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The Almighty Buck

Economic Crisis Will Eliminate Open Source 753

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the why-so-gloomy dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The economic crisis will ultimately eliminate open source projects and the 'Web 2.0 free economy,' says Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur. Along with the economic downturn and record job loss, he says, we will see the elimination of projects including Wikipedia, CNN's iReport, and much of the blogosphere. Instead of users offering their services 'for free,' he says, we're about to see a 'sharp cultural shift in our attitude toward the economic value of our labor' and a rise of online media businesses that reward their contributors with cash. Companies that will survive, he says, include Hulu, iTunes, and Mahalo. 'The hungry and cold unemployed masses aren't going to continue giving away their intellectual labor on the Internet in the speculative hope that they might get some "back end" revenue,' says Keen."
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Economic Crisis Will Eliminate Open Source

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  • Yeah right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Emb3rz (1210286) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:55AM (#25468433) Homepage
    Advertising + Blogs = continuance of our current model.
  • by wud (709053) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:56AM (#25468447) Homepage Journal
    Can someone please mod this story as flame bait?
  • Just like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:56AM (#25468459) Homepage Journal

    The end of the dot-com bubble killed linux, stifled production of php sites, and made people stop sending non-commercial email. Those things all went away, right?

  • This is just wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:57AM (#25468473)

    hungry and cold unemployed masses

    They aren't the people contributing. The guy is an 1d.10T

  • Money? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qoncept (599709) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:57AM (#25468481) Homepage
    Since when is user delivered content driven by hopes of profit? These people are driven by wanting their voices heard and to some extent wanting to be known. If these sites fail, it will be because the site itself isn't profitable, not because their users, who they could care less about, aren't making money off it.
  • *laughs* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RaigetheFury (1000827) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:59AM (#25468503)

    This guy is under the assumption everyone who works on open source technology is after financial gain. Very short sighted

  • by beldon (79695) * <avdominello AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:00AM (#25468523)
    Perhaps it could be said that all the money in FOSS development made developers used to a higher standard of living, but that assumes that getting paid necessarily negates non-monetary rewards. That's a flimsy argument and doesn't bear very close scrutiny. It also assumes traditional scarcity rules have taken over the software industry. If anything, artificial scarcity is even harder to maintain during harder financial times.

    This is nothing but a re-hash of Bill Gates' screed against the Homebrew Computer Club about how good software will never be created without paid programmers. It was wrong in then, and it's still wrong.

  • by uchian (454825) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:00AM (#25468537) Homepage
    Surely with more people sitting at home, unemployed, with nothing to do other than look for a job, and desperate to make their cv stand out more than everyone else in there situation, the amount of speculative work produced may in fact rise?
  • Holy hell (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:00AM (#25468545) Homepage Journal

    Does this guy really thinks everyone has a website/blog/whatever only to make money?

    My personal website doesn't have any banner, I have to pay for hosting from my own pockets (and I haven't updated the damn thing in months either).

    I think this is only a counter-strike against this [slashdot.org].

  • yeah right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ignatus (669972) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:00AM (#25468547)
    "The hungry and cold unemployed masses aren't going to continue giving away their intellectual labor on the Internet in the speculative hope that they might get some 'back end' revenue," says Keen."

    No, the hungry and cold unemployed IT guys will invest their time into open source projects, because it 's a good way to keep their curriculum in shape. And the hungry and cold unemployed will keep using linkedin and facebook to extend their network inorde to find a job. And ofcourse, businesses in difficulties will stop throwing money away for overrated software when they can get a free and open equivalent.

    I think a crisis will definately have a positive impact on open source and web 2.0

  • Re:Donations (Score:3, Insightful)

    by notamisfit (995619) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:03AM (#25468589)

    A lot of users don't give them.

  • by JamesP (688957) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:04AM (#25468605)

    LET THEM BE

    Every time an idiot says something that is not going to affect you directly, let it be!

    Trust me, do you really wanna do business with people who believe this?? Do you want to be an employee who believe these things?

    But guess what, you're right and they're wrong!

    If my employer has a stupid idea, I either recommend against (and they usually listen) or I quit or I shut up.

    If my competitor has a stupid idea, I just say "GREAT!!! GO AHEAD!!"

  • by olddotter (638430) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:04AM (#25468615) Homepage

    Most economic down turns spawn innovation. People no longer have nice cushy jobs soaking up their days. These people no longer have anything to lose (their job) by trying that great idea to build a better mouse trap. Some of them invent things really cool and successful.

    Linux exists because Linus couldn't afford a real unix server, for example.

    If the downturn turns into a depression, then no one will have money to pay anyone for services anyway. So the huddled masses will probably be bartering their services and still contribute to open source, because its the cheapest way for them to get the tools they need.

    Take some money and buy a clue.

  • Hobbies (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fotbr (855184) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:05AM (#25468631) Journal

    Article is useless, since most open-source projects start as someone's hobby, and are contributed to by others coding as their hobby.

    I realize that the quick-buck is all the rage these days, but the fact is that not everything is done for money. Some things are done for fun. Some are done because of a sense of duty to "give back" to society in some manner.

  • Re:*laughs* (Score:4, Insightful)

    by svendsen (1029716) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:05AM (#25468643)
    I read it more along the lines of if a person is starving (for example) or facing the possibility of starvation then anything they do will be based on trying to get food. So a person who spends time working on an OSS project might now think I need to do things that will bring me short term value (ie money) so I don't starve and might either work of other things or start demanding money (or food) for their time and effort.

