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Experiment in Publication and Profit

By Adam Theo in Internet
Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 09:42:19 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

The open source world has always been marked by constant experimentation. In fact, that is an underlying principle of the open source model. And since experimentation is the method of invention, and invention is the child of necessity, I have begun a theoretical experiment in economics which will provide a practical solution to multiple problems facing the open source world.

Problems such as how to expand open source into fields that have so far been resistant to the model; or how to fairly compensate developers for their work by accepting, not ignoring, software's ability for unlimited supply with a 'copy' command. The solution is to Ransom the software.

A fan of the Ransom model recently published a pointer to the Ransom project at Slashdot, but I am providing a complete introduction here in hopes of spurring greater interest and discussion on the concept. I hope that I'll get some great feedback to improve the model, possibly get a few more people on the Ransom development mailing list, but mostly to spread awareness that there are experiments like this going on, and that some of them may be very close to solving the problems that critics and fans alike see in open source.

In short, "Ransom is a software publishing model where the rights to the source code remain restricted until a set amount of money is collected or a set date passes, at which point the code is automatically freed under an OSI/FSF-approved license" (from the Ransom project website). Ransom will hopefully operate entirely within the scope of copyright law (I'm trying to get some people experienced in copyright law to help us out until I can afford an attorney to look over our drafts. If you can help, please join the mailing list and let us know!), and will take the philosophy of being a basic model which others (such as escrow and auditing services) can build on top of as needed.

"But", you may claim, "this is already being done with projects and companies like Blender and TransGaming, as well as other models such as the Street Performer Protocol". No, it isn't, actually.

  • The major factor that makes Ransom different from what Transgaming did (or rather, claimed it would do), and I believe Blender as well, is that Ransom is no mere "promise". It is a legally-enforceable agreement that all parties go into, so that no-one can break the agreement without being sued. Thankfully there were no problems with Blender, and in fact it was a great success, but TransGaming had a little scandal a while back (which I don't claim to know anything about, I've just heard of this second-hand) where it promised to free some code under the Wine license once they had 20,000 subscribers to their developer team. As the number of subscribers increased, so did Transgaming's required number. Since it was just a promise, and not part of any contract or license, very little legal action could be taken (and in fact none that I'm aware of ever was). Under a formal, legally-binding model such as Ransom, this wouldn't have happened.
  • Another factor that makes Ransom different from existing "pay to get free" models like the Street Performer Protocol is that the work must exist before payments can begin. In fact, some sort of binary demo or sample source code is required under the Ransom model to prevent vaporware and other scams. This even fits into the ransom analogy, since I'm calling this requirement the "Proof of Life". True, this also prevents the use of GPL'ed code in the Ransomed software, but we've decided it's a small price to pay to ensure Quality of Service. Besides, this may be reconsidered in the future after the model has gained a good reputation and there are escrow services available to help ease fears.
  • And a final factor that people should take into account when comparing this model is that there is a mandatory expiration date for the Ransom. The developer must set a specific date when the work becomes released under the free license no matter if the Ransom amount has been collected in full or not. This is to ensure that the work doesn't become locked into a proprietary project for eternity. The date must be a specific, absolute date, not relative to events like death, transfer of copyright ownership, or normal expiration of copyright (which never seems to expire in our modern day). Now, there is no limit on this date set by the model itself, so developers could put 75 years in the expiration date. We've decided that we should not set any limits beyond what copyright law does, and leave this up to free market forces to decide what is too long of a time frame. Also, the time zone must be UTC, and if no exact time is specified, it is noon-time (1200) UTC on that day.

Oh, and the name "Ransom" is only a working title. Although I love the name because it makes people stop and notice as well as summing up the entire model in one simple word (how many projects can say that?), I realize it has bad connotations and many people don't like that. So I've agreed that after the model itself has been developed and tested, I'll hold a developer community vote for the production release name.

This model will solve three problems that are facing the open source world right now:

  • Because Ransom is partly about turning proprietary software into open source software, it will help open source expand into any fields where it has not been able to in the past. Projects that require lots of money or complexity can now be financed, sold, and made free in the process. Ransom allows open source to easily expand into every corner of software development.
  • Ransom will allow open source developers to gain a more or less reliable income from Ransoming their works, as long as they are in high market demand (read: people are willing to pay for it to be freed and it isn't a piece of crap). Developers who successfully use the model will not have to rely on the whims of gifts and benefactors.
  • I believe that this will make open source a viable model for many more developers who are currently writing purely proprietary code because of the financial security it can provide. Ransom will increase the number of open source developers in addition to the amount of open sourced code.

The project is facing a couple of problems, however. Thankfully they are problems that almost every open source project faces, so it should be easy for us to get help for them soon (Hmm.. or is that logic reversed, ignoring the laws of demand and scarcity?). If you can help with either of the below, or are interested in the project in any other way, please join the mailing list.

  • We need copyright law experience. Bad. Not even lawyers, but just people who know alot of the ins and outs of copyright law in the U.S. I am personally pretty sure that the model is feasible under copyright law, and doesn't have to go into the cumbersome areas of contract law, but we need to make sure what is and isn't possible with copyright law. If you or someone you know is experienced in copyright law, please help us, even just for a week or two while we learn what we can and can't do with this idea. I do plan to take all of this to a real, experienced copyright lawyer eventually, but I would like to do as much as possible first and just present all of our drafts to him or her to save money.
  • Criticism. We need constructive criticism to help us realize any big or little area that needs to be defined better. I don't want to leave too many areas of the model unexplained or unforseen, because that could spell disaster for such a project later on.

