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Steve Ballmer serves up a data trove about government spending in the US (nytimes.com)
1124 points by throw9982 on April 18, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 258 comments

I have found this website very helpful in the past few years when researching government financial info: http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/total_spending_chart

I reached out to the website developer/maintainer/creator, Chris Chantrill, telling him I appreciated his work on the site and asking if he needed help (seems like a 1 man operation?) - here's how he responded:

Thanks! I started the site in 2007 when "I couldn't take it any more." Since then it has just growed.

Here's how you can help. Suggest a feature.

Best wishes,


Chris' site provides unbiased commentary on the importance/relevance of certain measurements, and gives access to download data. It could use a bit of a UX/UI overhaul but it's an amazing feat for a one-man operation to track and present all these different sources of gov data.

I'll be interested to see how Balmer's site compares in functionality (and neutrality) especially given his vast resources and team of experts.

Can't believe I'm posting something positive about the Irish government but they recently launched this site which is actually pretty decent. Pity other governments don't do the same. http://whereyourmoneygoes.gov.ie

The optics are good but it's effectively useless in determining whether money is being spent wisely or not.

It only gives a very high level picture. It would need to allow one to go a whole lot deeper for people to be able to work out what is value and what isn't.

How does the office of taoiseach spend €182 million per annum, for example?

It should be possible to see exactly where the money was spent all the way down to an invoice.

The data needed to be aggregated originally, presumably, to deliver what they do publish so what we want is access to the raw stuff.

> It should be possible to see exactly where the money was spent all the way down to an invoice

With that level of visibility ("down to an invoice"), it's easy for people to take up pitch forks and begin lambasting teachers, for example, for their spending on computer software, materials for class, and so on. Perhaps a doctor's medical decisions would start being questioned left, right, and centre, yet the people doing the questioning have no medical experience or understanding of the patient's needs.

Let me put this another way: do you like being micro managed at your job? Would you like every decision you make regarding public spending, as an individual teacher, to be disputed, criticised and thrown up on Twitter by someone who, for example, doesn't agree with your purchasing of materials to teach a religious class, or a class on evolution, or perhaps a subject you don't think should be taught, like film & television?

I think having the data that's "down to an invoice" available to the state is valuable, but accessible to the public? No. I couldn't get behind that.

EDIT: "if" -> "is"; "ZERO" -> "no"

I disagree. Let me give you an example. Some years ago,the irish police had a grievance, they were paid less pay for holidays than normal working days. This was because when on holiday they were just receiving their normal salary and weren't getting certain other expenses. In other words, these expenses weren't real expenses but a form of tax-free pay. They had been introduced as an under the table pay increase during some negotiation or other, probably as a way of hoodwinking the taxpayer/other workers or circumventing some pay-cap or other. As I understand it this type of thing is/was common in the public service. There have been moves towards openness. Already lists of government payments to private contracters are published in Irish newspapers. Also lists of tax defaulters and details of their settlements are published regularly. Public servants having their salaries and expenses published is just another step further down this road. The same should apply to welfare recipients.

Being able to see who spent what, where and how is probably the greatest way to ensure tax money isn't wasted.

What's special about individuals who happen to be employed in the public sector or in receipt of welfare payments that makes it OK to intrude on their privacy in this way?

Like jumpcrisscross said. Ideally, where every euro of taxpayers' money goes should be a matter of public record.

I doubt that that's what you actually think. For example, I doubt you want me to be able to ask the government how much money was spent on impotence medication for you. There's a trade-off to be made regarding personal privacy. Why do you think that trade-off should be made against certain groups of people?

You can have transparency and privacy, they are not mutually exclusive in this case. Government spent X amount of money on Y number of prescriptions for medication Z. You can determine if there needs to be further auditing if Y exceeds the projected number of prescriptions based on prevalence of conditions.

Precisely that they are paid by the taxpayers?

Why do you think taxpayers are a group capable of deciding whether tax money is being wasted?

Aren't you the best placed to decide if your money is wasted or well spent?

> it's easy [...] lambasting teachers, for example, for their spending on computer software

And maybe it's a good thing.

> do you like being micro managed at your job?

You are conflating micromanagement with financial control.

In democratic societies, public work is done under public scrutiny. Taxpayers have constitutional rights to review budgets and complain to elected politicians.

Private citizens and companies have privacy, instead, as the "public" and "private" word suggest.

In dictatorships it's the other way around.

Constitutional rights? Doubt it.

Sorry but if the public fund it they should be able to see it, what's the point to pay blindly ?

"With that level of visibility ("down to an invoice"), it's easy for people to take up pitch forks"

I find this reasoning downright despicable. "Not publishing the data because someone might complain"? Seriously? That is the very reason it should be published, to enable constructive criticism.

I agree people might start nitpicking on minor stuff. But it seems the positive outcomes of being 100% transparent would far outweighs the negative ones.

This is a ridiculous extrapolation. The idea that public spending should not be public on the off chance that someone might be publicly critical of minor expenses seems like a pretty shallow reason to not give public spending more transparency.

Germany has something very similar, only in german though. It tracks income and expenses, as well as the actual and planned budgets for the past years: https://www.bundeshaushalt-info.de/

Very cool! Is the same also available for the spending of Bundeslaender as well as communities? Lots of taxes also go there.

Israel version:

budget breakdown mof.gov: https://public.tableau.com/profile/mof.budget#!/vizhome/_358...

Private initiative comparing to the previous year: http://www.obudget.org/

Norway has it as well (in Norwegian). http://slikbrukesskattepengene.no/

That is really nice.

I wonder how many Americans will see this & get confused when "Defence" isn't a main column (it's in "Other", <1% of GDP)

Probably very few. It's constantly advertised by both sides of the political spectrum that the US spends massive amounts on defense to act as world police.

I suppose I'll throw a shout out to www.opensecrets.org, who have an API I've used on a project in the past. You can see the top contributors to congressional campaigns and presidential. You can see down the $5 your grandmother gave to your senator's campaign, as it's all a matter of public record. It's interesting to see how businesses in your area will vote with their wallet.

The UI is actually making me feel angry, for some reason I can't put my finger on.

there's loads of different sized fonts with varying line heights, and a mix of serif and sans fonts

Could it be the front-and-center red * bolded * text? Or perhaps the logo with the clipped words?

Hehe that might be part of it, I actually feel claustrophobic reading it. A neutron star of text and links.

The font size is "wrong" for everything and completely inconsistent and all over the place. White spacing is all wrong too.