    When a person's basic needs aren't being meet nothing else really matters.
  • by JustKidding (591117) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:08AM (#25468679)

    Indeed, why are some people just completely unable to comprehend that not *everyone* is a greedy bastard?

    Some people do things, like programming, you know, for fun! Contributing to OSS is not about "back-end revenue" for most people, it's about contributing to a community, about pride, and about intellectual challenges.

    I feel sort of sad for him that *his* whole life seems to revolve around money.

  • Who gives a shit? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:08AM (#25468703)
    If our economic output went flat tomorrow, Linux would still do just as good as it always has. In fact, it may do even better, as the people who are currently paying $50/year/machine for Windows licenses suddenly can't afford to pay squat.

    You would have to be a complete troll to believe that the catalyst behind open source is somehow intrinsically economical and not some fucked up blend of economical and fundamentalist. The majority of the "unknown" hackers are simply students, hobbyists and loyalists who want to put their name on something and to use their machines how they want to, and not how some corporation tells them they can. No economic crisis will ever be deep enough to make some people seek intelligence, no economic crisis will stop thinkers from thinking, no economic crisis will stop dreamers from dreaming.

    So yeah, Open Source may get hit. But while other businesses are closing up shop, there will always be someone, somewhere, too obsessive, too creative and too egotistical to stop coding for his/her pet project. And that will keep Open Source alive through any economic crisis.
  • Whatever (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jethro (14165) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:10AM (#25468739) Homepage

    If Andrew Keen said the sun will rise tomorrow, and winter will be followed by spring, and the sky is blue and water is wet, I'd have serious doubts about those things. Or I'd assume he has yet another crackpot theory book out and he's promoting it. The guy's been predicting the death of Wikipedia and OSS for years now.

    And wasn't there just an article the other day about how this crisis is GOOD for OSS?

  • by JayAitch (1277640) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:11AM (#25468747)

    The hungry and cold unemployed masses aren't going to continue giving away their intellectual labor on the Internet in the speculative hope that they might get some 'back end' revenue," says Keen.

    Cash strapped consumers aren't going to want to pay for services they don't need.

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:12AM (#25468761) Homepage

    It'll be harder to argue for expensive new Oracle, SAP and similar licenses. Oh sure, that database that's just a large bit bucket will cost your business a few hundred thousand dollars to implement! Just lay off a worker or two to fit it into your budget.

    Bullshit.

    If anything, it'll be easier now to justify using OSS because the ridiculous cost of most enterprise software will become more apparent to the customers. I predict that if this continues, you'll see more companies forced to use OSS out of necessity simply because they cannot justify buying the extremely expensive licenses for proprietary software.

    On a related note, Keen is one of those guys who laments the loss of our "high culture." The dude is a day late and a dollar short in his whole analysis. Western high culture started taking a nose dive 100 years ago with the rise of political populism. If anything will help to bring it back, it'll be putting better, cheaper tools into the hands of content producers so that they can do more work with less effort.

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:13AM (#25468777) Journal

    And why can't people comprehend that folks write this stuff to sell books and make money? And why can't folks comprehend that Slashdot posts it in order to get page views and make money?

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:14AM (#25468787) Journal

    They aren't the people contributing. The guy is an 1d.10T

    Cable tv, internet, and cellphone service are some of the last things that people stop paying for when they're broke.

    It is a psychological thing. They don't really feel poor until they have to cut themselves off from the media intensive aspects of society.

  • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:14AM (#25468791)

    Clearly set before this audience to get a reaction.

    Besides, when I was unemployed, I had nothing to do but:

    1. Look for work
    2. Play the unemployment reimbursement game
    3. Play at speculative "hobby jobs" - my main one was real-estate sales, which wasn't a bad call in 2003 in Miami.

    The unemployed have LOTS of time on their hands, and open source is one way to do something productive that may lead to some direct income, or at the very least demonstrate your skills to prospective employers.

    I certainly would hire someone who could point to a dozen intelligently edited Wikipedia articles that they contributed to over another candidate who has nothing to show for their last 6 months.

  • More open source (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Simonetta (207550) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:14AM (#25468809)

    Exactly the opposite will happen. There will be more open source because the 'poor starving masses' with software development skills will have nothing else to do.

      What will change will be the emphasis upon which open source will be focused. There will be less development on games and DRM bypassing and more on programs that connect people together for economic development. More CraigsList-type of development and less BitTorrent.

        There will be a lot of development on software that builds groups with common economic interests that are separated by great distances. Things that corporations almost exclusively do now, such as buying and delivering groceries from distant farms or cereal processing factories.

        In severe economic times, people will be less not more inclined to allow their labor to be diverted into the generation of corporate profit. The concept that software workers will be giving more time to well-paying jobs assumes that are actually going to be well-paying jobs for software workers. In a severe recession or Soviet-style economic collapse, that simply won't be the case.

  • Re:*laughs* (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:15AM (#25468825)

    No, what he's getting at is that people are able to offer free services because they don't have to worry about their personal finances (read their jobs are secure). If you have to spend more time making real money, you won't have as much time to devote to your hobby.

  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dotancohen (1015143) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:16AM (#25468831) Homepage

    Advertising + Blogs = continuance of our current model.

    He just doesn't get that some people do things not for the money.

  • Heard an interview of this guy on the radio, actually. He spent most of the time waxing on about how all these "non-professional" people are creating content, and how that's a bad thing. He was arguing that only people with proper training and credentials should be allowed to produce and publish content. Of course he himself is the absolute arbiter of what makes someone "qualified" or "trained," which is of course ridiculous.