With this model, we hope to add a whole new aspect to open source. We hope to take another step towards bringing the open source ideal into the mainstream of the public, not just software developers. We just need your help.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Is the Ransom model practical?
o Yes 38%
o No 32%
o Yes, but it shouldn't be used 13%
o Abstain 15%

Votes: 52
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o Ransom
o pointer to the Ransom project
o Ransom development mailing list
o Ransom project website
o join the mailing list
o Blender
o TransGamin g
o Street Performer Protocol
o little scandal
o please join the mailing list
o please help us
o Also by Adam Theo

Display: Sort:
Experiment in Publication and Profit | 81 comments (78 topical, 3 editorial, 2 hidden)
I think your basic idea is flawed (4.25 / 8) (#2)
by scatbubba on Tue Dec 17, 2002 at 08:49:20 PM EST

"The open source world has always been marked by constant experimentation. In fact, that is an underlying principle of the open source model. And since experimentation is the method of invention,"

Open source is more about copying. All the great open source projects come from university research, where the developer has entirely different motives for the development, and then open sources things as an after-thought. All the open source stuff i see is described in terms of the software it is attempting to copy.

a clarification (none / 0) (#6)
by Adam Theo on Tue Dec 17, 2002 at 10:02:02 PM EST

I didn't say that experimentation is the driving principle of open source, just that it's a principle. And I don't necissarily mean that an entire project needs to be the experiment, either. Experiments happen often within projects, in competing ways to handle a certain feature or bug fix. Improving a open source project is often a process of trial and error.

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

Flamebait? (5.00 / 2) (#13)
by Scott Robinson on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 01:16:45 AM EST

I think you have a rather limited view of open source software. Wander over Freshmeat and you can see a whole host of open source projects, on the front page, that are not based or rooted in university work.

Certainly, much open source software isn't licensed that way as an afterthought.

And the comment that "open source is more about copying" makes me wonder what OSS you've dealed with...

Grr, I swear, this must be flamebait.


[ Parent ]

Well (none / 0) (#23)
by greenrd on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 06:29:35 AM EST

With a username like that, could he be a troll, d'ya think?

Hmm... nah, impossible!

"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Criticism (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by dipierro on Tue Dec 17, 2002 at 09:06:48 PM EST

How are you going to force release of the source code? You have two choices here, escrow or some sort of contractual arrangement, but plain old copyright law just won't cut it.

Copyright Law (none / 0) (#4)
by Adam Theo on Tue Dec 17, 2002 at 09:54:25 PM EST

Why is copyright law not sufficient? Could the stipulations that the developer must relicense the software under certain conditions be included in a copyright license?

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

Not really (none / 0) (#7)
by dipierro on Tue Dec 17, 2002 at 10:10:25 PM EST

The copyright holder doesn't have to obey the license on his/her own software.

[ Parent ]
Contract law (5.00 / 3) (#8)
by rusty on Tue Dec 17, 2002 at 10:22:36 PM EST

What you want is contract law, not copyright. Presumably by using this model, the author is entering into a binding contract with anyone who commits money to the project. Copyright is what the work is released under, but contract law would be what requires its release.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Thanks (none / 0) (#10)
by Adam Theo on Tue Dec 17, 2002 at 10:37:54 PM EST

Thanks dipierro and rusty. I'll be taking a look into contract law now  :-)

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

Hmm... what about GPL? (none / 0) (#11)
by Adam Theo on Tue Dec 17, 2002 at 10:53:58 PM EST

If the argument is that copyright law only imposes rules on the user or signer of the license, and not the author, and the author can do whatever he wants, then how does that account for the GPL's stipulation that the author must provide the sources of the work at any time if asked?

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

GPL and authorship (5.00 / 1) (#12)
by Lord of the Wasteland on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 12:20:56 AM EST

The requirement is only binding on an author if the project uses code not written by that author or by that group of authors. If you and three friends have written code and released it under the GPL, you are free to derive a closed-source program from that code. You cannot, however, incorporate anyone else's additions to your GPLed code into your closed-source product without their permission.

[ Parent ]
It doesn't (none / 0) (#15)
by dipierro on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 02:10:17 AM EST

The GPL does not have a stipulation that the author must provide sources of the work at any time if asked.

[ Parent ]
umm... (none / 0) (#45)
by Danse on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 03:35:15 PM EST

The major factor that makes Ransom different from what Transgaming did (or rather, claimed it would do), and I believe Blender as well, is that Ransom is no mere "promise". It is a legally-enforceable agreement that all parties go into, so that no-one can break the agreement without being sued.

Sounds like that's what he's talking about to me.

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Looks like contract law (none / 0) (#63)
by Adam Theo on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 09:48:14 PM EST

It looks like we'll be using contracts between the developer, users, and any third parties to force them to release the source at the right time.

I'm going to try and keep the contracts no more than a printed page, hopefully even half a printed page, and in plain english to be very easily understood.

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

A few problems (4.54 / 11) (#9)
by rusty on Tue Dec 17, 2002 at 10:36:17 PM EST

Contributors would probably be more comfortable with putting their money in escrow toward the software's release. Sure, you have a contract and so forth, but if I kick in $50 toward the release but the fund never gets up to the required amount, I'm probably going to have long since moved on to other things by the time the time limit expires. If I'm even still waiting then, am I really going to finance a lawyer to recover my $50 if the code isn't released? Most likely, I'm just out $50, like everyone else, and I'm also never going to give money to a ransom project again.

Second, your requirement that authors provide a working binary means they are not getting paid for the work they do. They are coding "on spec" in the hope that when they have the code finished, people will care enough about getting the code (not the working program, which they will already have, but the code) to pay for it then. This fails to solve the main problem preventing open source development of difficult or complicated kinds of software, since authors will still have done most of the work before they see any of the income (if they ever do).

Also working against the development of some more complex kinds of software is the fact that often the types of program that don't have open source versions available don't because there isn't a large market for them. There might be a dozen clients who can all afford to pay half a million dollars a year for software, and whoever gets them all basically just owns that market forever. Ransoming software won't magically create more people who need this kind of code, so where would the money ever come from?

Finally, my personal feeling is that if one person or group can spend the time and effort to develop something before seeing any income, there are almost certainly others who can too, and who will do it for the joy of doing it, or because they just want the code themselves and don't care about selling it. I forsee a lot of ransomed projects dying on the vine because someone thought it was a good idea and simply gathered the interest of the people who would have paid to build something just as good themselves. Remember that while your code is under lock and key, you get none of the benefits of open source development, and if there is potentially enough interest to pay you for the code, there is almost certainly enough interest to develop a truly free alternative.

