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Eric S. Raymond Answers 413

This week's interview guest with Eric S. Raymond. We got a *lot* of good questions, forwarded the moderators' favorites to Eric, and he not only answered the ones we sent him but - extra cool - picked some more out of the crowd and answered them, too. Read the complete session (below) and if you have something you want to add, go ahead. If Eric has time, he'll jump in and respond, because, well, he's just that kind of guy. ;) Note: questions marked with * are the ones Eric added to the moderators' selections.

chromatic asks:
Astute readers know why you've reluctantly taken a position as a Linux evangelist, open source sociologist, and prime target. Taking the opposite approach, is there anything which would convince you to step down, that your posts were no longer necessary?

This is not meant to be inflammatory ... it's just a roundabout way of asking how far along your goals are, and what your plans will be if you ever meet them.

ESR answers:
Three things could cause me to step down:

  • One: someone emerging to do the public-advocate job clearly better than I do.
  • Two: Linux's market share going over 50%. (Cool down, BSD guys -- I'd be equally pleased to see some other open-source Unix win, it just doesn't seen very likely at this point).
  • Three: a collapse in Microsoft's stock price. That would mean the end of effective FUD and countermarketing against open source.

ivo asks:
A while ago, we read from you that being the Open Source advocate you are was wearing you down and influencing your life very badly. Did you cut down on advocating and did it help? In other words, did you get your life back?

ESR answers:
Not really. Something more remarkable happened instead; the community responded to my distress call by growing up a little. I got letters of apology from some of the worst flamers. Many people in the rest of the community started pressuring the pinheads who had been making my job harder to shut up or get constructive.

I have also cut down somewhat on my travel schedule, but not as much as I thought earlier this year I would have to. I'm also demanding (and getting) better travel conditions -- business class instead of the cheap seats in coach. It makes a difference, more of one than I would have thought.

Stephen Williams asks*:
I'm glad to see that, after a three-year break, the Jargon File has been updated over the past few months. Is version 5.0.0 in the works? Are there any plans to release an update to the print version, The New Hacker's Dictionary, any time soon?

ESR answers:
I've discussed the possibility with people at O'Reilly. That might be my second-to-next book, after "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" and before "The Art Of Unix Programming" (which is about half-done now but could take me another nine months to finish). Whether I go with O'Reilly or the publisher of the previous editions (MIT Press) the fourth edition of TNHD seems likely to come out next year sometime.

Tom Christiansen asks:
I don't know how to ask this question without it sounding like stirring the pot, but what about the growing chasm between free software (giftware) and GNU software (the viral kind, not the nice LGPL kind)? This is a real issue for some people in some situations. Think about the many BSD resellers and vendors who have custom packaging in highly competitive fields, like video editing? Doesn't the friction hurt everyone? Apple has turned to BSD not Linux, and the GPL is cited as one reason why. This seems to be devisive. There are no end of flamewars on /. and elsewhere, and the heat diminishes the light. What kind of reconciliation is possible? Or is "take no prisoners" just the way it has to work?

ESR answers:
I don't see a chasm there, Tom. After all, we're all still writing and exchanging code. We're all using basically the same set of licenses. I don't think there are properly two different movements at all, outside the imaginations of a few rather fanatical partisans on both sides.

Here is the reality test: if you're running a project and someone sends you a patch, will you stop to enquire whether that person is a member of the correct faction before you apply it? I don't think so...

So despite the verbal fireworks and philosophical disputes, we're all hackers together. What unites us is more important than what divides us.

Tet asks:
You say you want to live in a world where software doesn't suck. I couldn't agree more. However, do you see closed source software on an open source OS as a step in the right direction, or just likely to be a more stable platform on which to run your potentially bug-ridden software?

ESR answers:
Step in the right direction, definitely. As more and more infrastructure goes open, and the remaimning closed-source applications increasingly use it for leverage, the overall quality of the applications will go up.

Recent interest shown by large commercial tech companies (IBM, SGI, Sun) seems to signal a new chapter in the history of Linux. Do you see the participation of these companies strengthening the linux communitity? Destroying it? Or transforming it into something completely different?

ESR answers:
Look around you. What do you see, compared to a year ago?

Do you see fewer Linux hackers writing open source, or more? Do you see fewer hackers getting *paid* to write open source, or more? I think the answer is pretty clear.

Do you see our designs, or our licenses, or our coding practices being changed in any significant way by corporate participation? Again, I think the answer is pretty clear.

The truth is, they're not transforming us. We're transforming them.

asad asks*:
I know that you are on the board of directors at VA Linux, what does your job entail?

ESR answers:
My job at VA mostly involves sitting in a board meeting once a month asking searching questions about what the firm is doing and why. My role there (as Larry Augustin describes it) is to be the official corporate conscience. This mainly involves nipping bad ideas in the bud, before they flower into something that would piss off the hacker community. I have not had to do this often.

shawnhargreaves asks:
You've always been involved in hacker projects outside of just coding (eg. the Jargon File), but over the last year or so the spokesperson role seems to have grown into a fulltime job. How long is it since you last sat down to write a major piece of software? Do you expect to go back to fulltime development work anytime soon, and if so, what would you work on? How do you manage to cope with the withdrawal symptoms?

ESR answers:
An astute question ;-). I haven't sat down to write a major piece of software from scratch in months, but I am continuing to maintain fetchmail. I just took over the gif2png beta code with Greg Roelofs's consent; the 1.0.0 version might be out by the time you read this. Today I did some work on gnuplot, bringing the PNG driver up to date.

If I get to go full-time again soon, I want to go back to work on Trove, the distributed web-based code-archiving system I designed last year. I'd also like to work with Guido van Rossum on Python 1.6; there are some long-time wishlist features like rich comparisons and a full lambda facility that I care enough about to implement myself. I also have a strategy-gaming system I wrote back in the 1980s that I'd like to put a modern (Web-based) interface on. Finally, having contributed a bit of code to GNOME (the network-monitor applet) I'd like to balance things by doing something for KDE.

meersan asks:
This has probably been asked before, but I can't recall seeing the answer to it anywhere. What originally led you to write The Cathedral and the Bazaar? -- what I'm interested in is if there was some event or impetus that prompted you to write it down. Obviously you'd have no way of predicting the firestorm that followed, but it's always intriguing to know about the spark that started it all

ESR answers:
I wrote CatB as a way of coping with my astonishment in the face of the Linux phenomenon. What I observed was that the community around Linux had evolved a way to write software that (a) was tremendously effective, (b) violated the classic Brooks's Law rules, and (c) was completely unconscious! Nobody reflected on what they were doing; it was practice without theory. I wrote CatB as an attempt to help my tribe become more conscious about what it has been doing.

Q*bert asks:
We all know that you are a staunch advocate of libertarianism. Do you see the open-source / free-software movement turning into a larger political push for libertarian, minimal government?

What conferences are you planning to attend this year? Do you have plans for organizing Geeks with Guns outings during them? If so, is there a mailing list or some other source of information about how to join?

ESR answers:
No comment on that first question. But, if you could see my face, I'm wearing a very evil grin....

See my speaking calendar for the conferences I plan to attend. As for GWG, there's no mailing list; would you like to host one? I rely on local organizers to find a range, and I don't have one for Atlanta Linux Showcase yet.

banky asks:
Linux, like all things in the computer world, will eventually become obsolete or maybe just too much work to keep "up to date". Linus (er, Dr. Torvalds) even said in his "Open Sources" essay that (paraphrasing) someone else could come along and write something better which will take Linux's place. How long do you think before someone will have an offering that will obsolete (or at least prove a competitor to) Linux and the BSD's?

ESR answers:
I doubt Linux will have a real technical competitor for a long time, because I think it will probably just absorb new architectural ideas, amoeba-like, as they evolve. Twenty years from now the core APIs may have grown and changed tremendously, but we'll still think of it as the `same' codebase and call it Linux :-).

scumdamn asks:
Is the friction between Gnome and KDE, BSD and GPL, Free Software and Open Source, and the other sources of flame war a bad thing or a good thing for the movement? Many people seem to feel that the competition is devisive, but isn't it the opposite? We're always preaching that competition is a good thing for the entire market, but then we complain when any of our pet projects are pitted head to head with another. The passion felt by the proponents of each philosophy seems to result in better, more quality work. Isn't this proof that competition is the Good Thing we've been saying it is all along?

ESR answers:
I think you answered your own question :-).

cemerson asks:
Which of the coders working on open source projects do you admire the most? A particular big name like Linus, or someone less well-known?

ESR answers:
Hmmm. I don't think there's anyone I can say I admire the most. There's a level of ability beyond which trying to make comparisons between people just gets silly, because each of the people that good has become a sort of perfect master of his own domain. Linus. RMS. Larry Wall. Guido van Rossum. James Gosling. Going further back, Ken Thompson or Dennis Ritchie. Anyway, I find these guys have gotten their fill of being admired, so I try to be friends with them instead.

K asks:
Why isn't there an entry for "free software" in the Jargon Dictionary? Was this a politically-motivated decision?

ESR answers:
Zounds! You know, until this moment, I didn't realize that entry was missing.

I don't think you want me to write it, though. I would find it hard to avoid using phrases like "rhetorical millstone around our necks" and "held us back for fifteen years". Care to submit one yourself?

Paul Crowley asks:
In Understand my job, please! you described Bruce Perens's proposal that we have a team of Linux advocates sharing the load as "glib". Could you say more about why you feel this way - isn't it more likely that a job where the load is shared would be more attractive?

ESR answers:
I think I answered that question in the same paragraph you quoted. What makes the job rough isn't the workload, it's the second-guessers and snipers from the sidelines -- among whom Bruce was, at the time, nearly the worst. Connect the dots yourself.

jflynn asks:
Starting an open source project from nothing but people with a common interest is difficult. It's been my experience that it is very easy to founder with a bazaar approach to architecture and design. The issues tend to get confused with religious wars about toolkits and license choice, and just a lot of differing opinions about how to best structure a program, no one of which may be *obviously* better.

Is it essential for individuals to first create a working model, incomplete and buggy it may be, before applying bazaar development? Or what would you suggest in terms of managing a bazaar approach to creating programs from a bare idea?

ESR answers:
I wouldn't. I think you're right; the successful projects have a core of individual vision around which the bazaar community nucleates.

elutfall asks*:
Since, as we all know, cheese is the most powerful substance in the universe, I was wondering what your favorite source of ultimate power is?

ESR answers:
That would have to be sex, because I'm allergic to cheese.