    History is full of self-trained, self-taught, self-made geniuses and creatives. It's also full of blithering idiots, both with and without little pieces of paper with a school's name and a dean's signature stamped on them. Allowing (and encouraging) open publishing for the masses does nothing to reduce the value of good works. If anything, it allows for more good works to be created by people who otherwise may not have found out they had a talent for such things.

    On the other hand, restricting the ability to publish to a select few "accredited" individuals will do nothing to improve the quality of works available, and if anything will lead to the protection and promotion of low-quality works as "professional"...

    I mean, hell, how hard is it to get a Liberal Arts degree? I got a minor in humanities on accident... :P

  • Re:Odd ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by russlar (1122455) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:18AM (#25468851)

    It seems we're getting dupes from a parallel SlashDot.

    If that were true, this story would have a goatee.

  • Re:Just like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:18AM (#25468855) Homepage Journal

    The latest U.S. News & World Report appears to claim this recession is deeper than the post-dot-com recession.

    And that would raise the demand for expensive, uncustomizable software how?

  • by bokmann (323771) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:19AM (#25468879) Homepage

    I'm sure this will be said to death by the time this post closes for comments, and while this analysis might have merit when done from the viewpoint of someone 'valuing their own labor', the same way donations to charity dry up during hard economic times, that analysis does not apply for several reasons:

    1) Something that has been open sourced is perpetually in the open source marketplace. Often called the 'viral nature of the GPL', an economic downturn cannot take away, say, MySQL or JBoss. Both are here, and are here to stay. His argument could be taken to mean innovation may stop temporarily, and I'd entertain that notion.

    2) Companies seeking ways to control their costs will EMBRACE open source, so its use will INCREASE. If a CEO is facing a choice between his cushy salary or a license for WebLogic or Oracle, He will choose his salary and tell his IT department to find alternatives. they will, n JBoss and MySql.

    3) Training budgets will shrink. So if you can learn everything you need to know to write Rails apps from sources like http://www.railscasts.com/ [railscasts.com] you are going to build your next app in Rails, as opposed to ColdFusion (and if you have never heard of Cold Fusion, that proves my point - PHP and Java pretty much killed it during the dot-bomb ays).

    4) Tech jobs will dry up - and the cream of the crop will need to distinguish themselves. I have heard Dave Thomas (PragDave) say on several occasions that our industry would be better off if we fired the bottom half of developers. This economic downturn may see that happen, and the top half will need to distinguish themselves. the currency of this kingdom is knowledge, and the way we demonstrate this knowledge is by sharing it with others... So I expect to see an INCREASE in blogs, contributions to open source as resume building, etc.

    I could go on and on - for instance, people seeking free training will go to more user group meetings... people seeking to network for job opportunities will go to more user group meetings - people seeking to distinguish themselves will want to PRESENT at said user group meetings.

    As I said in a post a few months ago, I am seeing an INCREASE in the aount of work I'm doing... why? I develop and I train on open source technologies and agile development methodologies... it is all about doing more with less.

    Don't just survive - THRIVE during this downturn. I'll see the best of you on the other side of this downturn, still here reading slashdot, still climbing the skills mountain.

  • by giblfiz (125533) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:19AM (#25468885)

    I can say for sure that he doesn't "get it". While he does make several good points about the advantages of payed work, it seems that he is ignorant about the advantages of free contribution, and the way OSS uses a blend paid and unpaid work to advance projects.

    He also doesn't seem to understand that the large companies that are supporting OSS are not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, they are doing it to try to disrupt other businesses.

    In short, the man is not a troll, but he has no idea what he is talking about. Move along.

  • Re:Money? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:20AM (#25468897) Journal

    The fact that TFA used "Playboy.com over Voyeurweb.com" as an example shows just how right you are and how out of touch he is.

    Playboy is closing their DVD production arm because of the tightened economy.
    User-driven contributions on porn sites like voyeurweb will never decline.

  • Re:Hobbies (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:20AM (#25468903)

    I've seen the same thing with my other hobby, Amateur ("ham") Radio - the general public and some of the emergency managers they hired tend to dismiss us as a bunch of know-nothing/unskilled hobbyists... until Something Bad happens, and then they discover that we're actually a very useful adjunct to their own systems (that failed), with the skills, experience, and equipment to do the job.

    "Amateur" means unpaid, not unskilled...

  • by 16K Ram Pack (690082) <tim DOT almond AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:21AM (#25468931) Homepage

    The man is a fucking moron, quite simply. We're all going to stop doing things we did for no financial gain? So, why did we do them for no financial gain previously?

    He assumes that people's only motivation is direct financial reward. That people don't just update Wikipedia pages because something's irritating to them, that people don't just put photos on Flickr because they want to be more social. People will never take an iPod apart, wire it up to their SNES just because they are curious.

    The fact is that people do things for all sorts of reasons. Financial (direct or indirect), social, psychological. I once built a bit of open source code to tell me about the traffic on a road I used. There was no sensible way to make money from it, so I gave it away.

  • by garett_spencley (193892) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:25AM (#25468997) Journal

    I'm not saying I disagree, and in true /. spirit I only read the summary ... however it sounds like his whole point is that when people are having a hard time coming across basic necessities they stop caring about 'fun', 'community', 'pride' and 'intellectual challenges' and start caring about how to get food.