Not the real rusty

An alternative to straight commercial development (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by NickW on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 01:17:34 AM EST

I think this model has potential. But I see it as an alterative to pure commercial software, rather than a way for the hobbiest hacker to make some money on their open sourced app.

Commercial software is already done "on spec" in expectation of finding a market willing to pay money. Knowing your purchase of the software will lead to it being open-sourced one day will act as an extra incentive to some buyers.

Cult - A sociotype of an auto-toxic meme-complex, composed of membots and/or memeoids.
Memetic Lexicon
[ Parent ]

Not in my experience (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by rusty on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 02:51:45 AM EST

It's been my experience that most software is developed for a client, and the smaller code houses (who, I think, are the only ones who would even consider this kind of a strategy, and are often the ones releasing commercial GPL stuff already) will usually find a niche and develop the same kinds of apps for the same kinds of client needs over and over. Smarter companies will seek to produce a platform that they can quickly and easily customize to each client's needs, rather than build everything from scratch every time. A lot of coients couldn't care less what the code's license is, so long as it does what they want it to do. These platforms are what make up most of the commercially developed GPL code out there now.

The enormous majority of software is written for a paying client. A much smaller portion is written for general sale, in expectation of finding a market with a finished product. And of that smaller portion, an almost invisible percentage is not funded by a much larger existing software company who already has money to sink into R&D development of this kind (Apple, Sun, IBM, Microsoft), and would either make the code proprietary as a matter of course (Apple, Sun, MS), or just make it GPL for inscrutable reasons of their own (I'm looking at you, IBM).

So, basically, I disagree that there's any meaningful amount of code being written independently in hopes of finding a paying niche. It's all either been paid for by a client, or owned in advance by a company who won't ever need to go through complex payment arrangements like this.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

I disagree (none / 0) (#20)
by Adam Theo on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 05:30:36 AM EST

I have a bit of experience in the commercial, proprietary software world through a couple of software start-ups over the past couple of years, and alot of the software I see is not built for specific clients, but built mostly in the very beginning of the company's start-up, and then sometimes customized for some clients who need it. Never (outside of the banking and financial sectors) have I seen software built for a client up-front, with the client paying before the code is ever developed.

I'll agree that the Ransom model can't help in such areas where the code is developed on contract for a client, but I really don't think that these areas are significant in the market.

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

Government work (none / 0) (#25)
by wiredog on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 07:23:49 AM EST

I work for a DoD (Department of Defense) contractor, and the DoD develops a SoW (Statement of Work) and has a pay-as-you-go method to fund development while it's underway. We can, later, resell the same software to other DoD programs or to the civilian sector, but DoD pays for the initial development.

As an aside, when it comes to acronyms, the computer/tech industry has nothing on the DoD. I'm currently working on the FDMS DIF for the DMSO KIRC under the C4ISR ARCH contract. We also do work for JSIMS, JCAPS, and others. It's part of the overall OA work.

The greatest contribution of the internet to society is that it makes it possible for anyone of any age to become a grumpy old fart.
Parent ]

Government contractors (none / 0) (#26)
by Adam Theo on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 07:27:25 AM EST

One idea is that if the software the government agency has had built is not of a sensitive nature, then the agency (as the copyright owner) could Ransom the software to the public, making it open source and maybe getting the benefits of open source (feedback and improvements) later in the future.

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

DMSO (none / 0) (#46)
by rusty on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 03:53:17 PM EST

I used to work on the DMSO extranet. The funny thing was that the whole time I worked for DoD, I never knew what "DMSO" stood for. In fact, thinking about it, I didn't know what most of the acronyms stood for, and it totally didn't matter.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Defense Modeling and Simulation Office (none / 0) (#57)
by wiredog on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 07:19:47 AM EST

They're our primary source of funds.

Did you ever work with anyone from IMC?

The greatest contribution of the internet to society is that it makes it possible for anyone of any age to become a grumpy old fart.
Parent ]

Not that I know of (none / 0) (#58)
by rusty on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 08:43:26 AM EST

I worked for SPC. My group was a really tiny sideline to what they mainly do, which is radar and stealth systems. I don't know if it even still exists.

I actually recognize some of the machine names buried in their links though, so I guess they do in some capacity. A few days ago I was searching for something and actually ran across an old demo put together by some of my former co-workers there, when I worked there, that's still tucked away on one of the dev servers, and apparently is still public. That was pretty amusing.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

I've seen it, too. (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by nstenz on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 01:58:41 PM EST

Our company was created when a store needed some computer software to run their business. Today, that same software (that was initially funded by said store) is being sold all over the continent to similar businesses.

10-15 years after that initial investment, a large part of the code base was encapsulated into a module that could be re-used on similar programs, and yet another investor/customer was paying us to build a program from the ground up (with a little help from our previous widgets). Their contract says they'll pay for our development work, but they get $x profit from each sale when we start selling it to other people.

It's actually a very effective model for developing software. You don't write code and hope someone will use it- that's a horrible way of doing business and ending up with satisfied customers. You write it to their spec, and then sell it to their competition.

Developing that initial base to code new apps from is a bitch, though. From what I've heard, we were really bleeding money for a while. That's where a system like this would come in handy. However, there's no code at that point, so your system wouldn't work (as previously stated).

[ Parent ]

Escrow services (none / 0) (#18)
by Adam Theo on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 05:18:25 AM EST

Yes, I expect escrow services will be a big part of how Ransom works. We have decided not to build escrow services into the core model, leaving it open and specifying them at a later date. So escrow services are very possible. In fact, one has already started up specifically for Ransomed projects, called the Technology Ransom Network at Tekrat Labs.