The font color is non-contrasting, because gray on blue is a brilliant idea. I'd literally fire someone if they submitted this as graphics design.

I don't want to detract from it's good points in terms of collating information, but yep this feels like the kryptonite of the designers I've known. I'm no novice at creating horrors either, it's more of a piece of art to me than something to be eradicated.

This in one some people did fro GovHack in Australia: http://theopenbudget.org

I remember I got a letter a while ago from the Australian Tax Office which showed a general break-down of all costs with histograms. The devil is in the details though.

Interesting thanks, hadn't seen it.

I delve into the Treasury Portfolio wedge and I get a sinister "Outcome 1" looking as big as our welfare budget (I think from a quick squiz this says 120 billion for welfare but I thought it was closer to 180 billion).

What's all the stuff under the Treasury portfolio?

I can't figure this out myself. I could swear that budget accounting is designed to be as unreadable and incomprehensible as humanly possible. Take a look at http://www.budget.gov.au/2016-17/content/bp4/html/05_art-16.... and scroll right to the bottom. Taken at face value, this seems to suggest total actual appropriations just for the Treasury portfolio were $765bn in 2015-16. Given this equates to about 43% of nominal GDP in 2015, there must be something else going on here that I''m missing.

I posted a link to the story about how Office of Management and Budget under Trump is trying to clean up government but it didn't gain any traction. The link summarizes a link to the PDF from the OMB about how they are challenging every level of government.

Considering how much tax money the government takes in it is astounding to me they run such a deficit. Plus you must also account for all the taxes and spending at State, City, and Local, levels. All this money and how much is slipping through the cracks from helping people and keeping the infrastructure going

Basically it comes down to determining if their activities are non essential, if they flunk a cost benefit test, do they violate federalism, and more.

Cato summary : https://www.cato.org/blog/mulvaneys-plan-reform-government

pdf from OMB : https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/me...

> Considering how much tax money the government takes in it is astounding to me they run such a deficit.

It's astounding to you that a superpower spends a lot of money? When we spend more on our military than the next n countries combined?

> if they flunk a cost benefit test

I consider myself a conservative, especially in comparison to most folks on HN, but this is nonsense. Conservatives in Florida demanded drug testing welfare recipients, even when data shows that fails a cost benefit test pretty handily.

Delighted to learn about this stunning resource. Comparing the two will be illuminating.

Since everyone's posting their country's version of this, this is one for New Zealand: http://www.wheresmytaxes.co.nz

Today I filed my tax return showing all the money that came in and every minute expense required to make that money. Why can't we hold the government to the same standard? There should be one (huge) annual spreadsheet published showing how much money came in (federal, state, and local levels), with a detailed accounting of where every penny went, just like I am required to do for my business to claim deductions.

I agree, I think absolute transparency should be a given with any democratic government. One reason, aside from national security to a hopefully minor degree, is to cover their behinds when stupid things are done (and they're done an awful lot in the public service).

I think if we had a crystal-clear/omniscient view of the wastage that goes on in various governments, we'd be collectively appalled.

"I think if we had a crystal-clear/omniscient view of the wastage that goes on in various governments, we'd be collectively appalled."

I think the opposite. Most people already believe the government is incredibly wasteful, there's a much greater opportunity in highlighting where it surprisingly efficient. This will serve to blow up many ideological truisms.

Agreed. There is a very interesting and recent EconTalk podcast that touches on this. A great majority Americans are proud to be taxpayers, but many also feel that the money is spended wastefully. When interviewed in depth, this often reflects partisan misunderstanding.

EconTalk: Vanessa Williamson on Taxes and Read My Lips https://overcast.fm/+JDN9N7o

Individuals have very personal views of finances. When people are asked how they should spend their own money, they're very careful with it and analyze expenditures and benefits carefully. On an individual basis, money is spent efficiently and people understand that.

As the responsibility for spending money is removed from the individual, efficiency plummets. Government jobs are the ultimate in a lack of accountability. Voters don't have the visibility to see what politicians and other government workers spend money on. The one entity that should effectively provide oversight on how the government spends our money is the government itself - and they're loathe to limit their own power. Then on top of all that, even voters aren't spending their own money when they make voting decisions. They're mostly rationalizing that their voting decisions are affecting the other guy, like "the rich".

> When people are asked how they should spend their own money, they're very careful with it and analyze expenditures and benefits carefully. On an individual basis, money is spent efficiently and people understand that.

We seem to know very different people.

While it is true that the market has a tighter feedback loop, that does not ensure good individual decisions. It just means that individuals are punished for bad decisions and rewarded for good decisions quickly.

This is a nice feature of the market but that doesn't mean that it is the only system that can have tight feedback loops. Look at the military for a good example of a non-market structure that has a tight feedback loop and, generally, does very well outside of the market system.

The government may lack some features of the market that doesn't mean that it cannot be as accountable. Good data and analysis for the people is one nice step toward greater government accountability.

> We seem to know very different people

It's all relative.

> Look at the military for a good example of a non-market structure that has a tight feedback loop and, generally, does very well outside of the market system.

The military has some meritocratic elements, but then again it's hugely wasteful: http://fortune.com/2015/08/14/f-35-joint-strike-fighter/

> The government may lack some features of the market that doesn't mean that it cannot be as accountable

And how are the accountability mechanisms going to be implemented? Obviously the vote doesn't work. Data might be slightly helpful, but people don't vote based on data. Look at this Trump election. It was hardly a data driven result. Really the main problem is that voters aren't very accountable for their decisions. Voting is just a tribal team sport thing.

> There should be one (huge) annual spreadsheet published showing how much money came in (federal, state, and local levels), with a detailed accounting of where every penny went, just like I am required to do for my business to claim deductions.

Except for some things like certain national security parts that are specifically protected by law from detailed disclosure, federal, state, and most local governments make and publish those, though they aren't in the form of spreadsheets, and they aren't consolidated into a single national combined publication.

they could put a black box for such expenses and still give the detail for everything else.

Wouldn't people be able to deduce the spend on this black box section?

Yes, and we already do. The security concern is more about individual items within the defense budgets.

One isue I have with this is that "national security" can be a blanket for bullshit...

for example, would they report on the purchase of Stingrays? License plate scanners that the municipalities 'require' private companies to install?

> federal, state, and local levels

(don't forget the counties!)

The reason that cannot work is that when you get below the state level, you're dealing with governments that might or might not have enough money and motivation to do proper accounting, staffed by people who might or might not have actually gone to college.

