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Re: [Gnu-arch-users] Re: in-tree pristines fatally wounded (merge-fest e

From: Tom Lord
Subject: Re: [Gnu-arch-users] Re: in-tree pristines fatally wounded (merge-fest etc)
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2003 11:51:52 -0800 (PST)

    > From: Mark Thomas <address@hidden>

    > On Tue, 2 Dec 2003, Thomas Zander wrote:

    > > > Perhaps *you* won't be paying Tom unless he scratches your itches, but
    > > > please don't presume to speak for everyone else.

    > > Which part is untrue?  The part where people won't pay Tom unless he
    > > actually earns it, or the part that Tom has a tendency to not scratch 
    > > itches ?

    > Perhaps you should consider the converse: if you want Tom (or anyone else
    > for that matter) to scratch your itch, perhaps you could pay him to do it.

Thank you for saying that.

I'm not thanking you for recommending paying me to do something (which
is welcome but not the reason I want to thank you here).

I want to thank you because I think you are pointing towards an
important labor issue in the free software community -- labor vs. the
"social norms" of the community.

There's kind of an emerging myth, in my subjective impression, that 
one can "win big" in free software by accumulating and making happy a
substantial pool of users.   And then if you do that, you can be the
next Guido or Linus or Alan or Larry or Miguel or whatever:  you can
have your choice of jobs, your access to IPO windfalls, your attention
in the press, your universal acclaim.

That myth is bullshit, of course.  In reality, it's a crapshoot.  No,
it's worse than a crapshoot -- it's a clique.  Most people can not win
that game, no matter how well they play.

Zander's rant reinforces that myth.  It says: "hey, tom, the reason
you are losing economically is because of the way you manage your

Bunk, I say.  The rant presumes that there is some Ideal of how to
manage the project and that, if only I would live up to that ideal,
economic success would follow.  That's a bunch of crap: economic
success in free software doesn't follow from managing a project a
certain way, from doing brilliant work, from living up to some ideal
-- more than anything, it follows from pure luck and social

I happen to believe that it's entirely possible to reform the free
software industry in such a way that, yes, merit really does lead to
reward.   But it's hard work and it has to address hard problems.

The "check signers" of the world aren't exactly bending over backwards
to help make that transformation -- try as I might, implore them as I
might, appeal to their persumed moral centers as I might: I can't
overcome the conclusion that they are purely selfish opportunists,
rather disinterested in understanding and sustaining the community
processes that have made them millionaires.

The "next step" in the free software movement, I'm increasingly
inclined to believe, is a labor movement.   Collectively, we've
dedicated ourselves to creating huge amounts of value.   It's time to
figure out how to get real paid.

Say, did you know that the FSF is a union shop?  That salaried
employees, regardless of role, draw the same wages?

Maybe we should all go on strike by writing nothing but screen savers
for a year or three :-)


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