Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2008 10:05:50 AM by Paul Davis
Free, I like free. I use free stuff all the time. Firefox, Filezilla, 7zip, and Thunderbird every day, for example. My server is on some flavor of GNU/Linux with Apache, phpmyadmin, Horde, mySQL and PHP (which also includes, I’m sure, TONs more software). I have a Yahoo, Hotmail, Myway, Gmail, and AOL free email address. All of those have a variety of free to them, some are open source free (GPL, for example), some are closed source free, some are just used for free (like Google, for example) where there is no source to see. Now, with open source, it is more than mere “free” software – it carries a philosophy with it, that software should be free. The preamble to the license includes:
The licenses for most software and other practical works are designed to take away your freedom to share and change the works. By contrast, the GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change all versions of a program--to make sure it remains free software for all its users.
Now, where this all gets ironic is the drumbeat for donations. I have several extensions I use in Firefox and a couple of them make heartfelt, earnest pleas for money, after all, they spend considerable time creating the software. If I visit open source software sites that aren’t currently backed by a commercial company, 90% of the time they are asking/accepting donations (if the product is any good and widely used).
So … which is it? Is it free or do you want money for it? I find it odd they would choose an open source license and then cite their time, effort and hard work that goes in to making the software work for reasons people should donate. If they want money for it, they should simply charge for it; if they want it to be free, really free – including “guilt free” then they should list it under an open source license.
Here is what I think has happened. They started a project as they though “hey, such-and-such application does that, it shouldn’t be that hard, I can do it” and then they wrote a proof of concept and it wasn’t that hard – maybe a month or even a few months of dedicated work on it. They are still in the excitement phase of a new project; the buzz from making something work is fresh in their minds. So they see all of the open source applications and how everyone just gets all giddy over them and elect to release the code in open source format. They have something that works and they release it at sourceforge and, then, someone else starts using it – but they find it doesn’t work right. So some bug fixes come in. The programmer, who has a family, life and such, continues to take time to make the fixes work. Some one else adds code to make it do something else, so the programmer adds it to the application and this keeps up for a little while. The novelty of the project is wearing off, it is becoming WORK. Bugs keep coming in, new feature requests and someone slams the project because their entire system crashed because of it (even if it is impossible, it just happened at the same time …) They don’t see a lot of help coming in, if any at all, and they see hundreds, if not millions, using their software and making money off of it – while the author is stuck making the changes and adjustments so the consumer can continue to make money off of it and the author gets??? They start to see the project as a time hole that sucks all of their free time making, fixing, updating and maintaining the application all without any compensation and decide that, maybe, someone will chip in some money to cover what they could be making if they were working on a commercial application or contracting.
The irony – they believe in free software as a philosophy, so strongly that anything that “touches” the software becomes free as well – but, not strongly enough not to ask for donations because they actually created the software.
So, for those open source author’s – put up and shut up or write commercial software, but don’t think using guilt, pity or such to garner donations is in the spirit of the open source philosophy. At a bare minimum, setup a license for those who want to contribute so that the viral nature of the GPL doesn’t apply to them and then, maybe you’ll get something for your hard work. When you give something away for free, people will value your work in to it as much as you’ve placed the value on the work (i.e. free). I know several projects I’d love to contribute to if they had an alternate license for those contributing – and several that I’ve actually given to, some from the value of the work to my business and others because it was way cool or had an alternate license.
Category tags: Open Source
Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2008 10:49:12 AM by Paul Davis
Well, it continues to happen and I'm not surprised. This time an open source company, mySQL, is bought by another company, SUN. I am curious, given the open source product development, as to the profits. See, a long time ago I heard a proprietary software developer laugh at the open source movement, something like "Someone is going to make a lot of money off of that and it won't be the contributors". Well it seems those words came to pass. The owners of mySQL are raking in a fortune while those who made it happen (the little people) got to participate.
Compound that with companies, like facebook, which use open source tools, like mySQL and who sell parts of their company for millions - you've just got to wonder - how can I get a staff of people working for an open source project I own for free so that I can sell the company, who owns the main copyright of the open source project, years later for millions?
To the point of the purchase, I do wonder what this will hold for mySQL? What will SUN do with the project? Will it become like Red Hat's distro for Linux - all for profit entries with the source files for the distro off somewhere else? Will the pre-install licensing change? One thing is for sure, the mySQL is open source, so they can't change that - and it will still be widely used and installed for some time to come. I would love to see the database make it to the next level of maturity and include enterprise level functionality (beyond what it has now) that will make it a slam dunk decision for most applications. What I think would also be really awesome would be an application distribution, like MS Access, to bring it to the desktop or to be married to Java somehow and made inter-operable with the language! Now that would be cool!