I love that. Just a couple of guys randomly working together on something that at the time sounded like a toy.
> In other words, I do not see open source as some big goody-goody "let's all sing kumbaya around the campfire and make the world a better place". No, open source only really works if everybody is contributing for their own selfish reasons.
And there's the cynicism we all know and love.
Those things are not incompatible with selfishness. If I'm pursuing my own self-interest, I might quite rightly choose to cooperate with my peers for mutual benefit.
Conversely, if I don't pursue my own self-interest, what exactly is the point of living at all? It's not like intelligent life serves any objective purpose or end, other than that which we individuals imbue it with.
We just seem to use a shitty definition of selfishness these days.
That's English for you, where every word seems to be overloaded with about a dozen different meanings...
The problem is, selfishness (in the negative sense) and what I would call selfishness are actually related in a sense, which makes it easy for people to slip in and out of using either meaning in conversation, and everybody winds up arguing for no reason.
Life on earth has gone roughly four billion years relying largely on predation, competition and survival of the fittest. I think you will find symbiosis and mutualism to be in the vast minority when quantitatively evaluating "things that work in nature".
I'm not saying that means cooperation and mutual aid are "bad". I just find it interesting when people impose their personal morals on nature.
If we are all better off by contributing to eachother's well being, we will do it over and over, and we will all benefit economically and even in a sense spiritually, in the sense that such a community nourishes the spirit in a way that other models don't.
Just from examining a match factory
But there are also the priests and doctors, from whom we reasonably do not expect to hear "this is all about my interest, what's in it for me?" And likewise there are many enterprises where people are doing them for reasons which do not relate to turning a profit, a category which a great deal of valuable open source development falls into.
Adam Smith wasn't a free market fundamentalist in this respect, much as the fundies would like to make out. He was very much in favour of regulation.
I like this:
"..The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order [businessmen and traders], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention."
SOPA and ACTA anyone?
By the way, is it really true that France works (or that America works)?
You could just as well start arguing that there is no such thing as altruism,
and that everyone always acts out of selfish reasons, even if helping someone
else. I must say I find this to be a quite misantropic attitude in general.
That's circular reasoning, even if disguised. You are (implicitly) saying that selfishness is morally wrong, and therefore people who propose that every act is out of selfishness have a negative worldview (a world view in which everybody is morally wrong), and therefore they are misanthropic (because of your own assumption that selfishness is morally wrong and that considering everybody morally wrong is about only seeing the bad in people). If you remove the moral presupposition on 'selfishness' from your argument, your conclusion to misanthropy (which has an inherent moral judgement) doesn't hold any more.
I believe our virtues are built out of our vices. Selfishness can clearly cause harmful actions, but it can also be a strong motivator for building a common good as well, and these are not mutually exclusive. Indeed every vice I can think of can be built into a virtue.
In this view it isn't virtuous or not to be selfish, but rather the manner in which we are selfish (or lustful, or envious, or angry, etc) that creates virtue or vice. Order your vices and they become your virtues.
No, but one should probably consider what Rand had to say about selfishness, when considering discussions of this nature. Her ideas make a lot of sense; and have been a positive influence on a lot of people.
The nice thing about playing with inverting opposites is that it is useful in destroying what we thought we know. I wouldn't treat the inversion as any more valuable than what it inverts though.
I think it's telling that one of the most successful open source leaders doesn't really believe in altruism as the motivator for open source.
If you always acted as if people would do things just to be nice, you might be continually confused about why contributions were made or not made. If you just assume that people are going to contribute for their own interest, then your project may be more likely to succeed.
Contributing for your own interest doesn't mean "selfish" or misanthropic. It means finding common ground where interests align and both parties win.
Do you think IBM or Google contributes to Linux to be nice? Obviously they have business interests in Linux. That seems to be the simplest explanation. And I don't see it to be different for other contributors either.
Random links from Google:
But this is a game of words because that's not what altruism is. Altruism can be based on kinship, reciprocity, ideology, self-image, sympathy, habit and other things which are active in normal people's minds.
IBM and Google are public corporations, meaning that turning a profit is the whole point of their existence, and that their leadership have a legal responsibility to shareholders. The same is not true of human beings, much as a few have decided that turning a profit is the whole point of their own personal existences.