Mandating they contribute to the "national spreadsheet" would represent an unprecedented imposition on local governments. Not that it's necessarily a bad idea, but I'm guessing it's unconstitutional if it comes from the federal government.

> The reason that cannot work is that when you get below the state level, you're dealing with governments that might or might not have enough money and motivation to do proper accounting, staffed by people who might or might not have actually gone to college.

Because of state and federal funding rules, local governments are generally not only already providing detailed public accountings in documents that nobody bothers to read, but also providing detailed reports of their spending and revenue to state and federal authorities (who periodically audit parts of them) as a condition of basic funding. They absolutely can and do track income and expenses at very fine levels, and report them with very fine breakdowns (often different breakdowns of the same spending representing different control agencies demands.)

Yep. In addition, the reverse is actually true: at the federal level, many agencies are not required to use GAAP. In layman's terms, they aren't required to account for things in the way most businesses are. Common sense does not hold. If the Pentagon says 1+1=3? It equals 3. It's an odd world where money is appropriated to be spent. That's it. The rest of it is smoke and mirrors.

The smaller you are, the more "downhill" you are from the folks making the important regulations, and the more you're required to adhere to strict and closely monitored books. (Corruption still happens, of course, but at least there are numbers that add together and some form of reasonable audit trail for financial events. And don't get me started about whether or not good accounting principles have anything at all to do with good governance)

ADD: Here's a link for reference: http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/23/politics/us-army-audit-account...

(I could also tell personal stories from my time with the federal government, and there are plenty more links to find for those interested. The point is that more political power and money movement, at least in the states, usually is associated with fewer and less reliable financial controls, which is counter-intuitive)

>you're dealing with governments that might or might not have enough money and motivation to do proper accounting, staffed by people who might or might not have actually gone to college.

I get the impression there are swaths of the HackerNews audience who have no idea how "the other half" lives in places outside of the major urban centres.

At the individual & small business tax filing level, you're also dealing with people who might not have money or motivation to do proper accounting, who might not have actually gone to college.

But they're still required to file everything properly, no matter how complex their personal/business taxes get.

I'm traveling and can't find the article but I recall reading recently in the local paper about someone in local government in Montana who was either being fired or prosecuted for failing to keep accurate records about transactions. This was revealed in some audit the state requires, iirc. Anyway the gist is that it isn't the case that city government people simply don't have to keep proper financial records.

> Anyway the gist is that it isn't the case that city government people simply don't have to keep proper financial records.

That's one local government of tens of thousands. I'd be less optimistic about, say, a rural county in West Virginia, or something like that, having anything like proper financial records and the motivation to provide them.

The kind of governments I'm skeptical about aren't hugely important for a top-down analysis of the country's finances simply because they're financially the least wealthy. What I'm surprised about is how optimistic everyone is about the nation's recordkeeping and how everyone assumes that every government works roughly the same way. I've heard horror stories about counties that cannot even keep track of who owns what land/mineral rights, and sometimes have their own corrupt reasons for not trying very hard. The world will need to change before some of those places are motivated to improve.

If they can't track their basic budget how can they be fiscally responsible? Small govt's don't have the luxury of just printing more money.

Do you believe all local governments are fiscally responsible?

I believe they try. I don't believe they always succeed.

No but I do believe they have a harder time going into debt.

They have a harder time paying back debt.

Though not comprehensive in that it doesn't cover state/local government, the federal government does publish a monthly statement that does go into a fair bit of detail: https://www.fiscal.treasury.gov/fsreports/rpt/mthTreasStmt/b...

A bitcoin-type ledger with known account numbers would be great for public offices. Even though you can have a nefarious category like "Office Contractor Expenses" which acts like a black hole but at least there can be some sort of minimal scrutiny.

hmmm... if anyone has any connections to Jared Kushner maybe we could recommend to him to create a blockchain for government budgets under his office of american innovation.

Realistically? National security.

I know that sounds like a cop-out but if you think about it, it makes sense that the government has to classify some things.

The question is where does the line get drawn. I agree it's too far to one side right now but the extreme you suggest is far far on the other extreme.

> Realistically? National security.

This is absolutely not the case. Sure there are some classified programs but the majority of government spending and money flows should be 100% transparent.

It's not because there is some degree of corruption and those involved wish to evade accountability.

> the majority of government spending and money flows should be 100% transparent.

Agreed. But that wasn't what the parent was suggesting and not what I was arguing against.

National Security is a scam and a racket. It's the goto excuse for racketeering government money whether through war or through financial means which are closely linked. The people who want to know the secrets know the secrets. China, Russia, etc. They all know the secrets. The only people who don't know the secrets are people who are not sophisticated enough to do anything with those secrets and the people who pay for it.

Why can't military spends be in one classified bucket and the rest be open and 100% transparent? I don't think information on how much is spent on roads, healthcare, police, education will affect security.

Because that's 550 billion dollars. A very significant portion of that does not need to be secret.

And a lot of it isn't. https://www.fiscal.treasury.gov/fsreports/rpt/mthTreasStmt/b... breaks out how military spending is allocated to some level of detail.

And in related news, Trump killed open.gov today.


The article you link to says it was last week. This was the selective publication of White House visitor logs online. Those logs still need to be submitted to the national archive.

You can freely object to such changes. But the second people start spinning it into something much worse than what it is. I feel like they are playing politics and don't really care.

What exactly was the spin? The administration is literally killing the site open.gov, I don't see any bias with stating it exactly as it is:

"White House officials said the Administration is ending the contract for Open.gov, the Obama-era site that hosted the visitor records along with staff financial disclosures, salaries, and appointments."

As to your extra claim that visitor logs will be submitted to the national archive, do you have some reference to back that up? Regardless there are a number of ways that could make access more difficult. For example, you have to physically go to the national archive to look the records up, national archive of the logs aren't made available until much later after the visits occurred, etc. I'm really not familiar enough with it to know the implications, but I highly doubt multiple organizations would be suing over this if it wasn't an important difference:


Jeez, nobody tell him about data.gov ...

Is this a joke or not, I can't tell because none of the pages on data.gov load for me...

Http/1.1 Service Unavailable

www.data.gov works for me

Quite a few links, including the "Contact" page for every topic, are just showing an error message "Data.gov encountered an unexpected error. We apologize for this inconvenience and assure you that work is underway to correct this problem. Please check back in 15 minutes and thank you for using Data.gov." (which appears to be the same text they show as their generic 404 message.) For example https://www.data.gov/contact and https://www.data.gov/climate/faq

huh, never mind. They're back. I guess for once that "check back in 15 mins" turned out to be true...?

