Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Rock and Roll - On open source

Author:Chris Arsenault
Posted:8/29/2000; 8:58:09 AM
Topic:Rock and Roll - On open source
Msg #:20478
Prev/Next:20477 / 20479

On Tuesday August 29th Dave Winer said:

"We have to make money to employ programmers to make software. Or maybe I'm missing something. I'd like to have an infinite pot of cash to make software that pleases me and share it with everyone. But even then, I would miss having a commercial product. I like the idea of being paid for my art. I like it. I like it. Let that sink in. (And I think users like it too, btw.) Just as I enjoy paying for music that touches me. See how these things relate?"

This viewpoint is one that defines a developer as being some sort of corporate entity, but it totally misses the perspective of the individual programmers, and the issue of control of their work.

To many programmers, being "employed" is being just as captive as any company that is technological bound to a particular corporation and/or computing platform. Programmers don't want to be "employed" when they are creating their art, in fact the law says they can't even call it their own art - open source provides the opportunity to move out from under that mantle and gain rewards in ways that "employment" will never address.

Here's an analogy to use when considering the whole open source/commercial software situation - open source software development is like a rock-climbing team strung together by lines. Everybody pulls their weight and all contribute to achieving a higher goal. Different people will take the lead at different times, but the whole effort is a complete balancing act. The overall success of the effort is built on the trust of everyone else.

In commercial software, someone is there saying that they own the rope and they get to control who's hanging from it, and who gets to move where, and what path should be followed. In true open source, not only does no one in particular own the rope - everyone is making more rope as they climb! Additionally, each developer is free to explore the nooks and crannies and paths that may eventually lead the whole group to a much higher and more rewarding vantage point.

Open source and commercial software can co-exist in the same overall climbing team, as long as it's clear where the lines can be severed should fundamental directions change.

That's my take on Rock and Roll. ;-)


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