    The real question is: is it going to get that bad ? Was the great depression even "that bad" or are the stories of stock traders jumping out of windows greatly exaggerated ?

    Also, being someone who works in internet advertising and runs "free web-sites" that happen to feed my children it's pretty clear that he doesn't understand Internet economics. The Internet, like television, doesn't care about goods and services in exchange for currency (though I'm not saying that model isn't implemented online, just that there's other models that are more popular and work just as well, if not better). I guess next he's going to claim that television networks are going to stop free programming with commercials and instead switch to a strict pay-per-view model :rollseyes:

  • by Jeff Hornby (211519) <jthornby@NOSPAm.sympatico.ca> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:26AM (#25469021) Homepage

    Do you actually think it's flamebait or do you just disagree with his opinion?

    I think his analysis is well-reasoned, well-articulated and ultimately wrong. But there is no reason to attack him just because his opinion differ from yours.

    I believe that while the coming recession will have some bad aeffects on open source software, I think that most of the bigger projects have too much momentum to survive. At the end of it all, there will still be a Linux and an Apache and a MySQL and dozens of other high profile projects. The projects that are going to suffer are the literally hundreds of borderline projects on SourceForge that most people have never heard of. Many of the authors of these projects are going to abandon working on them so that they can put more face time in at the office to avoid being the one who gets down-sized to help pay for the CEO's fourth yacht and second private jet. What little extra time they do have will be (hopefully) spent with their families or in other non-technical pursuits.

  • Re:*laughs* (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pngwen (72492) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:27AM (#25469053) Journal

    You hit the nail on the head! I am an open source contributor, have been for over a decade now. I haven't found the time to write my own entire projects yet, but I have been sending out a steady stream of patches ever since I first booted linux back in 1994.

    My motivation has never been about getting money. Nine times out of ten, it has been that I wanted some program to do something that it didn't, so I made the change myself. A lot of the patches I make don't get adopted (except on my own box), but whenever I fix a bug, it usually is.

    If you're a programmer contributing to open source projects, chances are you are just fine financially. I for one have been turning paying jobs away. I get at least 2 offers for permanent positions and a handful of contracts every week. The bottom line is, if you are a good software developer, you are in incredible and overwhelming demand.

  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:30AM (#25469113)

    Some men can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

  • by griffjon (14945) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .noJffirG.> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:30AM (#25469123) Homepage Journal

    "For all of us, there comes a time on any given day, week, and month,every year and in different degrees over our lifetimes, when we choose to act in some way that is oriented toward fulfilling our social and
    psychological needs, not our market-exchangeable needs. It is that part of our lives and our motivational structure that social production taps, and on which it thrives. There is nothing mysterious about this. It is evident to any of us who rush home to our family or to a restaurant or bar with friends at the end of a workday, rather than staying on for another hour of overtime or to increase our billable hours; or at least
    regret it when we cannot." --Benkler, _Wealth of Networks_

    "Human beings are, and always have been, diversely motivated beings. We act instrumentally, but also noninstrumentally. We act for material gain, but also for psychological well-being and gratification, and for social connectedness. There is nothing new or earth-shattering about this, except perhaps to some economists. " -- Benkler, _Wealth of Networks_

  • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:31AM (#25469143)

    I will donate $25 to his punch fund.

    And now the TRUE power of "punch the monkey" is finally realized. Like many dot-com icons, they were ahead of their time.

  • by chrispycreeme (550607) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:33AM (#25469177)

    Unlike most /.ers I am not a big open source fanboy (I am not opposed to it , Im just agnostic). But even I can see that this guy is a moron. These large open source projects are not going away. A bunch of people out of work and living on unemployment are going to be looking for something to do.. if anything the bad economy is going to increase participation in these open source projects. What an idiot.

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowskyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:34AM (#25469199) Homepage Journal

    Some people do things, like programming, you know, for fun! Contributing to OSS is not about "back-end revenue" for most people, it's about contributing to a community, about pride, and about intellectual challenges

    I think his point is, that, in a recession, and suddenly, programmers aren't working any more with day jobs, that little blog that gets 50000 hits or that little pile of code they've built suddenly looks like it might be something to help , you know, make a mortgage payment with.

    I mean, sure, if you are independently wealthy, go ahead and give your time away. But if you've got a family to feed and a house to pay for, you probably might want to have some money coming in.

  • by idontgno (624372) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:35AM (#25469231) Journal

    That's interesting. Funny, but at its heart, interesting.

    TFA's author seems to think folks will stop doing things for the love of it, only for money.

    What about sex? Last I looked, doing that for money was... frowned upon, at the least.

    So, what's the economic case for sex? What market good does it do?

    Really, I know a lot of OSS geeks who get the same personal value from open source contribution as they would from sex (if they could get that): self-validation, positive relations (some of the time) with willing partners, a nice glow from post-commit satisfaction...

    And, let's face it, in both cases, screw up once and you're supporting your love child for the rest of your life.

  • by cowscows (103644) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:46AM (#25469409) Journal

    Your point about OSS is certainly valid, and while I certainly don't think Linux is going to die or anything like that, there will likely be a slow-down in development for certain pieces of software, and specific aspects of the software.

    While there are many people who enjoy the fun and challenge of writing software, it's important that not all steps in the process are the same. The adage that the last 10% of the project is 90% of the work is somewhat true, in that making a really well polished product inevitably requires some grind work at the end. In the software world, that might manifest itself as bug squashing, or user testing, or interface tweaking, etc.