Ditto; are there specific pages people are trying and not working?

And he wonders why people are increasingly skeptical of his administration.

I don't think he wonders about anything at all. He knows (and is wrong).

Because people read the ending of "the selective publication of White House visitor logs online" as something menacing?

Especially if it was "selective" to begin with...

Increasingly? Weren't most of his supporters somewhat skeptical from the start?

His approval rating was highest his first week as president:


That's because he fired missiles in Syria and detonated the MOAB in Afghanistan. Whenever a president commits an act of war against a publicly perceived threat, their ratings get a temporary boost.

Neither of these things were done the first week of his presidency.. He started in January, it's now April, which is when these events happened...

_Disclaimer: I work for Open Knowledge International and have worked on OpenSpending in the past_

If you're interested in public spending data, take a look at OpenSpending (https://openspending.org/). It's a project that aims to make exploring, visualizing, and searching spending data easier. It's all free software (https://github.com/openspending) and you can upload your own datasets or explore others. It also provides you with an API, so you can use it to build finance-related projects (e.g. http://orcamento.inesc.org.br)

I'd love to see the same thing done with the health care industry. I have a pet hypothesis that the financial complexity of the industry is one of the barriers to reducing costs: Nobody knows what's being spent on what, and to whom. Everybody can claim that somebody else is gouging us.

They're probably all gouging each other where in the end the retail patient with no insurance suffers bankruptcy.

> Everybody can claim that somebody else is gouging us.

I feel this is the case more and more...

Oh this is fascinating. I can't wait for people to slice and dice this up and show all kinds of data and analysis. This reminds me of how the NBA opened up the data stores from Sport Vu analytics and other advanced statistics and how much we learned from it by all the people on the web looking at it and thinking about it, sorting it and analyzing it in many different ways to see things no one had seen before. That has to be good for our country.

The NBA stopped posting the Sport Vu data early last year - I don't think it is coming back.

Do you have an article describing why they did that? I can't find one.

I really never liked Ballmer, but I did love him for the Developers dance, and now, well, this is awesome. I hope he does it in a long-term sustainable way.

Funny and satirical as it is, [1] completely changed my opinion of Steve Ballmer for the positive.

> Steve Ballmer. You open the door to his enormous grinning face, and before you know it he’s in the hall handing over a bottle of something cheap (but with such confidence you don’t notice) and he’s giving you the handshake of your life. Then he’s in. Loving it. Loving the music. Loving the food and drink. He’s going up to everyone, saying hello. And after a while you realize he’s started balling “thanks for coming, great to see you man!” to your guests. By the end of the evening it’s his party and everybody had a great time. That’s Steve Ballmer.


"non genius" seems like a funny way to describe a person who outperformed gates on the putnam

One thing that gets wrong is calling Gates the genius. Ballmer is the smarter of the two.

Could you elaborate on that?

He was featured on the A&E show Biography, and one of his high school math teachers said that Ballmer never once got a math problem wrong, which I found incredible in the true sense of the word.

Did he emphasise the "once"? Crucial bit of info here ;)

Then why did Microsoft stagnate under his leadership, once Gates left?

That's a common misconception about Ballmer. The stock stagnated and they did miss mobile. However, if you look at their financials, under Ballmer revenue doubled and net income increased. Ballmer may not be the best person to identify and capitalize on new trends, but if you want someone who can make money, he's your man.

Because intelligence by itself does not assure success. I'm not a Balmer/Microsoft fan, but 'stagnated' isn't the word I'd use to describe Microsoft in Balmer's era: they missed mobile and got into search late, but they did extremely well in other areas.

He stepped in in 2000, with microsoft being the top dog of the tech world, and left in 2014 with them not even being one of the "big four".

Right now Apple, Amazon, Google & HP are all bigger (in terms of revenue) than Microsoft:


> He stepped in in 2000, with microsoft being the top dog of the tech world, and left in 2014 with them not even being one of the "big four".

It seems we are in agreement - being overtaken =/= stagnation. A more convincing argument would have been if their revenues had plateued under Ballmer (they didn't - revenue grew by 280% from $25B to $70B in 2014).

COOs don't make good CEOs in general. They are great at executing someone else's vision, but not great at coming up with one on their own.

I'm not saying Microsoft didn't need a change by the end of Ballmer's reign, but it is seriously underrated. Yes there were many mis-steps, especially in the consumer space, but he never put a foot wrong in the enterprise space and got a lock few would have credited would be possible with a Windows-server-only strategy.

Ballmer did a great job keeping the ship going for sure. He just failed to turn into the wind. :)

Ballmer focused on the unsexy enterprise market and missed mobile. He got beaten up for it in the stock market, but the company was still doing well

> handing over a bottle of something cheap (but with such confidence you don’t notice)

Three commas?

That's Mark Cuban

This is probably one of my favorite blog posts ever.

That was a really strange article

Balmer is a lot like some Presidents (like Carter). Hated during their presidency but are elevated subsequent their term once they aren't subjected to the rigors/shackles of operating a large entity.

Balmer is a lot like some Presidents

Or like Bill Gates for that matter. Let's not forget how truly despised Gates was in many circles the late 90's, whereas now he's almost universally respected.

I remember the Gates Borg avatar and the bashing over at Slashdot.

Dear competitor, we welcome you! :)

Our startup is trying open the information on government spending to the masses:


One of the hardest views of government budget to come by is per-category over time or per budget proposal. So you could see, for example, how much police funding has gone up or down over time. Or for different budget proposals the increase/decrease of each category compared to the current baseline. That data is never available when proposals are debated in Congress every year. The best you get in the news is when some interest group digs deep to find the most click baity possible shocking line item. I think even the politicians just vote based on party and don't really have any idea about the budget big picture. Hopefully this Ballmer will provide that kind of view.

I am very eager to see what's in store here when it goes live. If indeed it contains accurate, unbiased and factual data then it is a great project. And it is about time someone did it. I wish it was citizen funded instead of rich individuals (even if the intentions are good). But I will take what I can get for now.

Is Steve Ballmer not a citizen? Do you mean crowd-funded? Assuming you're worried about self-interest tainting the project, a crowd-funded project doesn't necessarily eliminate that since someone still has to be in charge. Open-source for peer review would be necessary.

I meant public-funded. My concern was more in terms of funding drying up after a few years if the individual's philanthropic interests change. To me it is not a debate between two choices. It is just the order of preferences. But, like I said this could still be a great project. Looking forward to it's release.

