Free software is a weak mode of production

Free software is a weak mode of production


The success of GNU/Linux and other free software projects is annoying. Free and open source development doesn't fit neatly in the box of standard business practices and is therefore a problem. We really need to break free of those hippies at the Free Software Foundation and let the grown-ups manage things from here on out. Not to mention that the peer-based production model doesn't really work that great anyway.

Or at least, that's what I inferred from this post at IPcentral. There are some peculiar ideas there that prompted me to write in response.

There's this idea that since big money is at stake now, we can't have these weirdos involved who look at software freedom as a moral issue.

"There has never been a good fit between the FSFers, who believe that software really should be free, and the corporate types, who want to commodify operating systems as a way of providing a platform on which to hang money-making apps and services."

It's as if by some embarrassing accident, we got all this great free software to use in our businesses, but now it's time to lock it down? Some people only understand control. I don't even see the conflict. You can still "hang money-making apps and services" on the free software.

Why stop now? If it's good to turn operating systems in to a commodity, why not do the same for just about every other kind of software out there? Businesses that move goods around all share a common road, rail, and air infrastructure. One of the ways they compete is through logistics: how well they move the goods. Similarly, it would be useful to share software infrastructure that works through standards, and then compete based on how well you use the software to run your business.

There's also a "so long, and thanks for all the fish" kind of idea. Something of value has been created, but we really can't go on in such an unseemly way. Again, there's this befuddlement that free software development has worked so well, and the inability to extrapolate continued benefits. A comment attached to the post asks, "The goose has laid enough golden eggs, time to kill it and cook it for dinner?" Ok, full disclosure: It's my pseudonymous comment, but I'm still curious. Is it just too bizarre and scary to accept that free software has worked, and to look forward to even more gains from this approach?

Which brings us to another idea in the post, and quite to the contrary of the previous: that free and open source development is not such a great mode of production at all (despite being good enough to spur adoption and create "huge financial stakes" for corporations):

"...the quicker its weaknesses as a mode of production are rendered obvious, the sooner the debate can shift to real issues of how to define and protect IP rights in a time of great technological change. Where should they shrink, and where should they expand?"

This idea is not really developed in the brief post, but it is hauled out to address the true concern and fear of some free software/culture opponents, that this model might "infect" the business models of the music and movie industries. By dismissing free software development as a workable model, they can in turn dismiss the idea that culture should also be free (as in free speech!). But let's not get into the culture discussion, since here at FSM we're primarily concerned about free software.

Back to the quote, I like that the debate is dependent on exposing the weakness of free and open source software development. If it isn't shown to be weak, does that mean we don't have to suffer stronger IP protection?

Free software does have at least one big weakness. Despite the support of large companies, including IBM, a lot of free software doesn't have the protection of money and lawyers. Some people, including those at IPcentral, I think, would love to see free software projects slowed or killed off due to their lack of the bureaucracy and resources available to traditional companies. And many people would love to use the grossly dysfunctional patent system as a way of eliminating the threat and competition from free software.

But, other than being vulnerable to entrenched interests with lawyers, how is it that free and open source software development is weak as a mode of production? Free software has been and will continue to be a big driver of this "time of great technological change." The Internet is built on free software. I'm not worried about the strength of the mode.

The genie is out of the bottle. Let's keep making wishes.

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Please visit the Moving to Freedom web site at http://www.movingtofreedom.org for additional woolly thinking about free software and free etcetera. (It's new and improved, with page caching! Your visit will help with testing the cache and with my desperate need for attention.)

License

Reusable with this attribution, and please note if modifications are made: Copyright © Scott Carpenter, 2006. Originally published in Free Software Magazine. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License (CC-BY-SA-2.5).