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

Proof of Life Requirement (none / 0) (#19)
by Adam Theo on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 05:24:48 AM EST

Yes, since we require that the developer do most of the work before setting up the Ransom, the model doesn't ensure that the developer gets paid for doing that work. But the chance of getting any amount of money for their work is much higher under Ransom than normal open source. Hopefully the developer will be start enough to place the Ransom amount at something reasonable, so people will not only be more encouraged to contribute towards it, but also to keep the success ratio up to keep the contributors happy and feeling proud of themselves.

Another factor in this is that we expect a major number of ransomed projects to actually be currently proprietary works. Works that are proprietary right now, and are being sold in the traditional way. Ransom provides a tool for these traditional developers (including companies here) to release the works they have already made and begun selling, while still making money off the final release instead of simply donating the entire code as so many open source/free software advocates expect.

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

Do you have any evidence? (none / 0) (#21)
by heng on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 05:41:02 AM EST

Do you have any evidence to suggest that a Ransom scheme will pay more to the developer than a simple donations scheme? I for one would be much more willing to donate to an already open source project.

In my opinion, it is all by the way anyway. Unless OSS is stifled by the joys of the TCPA, then over time every programming paradigm will be filled by GPLd code (by the self propagating nature of the GPL). The end result will be one in which all software that doesn't rely on artistic interpretation (ie games) will become OSS projects. Also, there is no reason why OSS game development kits won't become available which only require the intervention of an artist to produce a game.

[ Parent ]
No, but I'm working on getting some (none / 0) (#64)
by Adam Theo on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 09:55:19 PM EST

I'm working on getting some stats, though. They are difficult to find by simple googling, so I'm going to the charitychannel.com forums.

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

Look at it this way (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by mmealman on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 04:51:39 PM EST

Let's say I want to recreate the game Elite, but want to do it professionally. I want an entire team, artists, programmers, in an office, etc.

They way that works now is that I budget out my expected return from the game. How many units will it sell for 50 bucks a pop in a store, noting that I will only get a faction of that. As a business my goal is to try to profit, sell enough copies to cover the development budget.

Ransom is another way to do the above, but instead of selling X printed copies of the box you're instead doing a fundraiser model, setting a target goal of money that once reached means you'll release the code into the public.

Both models require that you have a product before you get the profit, but unlike standard OSS work the Random model lets you develop OSS software with the profit model.

[ Parent ]
bravo! (none / 0) (#65)
by Adam Theo on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:03:16 PM EST

Yes, exactly what I see in the Ransom model, too. It isn't to replace free software in any way, it's meant to enhance and extend what would otherwise be done. Software projects that would never be started, or started and never finished, or started but shoddy quality as to give free software a bad rep, are the types of projects that are for Ransom.

Another type of project for Ransom is softwares that are currently proprietary. Computer games and office utilities are great subjects for this. Proprietary software companies who are wanting to experiment with open source can easily do so with Ransom.

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

This is a logical model for software. (5.00 / 2) (#22)
by StephenThompson on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 06:07:56 AM EST

I am not certain this method will become popular, but comparing it to other commodity products, it seems reasonable that it would. Most products and services in this world earn the creator approximiately what they cost to produce. In the software world, usually the producers gets HUGE margins (ala Microsoft) or NONE ala open source. Seems like this is the logical middle ground. Ransom is a pretty harsh word. Maybe call it 'Escrow'.

Middle Path (none / 0) (#66)
by Adam Theo on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:08:59 PM EST

Yes, it is that huge swing in extremes for profit in the software world that prompted me to try and find a way to balance it out and distribute the wealth better. I also don't know if Ransom will become popular, but I do believe it has all the elements for success, and I've got to try it no matter what  :)

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

But you can't use GPL'ed code (5.00 / 3) (#24)
by inerte on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 07:15:36 AM EST

"Ransomed" projects can't start with GPL'ed code, only after it's free.

And when it's free it can't be used by other Ransomed projects that aren't free yet.

So.. am I wrong to think that starting a Ransomed project is harder and it won't make it easier for other Ransomed projects?

CID 4596201: Of course power users can always use another distro, or just

Correct (none / 0) (#27)
by Adam Theo on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 07:31:05 AM EST

As I pointed out in the article, you are correct that GPL'ed code cannot be used in Ransomed code.

One long-term solution we are considering making is creating a GPL-like OSS license that is viral like the GPL, but allows people to also use the code in Ransomed (and only Ransomed) code, or even fork it to the GPL to make a purely GPL codebase.

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

But what about the current codebase? (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by inerte on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 08:12:57 AM EST

There are inumerous GPL'ed projects, and using them help to create more and better software, accelerating the development process.

It would be better if Ransomed projects could use this enormous codebase from the beginning. Isn't possible?

Without free software from the start, the price would be higher because people would need to develop similar solutions. If they buy/license a proprietary one, they would need to remove it to become free after the initial period.

This would increase the costs of a Ransomed project, and even postpone the date where the project is set to be free. (the main points of the Ransom idea, right?)

It's kind of a lock...

CID 4596201: Of course power users can always use another distro, or just
[ Parent ]

that's why they call it a viral license, dumbass. (4.00 / 1) (#52)
by Shren on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 05:44:20 PM EST

You can't get out of it. Not only is it incompatible with Ransom, it's incompatible with pretty much everything. The license assumes that it is the end-all-be-all of software development, and no better license would ever come along.

Is it any wonder that so many licenses have come to be, similar but lacking the viral restrictions?

[ Parent ]

The GPL (none / 0) (#54)
by irrevenant on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 10:19:53 PM EST

The license assumes that it is the end-all-be-all of software development, and no better license would ever come along.

The GPL in no way "assumes it is the end-all-be-all of software development". It says: "You are free to use whatever licence you want for your own code, but if you want to incorporate my code, I'd like some say over how it's used, please".

There are so many other licences precisely because the GPL isn't intended to be the end-all-be-all of software development. It's designed to enforce a particular set of rights and restrictions and a particular philosophy. If you disagree with that philosophy, you use your own licence, and your own code. Simple, really.

You seem to be upset that the GPL prevents you from doing what you want with code if it's against the author's express wishes. To me, that's a feature not a bug. The author should have a say over how their work is used.