Next week: Bruce Sterling.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Eric S. Raymond Answers

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    RMS, what do you think of software patents, and how do you think the Open source community will deal with things if a day of reckoning comes? As the owner of a small software company (and chief coder) I can tell you that we are constantly afraid of being sued for using Xor to draw a cursor or something similar. We don't really have a contingancy plan except to beg for VC. what do you think the open source community would do?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What you promote is nothing more than a false dichotomy between personal belief and public believe. You are one of the countless victims to believe the myth of "seperation of church and state." That phrase comes from a Thomas Jefferson letter--who ever said he was right?? People have a right to take what they believe and *act* on it in a public manner. In fact, I think thats a sign of true character when a person does that.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Linux exists not as anything origional but as a copy of Unix. I don't see anything "grand" in taking somebody else's work, reverse engineering it and calling it something else. What exactly has the open source "movement" brought us anyway? A legacy OS that is almost as much hassle to install and configure and the origional (ie Unix). Has Linux and open source moved the computer industry foreward with new ideas and faster way of getting things done? I don't see it. BeOS is not caught up in the media feeding frenzy that linux seems to be...and that is possibly the fault of we the BeOS users not doing our part to get the word out there...but linux is surely not gaining ground due to any supposed superiority.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 01, 1999 @07:33AM (#1644808)
    Eric, what's the story on the future of Nethack? A lot of us old-timers are left breathlessly waiting for sequel or "updated" release. Bill Tanksley (sp?) took up the task of reviving Omega. Any chance for Nethack?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 01, 1999 @07:45AM (#1644809)
    Eric, this is more of a comment than an additional question.

    We're all very well aware of your pro-libratinarian (sp?) and pro-gun opinions; I even share some of them.

    It is, however, vitally important that you separate these activities from your Open Source activities. You must keep the Church and the State separate.

    Imagine if a deeply religeous President started trying to make his beliefs law, or if he started to use Presidental privlidge as a formum to preach his beliefs.

    It's OK to have strong, personal beliefs. It's OK to voice these beliefs. It's not OK when you use State position (in this case, your position as the Open Source spokesmodel) to advance your personal cause.

    It is my opionion that you mix the two far too often. Please do more to keep them separate.

    The Famous Hero
  • Twenty years from now the core APIs may have grown and changed tremendously, but we'll still think of it as the `same' codebase and call it Linux :-).

    For some reason, this statement disturbs me greatly. Sure, it's a nice idea to have the same relative base that's matured and been expanded, but I kinda like to think we'll have something more, well, exciting by then.

    Of course, I'm still miffed that flying cars aren't in everyone's aero-garages yet.


  • Three things could cause me to step down:
    Two: Linux's market share going over 50%. (Cool down, BSD guys -- I'd be equally pleased to see some other open-source Unix win, it just doesn't seen very likely at this point).
    Three: a collapse in Microsoft's stock price. That would mean the end of effective FUD and countermarketing against open source.

    I'm a bit confused by those last two reasons.. When you say you'd be equally pleased to see some other open-source Unix "win", does that mean that they are somehow in competition with each other? I've found that using the right tool for the job often works best. Linux for workstations, BSD for servers. If we were to use market share as an indicator of who "wins", I'd say Microsoft would win.

    Next, I'm not sure how you interpret the destruction of Microsoft as being the end of FUD against openly-coded programs and operating systems. Microsoft serves a very important purpose for openly-coded operating systems and programs right now. Their "just good enough to push out the door" coding style is starting to piss off even their most rigid supporters, and the more people that Microsoft helps us to convert to open systems in that manner, the better. Remember, Microsoft is not a software company, it is a marketing company.

    If Microsoft tanks, look for Sun to start spreading FUD against open systems. Why? Because they stand to profit from doing so.


  • Even many of Microsoft's lukewarm supporters are not getting pissed off at them.

    And why's that? Because most of them don't know any better.


  • Absolutely. I totally agree with 'scumdamn' on this one. Linux itself, built on code licensed under the GPL, is an example of what can happen when a bit of the 'what's best for society' gets a word in edgewise. You have to be willing to put a little effort in for the community. Community isn't _built_ by selfishness, it is eroded.
    You can have both selfishness and community- they do balance out and you can have both- but you can't have community by using only selfishness.
  • I, too, would like to see ESR back off from the griping about RMS, and the GPL. I _like_ the GPL, and I like the way it obsessively and unbreakably protects code from ever being withheld or taken away from the community. It's about maintaining flow of information, nothing more, nothing less. That's important- it's strategically important.
    If commercial vendors don't want to give information to the community (which they can participate in with impunity, all they like, under the rules of the community), then they _should_ be writing proprietary software, instead of jumping on bandwagons they do not understand. There's sure to be many commercial vendors who _will_ give information permanently to the community (under the GPL, for instance) for reasons of their own, such as wanting to take a mindshare lead, or companies whose strength is support and services, or companies who distribute software so big that it's unappealing to try and download all of it, or companies which can legitimately claim to be releasing an 'engine' and selling an 'artwork' that runs on the engine and is copyright as if it were a novel or painting.
    I don't know if ESR ever _will_ see things this way, but I greatly desire him to lay off RMS and the GPL. To some, this license and its colorful inventor are extremely important, irreplacable. Quit dissing on it.
  • Free Software: denotes a form of licensing (the 'GPL') that places the availability and flow of information above all other concerns, including the self-interest of the software authors. Free Software (as opposed to Open Source) can be considered 'information sharing at all costs'.

    How's that?
  • Thomas Jefferson was right because he was a principal author of the First Amendment. Hence, it's quite likely that he knew what it was intended to mean.
  • Judging by your ad hominem attacks on the public license-discuss mailing list, I'd hardly think you're in a position to denounce someone for public personal attacks.
  • My opinions on Free Software are well known and publicised [woot.net]. It's therefore, with some annoyance, that I want to respond to ESR on his charge that Free Software "held us back for 15 years".

    I ask, held us back against what? Seems to me that many (most?) quality pieces of Free Software were produced before the advent of "Open Source" - before it was even conceived. gcc and the whole GNU project, X, Linux, the BSD flavours, to name a few.

    So, essentially, everything we needed was completed before ESR, Bruce Perens (sp?) and their cronies came along and started praching the Open Source mantra.

    In my mind, Open Source has accomplished nothing of any importance to us. Netscape said that one of the major reasons for the NPL and MPL release of much Netscape software was because of "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" - and, as it later came out, because of Jamie Zawinski [jwz.org]'s evangelism within the company. In other words, ESR had something to do with it, but Open Source wasn't even around then.

    No, I haven't forgotten people like Apple with the monstrosity of a license like the APSL which it peddles. In my mind that shows the negatives of Open Source - that such crap can go on and be accepted and welcomed. Companies should come to us on our terms - on the terms of Free Software - and not the other way around.

    Grow up, Eric. It's your New Hacker's Dictionary and all, but I can't help but notice there's an entry for open source [tuxedo.org] in it. Why not tell people what Free Software is? Without it, there would be no Open Source.

  • Our debates have to happen in the open. We have to criticise the viewpoints put forward by the people who represent us to other cultures.

    If what Bruce does is "sniping from the sidelines" I'd like to know what the hell valid criticism from another participant looks like.
  • ESR didn't answer the question, because he didn't accept the assumptions on which the question was founded: The existence of a growing chasm between followers of BSD and GPL. He, correctly, pointed out that it really only is small number of fanatics on both sides who refuse to cooperate.

    Your point is somewhat different than Toms, about the practical (rather than cultural and political) problems of reusing software between the licenses. This is a real problem. My advice is: Ask the owner (if he can be identified) for an exception to the license, that allows you to incooperate his work in your project. You will find that most people are willing to cooperate.
  • This is a real dilemma. Is it more sad that:
    1. I find myself wanting 'killfiles' for /.?
    2. I would ever want to killfile ESR and Bruce Perens?

    It is this sort of public clashing among well-known advocates of Open Source/Free Software/Name Of The Week that enemies of such movements gleefully point fingers to prove the movement is doomed/falling apart/not business worthy.

  • Constructive criticism would have been avoiding a flamewar -- coming to OSI and Apple privately
    with your concerns.

    Eric, this seems an odd statement coming from you. Since when is open-source (any aspect of it) supposed to be done by in private back-room deals?

    Personal attacks are (unfortunately, not needless to say) are another matter, but discussion should be public.


  • I must disagree here. I have looked at the Libertarian party, and have been able to summ it's philosophies up in a simple statement: "Do not interfere with my right to do what I want unless I am interfering with the rights of others to do as they see fit." So if I want to stand on my head in my front yard, I can, but if I stand on my head in the middle of the street, I'm arrested.

    The OS/FSF/etc. movement is completely compatible with this. "Don't restrict my right to be private! (encription laws).", "I will not be forced to use a piece of software just because everyone else is (including the government)". I can re-distribute this code, with my modifications, so long as I give credit for the work that others have put into it, and I don't try to close-source the work of others.

    If ESR were trying to associate the OSS movement with a party that focuses on Abortion rights, fear of THEM(tm), or other ways of reducing individual rights, then I might agree with you. Libertarians would make sure that the GNU software licence is always legal, that everyone can use encryption on anything they want, that the gov't can't sieze computer equipment and store it for years on a mere allegation.

    You might as well get upset when an OSS evagelist talks about Science in the same breath as Linux.
  • The whole world can see for itself that "the community" consists of real flesh and blood people rather marketing drones. Keep up the good work guys.
  • Is anyone else offended by his last comment about power? I've been reading slashdot for a couple of years now and can't remember the last time I was so offended. I can see why people snipe and second-guess the man. Apparently he can't keep his personal opinions and views outside of the Linux Community and it is interfering with the evangelism.
    It would be nice to have an evangelist who can keep his penis out of the evangelism of linux.

    I'll probably get moderated down for this comment. I'm not trying to be flamebait - rather I think Eric Raymond is flamebaiting and I think (Moderators in paticular who want to moderate me down) that it is important that people be able to relate to being disgusted by this comment as I would like to be able to look back and realize I'm not alone - others are disgusted by his comment too.

    Maybe if people are allowed to reply to this comment and express their views (rather than having it moderated out of the discussion) Eric will realize the mistake that he's made.

    I realize of course that I will probably recieve just as much flame as Eric for discussing this. So I have to say that I can respect Eric as an evangelist but not as a person. I would hope that he could keep his personal life out of his work.
    Joseph Elwell.
  • by jelwell ( 2152 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @07:46AM (#1644840)
    "What makes the job rough isn't the workload, it's the second-guessers and snipers from the sidelines --among whom Bruce was, at the time, nearly the worst. Connect the dots yourself."

