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Why There Will Never Be Another RedHat: The Economics of Open Source (2014) (techcrunch.com)
224 points by jayliew 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 213 comments





I feel that there is an inherent conflict of interest in the OSS support sales model. Hypothetically, if your software were really simple and robust (think standard unix utilities), nobody would pay for support. On the other end, if you have to deploy openstack, kubernetes, or any other stack with a lot of moving parts, you need support and personnel. So in a perverse way, it's in your interest to make complicated shit. In reality, it is perhaps not quite as bad, but I definitely feel that with a lot of projects for which RH is the sole upstream, the quality or elegance isn't quite there when compared to more traditional linux or unixy things which have more diverse upstreams. This manifests in systemd, freeipa, glusterfs etc. too. These are generally hard problems though. So it's not quite black and white.

> nobody would pay for support

That is really, really not the case. You don't pay for someone holding your hand. You pay for support because you either simply have the resources to do so or your business requires you to pay for the things you use.

If you need help setting up Kubernetes, glusterfs or something else you get help from a third party contractor. That's what we do.

You pay for support because your want someone to keep sending out security patches even if upstream should roll over, and you pay for Red Hat specifically because you want to have an upgrade schedule your business can adhere to (as opposed to when upstream feels like it).

Put another way, you pay for the privilege of having someone to sue.


>> you pay for support because you either simply have the resources to do so or your business requires you to pay for the things you use.

A nuance: many big businesses require that you pay for software you use, and part of what you are paying for is an indemnification via the vendor, which makes sense to purchase for big businesses with deep pockets https://www.scl.org/articles/3030-indemnity-and-limitation-o...


Companies also pay for support because after a few years the version of the open source product has moved on and nobody realizes the true cost of ownership does not end with the acquisition cost the company doesn't have the budget to upgrade. Thus they're 5 levels back and nobody in the Open Source community is interested in fixing old software. As an example, RedHat offers up to 9 years of support for Openshift. That's why companies pay for support.

https://www.ibm.com/support/knowledgecenter/en/SSC623_11.7.0...

edit: clarified acronym


Exactly this. A dev comes all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and says we can save a week on the project if we use this open source library instead of writing it ourselves. But he or she doesn't see that they are committing the organisation for the lifetime of the project for someone to keep on top of patches, resolve any breaking API changes, even fully maintain it if the original developer loses interest - or ditching it and writing our own anyway. There is a lot of great open source around, but it is by no means "free" when you look at the big picture. This is one of the key differences that marks a senior from a junior engineer. You can see the junior's eyes glaze over when you try to explain it and you know they'll be back next week begging to use something else they read about on Twitter or HN...

You also pay for support so that when your senior engineers all pack up and start their own business together you can ring somebody to keep your infrastructure running while you find more people with the right level of knowledge.

Except that's not really what break-fix support covers. Specifically, support doesn't typically touch your infrastructure; it provides advice, documentation and patches which a local team needs to actually implement.

Advice is the key here. If you're in a situation where literally your entire team goes then you've probably got bigger problems, but when you lose some key people having professional support available to guide your juniors is beyond useful.

I find this attitude really tiring. I'm a contractor and I work with people all the time who feel like they must avoid improving anything because if they do they'll be out of a job. It's nonsense. It's the same as the luddites that think robots will tale all the jobs. There will always be something new (and more fun to do) than maintaining broken systems and processes.

I have been in a couple slightly dicey situations but overall have found that there are always other things I’d like to have time to do if I didn’t spend so much energy babysitting a shitty tool or process.

You find out frequently that people who use the tool have ten things they never asked for because the tools don’t even handle basic common sense concerns. It feels like asking for a pony, possibly from a neglectful parent.

You fix a few things and get labeled as clever or useful. People come to you with more stuff and it expands your grasp of the organization. For me this strategy has opened up leadership opportunities.

You can still be laid off but everybody else will wonder who was the idiot who got rid of the person who was keeping the ship afloat.


> fix a few things and get labeled as clever or useful. People come to you with more stuff and it expands your grasp of the organization,...

Yes, but it's not really a satisfying work experience!

> who was the idiot who got rid of the person who was keeping the ship afloat

the same that chose the shitty tool for a shitty strategy in the first place


> Yes, but it's not really a satisfying work experience!

I dunno, I like it when people come to me with problems they need solved. You get to work with a stimulating variety of issues, get to meet more of your coworkers and earn their gratitude, and there's a real satisfaction in knowing that people see you as a capable problem-solver. I'd actually really enjoy having a job as "the guy who makes the tools work better for everyone else."


Indeed, solving problems is my favorite part of my job; the issue is more along the lines of not being able to spend more time improving things, and wasting time fixing other people's git mistakes, carrying boxes of server components up 5 flights of stairs because all the elevators are broken, sitting through meetings re-explaining the same things as 6 months ago, because no one takes notes.

> Yes, but it's not really a satisfying work experience!

I think that comes down to your disposition. I find meetings and scope negotiation very energy draining but one in one problem solving doesn’t tax me that much. As long as I’m not spinning plates when you come up to me I can usually stop what I’m doing and get back to it later.

Hard to solve problems often conceal architectural problems or irreversible decisions and I’d rather be involved long before it becomes intractable.


there will always be something to do because once software A is so easy to use anyone can do it, you can jump to support software B that isn't there yet.

But if you poured resources in A with the hope of making supporting A your bread and butter, and A is so easy to use no one needs help, well, you kind of wasted your time and money, UNLESS you managed to make it so popular that the 5% of people who still need help anyway are enough to keep you afloat. That's hard though.


This isn't necessarily true in the enterprise. At our company we buy support for everything we use, whether we need the support or not. It's more like insurance, which also helps to break out of the O(N) scaling that people think goes along with the support business model.

Yeah I really think this is the most important point. In an enterprise environment it's almost more important to be able to point at who is responsible for supporting a product as it is for the product to actually work. The due diligence of any purchasing decision will always involve 'and what if it goes wrong'- especially since most enterprise companies will involve legal when getting approval for the use of OSS.

Large companies sometimes don't actually 'do' any of their own IT work. There are layers of SLA's across data centers and applications, spread across multiple vendors, contractors, etc.

Everything must have a legal contract that specifies support terms, penalties, etc. Large company's motives are risk avoidance to ensure profits for shareholders.

Basically companies will pay a premium to have someone they can call and yell at if something goes sideways. Usually corporate finance departments have no logistical way to accept a reimbursement from a vendor for missing a SLA but they like to put clauses like that in a contract.

The other part is the professional services arm tied to the sales process. RH can provide experts that only they can provide - they are the ones writing the code sometimes. Other companies like Oracle have professional services but I doubt they are committers on the products being sold.


One of the ways I poke fun at the Apache foundation is to point out that their online documentation is vague and uninspiring, and then poof the lead maintainers write an Oreilly book that explains all the whys and hows and whats.

Documentation doesn't exist to explain concepts and give tutorials so much as document functionality and possibly show examples of use.

Why not? Document functionality and possibly showing examples is great (in general I'm a big advocate for examples), but those don't preclude explaining concepts.

Some of the best documentation I've experienced covers concepts, some of the worst doesn't.


I think one of the best reasons is because for users that have some experience with the technology want to be able to quickly find the documentation they're interested in. Can this API do X, for instance. And if it can what is required, what is optional and what are the ranges for values.

I don't want to wade through lots of text and other clutter. I'd much rather have a tutorial or training be a different thing I can use when new to the technology.


Those are valid points, but that just means the API documentation and the concept documentation should largely be separate documents, not that the documentation doesn't belong. In the best cases a link over to relevant concept docs from API and vice-versa is great, and occasionally enlightens even hardened devs ("wait, there's an API to do this directly?", "Wait, this concept was added and streamlined in the 3 years since I first used this product?", etc)

It really doesn’t take that much extra work to explain why someone should care about the existence of a function. But it makes a huge difference in how approachable the library is, and how easy it is to learn (for instance, is this even the function I’m looking for?)

I think there can be different types of documentation (tutorials, reference, explanation, how-to guides). I came across this article a while back that goes over different categories and always re-read it when I know I'm going to have to write a bunch of documentation for something and always find it helpful to really think about the type that I need to write. In regards to the poster you replied to I think Oreilly books are in the explanation category of documentation instead of the traditional reference kind found online.

The article I'm referring to: https://www.divio.com/blog/documentation/


Documentation is a moving target. Depending on your project, you often have to mix background explanations with code samples. Fields evolve. New people show up. Documentation can never really be good enough. Books provide a way of filling in certain gaps in a structured way that gives people more background. Often times, people expect documentation to do more than this. I tend to agree with you, but it's not what end users end up needing a lot of the time.

Books are incredibly cheap, you pay for the editor &c more than for the author for most tech books.

Oreilly author and project lead for an open source eclipse foundation (apache style project though!) project that runs a company. Happy to answer questions here about the how/what/why this happens.

OSS funding and documentation quality are problems I think about semi-regularly. A few questions I have are:

1) Is the model of keeping software open but education material closed a necessary compromise to fund the project?

1.b) If so, have you explored other funding models that weren’t viable?

2) How is the experience of publishing through OReilly? Do they take considerable profit shares? Do they provide editors, advertising, and/or other valuable services? Essentially are they worth it?


1) Yes I think incentive structures are a part of it. For us as authors,I know I typically think about the website very differently than the book. Having an editor peer review also helps keep me focused. What you find with a lot of open source coders, they tend not to always be good writers (me included). My book is 530 pages and took 2.5 years to crank out in between new releases. My company funded the book's development more as a loss leader. Authors don't make crap from the royalites. You're better selling it as part of a larger package such as training or support.

2. You have to know the right people. Go to the conferences and ask them. It took a long time. The profit shares aren't much. I more did it for the exposure at their conferences. We found it to be worth it as part of a larger package and networking with others in the field more than anything else. The notoriety has really helped as well. It's a lot of work, but definitely worth it if you can get it. Just be ready to put in a metric ton of work.


Kind of like professors writing difficult to reproduce papers, then explaining everything in the textbook (which they also assign to their students...)

