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[P]
It's about the code Mr. Meyer, not the money.

By pjr in News
Wed May 24, 2000 at 08:29:47 AM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

Recently, I read with concern, Bertrand Meyer's article titled "The Ethics of Free Software", I'm convinced that Meyer doesn't understand the Free Software Movement. Here are some of my thoughts.

[editor's note, by rusty] pjr, aka Phillip Rulon, is a programmer and sysadmin at GNU. While that doesn't mean he speaks anyone's thoughts but his own here, take that as an indication that this is someone who's done a lot of work for the community, and a lot of thinking on matters GNUish.


Firstly, I will agree, largely, with the discussion defining ethics in Section 1. The last paragraph laments that we do not live in an ideal world. Granting that, I would point out that there is still a place for idealism in an imperfect world.

Section 2, nominally, defines the term "free software", as it is used in the rest of the article. Its true purpose, evidently, is to set the tone of hostility that Meyer depends on for the next several paragraphs. The section opens with a discussion of two papers on the GNU web site. These are discussions of why we use the GPL to license our software. They are emphaticly not just rants about the deficiencies of other licenses. Perhaps Meyer missed the point of these articles. Rereading them in the context of GPL advocacy might lead to a different viewpoint.

Meyer summarizes his definition of "free software" with this list.

  • Is available from at least one source without payment (which does not preclude other sources from offering it for payment, for example to people who want a distribution on CD rather than downloaded, or require commercial support).
  • Can be used for commercial as well as not-for-profit development, even by people who have not paid for it. (There may be some restrictions on commercial uses, for example the requirement that additions to the free software be free too.)
  • Can be obtained in source code form.

Contrary to Meyer's subsequent contention, this is fairly close to the GNU definition of Free Software. In simple terms, there are four levels of software freedom for the GNU project.

  • What we call "proprietary" software which, if the source code is available at all, requires that the user not disclose any of it to another party.
  • Free Software, which is released under terms that look remarkably like the ones listed above. It should be added that "restrictions on commercial uses" is misleading, since these are general restrictions which have nothing to do with whether the use is commercial or not.
  • GPL software, developed independently of the GNU project but released under the same license that GNU uses.
  • GNU software, code for which the GNU Project holds joint or sole copyright and is therefore able to assure its continued freedom.

There are actually two levels of GPL software, spelling out more specific terms for derived works. Interested readers may want to look at a more complete discussion of this, including critical examinations of several popular licenses.

Closing Section 2 is an interesting paragraph which appears to be an attempt at pushing well known alarmist buttons. It includes gratuitous mentions of Stalinism and the Nazis, further buttressing the hostile tone inaugurated in the first paragraph.

Section 3, which Meyer calls "The Economics of Free Software" has virtually nothing to do with Free Software. It's 100% free beer and 0% free speech. This is the section where Meyer reveals his near total misunderstanding of the Free Software movement in general and the personal motivations behind it, in particular. His use of the term "Donated software" is a rather clear example of this. One "donates" his time or his money, not his ideas. Ideas are something that are shared not donated. Donate is a terrible word to use in the context of ideas. Did Lincoln "donate" the Gettysburg address?

Moving forward, we find a claim that Free Software is, in fact, Taxpayer-funded software. Sigh, another free beer argument. Some Free Software is taxpayer-funded, but that's hardly the point. The way that a software project is paid for has nothing to do with whether the source code is made available as part of the release.

I've worked in several proprietary shops over a 20 year career. A typical business model goes something like this: "Write a cool program, assure that your competitors can't look at how you wrote it, sit back on your thumbs while waiting for the gravy train to roll in." This model will, clearly, not work if the source code is released with the product because your competitors will build on your work. Free Software must be constantly improved if it is to be economically successful. You must always stay ahead of your competitors by having a better program, not by maintaining secrecy about your methods.

Here's an interesting piece about the role of Universities in in society:

"The story goes on to state that Stallman "resigned"-- presumably meaning that he stopped using the MIT's machines, since it appears from the above that he had already resigned --- because "sometimes, universities take software written by their employees to sell them as proprietary products". (What a shame indeed: that a university would think it has any rights at all on products developed by people it pays, on machines that it owns!)"

Universities, Mr. Meyer, do not develop products. They are laboratories of human thought. Occasionally they release a public gem for everyone to gaze at. In return for their support Universities have granted some of the most structural advances in human history. A University could claim all rights to the creativity that takes place there, but then it could no longer call itself a University. A shame indeed.

Meyer opens Section 4 with yet another round of free beer vitriol:

"The best-known figure of free software, Richard Stallman from GNU and the Free Software Foundation (FSF), professes an absolute refusal of any notion of commercial software. Software should be free, period."

Again, it's about the source code, not the price. And it has nothing to do with whether the software is commercial or not.

A little later in this section we find this passage:

The GNU and FSF view is that it is OK to sell anything except software. (To be precise, I have not found any example of something else whose selling they find immoral; satellite signals might seem a logical candidate.) Computers are OK; services are OK. But if the work of your life is a great software package, trying to make a living out of selling it --- unless you also give it away, an immediate business-killer --- is a moral abomination.

I'm most interested in the assertion that distributing the source code to a project is an "immediate business-killer". Since this assertion is unqualified, the existence of one counter-example should be enough to refute it. I have two. I present Michael Tiemann at Cygnus, who founded one of the first commercial Free Software businesses and grew it quite successfully for 10 years before selling it (to another Free Software business), last year, for almost $700 million. Second, Ghostscript, distributed under the GPL by Aladdin Software, who, if you like, will sell you a non-GPL version for a fee.

In another context, Section 5 might have been the most thought provoking part of the essay. As a deliberately inflammatory, off topic ramble, it's a distraction. Since I'd like to stay on topic I'll be brief: Britain is a great example of a country where guns are not readily available. In Britain they use bombs.

Section 6 is about quality, a subject where comments on the GNU system are very positive. The variability Meyer discusses is far more likely in adaptations of GNU software to non-GNU systems. The examples he uses fall into this category.

As he probably knows, DOS compatibility is a rather tertiary concern for the GNU project, our primary mission is the GNU System, which is an ignoriginal UNIX(TM) compatible. There are examples of very well done ports of GNU software to DOS but all of these efforts have been carried out independently of the GNU Project. Some of those independent developers, I'm sure, would have been pleased to accept a consulting contract for rather more prompt delivery of bug fixes.

It's fairly clear from this article that Meyer's position on "free" is gratis and not liberty. I saw no mention of any efforts to make his company's resources available to contributers, to solve even their own problems.

I'm not sure what prompted Ken Thompson's claim that GNU/Linux was, in his opinion, less reliable than Windows. I just know that it totally contradicts my experience. I've run hundreds of GNU/Linux machines since shortly after they became usable about 8 years ago. In that time I've seen two examples of outright wedges. Both of them were on a highly experimental machine that was well over-clocked. We have one mission critical server in the project that has been up for over a year with essentially zero intervention or administration.

Then we come to a comparative analogy between product F and product P. After a little alarmist discourse about the life threatening possibilities of this decision (subsequently retracted and therefore gratuitous) we are asked to consider the ethical considerations of the following choice:

  • Product F is free software. It comes with the standard no-warranty warranty.
  • Product P is proprietary software. It costs $50 for the binary-only version. It uses the most advanced techniques of software engineering. It never crashes, or departs in any way from its (mathematically expressed) specification. The seller is, in fact, so sure of those qualities that he will commit in writing that any violation of the specification during execution will immediately lead to reimbursement of the purchase price and compensation for any damages incurred.

