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Re: [tlug] GPL vs. paid version and ethics


On Mon, 06 Aug 2012 03:33:00 +0900
"Stephen J. Turnbull" <> wrote:

> Attila Kinali writes:
>  > Why? Because most paid programmer groups i've seen so far work
>  > in a group of lone-gunman kind of way.
> You mean the folks who gave us Unity?  I suppose so, but then how
> about GNOME 3?  GNU Emacs, anyone?  ;-)

ARGHH.... ^^;

>  > While on the other hand, hobbyists talk with each other constantly,
>  > review each others work and thus improve each others programming
>  > skills and dublicated work is greatly limited. New people entering
>  > the group usually start from an "easy" point they have choosen
>  > themselves and diskussion and feedback comes to them, as soon as
>  > they publish their work on the mailinglist. This greatly simplifies
>  > and speeds up the initiation of new members.
> Yeah, yeah, yeah, CatB! HtNS! etc, but (I hate to break it to you) as
> a general proposition that theory was bullshit when a group of us
> FSBers published it in IEEE Software in 1999 or so as a response to a
> Steve McConnell editorial, and it's still bullshit today.[1]

Any references to those papers?
And which Front Side Bus do you mean? ;-)

> That's not to say that there aren't significant, high-value areas of
> software where hobbyists can do the job, namely those areas where the
> hobbyists are the users who matter.[2]  Prominent examples include the
> Linux kernel itself and the Apache webserver.

Uhmm.. a prominent counter example would be libav/ffmpeg.
It has been started by hobbists, and 10 years later it ist still
run by hobbists. Ok, there is a handfull of people who occasionally
get paid to work on libav, but they are a minority and it's usually
just contractor work for a couple of weeks/months at most.
And to put it into perspective: libav is the single most widely used
A/V decoding library. And even if you substract VLC it is still market
leader. Our guestimate is that 2/3s of all comercial software video
players rely on it and 1/3 of all "hardware players" that play more than
just MPEG2 use libav (including those that have hardware acceleration
which isnt supported by libav).

> AFAIK you're wrong.  I
> only know a very few people who have managed to get code into either
> of those two projects (aside from the "big names" I could claim
> acquaintance with based on a single personal email ;-), although the
> list of wannabes includes folks like Steve Baur.

Well.. if you think that one line and other trivial fixes count,
then you can add another person to that list ;-)

> The thing is, there never would have been a Mozilla without Netscape,
> and no OpenOffice without Sun Microsystems.  

s/Sun Microsystems/Star Division/ ;-)

> Admittedly, Mozilla today
> is a more open project and still is a big improvement over IE, but
> OpenOffice is just a wannabe.

I dont follow exactly what's happening around Open/LibreOffice, but
AFAIK it went completely OSS after the Oracle debacle and is still
going strong.

>  Octave is not Matlab, R is not S, and
> Maxima is not Mathematica.  MySQL and PostgreSQL are wonderful, but
> they're not Oracle or DB2.  GNOME and KDE are not the Mac OS X GUI.
> In any major system where the devil is in the details, you need to pay
> somebody to deal with the devil, and you need to pay bosses to watch
> the somebodies and accountants to keep track of the bosses and the
> somebodies.  Even stuff like Ghostscript and GCC are at best somewhere
> in the middle.

Yes, companies are a great place to build big software packages from
scratch very quickly, but that doesn't mean those software packages
are well written. They work, yes, and if you have a project leader
with half a brain you get decent code. But in most cases you wont.
At least in my experience.

On the other hand, hobbists tend not to build big monsters from scratch.
They grow into monsters (Gnome anyone?). Whether it becomes any good
and usefull is a matter of whether it scratches an itch that noone else
scratches and whether project can attract the right developers. This
isnt easy, and i guess that the failure rate for OSS projects is a lot
higher than for comercial projects. But those that survive the first
couple of years are of a lot better breed than their comercial counterparts.

> And I know a lot of small shops where people are paid to do the work
> they love, and they do communicate, review, and train each other while
> keeping an eye on the relevance of all those activities as well as
> direct development work to the bottom line.

Then you have a much better experience than i. Sofar i've seen only
one company that had regular reviews... and that went bankrupt after
the bottom line has been in deep red colours for 15 years..
All others just throw out as much code as fast as possible. If it works
it's good, if it has some weird hard to trace bugs, even better, then they
can charge the customer for fixing them.

> but it's useful to have paid operators (ie, developers
> with an unusual talent for diagnosis based on user reports) standing
> by to filter and edit a bit.  It would *not* be useful to have a
> volunteer on the mailing list who just responds to every n00b with
> "good idea, patch welcome", though: you really need people to do work
> that any of us would insist on a handsome salary before taking the job.

I've done that for MPlayer for a couple of years. Filter all incoming
bug reports for stuff that would be real bugs (most of them were user
errors) and pass them on to the developers. Unfortunately, nobody paid
me anything for it...

			Attila Kinali
The trouble with you, Shev, is you don't say anything until you've saved
up a whole truckload of damned heavy brick arguments and then you dump
them all out and never look at the bleeding body mangled beneath the heap
		-- Tirin, The Dispossessed, U. Le Guin

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