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The Almighty Buck

Economic Crisis Will Eliminate Open Source 753

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.
    • 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.

      • 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 MrMista_B ( 891430 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:04PM (#25469725)

          Some men are women.:)

        • by Spy der Mann ( 805235 ) <> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:05PM (#25469741) Homepage Journal

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

          Unless they're given


        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:10PM (#25470709)

          It is official. Netcraft now confirms: *BSD is dying

          One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered *BSD community when IDC confirmed that *BSD market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last [] [] in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.
            You don't need to be the Amazing Kreskin [] [] to predict *BSD's future. The hand writing is on the wall: *BSD faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for *BSD because
          *BSD is dying. Things are looking very bad for *BSD. As many of us are already aware, *BSD continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.
            FreeBSD is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core developers. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time FreeBSD developers Jordan Hubbard and Mike Smith only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: FreeBSD is dying.
            Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.
            OpenBSD leader Theo states that there are 7000 users of OpenBSD. How many users of NetBSD are there? Let's see. The number of OpenBSD versus NetBSD posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 NetBSD users. BSD/OS posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of NetBSD posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of BSD/OS. A recent article put FreeBSD at about 80 percent of the *BSD market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 FreeBSD users. This is consistent with the number of FreeBSD Usenet posts.
            Due to the troubles of Walnut Creek, abysmal sales and so on, FreeBSD went out of business and was taken over by BSDI who sell another troubled OS. Now BSDI is also dead, its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house.
            All major surveys show that *BSD has steadily declined in market share. *BSD is very sick and its
          long term survival prospects are very dim. If *BSD is to survive at all it will be among OS dilettante dabblers. *BSD continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, *BSD is dead.
            Fact: *BSD is dying

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

          by bl8n8r ( 649187 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:40PM (#25471149)

          > Some men just want to watch the world burn.

          Others just want to bring marshmallows.

      • by griffjon ( 14945 ) <GriffJon@gmail.PARIScom minus city> 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_

        • Student paper quota (Score:5, Interesting)

          by matt me ( 850665 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:44PM (#25470365)
          Front page article on Cambridge institutions and their assets in the credit crunch. To quote: Cambridge Union [debating society] President Adam Bott said:

          The two services we offer are drinking and arguing, both always in demand in tough times. Broadly speaking our current strategy is to spend our way through the recession. Economist friends tell me this is akin to smoking your way through a heart attack, but if there's one thing we ought to have learned, it's that economists can't be trusted.

      • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:31AM (#25469151) Homepage

        Isn't it great how he posts this analysis on a site that gives it away for free?

        It's a good thing, too. I was just about install Linux on my laptop. Whew! Now that I know that Linux and other bits of Open Source software can't weather an economic downturn like private companies, I'm switching to BeOS.


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

          by cp.tar ( 871488 ) <> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:39AM (#25469323) Journal

          Wasn't it just the other day that Red Hat announced they were feeling just fine and dandy in this economic crisis, as many companies are looking to lower their expenses by going open source?

          • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @12:09PM (#25469787) Homepage

            No, that never happened, and you must now report to the Ministry of Corporate Truth to correct your obvious insanity.

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

        by theaveng ( 1243528 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:44AM (#25469365)

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

        On the other hand, it's difficult to "do things" like update OpenOffice, if your electric company just pulled the plug, or you lose your house to the bank. If the next decade becomes a Depression-Lite economy, then there will be a lot fewer engineers with the ability to update software. They'll be busy just trying to survive, with little spare time or cash to continue their open-source "hobby".

        • 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: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.)

            • 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!

        • 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.

      • 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.

  • by wud ( 709053 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:56AM (#25468447) Homepage Journal
    Can someone please mod this story as flame bait?
    • 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.

      • 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 JustKidding ( 591117 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:23AM (#25468973)

          Ok, you have a point. It's just that I hear this sort of thing all the time.

          "Why would you do all that work and then give it away?"

          For me, as soon as money enters the picture, the fun is (mostly) gone; with money comes responsibility, whoever is providing the money buys the right to demand answers and project deadlines. It's no longer "because I enjoy doing it", but "because he tells me to".

          I think he either just doesn't understand this concept, or he ignores it, because frankly, it makes *him* completely irrelevant. It must be very frustrating, being an economist, and people suddenly start doing stuff that's not about money.

          He conveniently forgets that a lot of people who contribute to OSS aren't professional programmers during working hours, he is completely ignorant to the fact that there are people who know how to write computer software *outside of the US* (gosh!).

          Besides, WTF does Myspace have to do with OSS?

          • 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.

      • 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 tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd.bandrowsky@gma i l .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 TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:11AM (#25468743) Journal
      No, he makes a valid point. In a recession, there are fewer jobs. The people who don't have jobs have much better things to do than differentiate themselves from their competition by contributing to a public project, and companies have so much spare money that they don't need to reduce costs with open source joint ventures.
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:14AM (#25468801) Homepage Journal

      Are you the guy who modded my comment in the wikipedia story "flamebait"? Have you no sense of humor, or at least no sense of irony?

