the seedy variety and puts in a clause about any changes must go through them (they want to milk you for more money) there are no issues generaly. Having Artists Guilds is invaluable when you need a readymade contract and your freelance.

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (1)

KingVance (815011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464992)

Everybody just does what they want with whatever they find. Anyone who tells you different is LYING.

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464652)

But in this case it wasn't even a matter of using a modified existing work, but using tools to create an original work!

Using the JDK is no different from using Microsoft Visual Studio, except for the fact that the former doesn't cost money. IMHO using either is a compromise or mistake (there are better programming languages and environments), but that's beside the point...

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464532)

We are doomed.

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464536)

Your story is lies and you're a sack of shit.

Oh, come on, he's not a Troll! (1, Offtopic)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464609)

Now, I know the initial reaction to this Anonymous Coward post is that he's a "Troll."

But I beg you not to mod him as this, I see him as a poor misunderstood individual.

His accusation was valid to make (though horrendously false). Let's examine some better delivery methods:

1) I disagree, sir.
2) Frau Farbissina: LIES! ALL LIES!
2) I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

And so you see, Anonymous Coward, you had a good underlying message, you just delivered it wrong. And you were so close to a +5 funny or +5 interesting mod!

*pats AC on the head* In time, young padawan.

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (2, Funny)

the chao goes mu (700713) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464656)

At long last, I found my new .sig!

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (1, Interesting)

mccalli (323026) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464563)

My frustrations abound in the corporate world but after what SCO pulled, maybe this insane precaution is necessary?

Well, the speed of the process is a matter for your corporation. But the precautions? Yes, absolutely necessary. Remember that by using hte software, you are agreeing to a license of some kind (GPL, Apache...whatever). If you are an officer of the company, you have just created a legal obligation for your corporation. One it might not have had any plans to take on.

So yes, clearance of the license is required and sensible. This is the case for any license - open-source, proprietory, anything. Just because you can get the software immediately downloaded and installed without shelling out cash doesn't make it any less of a risk.

Cheers,
Ian

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (4, Insightful)

Narcissus (310552) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464650)

It is true that the licence needs to be cleared, but surely that would be generally easier in the F/OSS world than the proprietary one.

In reality, the legal team should just go through the major F/OSS libraries then they would have no need to continually ask people about "what ifs". They could have a checklist of things that the software will be used for and you could probably tell in 15 minutes whether or not that licence is acceptable for that case.

In fact, that's one of the reasons I love F/OSS so much: with normal closed source software I have to read and re-read the licences to know exactly what I can and cannot do. With the free stuff, I just look at the name of the licence. I already know my rights and requirements for a fair few of these licences and I save time just knowing that I won't have to try and understand yet another licence in the closed source world.

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (5, Insightful)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464746)

You don't have to agree to a license in order to use most GPL software. You have to agree to a license in order to copy the source code and use it for your own programs.

That more and more open source programs make you agree to the GPL like it was some sort of EULA, baffles me. It isn't.

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (4, Insightful)

Narcissus (310552) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464848)

Agreed. However I was thinking not so much in the vein of Eclipse (although it was mentioned above) but moreso things like:
* we're writing a program and there's a free library here... what are our requirements in using that instead of writing our own?
* we're wanting to use a web app but want to change / add some features... what are our requirements with regards to our end users?
* we're writing an app that uses GPL code but only for internal use... do we have to provide source code to anyone?

There's just a few questions that even I've been asked from time to time. Having said all that, I think you almost made my point: you mention 'GPL' and knew that you didn't need a licence to use it. By just knowing the name of the licence, you understood your legal rights and requirements.

Now if I asked you: does the developer licence on Company X's component Y allow you to write a competing product, the only way you could be sure would be to read (or get Legal to read) the actual licence. If it was the LGPL, for example, you would know without even having to read the thing...

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (4, Insightful)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464668)

Remember that by using hte software, you are agreeing to a license of some kind (GPL, Apache...whatever).

No you don't. The GPL doesn't restrict use in any way, and you're entirely free not to agree to any of its terms. If you don't agree, you're not allowed to do any things that copyright law restricts (e.g., distributing it) but then you weren't allowed to do before you started using the software either. Merely using GPL software doesn't mean you have to agree to anything.

On the other hand, if you use any software that has a EULA, an actual use license, then you are perhaps agreeing to something when you start using it. But I've never seen any open source software with a EULA.

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (0, Troll)

mccalli (323026) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464839)

"The GPL doesn't restrict use in any way..."

Admittedly as applied to the original poster's situation that may be so, however as a general point in using the GPL with your development, eg. linking to libraries etc., it is still an obligation that must be cleared. You may not even know what the eventual plans for the code you're writing are - perhaps they're going to resell the system at a later date? In which case you've just created a situation which requires approval first.

"On the other hand, if you use any software that has a EULA, an actual use license, then you are perhaps agreeing to something when you start using it. But I've never seen any open source software with a EULA."

The specific producst mentioned were Sun's JDK (which we'll skip as it's not open-source), Eclipse and Apache. So looking at the final two.

From the Eclipse Public License page [eclipse.org] :
"THE ACCOMPANYING PROGRAM IS PROVIDED UNDER THE TERMS OF THIS ECLIPSE PUBLIC LICENSE ("AGREEMENT"). ANY USE, REPRODUCTION OR DISTRIBUTION OF THE PROGRAM CONSTITUTES RECIPIENT'S ACCEPTANCE OF THIS AGREEMENT. ".

From the Apache License page [apache.org] :
" TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR USE, REPRODUCTION, AND DISTRIBUTION"

(emphasis added by me).

So yes, the licenses discussed have terms for use. And the JDK certainly does.

Cheers,
Ian

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14465028)

The specific producst mentioned were Sun's JDK (which we'll skip as it's not open-source), Eclipse and Apache. So looking at the final two.

You know, you could've just said that Eclipse and Apache aren't GPL programs. The salient point here is that there are a handful of licenses, or which GPL is the most prevalent; legal could easily say that any app under the GPL is ok to use and just verify that it is under that license before approving it.

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (5, Insightful)

fossa (212602) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464694)

Remember that by using hte [sic] software, you are agreeing to a license of some kind (GPL, Apache...whatever).

Incorrect. For most proprietary software, yes, the license attempts to govern use and must be "agreed to" prior to using the software (whether this is legally valid of not I don't know but remain extremely skeptical). Most free and open source software does not include any license governing use (though it does include a disclaimer of warranty). The GPL merely stipulates conditions under which actions that would otherwise be copyright infringement may be performed. And I don't see how any court could decide that a text edited using a particular program is then a derivitave work of that program; please correct me if I am wrong.

I've noticed much free software ported to Windows requires, during installation, that one click "agree" to the GPL. This annoys me to no end because I need not agree to the GPL in order to use the software. Perhaps this common practice has confused you.

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464996)

This is certainly true regarding applications, such as the eclipse example given. But it's not true regarding libraries or development kits which may be part of the OP's issue.

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464727)

Remember that by using hte software, you are agreeing to a license of some kind (GPL, Apache...whatever). If you are an officer of the company, you have just created a legal obligation for your corporation.

This is not true. GPL-style licenses are licenses to copy & distribute, they are not licenses to use or install. In the USA, you do not need permission to copy software for the purpose of running it (that covers installation, copying into main memory, etc).

Where do I begin... (5, Insightful)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464585)

Either this story is totally fabricated, or the company you work for is staffed by complete morons and will likely go under shortly.

First of all, you don't need a system administrator to install any of those things. Apache, Java, Ant, Eclipse, Tomcat, can all run from your home directory, or anywhere else for that matter. Don't have access to port 80? Run it on some other port for development.

Second of all, Java is not open source in any way, shape, or form.

Third, WTF is your employer doing asking you to write a Java application, but forcing you to jump through hoops to get the software to do it?

Fourth, if this application you are writing is supposed to be deploye don Apache and Tomcat, then obviously the company has already given the go-ahead to use this open source software. So why the hassle?

