RE: Why Aren't Open Source Tools Being Considered?

Subject: RE: Why Aren't Open Source Tools Being Considered?
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axion -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 19 Aug 2005 15:10:49 -0700

On Fri, 2005-08-19 at 17:17 -0400, Nuckols, Kenneth M wrote:

> Bruce, I'm curious to confirm/challenge my perceptions about your "Part
> 2" question on the philosophy behind OS development. My belief (backed
> up by some, but not extensive research) has always been that ultimately
> it's all about a payday--either in terms of fame or cash.

I think you've left out a feeling of self-respect, of doing the right
thing -- or, dare I say it -- altruism. Many people in the free and open
source communities sincerely feel that access to at least the basic
computer programs is a necessity if freedom of speach is to have any
meaning in a modern society. In support of that goal, some have
volunteered inordinate amounts of time and effort. Often, they've
inconvenienced themselves by not using proprietary software (although
the need for that is lessening every year). I've talked with such
people, and I have no reason to doubt their sincerity. They're social
activists, just as much as members of Greenpeace or Amnesty
International are.

Another motivation you'e left out is intellectual curiosity. Many people
in the FOSS communities are not only extremely intelligent, but
extremely wide-ranging in their interests and their knowledge. Their
sort of curiosity flourishes most when ideas can be freely exchanged.
So, not unnaturally, that's the kind of climate they've tried to create.
They dislike proprietary software because, for them, it makes the world
a less interesting place.

> On the other hand, those seeking cash want to "test market" software
> under an OS model that's "almost ready" for market for one of several
> reasons:

You seem to imply two things:

- That it's easy to move from a free or open source software (FOSS)
licence to a proprietary one.

- That FOSS is not as good as proprietary software.

Neither is true as a a general rule. Obviously, though, both vary
depending on the case.

Also, the history of free software and open source is littered with the
remnants of companies started by executives who thought they were the
first to get the idea that the communities were ripe for exploitation.
To start a successful development community requires some major signs of
good faith. Moreover, the community is organized well-enough that people
who violate FOSS licences can end up in court.

> In the end, from what I've seen the only reason anyone creates OS
> software is to get a big payday for their ego or their wallet. Is that
> completely inaccurate, completely accurate, or somewhere in between? I'd
> be curious to know.

It depends on the person. And even in one individual, motives are
usually mixed.

I think it's also important to stress that ego gratification resembles
monetary payment only in a metaphorical sense. Ego gratification
includes a feeling of being appreciated, which is a normal desire for
anyone and leads to a well-adjusted person. Beyond the point where
comfort is assured, the pursuit of money can have a high human cost.

Because of this difference, I hesitate to equate the two. Doing so
threatens to create an over-simplified view of people's motivations that
can't account for things like altruism or intellectual curiosity. That's
why, I think, FOSS has blindsided so many software corporations. Their
executives never imagined that people would mount an alternative to
their products for such reasons.

Bruce Byfield 604-421.7177


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RE: Why Aren't Open Source Tools Being Considered?: From: Nuckols, Kenneth M

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