    First off, neither the Linux movement, nor the evangelism of it, is lead by Eric Raymond. Why should he not be subject to second guessing? Isn't Linus subject to second guessing by Alan Cox and other kernel developers? Should the evangelism of Linux be similar to the Development?

    Secondly snipers are bad. kill them.
    Joseph Elwell.
  • by mfterman ( 2719 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @08:06AM (#1644842)
    Something to bear in mind is that there is a lot more to a typical Linux system than the kernel. Hence RMS's insistance that it be called GNU/Linux because of all the GNU tools involved. And there's the GNOME/KDE wars which occur on a level above the kernel.

    Twenty years from now the kernel itself will have changed and expanded somewhat, most likely. But I feel most of the real excitement to most people will be in the layers above the kernel.

    VR user interfaces, voice recognition with natural language processing, these sorts of things are a level above the kernel and will be where a lot of the excitement comes in. Most users never really 'see' the kernel when you think about it.

    Kernels to some extent are supposed to be boring. Stability and reliability and predictability are traits that you'd like in a kernel, rather than the edgy excitement of never knowing when you're going to get a BSOD.

    As for Linux, I see long term things like greater modularity, more network transparency, improved resource management, security and so forth. Not exactly cutting edge stuff, but the foundations on which all applications depend on.

    Not that these things won't be exciting, but a lot of it will be in an understated or hidden way. The fact that you won't have memory leaks or you'll have a hundred processors on a dozen machines working together seamlessly with no fear of someone cracking your system isn't exactly glamorous, but will be important.

    And the creation of physics-perfect (or deliberately twisted) virtual realities and getting your computer to understand what you speak will be the exciting processes that run on top of a rock solid kernel. Not to mention all the fun applications and games you'll have.
  • I agree. While Microsoft currently has the most to lose from Linux world domination, they neither invented it nor will it go to the grave with them.

    The Jargon file is clear enough on the predating. The term was coined by Gene Amdahl in reference to IBM. Now IBM is a major Linux citizen. Ironic, huh?

    And regarting point two, why not just say "the combined market share of free software OS's going over 50%"? Linux rocks, and I agree there are no signs on the near horizon for its dominance to be threatened.

    However, over a longer term, I don't see why three or four free operating systems occupying distinct ecological niches. Linus has already suggested that it may be technically wise to have separate codebases (with much sharing, presumably) for tiny embedded linux and for the massive 64+ multiprocessor systems.
  • Let's put it this way; if you devote a very large chunk of your life to something, it becomes more and more difficult to compartmentalize the different parts of your life. End the end, you have two choices: either be in "work" mode all of the time and go home espousing the virtues of the OS model to your SO, or relax the partitions between work and everything else. On the surface, this may seem to be inefficient, causing problems similar to the one you see. OTOH, it does make for a somewhat more sane ESR.

    Quite right, zantispam, and astute of you to notice.

    There's something else going on, as well -- I find that some of my quirks and opinions are a useful form of street theater that helps me gain and hold the attention of journalists. A "safer" (read: more boring) evangelist would be less effective on our behalf.

  • Every time ESR talks about his non-shared personal beliefs in an OSS forum, he betrays those he represents. Not so. I betray those I represent only if I confuse the listener about which beliefs are shared and which are personal to me.

    Like Larry Wall, I am very careful not to do that. Like Larry, I feel free to speak about my own beliefs so long as I maintain that separation.

  • FYI, my favorite class of shooting irons is the
    classic 1911-pattern .45ACP.
  • I think BeOS is beautiful but doomed.

    I respect the elegance and ingenuity of BeOS's design. But I think we're past the point at which developing a new OS in closed source is a viable option.

    There are many reasons I believe this, but I'll focus on one: the free Unixes have soaked up so much hacking talent that I don't think BeOS will ever be able to grow an independently viable developer base.

    Sorry, BEfolks. If it's any comfort, I thought it was a really nice try...

  • Someone else in this thread conjectured that I was thinking Tantrically, of sex as an emotional and spiritual energy source.

    They were correct.

  • by ESR ( 3702 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @08:07AM (#1644861) Homepage
    You attacked me viciously, personally, and in public.

    That's not constructive criticism. Constructive criticism would have been avoiding a flamewar -- coming to OSI and Apple privately with your concerns.

    That's what I can't forgive -- and won't.

  • by ESR ( 3702 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @09:13AM (#1644862) Homepage
    I think the collapse of Microsoft will slow down our momentum hardly at all. Because I don't think the open-source movement is fundamentally about being against Microsoft -- it's about being for better programs.

  • by ESR ( 3702 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @02:52PM (#1644863) Homepage
    what specific thing did Bruce Perens say that you think he shouldn't have said in a public forum?

    Ghods. Where do I start...? There have been so many, starting with his vicious attack on Tim O'Reilly last fall...

    See http://linuxtoday.com/stories/4179.html [linuxtoday.com]. That lovely little denunciamento did our negotiations with Apple very serious damage. Going public with it instead of approaching me or OSI or Apple privately caused a whole lot of unnecessary grief and flamage within the community as well.

    Simply going off on a tear might have been forgiveable, except that Bruce's analysis of the APSL was just plain wrong. He's not a lawyer, he didn't have advice from people competent to reaf legalese, and the problems he thought he'd detected were all bullshit and vapor.

    The only real problem with the license a technical glitch in the export clause that Bruce never noticed. (To be fair, we at OSI missed it too until Seth Schoen pointed it out. Seth now does all our first-pass license evaluations.)

    The fallout from Bruce's public grandstanding still hasn't settled out. There are still people who think (mistakenly) that APSL 1.1 is not OSD-conformant and is a broken license.

    Bruce is not an idiot; he had to have known that the effect of splitting the community over APSL would be to damage OSI's negotiating leverage with other big corporations, thus making it harder for us to head off truly bad licenses like the SCSL.

    Even leaving out his personal attacks against me (representing the OSI decision as though I had gone into some kind of reckless cowboy mode instead of having the unanimous approval of the OSI Board -- and that was the least of them) I can't forgive him for needlessly damaging OSI's credibility and usefulness to the community when a single exchange of email with me or anybody else on the inside of the negotiations would have prevented any problem.

  • I just felt I needed to defend your perceived view of what Katz is trying to do. Yes, his self promotion is often translucent -- but would you rather no one play devils advocate?

    Here's the view of one Katz basher. (Actually, I recently decided to unfilter him to see hat I was missing. I read three posts and fled back to my Preferences page):
    • First of all, I think the idea of a devil's advocate would be great -- somebody with unassailable geek credentials who questions the /. orthodoxies. But is Katz that person? I don't think even he would claim that's true. Mostly he takes those orthodoxies and extends them to the point of ludicrousness.
    • Secondly, most of his posts take one not very novel idea and ramble on for pages bragging about its originality (his recent AI post being typical)
    • Most importantly, he's simply dishonest, whether he realizes it or not. Slate going pay-only is bad, Slate returning to free is bad, Blair Witch Project is fantastic, three days later it's on the cover of Time and he's writing about how it's overrated. When Katz arrived here, somebody dug up one of his Wired articles where he proclaimed that the tyranny of programmers and operating systems is coming to an end. And again, it's all written in that classic Wired tone of "I see all, everyone who disagrees is a fool"
  • Well, at LinuxWorld, I offered to participate in a Niven-style duel* to satisfy the demands of honor, knowing full well that Eric knows how to aim and I don't. He didn't go for it. I think he understands that it's necessary for him to accept criticism now, but he's not ready to forgive me for offering that criticism. Waiting is.

    * Niven-style duel: Champagne corks ejected from the bottles at 10 feet, eye-protection required.

  • OK, but please remember that I was the one being threatened. I think in that case there was unprofessional behavior on both sides.



  • So the fact that I'm not on that board means I can't criticize? When did this stop being a community?

    Leaving that board meant I was free to criticize rather than to be silenced. It's been a positive change.


  • OK, maybe "you dish it out, you have to take it too" was too flip. Sorry.


  • What it was meant to say was "We think a leader acted too soon on a policy decision, we can't stand behind it, and we want it changed." It is clear that it was not read that way, but heck, I can't think of a better way to have said it and it needed to be said. I am at a loss here. Sometimes it will be necessary to say "you goofed" in public. I frankly do not believe I could have been any gentler about it. Give me some guidance here, folks. How would you have written it?


  • I have made a number of overtures to end the dispute, and have so far been rebuffed.


  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday October 01, 1999 @08:51AM (#1644871) Homepage Journal
    You linked to my criticism, now please go back and read it and tell me what was vicious.

    I criticised Apple's license and IBM's in public. Both responded positively. I think the public debate was essential in eliciting that response.

    Certainly your criticism of RMS has been as bad as anything I've ever directed your way.

    You dish it out, you've got to take it too.



  • Yes, it is no doubt a personal matter. I just want people to know that I am not trying to hold a grudge and I am not trying to prolong the issue. Any time Eric wants to talk it out, I am ready, and I will continue to originate attempts to talk it out when I see him.


  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday October 01, 1999 @01:10PM (#1644873) Homepage Journal
    If that's what it takes, I'll say it. Now, please try to get Eric to come to the table.


  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday October 01, 1999 @07:48AM (#1644874) Homepage Journal
    Eric's still upset about my criticism of the Apple license. I'm glad that Apple wasn't as upset - they incorporated all of my suggestions into the next version of their license. It's interesting that Eric's job for VA is to question them and to stop bad ideas before they go too far, but he won't accept someone doing the same thing for him. Public argument and criticism are the ways our community finds its direction. They should be encouraged, not resented.


    Bruce Perens

  • Is someone with ESR's phone number going to act on this?

    PLEASE, just talk to him professionally and arrange a meeting. If he insists on the word *never* then I'll lose all respect for him entirely.

    A person can't *really* love the community if one part of him or her is willing to ruin it for everyone by placing their own pride above all else.
  • It's not *essential* to criticise the other faction when promoting one's own. It merely makes you feel better, for some odd human reason.

    Try to be professionals, and make your public statements well considered.

    It may sound like this makes your arguments less hard-hitting, but this is decidedly not so when viewed by everyone else: restraint makes a line of reasoning far more convincing than any statement containing negative criticism of any sort.

    Whatever has gone on before, Bruce seems to be currently in restraint mode, but Eric not yet. I live forever hopeful ...
  • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Saturday October 02, 1999 @07:44AM (#1644878)
    This essay deserves far more exposure than merely featuring on Slashdot would give it. [PS. But *why* did Rob not accept it? Surely that was a no-brainer.]