It sounds like this is either a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, or a case of complete incompetance. Neither of which is good for a company.

Re:Where do I begin... (3, Insightful)

sheldon (2322) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464742)

Honestly.

The story sounded pretty much the norm for any corporate development job at a company whose primary business is not software. The IT idiots setup the environment for Joe Friday computer user, and then think that developers ought to be able to conform within this same environment.

First - My guess is he's running on Windows. The port 80 limitation isn't the problem. The problem is writing files to c:\windows without admin access.

Second - Aspects are, like JBoss and such. Whatever

Third - That's pretty much standard operation procedure for big corporations

Fourth - Apache and Tomcat are not Eclipse. The corporate lawyers wanted to be assured that Eclipse had not been made by child slaves in Madagascar.

It sounds like this is either a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, or a case of complete incompetance. Neither of which is good for a company.

Welcome to Corporate America. You obviously have never read Dilbert.

But don't get me wrong. The salaries more than make up for having to deal with incompetence. :-)

Re:Where do I begin... (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464868)

First - My guess is he's running on Windows. The port 80 limitation isn't the problem. The problem is writing files to c:\windows without admin access.

You don't need to install any files to any restricted directory to do Java development in any form. Period.

Second - Aspects are, like JBoss and such. Whatever

True. However the GP specifically said the whole debacle started when he needed the sysadmin to install the JDK, which is not Open Source.

Third - That's pretty much standard operation procedure for big corporations

Not where I work

Fourth - Apache and Tomcat are not Eclipse. The corporate lawyers wanted to be assured that Eclipse had not been made by child slaves in Madagascar.

Again, you miss the point. If he has been assigned to develop an application that is going to run on Apache/Tomcat, then someone already approved Apache/Tomcat to be used. So why does it need to go through a re-approval process?

Welcome to Corporate America. You obviously have never read Dilbert.

Not every company is staffed by idiots. We aren't even talking about PHBs here - this sounds like idiots tfrom the top through the whole chain down, including the GP poster. Supposedly a Java developer, yet not even knowing he does not need admin access to install the JDK/Tomcat/Eclipse. Obviously he does not know much about the Java platform.

MASTURBATION IS AN ABOMINATION BEFORE OUR LORD! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464649)

Wanking to homosexual penguin pornography angers God!

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (2, Insightful)

oztiks (921504) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464725)

You've explained IT experts (sys admins) upper hand in just a few sentences and why they think they are god half the time.

I dont really think that has much to do with open source. I've done dev contracts for a few companies which I have relied on services to be pre established for me, EG a soap interface for instance.

It took nearly 3 months to get the damn thing established for me before i could do what was required. So likewise weather its Java SDK, .NET, MySQL setup, ISAPI filters on IIS, or whatever. I'd be blaming your companies policy for addressing the technical needs of the employees in such ways or worse yet the fact you have to "befriend" a sys admin to establish a fairly standard software package on a server for you.

Seems like more of an internal political/process issue then software related.

And in all due respect the Java SDK comes as a rpm or a deb file in Linux most of the time and requires you to type in a command or click a button (you cant get much easier then that dood). So a 31 step manual is perhaps, some dork in your FOSS has gone to the Sun website and just downloaded some dumb ass doco and sent the thing to you while thinking "here ya go now piss off i have other things to do".

What you have done in your posting is prove something which i've been saying a long time, people blame open source because its hard to use sometimes but really we should be blaming the cheese churning IT industry for producing dimwits under a 6 month time frame by shipping them off to MCSE courses and paying them an upwards of 60K a year to sit of their fat lazy asses. While you can hire a decent industry experienced system admin with a few years Unix experience for 10 or 20k extra and can do the same thing 5 the other idiots can achieve in less time.

Remember a good trade mens NEVER blames the tools, and if he does then hes a fool, though if the tools are broken you have to consider that the tradesman usually picks the tools most of the time and therefore if he cant use them he shouldn't have them.

Further to that i dont want to hear this "oh it has to be easy otherwise no body will use it" because your dealing on a different level here. You don't hear doctors chucking a tantrum because the process of a heart transplant is difficult and only a few people can pull it off.. Thats why they are called professionals and it should be the same in IT, up to this point i cant see why it cant be in many occations for IT.

Re:The Corporate Nightmare & Employee Torture (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464908)

What were they doing in that time? Highly paid lawyers were sitting around a desk grilling my manager about what this software would be used for. Then they debated whether or not someone could come after Corporation X in the future if they learned that their editor was used to create a project.

Say what? Is IBM going to come after company X for using their product, which is under GPL, to develop some other project? That's insane.

Here's why they've written this article (4, Funny)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464426)

Rule #1 of Open Source Community:
Do not talk about Open Source Community

Rule #2 of Open Source Community:
DO NOT TALK ABOUT OPEN SOURCE COMMUNITY!!!

Re:Here's why they've written this article (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464493)

Aren't that suppose to be the tenesu rules?

Re:Here's why they've written this article (1)

GmAz (916505) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464550)

It appears that the Open Source community is growing. Do you all remember rule number one about the Open Source community? YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT THE OPEN SOURCE COMMUNITY. Ok, fess up, who's been talking about the Open Source community? {Slowly pulls handgun out of pants and pulls back the hammer}

Re:Here's why they've written this article (3, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464803)

{Slowly pulls handgun out of pants and pulls back the hammer}

Next time, make sure you get it all the way out of your pants before letting go of the hammer.

Its a trap (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464433)

I should assume that the autohr is trying to destroy open source. If everybody went with their economic interests, there would be no open source.

Re:Its a trap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464592)

Rubbish. Well, kindof: If everyone went with their economic interests there would be no copyrights or patents (which are laws enacted to distort the market against the economic interests of information users). It's been known since the 20th century that they are economically harmful.

So in a way, there would be no formal open source. But software could be freely copied, and in such a real free market, I would expect source-available software to seriously outcompete source-hidden software.

Re:Its a trap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464673)

Very wrong. Open source would still exist in areas where the issues at hand are fundamentally hard -- areas where you need all the smarts available to fix all the problems you can find. Consider software in particle physics -- much of it has been publicly accessible since before RMS ever thought of getting Ty Coon to sign off on a document. That's not to say it was free as in public domain, but it was available and patches or ports were welcomed. When you get into areas where the software is doing things that multiple different groups can get right (e.g. not fundamentally hard) then there is competition which leads to closed source in order to make money. e

Re:Its a trap (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464762)

If everybody went with their economic interests, there would be no open source.

If everybody went with their economic interests, the world would be a really shitty place to live in. Moreso than it is now...

Sometimes compassion and humanity requires us to do things that do not benefit us in our pockets or even our well being for the sake of another even if they don't acknowledge or know about what we have done for them.

And this doesn't just apply to open source...

Re:Its a trap (1)

jcarter (726183) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464928)

Um.. Not exactly. The author's assertion is that open source _serves_ the economic interests of those trying to compete in the software game right now.

Open source software is SHIT (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464437)

98% of the time.

Re:Open source software is SHIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14465011)

Thats cool because i use the other 2%

Oh ho cue the catch phrase! (-1, Redundant)

renrutal (872592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464446)

There is no spoon.

Re:Oh ho cue the catch phrase! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464628)

...Only Zuul!

(I know, it adds nothing to the conversation, but then what done on /.?)

If there was an open source community... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464454)

then Linux would actually have working drivers and a stable kernel.

Not a Troll. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464715)

Sure, you have working and stable drivers for hardware that is 8 years old. But if you want to use current hardware you either have some alpha driver full of holes (missing features, speed, bugs, etc) or you have to rely on closed-source binaries (which I personally have no problem with).

Re:Not a Troll. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464849)

clueless fags, the both of yas

Fallacious argument in article summary (4, Insightful)

Xemu (50595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464462)

"Taking the position that individuals have pushed open source forward leads to the conclusion that a core group of ideological 'believers' is necessary for the continued success of open source software."

There's a Non Sequitur right there in the summary; just because an individual may have pushed open source forward in the past does not imply anything about future need.