I'll get excited when it comes out. What is in it for ballmer?

It struck me as philanthropy in a way.

And he confirms it.

* “We’re making philanthropic donations elsewhere — I think of this as another,” he said, referring to himself and his wife. “I don’t even deduct this for my taxes. I pay this with after-tax money, no pretax money, because I don’t want anybody being able to think that factors in. But I feel like it’s a civic contribution more than anything else.”

It makes his wife happy? That is what is discussed in the article. Frankly, it's a reasonable motivation.

I think it was more about him wanting to win an argument with his wife about his tax dollars being enough for charity but once he started getting the data like all engineers he kept going deeper down the rabbit hole.

I've made databases to scratch an itch before and this is that, but at a curious billionaire scale. Sounds like an a fun project to work on.

"“But come on, doesn’t the government take care of the poor, the sick, the old?” Mr. Ballmer recalled telling her."

Too bad he never had a mentor who was an expert in philanthropy...

What an incredible quote. I wonder if his obnoxious opinions on philanthropy came up while they were dating. Certainly sounds like an awkward conversation to me.

It seems his wife is.

He was sarcastically alluding to Bill Gates.

>With an unlimited budget, he went about hiring a team of researchers in Seattle and made a grant to the University of Pennsylvania to help his staff put the information together. Altogether, he has spent more than $10 million between direct funding and grants.

$10 million spent so far just trying to figure out what the collective governments in the US is spending money on. Is this an argument for privatization or a failure of government to provide this information succinctly itself?

Why do you believe an equivalent effort to figure out what the private sector is spending money on would be cheaper?

When it comes to publicly-traded companies, it probably would be because they're required to make specific, comprehensive disclosures about their income and spending on a regular basis. Governments, especially local governments are much less consistent about such disclosures.

It's also reasonable to expect that a government that is elected by the public and funded by taxation provide an accounting to voters and taxpayers.

He's only using government provided data for this site, so it's not like the data isn't available.

I don't; it was meant to be a jab at privatization worshippers since the second part of that, "the government has failed by not providing this information" had more meat to it.

Privatization only works if multiple companies are competing for customers. Privatization of prisons, for example, results in increased spending because the "customer" in this case is elected representatives.

I don't see that it's either.

If it were privatized, it would suffer from economic pressure to suppress data that conflicts with its economic incentives.

And we don't pay government (i.e., tax ourselves to provide funds) to do this. No money, no results. That's not a failure of government, it's taxpayers deciding not to have the government provide this service.

I don't remember voting for that, or having the opportunity to do so.

This isn't a democracy, it's a representative republic. We vote for our representatives, and trust them to make decisions we'd agree with (or at least agree to go along with.) In turn, they appoint and hire people to make the more detailed decisions needed for day-to-day operations.

A failure to keep track of the government's books is absolutely a failure of the government, and not a result of taxpayers "deciding" that the government shouldn't do it. The representatives and their appointees/hires should have performed that task without being micro-managed to do so, because it's the responsible thing to do. (Not to mention that they require all of us to do it for our own finances.) They've failed to do it, and will probably avoid responsibility for it by using the complex structure of the government to point blame away from themselves.

Yes, we can make a big deal out of this and eventually vote to replace our representatives, who can then replace appointees/hires, and change the rules to make sure the accounting is done. My point is that we, the citizens, should not have to micromanage the government this way. That's the whole point of a representative republic; pure democracies don't scale.

I think our main difference turns on private vs. public sector. I don't see a real difference on this issue.

Private sector: Shareholders elect Board of Directors, who hire management. Shareholders don't micromanage management decisions. If management doesn't direct staff to implement a company-wide spending database, the corrective chain traces back to management, then the Board, then the shareholders.

Government: Voters elect Congress and some of the Executive and (some state) Judiciary posts. These elected positions hire staff and tell them to do stuff. Voters don't micromanage government operations. If government doesn't implement a government-wide spending database, the corrective chain traces back to elected positions, then to the voters who elected them.

In both spheres, what gets assigned and measured, gets done. Tasks not assigned and measured don't get done. This is human behavior, pretty much the same in private or public sectors.

Not assigning a specific task may or may not be a failure. If it is a failure, it traces back to the empowered owners (shareholders and voters) in either sector. Ultimately, shareholders have to fix the corporation they own. Ultimately, voters have to fix their country's government. Who else can, in either case?

Regardless, I'm glad Balmer sees this database as a needed resource and is willing to fund its creation.

$!0M relative to the size of the federal budget is infinitesimal.

Not to me or to your average taxpayer though. And, if it's truly not a big deal to the feds, this is data they should compile themselves.

> His first instinct, naturally, was to go to a search engine. “My favorite one, of course: I go to Bing,” he said. “And by the way, I check it with Google, just to make sure there’s nothing I’m missing.”

It appears that Mr. Ballmer could cut his search time in half by just skipping the first step here. I believe this is the optimization everyone else applies.

I am definitely very excited about this. Blanket statements like "government is too inefficient and such a waste" or "we need to raise more taxes to fix this problem" are statements that are irrefutable due to the convoluted nature of government. Now we can have a little more insight into what is efficient and what isn't. Also the opaqueness and division of data makes it difficult to make meaningful and economical decisions in a macro sense. I feel like there are lots of untapped opportunities to create services that involve gathering specific data that may also be sold anonymously to government in order to make better decisions along with helping customers.

I think it's optimistic to think that data will sway political opinion in America

Sadly, many people who make those blanket statements (such as myself) also believe governments, especially big-centralized ones cannot be fixed. These kind of data is good, it may be an eye opener for some. But governments will find loop holes to make those spendings look like justified. Most people will be fine with it anyway. Look at the authors response: "Oh there are 10 million public school teachers, those are nice people!"

At the same time, more specific data is always better.

Soon he'll realize the slim margins that go to actual teachers, and see that most of it goes to boards, etc.

Nope. 80% of per school expenditures goes to salary and benefits, with the overwhelming majority for instruction rather than administration: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cmb.asp.

I stand corrected.

The UK gov supplies a very simple chart that shows where your taxes have gone, it looks like this:


Although the real thing shows how much money you personally contributed to each sector - I removed for the screenshot.

The US already has numerous breakdowns on where the money goes in segments. For example, I can tell you how much of the budget & tax revenue goes to the military, Social Security, medicare, veterans housing, interest on the public debt, and on and on. We have vast, freely available public data on spending. That's not what Ballmer is doing.