    And somehow we ought to ensure that all the free software / open source luminaries read the item. Instead of destructive flames, disgruntled people should just send off the URL of konstant's piece as a gentle reminder that egos are not the most important thing in this community.
  • Well, '-chan' is a term of endearment, and although it's generally meant femininely, it just means 'little' taken literally. You were called 'Little Kitsune' is all. :)
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • I think that in this case, both ESR and Bruce Perens are completely in the WRONG.

    From BP's posts, it seems to be something that goes beyond regular hacker talk and disagreement, and into something personal.

    As such, it's a personal matter, and I don't think it's appropriate for either one of them to talk about it in public. Let them get together and work it out themselves.

    There's nothing to see here, move along, move along....

    David Allen
  • by John Fulmer ( 5840 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @08:05AM (#1644890)
    Two REALLY big differences...

    1) Linux has never clamed someone else's works as 'innovative' and then actively tries to drive the origional company out of business.

    2) Linux is about making software available to EVERYONE free of charge. Yes, RedHat, Caldera, and others are trying to make money from it, but you can still download everything free of charge.

    World Domination (TM) by Linux is good, because it's not domination by a single company, but rather freedom from a single company who dictates how my computer works.

    Execuse the rant...

  • by mischief ( 6270 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @07:16AM (#1644891) Homepage Journal
    I doubt Linux will have a real technical competitor for a long time

    This might be overly picky, but I would say Linux already has a technical competitor - BSD based Unices.


  • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @07:31AM (#1644895) Homepage

    Eric, when will you start acknowledging Bruce Perens' considerable ongoing contributions to the cause? Your continued sniping at him only makes you look bad.

    We all need second-guessers, because none of us is perfect. Bruce's second-guessing of you resulted in a better license from Apple (you would have let them get away with too much, not because you're a bad guy but simply because you made a mistake).

    As far as I'm concerned, you and Bruce have pretty much the same job: companies are contacting both of you for advice on software licensing; journalists are contacting both of you to get an understanding of the movement, both of you are advocates for open source, etc. You each have your strengths and weaknesses. This isn't Highlander; it is not true that "there can be only one".

  • but it wasn't off topic, either. again, it points back directly to esr's answers.

    since when did having disdain for something disqualify it from conversation, anyway?
  • K: Why isn't there an entry for "free software" in the Jargon Dictionary?

    ESR: Zounds! You know, until this moment, I didn't realize that entry was missing.
    I don't think you want me to write it, though. I would find it hard to avoid using phrases like "rhetorical millstone around our necks" and "held us back for fifteen years". Care to submit one yourself?

    How about letting RMS write it?

    It's a good thing he's not writing the entry for "Open Source", he might find it hard to avoid using phrases like "commercial pandering", "misleading" and "fear of freedom"...

    http://www.gnu.org/phi losophy/free-software-for-freedom.html [gnu.org]
  • OK, I'm not ESR, but I thought I'd comment on this. Twice...

    1) I have heard it said (perhaps by Guy Kawasaki of Apple fame?) that good software gives users what they ask for, and great software gives users what they haven't yet realized they can't live without. I think that programmers scratching itches often creates software of the latter type.

    2) As people coming in to the Open Source community are increasingly coming over from Windows/MacOS/etc. instead of other kinds of UNIX, I think that their itches will increasingly be to make software easier to use and more graphical. And as programmers' itches start to be for free UNICES to take over the world, or even just to be able to let their parents, spouses, or children enjoy the same stability and flexibility they do with their computers, you will see this same effect.

    You're starting to see it now, with KDE and GNOME; but rather than just shoving stuff out the door and calling it done, open source programs tend to take a while to consider things, and put out something that's well designed. In the next several months, I think you'll start to see a convergence with this, and a lot of half-finished projects will start to become very high quality software.
  • I think many Linux/Unix users (including myself) wish BeOS well - in fact, I own and use a copy of BeOS at home.

    I don't think Red Hat Chairman Robert Young is sitting at his desk trying to combat BeOS. Microsoft, on the other hand, has listed BeOS as a competitor in its antitrust case filing.

    Jean-Louis Gassee insists, in his gallic sort of way, that BeOS is more a compliment to Windows than its enemy. BeOS, after all, coexists quite nicely with Windows. At the same time, I would guess that 90% or more of machines running BeOS have a Windows license. That doesn't make BeOS look like a Windows competitor, does it?

    I would have to conclude that, in reality, BeOS has no natural enemies other than a lack of consumer desire to try alternative operating systems.

    Unfortunately, indifference is a horrifyingly powerful beast - more powerful even than Microsoft.


  • Well, I guess no one should ever try and start up a new film or record company, because the majors have the market locked up tight. Raymond is effectively saying that no other company in the future of the tech industry will have a chance at making a dent in the OS market, that it's a futile endeavor. Windows, MacOS, and open source forever and ever and ever. That's sad, fatalistic thinking that's not going to get us anywhere. Is there a place for new commercial operating systems? Sure there is. Just as much as there's a place for independent film and record companies. BeOS doesn't have all the apps and drivers that Linux has, but it also has a lot of technologies -- and ELEGANCE -- that Linux does not. And Be has accomplished this with a team of 100 engineers. Yes, open source has its advantages. But open source has not created BeOS, and I'm still not convinced that it can. Or maybe it can eventually, but BeOS is here now, and there's no way I'm going to wrestle with open source software when I can use BeOS. In terms of pleasantness, ease of use, ease of configuration, and modern technologies, there's just no comparison.
  • by DP ( 11614 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @02:11PM (#1644907)
    This might be slightly off topic but I feel like posting so here goes...
    The way I see it the only good open/free software licenses are GPL and LGPL (or something in between, like TGPL ;). The others hurt either the open source community or a business. Case in point: I'm a big corporation (IBM for example), I contribute to bsd/x-licensed project, not taking it into closed source, then some other company comes along, takes my work and everybody elses, add some 'killer' feature steals my service deals, and my investment in the project (company + project both screwed). Or a company just comes into to a bsd/x project takes it closed source, adds killer feature(s), my project doesn't have as many interested developers or businesses. The BSD fanatics are always going "Our license is more business friendly", but I don't see it. With GPL or LGPL, business and community are protected, with BSD, most of the money goes to proprietary solutions. With (L)GPL the money goes to companies actually supporting the project and developers. Granted most BSD projects are doing relatively well, but I don't really see big service contracts and open source co-existing.

    Just had to scratch my mental itch and form coherent thought. ;)
    Comments? Am I not groking fully?
  • I have a question about this:

    Tom Christiansen asks:
    I don't know how to ask this question without it sounding like stirring the pot, but what about the growing chasm between free software (giftware) and GNU software (the viral kind, not the nice LGPL kind)? This is a real issue for some people in some situations. Think about the many BSD resellers and vendors who have custom packaging in highly competitive fields, like video editing? Doesn't the friction hurt everyone? Apple has turned to BSD not Linux, and the GPL is cited as one reason why. This seems to be devisive. There are no end of flamewars on /. and elsewhere, and the heat diminishes the light. What kind of reconciliation is possible? Or is "take no prisoners" just the way it has to work?

    ESR answers:

    I don't see a chasm there, Tom. After all, we're all still writing and exchanging code. We're all using basically the same set of licenses. I don't think there are properly two different movements t all, outside the imaginations of a few rather fanatical partisans on both sides.

    Here is the reality test: if you're running a project and someone sends you a patch, will you stop to enquire whether that person is a member of the correct faction before you apply it? I don't think so...

    So despite the verbal fireworks and philosophical disputes, we're all hackers together. What unites us is more important than what divides us.

    Supposing I use some GPL code in a program, and then sell the binaries only. I'm breaking the GPL, right?

    Now supposing I use some LGPL or BSDish code in a program, and then sell the binaries. I'm fine... or am I?

    Is this where the friction happens? It seems to me that some folks would like the, er, "option" of making a profit from software they create with the help of Open Source libs or something, without redistributing their code.

    Maybe I'm just confused about the whole thing.

  • Of all people to make a great, intelligent post advocating BeOS to dispell some of the same FUD that Linux people complain about so much, WHY did it have to be William Wallace? :-)

    I guess it's an ill wind that blows no good, or something. Good post.

  • "I respect the elegance and ingenuity of BeOS's design." --Eric S. Raymond

    Know what makes that quote especially juicy with irony? It reminded me of his favorite tagline:

    "I just want to live in a world where software doesn't suck." --Also Eric S. Raymond

  • this reminds me of the the scene in The Life of Brian members of the People's Front of Judea and the Campaign for a Free Galilee are fighting each other in the sewers beneath Pilate's palace

    Brian:we should be united against our common enemy !

    Everyone else:the Judean People's Front!

    Needless to say in our case the Romans = MICROS~1
    and the various little factions squabbling in the sewer are the various alternate OSes who are too often fighting each other.

    The problem as i see it with linux advocacy is that too often there is religious or poilitical baggage. The religous types are those who say "if its not OSS its crap" and when asked why they reply "because if its not OSS it must be crap". As with all religous zealots there is no arguing with such people.

    The political types (such as ESR) beleive that OSS is an inherently better model for software development and also that the existence of OSS alternatives is a matter of personal freedom (speech and freedom from corporate dominance)Personaly I don't agree with that position but at least its a rational argument (and at least in theory leaves room for the idea that some non-open source software doesn't suck)and its an idea that i can respect.

    In ESR's case the gun-thing is not helping. I understand its part of his personaly politics and his advocacy of OSS and guns come from the same core ideas. But he must realize that alot of people even inside the US do not share those ideas, so emphasising the linkage between the guns and OSS is going to hurt more than it helps.

    For me, and i think for alot of other people in the anti-MICROS~1 camp, it simply a question of wanting software that doesn't suck. Software is a tool, and in MICROS~1's case its a tool they use to make you buy more of their product. Their domination of much of the software market is so complete that they have no incentive to make even half-way decent products.

    The problem with especialy the religous linux zealots but also the political ones is that this additional baggage tends to fragment people. We get the fights over the GPL vs BSD licenses, GNOME vs KDE linux vs *BSD etc etc.

    A lot of people use linux because it works not becuase of politics. If people were simply interested in making good software that just gets the job done, and is not either a marketing tool or a political statement, we would make alot more progress to a better software world!