Contrast this with saying "an individual pushed the invention of a wheel forward, leading to the conclusion that a core group of ideological 'believers' is necessary for the continued success of the wheel" and you see the flaw in the reasoning.

Re:Fallacious argument in article summary (2, Informative)

JesseL (107722) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464535)

Are you an idiot? Did you read the sentence right after the one you quoted? The one that says:
"Businesses unaware of the falsehood of this claim are too afraid of running afoul of the 'open source community' and sometimes make decisions that are not in their financial interests."

Re:Fallacious argument in article summary (1)

Xemu (50595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464663)

Are you an idiot?

Maybe so, but it doesn't disprove my point. That's an argument ad hominem and just shows your poor debating skills.

Yes, I read the sentence. I also read the article. It argues that the individuals that made open source a success were only figureheads and not all that important.

My point is that to invalidate the claim made in the first sentence, one can still embrace the notion that RMS et al were absolutely neccessary for the creation and success of open source software [invention of the concept of a wheel], yet no individual or group of individuals are necessary for the success of open source [concept of a wheel]. Got it now?

I suppose you are arguing that there were no creators, that the inventor of the wheel [open source] was just a figurehead. Care to elaborate of that?

Re:Fallacious argument in article summary (2, Insightful)

JesseL (107722) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464728)

I'm not arguing one way or the other. I'm just pointing out that the sentence that you quoted was clearly not a statemnet of of the author's beliefs (as you seemed to imply) but rather a statement of what the author believed to be a widely held falsehood. It seemed silly for you to make a post explaing what was untrue about a statement that the author himself didn't believe.

Must be taking pointers (3, Funny)

spurtle15 (899792) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464467)

from this guy. [welovethei...nister.com]

a relevent anecdote from RMS (5, Insightful)

H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464504)

Here's an anecdote from Richard Stallman [gnu.org] .

At a trade show in late 1998, dedicated to the operating system often referred to as ``Linux'', the featured speaker was an executive from a prominent software company. He was probably invited on account of his company's decision to ``support'' that system. Unfortunately, their form of ``support'' consists of releasing non-free software that works with the system--in other words, using our community as a market but not contributing to it.

He said, ``There is no way we will make our product open source, but perhaps we will make it `internal' open source. If we allow our customer support staff to have access to the source code, they could fix bugs for the customers, and we could provide a better product and better service.'' (This is not an exact quote, as I did not write his words down, but it gets the gist.)

People in the audience afterward told me, ``He just doesn't get the point.'' But is that so? Which point did he not get?

He did not miss the point of the Open Source movement. That movement does not say users should have freedom, only that allowing more people to look at the source code and help improve it makes for faster and better development. The executive grasped that point completely; unwilling to carry out that approach in full, users included, he was considering implementing it partially, within the company.

The point that he missed is the point that ``open source'' was designed not to raise: the point that users deserve freedom.

Spreading the idea of freedom is a big job--it needs your help. That's why we stick to the term ``free software'' in the GNU Project, so we can help do that job. If you feel that freedom and community are important for their own sake--not just for the convenience they bring--please join us in using the term ``free software''.

Re:a relevent anecdote from RMS (0)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464855)

Dick is the one who misses the point.

"open source" and "Free" software are about freedom.

Freedom also means that you don't have to make your software "open source" or "Free" if you don't want to.

power to enslave is not a freedom (5, Insightful)

H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464950)

> Freedom also means that you don't have to make your software "open source" or "Free" if you don't want to.

You're calling the power to take away other people's freedom, a "freedom" in itself. Rubbish. When liberty in an inalienable right for everybody, yes, the "Freedom" to own slaves will be lost. No tear shed here.

Re:a relevent anecdote from RMS (0, Flamebait)

pyce (798025) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464866)

Whoah, since when does Stallman use the term "open-source"?

Waitaminute... (4, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464509)

From TFA: " While this makes for an entertaining narrative, there is quantitative evidence to the contrary. The reality is that placing too much emphasis on individual players in the open source movement ignores overarching economic trends that drove open source development and adoption."

...most projects are run by a core of developers and (at least) maintainers who are individually reponsible for the care and feeding of a project. And while TFA goes on to say that "Furthermore, taking the position that individuals have pushed open source forward leads to the conclusion that a core group of ideological "believers" is necessary for the continued success of open source software.", I submit that the beauty of Open Source is that if said individuals all gave up, evaporated, ran off to Tahiti, whatever, others can take the existing code and still develop/improve on it. A closed-source project is hosed once whoever owns it decides to not do anything about it anymore (e.g. the decision by MSFT to let WMP for Mac dry up and blow away)...

/P

Re:Waitaminute... (1)

ghettoimp (876408) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464681)

I couldn't agree more. In the projects I have been involved with, a few dedicated individuals drove development in a tremendous way. If they were able to do this at work, it was because they had pushed their employers to allow them to do it. Most did it in their spare time, and for the love and joy of working on the systems they had created.

Just look at the GCL, Abiword, and ACL2 archives to see the work that Camm Maguire, Martin Sevior, and Matt Kaufmann do on a daily basis. Although their work is extraordinary, I doubt that these projects are unique in the magnitude and importance of their leaders' influence.

It also is no Product (1)

arachnoprobe (945081) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464514)

I often hear: "Why don't they make $X to do $Z like $Y" or "they should make $ABC, that would make it better for me". - But Linux (as an example) is no product. It is just an aggregate of tools other made for themselves.

I use Debian, because it fits my needs.

text of article before it gets /. (-1, Redundant)

Whitehat318 (558640) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464516)