      Yesterday was a story saying the economic downturn was a boon to open source, now another, equally misinformed dumbass says it will kill open source.

      I think these guys are hilaruious, myself.

      The reality is the economic downturn (call a spade a spade, we're going to have a depression) will probably do neither. Of the two stories, however, this one is the dumbest. But not by much.

      Yesterday's mcgrew journal, Open Office Blues [], about a non-nerd and open source, illistrates perfectly why open source software has not taken the world by storm despite its superiority.

    • by dotancohen ( 1015143 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:18AM (#25468853) Homepage

      Can someone please mod this story as flame bait?

      Why, it's not flame bait any more than saying that women will no longer marry out of free will in this economic crisis, instead preferring to charge for sex, cleaning, and cooking. After all, that is what married women do, right?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff Hornby ( 211519 )

      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 pr

    • by philspear ( 1142299 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:28AM (#25469079)

      And, on the off chance it turns out to be true, can we mod REALITY as flamebait?

  • 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?

  • Shakeout more likely (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:57AM (#25468469)

    All you may see is a shakeout of commercial Web 2.0 ventures that were going nowhere and were only being made a fuss of "because it's web 2.0". The same hype that drove the original dotcom bubble. A shakeout of dodgy commercial ventures, yes, Opensource on the other hand is likely to get stronger in this climate.

  • 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

    • 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.

  • 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.
    • Re:Money? (Score:4, Insightful)

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

      The fact that TFA used " over" 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:Money? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nido ( 102070 ) <nido56@yahoo. c o m> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:34AM (#25469195) Homepage

      People used to do most things for free. See Money and the Criss of Civilization []:

      ... To understand it, let's get clear on what constitutes a "good" or a "service." In economics, these terms refer to something that is exchanged for money. If I babysit your children for free, economists don't count it as a service. It cannot be used to pay a financial debt: I cannot go to the supermarket and say, "I watched my neighbor's kids this morning, so please give me food." But if I open a day care center and charge you money, I have created a "service." GDP rises and, according to economists, society has become wealthier. ...

      Essentially, for the economy to continue growing and for the (interest-based) money system to remain viable, more and more of nature and human relationship must be monetized. For example, thirty years ago most meals were prepared at home; today some two-thirds are prepared outside, in restaurants or supermarket delis. A once unpaid function, cooking, has become a "service". And we are the richer for it. Right?

      Another major engine of economic growth over the last three decades, child care, has also made us richer. We are now relieved of the burden of caring for our own children. We pay experts instead, who can do it much more efficiently.

      In ancient times entertainment was also a free, participatory function. Everyone played an instrument, sang, participated in drama. Even 75 years ago in America, every small town had its own marching band and baseball team. Now we pay for those services. The economy has grown. Hooray.

      The crisis we are facing today arises from the fact that there is almost no more social, cultural, natural, and spiritual capital left to convert into money. Centuries, millennia of near-continuous money creation has left us so destitute that we have nothing left to sell. Our forests are damaged beyond repair, our soil depleted and washed into the sea, our fisheries fished out, the rejuvenating capacity of the earth to recycle our waste saturated. Our cultural treasury of songs and stories, images and icons, has been looted and copyrighted. Any clever phrase you can think of is already a trademarked slogan. Our very human relationships and abilities have been taken away from us and sold back, so that we are now dependent on strangers, and therefore on money, for things few humans ever paid for until recently: food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, child care, cooking. Life itself has become a consumer item. ...

  • by dhalgren99 ( 708333 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:58AM (#25468491) Homepage

    Wait...I thought the Economic Crisis was GOOD for open source? []

  • Odd ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by zehaeva ( 1136559 ) <zehaeva+slashdot ... om minus painter> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:58AM (#25468493)
    Funny, I just passed by some article someplace saying the exact opposite. mmm where was that?
  • *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

    • 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 PinkyDead ( 862370 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:59AM (#25468509) Journal


  • by beldon ( 79695 ) * <.avdominello. .at.> 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 [].

    • by gowen ( 141411 ) <> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:19AM (#25468875) Homepage Journal

      But check out Wikipedia:

      Keen's Silicon Valley career began in 1995, with the founding of, which received funding from Intel and SAP. The firm folded in January 2000. After the demise of, Keen worked at Pulse 3D, SLO Media, Santa Cruz Networks, Jazziz Digital, Pure Depth and AfterTV, which he founded in 2005.

      Let's face it -- he's no amateur on this score. The guy knows something about failed Internet based industry, as he's founded at least two, and worked at four or five more.

  • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Not to mention the fact that those businesses that stop throwing money away on overrated software will need to start employing people who are experienced with the free and open equivalent.