[ Parent ]
I'm not anti-GPL (none / 0) (#62)
by Shren on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 07:11:55 PM EST

You seem to be upset that the GPL prevents you from doing what you want with code if it's against the author's express wishes. To me, that's a feature not a bug. The author should have a say over how their work is used.

No, I'm just amused by the idiot who's so distressed that ransom and the GPL are incompatible. What'd he expect?

[ Parent ]

Ahn... (none / 0) (#70)
by inerte on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 06:35:11 AM EST

I don't think I deserve to be called idiot...

I made a simple question that neither you calling me dumbass or idiot helped to clarify: What would be the reasons to develop free software if they can't use free software? And if others in the future won't be able to use it for Ransomed projects, specially in the most critical part, the initial stages?

Hah, call me whatever you want, but without these questions answered, I don't see a reason to apply Ransom.

Why don't you try?

CID 4596201: Of course power users can always use another distro, or just
[ Parent ]

Valid concern (none / 0) (#79)
by irrevenant on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 10:58:20 PM EST

No, I'm just amused by the idiot who's so distressed that ransom and the GPL are incompatible. What'd he expect?

I didn't get the impression he was an idiot, he was just pointing out an (IMO valid) concern with the Ransom approach.

Personally, I think there's cause for distress. The Ransom approach looks like a great Free Software publishing model, but an inability to use it in conjunction with the great wealth of GPL code out there is very crippling.

[ Parent ]
Perhaps in the future (none / 0) (#67)
by Adam Theo on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:15:06 PM EST

Right now the Ransom model is requiring a demo or sample for Proof of Life so as to prevent vaporware and similar scams. But in the future the Ransom model might expand to remove this requirement when the model has a good reputation built up and there are escrow services to help developers and users. The email where I explain this is at http://lists.theoretic.com/archives/ransom/2002-December/000037.html

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

Maybe GPL is the problem (5.00 / 2) (#40)
by int80h on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 01:34:37 PM EST

I think maybe the GPL is the problem in this case.  I'm not saying this is the position of ransom at all, but I feel that the GPL limits code too much.  I mean it conflicts with other open source licenses, how 'Free' can that really be?

[ Parent ]
Why it's free (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by mmealman on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 04:42:42 PM EST

It's free because if I write, say, a Really Cool Monster Game AI(tm) in C and GPL it, you can't plug it into your program and hold the public up for Ransom. If you base your work off of my GPL work, your stuff has to be GPL as well. Which means you can't restrict redistribution.

[ Parent ]
Re: Why it's free (none / 0) (#49)
by int80h on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 05:24:37 PM EST

This is the difference between the code being 'free', and you being free to do what you want with the code.  

Given that there are times when this may be good, but It's hurt some projects and has been a hinderance at times.  

[ Parent ]

How GPL is free (none / 0) (#53)
by Sloppy on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 06:27:59 PM EST

It's free from the user's point of view. If you use GPLed software, you are free to continue using or maintaining that software forever, without ever being forced into any other deals.

Giving that level of freedom to the users, makes things trickier for the developers. Those license conflicts are a manifestation of that trickiness.

I think a lot of people think that since GPL was invented by a hacker, that it's somehow "for the hackers." It isn't. It's for the users. RMS was a user of that infamous Xerox printer, and boy did he get pissed! ;-)
"RSA, 2048, seeks sexy young entropic lover, for several clock cycles of prime passion..."
[ Parent ]

Ok.. (2.00 / 1) (#44)
by Danse on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 03:32:16 PM EST

It's been a while since I read through the GPL, but does it really conflict with the ransom model? As long as the GPL software is freely available independently of whatever the ransomer is contributing to it, then is there really a problem? He could incorporate the GPL'd code into his new application and then wait for the ransom to be met. Since he not released anything, then there should be no problem at that point. Then, when the ransom is met, the software is released and is freely distributable under the GPL. Maybe I'm missing something here...

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Really not 100% incompatible (none / 0) (#50)
by int80h on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 05:29:55 PM EST

Yes, you could ransom GPL software, it's just not as convenient as one would like.  I'm currently ransoming smbauth (http://www.tekrat.com/smbauth.php), but it has some drawabcks.

1.  I do sell individual releases, which isn't required, but is helpfull.  This a loophole where some jerk could make it available, and make my ransom useless.  (I'm going on the idea that no one wants to be the jerk to do this, ok for small projects).

2.  I cannot release binary versions of this because of the unique situation with smbauth, ie: I link Samba with Apache, which are not compatible with eachother.  I can distribute the source, but once I link I'm can't distribute. (this is not so much because of ransom though).

[ Parent ]

Big problem (none / 0) (#59)
by greenrd on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 12:06:21 PM EST

Since he not released anything, then there should be no problem at that point.

No, there is a big problem. No releases (from a GPL compliance perspective) means no releases - not even trial versions. No trial version means little interest from users, in most cases. Just look on sourceforge.

"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

It would be difficult indeed (none / 0) (#78)
by X3nocide on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 08:35:25 PM EST

If you start with GPL'd code, the GPL remains to all those you distribute the software to. That means anyone who pays is allowed the source code and the right to modify and distribute the software.

On one hand, the fact that you have to pay to get ahold of the binaries and source would lead to many people refusing to share their valuable goods, there's many more who would just share it with people out of the goodness of their hard, their desire to promote the Free Software Faith, or for similar reasons why warez exists.

In short, you can ransom GPL'd software, but there's no guarentee more than one person will pay for it.