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Comments

Bridget Kulakauskas's picture

I couldn't agree more. I think a lot of people fall into the trap of thinking that if you can't justify something from a neo-liberal, money spinning perspective, there is something wrong with it. And, while that's a seductive trap to fall into, it's so much nicer if you realise that other approaches can work as well? It's called progress. I mean, while people who classify as hippies or activists are often annoying and patchouli-scented, and derrided as lazy layabout stoners, they often manage to achieve real results - but then, once they do, the results are snatched away by the mainstream and turned into responsible and grownup things. Sometimes it's nice for things to remain in the realm of 'ethical' versus 'economical'. Anyway... thanks for putting it all so succinctly.

Cheers :-)

Scott Carpenter's picture

Thanks, Bridget. I think many creative people who manage to make a living today from their work are afraid of what all of this freedom will mean to their livelihood, whether in software, music, movies, and etc., and I understand it. We all have to make a living, and we can't remove economic motivations. (At least not yet.) But it just seems like something amazing is happening and I don't want to see it stamped out because of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

I read something today (but unfortunately can't remember where or what it was exactly) comparing the development of the scientific method with free software development methods. Imagine how resistant people must have been to this crazy newfangled scientific method, and how threatening it was. I hope in a few hundred years, people will just accept that *obviously* information has to be free. (Or maybe it will be like America today, where we have to have this debate about whether evolution could possibly have happened or if it's really the Flying Spaghetti Monster we should be looking to for answers. Notice that this monster shares the same TLA as Free Software Magazine. Coincidence, or Intelligent Design?)

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

"Sometimes it's nice for things to remain in the realm of 'ethical' versus 'economical'."

It seems to me you've missed the point entirely. These guys want you to believe that free software is the 'moral and uneconomic' route, and thus anti-money, which by definition requires both greed and the desire for the most economical decisions (like replacing all your employees with chinese slave-labour). The truth that they so desperately don't want you to realize is that free-software done right* (important wording!) is both morally *and* economically superior to the model upon which they have built their lively-hood. There's no reason to fear these people though. They can throw FUD at 'free' software all they like, and they may slow the project to some degree, but in the end the economics of 'free' (in all it's meanings) will win. The key difference between their ideal and the 'free' ideal is that you can kill a project whose only reason for being is money, but you cannot kill a project whose only reason for being is the knowledge of it's having been.

* Free software can be done 'wrong' easily. There are several reasons for this, but here's 3 off the top of my head:

(1) Many 'free' projects are started as a hobby by someone who thinks it's a good way to get a head-start, but really doesn't understand the long-term obligations. Eventually this person will inadvertently kill their own project by alieniating their own supporters.

(2) People that think much like those at IPCentral will actively try to sabotage the project in the hopes of picking up the pieces when it falls apart.

(3) Many projects are started in a company where a small group of individuals 'get it', but their boss doesn't. The project will develop just long enough to become viable, at which point the boss, seeing potential, will step in and claim the project for 'the company' (i.e. himself). It's all downhill from there.

iraysyvalo's picture
Submitted by iraysyvalo on

Conclusion : I think that DeLong guy never read the GPL manifest anyway.

He's still mainly confusing free beer and free speech.

________________________
Let's go party.

Scott Carpenter's picture

Ignorance is a possibility, but from the (casual) reading I've done over there, I think these guys are pretty savvy about the issues and about what free software really means. They just don't like it.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Free software should remain FREE forever! Think FREE!

kamranusman's picture

i think all the great things in life are a combination of need and the passion for its evolution. If there is no passion or motivation (or moral attachment), the development is not likely to progress much, or atleast, the developers will not really enjoy it. On the other hand, those developers also had a purpose at hand. Linux Torvalds needed a Minix clone to aid in his learning as a hobby. Rusmus made PHP out of his need to enhance his site to offer something exciting.

So, I think the way its going right now is good enough and balanced, even if it doen't seem balanced enough. In a wider scope, Businesses and Geeks are all expected to live happy lives with the way it is going at the moment.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

WHY do people always seem to assume that the notion of free software means "without price"?