Do you have any specific examples of this? It doesn’t seem super common that a paper that would be significant enough to make it through peer review would also appeal to the wider/beginner-to-intermediate-level audience of a textbook.

Making complex buggy software is the default. It is really, really hard to write simple, robust software.

wrong angle. Would you prefer to be an unknown/invisible/unappreciated manager of a small team writing simple robust software or to be a highly visible and valuable (S)VP of an organization developing a buggy complex equivalent of that simple robust software? I've observed the same answer to that modern Hamlet's question everywhere around me through all these years at the BigCo-s :)

In my experience, all developers sincerely believe in writing simple, robust software, and firmly believe they are implementing simple, robust software.

However, almost none of them (myself included) succeed at it, not even close.


When you assume inherent complexity exists, and competition exists, it works out fine. The consumers will always require some support for any complex OSS, but they want to minimize it (by finding OSS with reduced accidental complexity). OSS are incentivized to increase accidental complexity, but they’re capped by reputation and competition.

Of course, you can work around the core incentives (eg by marketing), and a lack of competition changes everything (consumers take whatever they can get, producers sell as high as they possibly can without bankrupting the consumer), but in a well-behaving market it should be fine.

Your RH-upstreams examples can probably be sufficiently explained by lack of competition, due to a captured market. Which isn’t behavior specific to OSS, but to every market. Notably, breaking RH’s stranglehold would be naturally easier than say apple’s


But that exact conflict of interest exists in closed source support models too. It exists for any company that wants to sell a support service. And it relies on the supporters being small-minded enough that they'd rather have a 1% market in 100 people than a 0.01% market of 1,000,000.

The incentive you identify only goes away if the software is a product with no support - and then businesses won't buy it, because there is no support.


> Hypothetically, if your software were really simple and robust (think standard unix utilities), nobody would pay for support.

Yeah but reality shows that standard unix utilities are not used by the majority of people. So many people use unix based systems, especially macOS which has much more simple/bare-bones tools than GNU/Linux and still few people do read man pages for instance


Disclaimer: Your concern is exactly what pays my salary. Take what I say with a grain of salt.

I typically see this attitude at the developer level, but the line of business never sees it like that. Devs don't have incentive to care about these things. They also just want to deal with the vendor.

What you sell is more "insurance" and a guaranteed timeline on bug fixes/releases.

As someone who supports OSS, why should you be able to demand I ship something on a certain schedule if you're not paying me? If it's a business transaction, then there's a contract and aligned incentives on both sides.

Taking this a step further, this is usually not enough which is why we then see open core business models like elastic search, gitlab, (and also my company skymind) selling a combination of support + licensing.


I think of it the other way. "I get paid X amount a month to guarantee support. How do I reduce my support costs? Oh I know, I'll make my product easier to use." Kind of like insurance companies who spend effort to figure out a way to make your activities safer.

Of course if they made it perfectly easy they would be out of a job since the software is free. But so long as it's within a certain margin it works out.


I kind of feel like we need a PBS of software. We have a few things that partly fill in that gap (Apache, Mozilla) but leave a lot to be desired.

I work for a large insurance company that has a large RHEL deployment. We don't buy support really, it's just licenses to use with support attached. We'd use Centos in a heartbeat but Oracle and IBM won't support Centos. Our managers know the value for the support isn't really worth it, but it's about two factors: having someone on the other line to yell at when things go pear shaped, and also having teflon armor in case another manager uses an incident as ammunition in a fight for prestige.

As the article explains the real problem with that model is that selling software is scalable - but support is not. So a support business will never have the same margins as a software selling business - and will not be able to invest in the software the same money.

See Apache Spark.

It is powerful, but was never made remotely easy to set up or administer. They finished it and called it Databricks.


One thing we could do, if we wanted, is to build a society focused on automating away jobs. Such a society would not rely on people to work for its function, but on the labor of machines.

In such a place, people would be free to work as hard as they want for additional gain. They could also, however, take as much time off as they desired to go to school, learn on their own, spend more time with loved ones, or just relax and explore life in their own way.

In such a society, I think many people would be motivated to give their labor to open source projects. I think the machines that run such a society would necessarily be open source, and many people could give back to society by contributing to the design and improvement of the machines that provide for us all.

What do you all think of this? Would you want to live in a place like that?


“Automating away jobs” is like “harvesting away corn”.

Sure you can delete someone’s job. But you just leave a job-shaped hole in the person that then goes and finds a new purpose. It only seems like a disappearance for the season, and then you find something new growing there.

The idea that we are anywhere near “doing all the work” is batshit. We are presently doing maybe 1% of the work that needs doing. You could automate the entire economy 50 times and still have 50 more careers waiting for the globe’s population.

Bioremediation in he wake of climate change alone could occupy an entire generation of earth humans. Mental health another. Building permaculture cities will be the work of an entire generation. None of those things will be amenable to robot labor.


I don’t think we’re close to doing all the work, and I don’t want to automate all work. I want to automate away jobs. Those things society relies on from everyone to function.

The point is that a society that requires everyone to work all the time sucks for a lot of people - particularly those at the bottom. We can and I believe should build a world where working a job is optional. I fully expect people would still work a lot, but it would be optional in the sense that their basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, access to computers and internet) would be provided to them by society.

It is certainly possible to build this. And many people want it. The key, I think, is to build the system based on voluntary interaction. Find people who are willing to help support others and then have those people collectively drive the cost of that support down through engineering.

I’m not trying to eliminate work. You can never eliminate work. I want to eliminate jobs.


> Bioremediation ...

but who is going to want to pay for such things? The whole reason "jobs" exists is that it's a task somebody wanted done, and is willing to pay some resources for it.


> What do you all think of this? Would you want to live in a place like that?

Yes, but you're going to need to have the political capital to ratchet down the work week and split productivity gains with labor and capital. That does not exist yet, and without it, the advances you speak of will be used to funnel more wealth to the top.

Disclaimer: I am active on the political side, and will be running for office in the next federal Congressional election cycle. Drop me a line if you want to chat on how we can work together to obviate the need to work down the road; that's the future I want for everyone.


> Disclaimer: I am active on the political side, and will be running for office in the next election cycle.

You should make an announcement or something for us in HN (when the time comes)! I'm sure there would be quite a lot of people here to support your candidature.


Don't we already have a world where machines are the ones producing our needs? There's that Discovery Channel series called "How it's Made" where you see it's practically all robots. Do you agree?

> and without it, the advances you speak of will be used to funnel more wealth to the top.

All the technologies for mass production so far has indeed funneled to the top huh? And this I believe has also slowed down advancement in technology (unless it's something that is very profitable).

> split productivity gains with labor and capital

You'll be called Socialist. Giving what the laborers deserve is Socialism. "Share the means of production!"

However, the fact that Bernie had a following is a good indicator. There's also Corbin whom is pushing for a 'right to own' policy.


> Don't we already have a world where machines are the ones producing our needs? There's that Discovery Channel series called "How it's Made" where you see it's practically all robots. Do you agree?

I don't agree, in that we haven't gone far enough with regards to automation. It's still much too expensive, putting it out of reach of anyone without deep pockets or access to capital markets.

> All the technologies for mass production so far has indeed funneled to the top huh? And this I believe has also slowed down advancement in technology (unless it's something that is very profitable).

The majority of productivity gains has been captured by capital, yes: https://i.stack.imgur.com/iCTuo.jpg (the dismantling of labor unions in the US is also a contributor to wages being held down, but that is out of scope for this comment)

> You'll be called Socialist. Giving what the laborers deserve is Socialism. "Share the means of production!"

I identify as a Democratic Socialist politically. The distinction is important.


This is exactly the kind of utopia so many of us today are trying to build.

There are many points of entry: Using FLOSS for governments, for schools, releasing all government funded code, etc.


Absolutely! I’d like to go farther, and imagine how we could reinvent society if we had high quality open source automation hardware in addition to open source software. Open source software has paved the way and now I’m excited to see what open source robotics combined with the right attitudes can do.

Ever watch 'the jetsons'?

Generation or so back in the USA that was the the general over-the-rainbow vision of where technology would take us.

The robots would do the work while people would afford more time to spend on leisure/artistic oriented lifestyles.


We could have that today. All our money is getting dumped into arms races. If we:

1. Put a 1000% tax on advertising spending.

2. Taxed property at a much higher rate, but gave each person a basic income.

3. Set a ceiling for the ratio of funds that education institutes can spend on non-professor things. (At least here in Canada they waste most of the money on things that don't actually teach skills, they just look impressive or market the university in some other way.)

4. Set caps on how much individual patents or works of art could earn before they lost financial protected status.

5. Set corporate taxes as a function of in-country sales and total affiliated market cap.

6. Punished corporate region shopping for tax havens and other advantages with trade agreements.

7. Made public healthcare optimize on happy person-years saved and with emphasis on prevention.

8. Make more areas that are 7 storeys tall so people can walk or bike to get their daily things.

9. Set high taxes on cars and invested in high speed city-to-city trains.

Then we'd have houses that were safe, but affordable. Cities that had some quiet areas, but were dense enough to be viable for everyone. Great education via well-paid professors and TAs. Reasonable returns in investments in technology and art, without Walt Disney and other soulless corporations milking the same characters year after year. Products that competed mostly on quality instead of advertising.

Instead we have almost the opposite. Nobody can afford anything because property gets sucked up into mortgage fuelled bubbles and in classes of 100 people where each person is paying $40k per year after subsidies we have professors and TAs struggling to get grants to fund their research.

Why? A single course for a four month term is $350–$500k worth of product. Where did all the money go?

Same place all the money always goes: Competition for the best students to get the best reputation to get the best students to get the best...


Funding everything with taxes concentrated power in a government that then becomes a honeypot to be abused by the wealthy. I absolutely do not think that is a good way forward.

A world with no governments would merely use corporations for the same purpose.

It doesn't have to be either/or. You can have a government that's only big enough to keep corporations in check (e.g. by actively busting anything that gets too large), but no bigger than that.

It's reasonable to worry about the wealthy abusing their position in government, but there should be separate fixes for that. It's not like we worry about the power-hungry trying to take over the military in modern societies.