There Is No Open Source Community by John Mark Walker 01/12/2006 Conventional wisdom says that powerful individuals drive open source by working against the grain to institute a methodology of sharing that would balance the power between software vendors and users. While this makes for an entertaining narrative, there is quantitative evidence to the contrary. The reality is that placing too much emphasis on individual players in the open source movement ignores overarching economic trends that drove open source development and adoption. Furthermore, taking the position that individuals have pushed open source forward leads to the conclusion that a core group of ideological "believers" is necessary for the continued success of open source software. Businesses unaware of the falsehood of this claim are too afraid of running afoul of the "open source community" and sometimes make decisions that are not in their financial interests. Both open source-based and proprietary software vendors need to challenge these assumptions. An updated open source mentality has profound implications for businesses looking to leverage open source in commercial ventures. Reevaluating the open source equation in economic terms presents a different takeaway. The commoditization of software and a gradual, long-term reduction in price have played far more important roles than previously recognized. Business strategy designed to leverage open source should focus more on economies of scale (in terms of user and developer bases) and less on pleasing a mythical, monolithic community. Some software vendors believe that open source is an ideological movement. This paradigm ignores the impact of software prices shattered by zero-cost distribution and global collaboration capabilities, both of which the internet fuels. It also ignores one of the primary factors driving customer adoption: rebellion against vendor lock-in. By combining lower cost of production with the additional freedom and flexibility endemic to open source deployments, one sees two dynamics driving both adoption and production. The push of software commoditization and the pull of customer demands have created a perfect storm for open source software. This new perspective has implications for other areas, such as TCO and potential legal obstacles to open source. I argue that TCO is largely irrelevant when one takes the larger view of open source evolution. As for legal pitfalls, we believe that economic principles prove this fear is largely unfounded and that any legal impact on open source from patent infringement or copyright violations will be limited in scope. Regardless of who leads the charge, what legal obstacles are thrown in its path, or whether there is any provable TCO advantage, open source will continue to expand its grip on IT. The Conventional Wisdom Open source conventional wisdom tells a tale of good versus evil, David versus Goliath, in a struggle to protect users from the malevolent intent of large software companies. The narrative usually begins with Richard Stallman, upset with printer manufacturers releasing binary-only drivers that prevent him from fixing bugs in the software. From there, the story includes the founding of the GNU project and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) as a means of ultimately producing a free operating system. Conventional wisdom recognizes this as the official birth of the free software movement, an idealistic and political movement that specifically sought to protect the freedoms of computer users. This is in contrast to the open source movement, which pitched open source software production as a practical means to better software. The GNU project was working on a free operating system kernel--the last piece of the free operating system puzzle. Unfortunately, the project found itself stuck on a microkernel architecture that proved unwieldy from an engineering standpoint. Then, in 1991, Finnish computer science student Linus Torvalds wanted to run Unix on his PC. He blindsided the FSF by producing a free operating system kernel called Linux that meshed with the other GNU software to produce a working Unix-like system. Linux and GNU continued to grow, drawing interest from an increasing number of free software contributors. Somewhere along the way, the BSD operating system became unleashed from its AT&T shackles, making for a more mature competitor eager to capture the Unix-on-PC enthusiasts. The BSD process proved to be less open to collaborators, and it frowned on free software idealism; thus more developers flocked to GNU on Linux, making it the undisputed heavyweight in the PC Unix space. In the latter half of the 1990s, some contributors grew uncomfortable with the "free software" name, due to both confusion over its meaning as well as uneasiness from its idealistic underpinnings. These contributors were in favor of emphasizing the pragmatic aspects of free software development without all the GNU baggage inherent in the term free software. A major part of open source lore is the famous meeting in 1998 that included Larry Augustin, Tim O'Reilly, Eric Raymond, and others at O'Reilly headquarters. The group there coined the term open source. Aside from drawing the ire of Richard Stallman, who wanted to emphasize the freedom of free software, the term proved a raging success among developers looking to participate in open software collaboration. Eric Raymond wrote the essay "The Cathedral and the Bazaar," which influenced Netscape as it deliberated releasing an open source version of its web browser software. The open source bandwagon gained steam, with a core group of supporters pushing for its continued growth. Spokespeople such as Raymond and Bruce Perens helped lead the charge with articles and appearances in various media outlets. Developers such as Torvalds and Brian Behlendorf pushed open source forward on the engineering front, with the Linux kernel and the Apache web server often cited as open source bellwether projects. These two projects have continued in this role to this day. Large high-tech companies such as IBM helped legitimize both and made them more enterprise-worthy. Despite the nascent success of open source software, there has been increasing concern about potential pitfalls, such as patent infringement claims from large software companies including Microsoft. Many fear that Microsoft, often seen as an enemy of open source, is looking for the right opportunity to spring a patent infringement trap. Further fueling some of these fears is the copyright infringement by the Linux kernel claimed by SCO when it filed its lawsuit against IBM. While largely seen as unfounded, SCO's claims have led to some open source leaders calling for such things as more audits of open source code and legal indemnification from open source software vendors. Open source supporters have rallied around the cause, looking to prevent frivolous lawsuits against open source developers that might have a chilling effect on open source's momentum. Another concern is the habit of some media outlets to lump together open source with warez and piracy groups. This could conceivably besmirch the credibility of open source philosophy and those associated with open source software. Altogether, while open source and free software have made tremendous strides over the years, strident supporters see the continuing need for vigilance in order to protect what they have built thus far. What's Wrong with That? What if you discovered that everything you ever learned about open source growth was wrong? What if the narrative that pitches open source in terms of battling evil software giants wasn't actually correct? What if you learned that the recognized leaders of the open source movement were simply figureheads of a process already well under way? What if you learned that open source was neither good nor bad, but simply the manifestation of decades-old economic trends? What if companies mining the open source vein aren't taking the high road but rather ruthlessly applying a competitive advantage? Forget what anyone has ever told you about open source, and learn this term: economies of scale. This is what has fueled the open source phenomenon. Most people recognize the role that the internet has played in terms of creating an environment capable of supporting massively parallel distributed collaboration. Too few have recognized the crucial role played by the internet in creating the economies of scale necessary for the proliferation of open source software. Furthermore, there has been little recognition in open source circles of the role the internet has played in driving down software production costs and thus software prices. It is this drastic reduction in price that is necessary for an open source-friendly environment to emerge. The New Open Source Growth Perspective It's the internet, stupid. What is it about the internet that drives down production cost? There are multiple avenues to the result of reduced software cost. Foremost is the advent of the internet as a software delivery mechanism. With the internet, the possibility of practically zero-cost distribution was viable for the first time. Furthermore, digital delivery obviates physical packaging, transportation costs, and reliance on resellers that buy at wholesale, as opposed to direct customers who pay full retail price. Zero-cost distribution gave early adopters a competitive advantage over vendors that relied solely on packaged distribution. It also allowed vendors a much faster way to bring products to market. No longer did software vendors have to allow for a certain amount of time before packages hit store shelves. When the internet became viable for software distribution, vendors could sell a product almost as soon as a release was certified for public consumption. So far, however, this establishes the internet only as a driver of reduced software costs. That alone does not link the internet to open source proliferation. This brings up the second ramification of the global internet: instant collaboration across national boundaries. When Linus released version 0.01 of the Linux kernel to the masses from FTP servers in Helsinki, it wasn't long until developers downloaded copies in cities outside of Helsinki and in lands far away from Finland. Users of software were able to take a copy, use it, and then report back to Linus much more quickly than ever before. Gone were the early days of the GNU project, when those that wished to use the software would order tapes and wait for them to arrive in the mail. Reporting bugs and usage issues and distributing patches back to the GNU project also was no small matter. Thus, the internet sped up development time by facilitating almost instant feedback from users regardless of location, as long as they had reliable internet access. The distributed aspect of the internet also allowed for a much larger audience than before. If Linus had released his kernel just five years earlier, practically no one outside of Helsinki, much less Finland, would have even known of its existence. This is not to say that Linux would not have survived, but its growth would certainly have been slower. It is this massive number of users that makes the numbers work out for large open source projects. The numbers work out because enough users report back to the Linux kernel developers on bugs or usability issues. A percentage of users contribute patches. Other users take a chance with bleeding-edge kernels not yet ready for release. It is a given that with any software project, most users will be just that--users of the software. However, a certain percentage will become beta testers, bug reporters, documentation writers, or full-blown members of the development team. This number of contributors will grow only if the overall user base grows. Without the internet, this growth of users simply doesn't happen. Imagine the amount of money that people would need to spend if the internet were not available in order to win over the same number of users and contributors. First of all, using the Linux kernel as an example, Linus would need to print thousands of copies of floppies (remember, this was the early 1990s) and distribute them. The obvious choice would be to distribute them locally on campus in Helsinki. Then, to replicate the experience of the internet, he would need to devise some way to get them into the hands of users around the world--not just any users, but interested users. Using this example, it becomes clear why large-scale open source development did not happen until the internet came along. It also becomes clear why software engineering was largely the domain of companies that could afford the marketing and outreach required to build any type of community around technology. So far, I have demonstrated only how the internet added cost-effectiveness to software production, but that's still not the whole story. To take the argument one step further, I will demonstrate why economic trends kicked off by the internet have made open source software not only possible, but also actually necessary for survival for some developers and software vendors. The Rising Tide and Economies of Scale As a thought experiment, think back 20 years to a time when the internet was still a DARPA project and the web was but a glimmer in Tim Berners-Lee's eyes. At that time, someone who could create software or build computers was pretty special. In fact, unless you worked for a software vendor or attended class in a computer science department, programming was pretty much a black art understood by an elite few. There were some computer users, but computer hobbyists weren't exactly mainstream. What has changed since then? If you guessed that there are lots more people now who understand at least a thing or two about computers, you would be right. Today, more people know how to use computers, program computers, and network a group of computers than ever before. What has made this possible? The internet, of course. It's actually quite simple. With the advent of the internet came the increased usefulness of owning a computer. With more computer owners came a deeper understanding by a broader group of people of how the things worked. Of those who understood computers, a certain number became savvy users. A smaller number became computer programmers. With an ever expanding internet, all of these numbers have increased over time. From the United States to Europe to developing countries in Africa and South America, more people understand computing than ever. The collective knowledge of computer users around the world dwarfs by orders of magnitude the entire such knowledge base of 20 years ago. That has serious ramifications in terms of how software is produced. For one thing, software knowledge comes more cheaply than ever. As with any currency or commodity, when there is a seemingly endless supply, the price goes down. I will focus on two commodities: software knowledge in the form of a programmer and the amount of software available for use. For the first, unless a programmer has a specialized bit of knowledge in an area of high demand, chances are that the ability to command a high salary is less than it was a few years ago. There is a plentiful supply of people who have at least some programming knowledge. Granted, especially talented programmers are always needed and can demand extraordinary compensation. However, focusing on the general case, the price of a programmer commodity has declined over the years, thanks in large part to the internet. The spread of the internet has had a direct impact on the spread of programming knowledge. The bar to entry for a budding programmer is lower than ever, thanks to the readily available supply of tutorials and other documentation geared toward those who wish to design software. This shared collaborative medium allows programmers to instantly post new material, thus raising the collective programming IQ of internet denizens. Consequently, not only is the breadth of developers more extensive than ever, but the amount of knowledge per developer has also increased. At the moment, the internet has made programming knowledge a boundless resource with unlimited growth potential. As for the software itself, there is more of it than ever before, much of it general-use desktop or server software for a PC. Software developers are no longer masters of a black art, and software is no longer black magic. It is an abundant commodity with an expanding breadth and complexity. A new feature for a software project posted on the internet increases the overall complexity of the project. Just as programming knowledge expands both vertically and horizontally, pieces of software wind their way to more places than ever, with the complexity of these pieces also increasing over time. A rising tide floats all boats. In this case, it's the tide of the collective knowledge base, fueled by the internet, and the boats are software developers and software projects. It is now easier than ever for a programming neophyte to search the internet, find a programming tutorial to his liking, and start building software. This continuously evolving collective knowledge base carries another consequence: speed of innovation. Because of the speed with which users, developers, and companies can post documentation, patches, or new software projects, the product life cycle has shortened considerably. Software vendors must work harder than ever to stay ahead of the floating software boats. This constant drive for innovation means that products released just yesterday lose value more quickly than before, due to future products already filling the software pipeline. What are the implications for software developers? The obvious manifestation of a lower bar to entry coupled with an increasing number of programmers is that it is getting awfully hard for a developer to charge for software. (Quick, tell me the last time you paid for a bare-bones email client.) It used to be that a developer could hack up some small utility, pass it around as shareware, and ask nicely for people to send money. While shareware still exists, the trends are not in its favor. More recently, people who hack together a simple utility simply give it away. They don't ask for payment, because they recognize that it's generally a fruitless endeavor. It's not that they give away the software because they think it's a nice thing to do; they give it away because it's the only way anyone will actually notice. The general case of a broad, horizontal software market has now arrived to the point where a healthy open source ecosystem is possible. The price of software is asymptotic to zero, there is an abundance of users and developers, and there is a vast collective knowledge base that empowers users to harness the power of available software and produce their own. In this situation, it is impossible to create general-use software for which you may charge a premium price. With prices approaching zero, software developers have two choices when trying to win over users: (1) add features not available elsewhere, and (2) release the source code. There is no other currency of value that developers can extend to users. In fact, these two options are actually interrelated. A software developer trying to accomplish option 1 on his own will face a daunting task, whereas a developer who releases source code, assuming the project is viable, will have a ready supply of suggestions for improving the software and adding features. She will also have a cheap and fast means of distributing the software complexity around the world, with the implied deepening of the collective software knowledge base. This collective software knowledge base will pay dividends in the form of knowledgeable users and contributors. When faced with these two options, a developer who chooses route 1 with a traditional software development approach will actually find himself eclipsed by a developer who chooses option 2, even if the ambitions of the latter project are lower. Granted, only a small percentage of the user base will ever contribute anything, but this thriving ecosystem of users and contributors is what will make a software project viable over time. Thus, in a system where software prices approach zero, open source becomes a necessity in a competitive market. (I plan to discuss the debate on leveraging this model for profit in a follow-up article.) Without prices that approach zero, there is simply no room for viable open source options. To test this, think of most vertical software markets. These are the homes of specialized software tools of which only a few users are intimately familiar. Without a broad base of users and a deep collective knowledge base, there is considerably less downward price pressure. Consequently, there is simply no incentive to release open source software in those markets. When taking stock of vertical software markets, I notice a decided lack of open source alternatives to commercial software. One could test assertions made in previous paragraphs by looking at vertical markets that have recently broadened in scope following an increase in the sheer number of inhabitants in that market. If the above assertions are true, there should be an emerging open source ecosystem in that market, albeit less mature and feature-complete than competing commercial products. Conclusion I have shown how the internet has driven software prices into the dirt, created an environment conducive to open source collaboration, and provided the infrastructure for that collaboration to actually take place. I have also shown how cheap commodity software markets are necessary for open source development and how open source is not viable in less mature software markets without the necessary economy of scale. When viewing open source development from this perspective, some things become clear that perhaps were not before. The continuing expansion of the internet is necessary for continued open source proliferation. In order for more projects to grow in a vibrant open source ecosystem, there needs to be a fresh supply of new users and developers. The economies of scale that spawned open source development need to keep expanding, or else there is a risk of stagnation. Given current trends, open source will continue to expand in scope, prevailing in more markets. All signs point to an expanding internet for the foreseeable future. This means that the trends that result in cheap software commodities should maintain their steady pace. As such, the open source footprint should continue to expand. There is no open source community. Looking at open source from an economic perspective, it becomes clear that Linux or its equivalent was bound to happen eventually, regardless of whether Linus decided to release a kernel in 1991. The same applies for Apache and any other project. Both of these are the natural result of massive price drops in their respective markets. The view that there is a core group of altruistic companies and true believers driving open source forward is simply false. The view that open source participants are idealistic Davids fighting against software Goliaths is also false. In fact, surveys of open source participants tend to bear this out. Open source is neither good nor bad. Open source is not a religion. It is not an ideology. It can be used for both good and bad. It does not inhabit the higher moral ground, nor is it a more ethical way to conduct business. It just is, and it will continue to grow and expand. Coming Up In the next article in this series, I will show the other side of the equation: the customer pull on open source. I'll also demonstrate how and when a software vendor can leverage open source economies of scale in its favor, why TCO is irrelevant, and why there is little to fear from legal battles. John Mark Walker has burrowed deep inside the bat cave, working feverishly to make sure that LinuxWorld learns how to party like it's 1999.