As an idealist, product F is very attractive, suppose that product P is, indeed, mathematically correct and perfectly implemented, but it does not do precisely what I want. Having chosen product F, I fix the bugs and add the changes that I need and I have the solution to my problem.

As a pragmatist, should product P ever become available, it will probably not do what I want anyway.

I don't have much on Section 7, it reads a little like the USENET religious wars of old, replete with references to "scripture" and "sainthood". I'm a nuts and bolts man and I don't care much about the glorious nature of the various personalities involved. Richard Stallman is my friend as well as my boss. He is, above all, a human being, and a good one. He has some towering successes to mitigate his agonizing failures. His attempts to lead an ethical life will probably be discussed for a very long time. I respect him for following his instincts.

Section 8 is, probably one of the more cogent parts of the essay, if only for its accuracy. There are various reasons for writing Free Software and many of them are well described here. Were it not for the openly hostile prelude to this section, it might be an interesting catalog of the motives behind the Free Software Movement. Unfortunately this has already been addressed in the category-killer CatB by Eric Raymond, who Meyer vilified as a terrorist for several paragraphs earlier in the article. So what is left is an attempt to discredit the author of a seminal article on the social anthropology of Free Software, and then reassert Raymond's conclusions as his own.

Section 9 deals, specifically, with Microsoft bashing. I, for one, do not discount the contribution of Microsoft to the "Wintel" alliance in driving the price of hardware down. I simply do not recognize Microsoft as the vendor of the best system to run on the newly cheap hardware. This is, in large part, because of Microsoft's resistance to accepted industry standards and refusal to release it's source code.

GNU was chartered to build a source code release of a UNIX compatible system. UNIX was chosen because it was popular and powerful. Far more powerful, in fact, than anything I have yet seen from Redmond, after 20 years. Microsoft developed DOS to run on a class of computers that were originally considered the toys of the industry and made all of the compromises necessary to do so. UNIX came down to PC class hardware from the glass room only after the machines became powerful enough to accommodate the protected, multi-processing system that UNIX always was. To appreciate the difference, one needs only to compare COMMAND.COM to bash.

The origin of any publicly perceived arrogance on the part of Microsoft rests entirely within Microsoft. They, clearly, have no shortage of talent in software development. So the failure must be in public relations or management. Since there is no apparent shortage of public relations talent in Redmond, I suggest that the problem may be with policy.

Section 10 discusses the fact that many programs that run on the GNU System are re-implementations of existing programs. This is not significant since GNU implementations are released as source code and are therefore more durable. This durability is an enhancement. Adobe could tank at some point and that would be it for PhotoShop, but Gimp will be still be there as a tarball on some ftp site. As for acknowledging Adobe for its efforts on PhotoShop, why? PhotoShop was based on well known image processing techniques, packaged conveniently for Macintosh people.

Finally we get to the 11th and last section. Here Meyer, after having blasted the Free Software Community with both barrels, extends an olive branch in the form of a call for tolerance and cooperation. Well, sure, I'd love to, except that you just blew away my first born son.

Frankly, I can't conclude from this article that Mr. Meyer has any interest in tolerance and cooperation at all.

I'll stop now, after a couple of personal observations about GNU. GNU is not something that someone gives you, it's the neighborhood where you live. The inhabitants prosper by sharing code with each other, and we do prosper. Free software is not going to go away anytime soon. I hope to live another 30 or 40 years and it will certainly be around as long as I am alive. We haven't found truth Meyer, we've just found something that works, license and all, for us. If it works for you, welcome aboard. If not, either fix it or get out of the way.

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Display: Sort:
It's about the code Mr. Meyer, not the money. | 58 comments (58 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
good commentary ... (1.00 / 1) (#3)
by davidu on Tue May 23, 2000 at 11:16:01 PM EST

davidu voted 1 on this story.

good commentary

great stuff... (1.25 / 4) (#10)
by nickb on Tue May 23, 2000 at 11:33:42 PM EST

nickb voted 1 on this story.

great stuff

Thanks, Phillip, for the best refut... (4.50 / 2) (#1)
by rusty on Wed May 24, 2000 at 12:27:26 AM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

Thanks, Phillip, for the best refutation of this essay I have read so far. And while you were at it, you produced the best one-paragraph summary of GNU that I have yet read, as sort of an afterthought (re-read the last paragraph. Several times). Believe it or not, this community benefits from attacks like these, I think, in that we are forced to re-explain what the hell we think we're doing, and defend our position. An organization that is never questioned will inevitably lose focus and dissolve in pointless internal squabbling, or, in the more likely case of a bunch of coders, dissolve in pointless internal squabbling and/or bury their heads in code and gradually become irrelevant. It's essays like yours that keep this from happening.

____
Not the real rusty

Cool.... (3.00 / 2) (#5)
by Velian on Wed May 24, 2000 at 12:40:28 AM EST

Velian voted -1 on this story.

Cool.

This seems like an excellent rebutt... (1.00 / 1) (#9)
by Wolfkin on Wed May 24, 2000 at 12:41:48 AM EST

Wolfkin voted 1 on this story.

This seems like an excellent rebuttal, even though I never read the original. :)

I vote to post it because it's an a... (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by Ozymandias on Wed May 24, 2000 at 12:58:10 AM EST

Ozymandias voted 1 on this story.

I vote to post it because it's an article, posted here, directly, for discussion. I'd like to see more of that.

But. Like very nearly ALL communication from GNU, all this lacks is flaming torches to be Yet Another Blind Rant Against Those Who Disagree.

  • What we call "proprietary" software which, if the source code is available at all, requires that the user not disclose any of it to another party.
  • Free Software, which is released under terms that look remarkably like the ones listed above. It should be added that "restrictions on commercial uses" is misleading, since these are general restrictions which have nothing to do with whether the use is commercial or not.
  • GPL software, developed independently of the GNU project but released under the same license that GNU uses.
  • GNU software, code for which the GNU Project holds joint or sole copyright and is therefore able to assure it's continued freedom.

Hmmm. Is there any... oh... bias in there? C'mon, stick to your guns - just SAY "proprietary bad, GNU good".

I grow weary of these people playing the same damn tired old tunes on the same damn tired old pipes and calling it "freedom." Yes, the glorious freedom to do anything you wish - so long as you do it their way, call it what they call it, and shriek and throw dung on those who oppose you. Hitler preached that kind of freedom; the freedom from the yoke of England and France's harsh restrictions, freedom from those who would prevent you from your glory. All you have to do, to be free, is inform on those who would betray you, those who would hide something from you. All you have to do is destroy your hated enemies, those who are different, who refuse to bow down to your obviously superior ways. It's not wrong; they're inferior. Strike them down.

Oh, and one thing more - pledge your life, your work, and your fortune to the Cause. Do all of that, and you will be free.

I grow so weary...
- Ozymandias

Re: I vote to post it because it's an a... (none / 0) (#13)
by PresJPolk on Wed May 24, 2000 at 09:11:53 AM EST

I used to find GNU annoying, to the point of resarching which BSD to run, in place of Linux.

But, I came to appreciate what they were doing more, when I realized the key word of the GNU philosophy: sharing. Not free, not libre, not beer, but sharing.

The GNU project is one front in a war to preserve sharing and community in society. Corporations loathe sharing, and lobby to pass laws against sharing. Without someone like Richard Stallman to fight back, society will be gradually backed into a corner, with consumerism as the only way out (which is exactly what the corporations want).