Also, I don't believe in high taxes across the board and funding everything with the government. I primarily want the state to stop arms races. It's not like I want them to take over shoe manufacturing, for example.


I'd vote for this platform

I grew up watching the Jetsons! Now I want to make it a reality.

Human beings, at least some of them, crave power. How would one such human behave in a system such as this? How would a group? Could a system be designed to be relient against this threat, at scale?

While it's nice to think of a FLOSS utopia, unfortunately human behaviour will never allow it to happen.


I used to be pessimistic about it too. I think it will happen in a proper way in some places, in others it will be used as a tool to amass more power, as the human nature implies it will.

But the silver lining is that we are creating a collective conciousness through tools like the internet. Humans can naturally create this collective sentient being when forming a tribe for instance. Our problem, in our particular point of history of civilization, was always the problem of scale.

Now with the internet we are again able to form this collective mind in a bigger scale. We are still in the infancy of this process, and thats why this collective is acting as a dumb giant. But I think that as we evolve in this process, this collective mind will get more sophisticated. And soon we will be able to collectivelly control whats best for the greater good, trying to repel all hostile movements that could try to control the resources to the benefit of a few.

The problem is: it will take a lot of fight to get there, some of us will fall, but i believe that some of us will get there first.


> Could a system be designed to be relient against this threat, at scale?

It's a problem that ethereum.org is working on. They have an mvp, but not yet ready to scale.

But one can argue that the internet has enabled some of that utopia. And the printing press from the point of view of those who weren't allowed to read. Yes the Church didn't want people to learn how to read, but humans have prevailed. Hopefully we can solve current problems before the Doomsday clock reaches midnight.


We make the robots do the resilience for us.

Whenever some human has amassed more power over others, and a group feels ill, the robots solve the problem.

All such a robot would have to do is apply current laws, facebook is too big, google is too powerful, banks are bankrypt, robot just swings the hammer the elected politicians failed to do.


Who controls the robots?

Sounds like an inevitable war or gort.

I only can think of simple, basic ways: promote different values and make socially unacceptable to be the one who carves for subsuming the others.

I sometimes feel like if we could just make volunteer labor tax deductible, we could get part way to this place.

For some projects a couple hours of my time might be more valuable to everybody than the twenty bucks I’m willing to donate. And ten hours a week would increase your take home pay by about 6%, versus working 50-60 a week for your employer for a slightly bigger raise.


That society will not exist. People derive meaning from work. Ambition also drives personal development. You take those away and all a person has left is self-medication with drugs and booze and suicide. We need the struggle.

The comment above said that you work for "additional gain".

The parent comment didn't want to get rid of work. Just focus open source work improving robots that did the jobs we used to.

All of human desires for competition and struggle would still be catered to.


>All of human desires for competition and struggle would still be catered to.

Maybe. This discussion is a little abstract, but if OP is proposing a system where there is an outlet for ambition that lets crazy people push themselves to raise themselves above others, then I have no qualms against that. The problem is that such a system is going to look a lot like capitalism or some sort of market-economy (maybe with a social welfare state). That is, such as a system is going to to look like either our society, or it will be a disaster like Venezuela (in the extreme) or Argentina and Brazil.

You point me to a past, or present society that is a model for what OP is trying to argue for?


Obviously I don't condone this.. but a good example would be White Slave owning society in the United States pre 1860.

Most of the "labor" on a plantation was done by slaves which will be very similar to the automated labor provided by robots of the future.

But those slave owners still had jobs to do, they were still competitive with each other. They still used money and tried to acquire more wealth.

Sparta was a neat example too. Menial labor was provided by slaves, but Spartan Citizens competed with each other for military honors and societal placement.


>a good example would be White Slave owning society in the United States pre 1860.

Wow. Ok. Setting aside the humanitarian disaster that the South was in the 1800s, here's some qualification to your example:

- The South was poor, much poorer than the North, both in economic and technological advancement.

- The vast majority of Southerners were NOT slave owners. Meaning that Southern society was extremely stratified with wealth concentrated with a relatively small number of plantation owners. So your example is more inline with a bunch of rich people hanging out together.

But your example does touch on the actual deep problem with automation. The Southerners that prospered under Slavery did so because they owned most of the capital (land and slaves), but the poor non-plantation-owning population still had to work to provide for themselves! Under a cynical (but realistic) views on automation, we expect to see owners of the automatons do great, but what of the masses? Bolting either UBI or increasing our social welfare state is not a solution, because redistribution of wealth is not the core problem (we know how to redistribute wealth - with plenty of examples from modern market economies with social welfare, to less-market/more-socialist attempts as exemplified by your traditional Soviet-style economies). The problem is we don't know how to run a society where the vast majority of people have nothing to do.


I mostly agree with this and I’d add: work does not have to be a “job”. Work can be your family, it can be art, and it can also be exploring the universe. I think Star Trek captures this idea very well.

People tell me this all the time - work is vital to human happiness so we’d better keep buying in to a system that holds the threat of disaster and starvation over our heads if we don’t work.

I have full faith that if work is this valuable, we’ll do it voluntarily. I cannot believe the fantasy that we have to be forced to work or we’ll be miserable. Humans are way too intelligent to just sit there getting more and more miserable because they don’t have to work. Yes, people coming from a capitalist society usually don’t know what to do when their work goes away. But people in a society where no one needs to work will find things to do. Maybe they’ll repair motorcycles as a way of finding Zen.

There is a lot of work we can do that is not focused on economic productivity. In a world where people don’t have to work to survive, they choose what they do. Some will waste away, just as some do now. Most will not.


> Humans are way too intelligent to just sit there getting more and more miserable because they don’t have to work.

We have multitude of examples of populations with generational unemployment, accompanied by crime and drug use even though basic necessities are provided for by the larger welfare state. We see that with rich trust fund kids who also degenerate into drug use, crime, and suicide and are shitty people too.

>Yes, people coming from a capitalist society usually don’t know what to do when their work goes away.

This is not a capitalist thing. This is a human thing. Many people (not all mind you) need some pressure to push themselves ... because if not you can always find a way to fill your time with drugs. I don't think I could survive in a society where you don't have to do anything.

My second point was that you need an outlet for ambition because there are people who will push themselves extraordinarily hard in order to raise themselves, and their families above others - in those cases material wealth is major a factor in that even if there are other goals (like saving the environment, or improving patient outcomes). Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk are examples, startup founders are too, and even immigrants are examples of that. My father left an eastern european communist nation to work (much harder) in a western capitalist democracy even though though his country did not suffer from political instability, nor was it the case the he could not provide food or shelter for his family. Within certain constraints you could live a comfortable life, and yet, a third of the country left over 50 years.

>But people in a society where no one needs to work will find things to do.

Again, we have many many examples where that isn't the case. I can't think of a SINGLE example that illustrates this however (even under communism, it was illegal not to work)


Nah, we'll have more interesting Github projects if we stop writing the same software over and over again.

People will do creative things.

Ambition will exist even if the useless work we do today (getting clients richer with more software).

Related - Interview of Noam Chomsky regarding Work:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcBLCBxq1k8


>Nah, we'll have more interesting Github projects

Would we? Many (most?) people push themselves not only to satisfy some abstract goal (save the environment, build the best widget for industry X to improve efficiency, etc.) - and that's great, but the material wealth is a major component of that. This is literally the startup culture that resulted in the biggest corporations on the planet. It was a bunch of people who wanted to change the world for the better, with wealth being a secret (or not so secret) secondary goal. This also explains economic immigrants, or anybody who decides they want more than they have and so push themselves to get it.

Also, why is Noam Chomsky an expert on everything? I understand he is a brilliant linguist, but what could somebody who self-identifies as an Anarchist could add to a reasonable political discussion? That is, his political ideas are clearly crazy and so his political reasoning is suspect because who the hell could think Anarchism is a good idea. Anarchism is an unworkable utopia that manifests itself as warlord-based tribal disaster akin to what is happening in Somalia and Afghanistan with warlords holding all power in a region, or El Salvador and Honduras with gangs and crime.

What special credentials or expertise give him insight into work?


Well you already said it yourself. It is but a secondary goal. Those that do things worthwhile do it because it is worthwhile, however they understand that we live in a capitalist world where you don't eat if you don't profit.

Only the investors (or gamblers) are in it for money.

> This is literally the startup culture that resulted in the biggest corporations on the planet.

So you think having these corporations are good for us? These are simply big because it allowed gamblers to take a share in the pie. Once the actual people who truly want something worthwhile happen leaves, then we are left with Oracle or Balmer.

> Anarchism is an unworkable utopia that manifests itself as warlord-based tribal disaster akin to what is happening in Somalia and Afghanistan with warlords holding all power in a region, or El Salvador and Honduras with gangs and crime.

What do you really think Anarchism simply means chaos? It's like talking to this person then:

https://pics.me.me/i-dont-know-what-marxism-is-but-letmetell...

> What special credentials or expertise give him insight into work?

His credentials doesn't matter. What matters is what he said.


>they understand that we live in a capitalist world where you don't eat if you don't profit.

... I disagree.

>Only the investors (or gamblers) are in it for money.

I think you're severely downplaying the incentives that material wealth and ambition and wanting to rise above others, have on people's behaviour. It doesn't matter whether the person is a startup founder raised in a rich, upper-class household, a gang member from the 'hood', or an 'economic' immigrant (i.e. not a refugee) resettling in an another country, this same base incentive drives all them. In all three cases, the individuals have their basic necessities provided for, but they choose to struggle because they want more.

>What do you really think Anarchism simply means chaos?

That's the colloquial understanding but that wasn't why I made my pont. The utopian Anarchism (as described by the 'Anarchist FAQ'[1] which was my introduction to Anarchism) isn't actually that far from the colloquial understanding. In practice there is no mechanism under Anarchism to prevent violence, and there is all the incentive to engage in gang and tribal warfare (why farm, when you and your friends can go beat-up the hippy farming commune for their supplies). The typical Anarchist answer to this is that under their utopia people would simply not do that because they only do that today because they are brainwashed by capitalism. OK. SURE. Good luck with that. You may think I'm strawmanning that position, but think again, this theme that every single vice of humanity is only there because of Capitalism comes up in Anarchist writings all the time. And you're doing the same thing! You attribute common attributes of humanity, that cross cultures and history, to a socio-political system that was only in existence for 200 years. This is just utopian thinking, not reasonable thinking, and this is why your view isn't taken seriously outside of internet forums populated by like-minded people.