[ Parent ]

software profit models (4.00 / 2) (#28)
by turmeric on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 07:50:23 AM EST

your model is based on a one-time bulk payment to the authors so that they then 'release' the code.

i fail to see how this will impress people like microsoft or lotus or IBM, or even redhat, who seem to base their busines model on giving out upgrades and support contracts and so forth, that can last for many many years and that are payed for over time, not all at once.

in other words, is software a service or a product?

also the idea that software has '0 reproduction cost' is a bit silly. ideas have had the same reproduction cost, basically, for a long time. yeah it costs money to print paper and deliver it. but it doesnt cost that much. and keeping a computer running with a connection to the internet, and paying for the power and administration, that takes a shitload of money. and you keep having to upgrade it. thus, any 'sotware' that is supposedly 'freely copyable' is in fact overloaded with hidden costs, most of which involve integration, administration, and similar details al of which take hundreds of hours of time to resolve. ideas have always had this problem, for example the ideas of Germans or Japanese must be translated into English for an english to understand them, and they must be written in understandable language, even though theoretically 'ideas are free'. etc etc.

What? (none / 0) (#30)
by heng on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 08:48:55 AM EST

I think it absolutely is fair to say that the cost of copying software (and almost all other digital media) is zero. Given a set up that allows reproduction, and sufficient space to store the copies (which, relatively speaking, is very cheap) millions of copies can be made for practically nothing. It's so cheap that I (a student with no regular income) can do it. Almost everyone on k5 can do it. Hell, almost everyone on the internet can do it.

Sure, it's not totally free, but you compare it to printing. The operating cost of a print shop is of the order of tens of thousands of times more than a computer. In fact, in a digital printing system, every hard copy requires a copy to be made in a computer.

Now let's take into account the initial setup cost. Can you afford a printing press? This one costs $150,000 and it's second hand. Let's say for arguments sake that it can produce 100 A4 pages a second (i'd be willing to bet it can't). On each A4 page we have 4 thousand characters (not unreasonable). That means our printing press can reproduce 400kB/s. So, ignoring the running cost (and the fact we need a computer), we have a machine that costs $375 per kB/s. Now, my computer cost 1000 or about $1500. It can copy data at 4000kB/s (tested). That means my computer costs about 33 cents per kB/s. That's a setup cost of over 1000 times less (ignoring other issues, such as size).

This is the primary reason why arguing for non commercial copy restrictions (as we have at present) is such a load of bollox. I can copy my car if I want to. I can build an exact replica and so long as I don't try to sell it, everyone's happy. What stops me is the massive cost of producing it. Why should music, software and books be any different? The only difference is the ease of reproduction. And ideally, this should be reflected in the price. But it's not, because of ludicrous, archaic copyright laws. And don't try to argue that the cost of producing a book (or a music album, or a software package) costs more than designing a car.

[ Parent ]
ideas (none / 0) (#60)
by turmeric on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 05:09:46 PM EST

transferring the important part of software: the basic idea of it, is less expensive than it used to be . but it aint free. otherwise there would be no IT industry.

[ Parent ]
Services? (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by int80h on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 01:31:18 PM EST

I'm happy you made this very important paint, and here's a MAJOR point of this model.

I'm a fan of Eric Raymond's ideas that you can make compensation for software based upon services provided because of that software.  However, take this from a new perspective, I am not interested in selling services.  Writing software is what I do and what I do well (maybe?).  Given that someone could pay me to do this that wants to sell the service, but then I become a slave to the industry, ie: I could never base a business off of what I do unless I sold services.

Now consider the service of writing software, which is what I'm really seaking compensation for.  In addition most of my software doesn't need services, is just that good j/k haha.  Really it should really be the goal though not to have to support your software, because it's so well written it's obvious to everyone. (this is limited to certain projects of course).

The point is coding is my bread and butter, why would I focus on anything else?

[ Parent ]

well, if you dont give a shit if people can use it (none / 0) (#61)
by turmeric on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 05:12:36 PM EST

then i guess its ok to 'code it and release it' but dear mr code monkey, pounding out c functions does not make you a programmer and it doesnt make your products meaningful. eric raymond is a mass murdering psychopath and all his "ideas" about software are derived from the fundamental axiom of his right to kill arabs/cops with his hand-built shotgun (i guess his paradise would be iraq, an 'arab police state'.. lord knows why he doesnt join the army so he can live out his dream and get payed for it. )

thus i must point out to you: SOftware is meaningful when users are involved in its creation, which means alot of dicking aroudn with things you probbaly hate: like human beings who do not have a copy of the perl manual on their toilet.

[ Parent ]

understand (none / 0) (#73)
by int80h on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 07:43:20 PM EST


First: Who cares about eric raymond's political views? They are irrelevant to this conversation.  Judge thyself.

Secondly: Software is not meaningful when users are involved in it's creation, software is meaningful when it serves the user in the best way possible.  User involvement is an attempt to meet this goal.  Any developer knows that users are his prized asset, just ask eric.

Please try to stay on topic, and away from personal attacks.

-stupid code monkey

ps: I hate perl.

[ Parent ]

Open Source and cost? (none / 0) (#68)
by Adam Theo on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:24:45 PM EST

But how does your assertion that there is no such thing as 'zero cost' stack up in open source. By your assertion, open source would be impossible because it would cost money to download, maintain, and use open source software. Now, if you want to get technical, yes, everything on the internet technically has cost, but the amount is so extremely small that it is absurd to try and enforce it.

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

Versions (none / 0) (#33)
by dark on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 10:40:01 AM EST

A program is not usually released in its final form. If the Ransom period is one or two years, then I would expect to see several new versions of the program in that time, especially if the program is successful and the user base grows rapidly. The Ransom model does not seem to account for this.

If the various versions are released as separate Ransomed projects, then there's a possibility that none of them will gather the required amount of money, and all will linger until they expire.

If some sort of subscription license is developed (and I think that's the way to go), then it needs to be defined very carefully which version will be freed and when. If done wrong, this model could lead to a decreased motivation for the developer to provide bugfixes, when the moment of freedom approaches.

Re: Versions (none / 0) (#38)
by int80h on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 01:23:07 PM EST

Good points.

The Ransom period should be chosen by the developer as a practical date, one that he/she expects to have the ransom paid by, and a new version done by.  If the author wants to keep the project alive and healthy they will need to make sure that they provide the users with current releases and not a Ransom that lingers for eternity.  Ransom can span multiple versions as well to account for fixes and small features.  It's really up to what the developer thinks is needed for a healthy project, which will either be affirmed or denied by the user's reaction.