I still don't think that closed software is analgous to slavery. I still use free software for the reasons outlined on http://www.opensource.org. But, I don't groan every time I see the talk about freedom. I just keep in mind that the freedom to share is something I can support.

[ Parent ]
A rose by any other name still stinks (none / 0) (#23)
by Ozymandias on Wed May 24, 2000 at 01:39:11 PM EST

You call it sharing. But there's a critical element that's missing; sharing is something you do voluntarily between friends, comrades, coworkers, associates, or complete strangers as a means of cooperatively using limited resources. Generally, you do this as a "favor," something you don't HAVE to do, but rather something you do because you enjoy it, or because it makes others happy, or because your mom made you.

GNU doesn't share.

GNU and FSF want to force Microsoft to open their code. This isn't sharing. This is holding down some kid so your friend can steal - sorry, I mean "share" - his lunch money.

GNU and the FSF control. They want us to all share, like it or not, and screw those that don't want to share.

If the FSF and GNU were truly about "sharing," they'd be offering their software for free, with no restrictions of any kind whatsoever. They have restrictions, so right there whatever they're doing isn't "sharing."

Secondly, they would invite others to join in that sharing; offer their software and the software of their members to us (again without restriction) and asking if we have anything we'd like to share. That's not what they do; they offer their software under their terms, then rant and scream and call you names if, for some reason, you don't reciprocate.

Now granted, you don't have to be happy about it if someone takes what you're offering and doesn't return the favor. Were you happy when you shared your toys as a child, only to have the them keep their own toys to themselves? But that's a personal emotion. As an organization, GNU has a moral obligation to ignore those emotions and allow others to do as they wish. THAT is where they fail. If individual people can't do that - well, that happens. It's understandable; they're human, emotional beings. But GNU and the FSF are NOT human, they are organizations, and organizations CANNOT behave and act purely on emotion. Greenpeace did that. Earth First! does that. The Fromates and the American Indian Movement do that. Guess what? Every one of those organizations has been at various times labelled extremist, radical, and terrorist. Other organizations WITH THE SAME GOALS, like Citizens for Conservation or some portions of the various political parties, don't have those labels and get a hell of a lot more done. Why? Because they act responsibly, as an organization, rather than flying off the handle because of their personal emotions.

I like Linux. I like Free Software. I use quite a bit of it every day, and if I were a serious coder myself I'd most likely offer my code under some form of the GPL. But that does NOT mean that I like GNU, or FSF, nor does it mean I would necessarily offer ALL of my code under the GPL. Why not? Because I don't like the people who maintain the GPL. Who knows what kind of crap they're going to try next? Can't you just see this line being added to GPL 3.0?

All software developed by the Author, regardless of license, platform, or language, will henceforth be owned by the Free Software Foundation.

There's the ultimate "sharing." Everything anybody who's ever released something under the GPL is now forced to open EVERYTHING. Doesn't that just sound grand?

If you look at their rhetoric, if you read what they profess to believe and to want, if you listen to Stallman and the other fruitcakes - they want EVERYONE to do it their way. Anyone who does not is wrong. Whoever said Microsoft was the only organization to Embrace, Extend, Control?
- Ozymandias
[ Parent ]

Re: A rose by any other name still stinks (none / 0) (#24)
by rusty on Wed May 24, 2000 at 01:50:37 PM EST

Honestly, I've never heard the FSF, or any of it's members "rant and scream and call names". There have been some heated arguments, but I think you're applying the actions of some of the more immature members of the community to that community as a whole. I, for one, don't want to force anyone to open their code, and I think the majority of us feel the same way.

I don't really want to get into the traditional flamewar, here, so I'll leave it at that. I respect your opinion. I merely think it may be missing the forest for some of the uglier trees.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: A rose by any other name still stinks (none / 0) (#33)
by Ozymandias on Wed May 24, 2000 at 03:36:15 PM EST

Ok, then, one last thought - don't bother to answer if you don't wish to.

Richard Stallman - President of the FSF, as listed on their own home page, is FREQUENTLY seen ranting, raving and generally making an ass of himself with EXACTLY the kinds of comments I was referring to.

Perhaps every other member of the FSF is a kind, decent soul who volunteers at the homeless shelter every weekend and goes out of their way to help stray kittens. The members of the Hitler Youth were generally good people, too - they still enslaved nations and nearly murdered a race.

Maybe - just MAYBE - Stallman is the only nutcase among the FSF members. What does it say that he is their leader?
- Ozymandias
[ Parent ]

Re: A rose by any other name still stinks (none / 0) (#35)
by rusty on Wed May 24, 2000 at 04:06:52 PM EST

Hm. I don't know Mr. Stallman. I can't judge him as a person. All the members of the FSF I actually know have been extremely friendly and helpful and thoughtful. My judgements on the "character" of the organization are based on people like Phillip.

But aside from all this, the individuals are not very important. Look at the goals of the FSF, and the GNU project, and decide whether you agree with them. That's where we all ought to be focusing our analytical energies. One kook does not a kooky organization make. Do you agree with the terms of the GPL for a particular piece of your work? That's the important decision. Everything else is side-channel chatter, for our entertainment, really. And of course, now that you've mentioned Hitler, this discussion is effectively over, according to Godwin's Law. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: A rose by any other name still stinks (none / 0) (#39)
by superfly on Wed May 24, 2000 at 04:29:16 PM EST

Two Hitler references in one thread! You should be on Usenet.

[ Parent ]
Re: A rose by any other name still stinks (none / 0) (#26)
by CodeWright on Wed May 24, 2000 at 02:09:44 PM EST

Basically, it comes down to the fundamental differences between the "Free Software" folks and the "Open Source" folks.

Free Software -> "Do unto others as you would have done unto you."

Open Source -> "Your freedom stops at my nose."



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Re: A rose by any other name still stinks (none / 0) (#27)
by rusty on Wed May 24, 2000 at 02:14:51 PM EST

And that debate is as old as the hills, which is why we haven't really gotten anywhere on it, and I don't really expect us to. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: A rose and more... (none / 0) (#46)
by zotz on Wed May 24, 2000 at 08:05:53 PM EST

Several things.

Mr. Meyer starts out wrong by defining free software as software that can be obtained for free. If you start out making such a fundamental flaw in your 'premises' it will be very hard to come out right.

It is entirely possible for free software to exist and yet have no way to get it without paying for it. Free software deals with your rights to distribute, not how you obtain it.

Let me just say that I hope that Bertrand sees this and rethinks some things as I think I like his work. I am in the middle of OOSC 2/E and have installed small eiffel and compiled a few sample programs so far. I am hoping toi find it useful in my future development efforts.

Hey Rusty, we may not solve this, but it would help if the various sides clearly understood the positions others held. I always find people saying things that indicate otherwise. (I may be guilty of this as well.)

From what I can see, the FSF thinks that software should not be able to be copyrighted. It is able to be copyrighted however. They designed the GPL to bring about a world as close to one where copyrighted software was not permitted while such copyrights are still legal.

Now, you can have at least two beefs with this. You can think they are wrong and that software should be able to be copyrighted. You can think that the GPL does not do a good job of approximating a world where software is not able to be copyrighted. This can be divided into thinking it goes too far, and thinking it does not go far enough.

Ozymandias, can you tell us where you fall with respect to the above, or is it somewhere else?

Also, Ozymandias, are you against a software author freely choosing to release software he has written under the GPL, or are you against the FSF telling authors that they should release their softwear under the GPL?

