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Linux Business IT

Should Enterprise IT Give Back To Open Source? 312

snydeq writes "InfoWorld reports on the fight over open source 'leeches' — companies that use open source technology but don't give back to the open source community. While some view such organizations as a tragedy of the commons, others view the notion of 'freeloaders' as a relic of open source's Wild West era, when coding was a higher calling and free software a religion. To be sure, increased adoption by mainstream enterprises has played a hand in changing the terms of this debate. Yet, as the biggest consumer of open source software, enterprise IT still gives almost nothing back to the community, critics contend, calling into question the long-term effect corporate culture will have on the evolution of open source — and the long-term effect open source will have on rewiring companies toward collaboration."
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Should Enterprise IT Give Back To Open Source?

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  • by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:34AM (#28167075)

    But many companies are too small to make a signifigant contribution. Are we suggesting making contributions manditory in order to get free software? Doing this would simply destroy the OSS movement completely.

    Microsoft requires contributions... of money. Small companies that cant help develop OSS would simply be forced back to the traditional pay-for software.

  • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:36AM (#28167087)

    The Free Open Source Software community, that builds free, open source software, is complaining that they are not, in one way or another, being another compensated for their free software?

  • by Tinctorius ( 1529849 ) * on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:36AM (#28167089)

    This is exactly what the little voice in the head of everyone who firmly believes in the GPL says: everyone who uses open source software must give back, because it was free. I think people should shut that voice up. Now.

    The problem of freeloaders is approached here with sticks. Although that approach may work fine for some software or other licensed stuff, they work horribly if the customer has a choice. Instead, try the carrots approach. Make users fall in love with your project, so they actually want to give back to the software. Unfortunately, I don't know how to make the heartless, money-driven enterprise IT fall in love with a bunch of code, but it would obviously be a more durable solution than punishing everyone (what about other users?) who doesn't give back.

    It all gives the statement "this is free software" such a hypocritical ring to it, and that's probably the last thing you want if you're building a community. If your software is free, then everything you do with it must be a free choice, regardless of the context you're using it in.

    tl;dr Forcing people to contribute to free software is (oxy)moronic.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:36AM (#28167091)

    The idea that users should give back to the community is absurd. If the "community" was at all concerned about receiving some kind of recompense, surely they would have charged the users for the software.

    But Free Software is about freedom. Not only the freedom to give your source code away, but the freedom to modify and adapt software as needed. There is no concept of a user returning source code to the community except as a contributor (which, again, is a freely undertaken venture). The only time someone is required to "give back" to the community is when they seek to propagate their changes. Since the idea is to make sure everyone is able to use and modify the software as they need, it is necessary to require the new source changes.

    So if I don't steal your car, but only borrow it for a day and return it washed and waxed with the gas tank full, what is the point of claiming damages? That is sheer greed. It is the antithesis of what the Free Software Movement is all about.

  • It's in the rules (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:36AM (#28167095) Journal
    If you don't like people using your code, then don't release it under a licence that allows people to use it without giving back.

    If you don't like people using stuff that your "community" created, what gives you the right to say how other people should let their code be used?

    What harm is done if they don't give back to the community? Failing to do so does no harm to the resource. It doesn't benefit it either but neither does using a closed source solution.
  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {}> on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:37AM (#28167121)
    There should be no compulsion to contribute, as the freedom to choose to contribute or not *must* be one of the fundamental freedoms in Open Source.

    Think of their usage as advertising...
  • by Shrike82 ( 1471633 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:38AM (#28167129)
    From TFA:

    The Eclipse community should create peer pressure to prevent the freeloaders and parasites from getting away without punishment

    How the hell can anyone consider "punishment" for people who use open-source software? If you make your code open-source then I thought the whole point was that anyone and everyone was free to use it within the constraints of the licence. Show me where it says "Thou shalt giveth back to the open-source community or faceth my wrath".

    This mentality is outrageous and damaging to the very principles of open-source software.

  • Free Software (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:39AM (#28167143)

    If you have to give back, then it's not "free software". A similar thing was seen in the whole "Linux" vs. "GNU/Linux" debate. If it's really "free", then why the demands for something in return? Why the demands for credit? Why the complaints about freeloaders? Freeloading is always the result of giving something away for free.

