oliver frommel on Thu, 13 Dec 2001 05:01:40 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> The Fading Altruism of Open Source Development

On Wed, 12 Dec 2001, Florian Cramer wrote:

> .. 
> It's easy to claim, as in the above quote, there is a lack of
> "highly-complex and anti-proprietary" Free Software if one doesn't seem to
> know GNU, the free BSD operating systems (FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD), the X
> Window System, Mozilla, the Debian GNU/Linux distribution - and wilfully
> excludes gcc, Perl, Python, PHP, PostgreSQL, Emacs, Apache, sendmail and
> other highly complex Free Software projects from one's consideration.

this is true but there are a lot of "parallel projects" trying to make
money from free software (through consulting mainly, in accordance with
stallman's views, or customization of free software).

e.g. activestate tries to make money from perl, python, mozilla, php ..

"Sendmail, Inc. develops commercial products and services that simplify
the deployment of sendmail" (www.sendmail.org)

postgresql offers commercial support

a lot of development on the gnu c (and others) compiler system was
traditionally done by the cygnus corporation (now integrated into redhat)

when you look at a lot of recent projects like e.g. JBOSS (www.jboss.org)
that use "industry standards" like the j2ee (java2 enterprise edition) it
is clearly not the fun that is the primary motivation for the free
software programmers in this field.

I do not criticize people making money through consulting etc. but it I
think you need to take that into consideration as the author of the
article does.

I think you are right in stressing the difference between commercial
(what? software? enterprises? ..) and proprietery software. But if you
take into consideration that "free" software does create complex
relationships I find it hard to accept a synthetic seperation between the
software product "as such" and the dependencies it creates. Think of the
creation of industry standards making users and developers somehow
dependent on the original creator. complex software makes its users
dependent in the developers.

> While Linus Torvalds and Miguel de Icaza used their reputation to go
> abroad and work in the U.S., proving that this indeed may be a motivation
> to write Free Software, this certainly fails as a general model and
> explanation.  - Why, then, is it that Indian and Russian programmers
> hardly contribute to Free Software development at all?

There are some developers from Russia. E.g. Alexey Kuznetsov has done a
lot of work on the networking code. This shows a weakness of Lancashire's
empirical research: it neglects the quality of contributions to free
software, even the quantity of contributions per developer.
> Many Free Software developers I know have left-wing political views though
> and see work on Free Software as unalienated labour for which they are
> willing to make economical sacrifices.

many software developers I know have right-wing libertarian views, with a
strong disregard for what any possible end user might want. usually a lot
of free software developers don't even regard other human beings as equal
to any degree (this is what Lancashire decribes in the paragraph about
Neuromancer, Turkle etc.). You might recognize a certain misogynous
attitude in hacker culture in general ("GUIs are for girls", "real men use
command line", "real men use linux", you could go on like this for quite a
while). The same goes for "gay operating systems" and so on. It would be
interesting to analyze the composition of the "free software community" in
terms of race for this matter (I remember irc sessions with about 100
people doing free software development with participants mainly from the
US, among all one african american, having to fight permanent harassment).  
For me this shows that any explanations in terms of gift or even GPL
culture are less plausible than Lancashire's analysis which still might
have its own flaws.



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