>His credentials doesn't matter. What matters is what he said.

Right. And what he says is pretty dumb.

[1]https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/the-anarchist-faq-ed...


Go on believing this fallacy, but please don't work to enslave the rest of us in service to this obsolete idea

The parent may or may not be right about work being necessary to for a meaningful life. I don't have a strong opinion either way [1].

What matters more to me is that we are just so far away from all the important work being "done". As long as there are sick people, people in physical or emotional pain, people needing better housing or better education or any form of improvement to their lives, and as long as the global population has yet to figure out how to exist without harming the environment, there will be work to be done, much of it of great importance and urgency.

This idea that we are within reach of all the important work being "done" so we can all just live a life of leisure seems fanciful to me; I haven't heard anyone propose a realistic pathway to bring about that version of reality - at least not one that doesn't just rely on handwavy concepts from science fiction.

I'd be happy for you to point me to any solid material on this if I'm missing something.

[1] I personally think all kinds of things can give people meaning, and those things may be considered "work" by some people and not by others (E.g., caring for loved ones, learning to create art, or indeed, writing open-source software), so it quickly becomes a futile debate over definitions.


Its not black and white. Currently folks have lives all over the map - from working retail, fry cook, desk jockey, doctor, engineer. Then there are the underemployed. Some folks could be 'ramped down' now with a UBI that frees them from make-work drudgery. Others will find the UBI insufficient and keep working. It could actually be adjusted to tune the workforce to available work.

Later, its true even some engineering, doctoring, lawyering (wait that happened already) jobs will be automated too, and those folks will find the UBI useful.

Its a strawman that work just comes to a halt at some date.


>make-work drudgery

"Make work drudgery" will still need to be be done by someone.

>its true even some engineering, doctoring, lawyering (wait that happened already) jobs will be automated too, and those folks will find the UBI useful.

How?! How will they find UBI useful? It is really frustrating to hear people argue that UBI solves problems that it does not actually solve.

UBI has no answer to automation. For one thing our current welfare state can already provide the basic necessities (for example, nobody ever starves in developed economies), and we can keep adapting it as things change. What we don't know is how we can have a functioning society where the majority of the population doesn't need to do anything.

UBI also has no answer for third world countries which have no capital to drain on a social spending. How is UBI going to work with failed states like Congo? Or Somalia? Or a developing nation like Bangledash? How is immigration going to work? Right now there is an economic case that developed nations can make for new immigrants, but in a fully automated world immigration is ONLY charity since every immigrant you take in will be a drain on your social system and provide no contributions back.

UBI is also ill-defined. Libertarians think UBI will replace our social welfare state (including healthcare system). Progressives, Leftists and Socialists will NEVER EVER agree to that. At best, they may see it as a complement to the existing welfare state.

So what problems is UBI actually solving for us?


Oh come on - make-work is defined as 'something that doesn't have to be done'. Lets get on the same page here.

Everybody needs to do something. But we're not all brainwashed drones that only live for work. This is getting ridiculous. What do we do when we leave work? Go to a game, play on a team, socialize with friends, help a buddy renovate her garage, fool with our car.

The world doesn't collapse every Friday after work as it is. We muddle along somehow until Monday morning.

And who is resisting now, is not any kind of argument for who will go along in the future. It may take 30 years for the old farts with the almost religious work ethic to fade away (grow old and die), but it will definitely happen.

Society isn't going to fall flat if we don't have to sit in a chair for 8 hours, 5 days a week. Just the opposite.


>Society isn't going to fall flat if we don't have to sit in a chair for 8 hours, 5 days a week.

Why not?

Has there ever been a functioning society where the vast majority of the population did not have to work for a living and all their needs were provided by a massive central bureaucracy?

Why is it so obvious that such a society would work given that we also have many examples of populations (within existing societies) that suffer from multitude of social ills when their basic needs are provided by the welfare state but no jobs are available.

>But we're not all brainwashed drones that only live for work.

What brainwashing??!?!? You make it seem like working for a living was invented last week. This has been the reality for all of human history.


Some comments back, automation is making large numbers of people irrelevant. That's why not, and its been mentioned again and again.

FUD and naysaying isn't the same thing as informed argument. Lets table this for now, and maybe read up on the subject some?


>and maybe read up on the subject some?

You don't have to ask me for permission - you're a free individual, do what you want.


UBI to me, should be understood as like receiving dividends like how rich people does today. They simply go to their mailbox and voila, money. I can now work on my GPL'ed 2D game in Java. Or work on free software projects for human sustainability.

The problem however will still remain. The Capitalism system encourages businesses to work for profit mindlessly, and so we have invoked Oracle from the depths of hell. And a demagogue who can possibly tweet us into nuclear annihilation.

Prices will keep increasing and economist will confuse us by calling it 'inflation' and put a bunch of fantasy-based math to delude themselves. The money I got from the mailbox won't be enough to afford me a much need vacation to unwind. And so I will have to gamble my meager UBI money into buying shares, insurance, retirement etc.. Then the corporations will keep exploiting the countries you mentioned, sending firearms to fanatics while extracting resources like oil.

The answer? There is no guaranteed answer I believe. There are simply just too many moving global variables. With that said, I found the idea of worker-owned-cooperatives to be one good path to improvement. The idea is for employees to own the corporation and vote upon what to do with the profits. Ofc, this will require maturity of the employees just like how Agile requires that the team members to be seasoned in building software. The Mondragon umbrella of cooperatives is a good case study of this working in scale. Not perfect but still a success. The worker-owners used the profit to build a school, compensate for the effects of recession etc. Prof. Richard Wolff whom ironically is an Economist himself has been working hard to push this idea.


>I can now work on my GPL'ed 2D game in Java.

You know you can have today, if you want to. You can go on food-stamps and make use of the plethora of social programs to provide your basic necessities and then you can spend your days writing your 2D game engine in Java. ... But you won't do that. And we both know why.

>The Capitalism system encourages businesses to work for profit mindlessly, and so we have invoked Oracle from the depths of hell.

OK. So this is where hysterics start against the best socio-political system we have developed. And you do agree with that, right? That the modern iteration of capitalism (i.e. a market-economy with democratic government oversight and social safety net) is the best system we have ever tried?

>The Mondragon umbrella of cooperatives is a good case study of this working in scale.

I have nothing against Mondragon or worker-owned coops in general, but ownership structure doesn't really change anything. The core challenge that people have with Capitalism is 'creative destructive' because it means constant change, and change is always hard. If you've been making horse-and-buggy wheels for 20 years and you've been put out of business by automobiles, it doesn't matter whether you're employed by a Capitalist corp or a co-op - it is still hard. So worker-owned coop doesn't solve this or any problem. In fact, I'm not even sure what problem it does solve.


> plethora of social programs to provide your basic necessities and then you can spend your days writing your 2D game engine in Java. ... But you won't do that. And we both know why.

And that is because these basic necessities is not enough. To be human is to have family and travel (in economy not in business class).

> OK. So this is where hysterics start against the best socio-political system we have developed. And you do agree with that, right? That the modern iteration of capitalism (i.e. a market-economy with democratic government oversight and social safety net) is the best system we have ever tried?

Doesn't mean it is good enough. And you do agree with that, right? Feudalism, Caste System, Slavery, Central Planning, Capitalism, Church control. One replacing the other. And with less centralized power, we get a better system.

> and you've been put out of business by automobiles, it doesn't matter whether you're employed by a Capitalist corp or a co-op - it is still hard.

Well during 2008 recession. One of the big products of Mondragon was creating Washing Machines. Then demand suddenly fell, and they had to lay-off man-power like many other Capitalist corps. However because their policies was made democratically, they have handled it better than traditional Capitalist corps.

Any excess worker of the Washing Machine Cooperative (remember Mondragon is a group of many Co-ops) is offered two options:

1) Keep their membership in Mondragon. Company will re-skill you and get you to work in another coop. Any additional commute time will be compensated by the company.

2) Retire early. You get your retirement benefits. And parting compensation.

Mondragon, since they are not servant to investors can afford to do this. The profits are used for the workers, not for the 1% capitalists. Oh and by the way, compensation for managers and CEOs are only several times the lowest salary. Unlike your capitalist corps where CEOs get a bajillion times more than the avg salary. The key is in the details.


Looks like 1917 russian revolution to me... no, thank you.

There were two revolutions in Russia in 1917.

If you mean the communist one, then their program was rather different, and included things such as "dictatorship of the proletariat".


This seems like the natural conclusion of a welfare state, not a capitalist society.

Capitalists are not workers. You can create this utopian society by distributing capital in a way that all individuals have their basic needs provided. At that point everyone is a capitalist and is free to pursue whatever interests they desire.

Note that all economic systems are concerned with distribution of resources so the idea of distributing capital is not unique to a "welfare state".


> You can create this utopian society by distributing capital in a way that all individuals have their basic needs provided

This is currently not even close to possible based on our current technology level. In order for everyone to have their basic needs provided for free we would need full automation for all of these things:

* all of healthcare * all of food production * all of shelter construction and maintenance * all energy generation * all transportation * all waste disposal * all water collection and treatment * maintenance of the things that automate all of the above

Given that this is not the scenario now, countries are forced to tax the currently economically productive people to pay for some of these things for those not currently participating in the economy.

There is no country in the world that provides all of these things for free to all citizens because there would be no incentive for anyone to do the work to support all of the basic needs. It's already hard enough to incentivize people to work to support the economy when they have to do it in exchange for food/shelter/transportation.

>Capitalists are not workers

This is completely false. Anyone with a retirement account or money sitting in a bank earning interest is a capitalist. Even as a worker with no money earning growth, you are a capitalist selling your own labor/skills/time.


Your definition of "capitalist" does not seem to bear much relation to the ideas of Adam Smith. Also, you added a clause ("for free") to the statement you responded to, then argued against it. This is disingenuous and invalid as a form of argument.