  • by pfbram ( 1070364 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:01AM (#25468561)
    On the contrary, out-of-work software engineers will have some spare time on their hands. CSci grads facing a tough job market will be interested in building a portfolio for their first job interviews. What better way than to start or participate in an open source effort? It's a neighborly thing to do. When times are tough, generosity is on the rise -- rather than decline. We've helped our neighbors with various things and vice-versa.
  • by JamesP ( 688957 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:04AM (#25468605)


    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.

  • Marxist Economics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by panda ( 10044 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:04AM (#25468619) Homepage Journal

    He makes the same fatal mistake that nearly all economists make when talking about labor. They assume that labor in and of itself has value. It doesn't. Only the products of the labor have value, and then only if someone is willing to value it.

    Your labor is worthless if you work on something that no one values.

    Sure, it would be nice if we could all be compensated for all of our labor all the time, but the real economy doesn't work that way. It only works that way in the wet dreams of Marxist economists.

  • 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.

  • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:05AM (#25468635) Homepage Journal

    Hi, Andrew! I know you're new to this and don't really understand these complicated ideas very well, but I'll try to help you.

    My company has a program written in FoxPro. For reasons too long to explain, it's not going away any time soon. We needed a way to run queries against that data, and because FoxPro is too slow for interactive use, we decided to move that data into PostgreSQL. We looked and looked but there just wasn't a good program for regularly copying that data from one to the other on a scheduled basis. Eventually, I wrote one.

    Now, my company isn't in the FoxPro-to-PostgreSQL conversion business. We have other, more interesting things to do all day than sell or support software. My boss, being enlightened, allowed me to release the program as Free Software [] so that other people could use it. It cost him absolutely nothing over what he'd already paid me to write the program. Since that first release, I've heard from users around the world who liked it and wanted new features or to make suggestions. Some of those features and suggestions turned out to be pretty good ideas for us, too, so I added them to the program.

    My boss is happy because we really needed that program to conduct our business. I'm happy because I got to share a nice bit of code with the world. Random users everywhere are happy because they can spend their money on writing other cool programs and food and televisions instead of buying my program's commercial equivalent (if there was one). My boss got something nice, I got money to pay my mortgage, and everybody wins.

    See, Andrew? It's not that hard! But please leave the big concepts to the adults until you get a little more practice, OK? Good boy.

  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:07AM (#25468671)

    His whole premise is deeply flawed. People don't post stuff on these sites because they are so fat and happy that they just can't find anything better to do with their time. They do it because they want to be known for something, or they want to show off, or because they just want to contribute to a large project. None of these things are really affected by the economy.

    Okay, some people might contribute less because they have to take 2 jobs or something, but that's a temporary phenomenon. For most people, their jobs will still occupy about 8 hours a day, and that still leaves several hours every day for farting around on the Internet, which often includes submitting content to these so-called "Open Source" content sites.

    User-generated content was there at the beginning of the Web, and it isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Maybe CNN will toss the iReport thing, but not because of the economic downturn. Sure, they might decide that now is a good time to end it because they have a convenient excuse, but the real reason to end it is because it's a cesspool of mouth breathers posting pictures of their cats and saying the same kind of mindless garbage that gets posted to CNN's Political Ticker. The iReport site doesn't do much more than allow CNN to post stories that would be of no more than local interest otherwise (ooh, a car on fire! Alert the media!).

    As for Wikipedia, it has deep and fundamental flaws that may or may not eventually lead to its downfall, but the economic condition isn't going to change that one way or the other.

  • 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 swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:11AM (#25468751) Journal

    When I read stories like this, or like the "RAID-5 will die next year" article earlier today, I feel like I'm in the wrong job. I mean, I could shoot my mouth off, spouting stupid things that almost make sense if you don't scratch the surface too hard.

    People who get paid to write/create online may find that jobs (and payment) are scarcer, but people who provide volunteer time (wikipedia, etc.) aren't going to suddenly stop doing it because they're unemployed. In fact, some of them are probably going to have more time on their hands.

    I predict that there will be an increase in online suicide notes in the next three years, and also that everyone will point to the internet as the problem instead of recognising it as a time-sink for the already suicidally depressed. Unfortunately, I don't have any specious facts to bolster my opinion (which of course, I'd angrily claim to be inevitable and obvious to anyone but the most clueless), so I guess I'll never be on Fox News, write for Fast Company, or blog (for pay!) on Internet Evolution.

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

    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.


    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 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.

  • 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

  • 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 [] 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.

  • Oh no! (Score:4, Funny)

    by doti ( 966971 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:46AM (#25469407) Homepage

    I had just installed this Ubuntu thing, and I was starting to like it. It even came complete with a office suite, vector and raster graphic editors, and even games.

    Now I guess I'll need to buy a copy of Windows Vista, Microsoft Office, the Adobe suite, anti-virus stuff, and more. Damn it!

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


  • 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.

  • 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.

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]