I agree one 100% (4, Interesting)

vmcto (833771) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464519)

with the article.

"Taking the position that individuals have pushed open source forward leads to the conclusion that a core group of ideological 'believers' is necessary for the continued success of open source software."

Take the formation and continuation of the United States.

Certainly it was started by a small group of ideologically and personally "strong" individuals, a core group that got the ball rolling. But today, the country has reached a critical mass that although could be unravelled, seems to be for the most part on autopilot.

Why not both? (4, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464545)

This article irritates me in the way that most news media coverage irritates me: they purposefully polarize an issue, then present two exaggerated extremes, and try to figure out which one is correct. In the real world, neither is correct, and the truth is somewhere in between.

This article tries to conclude "there is no open source community." They say: "Some software vendors believe that open source is an ideological movement." but say that this is an "entertaining narrative" and that the conventional wisdom (that ideological people drive open source) is wrong.

Why can the middle ground be true? Ideological believers in open source contribute significantly to open source. They evangelize and often they diretly contribute (with code, for instance!). Will an open source project die if the ideological believers abandon it? Will an open source project die if the community stops caring? The answer is (as always): it depends. Many projects are community-driven, so of course they require the community push. Others are driven more by companies, so as long as there are enough companies involved, the project will persist.

I have not finished reading the article, but already I'm annoyed. I find the black vs. white picture it paints a bit boring. The real world is complicated. It is worth making the point that companies should not fall into naive assumptions about open-source... but then again they would be silly to ignore the history of open-source, and the fact that alot of it really is driven and maintained by the community. Use that community to your advantage (but do not be led to believe that they are the final word in every respect).