  • by Leebert ( 1694 ) * on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:41AM (#28167171)

    Free software developers lose exactly nothing when someone uses their software.

    Free software gains ubiquity when someone uses their software. Which translates into things like vendor support (drivers, etc.), the advantages of greater adoption for certain technologies (Metcalf's law type stuff), etc. etc.

  • Missing the point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:49AM (#28167287)

    Bill Gates called and wants his moral high ground [] back.

    Seriously, if you feel some sense of entitlement because you write software that other people use, a proprietary model is a more effective way to get what you deserve. Though note, what you actually deserve and what you think you deserve may not be the same thing...

  • by j-turkey ( 187775 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:52AM (#28167329) Homepage

    Fair!?! WHO'S THE FUCKING NIHILIST HERE! What are you, a bunch of fucking crybabies?

    (I know...the open source community != Nihilists, but I couldn't resist the chance to use this otherwise applicable Big Lebowski quote)

  • by anomnomnomymous ( 1321267 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:53AM (#28167337)
    What, so now another condition for using Open Source software is that you should be contribruting to it?
    If I use Open Office for my company, this means I should be contributing to its codesource? What if my company is an accountant agency? Should I feel morally obliged to hire programmers to do my share?

    I think it's quite funny how first the open source movement seems to complaint how everybody is using proprietary software instead of the open source variants, which are (in some cases) perfectly able to do the job.
    But now that some companies are alowly picking up some open source software, they get bashed for not contributing.
    If you're working on open source software and you got a problem with companies actually using it without contributing, I'm sure there is a license that will let you AND open your source up to other people, AND be able to say that companies can't commercially use it.

    Or... just make your source closed...
  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:54AM (#28167345) Journal

    Small companies that use open source software are giving back by employing those who administer this software.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:57AM (#28167379) Journal

    This is exactly what the little voice in the head of everyone who firmly believes in the GPL says: everyone who uses open source software must give back, because it was free. I think people should shut that voice up. Now.

    If you firmly believe in the GPL, then all you want given back are changes made to the code. If all you do is use the code, you have nothing to give back. Bug reports are of course appreciated but not required.

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:58AM (#28167383)

    Trying to argue that the spirit of Open Source to recontribute to improve products, and that we've built our company upon that spirit and so we should contribute falls on deaf ears. We've now gotten big enough that the senior management and lawyers are more concerned with our IP than with supporting the community that supported us when we were starting. It's bad enough that I'm not even allowed to post code snippets/example bind or ntp configs etc on to various mailing lists I may be on because they also belong to "us".

    There is a strong push at the technical level to recontribute, to fund a couple of the projects that we use heavily, but ultimately it's the higher ups and the legal folks that say no way.

    I expect things like that are the reason enterprises are leeches, and I expect there is a large contingent of technical workers who disagree with the decision. I know I do.

    The problem is that you are not communicating with the higher ups in language they understand. You say, "We should recontribute because that is the spirit of Open Source." They hear, "We should give away our hard work so that our competitors can benefit from it."
    What you should say is, "We should recontribute so that someone else can make IMPROVEMENTS on our modifications that we can then use without having to pay for it." You need to communicate to them that there are people out there who, once they see the changes you have made to the project, will make other changes that you would not have thought of, but that you can benefit from.

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:59AM (#28167389) Homepage Journal

    This is the problem with the FOSS model. The vast majority of the people only care about free as in beer. Heck even the majority of FOSS zelots on Slashdot contribute nothing to FOSS. They claim that they are supporters because they encourage other people to use FOSS. The problem with FOSS is people need to eat. They want to own a home and retire someday. To do that you must get paid.
    A good number of Kernel developers are getting paid by Red Hat, IBM, and Novell. Imagine that they are getting paid by companies that sell software and at in the case of IBM hardware.
    Firefox developers are getting paid by Google search. Yes Firefox makes money from... Advertising!
    OpenOffice developers are getting paid by Sun because Sun really hated Microsoft. Let us hope that keep up.
    You can never force people to contribute to FOSS. It will not happen and that is just that. What is worse is that they models of how one can make money with FOSS are limited to only a few types of software. Nobody will every pay for modifications and support for a casual game.

    This is why FOSS will never be the only model for software development. It is also why Linux if it is every really going to do well on the desktop will need to have a way for people to sell software.

  • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:00AM (#28167397)

    By 'legitimising' the software, by using it. Just as IBM got people used to the idea of using PCs in a business environment, so big organisations, by using Linux and Oo, are saying that it's "OK" to use this stuff. As more and more businesses use FOSS, pressure will increase on hardware and software companies to improve support - in fact, this trend is well underway...I'm really looking forward to the time when I can go to the local store and pickup a laptop or whatever and it's got Linux pre-installed, I get home/to the client's site, plug it in and all my peripherals 'just work', I can install and run my old windows legacy apps 'out of the box' etc.

    We're pretty close already...(those of you that have not tried - for example - Ubuntu lately, try again. I just installed on a brand-new laptop that came with Vista as standard and everything worked pretty well, including traditional problem areas such as video, wifi and bluetooth. Impressive.)

  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:00AM (#28167405)
    Agreed. The OSI during the late 1990s went out of their way to try and make Open Source palatable to businesses, and did so in large part by trying to water down the "share and share alike" ethic of the Free Software movement. These are the people like Eric S Raymond and his ilk who went around urging companies to take in Open Source software. They sold it with the whole Cathedral and Bazaar thing, where these giant companies could leverage the productive power of a large group of developers without having to pay for a large group of developers. They intentionally glossed over and marginalized the FSF's idea that consumers of Free Software should contribute to and redistribute the code, and created a split between the "Free Software" and "Open Source" concepts. They "approved" a significant number of software licenses that were technically Open Source, but were entirely against the basic idea Free Software was built on. In return for all this kowtowing to corporations and putting their concerns above the basic ethos of Free Software, they were rewarded with board positions at high flying dot-com companies, and millions of now-worthless shares of inflated dot-com stock.

    Now we complain that these corporations are taking advantage of Open Source software in exactly the way the OSI told them they could? Sure, some of them played lip service to "contributing back to the community," and some of them even do. But none of them will ever contribute back as much as they get, because the entire reason they went with Open Source in the first place was so they could get all the development work without having to pay for it.

    This is what you get when you take a movement based on an ideal and pervert it to try and take "market share" for a free product. You get more people using the product, but you lose the ideal in the process.
  • by sgt scrub ( 869860 ) <(saintium) (at) (> on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:04AM (#28167461)

    If the administrators at those small companies see a way to improve the software then give those improvements back then that should be enough.

  • by SwashbucklingCowboy ( 727629 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:10AM (#28167521)

    Here we go with this crap again...

    Listen folks - there are NO open source leeches. It is WRONG to put open source out for ALL to use and then start calling people names because they're using the software EXACTLY AS YOU ALLOWED THEM TO DO.

    If you want people to give back what they add THEN PUT IT IN THE LICENSE. Of course, that will limit the appeal of your software, but such is life.

  • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily@gmail.COLAcom minus caffeine> on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:11AM (#28167555)

    Are we suggesting making contributions manditory in order to get free software?

    That's not free as in speech, and not free as in beer. And don't get me started on measuring contributions.

  • by kris ( 824 ) <> on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:16AM (#28167647) Homepage

    In the past ten years I have been working in multiple companies that have had businesses based on open source software. Very often these businesses not only used open source software, but also substantially modified it in order to adjust it to the needs of the enterprise, to make it scale or simply to fix bugs in code that otherwise has been rarely exercised.

    In effect, this created a fork of the software, internally inside the enterprise.

    These changes can be maintained inside the company, binding company ressources, or they can be put back upstream. Code can be part of what differentiates you from other companies, or it can be code that does stuff you do which others do as well - then it is infrastructure code to you. All infrastructure code inside your company you should share as open source quickly and reliably, because that not only improves the code but also shares your cost with others.

    Very often companies do not do that - instead they are maintaining their fork of code internally, failing to integrate changes from the outside into their own fork, and binding valueable development ressources inside the enterprise in reproducing changes from the outside indepently. The reason for that is usually that there is an intellectual property regime which requires clearance of code before it can leave the company, but insufficient staffing for the actual clearance process.

    As the enterprise slowly accumulates and integrates more and more open source projects to maintain their business they are slowly dragged down if they do not manage the process of giving changes back upstream properly.