Free means OPEN, first.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

It's not that Free Software has succeeded, it's that its success shows how clearly the idea of "Intellectual Property" has failed: Instead of promoting competition and efficiency, "IP" has encumbereded the market to the point where it is so unproductive users have been forced to give up on vendors and just do it themselves. Although failing their customers, monopolism is great for the largest and most influential companies, so they will do all they can to delay the demise of the "IP" regime, which obviously includes fighting against the exposure of such evidence of its counterproductivity.

-Greg

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I'm really not sure where you gathered your ideologies of Free Opensource software, but it's apparently not from the academic and scientific community. Currently, we run a Beowulf cluster at the cancer research center I work at. In the line of Proteomics and Bioinformatics, the Free Software that powers this 20 node cluster not only saved the taxpayers alot of money (since we are funded by NIH), but performed better than any previous "proprietary" solution that we had tried in the past. In addition, due to it being an "open" system, our programmers have been able to develop creative solutions that integrate with the operating system in a harmonious manner.

This little cluster is plugging away at protein chains to help find treatments for cancer. To say that it is unimportant, or should just go away is ignorant and wreckless. It is projects like the Beowulf, Linux, and the other Open Source titles that push those writing proprietary code to do one better. Even your everyday application like K3b beats any proprietary software for burning CD/DVD media that I've ever found. I didn't have to pay anything for it, but if I needed support I not only have a community, but a company that I can pay to help me. I also choose Novell's SuSE Linux to run several other servers that do anything from acting as domain controllers, and print/file servers. Having a mixed heterogenous environment also adds to our overall security, as one 0 day exploit cannot take down all of our services.

I think before you write a article that so illegitimately dismisses Open Source software as all being "hobby-ware", you should ask those in the industry that actually use it. You know, I wouldn't be suprised if this very webserver runs off of Apache. That would make me grin.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

What I believe goes missing in the whole debate of open software versus proprieatary is the fundamental issues of economics. The open source / proprietary divide highlights the same issues of start-up vs. large coporation thinking - small is dynamic, large is beurocratic.

The open source movement is extremely important in it's development of new and novel ways of implementing and doing things for users, since it is produced by users and not a marketing department. However, what is ignored is the fact that someone has to write that code, and that someone needs to eat.

In a corporate, controlled IP environment, that person is clothed, fed and supplied for by their salary which is derived from the earnings of the firm which in turn are entirely based on the premise that it owns the right to sell it's product. Open source firms trying to charge for services or sales run into a fundamental difficulty: The product can be replicated easily with it's bare bones hanging out, nullifying competition. And we all know competition is the heart of a free and open market.

Which begs the point: Monopoly/Corporatism or Zero-Competition - ultimately they are the same, as hemogenous products are produced by either a well funded marketing and research department in one or through an evolutionary process in the other - IE7 vs. Firefox 2.0 being a good example.

This is why IP is important - ownership of the right to your creation is paramount to it's value.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

You sound like you've come straight across from IPcentral. Did you find FSM by looking through your referral links? And you didn't even have the guts to admit it. I cry foul.

-The indivisible man

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

It would seem that whenever one lowers the barrier to entry in any market, he increases competition. So saying that "other companies can easily take the software you are selling and sell it themselves decreases competition" - that seems to be a bit backwards.

If this were true, there would be only one linux vendor in the world - or no linux vendors.

How many Windows vendors are there? How many linux vendors? There is much more competition (and hence innovation) in the linux space.

The point here is that as a society we move on much quicker when there is real competition. If OS technology can be commoditized (like with Linux) then great - MS and everyone else can move their capital, research, and service power into the next big thing.

Why reinvent the wheel every 5 years and have nothing innovative to show for it. It is a terrible waste of human potential.

Long live the hyper-competition created by open source software. It is the real and only drive of true innovation. As someone wise once said "Any good idea is built on another - to come up with a truly unique idea one would have to go back to the beginning when we knew nothing and start over again - and we don't want to do that."