I don't agree with your definition -- altruism based on reciprocity is an oxymoron. altruism based on kinship, i.e. a mother feeding a child, is not altruism. It could be called "nice" or "heartwarming", but it's not altruism.
But putting the definition of words aside, what do you think is the most common motivator for open source? Do you think that most contributions to the Linux kernel are due to aligned interests, or due to altruism? (Whatever altruism means, I would say it is mutually exclusive from "aligned interests")
I think Linus probably has some insight into this question, having led the project for so long.
I think pure altruism is rare but possible. In fact I vaguely remember a story about a guy contributing drivers to the Linux kernel for old hardware that he didn't even own and never planned on using.
On the other hand, maybe he just had a different idea of fun than other people (in all seriousness).
Possibly this fellow, who wrote drivers for over 200 USB webcams?
In the interview though, he says it started when he bought web cams for his daughters but there was no Linux support.
But then he realized that a lot of the code was shareable, so he generalized it to 235 cameras.
You could call the difference between making 2 drivers work and 235 "altruism". Or you could just call it "doing it a good job". Most people have the desire to do a good job.
I frequently do the same thing... I call it cleaning up dirty hacks, and learning the essence of a problem. Not necessarily altruism, but I won't object if anyone calls it that.
Never underestimate the benefit of people showing off.
Otherwise Mozart would have retired at 12 and become a music teacher
I do agree about finding common ground and shared interests, but I don't
think all of this is an end by itself - it's a means to achieve a fair
world. This goes for the GPL, too, and indeed free software in general,
and I think this is what Linus does not understand from his purely
On some level I think to be successful at a business you have to think in some way you are making the world a better place. You might not be doing that purely altruistically. Indeed you are probably interested in money too. But to be successful you have to think you are doing something cool that makes peoples lives better.
I think reciprocity is ultimately better than pure altruism for a couple of reasons. First, if you expect to make a profit, you have a cushion to continue your work when things go downhill. I have heard of not-for-profit magazines ceasing publication because of a lack of such a buffer and having to deal with unexpected expenses, for example.
Secondly interdependence is a good thing, and it is spiritually nourishing (I mean this not in the sense of supernatural but in the sense of one's mood and spirit).
Thirdly reciprocity helps ensure that the actions actually are being seen by others as valuable and worth supporting. This prevents some sorts of hubris-related mistakes.
I don't know if altruism exists. I do know that reciprocity-based economic interdependence is something I value a lot more.
The fairness he mentions is not about having a fair world, but a tit-for-tat kind of fairness. When talking about a fair world, people usually mean a world where everyone is equal, which is not tit-for-tat fairness.
"Fair" is one of those concepts that doesn't quite mean the same thing on either side of the Atlantic.
Agreed. I think most people who talk about fairness and equality are saying "don't fuck me before I've even started" rather than "we must both have the same outcome."
Maybe this common misunderstanding is a hangover from the fear of the red menace?
It's analogous to Dawkin's selfish gene or Adam Smith's invisible hand, individual self-interest at one level drives communal benefit at a higher level.
Something important is missing: this individual self interest must be "well pondered" and long term. If not, you get a McDonald-like catastrophic result.
The other reason is maintainability, it's time consuming to maintain a patch outside the tree and people will end up submitting them so that it doesn't get bitrot.
Doesn't really seem altruistic to me.
Proprietary PostgreSQL vendors often contribute a heck of a lot of source code back for a reason that seems obvious when you think about it and applies to something like Linux too. The basic issue is that if you keep your own private fork and maximize what's not shared then you also maximize the work you have integrating what everyone else is contributing. By giving back as much as you can, you cut your costs down the road. That isn't to say that EnterpriseDB gives back everything but they back quite a lot.
When it comes to a proprietary vendor like Microsoft, it is much harder to get the QA done, and get updated drivers out to customers.
Is the truth somewhere in between? Or are both valid models for leading a fruitful life?
> It is interesting that both models appear mentioned by "successful" people
Biased sample set. What are the "unsuccessful" people doing, and does it correlate?
Honestly in my experience, talent and productivity (and, of course, luck) matter immensely more than planning or inspiration. (Edit:) But no one is going to give someone an interview answer that amounts to "I'm brilliant and I Get Things Done!"