  • Re:Free Software (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Maximum Prophet ( 716608 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:20AM (#28167691)
    Exactly right. Using free software, all companies are able to be Freeloaders. But, all good corporate citizens should give back where they can.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:24AM (#28167737)

    This is exactly what the little voice in the head of everyone who firmly believes in the GPL says: everyone who uses open source software must give back, because it was free. I think people should shut that voice up. Now.

    I firmly believe in the GPL and I don't believe "everyone who uses open source software must give back". I believe in following the license: use it freely, modify it freely, but give back your changes if you distribute. Anybody who doesn't support this position is free to create and use their own license on their own code.

    This whole thing is basically a strawman or a troll or similar. One guy who noboby's ever heard of says something stupid/controversial and then people (including you) start representing his view as if it was in any way representative of "GPL supporters".
    Given how "GPL Supporters" *constantly* emphasize the key point that companies don't have to give anything back at all unless they redistribute, it's pretty clear that his view is almost totally unrepresentative.

    The guy's probably either got some personal beef (wishes he hadn't released his stuff under the GPL so now attacks companies who use it and don't contribute, even thought that was his decision) or he just wants to promote his company or product.

  • by StylusEater ( 1206014 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:29AM (#28167815)

    "Well, to put it simply you are not very smart."

    I beg to differ. I know my worth in the market place and know there are many other opportunities out there with managers who actually "get it." Why have a false sense of loyalty to a company who won't work with you even after many lengthy discussions. Money isn't everything to me and I'm sure it's not to many others.

    "Obviously in your contract it states that every code (or anything for that matter) that you created in the company was IP for the company but nothing prevented you from taking the idea to a next level say have the process well defined and work with the community to develop it."

    There actually wasn't anything in my contract that said such a thing about "code." I also didn't have a contract. By law if I did that would expose the company to many many other issues. Most US companies are "at-will" and don't give their employees contracts because it makes hiring and more importantly, firing, much more difficult in the US court system.

    "I beleve we must stand for what we believe when what's being asked from us goes against it or to harm it but as far as I can tell you just acted like a snotty kid who had his precious toy taken away."

    I'm glad we agree about standing up for what we believe in but I didn't have my "toy" taken from me. I simply asked to publish the code and setup a way to discuss the project/process and code base with the greater community. They thought they could throw money at me; now who's childish?

    "Congratulations on losing a job based on that."

    Ahem, I didn't lose the job. I quit. There is a huge difference.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:43AM (#28168025) Journal

    As a free software[1] developer, I don't care who uses my code without giving anything back, but they shouldn't expect anything from me beyond a tarball. If someone provides helpful bug reports, then we both benefit from improved software by my spending some time addressing them. If someone submits a patch that is useful to more than one person, we both benefit if I review and commit it.

    Someone who uses my code and gives nothing back is just irrelevant to me. If it helps them, then that's great for them, and I'm pleased that it's saved them the effort of reimplementing my work, but beyond that I just don't care.

    Community is important. Communities form because it benefits the members more to be part of them than to be entirely independent individuals. If you don't want to join a community, you can still get some of the benefits from its existence, but not all of them.

    [1] I prefer the term Hippyware - it's more expressive and less confusing.

  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:45AM (#28168065)
    And those guys usually give back by demanding and paying for robust, well tested software from their vendors which then give back to the open source community. Since Redhat, Suse, and the other distro's and software houses are by FAR the biggest contributors of code to the OS community those large IT shops are giving back directly by paying the salary of the fulltime developers who are the largest contributors. There are significant contributions from the hobyist/enthusiast sector but the bulk of the work, especially on unsexy areas is done by people who are paid to do the work and either their employer or their customers are carrying those costs.
  • by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@gm a i l . c om> on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:48AM (#28168097)

    The Free Open Source Software community, that builds free, open source software, is complaining that they are not, in one way or another, being another compensated for their free software?

    Let's also not forget these are the same people who tout OSS's zero purchase cost as one of its biggest advantages over Windows.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:48AM (#28168111) Journal

    Restaurants that employ people are making a vigorous food industry possible. Companies that hire people to administer open source software are making a vigorous open source industry possible. Employing people is good for the community, and that's what open source is, a community.