Direct link to Ballmer's site -


Granted, I don't yet know the scope of the project precisely (ie. how detailed and how much information was collected), but if it's as big as I think it is, Steve Ballmer has instantly become one of my favorite people currently inhabiting this planet.

It was created by someone who was at Microsoft. If the past is any indicator, you will see a splashy introduction, the follow-up and follow-through will be horrendous, and in the end everyone will hold their noses and still use it anyway.

I think this is an interesting point:

>One rule Mr. Ballmer said his team made early on was to use only government data — no outside providers — to avoid accusations of bias. But this created its own challenges.

Its going to be interesting to see the site. I wonder if it will be free?

Hopefully free for non-profit uses at least.

> “How many people work for government in the United States?” he asked, with the excitement of a child showing off a new toy, before displaying the answer. “Almost 24 million."

Directly, sure. Indirectly, a lot more. By indirectly, I mean companies that do government contract work.

And how often are those contractors the target of budget cuts, and how often do nurses, teachers and so on end up bearing the brunt of them?

If you go by that approach then everyone in the society indirectly works for the govt in some way or the other.

Sure. But I was more thinking about people who directly work indirectly for the government, such as cleaners who work for a company that has them clean (the same) government offices (all the time). There are a lot of similar supporting services that have been privatized and "out-sourced" to external companies but which employees are practically working for the government.

correct! if you are paid in dollars, you are indirectly working for the government.

what is the purpose of taxes? to create unemployment:


The problem with "radical transparency"is that the worst money-wasters get to hide behind confidentiality in the name of security:

1. Counter-terrorism spending, which wastes money protecting backwaters no terrorist has even heard of

2. The Drug War and it's army of informants

3. Seizures of property and cash, dimensions currently unknown

4. A Cold War-sized military in a post-Cold War world

5. The prison-industrial complex

Those are all discretionary spending. And those are all conservatives' favorites. And they all get wrapped in "we can't be transparent, because drug lords and terrorists!"

At a minimum, transparency lets you say "hey, we do all that stuff with this $, why is there all that extra $$$$ spent there where we can't see?"

Sure. But if you look at other comments on this thread, there are arguments for fine-grained transparency for, for example, school spending, or social program spending. The objection to that is that it's grist for the outrage mill: "How DARE they spend money on LGBT issues!" Radical transparency would be better supportable if it did not exclude the secret policeman's budget.

The UK's National Audit Office has this page: https://www.nao.org.uk/highlights/whole-of-government-accoun...

It shows a breakdown, for the year 2014-2015, of "consolidated financial statements for the whole of the UK public sector".

The pie chart and "Breakdown of WGA Balances" can be hard to understand when you first load the page, but if you hover over a column in the column chart (under '2011-2015 Balance Information'), you can click to see a breakdown for one of the sections of the column chart.

It's kind of nice to see the information categorised by type, rather than by which body spent the money.

I've always kind of had a crush on Steve Ballmer, he just seems like a real jolly fellow. After reading the excerpts, that crush only grew.

> Well, let’s look at that. People who work in schools, higher ed, public institutions of education — they are government employees.” And they represent almost half of the 24 million, his data shows.

> “And you say, O.K., what are the other big blocks?” Mr. Ballmer continued. “Well, active-duty military, war fighters. Government hospitals. Really? I didn’t know that.”

I'm really surprised if this really surprised him. I mean, the ex-CEO of one of the most powerful and influential corporates on Earth didn't know that soldiers, public teachers, medical personnel etc. are employed by government?? If that's true, I don't even know what to say. I would find it ridiculous, laughable, if it wasn't so sad.

I think he was surprised at the scale, not that those groups counted as gov't.

He talks about his motivation in this speech: https://youtu.be/ChxeCKyafVU "How to Tell a Story", I recommend watch it.

I'm enjoying how his enthusiasm is being channelled in a productive way!

This is half the battle. The other half is figuring out the value created by the spending.

Hopefully having the data in one place can help us calculate that fuzzier side of the equation.

This is fantastic - this type of transparency will also put positive pressure on agencies and departments to demonstrate their outcomes for citizens.

I'm not sure how comparable it is, but for what it's worth, the Census Bureau disseminates data on State and Local Government Finances: https://www.census.gov/govs/local/. Not particularly timely however, as the most recent data available is for 2014.

Talk about your fluff pieces!

Sorkin's article ignores Ballmer's billion-dollar tax dodge... er, break... for buying a basketball team.* Ballmer should revise his boast from "paid for with pre-tax dollars" to "paid for with "shamefully un-taxed dollars."

Interesting terms that don't show up when Googling Ballmer's site (at least as of today...)

tax expenditure tax shelter estate tax good will sports team basketball

And so much for the "already taxed" argument by Trump's billionaire class (and their gullible working-class sycophants) against the estate tax. How much supposedly already-income-taxed dollars of wealth will soon escape estate taxes? And how much will all of these tax expenditures add to working and middle class taxes and the national debt?

Now that, Mr. Sorkin, would be an interesting article.

* Check out "Steve Ballmer Gets Billion-Dollar Tax Write-Off For Being Basketball Baron" at https://yro.slashdot.org/story/14/10/27/0237200/steve-ballme...


It sounds pretty great, but I'm very worried about what actually comes out of it given the media landscape. People will use the data in ways that benefit them - even the CBO's reports are highly politicized.

If we can't start taking "real, true" data at face value and using it to drive actual policy again, this is just another drop in the bucket.

> but I'm very worried about what actually comes out of it given the media landscape

We've seen recently that some people believe what they want to believe, regardless of facts. This doesn't mean the rest of us should be deprived of facts, or that we should throw our hands up and give up on seeking the truth.

Not saying we should give up, but only saying that the truth doesn't matter unless the conditions for it to be useful exist. A Russian bureaucrat kicks your dog? It doesn't matter what the truth is if nothing can come of it.

Access to the truth is perhaps the most basic prerequisite condition for it being useful. Once access is cut off, no other conditions matter.

> even the CBO's reports are highly politicized

I'm pretty sure I've read about many CBO reports that disagreed with the party in power. What basis is there for saying they are highly politicized?

Not the reports themselves, the results from them. Its good data but doesn't "matter".

> even the CBO's reports are highly politicized

Can you source that?

I took it to mean "third parties politicize CBO reports" rather than "CBO reports are created with ideological slants," because, well, that's the truth of the matter. You can't criticize a CBO forecast for being slightly inaccurate when politicians decide to change the parameters after the fact.

I think you're correct, but it was poorly worded

Sorry about that, GP is correct with regard to my intent.