    About BeOS I use it because its really good, and is actually innovative and technicaly advanced and is fun to use. Be is not in a position to abuse its users even if it wanted to. BeOS does owe quite alot to OSS though, the bash shell is very nice to have (i'd have never used it if it weren't for that) the x86 version uses gcc, and alot of GNU tools are available on BEOS.
  • none of the geeks i kinow (coders and network admins) own guns
  • Whats the point of asking an Open Source advocate their opinion of a closed source porject? They can't say that it has a future without contradicting their pro-open source position.

    BeOS is one reason I am no longer an open source advocate. Don't get me wrong Im certainly not against it, but the fact that BeOS is as good as it is, and is as innovative as it is proves that closed source development can come up with great products.

    I spend my spare coding time writing for BeOS, Ive participated in linux/GPL'd peojects in the past but no longer do so. It seems that ESR thinks BeOS will fail because the linux zealots will bully developers into going to linux. I think hes wrrong.
  • First of all it was a joke. Second, it was probably true! In the context of the question, "power" was defined as "energy". If you're the type that finds sex lowers your energy, I humbly suggest that you're doing it wrong. Having a mutually beneficial and loving relationship *IS* empowering to both parties (God, I'm starting to sound like Dr. Laura!).

    If you erroneously mistook his comment to mean he uses sex to get control over people, I humbly suggest you loosen up a bit and stop reading stuff that isn't there.
  • "I frankly do not believe I could have been any gentler about it. Give me some guidance here, folks. How would you have written it?"

    I think this issue goes far beyond the realm of ESR's bitterness. Newsgroups, mailing lists, portals, etc., are still too new to the general public to have evolved an effective set of mores and customs. Years ago when only a few hundred people read a particular usenet posting, the situation would have been different. Now things are very different. Hundreds of thousands will read a posting and opinions of people will be based on them.

    This is best illustrated by the newbie coming online and asking a newbie question. Even if he asks it in a newbie oriented list, the only replies he will likely receive are "RTFM". But suppose this didn't happen online. Suppose the newbie went to the Atlanta Linux Showcase, went up to the Redhat booth, asked how to configure sound under Redhat, and then have the Redhat representative reply "read the f*cking manual". Odds are, that newbie would never Linux, ever. But this is exactly what we do online.

    How gentle or harsh your posts are has nothing to do with anything. What matters is that hundreds of thousands of people read them. Did ESR overreact to your post? Most certainly. But I don't believe that particular post should have been made public.

    When you are online, act is if you were at work. At work, when you need to call an employee to task, or when you must disagree with your boss, you don't do it by posting a message to everyone in the building.
  • Mr Raymond,

    By saying such things, you place yourself no higher than all those script-kiddies who regularily flame everything that's not GPL and/or OSS. You're a fanatic zealot who doesn't see any further than your Linux box. Sad from someone like you, really.

    You're basically saying the same things than Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. You want "world domination", which is something we're more or less supposed to fight (MS in that case). Excuse me, but I don't think replacing one hegemony by another is good. We want the choice, and we now got it.

    BeOS is a beauty to install and use, whereas Linux is a butt ugly for the non-geek. Linux is probably one of the best, if not the best, OS for servers but I don't see Joe User out of Windoze getting into it. BeOS is a really modern OS, using a 64-bit journaled filesystem. Linux relies on 60-70's technologies. Linux is a good OS, but seriously lacks coherence and standards when it comes to basic usability.

    Imagine the guy who just needs a program, say a bank account manager. He's got Linux installed. Which distro? which libraries installed? Joe User doesn't know. With BeOS you just unzip et voilà.

    Saying that closed source is doomed is a huge mistake. Companies like Adobe, Macromedia etc. make wonderful software that works and defines standards of ease of use, functionality and most of all coherence through evolution. If you started using Photoshop 3, then the 4 and now the 5, you never got lost. What's on Linux? GIMP! Nice try, as you say, but it's plain unusable and definitely not professional. Not counting all the different UI available for which there's a legion of zealots claiming one is better than the others...

    Gee, if we just invented ground transportation, you guys would endlessly fight on *what* we should move our butts... Roads? Rails? Water?

    Now, Mr Raymond, please try to think a bit further than your little ego before issuing statements that turn you into a complete idiot online.

  • by esh ( 23599 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @08:50AM (#1644956) Homepage
    One argument against software patents is that they are very different from patents in traditional manufacturing. The number of patents possibly applying to a software project is orders of magnitudes bigger than those applying to, say, designing a car.

    In addition there are many software patents considered void because the patented ideas are obvious (and thus violate patent law). The XOR patent is usually quoted in this context. There is hardly a chance a small software company can know all the relevant patents let alone fight the bad ones in court, which would be the constitutional/legally correct thing to do.

    It all boils down to whether society profits from software patents. With industrial manufacturing the decision of most of todays industrial nations is to support the patent system. For other things like mathematics, law, and to a large extent basic research including medicine these same industrial nations won't grant the protection of patents. Software currently falls under the patent system but the discussion is far from over.

    This article [mit.edu] or the League for Programming Freedom [mit.edu] have a few arguments.

  • We will not stop until we have achieved TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION(TM)! Soon surface of the world shall be teaming with ENGLISH SPEAKING PEOPLE.

    First, the last few pockets of French shall be eliminated; former African colonies will be easy. And as there former empire falls, so to will the pockets of resistance. First France itself, then Quebec. We will flood their airwaves with our programming, their stores with our crap, and there vending machines with our sodas. They cannot withstand our cultural invasion forever!!

    German will change overtime to its more pure brother, the one true 'lingua franca' of the world, ENGLISH,

    Though the Spaniards spread their seed and there words around the world, there language will fall. As ENGLISH takes control. Mexico, Porto Rico, Cuba all will change to ENGLISH. Spain is a joke, soon they too will speak only English

    Then, we will turn to the last language left, Chinese... While it seem as though there are to many, Chinese is far to fragment to succeed. Cantonese, Mandarin, all will fall, and be replaced by English. We won't stop until every Wong, Fu, Chang, and Li "shuo ying-ge-lish hau"



    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • It seems as though in asian cultures respect for intellectual property on the part of governments, corporations and individuals is much lower than in the west (This is an overbroad generalization, but one supported by a lot of anectodal evidence that has come my way over the years).

    Currently, this expresses itself as endemic piracy of closed source software, music CDs, movies, etc., but I suspect that when Open Source wins over closed source software, rampant violations of the GPL will ensue from asian corporations and developers.

    What will we be able to do to protect the GPL in the arena of international law and a global marketplace?
  • Eric [slashdot.org]: 5 points

    Bruce [slashdot.org]: 98 points
  • Yeah, ESR has really grown on me recently. I never truly disliked any of his positions, but I did kind of see some of the flamage going on around him and kind of kept a wary eye.

    I may not personally agree with everything that comes out of his mouth or word processor, but in general I have to agree that this in particular is very inspiring and in general I think ESR makes some very persuasive arguments.

  • You two need to get over yourselves. While I respect both of you, and I appreciate the work that you both do for the Open Source community, petty bickering over who flamed who first does not help. I am not saying that one of you is correct and the other is not. Personally, I don't care.

    Any time there is a democratic group, there will always be factions who have different opinions. Each one will acuse the other of doing the wrong thing. The problem is that people on the Internet will make harsher, ruder comments than people would make face to face. However, the Internet is much more public than any personal confrontations.

    We do need all opinions available. We need people who can deal with the PHB's and get them comfortable with Open Source. We need everyone we can get.

  • Agreed.
    Even repost the content in appropriate contexts.

    I think many occasional readers tune in to see what's happening NOW. For myself, I read the comments (at -1 yet) about 10 times for every main link I follow. Sit back and watch the saga unfold. Better than a soap opera.
  • To me it seems more like race wars within the same species. Those that start and continue such flame wars should be considered the equivelent of "racists" in the real world. "My strain is better" (nope, just different)

    (disclaimer: unless you are bashing Micro$oft, they are akin to the evil alien race that has enslaved the ignorant and lazy and are trying to steal the Helping Phriendly Book)
  • From the Main article:
    Q*bert asks:We all know that you are a staunch advocate of libertarianism. Do you see the open-source / free-software movement turning into a larger political push for libertarian, minimal government? .snip.

    ESR answers: No comment on that first question. But, if you could see my face, I'm wearing a very evil grin....

    From the abover (long and very good) comment:
    By its nature, the community responds indifferently to grand visions, and the definition of success varies from participant to participant, each according to his or her own needs. The aim of open software is to serve the people who write it, and consequently its users react warily to those advocating a de-emphasis of their rights in exchange for money, publicity, or convenience. Because initiatives flow upwards in this population, its ideal leadership is not that of an emperor tending to a legacy, but that of an ambassador speaking for a people. And in the free software movement, just as in government, an overly inventive diplomat is an incompetent one.

    This might be a bit much for some of you, but looking at how the OSS community works is a good example of how things *might* be done in other areas (such as government) in the Digital Age. Replace a few of the words in the above paragraph and you gain some insight in how groups think, and how communities can figure out what is best for them, starting on the "what's best for me" level and moving upward. It will take some time before the population as a whole becomes as connected and tech. literate as your average /.'er (probably another generation) but the effects of this could be, should be, will be, system wide and profound. Instant feedback is good for organisms of all shapes and sizes, communication helps spread and distill ideas. Anyway, just something I was thinking about as I moved through this thread..
  • Don't get me wrong, ESR. I think you've done a great deal for the community and taken more than I would put up with. But your response was somewhat less than I would expect from someone in leadership, whether elected or self-appointed. Any idiot can pull a trigger. Any boy can grow to be a man. Adults learn to forgive. Adults take the criticism, good and bad, and learn what they can from it. We've all been hurt by what's been done and said to us. My only thought is, 'grow up.' I've read what i can of the discussion. It's not that big a deal. The open source community is full of a bunch of passionate people who sometimes say ( and take ) things the wrong way. Forgiveness is a skill is highly undervalued in today's society.

    The open source model is about discussing ideas openly. By your own words, peer review produces better results. Asking Bruce to come to you privately, is violating your own teachings. Bruce was within his rights to bring his objections up publicly. That's the way it's done. Was it over done? Perhaps. Give people the freedom to screw up.

    I, for one, am tired of the bickering. It's the grade school playground all over again. Be willing to accept criticism and get on with life.
  • Think of operating systems like languages (spoken, not coded :). The BSD-en and Linux-en are regional dialects of the same "language" just as U.S. english has several regional dialects.

    Now, I'm certain that hardcore speakers of the U.S. english Georgia dialect and the U.S. english Ohio dialect would vehemently disagree that they are speaking the same language.

    And those regional dialects of Open Source operating systems can splinter into several smaller factions (FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Redhat, Caldera, Debian, SuSE, yadda, yadda, yadda).