[ Parent ]

Re: Versions. (none / 0) (#55)
by irrevenant on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 10:54:52 PM EST

I can see at least two ways that the Ransom system supports versions:

(1) The author just keeps working on the project until the time expires or the money is raised. If this means the project is at version 2.6.3 when it is released, then so be it.

The author releases additional binary-only demos as the version numbers increase. As the software becomes increasingly impressive, interest in Ransoming it early should increase.

This motivates the author to develop the software as much as possible to potentially increase the money he earns and/or decrease the amount of time he has to work for it.

This approach should work fine so long as the Ransom threshold has been set at a reasonable level to compensate the author for the time and effort expended.

(2) The author sets the Ransom amount and time thresholds based on producing version 1.0. After V1.0 is released, he can set up version 2.0 as a separate Ransomed project. This approach is probably only viable if there is minimal community interest in continuing the project.

Of course, etiquette suggests that when the author releases the sources, they should release all versions to date, and preferably the entire CVS tree.

[ Parent ]
Open source needs a new economy (4.66 / 3) (#34)
by AnthonyHunt on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 11:02:53 AM EST

I don't think the open source model (and I don't just mean for software) will *really* thrive until it is carried out within a new cooperative economic framework, like that of http://www.parecon.org/

+5 for mentioning ParEcon (none / 0) (#42)
by broken77 on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 02:45:10 PM EST

I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
[ Parent ]

parecon.org has the worst content I've ever seen. (4.50 / 2) (#51)
by Shren on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 05:38:37 PM EST

I go there, because I want to know what 'parecon' is.

The 'Intro' section has links to lots of essays, the first of which is not introductory, but a position paper. Most of the rest have the same look to them - scholary papers instead of a clear statement as to what parecon is, and I'm not going to weed through them all to find a definition which should have been 1 click from the front page.

Oh, but there's a faq... which is an image link (ick) off to the side (ick) which is a link to a bunch of forum posts... and doesn't have "What is Parecon" anywhere on the list. It turns out that the first link *has* the summary of what parecon is, but it was named something obscure.

Talk about not getting your point across. I shouldn't have to hunt for the introduction. At this point I've lost interest in reading it. Look, I'm closing it. Bye! Another possible interested party lost by bad web design.

[ Parent ]

Theoretically unfeasible. (4.80 / 5) (#35)
by JanusAurelius on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 11:20:22 AM EST

There is a theory in game theory about "dominant strategies" which predicts that this ransom model will fail.  It's quite simple.  I have a choice whether I want to give the developers my money or not.  The dominant strategy in this game is not to give any money.  If I give my money, I *might* get the source to this program.  If I don't give my money, I *might* get the source to this program AND I will get to keep my money.  As an individual, I most likely have little control over whether the source is released or not, even if the pool of people playing the game is small, so the argument that you are "doing something to help" isn't strong enough.  Now if you released the source to ONLY those who paid, *maybe* it *might* work. If you counted the revenue that sales generated, it *might* work.  Or it may backfire if people expect enough other people to buy it that they don't buy it themselves and just wait for the program to be "freed."  If donations alone are what's being used as a criteria, don't count on it, unless those donations are 501c deductible and/or it's a really popular software program that some people passionately care so much about they'd jump their economic wisdom on it.  I guess I shouldn't be one to speak since it wouldn't be too hard for me to be one of those people... =P

We did a class experiment on this in economics actually (kleppernomics for those of you at CMU).  Everyone starts out with $5 bucks.  They could either donate it to the public pool, which would be doubled and split among the class at the end, or they could keep the money for themself.  So if everyone donated their money they'd get $10 back.  The catch is that if everyone else was donating their money, and you didn't, you could get just less than $15.  Of course, the professor didn't tell us this, we had to figure it out ourselves, but that wasn't a big deal in and of itself.  So of course, as the results were tallied, there were less than two dozen suckers out of a class of some 200 who actually donated.  Deal is, when a good is relatively noncompetitive (as in, everyone can consume the good without diminishing what's left for someone else), and it is impracticle or self-defeating to deny a good to anyone who doesn't pay, people will generally not pay.  This is btw, the economic justification for taxes.

Idiots. (2.50 / 2) (#36)
by Iocalroger on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 12:10:42 PM EST

Wasn't your class a bunch of idiots, why didn't everyone donate and make $10 instead of 5?

[ Parent ]
because... (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by Danse on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 03:26:28 PM EST

You can't make everyone donate, and there are enough greedy bastards out there that try to beat the system and come out on top of everyone else that nobody trusts anyone else and everyone hangs on to what they've got. Just like the real world.

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Lookalike username troll <nt> (none / 0) (#77)
by localroger on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 09:18:25 AM EST

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

theory needs some extra variables... (none / 0) (#37)
by int80h on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 01:11:18 PM EST

I'd just like to point out a few faults in your post....  

Ransom doesn't say you can't release the source code for individual payments.  What it does say is that you'll have one license for payments and then ane more open license when the intire ransom is paid.

In regards to user's not wanting to pay, this is of course part of the ransom.  A LARGE number of users will simply not pay, will use a pre-existing version if it exists, or will wait out the expiration date.  The buyers we are targeting are those that are willing to make a contribution via payment and that need the software now.  I think your argument is more accurate with the current open source use of requesting donations.

[ Parent ]

Humans are very complicated. (5.00 / 1) (#56)
by irrevenant on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 11:10:21 PM EST

Game theory is a valuable tool, but humans are very complicated animals.

A similar situation existed with Blender. The logical thing for everyone to do would have been to sit back and wait for someone else to pony up the cash. I imagine that many people did. But enough people chipped in money to raise 100,000 euros in a matter of months!

Some people download music over peer-to-peer networks - then run out and buy the CDs! (Others don't, of course).

Humans are not just logical machines, they're also emotional beasts. And yes, they're inherently self-interested, but that self-interest takes a myriad of individual forms.