  • BAD ANALOGY (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bobtree ( 105901 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:57AM (#28168203)

    This is most definitely NOT a "tragedy of the commons" scenario. Open Source and Free software are available for unlimited duplication and have no inherent scarcity, unlike the allegorical commons. The fact that they benefit from more widespread usage due to feedback and bugfixing further turns this stupidly misused comparison on its head.

  • by mabhatter654 ( 561290 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:57AM (#28168205)

    The real problem is that most IT departments are "cost centers" now. Every hour you spend not working on a "billable" project to another department is "waste". When accounting sees that you spend 2 workdays a month writing OSS documentation or answering FAQs (because you're giving back solutions to things you've learned how to fix, or cleaning up documentation to match your company's standards.. all good things) Accounting will see that as "wasted" time and prefer you just spent the $2500 on a package so that you can "call somebody" and have them do the work. Also, many department managers are paid by the "value" of their departments. If you manage a department running free software with few license fees and only 2-3 "reporting" workers then you're not taken as seriously as the manager that has a $100k sunk investment in IBM or Microsoft tools per year and 5-6 reports... because the later "must do more work". When the 2-3 reports are spending time writing documentation (because it works!) and not doing "billable" fixing management wonders why you can't have one less person.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:01AM (#28168283)

    But there's a collection plate.

    You don't HAVE to pay, but you should. If you don't the museum may have to close.

    But does that mean the museum isn't free?


  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:06AM (#28168351) Homepage

    Woah. Wait a minute.

    I designed and produced several Embedded system products based on Linux. I DID give back. Not by sending in code, I did not change a line of anything in the linux kernel. I DID give back by posting knowledge to problems online freely as well as saying the product runs linux and here's a link to the source code for all the apps and packages in it.

    Only a nutjob thinks you must "give back" by submitting patches or code. The Knowledge given back that solved even 1 persons problem faster is valuable. Along with the advertising that the acknowledgment and the link to sources.

    Jeebus, the Current Panasonic Plasma and LCD tv's all run linux, and you can find the link as well as the "it runs linux" advertisement in the setup menu. That's a GREAT give back from Panasonic. They get the name linux in the face of millions of people that have no clue what linux is.

    The companies that package OSS up and try to pass it off as theirs? Yes they are the asshats of industry. Don't lump the rest of us in with the idiots.

  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:06AM (#28168359)

    The problem of freeloaders is approached here with sticks. [...] Instead, try the carrots approach. Make users fall in love with your project, so they actually want to give back to the software.

    A freeloader is someone who puts a load on things; using free software doesn't burden the author. Since no load is being put on anyone, there is no giving back, but simply giving. This is a big point of free software, that it costs virtually nothing to allow everyone to use the software freely, so artificially restricting this is just wasting a free resource. Personally I feel that others using free software I write is a gift to me, as it gives me an audience and thus feedback and motivation to improve my software creation skills.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:08AM (#28168391)

    Those who do not give back shouldn't be punished,

    They don't need to be punished. They are punishing themselves by having to maintain their unreleased modifications 'for ever' and by the risk that their mods may not only cease to work but become impractical to rework as the code base changes.

  • by Forge ( 2456 ) <> on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:10AM (#28168421) Homepage Journal
    Companies, large and small with no internal developers do make contributions to OSS without even thinking about it or being noticed.

    These are the same companies who PAY the likes of RedHat for "support". The auditors sometimes insist that we buy "licenses" for all "production platforms". So which companies do and sponsor the most Linux development? Why these same OSS vendors.

    On top of that, those companies with internal talent tend to contribute without management even being aware. It gos along the lines of:

    Manager-: Geeks, we need this by next Friday, get cracking. Geeks-: Sure boss (don't know how but we will do it)

    Then the geeks go to the community and together they hack code and make "whatever" work. That code becomes part of the community's stockpile and sometimes ends up in the official tree.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:11AM (#28168439) Homepage

    It's called having scruples and most people don't have them.

    your old employer crossed a line you believe strongly in. You reacted with what you though was best.

    That makes you a far better man than most. I tip my hat to you.

  • An act of faith (Score:3, Insightful)

    by westlake ( 615356 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:20AM (#28168539)

    "We should recontribute so that someone else can make IMPROVEMENTS on our modifications that we can then use without having to pay for it." You need to communicate to them that there are people out there who...will make other changes that you would not have thought of, but that you can benefit from.