    We must understand the "differences" but focus on the "sames". We are part of a much more powerful movement if BSD and Linux people hang together.

    Focus on the big picture. Open Source operating systems are generally superior to their non-Open Source bretheren. And what makes Linux and BSD attractive, effective, powerful and affordable are the Open Source ideas on which they are built.

    Hopefully, Solaris, MacOS and, heck, even BeOS could one day be included in that group.

    11th Commandment of Open Source Advocacy: Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of Another Open Source Operating System (without damaging one's own cause in the process)
  • An excellent point, and I quite hope you are correct that is the direction we're headed.

    Until this century it was thought that order could only be imparted from outside a system. We are learning that intricate order can arise intrinsically from what first appears as chaos, if there are simple rules governing interactions between elements of the chaos. This to me, is the bazaar when applied to open source, and a hope of a practical form of near anarchy politically. Not orderless anarchy, but an order that naturally arises from the way people interact, from the bottom up. Certainly there will be formalized rules, just as there are cultural taboos involved with open source. Whether they arise by consensus or fiat is the issue.
  • Well, to some extent the GPL *is* protection for the end user, not the developer. It has been criticized for not providing means of recompense for developers, while protecting end users. It's end users who benefit from free(beer) stable software. Any developer can choose to write free software freely distributed. Putting the GPL on it insures that a community of developers all mutually sharing code and debugging eyes will develop, to the benefit of the end user.

    What you are speaking of I think is the sometimes intolerant attitude towards people who want easy solutions, or help with problems.

    The intolerance is on both sides though. Plain ordinary users of free software have to realize that they don't have the same rights to whine and complain -- because they have no contractual arrangement with the software producer, unlike commercial software. This is *why* companies like RedHat will be successful. They provide that contractual arrangement. It is perfectly valid to whine to them after buying their distribution, and if they want to stay in business they will listen.
  • by Lucius Lucanius ( 61758 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @10:22AM (#1645020)
    The media constantly monitors /. as a reflection of the state of open source. And when two of the most well known personalities indulge in a high quality scuffle of name calling of the kind I haven't seen since 4th grade, it creates a BAD image of the community as a whole.

    One question is often asked with some frequency - Can a bunch of loosely gathered hobbyists and college students be trusted to write critical software? "Aren't they just a bunch of kids playing around?" - the saying goes.

    And trust me - this kind of scuffling doesn't help (especially when it comes from the evangelist spreading the word about how mature the open source development community is).

    Perception matters more than you think. As things stand, one of the big misconceptions about open source/linux is that it's run by anarchist geeks with long hair who can't be trusted. Yes, I know it's an unfair image, but it exists nonetheless.

    It's the same problem that Sun often has - McNealy's statements are often so immature that people have difficulty taking him seriously. Sometimes ESR's comments also get a little high on vanity and boastfulness, and frankly, all it does is make everyone look immature. Similarly, when linux advocates bitterly bite and scratch, and then carry out an extended argument as to who started the fight, who has apologized how many times, etc. etc. it begins to enter the grey area between amusement and shooting-oneself-in-the-foot-with-remarkable-accur acy.

    If you want to propagate a good image of open source, just keep the personality battles out of the picture. Nobody really cares, and it just makes a mockery of evangelism and advocacy.
  • You attacked me viciously, personally, and in public.

    All right then, so far so good for ESR, not so good for Bruce. Eric has strong grievances, and Bruce ought to do what he can to reconcile them.

    After this, however, ESR has lost me.

    That's not constructive criticism. Constructive criticism would have been avoiding a flamewar -- coming to OSI and Apple privately with your concerns.

    This is a peculiar definition of "constructive criticism", and I don't buy it. To criticize constructively, you must offer positive solutions to whatever it is you're criticizing. Nothing about it requires privacy. To be sure, "starting a flamewar" is not constructive, but a constructive debate can certainly be carried out in public.

    Surely the advocate of open source software does not expect all dissent to remain behind closed doors?

    That's what I can't forgive -- and won't.

    You won't? Not ever? No matter what he does?

    If Bruce Perens spends the next, say, twenty-five years begging for forgiveness, you'll still be pissed off at him nonetheless?

    You've gotta kidding me. That's irrational, Eric, unnecessarily stubborn, and not worthy of much respect. I think your writings on open source software have been excellent and are undiminished, but this does not become you.
  • I did not plagiarize this. I wrote it in my spare time and submitted it to CmdrTaco about a week and a half ago. I don't think he's going to post it, so I just added it as a comment.

    I don't plagiarize.

  • by konstant ( 63560 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @07:37AM (#1645025)
    Pardon the length....

    Surprisingly, the most prominent evangelists of the open source community are also the most abject victims of its flame. These individuals, pedigreed by years of code, use their eloquence to plead for free software worldwide. Their work is the reproductive force of the movement, stimulating conversions and showing businessmen the money to be made embracing open source. In reward, the open source community takes the beliefs of these leaders seriously - by far the gravest honor this opinionated clan can bestow. Yet these public speakers are also subject to a continuous trickle of hate mail from the geeks they represent, one that widens into a deluge the moment they stray from open software's traditional path. While they behave predictably, open source leaders have the backing of their constituents, but if they articulate a new vision or take a risk, the community that could rally round them instead sits down and jeers.

    This humiliating puzzle is bound up with the role of leadership in the open source movement. The computer industry is rife with the Napoleonic model of business, which views software as the manifest will of visionary CEOs. At Scott McNealy's Sun, Larry Ellison's Oracle, Bill Gates' Microsoft and others, resources flow back and forth in obedience to the whims of charismatic chairmen. Like competing generals, they glower at each other across the battlefield of the NASDAQ listings, struggling to see furthest and direct their armies of coders accordingly.

    Open source is altogether different. By its nature, the community responds indifferently to grand visions, and the definition of success varies from participant to participant, each according to his or her own needs. The aim of open software is to serve the people who write it, and consequently its users react warily to those advocating a de-emphasis of their rights in exchange for money, publicity, or convenience. Because initiatives flow upwards in this population, its ideal leadership is not that of an emperor tending to a legacy, but that of an ambassador speaking for a people. And in the free software movement, just as in government, an overly inventive diplomat is an incompetent one.

    Enter the brash politics of Eric Raymond. A decade and a half into the GNU project, and with the 8th birthday of Linux hard approaching, credit is due to Raymond, who has single-handedly sweetened the reputation of open source. Once considered a toy of seditious kids, Linux is now a titan thanks to Raymond's ability to creep inside the heads of corporate decision makers and craft arguments against their fears. Raymond established his importance to the community with his paper The Cathedral and the Bazaar, a stunning explanation of open source methods that convinced Netscape Corporation to open the source of its popular Mozilla browser in 1998. All was smiles and backslapping in the community as the campaigning Raymond brought businesses to openness. In Eric Raymond, it seemed, open source had found a missionary capable of converting the heathen without going native himself.

    The giddiness didn't last long. Raymond was a volunteer, neither salaried nor elected, but made powerful by his own work with companies and the press. True altruism is rare, and especially so when attached to the magnitude of celebrity Raymond was achieving. The nasty word 'sellout' appeared in sporadic flames on the net, and Raymond stoked the fires by conspicuously avoiding talk of 'freedom' or 'free software' in his speeches, a policy he later attributed to the unease those terms stir in businessmen. Open source developers, whose professional lives often fall short of perfection due to the interference of suits, awoke to the possibility Eric Raymond was a Judas, willing to sell their rebellion in return for the gratifications of fame.

    The flashpoint was the release of Apple's Public Source License in early March of this year. Apple, hoping to bring the dynamism of open source to its OS kernel, requested a meeting with Raymond to discuss its License. Raymond and Apple retreated behind closed doors. Other open source activists, such as Richard Stallman and Bruce Perens, learned of the meeting through the grapevine but were so far out of the loop that they could not even locate a phone number to call at Apple. The talks disbanded shortly afterwards without their contribution. Eric Raymond emerged flushed with victory, and Apple trumpeted APSL 1.0, fully certified as Open Source. Stallman and Perens went on the offensive, denouncing the License as deficient and enumerating reasons. Community discussion boards buzzed with speculation, with many participants agreeing Raymond had misrepresented open source. To this criticism he issued a retort, stating that objections to the License were founded in loose reading and lack of legal competence. It appeared that from Raymond's point of view, the discussion was at an end.

    Eric Raymond had many defenders, but others stuttered with anger. Apple's inadvertent exclusion of the community forced a realization long in coming: the position of public representative is as much bestowed by corporations and the media as by the community itself. Raymond had succeeded as a promoter by cultivating his credibility with the forces arrayed against open source. Once allowed in their camp, he could persuade them gently, in words they understood, rather than bellowing from the perimeter. This arrangement was convenient for reporters and businesses: the affable Raymond provided translations and spared them the chore of researching open source. But Raymond was only one man, presenting a tinted perspective of the diverse opinions alive in his movement. Indeed, Apple stated afterwards that the APSL fracas was the first it had heard of other community factions. Once it was clear Raymond would not yield to the disagreement of his peers, it became academic whether the APSL was a good license. He was one man defying the movement that had made him, and not a few felt it was time he was deposed.

    Disciplining a volunteer leader

    Rationally, there was little the community could do to rebuke its spokesman. There was no salary to slash, no vote to cast, not even any media contacts who would prefer a few ragtag emails to the word of the established Raymond. But flame has little to do with the rational. The great furnaces were heard chugging across the land, and what profane masterpieces of filth were disgorged only Eric Raymond can say. His email address became a sump of all that is foul in the minds of hundreds of raging geeks. Before the month was out, Raymond issued a statement in which he threatened to resign his leadership. Ironically, his sarcasm was misinterpreted; leaving the impression he had already drawn the blinds and settled into a life of oblivion. The reaction to this perceived development, while poignant, lacked the tenor of fear that might be present at Microsoft, for example, should Gates unexpectedly retire. Open source was prepared to move on without Eric Raymond, and he rushed to clarify himself and remind his listeners that much work remained only he could complete. After some skeptical grumbling, he was reinstated to the community's good graces. The Apple Public Source License was revised three weeks later, correcting all the disputed terms.

    Spats such as this illuminate a problem with open source gift culture. Ego gratification is a powerful stimulant for open source developers. Participants give gifts of source code partially to satisfy their craving for recognition as magnanimous geniuses. The community encourages this motive in all cases save one: leadership. Public representatives for the open source movement are expected to be meek and shun self-promotion. Those who stray are lashed with vicious emotional reprisals. All their work must be for the good of the whole, and none for themselves. In short, the community demands its foremost members adhere to ethics the average hacker finds intolerable. Small wonder most open source leaders ultimately disappoint the led.