    It's important work, but it's often time consuming, monotonous, and not fun, and it's hard to get people to volunteer to do it. That's a part of the OSS process that can really benefit by having paid labor to help make sure that it gets the attention it deserves (although there's no doubt that even proprietary companies often skip out on this part).

    If the tech economy turns to crap and there are lots of newly unemployed programmers sitting around, I'd actually expect the amount of OSS activity to increase somewhat. All those geeks aren't going to turn off their computers and never code again. But the effort will go towards the sorts of things that are interesting, not towards the dull (but important) drudgery work. If companies stop paying their developers to work on OSS, there are certain types of work that will fall to the wayside.

  • What a moron. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by phmadore (1391487) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:47AM (#25469441) Homepage Journal
    Some of the greatest innovations in US History took place during the Great Depression or right after, especially in social programs, etc. People needed more affordable ways to do things, and industry delivered. From preservatives to food stamps. I think this guy is definitely not looking at it from an end user perspective. I think projects like Ubuntu, OpenOffice, and Firefox are going to see an astronomical rise in support over the next three years. Why? Well, if people are aware that instead of buying a brand new computer they can buy a slightly older one and boot Ubuntu but still be current on all the things they care about, they're going to do that, especially when they find out that all their software updates are going to be free and more and more types of software are being supported. Business, hard up for investment capital, are going to turn away from Mac and M$ and start thinking, "Well, if we cut our tech spending by this much, we can afford this much more in salaries, and increase this much more in profits over the next quarter..." People who program for money now are going to start losing their jobs anyway, and since it's probably something they love to do, there's only two routes for them to go: join the OS revolution, or start their own projects, destined for failure. Innovation is going to soar. I'm not buying it. I think a lot more people will come into my line of work, I mean join the military, as the ability to find a steady paycheck decreases. And if they happen to be techies, then they will represent a steady income for the tech. industry. Not just military, but government jobs generally. And so on. This guy's an idiot. Listen to someone who knows something about open source, that Red Hat CEO guy. Not that I like Red Hat (who does?), but at least he's been around the community a little bit to know these kinds of things...
  • by pseudorand (603231) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:51AM (#25469505)

    ...in an economy where there are plenty of people willing to pay big bucks for anyone who can find the Control Panel on BOTH XP and Vista?

    On the other hand, in an economy where even reasonably intelligent people are out of work and can't build their resume on someone else's dollar, what do you suppose they'll do with all that free time? Take up watching Days Of Our Lives and waiting for the economy to start demanding people with year-long empty spaces on their resumes? Or maybe they'll start working on the open source projects they never had time to work on when they were employed and put THAT on their resumes. And maybe, once Geek Ingenuity (i.e. Linux and PHP as opposed to CDS and mortgage backed securities) has started to put real value back into the world economy, those with money will start to invest again because they'll have something to invest in that seems like it might actually make the world a better places, which can be done for a mutually beneficial profit (i.e. both buyer and seller are better off, as opposed to the zero-sum game on Wall Street).

  • WTF? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:56AM (#25469599)

    iTunes isn't even a "company" in its own right. So, how does he figure that companies "like iTunes" will continue to exist? Statements like that just expose who actually pays for him to give his opinions away for free.

  • by jeffasselin (566598) <cormacolinde@gma i l .com> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:57AM (#25469615) Journal

    Heretic! The accepted and hallowed truth is that Free Markets are perfect, self-correcting mechanisms, and that informed customers always do what's best for the economy.

    Burn him! Burn the communist!

    In other news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down again. It has nothing to do with deregulation, greed, and exploitation of naive investors. Nothing at all.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:03PM (#25469709) Homepage

    n/t

  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:06PM (#25469753) Homepage

    The people so entrenched in the notion that everything can be bought and sold can't see anything but money as motive for ANYTHING.

    Some, if not most Free/Open Source software was written to serve a purpose other than money. Linux started out as a school project was it not? Other people just wanted "something better" and ended up doing it themselves.

    But these ridiculous pundits will never be able to see anything other than how things are measured in monetary units. If I weren't atheist, I would say "may God have mercy on their souls..."

  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:11PM (#25469823) Journal

    I don't think that's the main thing wrong with his reasoning. Fact is, a lot of the hard work in OSS is paid for. Most of it is not done for free.

    The main thing wrong with his reasoning is that in rough economic times, companies are going to be looking for a better value. OSS is a better value. Even if you have to pay for developers to get what you need, that's a one time cost and you get to keep the source code.

    Another point worth making is that if unemployment goes up, that just means there's a lot more developers out there with free time, and motivation to put something new on their resumes.

  • Except (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Cisco Kid (31490) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:11PM (#25469829)

    The unskilled Joe-Sixpacks are the ones that will be cold, hungry and unemployed.

    I suspect that most of the people that work on projects like Wikipedia, or write Free Software, or that blog, probably aren't having any economic crisis, or at least not so much of one as the average masses.

    I for one, am enjoying the huge drop in gas prices. I'm not worried about home values becuase I have no intention of selling mine for quite a long time. I'm also quite secure in my employment.

  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thedonger (1317951) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:12PM (#25469831)
    So we are assuming that everyone working on open source projects is not otherwise employed? How many people do it in their free time, all the while gainfully employed?
  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theaveng (1243528) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:25PM (#25470043)

    No. I'm assuming they ARE employed, and about to get laid-off due to the recession. Therefore they might not be able to pay their bills, and their priority will be survival, not opensource programming.