If it is the former, you seem to be telling me that it is ok for me to write and copyright a program and sell binaries only. It is also ok if I write and copyright a program and free the code in such a way that you can take it without paying me, and release binary only derivatives, but that I cannot use the GPL. Is this your position?

I am always a bit amazed to find myself seeing the things that RMS writes making so much sense to me when I do not think I am very much at all like what people say he is like and do not think I hold the worldview that people attribute to him. I guess I will look into that a bit more later.

ESR make the distinction between sale value and use value. Why is it that almost everyone who wants to knock free software wants to deal almost exclusively with the sale value game and never wants to refute the use value game? Anyone?

We should also note that while the GPL makes us share if we want to share, it does not make us share if we do not want to share. It also communicates ideas to us that we are free to use outside of the restrictions of the GPL. You can take a GPL program, figure out how it works and rewrite it and be out from under the GPL. (IANAL!)

I lost some focus here as I got a phone call between the above paragraphs so I will wrap things up now.


zotz forever! ~~~the raggeded~~~

bslug.org
[ Parent ]

Re: A rose and more... (none / 0) (#55)
by Ozymandias on Thu May 25, 2000 at 08:06:43 PM EST

From what I can see, the FSF thinks that software should not be able to be copyrighted. It is able to be copyrighted however. They designed the GPL to bring about a world as close to one where copyrighted software was not permitted while such copyrights are still legal.

Now, you can have at least two beefs with this. You can think they are wrong and that software should be able to be copyrighted. You can think that the GPL does not do a good job of approximating a world where software is not able to be copyrighted. This can be divided into thinking it goes too far, and thinking it does not go far enough.

Ozymandias, can you tell us where you fall with respect to the above, or is it somewhere else?

I definitely believe they are wrong with regards to trying to restrict copyright. I have no particular objection to the GPL per se; as I said elsewhere, if you want to release your code under the GPL, fine. If you want to release it under some new license with a restriction that code may only be modified in vi or emacs - fine. My problem is with trying to make GPL the ONLY software license, which seems to be their goal.

Also, Ozymandias, are you against a software author freely choosing to release software he has written under the GPL, or are you against the FSF telling authors that they should release their softwear under the GPL?

I believe (as stated) the choice is ENTIRELY the authors. I object to the FSF telling authors what to do.

If it is the former, you seem to be telling me that it is ok for me to write and copyright a program and sell binaries only. It is also ok if I write and copyright a program and free the code in such a way that you can take it without paying me, and release binary only derivatives, but that I cannot use the GPL. Is this your position?

I'd agree with all of that if you removed the "but I cannot use the GPL." Use the GPL if you like. As a legal position, the GPL as it is now is at least acceptable. My problem is with the philosophy of the FSF, and of Stallman, not with the GPL itself.

I am always a bit amazed to find myself seeing the things that RMS writes making so much sense to me when I do not think I am very much at all like what people say he is like and do not think I hold the worldview that people attribute to him. I guess I will look into that a bit more later.

He makes perfect sense. That doesn't mean he's right. His arguments are clearly articulated; they're just wrong. His world would be perfect, if humans were perfect. We aren't. We lie, we cheat, we fight, we love, we laugh, we cry. We don't live like computers work, there are no rules you can apply to human behavior. And as long as that is true, these stupid prattlings about "but we would all be free and happy if we were in charge" will be nothing more than fairy tales.
- Ozymandias
[ Parent ]

Re: A rose by any other name still stinks (none / 0) (#49)
by PresJPolk on Thu May 25, 2000 at 03:43:21 AM EST

GNU doesn't share.

Yes, it's true that the GNU project, through the GPL, does not share with every other project out there, most notably the BSDs. But, they are sharing with people, and that counts for a lot.

GNU and FSF want to force Microsoft to open their code. This isn't sharing. This is holding down some kid so your friend can steal - sorry, I mean "share" - his lunch money.

Where does the GNU project state, that they want to force anyone to do anything? GNU is about providing a free system, not changing other people's systems.

Every one of those organizations has been at various times labelled extremist, radical, and terrorist.

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue" -- Barry Goldwater

Because I don't like the people who maintain the GPL. Who knows what kind of crap they're going to try next? Can't you just see this line being added to GPL 3.0?

No, I don't see it happening to the GPL 3. But, why does that matter? I use the LGPL version 2 for my software, personally. Nothing forces you to say that "or later" when applying a GNU license to your code.

Odd, that the only example of control by the GNU project, is the one that you just made up.



[ Parent ]
A license cannot be made retroactive (none / 0) (#53)
by Pelorat on Thu May 25, 2000 at 02:01:22 PM EST

So your hypothetical clause would only apply to the fools who didn't read the new GPL before they released code under it (those induhviduals would definitely be getting what they deserved). And that's assuming quite a lot about the legality of such a clause.

But there's no evidence that the FSF will ever go to that extreme. And even if they *did* do something like that, it would be the end of their popularity, permanently.. and that would be the end of FSF as a going concern. So what exactly is the problem again?

Let's at least keep this thread free from slippery slope fallacies. It's already got Hitler in it, that's enough. =)

[ Parent ]
Re: A rose by any other name still stinks (none / 0) (#57)
by anonymous cowerd on Fri May 26, 2000 at 12:17:42 PM EST

> GNU and FSF want to force Microsoft to open their code.
> This isn't sharing. This is holding down some kid so your
> friend can steal - sorry, I mean "share" - his lunch money.

I've read this allegation many times. I don't believe it, and in fact I have to question the sincerity of the people who state it. But I could be wrong; if so, can you direct me to one document anywhere on the FSF web site which supports this absurd accusation? (I say "absurd" because obviously if RMS were to go up to Bill Gates and say "We demand your source code!" Gates would reply "You and what army?") As far as I am aware, FSF doesn't and can't "force" anybody to do anything; they argue, cajole, beg and advocate that software writers should contribute their work to the so-called "free software community" - but they do not demand it.

On a similar note, you constantly see people whining about how the GPL is "non-free" and that instead of using the GPL software authors should put their code in the public domain. What's with you guys? If a programmer writes a program, it's his property, and he can do any damn thing he wants with it. He can keep the source code a deep dark secret and sell the binaries with a highly restrictive license. He can put binaries, source, or both into the public domain and give it away for free. He can license it under GPL, or under the BSD license, or the Perl Artistic license, or he can make up a new license as he pleases. He can throw out the code and his computer too and go retire to a monastery. That goes for Bill Gates and Linus Torvalds and Larry Wall and me and you. No matter how much you would like him to hand his work to you on a silver platter for free, so you can commercialize it and make yourself a nice big pile of money off his work, it's still his code and it's up to him, not you, how he shall license it. Is there some part of the above paragraph that anyone doesn't understand?

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
[ Parent ]

Re: A rose by any other name still stinks (none / 0) (#58)
by Ozymandias on Fri May 26, 2000 at 01:02:21 PM EST

One document of a FSF senior member calling for Microsoft to be forced to give up their code. Hmm. Let's see.

Here's one. Written by RMS, his "remedies" if Microsoft is found guilty. Took 30 seconds on the GNU site. Wonder what would happen if I could find transcripts of his speeches? I've heard a few, and he's gone farther than this in them... but he doesn't seem willing to post those. So much for principle.

The Microsoft Antitrust Trial and Free Software by Richard Stallman

"1. Require Microsoft to publish complete documentation of all interfaces between software components, all communications protocols, and all file formats."
So, what; it's OK to make Microsoft use certain licenses and open their code, but only because they're Microsoft? Everyone else is OK, then, right? Ooops, nope, apparently not:

Free Software Foundation

"The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is dedicated to eliminating restrictions on copying, redistribution, understanding, and modification of computer programs."
Hmm. I see. You have the freedom to do as we say. How lovely.