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Do you really understand anything. What does IP mean, because it does not mean what you think it means. FOSS is IP as much as closed source is. Just because you can change/improve/copy FOSS does not take way ownership. Take linux for an example Linus could not close source it if he wanted to because he does not own all the parts. Others send code to be included in linux but do not give him ownership they keep that, read and understand the GPLv2.

Terry Hancock's picture

As a datapoint, the only software I've been paid to write was paid for as a custom service: software used in scientific research, developed as part of a university program in the one case and support scripts, documentation, and software packaging in another. In both cases, the software was done in a "free" environment.

The university software was developed in 1985 or so, so I had never heard of the GPL or Richard Stallman, but we weren't considering the software as a saleable product, but merely part of our research program.

The later work I explicitly arranged to be on a non-copyleft free license, which allowed Caltech and I to have equal footing in exploiting it, either for free or non-free purposes (as a minor ethical point I view copyleft as a type of payment arrangement, so if work is already paid for by a government or corporate grant, then I feel a non-copyleft license is more appropriate -- if the taxpayers pay for it directly or indirectly, it should be effectively in the public domain).

OTOH, I've never written software as part of something to be sold, and I know maybe one person who has out of all the people I worked with (he was writing stuff for the Xbox 360, last I heard).

So, really, I just don't buy the argument that proprietary software is necessary to make programming a paying job. Other people have collected actual statistics on this (e.g. Eric Raymond), I just have my own experience, but the conclusion is the same: most software is written as a contracted service anyway.

That said, I do believe there are certain categories of software, such as games or tax-software, which have a limited duration of utility, which are completely reasonable to sell on a proprietary basis. These are products which require a rapid, schedule-driven development cycle, followed by a well-defined (and short) product lifespan. Since they require extraordinary effort, and have only a limited time to offset the cost of development, sales of copies is a reasonable funding solution.

The alternative in such cases is something like RSPP, in which the funds are collected in advance, but that's always a bit of a risky approach (what if the funds are collected, but no product is delivered? what if the product is delivered, but it's inferior? what if you can't raise enough money in advance? etc). The proprietary approach actually can be looked at as an after-the-fact collective patronage arrangement.

Of course, by the same token, you could develop such products (and I think this would be especially cool for games) on a "time delay" license. Free Software Magazine itself had planned (and I think still hopes to in the future) license articles on this kind of basis: they are not available immediately under a free license, but automatically revert to one. It's kind of a re-implementation of the US constitutional idea of "limited times" copyrights -- but you know, for real.

I tried to interest Creative Commons in promoting a license module like this as a better solution than "non-commercial" licenses, but there wasn't much interest. Maybe somebody will do it -- I know I haven't got the energy to become a license maintainer. ;-)

Scott Carpenter's picture

Games and tax software are good examples where it may be tough for free software to compete. Well, tax software wouldn't be so bad if we could come up with a better tax code. For games, I like how id Software releases source code under the GPL after a period of time.

Outside of software, if I were fortunate enough to sell a book to a major publisher, I'd like to think it wouldn't betray my belief in free culture to sell it under a normal copyright for a period of time (1 year? 2 years?) before releasing it under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license. (That's in the short term. Longer term I'd like to have a way to make money and immediately release freely.)

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

What you are postulating is ridiculous. Without IP, people will still want software written and be prepared to pay money for that, and people will still be prepared to write software for money. You can't seriously think that the money won't find its way from the former to the latter in exchange for software production?

The means by which the money gets from user A to software house B might change, but its route from software house B to developer C won't really, because in both worlds only the most efficient corporate structures for software-production can survive.

Actually people would be prepared to spend _more_ money since they're getting software they can do _more_ with. (Greater efficiency might shrink the amount of work required, who knows, but that happens in every industry. Anyway more software will be produced, and its production will be funded.)

Anthony Taylor's picture

Your assumptions about the economic value of software is mistaken, as is your assumption that you can only earn a living writing software if your software is closed-source.