    Many arguments reduce to a handful of facts that can be viewed in more than one light, and emotion rather than intellect is the deciding element. The civilized compromise is an agreement to disagree, but when it comes to community speakers, there is no room for such courtesies. Since ideas rise upwards in the open source movement, allowing a leader to advocate one thing while the community believes another would be as damaging as allowing a diplomat to Russia to announce IMF debt forgiveness on his own initiative. Ambassadors may suggest, but they cannot decide. They must either represent the community, or be expelled.

    Examples of this are abundant on the popular board Slashdot.org. Roving journalists frequently refer to Slashdot when plumbing the attitudes of the open source community; making it crucial they not receive a false impression during their stay. Slashdot real estate is therefore valuable and the power to select discussion topics is great. If a site operator abuses Slashdot to gratify an emotional itch, the response from readers is not only rational debate - though logic is always voiced - but also emotional counterattack. While calmer members discredit the logic of the offender, volatile participants demolish their motives with insults. It becomes psychologically expensive for the offender to continue.

    Sengan Baring-Gould learned this during the Lewinsky scandal, when he exercised his operator power to post a denunciation of American missile strikes in Iraq. Perhaps seduced by a captive audience of thousands, he forbade community responses, effectively hijacking the open source mouthpiece for his own politics. Slashdotters responded with furious floods of mail to Baring-Gould and site owner Rob Malda, who scrambled to enable comments and posted two apologies. Criticisms swamped the board, ranging from windy dissections of Baring-Gould's logic to far rawer fare. With his argument tattered by logic and his power trip soiled by emotional assaults, Baring-Gould had little motive to fight on. The episode was not repeated.

    But Baring-Gould's experience was a mere candle to the bonfire roasting of Jonathan Katz. Katz, a former editor with Wired, is surprisingly innocent of technical knowledge. Empowered with posting privileges, Katz writes opinions for a board patronized by thousands of open source developers, and consequently is a sort of de facto community representative when journalists come calling, regardless of whether his columns are actually read. His pieces endure much scrutiny from those who do not appreciate his company.

    Early in his tenure, Katz was known for unabashed promotion of his own books. His columns effused over dubious notions such as 'sexbots' and at least once a month declared the dawn of a new era, as evinced by a movie he had seen. Rational criticisms did little to improve his quality. Slashdotters turned to flame. The rage came ripe and sloppy for weeks, even prompting a Katz column in which he wondered whether he was still wanted (he decided he was). Then, when it seemed inevitable he would lose his position, Katz had a moment of brilliance. In a daring piece, he defied popular media and declared the Columbine geeks had killed because they were driven to it, persecuted by merciless jocks. Instantly, the sewage of popular opinion sprouted roses. Katz had said something the community had needed to hear for a long time. Today, Katz confines himself largely to variations on the Columbine theme and book reviews. There remains little for which he can be flamed, save lack of innovation.

    Open source advocates - and the hacker clan in general - fancy themselves as dispassionate creatures, able to analyze facts from a distance and judge impartially. This is a delusion. If emotion runs high anywhere, it is among geeks, and if any group is harnessing this volatility, it is the open source community. When reason's bullets are spent, only raw feeling remains to dispute actions that are wrong or damaging. Like the Salem Puritans many geeks profess to despise, the open source community manipulates emotion to enforce the curious strictures of its morality. It remains to them to decide whether this is a suitable tool for their advancement. Their success in quelling it or wielding it will reveal a great deal about their culture.

  • There is a gun store called 'Franklins' in Atlanta, I'm not sure how far from the Atlanta Linux conference center it is but it has a HUGE shooting range that will accomodate around 100 people at one time, they shouldn't be too hard to get in touch with and last time I was there the range was free if you brought your own gun and you could rent/check out various different firearms for a few bucks.

  • Don't you think that this is a case of sharp diminishing utility? There's software for end-users, then there's all these various utilities (as seen on freshmeat) to facilitate system administration and applications for other industries). Now, this "gift culture" can only go so far as to facilitate lower costs in other industries such as telecommunications, government, new media, retail et al. You have to make a buck some way. I can't consume my code, I can't drive my code around, my code doesn't give me a sense of security. Yes, I do see that you obviously feel more inclined to social rewards for you work. Let's just see how your feelings hold up during the next inevitable downturn of the business cycle.

    > Skip quite a few years. We've basically eliminated middle software from big industry. This means a shift in the economy to either, other service type jobs, or other industries completely. I hope some people here don't seriously believe that keeping everything open will create a better situation for themselves in this industry.

    But then something else dawned on me; OSS Software will never be the best solution for many types of software. If you're working for free, you're just going to be providing for the companies actually making money off this shift in the conomy such as IBM, Red Hat, VA Linux, etc etc more to come. Why? Because by eliminating the profit in actually producing the software, you eliminate your job, period. What will happen, is we'll have a number of large companies buying up OSS programmers so they can make all their money on support. Oh wait, profits were higher before when we actually sold and supported our software. Oh well.

    Of course, this doesn't eliminate the market, but it certainly diminishes its profitability and in turn those participating in it. We just haven't seen the consequences yet, because this movement is still in its infancy. Just wait until every company is forced to do the same -- and then realizes that since there is no product differentiation, all we can offer is service differentiation (which anyone who can view the source code can do) -- we're essentially splitting the market profits to a ton of different companies now. Then those like IBM, realize: shit, we can't afford all these people to stay competitive anymore. Guess we'll have to venture into another industry or scale down completely.

    This is why, OSS can exist; But if it does, it must co-exist with closed source software. This is actually funny, because this sort of mirrors the shift that occurred in the manufacturing industry -> the services industry a number of years ago -- Except we're doing it to ourselves now, not those damn slave labor working economies. It feels kind of artificial, unlike, say, an advancement in technology that throws millions out of jobs, but increases productivity many times over. OSS may, but it's not good for you people, the workers in this economy.

    This of course, is mere speculation of a worse case scenario -- wherein all the fantasies of these OSS advocates are realized. Hopefully the economy will realize this fact. OSS has its place. But it isn't a replacement for other --GDP-inflating-but-still-putting-money-in-your-po cket economic idealogies. You could say it's inevitable. I hope not.

  • I won't comment on the first 14 paragraphs, as I think you've effectively painted a portion of the picture, without paying attention to the rest.

    I just felt I needed to defend your perceived view of what Katz is trying to do. Yes, his self promotion is often translucent -- but would you rather no one play devils advocate? There aren't many other sites that take the even semi-deep look katz does at a number of issues. Actually, his writing doesn't even have to be particularly detailed or insightful. When Katz outlines a topic and briefly comments on it, he starts a flicker of conversation that can often turn to wildfire. It's in the comments under the story that many possibilities, truths, lies, stereotypes, and feelings are expressed. I welcome his what if statements and perceived ways things should be. Arguments more often enlighten us than they do poison the community (even if we don't like to admit when we're wrong). I look forward to the day when more mainstream sites adopt the slashdot way of thinking. I can't wait to argue with the online community about politics, economics, law, society, and life.
  • by sumana ( 66640 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @10:40AM (#1645037) Homepage
    Er, I don't think you're gonna get flamed for insulting ESR. If anything, I think you're gonna get flamed for seeming clueless. At the moment, thousands of /. readers, like myself, are rereading ESR's last comment for any hint of offense.

    First: offense is something the offendee feels. In some cases, it is unfair to blame the offender for a statement/action that feels offensive; perhaps the offendee is not allowing customary liberties to the offender. Thus the backlash against "Poltical Correctness"; if person A says something inoffensive by community standards, but person B has unusual standards, person B might be offended, but person A did not offend person B.

    Second: I saw NOTHING offensive, by reasonable standards, in ESR's last response there. It was, as others have noted, a flippant response to a silly question.

    It would be nice to have an evangelist who can keep his penis out of the evangelism of linux.

    Er, I've read most, if not all, of ESR's Linux advocacy. And I can count on negative fingers the number of times he's mentioned sex, his penis, Mae Ling Mak naked and petrified, etc. The one mention of anything even remotely sexual I can recall is in one of his personal, non-Linux-related writings on his website. It was about his trip to Japan [tuxedo.org]. To say that he can't keep his penis out of Linux evangelism is just SO WRONG! It's slanderous, both in the sense of falsehood and in the sense of malice. I think most of this community would agree that you have grossly misinterpreted any connotation ESR implied, and that you have applied a bizarrely high standard to the ordinary chaos of /. discussion.

  • `To err is human, to forgive, divine'.

    Not that I feel so presumptious as to try to preach to ESR. I don't. But I would like to voice an opinion.

    (and this is meant for both parties)

    Look at advocacy in the small; word of mouth, interpersonal relations. This is what has been; vitrolic attack and defend, parry and riposte, snipe and bash. How effective is this? Not very. I hold trmendous respect for both of you. In spite of this.

    Look at advocacy in the large; Linux World Expo, in print, on mailing lists. This is what it has been; cold distance, massive tension, public flamewars. How effective is this? Well, if your name is BillG, very.

    What's my point? It doesn't matter if you like each other. Hell, I don't care if you hate each other. But as is the case with divorces, it's those in the middle that suffer. If you cannot come to terms privately, that is, in the small, then at least do something to reduce the tension in the large.

    I feel it every time I see either name on /.

    Suggestions? Get in a fistfight. Better yet, get rip-roaring drunk first. Somebody's bound to apologize. (Hey, it works for me :-) Seriously, have it out, face to face and in private. Eric, extract any measure of revenge you feel is needed. Bruce, do what you have to to get Eric to shut up.

    I'm not meaning this as a flame. Well, maybe a little. I also do not mean this as a jest. I mean this in just the way it's stated. Do whatever you have to do to get all of that dislike, hatred, whatever out of your system. Call center employees are advised to let irate customers bitch and yell as long as is needed to get the anger out of thier system. You know what? It works. Very well. And is usually accompanied by a heartfelt apology.

    Feel free to flame me privately for this. Yes the email is real.

  • by zantispam ( 78764 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @09:58AM (#1645058)
    I will accept your apology, but only if you will accept mine. We have both been wrong, we have both been right. Let's do bury the hatchet and get on with our lives.

    (please don't kill me, Eric!)

  • I'd like to ask Eric to clarify the concept of the gift culture as distinct from a free market culture.