So is there an Open-Source Community? Yes, of course.

Re:Why not both? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464743)

Oh no, Hegel was right!

Re:Why not both? (1)

bbc (126005) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464867)

"This article irritates me in the way that most news media coverage irritates me: they purposefully polarize an issue, then present two exaggerated extremes, and try to figure out which one is correct. In the real world, neither is correct, and the truth is somewhere in between."

In case you're interested, you're describing a logical fallacy that is called a false dichotomy (or false dilemma). It's very popular with the press, presumably because you need dialogue to uproot it, as the speaker may have inadvertently forgotten to name the other sides of the argument.

supply and demand (3, Insightful)

N3Z (746334) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464569)

open source is much more about supply and demand

Very true. If there was not a need, OSS would never have gotten started. If vendors had provided good quality, resonable cost software, OSS would not exist.

Re:supply and demand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464604)

A need is not always necessary to start something.
Good quality reasonable cost anything does not preclude the making anything simliar.

Re:supply and demand (1)

hyc (241590) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464934)

Nonsense. (As is most of TFA.) I got into programming simply because I wanted to play with computers. No economic motivation, and no particular need that I was looking for a vendor to fill. Plenty of people pursue a particular path in life simply because that is what they want to do. (Though of course, the vast majority of people into computing these days jumped in it for the money. Fools.)

I have stayed on the Free Software side of the world because I believe in it. People who say "there are no little green men" probably piss the hell out of the little green men. People who say there is no ideological movement behind Free Software and try to paint the world solely in the money terms that they identify with really piss the hell out of me.

As my brother once told me: "Money is how people without talent keep score."

Fear and Avoidance (2, Interesting)

meregistered (895132) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464578)

I agree there appear to be many misunderstandings regarding Open Source software.

My experience so far has been with IT management who seem to fear the unknowns of 'free' software.
There is a basic lack of ability to evaluate the product as a product and not based on it's source and/or lack of marketing.
It seems that managers (and I've heard this from them before) think that when you get something for free you get what you pay for. Suggesting that it isn't valuable because they don't pay for it.

Case in point:
Fairly recently during the initial feature investigation phases of a fairly large development project myself & 2 of the developers (I am a Buisness Systems Analyst/QA person) were recommending MYSQL over Oracle as the licensing cost (this was just before the announcement of OracleXE) for a few hundred clients was going to be in the order of 100K to 300K.
We told them that there is excellent support for it for only 5K/year.

Essentially the response was "Eventhough it is much slower we will go with SQL Server because it's licensing is only 80K for the server".

Interesting business decisions... what happend to return on investment?

Fortunately Oracle XE saved the additional hundreds of thousands so we still have a high performance database option. And we could have had MYSQL 5.0 for 5K a year that performs in some ways better than Oracle (which I think we still paid 50K for).

Like Margaret Thatcher's quote really (5, Insightful)

hughbar (579555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464591)

During Margaret Thatcher's reign in the UK, she said 'there is no such thing as society'. I find this to be very similar and flawed in the same way. Not everything is supply and demand, tooth and claw. There is room for altruism, generosity and openness too. I find all these in many of my contacts with 'open source' folks. Or maybe I'm just and old hippy, past my sell-by date...

Re:Like Margaret Thatcher's quote really (3, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464664)

I've noticed before that extremists of both Left and Right can be identified by, among other things, their tendency to look at everything in terms of classical economics -- they assume that "the economy" will always make "rational" decisions, whatever they consider "rational" to be. (It's almost tautological that, being extremists, they have an idea of what's rational that doesn't coincide with anything real, but that's a whole 'nother discussion.) It's left up to those of us in the Vast Middle to note that irrational forces -- altruism, generosity, and openness, yes; also greed, envy, fear, and group-think -- very often profoundly influence how people spend their money, as well as every other aspect of how they live their lives.

am I missing something? (4, Interesting)

beta-guy (715984) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464597)

I installed linux on my compter as my only OS for a month and during that month I met and talked to lots of people who were part of the open source ommunity people helped me get my sound card working 1 guy showed me some fun things to do with the commandline, I have a passion for open source because even if there is a monopoly in the software world for this or that open source can still compete.

I've seen some open source programs out there then the commercial alternatives as well, after talking to developers, and people who work with and use this stuff, and even go that extra step of helping new users I think says there is a community, Linux User groups are a form of community people sharing idea's and supporting each other in linux. Am I wrong?

Re:am I missing something? (1)

Hosiah (849792) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464840)

Am I wrong?

Depends. Are you posting on Slashdot? Can Microsofties read your words?

Re:am I missing something? (1)

oztiks (921504) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464907)

Well put I must say, and from a fresh prospective which i like.

I wouldnt worry about articals like this, it goes down in the books as "someone is being paid along the line by some software vendor somewhere" otherwise why would waste their breath writing such trash.

Some good points (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464599)

The article is correct about the internet being a pivotal factor in the adoption of open source development. The open source "movement" has certainly provided awareness of the feasibility and usefulness of making source code open but in the end, it's really an issue of economics, not ethics or idealism.

It's important not to overlook the benefits of open projects for hobbyist developers. As the article states, the internet has made it easy for people to collaborate, share ideas, and learn from each other -- something hobby developers find inherently beneficial. Ever since the WWW began to really take off, people have found it increasingly useful to share code because often, if you're doing it for a hobby, the code itself is as important as the end product itself and for many projects, keeping the code closed makes no sense.

Those of us who cut our teeth on MS platforms (DOS, and then Windows) are often berated by the self-proclaimed open source "community" and UNIX zealots, but this is entirely undeserved because open source has been alive and well on Windows and DOS and isn't going away. RMS and ESR can't fairly take credit for that.
 

Bad history (4, Insightful)

jbolden (176878) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464614)

The article lacks evidence. It spends a great deal of time talking about economics of scale without at any point presenting what specific scale is required for certain effects to occur. Further his timeline is very far off. When open source developed most software were written by a very small number of people living close to one another and then distributed widely by mail. Sure the wide adoption of the internet helped both commercial and open source software use resources geographically far apart but he completely fails to explain why one side benefitted more than the other.

What are the implications for software developers? The obvious manifestation of a lower bar to entry coupled with an increasing number of programmers is that it is getting awfully hard for a developer to charge for software. (Quick, tell me the last time you paid for a bare-bones email client.)

A great example. In 1995 when was the last time people paid for software that had been expensive in 1980? The 1980 office products would be free throw ins by 1995. Small utilities are first sold separately and then get bundled into other larger programs. There proves nothing about scale.

It used to be that a developer could hack up some small utility, pass it around as shareware, and ask nicely for people to send money. While shareware still exists, the trends are not in its favor. More recently, people who hack together a simple utility simply give it away. They don't ask for payment, because they recognize that it's generally a fruitless endeavor. It's not that they give away the software because they think it's a nice thing to do; they give it away because it's the only way anyone will actually notice.

There was never a period of time when shareware was a particularly good model for anything other than marketing. The original shareware authors generally had a plan of:

1) Write shareware
2) Build up a user base (who pretty much don't pay)
3) Use this base to get a commercial vendor interested enough to finance bring the product out commercially

I could go on but this strikes me as a college freshman economics term paper on applying economic ideas to a recent trend, not as a real insight.

Re:Bad history (1)

pete.com (741064) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464861)

There was never a period of time when shareware was a particularly good model for anything other than marketing. The original shareware authors generally had a plan of:

It worked great for the original Doom and iD software.

Re:Bad history (1)

Dominic_Mazzoni (125164) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464982)

There was never a period of time when shareware was a particularly good model for anything other than marketing. The original shareware authors generally had a plan of:

1) Write shareware
2) Build up a user base (who pretty much don't pay)
3) Use this base to get a commercial vendor interested enough to finance bring the product out commercially

I could go on but this strikes me as a college freshman economics term paper on applying economic ideas to a recent trend, not as a real insight.