First, let's talk about earning money.

I have earned money by being a DBA, by writing custom vertical software for niche markets, etc. I have contributed to a few free software projects, though I have never been a key player in any successful free software project. This is true for most authors of Free software-- their day-job is not writing Free software, but doing the other things geeks do, like manage your IT infrastructure.

Secondly, software will get written, and people will pay others to write it. That has been proven by the success of Eclipse, Linux, Apache, Cygnus Software, Red Hat, Debian, Ubuntu, Samba, CUPS, X11, PostgreSQL, MySQL, BerkleyDB, OpenOffice, and a whole host of others, including most of the infrastructure of the Internet.

Now, even if people *weren't* getting paid to directly write software, it would *still* get written. Consider the case of Enlightenment, or Nethack, or Linux, or Samba, or Debian, or many others too numerous to mention. (Yes, there's crossover. That's one of the great things about Free software-- anyone can participate, whether they are being paid to or not.)

Now consider the programmers at most closed-source software vendors. Do they, the men and women who create the software, see anything but their salary? In all but the most exceptional cases, the answer is, "No, they do not." They are rarely better off than the Free software programmer. Now with programming jobs being outsourced to India and China, they are in many cases worse off than Free software developers, unless they live in India or China. The holder of the "IP" is not the programmer, nor probably even the designer, but the corporation. It is not the programmer who wins in the closed-source world.

So the whole thought that Free software == starving programmers is false. In fact, it is an outright lie that fails in the face of all evidence. And the opposite is also not true: programmers do not see much from the fruit of their labors in the closed-source world, either.

Now, let's talk about the value of software.

The value of software comes from the use of software, not the selling of software. All other things being equal (which I know they are not), GNU/Linux and MS-Windows are equally valuable to a corporation as a web server or an email server. In one case, the corporation must purchase licenses for the software (often totaling hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars). In the other case, licenses are free.

In both cases, the corporation must pay someone to come in and install, configure, administer, and maintain the software.

The economic worth of the software is weighed against the economic cost of the software. In the end, that is the value proposition. To the corporation that is extracting value from the software, the initial and recurring costs of the software count *against* its ultimate value.

This doesn't even touch on the fact that Free software can be modified beyond its original aims, thereby giving the corporation or user even more value; nor have I mentioned the lack of support for aging closed-source software, forcing frequent, costly, and disruptive upgrades.

So, your whole point of IP being important to the value of software is not only wrong, but it is the opposite of the truth. IP impedes extraction of real economic value.

Scott Carpenter's picture

Great comment, Anthony -- thanks. As I've often seen it explained, it makes a lot more sense to base the business model around software support than shrink-wrapped licenses. At least, it makes more sense for the consumer. If I'm a corporation, do I want to be dependent on Microsoft who has the incentive to keep shoving new features in to already buggy software and get it out the door and then coerce me in to upgrades when they're not needed? Or do I want to go to Red Hat which may have more incentive to provide me with a stable environment?

----
http://www.movingtofreedom.org/

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The difference is the product. With propietary software, the product is the COPY of the software (which, can be easily replicated anyway, although illegally). In Open Source companies, the product is not the software (since it is a publicly owned good) but software is the vehicle. The product can be either support, training, customization services, consulting... and these services cannot be easily replicated (either legally or illegally).
That is the difference my friend: Open Source PRODUCTS add value, they dont merely same copies of the same product once-and-again. True value from true work, and not anymore work once and charge thousands (and thats what propietary software/media/IP companies try to do).

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The difference is the product. With propietary software, the product is the COPY of the software (which, can be easily replicated anyway, though it can be illegal). In Open Source companies, the product is not the software (since it is a publicly owned good) but software is the vehicle. The product can be either support, training, customization services, consulting... and these services cannot be easily replicated (either legally or illegally).
That is the difference my friend: Open Source PRODUCTS add value, they dont merely same copies of the same product once-and-again. True value from true work, and not anymore work once and charge thousands (and thats what propietary software/media/IP companies try to do).

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ is hosted on freebsd/apache

nuff said

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

> In a corporate, controlled IP environment, that person is clothed, fed and supplied for by their salary which is derived from the earnings of the firm which in turn are entirely based on the premise that it owns the right to sell it's product.

I don't know how it is over there, but here in Europe, programming is (mostly) done as a "service" for customers (i.e. for companies that have better things to do than make their computers working themselves).
So the whole notion of "based on the right to sell it's product" is weird. It's the _skills_ and _time_ that are sold.

> Open source firms trying to charge for services or sales run into a fundamental difficulty: The product can be replicated easily with it's bare bones hanging out,

Of course

> nullifying competition.

Not really. They can have someone else extend the program, if he can do so better. Am I missing something?

> And we all know competition is the heart of a free and open market.

Yeah.

> This is why IP is important - ownership of the right to your creation is paramount to it's value.

Errr. Havings skills (i.e. to be able to deliver what the customer wants) is paramount to your value in the marketplace.

Ownership doesn't have anything to do with the value. I own this pile of aluminium foils left over from food packaging. They don't really have value, because nobody wants them (I guess :)).

Since programs you write are not solely your creation, it would be weird to have a monopoly for a program you didn't write (all by yourself) (which is mostly impossible in any reasonable timeframe anyway).

btw: the term "IP" is a catch-all term that doesn't have a clear-cut meaning (like the word "free" as well), so please use "Patents" or "Copyright" where you mean it (or "Newthing").

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Houston Flight Control Center operates exclusively with Linux

Carpenter's blog is out to lunch.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Open Source Software is the productivity of volunteer spirits who desire to improve problematic areas for a working advantage. These resourceful spirits love a good challenge and they love to show off their cabilities. The Linux environment is an extreme improvement over the new Microsoft OS coming out in January '07 not only for the price and quality but for the advanced features available on a Linux System.

The setup and learning curve of a Linux Operating System in a corporate setting is certainly worth the time concidering the security issues and the cost of operation. A corporation with only 200 workstations will save a small fortune in license fees by using a Linux System. The same environment might spend $20,000 for a Microsoft OS.

That alone is enough to make the big money grabbers angry. The easy street, lazy computer peckers who are used to the MS OS might become disgruntled at the thought of learning a new way of accomplishing tasks. That is an interesting theory! A Linux Operating System is actually much easier to use and so much faster than a Microsoft OS. Linux has come such a long way by the sweat of volunteers who should be given a standing ovation and a glass of bubbly sparkling wine to celebrate the achievements.

Sharon Solesbee, Internet Engineer
www.InternetEngineer.biz

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Speaking as a developer, if I were the last person standing beside Stallman shouting for and producing free software, I'd still do it with just as much vigor as a do today.

Keep fighting the good fight, Scott. Great read.

Scott Carpenter's picture

Thanks. I really appreciate the kind words, and I like that sentiment. Richard is quite a controversial person, but he's earned my respect in the way that he speaks and writes so well about free software. (Not to mention what he has done to get the whole thing going!) So count me in on the shouting. :-)

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Many of us with MBAs suffer from a narrow mindset of corporations, products, and profit. We were taught that a company makes a product, owns/licenses the product, and gets the profits from sales/licenses of the product. The company invests R&D in the product, creates IP in the product, which they own, and they make revenue on sales or licenses of the product. This is the "traditional" software market and was reflected in most software companies until the Internet boom of the late 90's.

Giving a product away, often to your competition, is very hard to understand for those that subscribe to this mindset. Open Source, to them, is basically giving your product away. It is helping your competition compete against you. It devalues your investments in what you perceve as your product.

What they fail to grasp is that a lot of programming is under contract with little or no IP, just repeating the same stuff over and over (infrastructure). They fail to grasp that much of the software stack is now a commodity which can be replaced by other components for little cost hence there is little reason to "own" a browser, a word processor, etc. They fail to grasp that their widget is just built on the shoulders of other widgets just as science is built on the work of those that went before.

Open source is a major shift. They can't easily see how to make money, so it is a big threat. They see a loss of value of their existing products following their existing, antiquated model. What they fail to realize is that there still is a valid arena for commercial products and there is a large arena for services and support. However, why would you buy a spreadsheet, operating system, word processor, database, web server, etc. when you can get very good ones for free? Only purchase those if you need specific capabilities such as really big databases with millions of rows, replication, redundant servers, etc.

Today, a software company should focus on new, innovative, creative products and use open source as a component in their toolbox. They should encourage and support open source, much like IBM (they get it), and only create proprietary software for specialized markets or for business integration.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Free or paid is a choice you have. Nobody is forcing anybody to get a free software.
Generally when you pay and buy licensed product you do not have the freedom to tailor them to your needs, you have to use what you got in the box. Where the GNU softwares give you the flexibilty to mod it to your needs.
Personally i would like to have more choices than to be a slave to one vendor.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The free software model of colaboration obviously works. Through this model we have the likes of linux, gimp, and many other free tools. Cooperation DOES breeed innovation - linux was one of the first operating systems widely available to offer clustering. Open source and capitalism can coexist - someone has to support all the linux servers and teach the non-techies how to use the free software properly... ;-)

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Whenever I hear this kind of "FLOSS is anti-capitalist" crap, I can't help thinking of Stevens (R) of Alaska. "It's a bunch of tubes!" They just really don't get it, and so it will pass them by.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

In the past, neighbors worked together to build houses and schools each man contributed from his own abilities. Many of those buildings are still standing after hundreds. I had to move out of a building in a subdivision built in 1970 by a contractor. In the past musicians made a modest living by actually performing. Literally every single popular song has the same basic chord and rhythm structure as previous songs written by other artists. Artists refer to it as being "influenced" by another artist. In the past, ideas were shared and put into print. Thus, we have great works of art, literature sciences and medicine. Today we hoard these things, lock them up so that only a select few really benefit. Our culture values wealth, but cares very little how it is attained. Today, companies are patenting the very genes that make us human. Disney made a fortune off of stories that were in the public domain and laid claim to things that never belonged to them in the first place. Cisco systems just applied for a patent on voice, data, video transmission on the same network. Yes, the patent is so broad you could run a truck through it, it basically covers all cable, telephone and microwave networks. But they have the money, so laying claim to anything is a matter of dollars & lawyers. I don't think Newton much cared if you used his calculus to solve a problem. But today you have companies patenting the obvious and abusing the justice system for profit. Penicilin wasn't patented and it certainly was not a hippie who discovered it. But drug companies lock up the rights to drugs so that most people who need the drug could never afford it. Greed can destroy a market, that's why we have the SEC here in the US. Working collectively to benefit all does not destroy an economy. It never has in the history of mankind. But runaway greed, excessive litigation, and down right theft certainly can and has.

fiorentio's picture
Submitted by fiorentio on

Where software is coded for free, it really shows that the coder has passion for the project at hand. Although I can certainly see the advantages of having everything organized and managed by a professional team, it is the passion that separates a so so product from a real useful and innovative product.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

all these hours typing could be spent coding

Author information

Scott Carpenter's picture

Biography

Scott Carpenter has been lurking around the fringe of the free software movement since 1998 and in 2006 started a more concentrated effort to "move to freedom." (Chronicled at the Moving to Freedom blog: http://www.movingtofreedom.org/.)

He has worked as a professional software developer/analyst since 1997, currently in enterprise application integration.

(Views expressed here and at movingtofreedom.org are strictly his own and do not represent those of his employer. Nor of miscellaneous associates including friends and family. Nor of his dog. It's possible they're representative of his cats' opinions, but unlikely. Void where prohibited. Local sales tax applies.)