> Given that this is not the scenario now, countries are forced to tax the currently economically productive people to pay for some of these things for those not currently participating in the economy.

It's at least as valid to say that capitalism is incorrect in valuing people only in relation to the value of their labor. We have massive social and financial structures to subsidize students, because we recognize that activity has a great deal of future value to individuals, nations, and the world at large. We provide a great deal of support to mothers, and the elderly, because societies are more than just economic engines.

> There is no country in the world that provides all of these things for free to all citizens because there would be no incentive for anyone to do the work to support all of the basic needs.

Contradicted by studies. People work because they want to, and because they want more than a basic existence. You would also need to show that it's less expensive to have a bunch of homeless and/or sick people, which is not really possible in a democratic society. Not paying for things that are necessary for your fellow citizens to survive usually ends up being the most expensive way possible to pay for things.

I think that you should rethink a great deal of your sociopolitical philosophy.


>We have massive social and financial structures to subsidize students, because we recognize that activity has a great deal of future value to individuals, nations, and the world at large

Based on capitalism though. We incentize it because educated people are must more useful economically so their future earnings potential is the reason they are able to take pictures of out student loans in the first place.

Places that offer student discounts aren't magically treating them better because they are thinking about their future, they do it because it's an easy way to ensure that someone is likely poor and unable to afford your regular price. It's no different than grocery stores giving coupons to people via annoying mailers so only people with lots of time get the discount.

>Contradicted by studies.

Which are all bullshit because there is no place where this is done on a national level. Nobody unplugs toilets just for fun. You'd have a lot of artists and carpenters contributing things that society doesn't need.

>I think that you should rethink a great deal of your sociopolitical philosophy.

And I think you should spend a little time learning about economics.


> Based on capitalism though.

This is close to a non sequitur, and it doesn't help that you're talking about student discounts as if they were a particularly large component of student financial support. Mentioning that is absurd. Massive subsidies are not "based on capitalism", and they're particularly antithetical to the laissez-faire capitalists.

A blanket dismissal of related studies is simply prejudice.

You are wrong.


> Note that all economic systems are concerned with distribution of resources so the idea of distributing capital is not unique to a "welfare state".

That may be true, but doing it well certainly does imply a welfare state.


A lot of jobs just act as distractions to create jobs

A better target than automoting away cashier jobs at pointless retailers would be to target universal access to healthcare and social services as the key economic drivers

Then folks aren’t tethered to dumb jobs and can make jewelry or chairs and such for personal needs when they’re on vacation from their job that supports the health economy

Creating is an important human outlet. Don’t think it’ll do to automate it away. But we can open it up to anyone learning to create whatever so long as they don’t need to be tethered to a dumb job


This old VC written article reminds me of Francis Fukuyama's 'end of history' thinking at the end of last century. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_History_and_the_Las...

VC's love the winner take all big platform investment world. I suspect (and hope) that era is coming to an end, not open source...


And in fact, we're seeing some great open source companies, including Elastic, which just had an IPO last month. Modern decentralization has yielded the promise of valuable assets that actually become more valuable through being open, which means that VCs in 2018 are singing a very different tune to VCs in 2014.

No, we won't see another company that's exactly like Red Hat. That's how the technology industry works. We're not going to see another successful Facebook, either. But we will see many more companies that push our expectations and moves the industry forward. Many of them will absolutely be based on open source software and communities.


Elastic uses a lot of closed source software to complement its open source core, which is exactly what the article said is the future of OSS.

>This old VC written article reminds me of Francis Fukuyama's 'end of history' thinking at the end of last century. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_History_and_the_Las....

That recently many historians have began to consider this line of thinking "wrong" because of the rise of illiberal democracies, i.e. Russia, Hungry and the success of China as a Pseudo-Capitalist Dictatorship.


The demolition of Fukuyama’s delusions can actually be pinpointed to a single day in 2001.

I don't see why. 9/11 was shocking, but ultimately doesn't seem to have caused major change in the political systems of any Western countries, nor any significant movement in that direction.

The Patriot Act essentially nullified the bill of rights, allowed indefinite detention without charges, and put power in the hands of secret people/programs answering to secret courts with secret interpretations of law. They were also grabbing people to put on torture flights. That's a police state. Unlike those that inspired it, it selectively uses its Gestapo powers against tiny segments of the country... far as we know... where most people never see it. That lets 99+% of people go through normal processes (eg courts). Then, they started connecting police-state surveillance to main, enforcement agencies with parallel construction to hide targeting methods. So, more of their opponents might be eliminated through trumped up charges on top of folks that are actually bad. The Dual State continues.

You bet 9/11 had huge effect on our political system. Went from a corrupt democracy with cops and courts that went too far sometimes, but occasionally reigned in, to a police state where folks could be kidnapped and tortured with criminal immunity on those doing it. The few times they've gotten caught on this stuff, like with the leaks, nobody running the programs did time, Congress often gave them retroactive immunity, and some were expanded. That's so bad that blackmail is about the only explanation I can come up with at this point for how they're behaving. Surveillance programs make that easier to do, too, esp if running in black programs. J. Edgar Hoover situation possibly repeating but with wider net.


I just don't see how that's categorically different from COINTELPRO (which murdered people with impunity), ECHELON, etc. Even the FISA courts were established 23 years before 2001, and in 2017 there were actually fewer FISA warrant requests approved than in 2000. Who got busted for this stuff before 2001?

COINTELPRO was a program in one, government group acting rogue from a long time ago that got shutdown. The current activities involve every branch of executive government with Congress's blessing.

ECHELON was an unlawful surveillance program that intercepted satellite/radio traffic with a focus on foreign personnel. Patriot Act allowed surveillance of Americans on all mediums with financial penalties or imprisonment for non-compliance with backdoors (see Core Secrets where FBI "compels" companies to "SIGINT-enable" products).

NSA management used to limit what was collected on Americans specifically to avoid trouble with Congress and FISA courts. After 9/11 and Patriot Act, they were told 9/11 couldn't happen again. They're maximizing what they collect on Americans with more cooperation between them and organizations that imprison Americans.

The differences between the isolated cases you pulled out of decades of government and the total, officially-blessed elimination of our rights today is difference between day and night. Hell, a good chunk of America votes in favor of what's in the Patriot Act. They're willing to give up their freedoms for false claims by NSA etc that they'll stop terrorists. I'd have never seen it coming back in school after reading on all the progress activists made before that time.

Also reminds me of The Siege. Mainly, the fact that they'd declare a state of emergency that suspends the bill of rights due to terrorist actions in New York. Which they did. They renew the state of emergency annually, which keeps specific executive orders going.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzLQOc-B0Ys

EDIT: I don't have my old write-up on CoG. The link below which was in top of Google has a lot of the same info, though. I haven't fully vetted this source so obviously fact-check anything on there.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2010/11/peter-dale-scott/continu...


We were moving towards an open, inclusive society pretty much since the Berlin wall fell and germany reunited. 9/11 inverted the progress we were making, and now we’re slowly sliding away towards facism again.

That’s how it feels to me anyway. Europe certainly has it’s growing share of racists.


>That’s how it feels to me anyway. Europe certainly has it’s growing share of racists.

As a Spaniard, here thankfully not really, thanks to (I'd claim) our disunity as a "Nation" or State.

We love to hate each other more than hate foreigners or whatever.


the security state in the US has grown substantially since 9/11 and created very significant changes in american politics and society.

ICE is a very easy example, pre-9/11 it would have been unthinkable to keep migrant children in cages; the power that that agency has has grown immensely. there's also been significant expansion of other apparatuses, e.g. NSA surveillance of the internet, FIVEEYES, etc. the increased military investment in drones is also a direct result of 9/11 (well, technically more from supreme court decisions regarding Guantanamo prisoners, which, also, direct result of 9/11!).


> pre-9/11 it would have been unthinkable to keep migrant children in cages

Pre-9/11, you had the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internment_of_Japanese_America..., which actually targeted citizens.

Sure, there was an expansion of surveillance and drones, but I don't see how that's categorically different from what was already happening; it's still the same system, as far as I can tell. I mean, pre-9/11 US had COINTELPRO, ECHELON, McCarthyism, and all that stuff described in the Family Jewels report: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_Jewels_(Central_Intelli...


Fukuyama basically argued that the end of the Cold War marked a point of no-return after which all countries would have slowly but inevitably converged towards globalised, market-based, open societies. All the stuff you mention pre-dates that.

The worst we got in the Clinton era, when Fukuyama was writing, were the crypto wars and the Clipper chip, which look incredibly tame today and were both resolved in the public's favour.

So yeah, in the '90s, a lot of people thought "the West" had turned a corner. Fukuyama went beyond that and posited that the world had turned a corner. And instead, we fell right back into fascist nightmares as soon as we were attacked by a bearded guy on dialysis that we ourselves had armed a few years before; the Russians and Chinese decided that not starving was preferable to being "democratic", whatever that might mean; and most of the Middle East, Israel included, doubled down on its eternal fervour for holy war.

That was my point - history never "ends" and nothing is inevitable, including a return to feudal rule. Many progressive movements tried to tell the elites that, by singing a triumphalist note for late-stage capitalism, we were planting seeds for a massive backlash. They were ignored, like they would be ignored in 2003 on the risks of war and again today on the risks of ignoring global warming and rejecting migrations. Sooner or later, chickens will come home to roost, and it won't be pretty.


I only read the essay, not the book, but that doesn't seem quite what I got from him. He's not saying liberal democracies can't have times of turmoil, with such fascist nightmares, but that those are not an alternative ideology pushing for a different system. And I think that's true - people pushing for more surveillance or voting for Le Pen and Bolsonaro are not idealists trying to forge an alternative to capitalist western liberalism, they just want it tilted some way or another. Western democracies always had underclasses, and people are fighting to change which those are, not pushing to overturn the bedrock.

Regarding the Middle East and Isreal, he writes:

> In the contemporary world only Islam has offered a theocratic state as a political alternative to both liberalism and communism. But the doctrine has little appeal for non-Muslims, and it is hard to believe that the movement will take on any universal significance.

and

> There would still be a high and perhaps rising level of ethnic and nationalist violence, since those are impulses incompletely played out, even in parts of the post-historical world. (...) This implies that terrorism and wars of national liberation will continue to be an important item on the international agenda. But large-scale conflict must involve large states still caught in the grip of history, and they are what appear to be passing from the scene.