As for your second argument - you're on the wrong side. Stallman has repeatedly made statements that the FSF and, by extension, the GPL, are the only way to go. How many times have you heard him give his stupid speech about developers having a "moral imperative" to use the GPL? I don't give a damn what you use for your license; GPL, LGPL, BSD, three pages out of the NYC 1972 Phone Book (Can - Cao), a Microsoft EULA with "Bork" inserted randomly, or a complete closed-source "death will befall all who pirate this software". My objection is to Stallman et. al. who proclaim that the GPL is the only "good" license, that the rest of us are evil if we don't agree, and in general going AGAINST the very principles they claim to support!
- Ozymandias
[ Parent ]

Sharing is more software development. (none / 0) (#38)
by pjr on Wed May 24, 2000 at 04:12:50 PM EST

I run a small New England farm in addition to my chores at GNU. It is there that I learned about the value of community and sharing. There are 4 or 5 old farms left in the place where I live, and we all try to help each other as much as we can. People who doubt the validity of community software projects should come out and witness a Barn Raising sometime. It's an incredibly powerful thing to watch.

Thanks,
pjr

[ Parent ]

Okay, it's well written so post it,... (4.30 / 3) (#4)
by analog on Wed May 24, 2000 at 01:47:51 AM EST

analog voted 1 on this story.

Okay, it's well written so post it, but let this be the last one? The Meyer essay basically falls to pieces as soon as you think a little about it; I think one rebuttal after another gives it more credibility than it deserves.

While I'm here, though, I wanted to say something about this "taxpayer funded" idea. Meyer says software developed at universities is taxpayer funded. He also says that universities should be able to keep software they develop proprietary and sell it.

It seems to me that if I as a taxpayer have paid for this software, then I damn sure have the right to expect the source code. The GPL seems a fair license to release it under (as does the BSD license). It seems to me that placing under a proprietary license and requiring me to buy something I already paid for is unethical at best; it also ticks me off. I have always thought that university developed software should be freed; calling it 'taxpayer funded' only adds another reason why this should be so.

Taxpayer-funded software (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by eann on Wed May 24, 2000 at 10:41:28 AM EST

I suspect the point Meyer never really gets close to with "taxpayer-funded" that he believes the taxpayers are, in essence, stockholders in the government (which funds the universities), therefore, it's the schools' responsibility to get the maximum return for the minimum investment. If they sold ideas instead of giving them away, then that would be a legitimate source of income, thereby reducing everyone's tax burden.

The flaws are obvious. First, not all universities are funded by the government. MIT, for instance, is not a state school--it's a non-profit organization that happens to get grants (from both public and private sectors, often jointly) to work on nifty things. Sometimes those grants say the technology can't be released to the public. Other private schools you've heard of (Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, pretty much all of the Ivy League) no doubt have similar set-ups.

Second, if universities (regardless of government funding status) sold their intellectual "products", where would the money come from to buy the technology? At the risk of invoking the Laffer curve, it'd come from the money that could potentially be raises or salaries for new employees. Net result: a lower percentage of taxes going to schools (but likely, more funding for other gov't projects instead of actually reducing the tax rate), but less inflation-adjusted money to pay those taxes with over the long term.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


[ Parent ]
Well, it's a good reply, though a b... (1.50 / 2) (#11)
by HiQ on Wed May 24, 2000 at 04:16:05 AM EST

HiQ voted 0 on this story.

Well, it's a good reply, though a bit long; but why start yesterday's discussion all over again? Will there be some good, new reactions, or do we have to repeat our previous thoughts?
How to make a sig
without having an idea
just made a HiQ

I think these replies are better se... (3.00 / 1) (#8)
by duxup on Wed May 24, 2000 at 05:03:39 AM EST

duxup voted -1 on this story.

I think these replies are better set as posts. Not a story for each individual's opinion.

Re: I think these replies are better se... (none / 0) (#12)
by PresJPolk on Wed May 24, 2000 at 09:04:35 AM EST

This isn't exactly a reply; it's a rebuttal.

Rebuttals of attacks on free software are important, to those who care about the free software community, because the community benefits from having being able to point others to the rebuttal.

[ Parent ]
Great article -- very lucid and to ... (4.00 / 1) (#2)
by techt on Wed May 24, 2000 at 06:48:44 AM EST

techt voted 1 on this story.

Great article -- very lucid and to the point.

On a related note, I've noticed a large portion of disagreements with the philosophy of free software aren't. That is, they're a basic misunderstanding of the meaning of "free" as used in the free software context -- intentional or not. As pointed out at http://www.fsf.org/philosophy/free-sw.html:

When talking about free software, it is best to avoid using terms like ``give away'' or ``for free'', because those terms imply that the issue is about price, not freedom.
It is easy for people to confuse free as in zero cost with free as in freedom. As such, perhaps it would be best to adopt a word for which such ambiguities do not exist such as libre, and the phrase "free software" should be included in Some Confusing or Loaded Words and Phrases that are Worth Avoiding? Or, at the very least, when talking about free software, make it a point to write "free (speech) software" each and every time.

There are people who don't agree with the free (speech) software philosophy for what ever their reasons. Lets not give them an excuse to avoid the real issues by setting up and attacking a straw man.


--
Proud member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation!
Are You? http://www.eff.org/support/joineff.html
Re: Great article -- very lucid and to ... (none / 0) (#19)
by Wah on Wed May 24, 2000 at 12:02:29 PM EST

I've fallen into the practice of writing Free (capital) to mean libre and free (lower) to mean beer. That was a tough word to use as the focal point of a movement, but geeks were never known as good marketers. ;)

--
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]
Re: Great article -- very lucid and to ... (none / 0) (#31)
by pjr on Wed May 24, 2000 at 03:18:45 PM EST

The article also follows this convention, except where I have quoted some one. I think this is a good idea and I have been using it for some time.

Thanks,
pjr

[ Parent ]

Free/free => libre/gratis (4.00 / 1) (#52)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu May 25, 2000 at 09:17:55 AM EST

I do think that there is some benefit to actually using "Libre" and "Gratis" in some cases - they look like English words anyway, we need to clearly differentiate the concept, and if you use them, then you have an easy opportunity to explain what you mean by them.

If enough people use them, they'll become part of the standard language - english is an evolving, dynamic language, unafraid to borrow wholesale from other languages (part of the reason it's so successful - English is the Perl of natural languages (I guess Lojban would be the Scheme - extremely elegant and woefully underused :-) )).

Also, many people, particularly those who have studied a few european/romance languages, will already understand them without ambiguity, even if they don't use them in day-to-day speech.



[ Parent ]
Nice explanation! Meyer's rant was... (2.00 / 1) (#7)
by orabidoo on Wed May 24, 2000 at 06:50:28 AM EST

orabidoo voted 1 on this story.

Nice explanation! Meyer's rant wasn't really all that interesting, but it's worth hearing the point of view of someone who is both level-headed, and very close to the FSF.

Sounds good, but has it been sent to Meyer? (none / 0) (#15)
by Pelorat on Wed May 24, 2000 at 10:50:43 AM EST

Cos I really doubt that he reads K5.