  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:25PM (#25470045) Homepage

    You are of course falling for the common fallacy that any
    free time that a person has can be magically converted
    into gold as if they had some sort of Philosophers stone.
    That isn't necessarily the case. Infact, it will probably
    be MORE likely rather than less likely that people have
    free time on their hands in the near future.

    Whether or not they continue to have the resources to
    contribute to Free Software projects is another matter.
    This has more to do with whether or not they have the
    money to keep the power on rather than if they are
    working at some mythical job which incidentally will
    be the same sort of mythical job that all of her
    neighbors will also be competing for in a severe
    recession.

  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by genner (694963) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:26PM (#25470063)

    Some men can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

    Unless they're given

    one... million... dollars!

    Am I the only one that wants to see a Batman / Austin Powers crossover?

  • Re:Not Quite. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MindKata (957167) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:28PM (#25470095) Journal
    "Blogs shift power from broadcasters to individuals"... yes thats good, but advertisers are also using misinformation on blogs, to create so called Flogs. So how many popular blogs are really Flogs? ... However many it is, they are definately trying to game the system, to get popular blogs which are really just flogs.

    Advertising + Blogs + advertisers_with_no_ethics = Flogs
    http://adage.com/smallagency/post?article_id=113945 [adage.com]
    e.g. "Sony and agency Zipatoni have come under fire for one of their marketing tactics for the Sony PSP. Sony has added its name to a growing list of flogs [fake blogs] including McDonald's, WalMart and Lonely Girl 15, that are being called out by consumers. This isn't the first time Sony has been caught and questioned about the ethics of its marketing practices."
  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mattcasters (67972) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:29PM (#25470117) Homepage

    An economic crisis is not the same as a total collapse of society. Developers and community members come and go, live and die and even end up in jail all the time and yet the open source movement continues to thrive.
    The article is FUD, a troll. Nothing to see here, move along.

  • by PaleCommander (1358747) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:33PM (#25470175)

    The altruistic ideal of giving away one's labor for free appeared credible in the fat summer of the Web 2.0 boom when social-media startups hung from trees, Facebook was valued at $15 billion, and VCs queued up to fund revenue-less "businesses" like Twitter.

    At least make up your mind about whom you're knocking. The parent article seems to dislike the ideals behind open-source without bothering to figure out who actually operates on them.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:35PM (#25470197) Homepage

    The big squeeze is already underway, and it's in marginal ad-supported businesses. Nobody has made real money with banners in years. It's becoming clear that while ads associated with search results have value, all those vaguely relevant ads that Google puts on the web sites of others don't really generate many sales.

    Likely outcomes for the next few years:

    • Any social networking site that doesn't have positive cash flow right now is toast.
    • Wikipedia will do fine, because it's cheap to run. Wikia, though, might not make it.
    • If you're dependent on "cloud computing" on someone else's cloud, be very afraid.
    • Be prepared to migrate your web sites to another hosting service on short notice, in case your provider tanks. (If you haven't done so already, make absolutely certain that you have full control of your domains, and that they're not in any way controlled by your hosting company.)
    • Corporate migration to Vista will just about stop. The people who need it have already converted, and nobody else needs to spend the money, especially if a hardware upgrade is required. Microsoft will cave on XP life extension until Windows 7 works.
    • PCs and laptops will get cheaper, holding steady at about current levels of capability. We're not going to see huge numbers of cores on very many desktops.
    • Linux will continue to grow in the server space. Probably not on the desktop, though.
    • More MySQL, less Oracle.
    • Expect supply chain problems. Look up your key suppliers in Dun and Bradstreet. When D&B says they're in trouble, get ready.
    • Companies that do something Really Useful will do OK. We're already seeing growth in previously boring areas, like railroading. "Bling" is so over.
    • The 2008 holiday season is going to really suck in retail. "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" - U.S. Government National Recovery Administration, 1933.
    • On-line sales of routine items may grow, as more brick-and-mortar retail chains tank.
    • When the dust settles, the financial-services sector will be about half the size it was in the mid-2008.
  • by mqduck (232646) <mqduck@mqduc k . net> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:44PM (#25470359)

    Slashdot posts it because it's worth knowing what people are saying out there. It's irritating how everyone complains when Slashdot links to something people disagree with, as though it should never be done.

    Just because it's dead wrong, that doesn't mean it isn't worth noting.

  • Re:Not Quite. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bourbonium (454366) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:51PM (#25470473)

    Sounds a lot like astroturfing, but both of these techniques seem ridiculously easy to spot, and I suspect that's why we've already come up with a new name for them. Only the most gullible will be taken in by such scams. It's just a shame that there are so many gullible people using the internet these days.

  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kram_Gunderson (1053068) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:52PM (#25470479)

    The main thing wrong with his reasoning is that in rough economic times, companies are going to be looking for a better value. OSS is a better value. Even if you have to pay for developers to get what you need, that's a one time cost and you get to keep the source code.

    Another point worth making is that if unemployment goes up, that just means there's a lot more developers out there with free time, and motivation to put something new on their resumes.

    Exactly. In a hard economic time, where is everybody getting this money to buy MORE closed-source software and pay for blog subscriptions? I can't think of a single blog I'd pay for now, and I'm doing fairly well. I'm certainly not going to start paying for that stuff if I lose my job.

    He also mentions CNN's iReporter program. If times are so tough, why would CNN suddenly start paying all these amateurs to write stories? I certainly seems logical that in a bad economy companies would rely more heavily on free software and content.