CBO reports are done within the confines of the request, opening them up to a garbage in, garbage out scenario. The reports are supposed to be non-partisan, but a report request can be crafted in such a way that it's essentially weaponized non-partisanship.

I hope he focus on collecting and funneling the data vs. spending a ton on analyzing the current easily available data.

It's funny how well this dovetails with the stereotype of the tech industry.

WIFE: You should help with these philanthropic efforts.

BALLMER: I pay lots of taxes, the government takes care of helping people.

WIFE: That's not true.

BALLMER: Yes it is, and rather than contribute philanthropically, I'll start a start-up to settle this.

Since the project itself is now at #1 (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14139186), I suppose we can treat this earlier discussion as the duplicate.

I love how this article portrays Mr. Ballmer as a wide eyed innocent.

“I mean it’s funny, but I didn’t realize all these not-for-profits were in a sense almost like government contractors.”

Well, yeah. Antipoverty nonprofit agencies run programs like Head Start and handle all sorts of charity operations. Adoption agencies, training programs, and on and on. A key skill for nonprofit comptrollers is knowing how to get governments to cough up the money they're contracted to pay these agencies.

“You know it’s not legal to know how many firearms that are in this country? The government is not allowed to collect the number.”

Mr. Ballmer, are you the LAST person to know that? People interested in stemming urban violence have known that for decades.

Maybe somebody with his clout can make a difference. It's good to have this information gathered up in a useful form. But, enough with the "innocents abroad" narrative!

I'm going to have to disagree with you here. I think its much more constructive to encourage potentially ignorant individuals to be inquisitive, rather than to reprimand them for not knowing something sooner.

To belittle those individuals who did not have access or exposure to this information seems cynical or high-horsed. Exposing verifiable data is the first step, encouraging people to challenge their belief systems through curiosity and with the assurance that changing their mind (based on that data) is not stupid or reprehensible is the second.

I don't know anything about the man, but, maybe he really is that innocent. Maybe he threw himself into his career and that's ALL he focused on.

I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope his wide-eyed innocence helps others by making this data easily digestible.

Or how about this gem: “If you look at these tax deductions for employer-provided health or for state and local taxes or mortgage-interest deductions, they’re really subsidies to the affluent, which I guess I hadn’t thought about them.”

Just incase there isn't already enough other links. This one is for the US / UK / Czech Republic

I liked the style.


He talked about it in his recent TEDx talk


Quite interesting (and low-key for Ballmer) talk

Steve Ballmer gives mainly to Republicans and gave money to oppose income tax in Washington state specifically for high earners. I doubt he can be totally nonpartisan on this subject.

So? Literally everyone is partisan. Everyone has a world view. That doesn't mean you can't legitimately aim to have a non-biased open and accurate dataset. Different folks can interpret that data set in different ways. Balmer's view of how the data suggests we should drive policy can be different from your own.

There's more to it, though. Washington has a long history of opposition to state income taxes, for various reasons: http://kuow.org/post/strange-short-story-washington-state-s-...

In a way, he was just supporting state tradition.

If his quotes in the article were genuine, there's hope.

A step in the right direction, to say the least.

This will be a much needed site. Thanks, Steve!

It's quite possible for someone to be a mediocre CEO and still do good, smart things. This is a good thing, and smart.

i'm not sure why the dig at him was a necessary foreword

To give pause that only revered CEOs can bring meaningful change in this world. This view is especially prevalent in the Tech world.

Not necessary, but it's pretty widely agreed that he was a mediocre CEO, no?

can we translate this data into performance measures for our politicians? After all, we are paying freshmen congressmen >150K annually with an additional stipend of several million to run their office. EVERY YEAR. How does what they do make a measurable impact on our lives?

There's something comically evil looking about Ballmer, almost the Emperor from Star Wars.

A former Microsoft exec wondering what the government does with money? A lot landed in his pockets I suspect, but it's good he's philanthropic now.


Bravo Mr. Ballmer. Now lets get all government financial transactions on the block chain...

This makes me wonder, has the data been public all this time?

The article mentions that the data shows a huge allocation of resources to education. Why is education publicly funded in the USA, and not left to market forces? Can't that be considered a "socialist" policy?

A public company generally cares about quarterly performance. A private company might have its sights as far as a few years out. However, with education it takes about 20 years to start seeing a return on investment. It just doesn't make sense to approach education from a business standpoint, both because the ROI is very low, and you need to have stability in education, you can't have someone like ITT Tech all of a sudden deciding to close their door to tens of thousands of students and leave with a bunch of useless credits that won't transfer.

You're telling me Exxon doesn't look 20 years out? Burlington Northern, a railroad, was looking 30 years out when my dad worked for them. Is there a more classic example of American "big business"?

If you really believe this why don't you short-sell a bunch of companies and make a killing?

Because the belief has nothing to do with your arbitrary test. And even if it did, the market can remain irrational longer than you can stay solvent.

one of my favorite John Maynard Keynes quotes.

Pretty sure the point of parent comment was to make us think about the hypocrisy that the USA can't have single payer healthcare because it's "socialist", but education is perfectly ok to be "socialist."

Because education is one of the foundations of a productive life, and we don't want to even further widen the gap between the rich and poor?

It should be publicly funded because it's a good investment on a country level, with great ROI. The more educated citizens you have, the better companies your country will attract, and the more innovative startups your citizens will start. This will enable your country to better compete with other countries for industries and smart people. Also, educated people make (hopefully) educated choices, which should benefit democracy and the effectiveness of a democratic government.

Children are the primary beneficiaries of education. They aren't consumers choosing between different products. Their parents are able to choose where they go to school (to some extent), but there's always a free option -- as there should be.

The secondary beneficiaries of education are everyone else is society. Education has the highest ROI out of anything the government spends, and it keeps all of us safer and healthier.

Are there any countries where education is not publicly funded? What are those countries' education systems like?

> Can't [publicly funded education] be considered a "socialist" policy?

Are there people who think it isn't?

It's welfare.

Yes it is. But they will tell you that you signed the social contract with your birth blood and need to pay up or go to jail if not. Harsh but that is the truth.

I just bought a domain for something similar. Oops

Team up, there is more than enough data!

I actually don't like the way they present or treat the data so I guess I still have time.

You just signed a lease for a domain. No one owns their domain.

Wow! I'd never imagine Steve would eventually grow up into a responsible citizen... After everything he did at the helm of Microsoft, I'm genuinely, positively surprised.

It's fascinating how great leaders do PR by making it seem they run the whole show, therefore making them look even greater.