Also certainly talent matters, but inspiration (real inspiration) is important to long-term productivity. For example I have a friend who had serious issues working and typing due to old neck injuries. She became inspired to look into the connection of bows to Old Norse mythology and in the process not only typed a long written work (she's now working on a book) but took up bow-making and made several original contributions to my own understanding of some of the connections. None of this would have been possible for her if it were not for this inspiration.
Similarly when you look at people like Linus who can code all day every day there is a certain level of inspiration that's required to do this without burning out. I also know that when I am in an inspired mood even hard problems are easy, but when I am in an ordinary mood, hard problems can be hard......
A lot of people have this idea that inspiration means you come up with a bright idea and everything else kind of falls into place. I don't see inspiration this way. Inspiration is the ability to engage in work in a higher state of consciousness (described below) and having fun doing it. I don't think you can separate inspiration and perspiration. Inspiration makes perspiration not only possible but fun.
There is a state that I can be at for periods of time that I call "inspired." In that state, problems that come at me are ones where I can immediately see solutions or at least where I can look to find solutions. Problems are all surmountable and my productivity is very high.
In a normal state I may approach a problem methodologically and maybe a bit linearly. I may analyze it, pick it apart, take baby steps, etc. I do all this when for some reason I can't access my inspiration. But in an inspired state I approach problems non-linearly, my task queue seems to move in semi-random order but it is usually the right order, I don't analyze problems, and I move in strides, sometimes large strides. Large problems when I look at them immediately fall to pieces and I can map out what needs to be done fast enough I can usually just do it, and when that doesn't happen it's usually just faster to move on to another problem, let it sit, and come back to it with a different perspective later (they all fall to pieces within a couple of days). Everything just kind of flows. I can keep that state up sometimes for months before hitting a "normal" point. These aren't depressive episodes or anything (I don't feel worse off mood-wise for example, and I am not usually a lot less productive than many other programmers I have worked with in this state) but can be usually shortened by paying a bit more attention to balance in life.
Of course it's possible for some people to find inspiration in every day problems, to look for ways to be inspired in this way. Maybe that's what you are thinking of as talent. I see it as something that can be cultivated within oneself and transmitted to others.
I have seen this happen with so many other people I have known it's a wonderful thing to watch. Resistance turns to heat, and eventually the flame springs forth.
But on planning, I am a huge fan of planning. I think one should plan extensively and in detail but then shelve the plan and not even look at it during execution. The real danger with plans is that they are inflexible and cannot take into account unforeseen developments. However, the time spent thinking through the plan places one in a position to do so. As Eisenhower said, "Plans are nothing. Planning is everything."
Otherwise, think tactically.
It's making lots of plans that distract you from simply acting that gets you into trouble.
This is just based on my own personal experience, though.
It is not rocket science to transfer an image to some media. Installation of an OS is not some black art. Non-technical consumers can do it. (I've tested this with some people and they caught on more quickly than I expected.) More advanced users can compile their own images from source.
At the same time, I suspect that replacing Linux when it is "pre-installed" will prove more and more difficult. Hopefully I'm wrong. But Linus himself fears bias. That fear should also apply to "Linux bias". Equal opportunity for all OS's.
Pre-installation is a Microsoft/Apple tactic. It is far too easy to abuse.
Consumers should have choice.
Make OS installation easy. Let consumers do it, not just OEM's and Apple.
Windows 8 will be a big chance for the consumer brands besides Apple to distinguish themselves with their own preinstalled distro. Microsoft will again fight, like they did during the netbook boom (which I believe is one of the reasons why netbooks saturated / declined really fast - the 2nd generation with XP preinstalled just was not pleasant to use anymore). Only this time the core market of the PC industry will be affected, therefore a lot more will be on the line.
I can't help but notice that this is what ESR said when he critiqued RMS for being a fanatic, and most people in the comments were pretty critical of ESR. I guess Linus at least agrees with him.
(I realize this might sound like an "Argument from Authority", and you'd be right, but we all know Linus is an authority for a reason, and I'm not saying he's right because he's an authority, I'm merely saying he agrees with ESR, which should at least be some kind of signal.)
Hahaha I love that Linus :-)