  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:52PM (#25470483)
    Therefore they might not be able to pay their bills, and their priority will be survival, not opensource programming.

    "Survival"? Over-dramatising, I think. It's an economic downturn, not Armageddon, plague, pestilence and firestorms.

    And even during the worst disasters and wars, people still create art, literature, do maths, compose poetry. Writing software? Why not? It's a lot cheaper way to spend your evenings than going out to a bar. (Not that bars are in any danger either.)

  • Exactly backwards (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mbone (558574) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:56PM (#25470525)

    I predict that this is exactly backwards and that people with time on their hands and a desire to prove themselves will contribute more to open source, not less.

  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr. Picklesworth (931427) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:59PM (#25470563) Homepage

    But that isn't how it works. Sane people Do Not Spend all of their time working. Granted, a horrifying chunk of the population is insane people who think their career at Initech is the meaning of life. Here's some incentive: you only get one chance at this life thing. It really soothes the soul to keep it balanced, whether or not a bunch of bankers have confused themselves with their convoluted babble.

    At this point the interwebs and the desktop computer is an accepted and ubiquitous part of modern civilization. To think that those two are going to magically poof out of existence is bizarre.

    On the other hand, it is worth thinking of why a lot of open source projects succeed: People find certain kinds of software development fun. Some who profit from it do find it a pain in the ass that there are people who do it just for the fun of it, but that happens everywhere. Hell, look at professional sports!

  • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:09PM (#25470699)

    Bug squashing, interface tweaking etc. are exactly thing things that OSS projects do well it's mostly the users who fix things so annoyances get fixed, unlike on commercial software where the programmers are insulated from the users and have got used to the annoyances and so can't be bothered to fix them (There are interface annoyances in Vista that I hated in Win 3.1!)

    User testing is not needed in OSS as such, the users use it ask for changes or do the changes, there is no separate user testing phase...

    The only drudge work that seems to be hard for OSS projects is documentation and help, the kind of people involved do not seem to like doing it (or do not need it) and the kind of people that need it don't know how to do it (and by the time they do they no longer need the help) - translation however does not seem to be a problem

  • by sbeckstead (555647) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:10PM (#25470711) Homepage Journal
    Plain and simple he obviously has no clue why we work on open source projects. He has also never done community theater. When you can't afford to pay for something you write it. When you want something done differently you write it. When your entertainment choice is too expensive you do it yourself. Its really simple. I bring to mind the case of Argentina who went through an economic collapse in 2002 and where open source flourished because no one had money to buy the expensive enterprise software.
  • by Dahlgil (631022) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:13PM (#25470761)
    While I hate to admit it, pretty much all of my past contributions to OSS projects have not been to benefit some altruistic "community" as much as to benefit myself. I use OSS quite often to do things that I want or need, and if the software is missing something that I want or need and I'm capable of adding it, I often do. I then make sure to contribute my changes to the project so that future updates include my changes. This pattern of behavior has nothing to do with economics and is unlikely to change due to economic conditions.
  • by Gription (1006467) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:22PM (#25470871)
    Yeah! The mainstream media is an incredibly good way to get clear, concise, and unbiased information...

    Gaaaak!
  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Peter La Casse (3992) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:25PM (#25470893) Homepage
    One of the problems with human beings is that we extrapolate from our own circumstances to make conclusions that we think apply to everyone. "I'm doing great, so lots of people are doing great" is as invalid as "I'm doing poorly, so lots of people are doing poorly". The simple truth is that the plural of "anecdote" is not "data".
  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by theaveng (1243528) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:25PM (#25470897)

    No. I think they'll stop doing "charitable work" like updating OpenOffice and other hobbyist projects. That will be put on the back-burner while the unemployed engineer is busy searching for a new job in the closed-source arena.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:30PM (#25470957)

    Surely with more people sitting at home, unemployed, with nothing to do other than look for a job, and desperate to make their cv stand out more than everyone else in there situation, the amount of speculative work produced may in fact rise?

    I'm just going to sit around the apartment, staying drunk, surfing pr0n and feeling sorry for myself all day long while living off the new Obama dole.

    Heck, maybe I'll even whip up some cheesy flash cartoons and put them on a website [oddtodd.com] so everyone else can share in my misery.

  • Re:Blogs != News (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bourbonium (454366) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:38PM (#25471111)

    Well, give /. some credit for attempting to be "fair and balanced." FUD or not, I read this headline as a response to yesterday's article promoting exactly the opposite prediction from Red Hat's CEO http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/10/21/0116221 [slashdot.org] that the financial crisis will be a major boon for open source software. You may recall that Keen is the same fellow who was pimping his book on The Colbert Report a few months ago claiming that anything given away as free is worth absolutely nothing and that the internet will collapse from all the amateurs who are creating content. Check out his biography and you'll learn that, as an entrepreneur at the turn of the last century, he was a victim of the collapse of the tech bubble in 2000. I taste some very bitter grapes in his opinions about the web.

  • Re:Blogs != News (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:38PM (#25472095) Homepage Journal
    "It's all anecdotal, partisan, and un-researched crap."

    That statement also describes the CBS Evening News...

    :)

  • Re:Not Quite. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mweather (1089505) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @03:12PM (#25472589)

    "Blogs shift power from broadcasters to individuals"... yes thats good, but advertisers are also using misinformation on blogs, to create so called Flogs.

    So it's just like traditional media?

