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[tlug] The Commons Is Not the Code

I've recently been reading through Nadia Eghbal's new book _Working in
Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software_ and about
halfway through I came across a paragraph so insightful that I felt
compelled to post it here before finishing the book:

    Open source code itself is not a common pool resource but a positive
    externality of its underlying contributor community. Users can consume,
    or "appropriate," code at zero marginal cost, because what the commons
    actually manages is not code but attention. When developers make
    contributions, they appropriate this attention from the commons.

For those of you who are not economists[1], who let you on this
list?^W^W^W^W^W^W what this means is that the code itself is a
non-rivalrous: no matter how many copies are made it costs nobody anything
(or close enough to nothing that it makes no difference). Thus, there can
be no "tragedy of the commons" here, as the code itself can't be used up.

Yet things akin to the tragedy of the commons do happen in the open source
community, and what's really going on there and the reasons for it is a
substantial part of Eghbal's book.

[1]: If you immediately get the following joke, you may be an economist.
Two economists are walking past a Porsche dealership. Looking in the
window, one says to the other, "I want that car." The other says, "No
you don't."

Curt J. Sampson      <>      +81 90 7737 2974

To iterate is human, to recurse divine.
    - L Peter Deutsch

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