That's only true if you don't include crippleware. But historically a large fraction of shareware has been nagware and crippleware, and those categories are still a huge segment of software: small programs that you download directly from the author's website, which don't offer full functionality until you pay and get a registration code (tied to your computer).

There are people making a living selling shareware apps. Maybe not a huge market compared to the rest of the software industry, but they're real. And many of them have no interest in going commercial.

The community is not that important (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464639)

The community behind it is not that important the ideals are what is important. As a proprietary software vendor your biggest priority should be to make your customers as
happy as possible. This may include allowing them access to the source so they can fix your broken stuff, publishing file formats etc so that they can be interfaced and
on top of all that stable and as bug free as possible.

Ask some of the java app server developers what happens when you start charging too much and pushing buggy software out. You start doing that and a customer and or a programmer gets mad to the point that they just make you go away by releasing a
similar product using a open source development model.

The OSS development model shifts the control back to the developer, make a OSS developer mad enough to the point he cares and it won't take long and your company fails to exist any longer.

actually TFA makes some sense (1, Insightful)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464644)

That there's Open Source Software (OSS) and really a Free Software community. Thinking about it, the 2 do have difference in application. Hence, there's OSS and free software, where FOSS is subset. That's a business take on this. Unfortunately 98% of the non-technical people can't grasp this, considering the same 98% doesn't understand what a [linux] kernel is.

Re:actually TFA makes some sense (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464772)

last i checked the free software foundations definition of free software and the opensource definition from the OSI said essentially the same things although they had different reasoning behind saying them.

'Supply and demand' (1)

RecoveredMarketroid (569802) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464654)

'Supply and demand' and 'open source community' aren't necessarily contradictory...

Not having read TFA, my gut reaction is that, while supply and demand are obviously important, you need to look carefully at the supply side. In simple microeconomic terms, 'supply' refers to the aggregate quantity that producers are willing to provide, given the prevailing 'price' in the market (i.e., the value which they will receive in return).

It is worth noting that, given the limited 'value' which (most) open source developers receive in return for their work, there are likely few producers that are willing to provide large quantities of product. The smallish set that DOES generate the BULK of that product appears to have characteristics of a community-- that 'core group of believers' are the ones who are most willing to produce for 'free'. Furthermore, since their 'return' tends to be intangible, the supply curve might shift dramatically-- if they are treated badly, their perceived 'return' may be diminished significantly, causing them to reduce output.

I'm not a part of any "community". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464676)


For me, open source is a simple solution to a problem that I often have. I do not adopt it to be part of some "community".

My problem: How to make sure that I can give my previously-developed source-code to my current employer, without fear of losing control of that code if once I'm no longer employed by them.

I suspect that this a very common problem.

SPOON! (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464692)

There is no SPOON! Geez!

Re:SPOON! (1)

XenoPhage (242134) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464745)

"Do not try and write open source software. That's impossible. Instead ... only try to realize the truth."
"What truth?"
"There is no open source community."
"There is no open source community?"
"Then you'll see that it is not the community that is open source, it is only yourself."

"What are you trying to tell me? That I can write perfect code?"

Re:SPOON! (1)

VaderPi (680682) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464959)

You stole my joke! I was so going to say that. At least I searched for it before I did. :)

No Open Source Community? (2, Funny)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464693)

I guess I won't be getting that membership card I sent a $100 in for anytime soon.

Oh c'mon (1)

LordMyren (15499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464697)

Building what needs to be built is a community. Oftc and Freenode are communities.
Really, what is activism besides building what needs to be built?

===
There's two ways to do open source. The apache way and the linux way. Apache uses committees and democratic processes to, as the article seems to want to stress, place community over individual developers. Linux, the epitome of monolithic, is built under a few chief architects who direct the project. Either one is valid; either one can foster community. Hackers will play with anyone who can play ball, anyone who lets them keep hacking, it doesnt get any simpler than that.

When one developer felt FreeBSD got overly committeed he went off and made DragonflyBSD (Whoo M. Dillon!). There's countless projects which have done the opposite; been lead by a leader until they got consumed into an Apache project. Ebb and flow; hackers follow whatever seems to be working, whether its individual run project or some democratic debian. Either one is capable of supporting community.

<b>Reducing open source to little more than "not vendor lock in" is fucking perposterous.</b>
"With prices approaching zero, software developers have two choices when trying to win over users: (1) add features not available elsewhere, and (2) release the source code."
Shame O'reilly, shame! To say that Linux does not innovate! Look at yesterday's ask slashdot about how to stream sounds from one system to another. Linux has countless solutions; esound, jack.udp, gstreamer, vlc. A hundred ways to dice it. Windows requires a $49 program to make a fake sound card. There used to be an open source program to do it, but the drive dev kit is now a couple hundred from MS, so the project died. Real feature added, eh?

Open source is built around the fundamental tenants of technocracy. The most elegant hackable solutions win. <b>Source code is simply our current modus operandi for ensuring our systems are maximally hackable.</b>

Myren

What is wrong with this? (1)

Akoma The Immortal (36474) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464706)


Furthermore, there has been little recognition in open source circles of the role the internet has played in driving down software production costs and thus software prices. It is this drastic reduction in price that is necessary for an open source-friendly environment to emerge.


The main leaders of the open source movement, I think, are akwnoleding at any chance they get, the fact that the Internet as propel and made the development open source sofware more easy.

Ask anyone of them.

There is no open source community.

Looking at open source from an economic perspective, it becomes clear that Linux or its equivalent was bound to happen eventually, regardless of whether Linus decided to release a kernel in 1991. The same applies for Apache and any other project. Both of these are the natural result of massive price drops in their respective markets. The view that there is a core group of altruistic companies and true believers driving open source forward is simply false. The view that open source participants are idealistic Davids fighting against software Goliaths is also false. In fact, surveys of open source participants tend to bear this out.


He just describe a community, with the developper, the testers, users and there is no open source community? Did I missed someting?
If I recall correctly, when Linus released its first Kernel, the PC UNIX marquet was Minix (free but feature less) and SCO (costly but feature rich). I think that was the main cause of Linus developping a new kernel, the price to access the tools he wanted. Same with Apache.

I think that it was the open source movement, albeit at the time it was called free sofware, that droove the price of different sofware down and enabled the thriving of the internet, not the other way around.

Am I wrong?

DECUS distributions since 1977 have been open src (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14464750)

There have been regular distributions of free software by various DECUS SIGs continuously since spring 1977. (The 2005 VMS SIG CDs were just shipped.) Anyone can get them with a little effort and people started contributing long before Richard Stallman started anything. They sure as heck have been a community...loose, but a community.

Correct ... (2, Funny)

gnujoshua (540710) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464764)

There is no open source community, because everyone is in the free software community singing: Join us now and share the software; You'll be free, hackers, you'll be free. x2 Hoarders may get piles of money, That is true, hackers, that is true. But they cannot help their neighbors; That's not good, hackers, that's not good. When we have enough free software At our call, hackers, at our call, We'll throw out those dirty licenses Ever more, hackers, ever more. Join us now and share the software; You'll be free, hackers, you'll be free. x2

Re:Correct ... (2, Funny)

gnujoshua (540710) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464781)

Join us now and share the software;
You'll be free, hackers, you'll be free.
x2

Hoarders may get piles of money,
That is true, hackers, that is true.
But they cannot help their neighbors;
That's not good, hackers, that's not good.

When we have enough free software
At our call, hackers, at our call,
We'll throw out those dirty licenses
Ever more, hackers, ever more.

Join us now and share the software;
You'll be free, hackers, you'll be free.
x2

OS not social change? Tell that to gnu.org (1)

pahoran (893196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464768)

"Really, open source is much more about supply and demand than it is about an activist community or individual drivers (individuals or individual companies) affecting change on society."

Somebody better tell Stallman this.

Re:OS not social change? Tell that to gnu.org (1)

Ekarderif (941116) | more than 8 years ago | (#14465005)

You think RMS actually listens to anything outside of his doctrine? After all, this is the guy that says that "open source" is bad because it undermines the free software movement.