And both of these seem true to me; there's no great spread of Islam ideology, nor of Zionism, they are isolated ideologies that can affect others, but not actually compete ideologically with Western liberalism.

history never "ends" and nothing is inevitable, including a return to feudal rule.

Maybe not - and in fact, like Fukuyama, I hope not; as he writes, "[t]he end of history will be a very sad time" - but I'm also not convinced that we've actually seen evidence of that. As of now, it seems possible.


Hungary

If you don't think about how you will sustain an open source project, your project will not be sustainable. "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail."

Building a business model on top of my open source Sidekiq[0] project was the best decision I've ever made. That doesn't mean my approach will work for all (or even many) projects but anyone who is trying to build a popular project needs to consider: if I succeed, what will the project look like five years from now? Will you or a core team still be helping users every day?

[0]: https://sidekiq.org


Thank you for sidekiq. It is the one sane piece of the tech stack I’m working with.

+1 for using LGPL.

However, seems like there's lots of features that is proprietary (or at least non-free licensed).


Yep, and there's an easy value proposition here:

Almost all of those features are available as OSS plugins. Do you want to gather 5-10 complex plugins, integrate them all, debug them and support them for years to come? Or pay for a turn-key solution that takes literally one minute to buy and get running?

If a business can afford a laptop, it can afford my Enterprise product.


The problem of open source is attribution, more specifically attribution back to individual contributors and the significance of contributions, and it is especially hard if you want to do attribution based on revenue performance if the licensee is small and do not have an audit department. A large proprietary software licensee can work with a licensor to track revenue performance because the licensee already have the right infrastructure to do so. So here is a startup idea:

An external auditing company with APIs to streamline the process of rev share and attribution back to the open source community and contributors, so that open source projects will make revenue and have the resource to reinvest and improve the projects.


Receiving attributions doesn't pay the bills.

Attribution doesn't pay even for a hotdog, as seen here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/exposure

I imagine most open source contributors have full time jobs. I have a full-time job that pays the bills so I don't need any kind of monetary reimbursement for my work on open-source projects. I just do it for the fun/challenge/scratch-an-itch/giving-back/etc.

>I imagine most open source contributors have full time jobs

Yes: writing open source for companies. Much fewer do it as a hobby, and those can't sustain large projects.


Outside work I rather spend time with family and friends.

When I do something is just the outcome of dabbling in something as part of learn process, just contributing back some bug reports or minor fixes.

Hence why I tend to pay for the software I use, either via donations, buying author's books, distribution CD/DVDs, or actually buying licenses.

I believe that the authors from the tools I earn money with, should also get a piece of the cake.


Foss makes regular surveys. Most open source developers are paid.

Crowdfunding sites have found ways to be compensated.

I'd argue it's actually the economics. End users both want everything for free expecting it to work perfectly as well as assurances that the project isn't going away while also somehow still wanting guarantees around release schedules. Those same people also endlessly complain to OSS maintainers about something they are getting for free and somehow expect the red carpet when it comes to feature requests.

Attribution isn't the issue, it's balancing the need for building a community vs the financial incentives to actually support the people building the thing you're using.


> no other public standalone companies

Well, SUSE isn't public, but they're mostly "standalone". And there are plenty of other companies based around a single open source platform.

Sure, they aren't $1B+ companies, but they don't need to be.


I'm recording a podcast, called Open Source Underdogs, focusing on open source business models. You can find it on iTunes, Google, Stitcher, etc or on the website https://opensourceunderdogs.com

IBM just made it's biggest acquisition ever on an open source company... It seems strange to use that as evidence that open source is not an effective tool--in certain circumstances--for building your business.

What about Cloudera? What about Automattic? What about MongoDB? What about MariaDB?

The podcast has 9 episodes, and we have about 20 more in the queue for 2018-2019.

Tune in... Some of the gurus of open source software share some valuable insights.


> IBM just made it's biggest acquisition ever on an open source company... It seems strange to use that as evidence that open source is not an effective tool--in certain circumstances--for building your business.

It's more about sustaining the business. Redhat's most recently reported quarterly earnings growth was negative. Did they sell now because IBM approached them with an absurdly high price? Or did Redhat executives need to shop around for a buyer, because they felt they were near a local maxima and things were starting to go downhill?

edit: that said, this is a subject I care about and will be adding your podcast shortly. Hopefully you figure out podcast sustainability as well =)


I think they sold because they were offered $34 billion. Although Red Hat IPOd quite a long time ago, I think a lot of the movers and shakers were sitting on a lot of stock. That's a big exit.

IBM obviously thinks it's worth it, but I'll be honest and say that no matter how bullish I am on Red Hat's business model, I'm sceptical that they can grow it significantly larger without some help. Clearly the focus is on cloud computing and you're up against Google, Amazon and Microsoft. Without at least a strategic partner with someone like IBM (or, ick, ick, ick, Oracle) it's going to be pretty hard to go toe to toe with those guys. In that context, making a "partnership" (agreeing to be bought out) and making a massively big payday for the principal stock holders is pretty win-win for Red Hat.

Having said that, I seriously wonder if IBM is at all interested in maintaining Red Hat's business model...


I am CEO of Gluu. The podcast is an undertaking to help new open source software companies. There is no business model for the podcast, and it's attribution share alike license.

Wait, are you really looking at the second derivative of the revenue? Q2 revenue (September 2018) was up 14% against September 2017.

Red Hat would probably have reached a local maximum sooner or later, so it's probably a mix of the two, but I don't think it's correct to say that growth was negative.


> Wait, are you really looking at the second derivative of the revenue? Q2 revenue (September 2018) was up 14% against September 2017.

Just going by yahoo finance data:

Quarterly Earnings Growth (yoy) -10.50%


Oh I see that now. That was explained by the company as basically a single very large contract that was lost to a competitor, plus a very very strong second quarter the previous year (when you earnings growth was over 40%). However earnings per share were actually above the analysts expectations.

Yea, I imagined it could be a one-off but didn't bother to dig into the situation further. The point is simply that we don't fully know the motivation to sell. Or for that matter, the motivation to buy. For all we know, that competitor is continuing to squeeze RHT's margins. Or maybe Oracle (purveyors of Oracle Unbreakable Linux) approached the board with an offer to buy and someone walked it over to IBM with a note saying 'care to beat this offer from Oracle?'

None of this is evidence suggesting there will be another standalone open source vendor. The model seems to be converging towards taking open source technologies, buying a bunch of servers and sysadmins, and renting them out to customers on an ad-hoc basis. In which case, I won't call it winner-take-all but there's obvious economies of scale to be had. If we look at the recent Redis and MongoDB relicensing debacles, it seems like a direct acknowledgement that the cloud service model is eating their lunch.


Canonical is another one.

But Canonical (and I assume SuSE as well) has quite a few proprietary bits (definitely more than RedHat), with some of their offerings being more or less "Open Core" (for examples, see comparison of MAAS free vs commercial, or how to distribute software to Ubuntu Core systems). That kinda matches what the article is saying.

I can comment on the SUSE bit. In the past we had some proprietary products (SUSE Studio comes to mind), but they've all been sunset a long time ago.

Now-a-days everything we work on is FOSS, and for almost all of our history the major products we've had also were FOSS. You could even call up SUSE in the old days and ask for a CD with all of the source code for SLES without being a customer. These days you can download all the SLES sources from OBS (it's what openSUSE Leap is based on), and SLES has a Factory-first policy that requires all new changes to first be sent into openSUSE. All of our products (to my knowledge) are FOSS licensed and we provide the source code for all of them as source RPMs -- even if they aren't copyleft -- and on GitHub in most cases.

I would very much argue that Red Hat and SUSE can easily trade blows on which is the "more open" company in this regard. For instance, SLES sources are far easier to get access to and work with than RHEL sources in my experience (and our kernel sources are actually separate patches rather than a single patch blob). But that really doesn't matter at the end of the day -- we both work diligently on free software and contribute upstream consistently. Canonical I'm not as sure about, but from my experience collaborating with them they also do an absolutely immense amount of upstream work. In the past, they were quite sheltered and didn't contribute back, but this changed significantly many years ago.

[I work at SUSE, and all of my work is upstream and free software work. I've never touched nor seen a single piece of proprietary code in my 3 years of working here.]


This is true now, but wasn't always the case. YaST was proprietary closed source for the better part of the first decade. It wasn't until SuSE was bought by Novell that they started open sourcing their proprietary bits.

Sure, and there are other historical warts like that. I never said SUSE was always like this (quite a large number of people know SUSE from SUSE Studio -- a proprietary product) but these days we are definitely at least as "open" in this sense as Red Hat.

To update the terminology - the RedHat model is freemium - you give away something to market the part that you sell.

The problem with freemium is always how much you give away and how much you charge for. One idea that I have not yet seen is to do the split in the time dimention - sell licenses that convert into a Free Software or Open Source license after a year or two.


Right, however the main difference is that the premium part is not software. There is no such thing as open core in Red Hat's offerings.

I don't know - have you looked at: https://www.redhat.com/en/store/linux-platforms

Sure, I work for Red Hat. You pay for support, training, access to consultants, certifications. All software is available for free, just with trademarks removed.

Just to be clear so you say that there is nothing non-GPL in the software that is bought there?

For example https://www.redhat.com/en/store/red-hat-enterprise-linux-ser... specifies that this is a 'Self-support (1 year)' contract - this sounds like there is no support, training or access to consultants being bought there.


> Just to be clear so you say that there is nothing non-GPL in the software that is bought there?

Correct. There are trademarked components (graphics, etc.) that cannot be redistributed but they are not software. The same is true for Mozilla Firefox, for example, even though it's both gratis ("free beer") and libre ("free speech").

There are also a few "supplementary" packages that are non-free but it's stuff like Oracle JDK or Adobe Reader. It's more akin to Debian nonfree than to an open-core model.

> Self-support (1 year)' contract - this sounds like there is no support, training or access to consultants being bought there.