And now for a slightly offtopic rant: If you're in the process of voting for a submission, and it gets bumped to the front page while you're typing a paragraph or two in response, when you submit your vote the post you just wrote GOES AWAY. It doesn't get added to the comment list, it's just GONE. I've been burned *twice* on this now, where I had a reasonably detailed response to one thing or another, and then *click* *poof* "thanks for voting but the time you just spent writing a coherent praise/rebuttal/correction to the submission is now wasted"

Sure, I can hit the back button and cut-n-paste it into a new comment. Why should I? I just submitted it! That I should jump through hoops to get something posted only because I was 15 seconds too late to the voting booth is ridiculous. Why isn't the vote simply discarded and the comment added anyway?

Re: Sounds good, but has it been sent to Meyer? (none / 0) (#22)
by rusty on Wed May 24, 2000 at 12:25:57 PM EST

Why isn't the vote simply discarded and the comment added anyway?

Because:

A) It was really late at night when I added the bit that checks for a redundant vote, and I was not thinking very clearly about what ought to be done.

B) Because I'm an idiot.

Choose according to your generosity/annoyance ratio. :-) You're absolutely right, and this will be fixed soon. Thanks for reminding me again.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Tough choice =) (none / 0) (#30)
by Pelorat on Wed May 24, 2000 at 03:17:40 PM EST

Eh, may as well chalk it up to (A). Hehe.. thanks for the quick response.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, but.... (none / 0) (#16)
by costas on Wed May 24, 2000 at 11:09:49 AM EST

I didn't think the original Meyer essay was too far off the mark in most points {dons asbestos suit, assumes defensive position} if you overlook his quasi-personal comments on RMS/ESR (which may or may not be correct, that's not the point they're ad hominem attacks).

Let's face it, there are no <b>proven</b> "Free Software Businesses". We got VA Linux, which is a hardware company, LinuxCare which is in deep, deep trouble, Corel which is a poser trying to stay afloat after years of getting crushed by Microsoft and Adobe and the two true Linux companies: Red Hat and Caldera (notice I am only talking public or close-to-public firms here, since those are the ones with public information). Caldera isn't exactly kicking ass; Red Hat entered the market with a clear market/mind-share in the Linux crowd; it never competed with say Sun, Novell or Microsoft; its competitors are the <b>other</b> Linux distro companies.

So, which Open Source/Free Software firm has actually proven the superiority of Open Source/Free Software against proprietary/close solutions in the business arena? I can't think of any, and the only ones that may get close will be the embedded Linux companies like Lineo, although you can't discount Wind River and the like just yet...

Whatever you may think of the Politics of Open Source (I disagree), or the Engineering Merits of Open Source (I wholeheartedly agree), the Business of Open Source is still at an infant stage and it's too early to make a judgement either way...



memigo is a news weblog run by a robot. It ranks and recommends stories.
Re: Yeah, but.... (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by rusty on Wed May 24, 2000 at 12:23:29 PM EST

Let's face it, there are no proven "Free Software Businesses".

Au contraire. Read the essay again, a little more closely. pjr presents two for your approval:

I present Michael Tiemann at Cygnus, who founded one of the first commercial Free Software businesses and grew it quite successfully for 10 years before selling it (to another Free Software business), last year, for almost $700 million. Second, Ghostscript, distributed under the GPL by Aladdin Software, who, if you like, will sell you a non-GPL version for a fee.
And BTW, how's Sendmail Inc. doing these days?

These are not public companies. A company doesn't have to be public to be successful. The canonical examples of free software companies (VA, RedHat et al) are relative newcomers who have done a lot of financial maneuvering very quickly, and picked up on the dot com hype rocket. The real success stories are the ones that have a valuable product and chug along quietly, for years, just being small and profitable.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Yeah, but.... (none / 0) (#37)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed May 24, 2000 at 04:12:47 PM EST

I don't think we have a reasonable amount of evidence in to make a suitable determination of the more general question `is GNU-style-free software business economically viable except at the extremes?'. From what I've read even recently on the egcs mailing list archives, Cygnus is still a company of hackers working very long hours with e-mail timestamps which to my eye suggest that they take it much more `seriously' than a programmer in a general company would. Alladin still has, from my latest understandings, a `delay the GPL version release by one increment compared to the commercial version' which RMS disapproves of. Don't know anything about Sendmail, so I can't comment. These don't seem to be the kind of cases which can be used to argue about the question which interests me: `Is it possible to work in a GNU-style-free software business if you're a good but not brilliant programmer who is certainly not a shirker but who actually spends the same amount to time with significant other + children & on other non-coding hobbies' as the `general' person who's working in a conventional business'?
I hope it is, but I haven't seen any positive evidence of this and lots of negative evidence (Larry McVoy & bitkeeper, the harrassment of the Troll Tech guys, etc). If there is convincing evidence for non-extreme cases, please reply because I'd just love to see it, but I haven't seen any produced yet.)
(In general, this is one aspect of the FSF's argument style that annoys me: point out an issue, then suggest it has been `repudiated completely' by a piece of extreme evidence. The most recent example was the claim in an RMS article that the Grateful Dead showed that allowing free reproduction of creative works wasn't bad for the creator. This is completely ignoring the fact that the Grateful Dead are a an extreme success, which may be as much down to luck and grabbing lots of mindshare leading to extreme positive feedback as anything else. What would be much more convincing would be if he'd quoted some bands who maybe had one or two hits but never really got anywhere but are still working the circuits making a livable wage but nothing out of the ordinary. Even better if he'd quoted several, so I didn't get the feeling that it could a case of `if you search long enough you'll find some evidence to support any position'. (To take an example from another field, I'm sure people would agree that the fact Demi Moore can command 1-5 million dollars per film is not suitable evidence to deduce that most actresses are overpaid and living the life of luxury.) Has anyone done a systematic survey of all GNU-style-free or Open Source companies (those that are doing badly as well as those doing well) and tried to get any statistically significant observations?

[ Parent ]
Re: Yeah, but.... (none / 0) (#40)
by rusty on Wed May 24, 2000 at 04:29:33 PM EST

You're right that there are few examples either way, and nothing to draw real conclusions from. If you think about it though, the same is true of sotware in general, proprietary or free. The vast majority of software companies, whatever their business model, are doomed. They either fold, get bought out, get vaporwared out of existence by MS, or some combination of the three. I'd also be interested, along with the questions you raised, to hear what the real stats are for software success in the industry as a whole.

The one thing that gives me hope that OSS is viable in the business world is that fact that the huge majority of software developers are not working for a software company. I.e. the "code and ship a product" software company is actually an aberration. Software which is developed to meet the need of a particular company, which is not otherwise in the software business, lends itself really well to open sourcing, because usually the company in question derives all the benefit it needed from the code just by having it coded. Releasing it under an open license just opens the possibility that other developers at other companies will need the same thing, and will help to improve it for free, thus adding even more value to it. Keeping it closed only ensures that you will never get any more value than you paid for.

Of course, this may mean that ultimately there will be no, or very few, "pure software" companies. That may or may not be a good thing. If larger companies that need software simply realize the conditions under which coders work best, and form their IT departments to operate like small independent software companies, this could be a big win. Imagine developing software that you only had to sell to one customer. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Yeah, but.... (none / 0) (#41)
by costas on Wed May 24, 2000 at 05:02:03 PM EST

True, most (or probably, a lot of) software developers don't work for software companies; but that just means that a lot of software is really specific to the application and (probably) cannot be extended.

I think that one of the big successes of OSS is that it has created *libraries* of software that people can reuse in their applications (CPAN for example). And, in general, the idea of having 'the hood' of the software unlocked and accessible to any 'mechanic' to inspect and fix, makes good *engineering* sense. I don't think anybody can dispute that.