As Cantor and Siegal said (2, Interesting)

whitroth (9367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464824)

Those of us who were on the 'Net a dozen years ago (geez, is it that long?) when Cantor & Siegal did the famous Green Card spam saw them argue *exactly* the same, that the 'Net was no "community", and they ought to be able to do what they wanted.

Not that I'd ever have seen them, it not being my religion, but when I was young, I used to read about fire&brimstone (tm) preachers inveighing against the worship of Mammon (aka the almighty dollar); these days, it's the state religion of the US.

                    mark

IHBT (1)

po8 (187055) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464843)

I'm about one more front-page troll away from bagging /. altogether. I haven't even RTFA, because this is just a sadly successful attempt to increase pageviews on this site and OnLamp simultaneously.

If there's no open source community, who the heck is it I keep going to conferences with? Who are the folks I am putting on the board of my newly formed open source organization? Who are the folks who keep volunteering to teach in my open source classes? Who is volunteering to work on my open source projects?

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that management thinks this way; they never seem to get how valuable communities are to their organizations. But the /. editors should, and I suspect do, know better.

Heck, even the author should know better—he's the director of LinuxWorld Expo! There's a terrifying thought. Where does he think his conference attendees come from? He knows. He just wants to be read. He's a troll. Zonk's a troll. IHBT.

I, Pencil (3, Interesting)

protocoldroid (633203) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464847)

I think some good additional reading would be the essay "I, Pencil" [econlib.org] . It is an essay about capitalism, but... I definitely think it applies here.

Milton Friedman had to say about this essay:

Leonard Read's delightful story, "I, Pencil," has become a classic, and deservedly so. I know of no other piece of literature that so succinctly, persuasively, and effectively illustrates the meaning of both Adam Smith's invisible hand--the possibility of cooperation without coercion--and Friedrich Hayek's emphasis on the importance of dispersed knowledge and the role of the price system in communicating information that "will make the individuals do the desirable things without anyone having to tell them what to do."

People cooperate without coersion on open source projects. There are a variety of reasons why they may do so, one of which is certainly... Economics.

Community (1)

LordMyren (15499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464865)

How many communities have clear divine purpose?

#1, above all; CAUSE & EFFECT

"it becomes clear that Linux or its equivalent was bound to happen eventually, regardless of whether Linus decided to release a kernel in 1991. The same applies for Apache and any other project. Both of these are the natural result of massive price drops in their respective markets."
A) Linux CAUSED that price drop, was because there WAS no cheap unix. Open source IS that price drop. Sure, its cyclical, sure its causing more people to have to resort to free software and people are starting to realize that the conversations free software allow you to have are extremely important, but OSS is the reason thats happening, its whats forcing the commercial world to change its game plan.

Now on to the actual problems with your anti-community fud.
" The view that there is a core group of altruistic companies and true believers driving open source forward is simply false. The view that open source participants are idealistic Davids fighting against software Goliaths is also false."
b) So there is no core philosophical underpinning. But all ecosystems have dynamics, philosophy is not the only thing that can pull together a community.
b) the dynamic of open source, the thing that makes us a community, is that we like clean hackable solutions, we like using the best tools we can, and other people's free code is often the best tool available. Its a technical meritocracy, may the most hackable most hack-ensuing solutions win. More than anything else, we're united by the desire to play around with cool technologies

You want a philosophical underpinning? the purpose is not to overthrow Goliath. we dont care about the economics; we just want to be able to hack great stuff.

Luv,
Myren

Viewpoint (1)

cyberbob2010 (312049) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464886)

This is clearly written from the view of an economist A sociologist would agree with the views expressed by most of those in the "community"

Thing is, look at the motivation behind those people who develop the software. There are people out there who do not use databases who are developing db management software just for the hell of it.

The fact that people are doing this shows that it has nothing to do with their inability to or refusal to buy commercial software.

What definition to use? (1)

polyp2000 (444682) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464914)

In my line of work, I spend time working with both Windows Stuff (Proprietary) and Linux stuff(Open Source). My experience is that when I have a problem, or a requirement to fulfil that is Linux based, there is a huge amount of resource available on the internet, forums, code-snippets , tools etc free and easily available. Whenever I have a windows problem I find that I invariably run into people trying to sell me stuff, components, plugin's licenses and little in the way of (free) help.

Im not sure whether "Community" is the best word to use, but I certainly find life on the open source side of the fence much friendlier and helpful and ethical than life on the other side of the fence.

Content-free article loaded with carbs (1)

Hosiah (849792) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464930)

I found myself skimming after page two, and it still couldn't go by fast enough. Incredible, I think instead of learning anything from it, the page actually sucked knowledge out of my brain backwards through my eyeballs, so that now I think that there is no such thing as Linux at all, because there's nowhere for the distros to come from, because it denies the existence of an open source community. BECAUSE THESE MULES BELIEVE SOFTWARE COMES FROM THE FREAKING BLUE FAIRY GODMOTHER!

Hmmmm LCA is about to start (1)

Mynorrrr (833049) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464971)

No such think as a community?

Well LCA http://conf.linux.org.au/ [linux.org.au] is about to start and there seems to be at least 8 miniconfs on before hand. If this is not evidence of strong community involvement in open source, what is?

In Other News (1)

Delifisek (190943) | more than 8 years ago | (#14464988)

There is no /. community either

Fascetious Tripe (2, Interesting)

sam_handelman (519767) | more than 8 years ago | (#14465003)

Spare me the "iron laws of history" bullshit.

  That individual actors have had a tremendous impact on every aspect of modern technological development is obvious to anyone with even a cursory familiarity with the relevant history.

  Beyond that, cultural and, I dare say, moral aspects of the technology *have* played a significant role in the adoption of open source methodologies and software, particularly at the academic level. Adoption at the academic level has been, if not a driving force, a necesarry condition for widespread adoption in the corporate sector. The talking heads the author discusses may have provided some needed business-speak triggers to make corporate types more comfortable, but that's hardly important or interesting. Richard Stallman was merely a figurehead for impersonal economic forces, but Bruce Perens has changed history? Please.

  So the author's description of history is inaccurate - it is, in fact, anti free software propoganda, and unsurprisingly rooted in the same neo-hagelian ideas as most intrinsically anti-democratic tracts.

  However, the course of action he proposes - which is not a challenge of assumptions, as he characterizes it, but a change in policy - is worth independent consideration.

  The author thinks that corporate america should move forward with an open source development model and ignore the input and wishes of the broader community of developers - the author of the piece insists they don't exist.

  Any corporation that wishes to do this is, of course, free to do so. The question for free software/open source/whatever developers is this - do you want your interests represented, or not? Individual actors have tremendous influence over the course of events from this point onward - and it is pointless to speculate on the outcome of events when individual decisions play such a decisive role.

  A software developer trying to accomplish option 1 on his own will face a daunting task, whereas a developer who releases source code, assuming the project is viable, will have a ready supply of suggestions for improving the software and adding features. - This is generally true. But how, exactly, does it follow from the elementary economic forces that the author thinks drive open source? It doesn't - it derives from the existence of the broader community, about which the author urges corporate developers to "stop worrying".

  The discussion of legal pitfalls and the economic advantages of scale and so forth are mostly accurate (as other posters have addressed), it is the conclusions that he draws from them with which I disagree.

The issue is much deeper (1)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14465031)

The problem is that too many people see copyrights as a meca of free markets and property rights when in truth they need to look at them as massive microregulations on how people can use and apply information in the information age. Rather than seeing them as some glorious protection for creators, they need to be looked at as the intelectual sewage that they are. The current software industry in the USA is just a manifestation of this ignorance (perhaps motivated by greed, and the desire for total control) Anyhow, when one understands that, then the success of the GPL compaired to other licenses makes perfect sense. In fact, it should really say something when the GPL is more successfull in free market economies than non free market ones. I think the bottom line is that in the information age there is a lot more money to be made from information services than there is from content control, and it wrong to hold to hold up the information age for the sake of a few media empires who can't see it any other way.
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