Correct, in that case you only pay for certifications, knowledge base (which is also part of support) and access to the updates.


"We had made the product so easy to use and so important, that we had out-engineered ourselves."

Yeah, so "easy" that we had to debug and extend microdhcp code to properly support PXE booting and add option 150 because you guys offered nothing with which to properly boot XEN VM's; XEN was so woefully unfinished that we had to finish it for you and now you're telling us how complete of a product it is and patting yourself on the back.

"Details-schmetails", it's "the big picture" that's important, which is that someone cashed out, am I right?

This is one of the reasons why my passion and love for computers turned to bitter disappointment: the lies and really bad, half-cooked software. Damn it all, Keith Wesolowski was so right[1].

[1] http://dtrace.org/blogs/wesolows/2014/12/29/fin/


Why doesn't anyone try to simply sell free software?

You want me to give you a copy of the software? Pay for it. And here's a gratis sample to see what could get, but it doesn't have all of the features I wrote for it.

You want access to login to the web platform? Pay for it.

You want the source code for it, so you can modify it and/or redistribute it? Also pay for it. The GPL has explicit provisions for allowing access to the source code only if you pay, for example.

Surely some money is to be made this way. Maybe not enough to create a giant monopoly that completely dominates the market, but enough to make a living. Not everything has to be a winner-takes-all unicorn.

If we are to believe that the copying of non-free software that happens right now happens and companies are still profitable, surely explicitly allowing that copying wouldn't make it any less profitable?


> Why doesn't anyone try to simply sell free software?

One word. Centos.

It's easy to devalue most of the engineering work put into a premium distro. Businesses might still pay for it for mission critical stuff, but that's not enough volume to run a business on.

> You want the source code for it, so you can modify it and/or redistribute it? Also pay for it. The GPL has explicit provisions for allowing access to the source code only if you pay, for example.

This isn't going to work.

1. You aren't going to get much money. From the GPL (3.b):

> for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution

2. Only one person has to pay for the source. Once the source is out, other people can just get a copy of the copy.


And how is this economically different from piracy, which mostly goes unprosecuted?

Also, you've cherry-picked the GPL. It talks about "equivalent access", i.e. you can charge as much for the source as what you charged for the binary.

https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#DoesTheGPLAllowDow...


>And how is this economically different from piracy, which mostly goes unprotected?

That this is not even illegal at all.

And piracy in business settings is much more seriously and effectively prosecuted. Pirating at an enterprise is nothing like the free-for-all of pirating music or movies at home.


Haha you stole the words from my mouth. The fact that CentOS exists undermines all of Redhat's business model.

Honestly, the future of Open source software is probably going to be like Sqlite, in the best case scenario: 1. The core of the software is open source 2. Useful extras like unit tests and documentation from developer might only be available to paying customers. There is no other way to make money from OSS otherwise and please don't bring up consulting. It doesn't scaleup and to make money you're incentivized to keep making your software more complex, see a nearby comment on Elastic admitting that.


It just plain doesn't work.

Our startup tried a bit to explore this idea during the .COM wave, but it just doesn't work out as most business look at open source as a legal way of doing piracy.

I know it isn't the same, I am just oversimplifying here, given how many companies leech FOSS projects.

So the solution ends up being dual licenses, hiding the key features behind server walls, or just go commercial and forget the whole FOSS ideals.

This is specially bad in the consumer software, as this is a domain where no one is willing to pay for services, trainings or books. And the few that are willing to do so, don't do it in a sustainable volume.


What about selling to consumers, not to businesses? Couldn't you do gamedev this way?

Given the big indie market as well as the modding community, I'm surprised it's not done more often.


In the consumer space it touches a number of fronts. When you have a game people want to mod, you end up with a dev/community line of interaction where someone ends up with the most popular mod/tool/forum/etc. and suddenly gains the power to wield mobs of players who will be upset if "their" mod breaks. It can quickly become a politicized scenario - who really "owns" the game? Does the modmaker get money? If the modmakers were making money, can the dev claim benefit? And so on. Even if the terms and agreements say one thing, the court of public opinion will say something else. Association with random third parties is risky and can damage a brand.

Basically, the more you make ongoing support and "community leadership" part of your business model, the more room there is for the community to interfere with business goals and push for self-governance. This leads most game devs down the path of controlling everything and dictating terms: their game, their codebase, their servers, their account system, their official tournaments, etc. They often do things that make for a worse experience overall in the process, but it lets them set their own targets.

With smaller developers there's more of an issue of not having the resources to support a community properly, and often stepping into success with no preparation for adopting any kind of collaborative governance. In those cases the community just generally overwhelms the dev and does whatever they want, fragmenting the game and creating various secondary power struggles in the process.

It's all fairly vicious stuff. When you have something popular, everyone will look for an angle of personal profit, and while in other media the rules around derivative work are mostly known and straightforward, there are many original ways to create derivatives of games that have had little legal testing. Open sourcing is just a way of leaning toward a derivatives-encouraged stance, but it only describes part of the whole work(assets and any "live data" also count).


Consumers even less, as noted on my last paragraph.

I've posted this before, but this game is completely free software (in fact it's in the public domain!): http://onehouronelife.com/

The author does just as you say (and even charges a pretty hefty $20 per copy). Admittedly it's a multi-player game and you can't get access to the main servers without paying, but you can easily run your own server.

I think the reality is that most people are perfectly fine with paying for software if you actually ask for money. The people that won't pay, often won't pay anyway. They only real downside to this is that you can't control competition who may decide to undercut you.

For example: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.wereviz.ev...

In this case, the undercutting group have the complete support of the original author (who is uninteresting in building a mobile version). However, there is also nothing stopping someone from competing directly in his target market except that most people are decent. Eventually it is bound to happen, though, if it were popular/lucrative enough.

I think the main thing that the success of Red Hat shows is that you can still build a business with that kind of competition. The key, though, is that your business needs to be better than your competition. If you charge more, then there needs to be some value that drives people to your business rather than your competitors (or just getting it for free). How you find that value is how you build the viable business.

I've found that most business people are uninteresting in this kind of work. They would rather be sales oriented rather than solution oriented. They have a product. Nobody else has that product. They try to make sure you want the product and since they have complete control, they can get you to pay for it. Giving up that control gives up their most powerful tool and transforms their job into something they don't actually want to do.


The goal however is: enough to make a living

I wonder if the author of the game will still get a decent living despite the freeloaders. Seems to me, setting up some kind of in-game cosmetic shop (and make it like Fortnite[0]) will surely get loyal fans put in the support.

[0] http://www.wisecrack.co/shows/wisecrackedition/fortnite/

But looking at the website, it looks like it's gotten popular enough to support a decent living for years to come.


>Why doesn't anyone try to simply sell free software?

Because free software licenses mean anybody that buys the software and code, gets to redistribute it for free if they want to.


You're cornered into a kickstarter-esque model of selling one big expensive copy to "everyone" -- and maybe cathedral style development where you do the same thing over and over again on some release cycle.

Never noticed that provision in the GPL. If that was advertised more, a lot more companies would use it, although it would be counteracted by crowdfunding campaigns to distribute source code.

It’s difficult to get by, what with rising rents and prices. The only way to get around the bottleneck of needing investors would be to live a quasi-monastic life with as little as possible until a minimum viable product is developed.


>The GPL has explicit provisions for allowing access to the source code only if you pay, for example.

This is plainly untrue. The GPL allows you to charge a nominal fee for distributing the source code, so you could charge $5 for the costs of burning a CD and mailing it. It doesn't let you restrict that source code afterwards though. All it takes is a single customer paying $5 for a CD and now they can freely distribute that source code as much as they want to. The provision in the GPL is not there to allow people to profit from selling the source code, it's there to compensate for just the costs associated with sending them a copy. Those costs are never going to be anything substantial.


Yes, if you choose to distribute by CDs (lol who does that anymore) but it also allows for "equivalent access". You're allowed to charge for downloading the source code as much as you originally charged for the binary:

https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#DoesTheGPLAllowDow...


I'm not as familiar with the GPLv3 but for v2 it's very clear that you're only allowed to charge what it cost you to provide the source code redistribution. Section 3 subsection b makes this very clear.

> Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange;

I believe that "equivalent access" is intended to mean the more restrictive interpretation that you're not allowed to charge a fee for downloading the source code without also charging an additional fee for providing the binary to customers that already have a license. I.E. If you provide binaries for free on your website you can't pull a Mikrotik and demand that any requests for the source must be mailed in to an address in Latvia along with $50 (or something like that) for them to mail you a CD a month later while at the same time have binaries available on your website for free.

The spirit of that clause has always been that the distributor should not put some onerous burden on anyone requesting access to the source code. They can charge what it takes them to provide the service for GPLv2 and from what I can tell for GPLv3 it's limited to what they charge for binaries.


You don't have to rely on your beliefs for what "equivalent access" means. The writers of the GPL have already written a FAQ for what it means, which I linked to you above. They wrote this line knowing how most judges would interpret it. This is true for both GPLv2 and GPLv3.

It's been tried.

From scams (https://proflightsimulator.com/ - rebranding of OSS FlightGear) to just people compiling and released the source (RHEL -> CentOS).


But why is that a scam? Redistributing for profit is a right explicitly granted by all FOSS licenses.

This is like when people were selling Firefox CDs:

https://web.archive.org/web/20060511105535/http://business.t...


Because they are misrepresenting what you're getting, promising features that aren't there, even showing screenshots from OTHER simulators and claiming them as their own.

https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2018/03/09/dont-buy-proflig...


It's not that it's against the license, but that the price clearly does not reflect the value that has been added. If the purchaser were slightly better informed, the sale would never happen.

If you're selling a Firefox CD for $5, then the price ostensibly covers the duplication/distribution/convenience. If you're selling that CD for $60, then the buyer likely believes they're paying for the software itself.

And while markets rely on some level of arbitrage, the magnitude is what makes it a "scam".


I've come across a couple of websites selling LibreOffice rebranded.

While I know it's permissible, it does leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

I sort of feel like there should be a banner on the frontpage acknowledging it.