That fuzzy feeling we get from donating to charity can be more of a payoff than the money we spent doing it. The chances of winning Lotto are infinitesimal but many of us still buy the tickets. (My theory is that we're not just buying the chance at winning a lot of money - we're also buying the thrill of having a chance at winning a lot of money).

Your class experiment is fascinating, but very artificial. In the real world, the investments and returns don't just consist of money and are a lot harder to measure.

Aside: Did your class experiment have a social component? i.e. were classmates allowed to try and convince each other to vote one way or the other, form pacts etc.?

[ Parent ]
The class experiment... (none / 0) (#74)
by JanusAurelius on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 08:34:16 PM EST

...did allow commingling.  But I think people were more interesting in beating each other.  These experiments were part of an ongoing competition and on top of that, these are mostly business majors (you can tell i'm an math/cs major ;), so I do admit that it is a bit artificial.  In fact I hinted myself that there are imperfections in the model, when I said that it wouldn't be likely if I were one of those suckers who would donate.   So yes, for certain important, prominent and respected projects, it could work, but not on a grand scale.  

However, to support all developer's livelihoods, across the entire software industry, solely upon this donation system is not feasible (unless you want us to live like beggars).  The cost is simply too high and after a certain point, the warm fuzzy feeling that people get from donating doesn't offset the cost of ~$60k per developer, publishing/bandwidth costs, etc., for each software project.  Think about it.  If it did work then why do we have a predominately market economy as opposed to a predominately gift economy?

[ Parent ]
You are the definition of evil (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by auraslip on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 03:00:18 AM EST

Two dozen suckers you say? As if it was a bad thing that people trust other humans!
Greed is what causes most of the horrible things in our lives. Not counting natrual disasters, everything can be traced back to mans need to re-produce. These "suckers" may truly be just that, people who do not yet understand mans greed, or perhaps they have not yet given up hope that people can be good to each other.
Logicaly, of course it IS better to save your $5 then to risk it all, but game theory only considers humans as just animals trying to out fuck each other (what a pun), who cannont think of the greater good, only of themselves. And while it is correct in it's considerations of man, you need to understand, Your words makes us more animals and less men.
[ Parent ]
this is an argument against democracy (none / 0) (#71)
by urdine on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 02:35:08 PM EST

Compare this to democracy. I can spend the time and effort to vote, and the candidate I vote for *might* win. OR I can do nothing and my candidate *might* still win AND I'll save myself the time and effort.

Then why do people vote? And why would they contribute money for a project under this agreement?

I think there's a couple concepts at play. One, voters (or contributors) can essentially "buy their way in" to a community, and show their allegiance to not only a person or a project, but to a "cause." People want to be a part of something. But no one will contribute if they think the project is useless (or the candidates are all the same), so there has to be enough interest in the project or candidate for it to work (which should be fairly obvious).

Also, I think people overvalue their own contribution. If you vote and your candidate wins, you feel like you did a "good job," even if your vote truly DOESN'T matter, and there are statistics to prove it. It's how the human mind works--even against the obviousness of logic, people vote and will contribute because of emotion, community, and/or boredom.

[ Parent ]
Wow (none / 0) (#72)
by Adam Theo on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 07:05:52 PM EST

That's a very good argument. I think I'm going to have to use that in the Ransom promo docs... Thanks  :)

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

Um, most don't (none / 0) (#75)
by skim123 on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 09:27:42 PM EST

Then why do people vote?

In the United States, most folks don't vote, unless it's for a Presidential election.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
You missed the next two levels - very important ! (5.00 / 1) (#80)
by tim toron on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 05:56:03 PM EST

The experiment goes much further. At the next level the class is split into groups. The basic rules remain the same while a new rule is introduced: If a free rider does not take part, the others can fine him. But to avoid unfair behaviour, they have to pay for this. Example: The free rider has put in only 5 instead of 10 and got back 7. Now each member of the class can decide if he/she wants to fine him. Each single $ payed will thereby lead to a fine of 2 $. If five people know decide to spend 1$, he will have to pay a fine of 10 $. Do you see what happens? We are now getting a kind of neighbourhood where unsocial behaviour has consequences. And now the spiral goes up. It usualy does not take more than four rounds until all people put in about 80% of the money they have. However, this is only the beginning. At the next level, the class is split into small groups. The rules remain the same, but with one important difference for the setting: After each round the groups are remixed in such a way, that no one will play again with one of the persons he/she has played already. I.e. the neighbourhoud has vanished. Based on game theory ony should expect that the system will now fall back to the negative, as nobody will be willing to pay in order to get the free riders fined. Why should they - they will not see him again and the will not "earn" the positive effects of their "educational efforts". Guess what? A lot of people still pay to get the free riders fined. Not all, but enough. And again it takes only a few rounds until everybody contributes an appropriate ammount of money and the free riders are stopped from going on with their egoistic behaviour. ................... You can find a lot of realy good papers on these two and many other experiments (many of them directly linked to real world issues) at: Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, Zuerich. http://www.unizh.ch/cgi-bin/iew/pubdb2

[ Parent ]
Worse ... (none / 0) (#81)
by ensignyu on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 04:49:45 AM EST

If you pay, you WILL eventually get the source. If you don't pay, you also WILL get the source (at the expiration date.)

Assuming that no contracts are broken, of course, for example by having a third-party site collect payments and do code release.

[ Parent ]

Better for existing software (4.50 / 2) (#76)
by Dolohov on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 08:31:19 PM EST

I consider the jury to be out on whether this will work for software in development, but I love the idea of applying this to already existing code. There are lots of programs out there (mostly games) which suffer from zero distribution, but which people would love to get a second crack at.

Why not convince, for example, Sierra to put the source code for the old Space Quest games up for ransom? Let them choose a price, and fans of the series can put money in escrow until that price is reached, at which point Sierra takes the cash, and releases the source.

Experiment in Publication and Profit | 81 comments (78 topical, 3 editorial, 2 hidden)
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