But, I personally doubt the claim by a lot of OSS supporters (and I do consider myself an OSS supporter) that OSS makes good *business* sense. And until there's a business whose business plan depends on OSS that outcompetes a closed-source software firm, we have no evidence of that.

memigo is a news weblog run by a robot. It ranks and recommends stories.
[ Parent ]
Re: Yeah, but.... (none / 0) (#45)
by Pseudonymous Coward on Wed May 24, 2000 at 06:49:22 PM EST

So, which Open Source/Free Software firm has actually proven the superiority of Open Source/Free Software against proprietary/close solutions in the business arena?

How about the top two free (libre) OS vendors in the world based on sales of shipped units: SuSE and Pacific Hi-Tech.

In some European and many Asian markets, one or another of these vendors are quickly reaching the point of clobbering other major, more established OS vendors.

There are several examples of hype-driven free software companies which live on only through market float and momentum. It's fallacy to say that, simply because the first few brand names off the top of your head are like that, the entire industry is unsuccessful.

How about other examples of truly successful (as opposed to "float and gloat") free software companies in their markets? Cygnus Solutions? Sendmail, Inc? Either of those ring a bell?

[ Parent ]

Ideas are donated, not shared. (4.00 / 2) (#17)
by DemiGodez on Wed May 24, 2000 at 11:46:35 AM EST

Ideas are something that are shared not donated. Donate is a terrible word to use in the context of ideas. Did Lincoln "donate" the Gettysburg address?

No he didn't donate it, Lincoln earned $25,000 a year in his job as President. One of his duties was to make speeches and attend events such as the dedication of a cemetary. So he was paid for his ideas.

An idea is every bit as valuable monetarily as a physical object. I have no moral obligation to share with you my ideas any more than I have to hand over my car or house. If I do choose to give my ideas away freely, I surely am donating them to a cause. Monetary value lies in what the market is willing to pay. A brief survey of our world today tells you that people are willing to pay an awful lot for ideas. (Which explains the amount of money thrown at dot coms)

In summary, information and ideas should be speech-free in the sense that the gov't shouldn't prohibit me from having my ideas or thinking about them. But they should not be speech-free in the sense that they don't belong to everyone and should not be forced to be freely shared. Ideas are clearly not beer-free nor should they be. If anything, an idea is often more valuable than a tangible item.

Re: Ideas are donated, not shared. (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by analog on Wed May 24, 2000 at 12:19:26 PM EST

An idea is every bit as valuable monetarily as a physical object.

Not even close. Try selling an idea sometime. Don't confuse the implementation of an idea with the idea itself; they are not the same thing.

A brief survey of our world today tells you that people are willing to pay an awful lot for ideas. (Which explains the amount of money thrown at dot coms) .

Funny, I was just reading an interview with a venture capitalist a couple of days ago who said ideas were meaningless. To paraphrase: "if you have an idea, so do a dozen other people". He specifically said that the idea a company has for its business has no bearing on whether or not they get funded.

If I do choose to give my ideas away freely, I surely am donating them to a cause.

Bull. You 'give ideas away' every time you have a conversation. If you consider that a donation, I think you have a somewhat inflated view of your capabilities vs. your fellow man. There is a reason the phrase "there is nothing new under the Sun" is a cliche. You're right that you have no moral obligation to share your ideas; just don't kid yourself into thinking that keeping them to yourself makes them worth something. Ideas are a dime a dozen; not until they are implemented (usually by sharing them with others) do they have any worth.

[ Parent ]

Re: Ideas are donated, not shared. (none / 0) (#32)
by DemiGodez on Wed May 24, 2000 at 03:34:06 PM EST

Try selling an idea sometime.

I sell my ideas when I apply for a job. I sell my ideas when I design a system. I sell my ideas when I write an article.

I was just reading an interview with a venture capitalist...

I totally agree with that. I think more and more VCs are moving away from that. But when dot coms were really, really hot there were people throwing money at ideas. Companies also pay top dollar for good talent because of their ideas. Even so: Universities give scholorships to bright students because of their ideas. We elect politicians becuase of their (often proported) ideas.

You 'give ideas away' every time you have a conversation. If you consider that a donation, I think you have a somewhat inflated view of your capabilities vs. your fellow man.

Yes, I do see that as giving away something of value when I share my ideas. I also get something of value when I hear other people's ideas so its not donation but a fair trade. If I offer help on a project without getting paid or without getting ideas in return, then I am donating my ideas.

...just don't kid yourself into thinking that keeping them to yourself makes them worth something. Ideas are a dime a dozen; not until they are implemented (usually by sharing them with others) do they have any worth.

Keeping them to myself doesn't make them valuable. They are inherently valuable no matter what I do with them. They have value on their own and we pay for thema ll the time. See examples above.

Last question: If ideas by themselves are so worthless, then why does the free software movement want ideas to be freely distributed (free-speech)? Why spread around worthless dime-a-dozen thoughts?

[ Parent ]

Re: Ideas are donated, not shared. (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by rusty on Wed May 24, 2000 at 03:57:40 PM EST

I sell my ideas when I apply for a job. I sell my ideas when I design a system. I sell my ideas when I write an article.

I think you're mistaking ideas for implementations here too. Applying for a job, you're selling your potential to produce value for a company. By means of the work you are expected to do. You're selling your output potential. When you design a system, you're selling a design, which is a bounded, well defined set of parameters. It's not an idea, it's an implementation of an idea, in the form of a plan for building an actual system that conforms to your idea. And when you write an article, that again is a direct implementation of an idea. Writers themselves will usually admit that they are far from the only people ever to have the ideas they write about, they are just the ones to "implement" them by capturing them on paper. That's what they get paid for. I think the point still stands-- these are not ideas qua ideas, but in fact implementations thereof. The ideas that they represent continue to be valueless until implemented in some form.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Ideas are donated, not shared. (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by analog on Wed May 24, 2000 at 04:08:18 PM EST

I sell my ideas when I apply for a job. I sell my ideas when I design a system. I sell my ideas when I write an article.

No you don't. In all cases, you are selling implementations. If you think the difference is only semantic, try getting someone to pay you for the idea for an article (without writing it), or try to get a job just spouting ideas to other people (without actually doing any work).

Companies also pay top dollar for good talent because of their ideas. Even so: Universities give scholorships to bright students because of their ideas. We elect politicians becuase of their (often proported) ideas.

Companies pay top dollar for skills. Universities give scholarships based on work history and test scores that indicate the ability and willingness to learn. Politicians are elected because they have a probability of passing legislation that the people agree with. You can have great ideas about all of the above, but unless you actually do something with them, you will get exactly squat for them. It is the implementation that is valuable, not the idea.

Last question: If ideas by themselves are so worthless, then why does the free software movement want ideas to be freely distributed (free-speech)?

While I am certain they believe in the free sharing of ideas as well, that isn't what the movement advocates. It advocates sharing the implementations. If you say you have a great idea for a revolutionary program, by far the most common reaction you'll get from the free software crowd will be "show me the code". They don't care about the idea; they want to see the implementation.

[ Parent ]

Re: Ideas are donated, not shared. (3.00 / 1) (#42)
by pjr on Wed May 24, 2000 at 05:11:13 PM EST

A few days ago I had an idea after reading an article on K5. It tossed around in my head for 24 hours or so and then I implimented it as this thread. I wondered sometimes whether I had time to bother with it. Consider carefully, that it might have died at 2 AM on Monday morning and this discussion would not have taken place.