    It seems to me that the so-called "gift culture" is also a free market culture, and those who see a distinction between them are merely confused about the concept of "money". I suppose most people view money as a stand-in for good and services. Since we can't carry around all of our goods and services to barter, we introduced the concept of money to facilitate trade. But economics goes beyond money -- it's about the exchange of utility. And money is just one (rather poor) way to quantify utility.

    Consider: given one hour to spend writing code, I can choose to write free software under the GPL or some similar license, or I can choose to write code for money. The amount of money I could earn during that hour of writing commerical code is the opportunity cost of writing the free code -- it is the amount of income I would sacrifice to write the free code.

    But writing the free code may provide me with some non-monetary benefit such as ego gratification, fame, repsect, the promise of robust software etc. If I personally value these rewards over the money, then by definition, those rewards have a higher utility for me. By writing the free code I am still "paid", but I simply choose to be paid in a different medium, a medium that holds a higher utility for me personally.

    If we expand our view of economics beyond money and into the realm of utility exchange, then there is absolutely no distinction between a "gift economy" and a "free market economy". To me, a "free market" means that people are able to exchange utility in any medium whatsoever without interference. The so-called "gift culture" falls into this category.

    I would even suggest that it is precisely the concept of "money" that has caused the most divisive internal battles in the open source community. By moving beyond money and realizing that there are other, equally valid measures of utility, the open source community can unify its communitarian instincts (RMS) and its libertarian instincts (ESR). There is no contradiction here -- just economic confusion.

  • by knoxcarey ( 79231 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @03:50PM (#1645064)
    I might be accused of excessive free-market cheerleading (I don't deny it), but I think that even non-reciprocal transactions can be understood in the framework of utility exchange.

    The classic Adam Smith-style exchange is this: I have an apple to sell, you have a dollar. I value your dollar more than the apple, and you value the apple more than the dollar. Exchange ensues. Utility is increased on both sides, and (significantly) by our own personal measurements of utility.

    But we can take one party out of the picture and apply the same reasoning. I meet a homeless man on the street. I have a five dollar bill. I feel sorry for the homeless man, so I give him the five dollars. I obtain the peace of mind that comes from being a good guy. In effect, I purchased that peace of mind for $5. The utility has still increased on both sides of the transaction. Even though the homeless guy did not explicitly give me anything, his existence was required for me to obtain my sense of well being for helping a homeless man.

    Similarly, the consumers of OSS projects are parties to an "exchange" in which the software author obtains his non-monetary rewards.

    Yes, I am arguing that altruism is economic and that it may be understood in the context of utility. Clearly, if I get no peace of mind from giving money to the homeless man, the transfer of $5 will not happen. Just as in a two-party transaction, I am implicitly (probably unconsciously) comparing expected utilities.

    To push it to an extreme, even the decision about whether to go to the movies or take a nap on a Saturday afternoon is an economic decision. Or the decision to commit or not to commit a crime.

    The truly free market respects the right of every individual to make these personal utility judgements without interference, no matter how many parties are involved in a transaction. Many people think that it is somehow "dehumanizing" to reduce all decisions to economics, but this is what normal human beings do -- we all try to make our lives better by our own definition of "better", i.e. we all try to increase our net utility.

    At any rate, Eric, thanks for responding. Keep up the good work!

  • by Ender Ryan ( 79406 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @08:58AM (#1645065) Journal
    need to quit whining!

    Quit acting like high school kids, this is pathetic. You're both right and you're both wrong. Criticism is important, but it needs to be done is a respectful manner. Remember that feelings ARE important, they're the driving force behind everything we do. So be mindful of other people's feelings when you criticize them.

    That said, I respect both of you, but please, quit this pointless bickering. We will all be more productive if we can respect each other and act civil.

  • I always finish an ESR interview excited. Thanks for answering everyone's question, Eric. Even though you kinda putzed around with mine. No matter, though. I'm happy to have you as the foremost advocate for "that rhetorical millstone around our necks". ; >
  • I think you're a little lost. You want to be in the Apple Advocacy forum. It's down and to the left. Obviously, Linux is not against cloning. Linux is basically a "clone" of Unix. We're anti reinventing the wheel, and pro code reuse. If Microsoft wants to clone something first done in the Linux community, they're free to do so. If they want to embrace and extend, copy source code and make it proprietary, or spread FUD about Linux, they're not. I think you are confusing the arguments here. MS blatantly copied the MacOS. That pissed off Mac fans. fvwm95 blatantly copied the Windows "look & feel" and that didn't piss anyone off. Why? Two different groups of people with entirely different sets of values. You need to differentiate between the different groups in what you must see as the "anyone but Microsoft" metagroup.
    One of the main innovations of Linux is the Open Source philosophy that began with GNU. It's not an innovation of code, but an innovation of operations.
    So, though I don't have a problem with either truth or honest (even I consider them the same thing) I respectfully disagree with your misguided opinion.
  • starting on the "what's best for me" level and moving upward

    I think that's the way it's been for too long. We need to start at the "What's best for society" and go from there. There's too much chance for selfishness to get in the way if it's the other way around.
  • by scumdamn ( 82357 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @07:58AM (#1645073)
    You know it's mostly hurt feelings, though. You gotta understand as well as anyone that when you question what a geek is saying it's worse than putting down his mother. So you hurt Eric's feelings. Give him a while, be nice, send him a patch (maybe even a Palm Pilot), and you'll have yourself a friend without even having to say you're sorry. Besides, you're a nice guy. I'm sure he'll come around.
  • by scumdamn ( 82357 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @09:29AM (#1645074)
    Damn, Bruce! Do we have to say it for you?
    Okay, listen up, everyone. Here's what Bruce meant to say, but his damn ego wouldn't let him (and remember, I still like you, Bruce):
    OK, but please remember that I was the one being threatened. I think in that case there was unprofessional behavior on both sides, and I'm sorry for my part in it. I'd like to bury the hatched and make up. Eric, will you accept my humble, heartfelt apology?
  • by Ledge Kindred ( 82988 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @08:18AM (#1645075)
    What the heck are you talking about? Do you mean his "sex" comment? Don't you have sex? I do. I don't think there's anything inherently offensive about sex and I don't think he said anything like "I like to have sex with Linux users in public while speaking about Linux at Comdex." (And if he did, that would just be weird.) I don't see how a flippant answer to a silly question should be offensive.

    I am, though, highly offended by the questioner's mention of... well, the "chee-" word. I think anyone with the gall to talk about such a subject in a public forum should be forever banned from that forum. It's intolerable and unconscionable.


  • by Kitsune Sushi ( 87987 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @01:45PM (#1645090)
    As things stand, one of the big misconceptions about open source/linux is that it's run by anarchist geeks with long hair who can't be trusted.

    That's probably because they don't see many pictures. Most of the more renowned free software hackers have relatively short hair. I do myself, actually (which is not to say that I'm renowned.. farthest from.. but I'm willing to bet that a grand majority of us do not have exceptionally long hair.. if for no other reason than it would take too long to brush and would cut into time that could be spent coding ;) Besides.. we are an anarchic community.. and always have been.. and always will be. If business is threatened by that, or the media wants to point it out, who cares? As far as not being able to trust us.. Do you really have to trust us on a personal level? If the software works, use it. We're not peddling used cars or prime beach-side real estate in Arizona here.

    Sometimes ESR's comments also get a little high on vanity and boastfulness, and frankly, all it does is make everyone look immature. Similarly, when linux advocates bitterly bite and scratch, and then carry out an extended argument as to who started the fight, who has apologized how many times, etc. etc. it begins to enter the grey area between amusement and shooting-oneself-in-the-foot-with-remarkable-accur acy.

    Honestly.. The FSM has caught on fire too well. It's not going to die out. We don't need to court big business and kiss their ass or even make the public like it in order to make it big. Quality software is produced. People like quality software. People like to know that if there is a bug, it will get fixed, and that the fix will not cost them an arm and a leg.

    There are so many things that suggest that the FSM holds the upper hand. The commercial sector of the software community has to submit to our way of thinking (or at least try to peacefully coexist) or else they're going to get nailed. Microsoft is just the company with the biggest bullseye on it.

    I find the idea of "moderating ourselves" in the manner that you suggest to be rather insulting. If you want to flame someone, burn straight ahead full tilt. Something may just result out of it. Good or bad, your opinion is felt. If we can't express our opinions, what good are we as individuals? And believe me, we're individuals, not a corporate machine with an image to maintain. Stop trying to think that way. Because the same rules simply do not apply.

  • by kmself_post ( 90560 ) on Friday October 01, 1999 @10:18AM (#1645093) Homepage

    I've been involved in some side discussions on this subject. Interested parties might want to check the archives of the FSB mailing list (fsb@crynwr.com) or of news:gnu.misc.discuss [gnu.misc.discuss].

    Both RMS and ESR have proposed patent pooling and "mutual non-aggression pacts" to deal with the issue of patents and free software. The proposal actually pre-dates both of them -- John Walker of Autodesk, L. Peter Deutsch of Aladdin Ghostcript, and others have suggested similar ideas.

    The general view is that if a patent pool is needed as an effective deterrent, then free software needs to own patents. Both RMS and ESR have suggested this. It's sort of the necessary evil paradox.

    There's an interesting situation in that there are relatively few generally known cases of patents being enforced against free software. There are cases -- LZW and compress/gzip, gif, also the Gimp and color balancing algorithms. But the obvious threat (Microsoft) hasn't engaged in a direct play, nor have many other potential enemies of the people. Microsoft might be excused as its hands are tied until it settles the current DoJ case, but what's stopping everyone else.

    There are two theories I've heard:

    • Patents asserted against free software might risk being interpreted by the courts as being opposed to the Constitutional mandate for patents ("to advance Science and the Useful Arts"). I find this possible but improbable.
    • More likely, IMO, it's been that there are few good targets to sue, and some potential friends who might object. Developers themselves are unattractive litigation targets because they have few resources. The apparant alliance of large patentholders such as IBM, Oracle, Apple, and Sun with the free software community means that there's a good posibility that patent action might result in retaliatory action. IBM itself owns a fair fraction of all patents, and is best not annoyed.

    Patents apply to the use of ideas -- not just manufacture but distribution, sale, and contributory infringement. With the growth of free software based businesses -- distributors (RedHat, et al), VARs (VA Linux Systems, Penguin Computing, et al), and large-scale end users (Yahoo, many eCommerce sites), there are coming to be some deep pockets which might be litigation candidates. Patent (and trademark and copyright) intellectual property litigation is considered a major business threat, and is in large part responsible for license proliferation as greater protections are sought.

    It's possible that the sleeping tiger may yet awaken.

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein