Friday, October 20, 2006

Open source is not your enemy

The last weeks, I've seen an emerge of Open Source (OS) critical blogs. Those blogs most of the times talk how OS either provides no business opportunity, low quality products, steals our jobs, are expensive, is for communists only or the participators are thiefs.

I don't get it. Why is open source so terrifying? Why is it so hard to understand that some people wants to collaborate on mutual project? Isn't it more fun to do stuff together than doing them yourself?

Most OS projects are developed together with other people, every one has a say. To me that sounds a lot more like Democracy, and definetly not communism. Has nothing changes since the McCarthy era?

Sure, OSS don't have a support hot line which you can call, and it takes time to get used to ask your peers for help through mailing lists, or finding the information youself. But then, companies that charge for their commercial product can have bad support as well. How does it feel when you paid for it and don't get any help at all?

Stealing because they are incompetent?
Well, that was one of the stupidiest comments I've read in a while. Is it a problem if someone else is using your code? Is it a problem that you are no longer the only expert of your code? There is a huge amount of projects that produce tools that I can't imagine how to code. If someone is an expert on something else, why not utilise them; instead of doing it yourself? OSS is the opposite of the "Not invented here" idea.

No business opportunities?
I'm sorry, but isn't MySQL, RedHat, JBoss successful companies? Don't they make money?

Steals our jobs?
Open Source Software (OSS) is not going to make all developers unemployed. You need to see it from the other side, OSS helps us produce better quality products. We no longer need to implement a LinkedList, a String class or a web server every time a new project is started. Building on top of OSS will get us to the goal quickier. Then if I make an adjustment to an OSS, I give something back to the community. I'm tired of re-inventing the wheel every day. But sure, if I'm a crappy developer, then I should be worried.


Payton Byrd said...

Looks like I found my polar opposite! The description that communism is that a few people get rewards for the work of a lot of people pretty much sums up Open Source to me. How many contributors have submitted code and had it published for the Linux kernal? How many of them didn't get paid a penny for it? How many people are well known by the general public for Linux? What rewards have the unpaid contributors gotten from participating in this communistic endeavor?

unchqua said...

The description of communism you can find elsewhere on the net or in your local library, or ask your teacher if you don't be afraid to look incompetent. Yours is invalid.
As of open source side, not a few get rewarded for other's work. Many people contribute to many projects, and far more people use it every day. It's still not an ideal socialistic future, but have you read H. Wells or may be H. Miller? Or G. Orwell? For me, Orwell's "1984" is a realistic future if there still will be companies like MS and its political similarities. European Union is all opposite to this vector, and one can clearly see that this way is the good future.
What rewards have the unpaid contributors gotten? I'm sorry, but have you any evidences that they are forced to do their jobs, sitting in a chains days and might writing code? No. They decided to participate freely, and everyone else is enjoing their enthusiasm. And each of them are free to leave at any moment, but I hardly remember a person who loudly did so.
How many people are well known? Are you blind or deaf? I don't even know what to say... Search the internet, may be...
Communistic endeavor? Ha, that's just stupid.

redsolo said...

@payton - The definition of Communism is nothing like what you describe. What you describe is capitalism. A few people get the reward from the worker mass.

Anyhow, they make changes to the kernel so it is improved. They don't get paid but they do get a better software than before, a software that is free, a software that does not require costly upgrades every 2 years. They save money, which could be spent on other things.

But then again, does everything you do require a reward? Have you ever helped out on a little-league baseball match? Helped out in school for free? Have you ever helped an old lady over the road? Are those people doing that communists?

Brian Lee said...

Open source is not just some commi socialist ideal. Only people and organizations that either don't understand it or don't benefit from it make that claim. It works really well in capitalism.

Open source mainly works due to a phenomenon called co-opetition. That is a group of people (sometimes even competitors) with a common goal work together towards that goal.

One good example happened in Hollywood. One day a few studios realized that there wasn't a product good enough for them to edit film frame by frame. They all needed this product. Unfortunately no existing software company at the time realized this, and since these studios weren't in the software business; no one studio had the resources to create this software in-house. Consequently with all the studios in question pooling their development resources (along with some prior open source work) - Film Gimp was born.

What was the implication? Major economic paradigm shift: Software (just like hardware before it) has now become a commodity and existing market caps shrunk. Companies that adapted to this change thrived (IBM, Linksys, ...). On the otherhand, companies unable or unwilling to adapt simply labeled open source as "communism"...

Now that I've gone over what's in it for organizations - what is in it for the lone developer besides being charitable? Have you ever met one of former main developers of a big open source project (tomcat, spring, apache,...)? Well if one of them happened to be sitting in front of me for an interview, I will be thinking two things:
1) this person is very skilled,
and 2) this person is worth money. This doesn't even include the fact that a lot of these guys make decent money with seminars / training sessions and books...

Am I wrong?

Brian Lee said...

"2) this person is worth money."

I meant this person is worth the money / salary he is asking

Anonymous said...

Ugh...I figured when I saw the word "Communism" there would be some ignorant comments here on what Capitalism and Communism literally means.

Common misconception of Capitalism:

"What you describe is capitalism. A few people get the reward from the worker mass."

Let's be clear on this...there are no "exploited masses" in capitalism...that's rubbish. Capitalism simply means "Give me that which I desire and I will give you this which you desire". In other words, both sides benefit from a mutually agreed-upon exchange. It empowers the consumer to reward or punish the is the ultimate form of the individual vote.

Communism does not reward pays the same regardless of your personal ambitions, goals, and motivations. In other words, you are not rewarded for excelling at your personal ambition so there is no incentive to shine.

Capitalism promotes the concept of private property which is a basic right of man...starting with the ownership of your own body and that which you create and produce. Communism requires the abolition of private property for the sake of "the public good". Practicing communists are slaves to the state.

Let's also be clear in regards to open source.

Open source software (most licenses) respect private property. You are free to keep your code if you wish not to distribute it. Keep it if you don't wish to're still free to add it to the source code of your favorite project and use it any way you wish.

Open source has far more in common with Meritocracy than it does several ways. I read an interview with Bill Burke from JBoss recently...he caught the attention of JBoss exec Marc Fleury by contributing patches (of his own free will) to the JBoss now has a fantastic job as a result. And, JBoss is a better product for *all* of us as a result. This isn't a good thing???

Venture capitalists have not earned a reputation of being strong supporters of communism, it simply does not behoove them to such proclivities, does it now? However, there must be a good reason why the mega-bucks are pouring into the open source world from investors, one would think?

The truth is, everybody wins in Open Source because everyone has the freedom to try and to fail or succeed at the activity of their choice. This concept is identical in Capitalism. Some may fail but they have the freedom and opportunity to do so. No such opportunity exists in a Communist/Socialist Utopia.

redsolo said...

I agree with you on some points about capitalism, communism and definetly open source. You are describing the concept of capitalism that I only see as a utopia.

My intention of my reply to Payton was to go to the far end of the argument as he does.

Payton Byrd said...


Would you be willing for Open Source to abide by these basic rules:

1) No company will profit from the contributions made by any minor child without duly paying prevailing wage to the minor child and only after ensuring that minor child is legally available for employment in the jurisdictions of the child's residence and the company's residence?

2) Amateur (unpaid) contributions would be limited to maximum amount of code equating to less than 8 man-hours per week per amateur contributor. Even if no wages are paid to amateur contributors, appropriate wage taxes would be paid as if the amateur contributor were being compensated the prevailing wage for the contributor's residency.

These two points really get to the heart of the matter. Most large open source projects accept contributions from anyone and many large companies directly profit from said contributions. It would be illegal for closed source companies to ignore either of these rules in the USA (and I'm sure in other civilized parts of the world as well).

Don Pedro said...


It's quite obvious to me that you (Payton) are born and raised in the US, how else could you be so ignorant? If not; not a comment that I regret anyhow...

Have you got any clue how the real wold works? Do you really think that any US laws stops child labour? Do you really think that your shiny new (American) Nike's aren't manifactured by minors or underpaid, starving 3rd world labour?
The easiest way to get around laws like this is to just close your eyes/ears and use a middle man to sort out the manufaturing contracts. This way you can always claim that "as far as we know, we do not use any child labour" (coz we told our middle man that we do not want to know).

Pay labour tax? Why not force help workers in Burma pay worker tax to the corrupted Burmesian goverment?
Heck, they are doing loads of work for no money at all, and others prospers from their work, that can't be right, now can it?

Wake up, not everyone is as focused as you are on money, some of us actually do work just for the fun of it.

redsolo said...

I don't think child labour is a problem for open source organisations; as no child is forced to work with it nor are they paid for it. Child labour is a nasty thing, which many companies utilise until they are caught. So I wouldn't say that all companies in the US abide by those rules, they may say they do, but in reality they don't. Hey, are you still feeling good about those sneakers you are wearing? I doubt those countries where child labour exists can give out free computers when they can't give out free food. BTW, the USA never ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child

I don't see how those two points are the real heart of the matter, as we were discussing if OS is like communism. I assume that you no longer think it does, as you changed the subject.

Payton Byrd said...

Hmm, seems I struck quite the bit a reality for you guys when you stoop to "Do you like your Nikes?" Well, I don't wear Nikes. I try to always buy shoes and clothes from retailers and manufacturers that have a good public record for child labor practices.

In the US, a minor child does not have the authority to contractually assign copyright for their own creations. It is the legal obligation of the parent or guardian of any minor child to make such decisions. As such, any open source project that forces a child to "consent" to a reassignment of the copyright to the Free Software Foundation or any other organization or entity is thus breaking the law in the USA unless they obtain the express legal transfer of copyright from the guardian of the minor child.

Perhaps in the EU they do not attempt to protect children from exploitation, but the argument about shoes is a falacy and just reinforces the wink-wink, nod-nod, not-gonna-do-it attitudes of socialists towards any kind of personal responsibility including the responsibility to protect others who are not able to protect themselves.

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