This article has already been proven wrong... e.g. what about Elastic

Elastic isn't good example of good open-source company, like RH was. They have their main product open sourced (ElasticSearch)[1], but other products aren't [2].

From RH I always expected they will open their successful product at some point (e.g. Tower); from Elastic, I'm expecting opposite.

[1] "open source" I mean OSI approved license, not some cryptic text which can get you on court

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16487440


Good example because their strategy is to move away from consultancy/training/support as their primary business model towards shipping add on services, cloud products, etc.

I was at Elastic.on beginning of the year where they talked a bit about their thinking. They referred to 'other' OSS companies having contradicting goals where in order to sell support/training, they make the base OSS product harder to use and more complicated so that people actually need the support and training. E.g. having great documentation directly conflicts with selling training and consultancy. They did not want to differentiate between a hard to use OSS version and a nicer commercial package. Instead they want users to pay for added value in the form of bundled stuff that is not OSS (but now mostly available for free), or cloud based SAAS products that they run for you. The core product is the same for everyone.

So, their strategy is already exactly as suggested in the article: great OSS that they actively help build complemented by SAAS business and other services where they are making a lot of money.

Looking at their acquisitions, they have been buying companies that do SAAS business on top of their core technology or support that business in some way. Elastic cloud is based on one of their early acquisitions (a company called found.no). Another more recent one is Swiftype which provides easy to integrate search as a service for small websites. Then there's Prelert which provides incident management and analytics tooling. In addition they've been investing in building out geospatial data for the purpose of supporting analytics use cases using their Kibana tool (another of their acquisitions) and now included as part of Elastic cloud. They've bought packetbeat and opsworks that both focus on infrastructure OSS that supports getting data to Elasticsearch and Kibana.

Of course they also still do support, consultancy, training, etc. as well. But that is a tougher business to scale because it involves lots of handholding. That's actually a key problem with this business: you need lots of sales to close deals and then you need lots of consultants to actually keep the customers happy. Looking at IBM and Oracle, you can clearly see that they are struggling there. IBM is looking to buy credibility for their cloud solutions through Red Hat. They've been struggling for years with consultancy as their core business and have been laying off people aggressively as revenues have been disappointing. They have at this point very little in house tech to draw in new customers.

AWS is all about selling their cloud stuff. If it's OSS and widely used, you can bet there's an AWS service from them that you can use (e.g. Elasticsearch, Hadoop, ActiveMQ, Mysql, Postgresql, Redis, etc.).


> they make the base OSS product harder to use and more complicated so that people actually need the support and training. E.g. having great documentation directly conflicts with selling training and consultancy.

Interestingly enough, I've heard the same criticism about OpenLDAP, that it's deliberately hard to set up and poorly-documented because the main developer owns a consulting company and wants people to hire him to set up their OpenLDAP installations. What's ironic is that this is one of the reasons Red Hat is deprecating OpenLDAP in favor of the 389 Directory Server.


having great documentation directly conflicts with selling training and consultancy

I've often felt that way as a user. It's why I run Arch Linux now. There's nothing in the Linux world as comprehensive as the Arch Wiki.


Elastic is almost the exact execution of this article. The majority of their revenue comes from paid add-ons and hosted services.

I am not sure why the service business is any better.

Sure you can cash the checks you get from your customers and write out a check for AWS. Or you can run a data center the old way or some new way. So can anybody else.

There is just no moat. Running the service you can pocket the money you make learning how to run it more efficiently. You share some attributes with Salesforce.com but you don't have the patent portfolio and other proprietary IP that makes Salesforce a great product for what it is.


I've been thinking about this for some time and I agree with the gist of the article.

Most OSS that comes out:

1. Either funded by giant megacorps because they're trying to commoditize their competitor's edge: See kubernetes, LLVM etc.

2. Common frameworks that people sell consulting around. This is tricky because if your software is easy enough for consumers to use, they won't have use for your consulting. This leads to this bad incentive of complicating software where not necessary. See: Pivotal selling consulting around Spring and Redhat etc.

3. Anything that doesn't fit in #1 or #2 above is mostly not possible with OSS. To think about it, we can just examine the most consumer facing software that we use. Where is a OSS developed messenger app that is as popular as Facebook or Hangouts? 20 years back, we had OSS for most consumer facing software, Unix coreutils etc. Basically, today OSS is reduced to professional frameworks and middleware libraries because that is beneficial to megacorps and they fund this kind of software, but OSS by indie developers is pretty much dead.


> but OSS by indie developers is pretty much dead

I have never seen a viable "business model" around F/OSS end-user application software. Every time I ask the F/OSS fanboys for this, they either come up short or ramble about "selling support."

The closest I've even considered was the OpenBSD model, where you keep everything free and open, but sell the "official distribution." The modern app store ecosystem actually improves the viability of this. However, that approach probably has a lot of limitations.

That being said, I prefer to open-source anything I do that I don't intend to make money off of. I personally despise the "closed-source free-as-in-beer" model that some indie non-Linux developers seem to opt for.


One of the most intriguing models to fund OSS that I've seen lately is ICOs. The only downside to it being that it fits a narrow band of software which can have a marketplace. So if you're developing the next coreutils "ls", I doubt you could fund it with an ICO.

Another model is that of sqlite, where the core code is open but unit tests aren't available. In effect, this is somewhat similar to selling consulting but with fewer chances of you having to complicate your software.

At the end of the day, what's important is that the base computing be available in an OSS fashion. Base Computing = Decent OS with GUI + An App store. I think that's the direction Canonical should be going in and attempt to make money by hosting an App store for Ubuntu, just like Google makes money off PlayStore.


If legislation required (certain/any) publicly funded projects to use open source software, whose code would be made freely and publicly available, then open source would see a much greater market share and level of investment and we'd likely see new open source business models.

The problem with open source software is ultimately that of scarcity:

https://journal.dedasys.com/2007/02/03/in-thrall-to-scarcity...


In all my decades of working with computers, redhat was by far the worst company with the most incompetent staff that I've encountered. redhat's "engineers" preferred to spend time arguing with their customers rather then solving their problems and severely struggling to understand where in the code the issues are.

Where they particularly struggled were higher order architectural abstractions and their consequences and system engineering for backwards compatibility.

Their bugzilla.redhat.com is chalk full if examples of struggling to understand and debug the code and arguing with customers.

I sure as hell hope there will never be another computer company like redhat.


I thought free software was about freedom, not how to monetize it. You can never trust a service - only your own hardware (it's not quite possible with modern mass-market CPU though, only on IBM Power or some dummy MCU or even FPGA-based RISC/MIPS/whatever ) with free software on it. When did Linux become about cloud and containers, not about desktop?

"Sure, when you first launch a business built using open source components, (...) you might start off looking a little like Red Hat. But if all goes well, you’ll start to more resemble Facebook, GitHub, Amazon or Cumulus Networks as you layer in your own special something on top of the platform and deliver it as a service, or package it as an appliance."

I sure hope not.

The original intent of ICOs was to monetise open-source development, and now there are many great teams with huge treasure chests building great software, funding research and providing grants for anyone wanting to work on blockchain and the wider web3 ecosystem without having to go through a token offering, given the current sad state of affairs.

I know this isn't necessarily appealing for everyone, but for those interested:

https://blog.ethereum.org/2018/10/15/ethereum-foundation-gra...

https://blog.aragon.org/tag/nest/


I’m pretty sure the original intent of ico’s was to figure out a way to rip off investors by issuing unregulated securities.

It was really to fund research and development of open-source cryptographic protocols which are usually out of the VCs radars.

The mechanism used was itself a revolutionary development, fungible digital tokens (ERC20). There are new protocols for fundraising that are designed to give token holders more control over the disbursement of rewards to the development teams but the wider market still needs a good cleanup imho.


I disagree. The original intent for ICO's was (and is) honorable, as is crowd funding. We have to get out of this mindset that ICO's are inherently fraudulent. The early days of the internet were rife with scams and fraud (and it still is). That doesn't make the internet 'a way to figure out how to rip people off'.

The big banks would love everyone to think ICO's are wild west country, just as the early days of open source were laughed out of the room as crazy give aways of ip. Look were we are now with Oracle 'openworld' a few years later...


One model that might work is the Unreal Engine model, so an OSS license that is free for personal use, but for commercial use, it might require 3% (say) of your profit from sales of the software product.

>but for commercial use, it might require 3% (say) of your profit from sales of the software product.

That's not OSS.


I think the discussion is centered around preserving the component of Open source which includes funding for the software but retains availability of the source. In such a case, it may not be possible to retain the full pure classic OSS definition.

It might be best to just use Unreal Engine like license where the source is available for inspection and personal use but still being charged for commercial use.


Strange. Most hills look small compared to the Mount Everest and the Aconcagua. That doesn't mean they're actually easy to climb.

Why is RedHat compared to the biggest companies on the planet?


I dislike the current debt-based economy in general myself.

I won’t miss them. They’ve been a very difficult vendor to work with. At least once they go to IBM it’s easier to justify sunsetting them.

What is a better business model then taking something that is virtually free and selling it at a premium !?

Admins: the title needs "(2014)"

Updated. Thank you!

tl;dr: Tragedy of the commons.

There is economics beyond that of redhat. Open source can and does exist without profit. Lots of people donate time/energy to projects every day and by doing so create great products that do compete (linux).

More recent examples are of course Wikipedia and Open Street Map, both huge software and data projects.

I agree with everything you said, until you claimed that Linux development is not driven by profit.

While you are correct in general, Linux is not a good example of a project that is developed without profit. Most of the major contributors and maintainers of Linux are paid for their work. The companies that are paying for this work make huge profits from Linux.

Does Intel or ARM make profits from Linux? They need to have it run will on their current hardware, and they can show future features in advance, but they don't directly make a profit from selling Linux.

No one makes profit from selling linux. People make profit with devices running linux, or by selling linux support.

AWS largely makes money off of open source, it just provides virtualization as a service along with the actual hardware. It may not be as straightforward as RedHat, but it basically is the same thing.

I don't think it's the same at all. Redhat's model is to create open source software.

It's not the same thing at all. You don't pay AWS for support, you pay AWS to use its bandwidth, software and hardware.



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