Steve Ballmer will be running for president ... wait and see

and they're using mail chimp to manage their email database


Seems to me lots of companies make $

Do they all get a derogatory psuedonym?

adob$ amaz$ face$ goog$ mailchim$ etc etc etc

or is the negativity reserved for M$

Suggesting there is something wrong with a software company because it makes money seems to be a blow in from 1990's militant open source philosophy and probably best left in the 1990s.

As I recall the M$ came about around the time when Microsoft engaged in rather questionable business tactics. They were the largest IT company and still played super hard ball. They deliberately did "embrace, extend and extinguish" various software/protocols to create lock-in to their own proprietary technologies (IE55/HTML. Kerberos/LDAP, AOL/IM) to further their market dominance.

At the time, the M$ acronym was IMO well earned. These days it appears to be different. Microsoft still has a large dominance on the desktop, but appears to not be playing quite as hard ball anymore. Stuff like NodeJS on Azure and VSCode would simply not have happened in the early 2000. Whether they actually changed, time will tell.

As for other companies deserving a derogatory acronym, I think you can measure these companies with:

1) How much do they actually subvert/interfere with standards and other companies inventions to gain/maintain their market dominance?

2) Do they at all innovate to deserve their market position and/or give back?

Without much analysis, I think Adobe may actually deserve an Adob$. Here you have a company that still almost every year change their proprietary binary formats (.PSD, .AI, etc) forcing an entire creative industry to spend a lot on software that have largely not had any significant innovation for the last 10-15 years (the functions in Photoshop/Illustrator have more or less remained the same).

And it is the same lock-in as Microsoft Office has/had, because even if you decide to operate your creative business using only alternative software, your clients and suppliers won't.

That has to be Adob€ honestly. Just throwing a dollar in there does not work for me :)

They are doing a public service for anyone reading their comments. Doesn't take much cognitive function to know you can ignore what they are saying if they use juvenile words like "M$" or "Crapple".

Right on.

> adob$ amaz$ face$ goog$ mailchim$ etc etc etc

It doesn't help that not one of your examples is replacing an 's' with a '$'.

Adob€ and Goog£€ have some potential though.

M$ will never, ever, be forgiven for the FUD that put OS in dire straits.

You don't need to forgive someone to accept that they have changed and that there are bigger problems.

If you hated MS in the '90s/'00s for what they did back then, you should have that same hatred right now, but not especially for MS but also for Apple and (to a lesser extent) Google.

Microsoft earned the ire directed at them for leveraging their power in the industry to make it hard for open source to thrive. If we're going to "go there," I'd argue that Oracle should be the recipient of any residual anger towards "old" Microsoft. They're the ones doing the most damage to open source for the past many years now.

Apple is the nail in the coffin. The coffin was ordered by M$.

But the battle, and the war, was lost long before Apple became the behemonth it is now. Apple did nothing to kill OS, it arrived when it was dead.

As for Google, they actually played a positive role back then. Whatever they do now, does not matter anymore. The window of oportunity closed long ago, and it was M$ who did it.

> they actually played a positive role back then

Stop living in the past. Do you just want to wallow in self-pity about what could have been or are you actually upset about real problems that are fixable?

Apple is halting progress of web standards right now. Apple is locking in users into its closed ecosystem (good luck trying to develop for iOS without macOS). Google and Facebook are "embracing, extending, extinguishing" the web (AMP, Instant Articles, PNaCl, etc). Even the W3C has bowed down to the copyright industry with proprietary window dressing in the name of DRM.

Not everything these companies do is evil, the attacks are far less orchestrated than those carried out by Microsoft back in the days, but they're happening and they're here.

If you just want to hate Microsoft for nostalgia's sake like the grumpy old vet who still can't get over how the US lost in Vietnam, that's fine. But don't pretend you care about principles if all you can do is hold a grudge against what was and don't give a fuck about what is.

I do not directly (the world is a complicated place) support, financially or otherwise, Apple or M$. I boycott them both whenever I get the chance.

I am relatively cool about Google.

I do not live in the past, but I still like to point out what happened, whenever I get the chance. They are solely to blame (with a minor role by Sun / SCO) of the mess we are in. As I already mentioned, Apple is simply evil, but is not to blame for the destruction of OS.

For me to change my mind about M$, BIG things should happen. I think the minor grievance of referring to them by M$ can be endured, even by sensitive bystanders.

I think the relevant issue with using a phrase like "M$" is it trivializes your argument. It makes your argument look childish, regardless of the actual content.

It's a good shortcut to properly summarize the previously stated arguments.

Those who know what we are talking about, understand that. If they nevertheless attack it as childish, even knowing that what lies behind is a complex story of ideology wars, propelled by lies and disinformation, are simply being dishonest.

Those who don't know what lies behind the symbolism, maybe care to inform themselves.

Then why phrase your argument in a way that discourages them from informing themselves (by encouraging them to perceive it as childish)? Unless your audience is explicitly to ignore those who don't already know and understand your argument.

I really don't understand the amount of debate using M$ has caused.

Its an off the cuff shorthand term.

The defensiveness of some people here is incredible.

Okay, so _you_ will never forgive them for that. I doubt that you can apeak for most of OSS.

I was pissed at the time, I've loathed them plenty. But corporations are not people, they are generally without morals, I never expected them to be or do good.

Now the leadership is different, the company mostly acts differently. I can still be vary of them but I'll applaud their good calls.

O$ is not in dire straits. No point in hating on them if that's the reason.

Without the forces that were pushed against OS for the good part of the 90s, it would have arguably taken over the software world.

In that situation, Apple would not have succeeded as a walled garden, as it has.

So, although OS-the-product is still going strong, OS-the-movement was effectively stopped on its tracks. Which is a very bad thing, in my opinion.

I'd argue the opposite. That OS-the-product hasn't actually succeeded because it doesn't have a business model that works. I'd guess about 0.000001% of open source projects actually make money (sure, maybe making money is not their goal, but it sure helps spread the word). Where as 100% of proprietary products make money - whether they make enough money is a separate issue ofcource ;)

I don't believe that the FUD from MS actually accomplished anything besides a very minor short term benefit where people didn't touch the GPL for legal reasons. Businesses are smart and they are very capable of figuring out what does and doesn't make money. Heck even Google figured out that being open is bad for business.

OS-the-movement OTOH is going strong. Its cool to have contributed to an open source project. Its cool to have all your work up on github. Its pretty much a gold star on your resume if you have a popular OSS project...

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