  • Moron (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Philotic (957984) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @03:17PM (#25472671)
    The author claims, among other things, that Mahalo will win out over Google. Mahalo has Google Adsense on the search result pages.
  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sique (173459) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @03:35PM (#25472951) Homepage

    Of course there is something to see here, namely a complete miscomprehension what Open Source is about.
    If everyone including Linus Thorwalds suddenly stops developping the next Linux kernel, the kernel itself won't vanish. Its sources are everywhere on mirrors, CD-ROMs, on servers etc.pp. So everyone is still able to compile a new kernel for his own machines if necessary. So maybe there would be no new drivers for the Linux kernel if no one is developping it, but the vast amout of code already done can be used by everyone.
    So no: Open Source will not vanish. Maybe the development could slow down a little, but what do programmers with their time while they are unemployed? Drinking beer? Watching TV? Or start to code the little pet project they were thinking about the last five years and never had the time to work on?

  • Re:Blogs != News (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Walkingshark (711886) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @03:35PM (#25472959) Homepage

    Blogs will never replace the normal news outlets and these "bloggers" are deluding themselves if they think they will.

    So are you going to post a youtube video of yourself eating those words? Hell, Daily Kos is already a better source of information for political coverage and polling analysis than anywhere else, and they have the benefit of providing links to original sources. Between that, Slashdot, Science Blogs, and a few other niche sites the only time I have to hit a major media site is when there is breaking news that happened within the last few minutes. Your failure to adapt does not mean that those of us who have evolved are somehow flawed.

  • by negRo_slim (636783) <mils_oRgen@hotmail.com> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @04:00PM (#25473351)

    For real?

    For Realsies - Jack Donaghy

    Now will someone kindly explain to me wtf a Mahalo is? I mean if it's going to survive the economic global meltdown crisis of the apocalypse 2008, you'd think a guy that spends most of his time online would of heard of it....

  • by Haeleth (414428) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @04:30PM (#25473811) Journal

    annoyances get fixed, unlike on commercial software where the programmers are insulated from the users and have got used to the annoyances and so can't be bothered to fix them

    Remind me, how many years did it take before the GIMP developers finally acknowledged the constant complaints about the interface annoyances in their program that they'd got used to and couldn't be bothered to fix?

    Not that I'm criticising OSS interfaces. I don't think I've ever seen an OSS package with an interface as dire as some of the hideously expensive "enterprise" software I'm forced to use at work.

    Indeed, it's sometimes a good thing that developers, even of OSS projects, may refuse to listen to users whining about annoyances. For example, Firefox has a much better interface today than it would have had if the developers had paid attention when users whined about the awesomebar, or about the replacement of the search dialog with the search bar, or the change away from Qute as default theme.

    User testing is not needed in OSS as such, the users use it ask for changes or do the changes, there is no separate user testing phase...

    Actually, many of the more successful OSS projects (particularly the big desktop environments) do quite a lot of user testing, which is the main reason they have pretty good interfaces on the surface -- most of the major interface flaws in Gnome and KDE are found in rarely-used configuration dialogs and suchlike (which always turn out to be the one thing that $skeptical_reviewer desperately needed to configure...)

    The only drudge work that seems to be hard for OSS projects is documentation and help

    This is also not entirely true. Some projects (GIMP again) do have dire documentation, but others, such as Perl and Emacs, have excellent documentation (but questionable interfaces).

    I don't think all this proves much, except that all generalisations are wrong, and that commercial and open-source software don't differ that much in their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Re:Blogs != News (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BertieBaggio (944287) <bob@manTEAics.eu minus caffeine> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @06:30PM (#25475581) Homepage

    "It's all anecdotal, partisan, and un-researched crap."

    That statement also describes the CBS Evening News...

    :)

    And the rest of them, no?

    :)

  • Dumbass = You?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cbreaker (561297) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:05PM (#25477923) Journal

    It's better than some random blog. Blogs are - nearly all of them - just random musings from every day people. Usually, they will have a severe bias one way or another, and never (practically speaking) check facts.

    No single news source should be taken as 100% accurate or unbiased, but I do trust that what they're telling me on CNN is accurate to the best of their knowledge, or that they big newspapers (sans editorials) will try their best to make sure that they are printing is accurate.

    But hey, if you want want to get all your news from angry bloggers spewing nonsense with absolutely zero credibility, go for it! I'm sure you can get your conspiracy theory fix really easy there.

  • Re:Yeah right. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by daver00 (1336845) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @01:18AM (#25478659)

    See I was thinking the same thing: Wouldn't a bored, unemployed person be *more* likely to kill some hours contributing to open source projects than say a tired, overworked person?

    I certainly know a few people who contribute to open source projects to boost their job prospects as well. Its something that looks pretty good on a resume, better than weeks of nothing to show for yourself.

  • by bnenning (58349) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @02:08AM (#25478909)

    Ultimately, this has to result in fewer paid jobs and/or lower salaries for developers, as businesses realize that they do not have to send as much on technology.

    Nope. You're assuming that the demand for software is static, and free software just eliminates some of what otherwise would have gone to paid developers. In reality, free software lowers the barriers for companies and increases the demand for developers. Say I have an idea for a website that I figure can make $100,000. If I can use LAMP and hire a developer to build the site for $75,000, I'll do it. But suppose you got your wish and free software magically vanishes. Now I'd have to pay $5000 for OS licenses, $20,000 for the database, and $10,000 for various other tools (web servers, development tools, compilers, etc). Oops, there goes my profit margin, and the developer never gets hired. Repeat this scenario enough and you've destroyed more jobs than you've saved.

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