This is the transiency of ideas. They can appear and vanish in a millisecond. How can you place a dollar value on something that may not even exist?

pjr

[ Parent ]

Re: Ideas are donated, not shared. (3.00 / 1) (#47)
by Field Marshall Stack on Wed May 24, 2000 at 10:08:35 PM EST

Last question: If ideas by themselves are so worthless, then why does the free software movement want ideas to be freely distributed (free-speech)? Why spread around worthless dime-a-dozen thoughts?

Oh bloody hell, who let the trolls in? Look, what you're doing here, you're confounding the concept of "worth" with that of "value". Okay?

IMHO, that's a large part of why Bertrand Whatshisname's essay fell so flat - he was attempting to explain everything in terms of economic value, rather than intrinsic worth. Contrary to what some Randroids will tell you, not every motivation is an economic motivation.
--
Ben Allen, hiway@speakeasy.org
"Nobody ever lends money to a man with a sense of humor"
-Peter Tork
[ Parent ]

Re: Ideas are donated, not shared. (3.00 / 1) (#48)
by pjr on Wed May 24, 2000 at 11:40:13 PM EST

Be careful about using terms like Randriods. I've read about 80% of Ayn Rand's work and I find it facinating and valuable. While I disagree with some of the more popular interpretations of her work, I think you will find, if you read between the lines, a strong sense of individualism and community, both of which I support.

I agree with you, that there is more to worth than economic value, perhaps that would have have been a subject of debate had I ever had the chance to speak with Ms. Rand.

I find that one must read Rand carefully and preferably in isolation in order to avoid some of the common distortions that have been propagated from her work.

Don't let some one tell you about Rand, read it for yourself. There are too many people who will use Rand to justify their greed. There's a good deal more to her than that.

Thanks,
pjr

[ Parent ]

Bombs in britain. (none / 0) (#25)
by Div0 on Wed May 24, 2000 at 02:01:59 PM EST

Since I'd like to stay on topic I'll be brief: Britain is a great example of a country where guns are not readily available. In Britain they use bombs.

Just to point out that it's rather a long stretch to refute the anti gun arguments because we ( very occasionally ) use bombs in britiain. A gun is a fully working, lethal device which can ( so it appears ) be brought within a matter of minutes in any city in America. A bomb is a complex, unstable lethal device that has to be constructed according to information, which although easily available, is not is the possession of the general public. Also building a bomb is much more difficult to do in britian, as most of the basic house hold chemicals you can use have fire retardents in them. This means that the number of people who could successfully prosecute a lethal campaign are greatly reduced, which must surely save lifes.

Div0
-- nothing funny here.

Re: Bombs in britain. (none / 0) (#28)
by pjr on Wed May 24, 2000 at 03:08:31 PM EST

It was a long stretch, too long, and well off topic. I would welcome discussion of firearms responsibility in another thread. This was an article about the ethics of the Free Software Movement, not the ethics of the Second Amendment (US Constitution). Violent behavior occurs in every country, I did not mean to single out Britain. But I did not want to spend several paragraphs of an already lengthy rebuttal on a topic that had nothing to do with the subject of the article.

Thanks,
pjr

[ Parent ]

Re: Bombs in britain. (none / 0) (#29)
by rusty on Wed May 24, 2000 at 03:13:44 PM EST

It sucks when someone includes a totally irrelevant and offtopic segment in an essay, because then if you want to rebut, you have to either argue, despite it still being totally offtopic, or ignore it, thus opening yourself up to cries of "but why did you ignore this part? No response to that, eh?"

It's the rhetorical equivalent of the middle school "Does your Mom know you're gay?" argument. (For those unfamiliar with this trick, imagine answering yes or no, if you're not actually gay -- you lose either way).

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Guns of Brixton (none / 0) (#44)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed May 24, 2000 at 06:40:48 PM EST

Everything I know about Britain I learned from the Clash and I'm pretty sure they mentioned something about the Guns of Brixton. The only bombs they mentioned were Spanish...and they were in Andalusia, not Britain.

[ Parent ]
OT: Re: Guns of Brixton (none / 0) (#59)
by Demona on Tue May 30, 2000 at 12:31:31 PM EST

When they kick in your door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head,

Or on the trigger of your gun?

- The Clash, "The Guns of Brixton"

Also see:

Printer's ink has been running a race against gunpowder these many, many years. Ink is handicapped, in a way, because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second, while it may take twenty years to blow him up with a book. But the gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can keep on exploding for centuries.
- Chistopher Morley, _The Haunted Bookshop_

-dj

the ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit

[ Parent ]

Bombs in Britain (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed May 24, 2000 at 05:55:02 PM EST

"Britain is a great example of a country where guns are not readily available. In Britain they use bombs."

Right - I'll just pop down to my local bomb shop and buy a bomb then.

Duh

Why is there such ignorance about Britain on the Internet? Only yesterday I saw someone on Slashdot (the words "the other place" are reserved for Oxford University in my case) state that hardware encryption was illegal in Britain. Are they kidding?! I better tell my friends at nCipher that they're going to jail for a long long time ... and whilst I'm at it, I better hide my collection of Smartcards.

C'mon people ... smarten up!

And whilst we're on the topic of guns, I'd just like to point out some damning statistics ... America (along with its gun culture trappings) means that it has the highest murder rate in the "first world". In England/Scotland/Wales, if someone is murdered, it usually makes the national news. If the murder weapon was a gun, it definitely would be.

Hmm, dinner time, yum yum.

Re: Bombs in Britain (none / 0) (#50)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu May 25, 2000 at 07:19:21 AM EST

Over a few weeks, just by a few kilos of nitrate fertilizer and some sugar (If anyone asks, say you're making a vegetable patch in your garden (fertilizer), and your wife is baking a cake(sugar)). Stir.

Bombs are EXTREMELY easy to make. I'm from Ireland, and I think the provisional IRA are a despicable crime syndicate that have long forgotten their original aims (the provisional IRA are more like the Irish equivalent of the Mafia than "freedom fighters", they handle most of the drug trafficking in the country).

However, you should realise that the British media lie to you just like the American media lie to the Americans, and the Irish media lie to us, and hush up a LOT of the shit that happens.



[ Parent ]
Re: Bombs in Britain (none / 0) (#51)
by evilpete on Thu May 25, 2000 at 08:54:04 AM EST

if someone is murdered, it usually makes the national news. If the murder weapon was a gun, it definitely would be.

... and if the person murdered was the presenter of a boring tv travel show, we'd still be hearing about it over a year after the murder :)



[ Parent ]
Sensational Flamebait (none / 0) (#54)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu May 25, 2000 at 04:38:27 PM EST

I'm an avid user of Open Source software and use Linux and BSD 99.9% of the time. However some open source software is better than others, and crashes and other problems still occur. That being said I still found Meyer's article to be sensationalism at best and flamebait at worst. I think by jumping all over it the way we are ,we are just giving the terrible thing the attention it doesn't deserve. This article is causing a buzz akin to the Halloween documents but without the weight. At least those made entertaining toilet reading. Mr. Meyer's opinions speak for themselves, short sighted and laughable.

Universities (none / 0) (#56)
by mattm on Thu May 25, 2000 at 08:43:48 PM EST

Just one small comment:

A University could claim all rights to the creativity that takes place there, but then it could no longer call itself a University. A shame indeed.

Yes, some universities do make just such dog-in-manger claims, just as readily as businesses do, and yes it is a shame, but I suspect it's only going to get worse before it gets better.



It's about the code Mr. Meyer, not the money. | 58 comments (58 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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