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Re: Pot and Free Software. Is there a correlation?


From: Bernd Jendrissek
Subject: Re: Pot and Free Software. Is there a correlation?
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 12:14:13 +0200

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[This no longer has *anything* to do with pot...]

In article <address@hidden> Russ Allbery <address@hidden> wrote:
>David Masterson <address@hidden> writes:
[snip]

>This I have a few more problems with.
>
>Here's where the hidden assumptions start showing up.  Normally, when one
>speaks of a trade, one is giving up something (free time) in exchange for
>something else (enjoyment).  This makes sense in one sense because free
>time is a limited commodity.  It makes less sense from other perspectives,
>since I consider the time I spend on free software to still be my free
>time.  Also, if I stopped making that trade, this analysis implies that
>I'll have back something (free time) that I could trade for something

Think free time == money.  You can have all the money in the world, and not
be any happier for it, if you don't spend it ("consumption" - i.e. convert
it into utility).  Same with free time.  If you were to stop writing Free
Software, you might have all the free time in the world, but no happier.
You'd be sort of a "poor rich man", maybe sitting on front of the TV for
hours on end.  Blech.

Of course, some people derive utility from having a large bank account, or
from not doing anything, etc. but I think Free Software developers *do* have
something on which they want to "spend" their free time.  It just isn't TV.

>It's not that the analysis is completely wrong; it just seems overly
>simple to me.

I think some people who make the analysis can't distinguish between money
or free time on one hand, and utility one the other.  Reminds me of the
story "the irony of the rat race" at http://www.theexponent.com/jokes.html

>> That's still a relatively small sample to attempt extrapolation on
>> whether the economics of free software development would work when
>> applied to the whole software market (and note, I'm focusing on
>> *development*).  I, like many others, am still trying to get a handle on
>> how it will work.
>
>It's kind of an interesting question, but one thing that's very much worth
>keeping in mind is that there are many of us who write free software
>because we enjoy it and will continue to do so pretty much without regard
>to whether or not it makes sense in the market.  That's the other major
>place where I see economic models break down.

I just happen to have read _Jonathan Livingston Seagull_ last night.  For
some, writing free software is like learning to fly - we'll do it whether
we're earning a living or not.

>Microsoft, for example, seems to think from their publicity and their
>public statements that if they can convince large corporations to not use
>free software, it will dry up and blow away.  Quite to the contrary, my
>use and writing of free software is completely disconnected from whether
>there's a market for it or not.  I don't really care if no one else uses
>it; I'd keep writing and giving it away for myself because I enjoy it.

IMHO there is a real danger of underestimating the effect M$ is trying to
achieve: marginalise Free Software to the point where there is no meaningful
freedom.  You are always free to be outcast.

On this point I think RMS is dead wrong: popularity *does* matter.  If I
can't practically *exercise* my freedom, can I truly claim to be free?  Just
having source code, being free to modify and redistribute it, is meaningless
against the face of huge externalities that appear when *every* email is
an M$-Word attachment, and Outlook 34.5.2.5563 refuses to display plaintext.

>This makes free software curiously different from normal business
>activities, since it won't cease even if the apparent ROI is significantly
>below other possible investments.

Key word "apparent".  Those who see only money won't understand.
(Quasi-quoting here:)  The flock can only see what is below it, and it is
standing on the beach.

Bernd Jendrissek
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