    They may be out there.

    That doesn't mean they aren't working for your competitors and keeping their changes in house.

    Sometimes the ball just lies there dead.

    You can't promise your boss that opening the code will yield a timely - and significant - return.

  • Zero marginal cost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:22AM (#28168569) Homepage
    The "tragedy of the commons" does not apply. There is no scarce resource here. The cost to a Free Software developer of one more IT shop installing his software is zero. Since a small fraction do contribute, each additional installation produces, on average, a net positive contribution. There are no "leeches". Everyone is welcome to use the software whether they can contribute or not. The more the merrier.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:34AM (#28168727)

    I don't know.
    There is this thing called morally wrong and then there is this thing call legally wrong.
    Legally I'm not obliged to help any injured person, but morally, I will be a dick if I left them there suffering.

    What you said is no different from having a millionaire eating at a charity soup kitchen without donating a cent. He's not a leech and he can do EXACTLY AS YOU ALLOWED HIM TO DO.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:53AM (#28168993)

    They're also giving back by submitting bug reports and helping devs find problems in the software. They might also help others solve problems in mailing lists and forums.

    While this might be true for many companys, there's also a lot of them with the idea that they "own" bugfixes for (sometimes gpl-licensed) software, "so why should we give that back, we had cost for bugfixing this and that, pay us or we keep it!"...

  • by herksc ( 1447137 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:55AM (#28169029)

    Small companies that use open source software are giving back by employing those who administer this software.

    Wish it was possible to mod this higher than 5.

  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <charleshixsn@ea r t h l i n> on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:32PM (#28169555)

    That's their loss. The next time the software's revised, their version will be incompatible. Different fixes will have been used. And the revisions will work with the standard fixes, not their custom mods.

    So, yes, they're playing dog in the manger. But it's likely to hurt them more than it hurts the community. (The community probably won't even notice.)

  • by digitrev ( 989335 ) <> on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:40PM (#28169669) Homepage
    Without restaurants, people would buy all their food from the grocery store.

    Without open source, people would buy all their software from closed source.

    Clearly, employing people that work in open source is good for open source, just as employing people in restaurants is good for the food industry.
  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <charleshixsn@ea r t h l i n> on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:46PM (#28169749)

    This is a community, not a borg. You get lots of different ideas in a community. Some aren't so hot.

    If you read the threads under this article, you'll notice that most people are dismissing this argument. You might also notice that the published article was in InfoWorld. Hardly a spokesman for ANY segment of the FOSS community.

  • The BLOB (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MarkvW ( 1037596 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @02:09PM (#28170715)

    Parent is one of the few things worth reading on this silly thread.

    A copyright license that requires the performance of work is not free. It's not libre and it's not gratis. It's you making somebody do something in exchange for the use of your copyright. There is no distinction in this context between requiring the exchange of money and requiring the exchange of work.

    FOSS will never penetrate a business that derives competitive advantage from software development unless somebody outside the business destroys that competitive advantage with a superior FOSS product. A corollary of this applies to businesses who mistakenly think that they derive a competitive advantage from software development.

    FOSS is like the Blob, though (most of the time). When the blob gets big enough, it destroys the salability of the for-profit software software it encompasses. You can't expect people to quit making money (or to quit thinking that they are making money) from private software until they are swallowed by the blob.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @02:40PM (#28171229)
    I work for a very very large (Fortune 500) tech company, and we use tons of open source. My team (and many others thoughout the company) have been pushing for us to contribute to open source. The big problem is that at every stage you bump into the inevitable bureaucracy inherit in a large company, from the legal department concerned about IP, to management figuring out who will do it or what will the limits be, to the managers who want to put a process on all work their developers and their readiness to take people off open source projects and put them on projects that "bring in revenue". There are obviously arguments against all of these, but unless you are a holy warrior and push it all the time, many people just give up. I mean, we can't even get a member on a W3C committee because no one wants to take responsibility.

    That said, things are changing, though slowly. We have started an internal open source endeavor to start people thinking about sharing (the company notoriously reinvents the wheel all over the place). Hopefully later people will understand that and understand what it can do for a big company and then start contributing to public projects.

    So while I think things will improve, my point is that large enterprise companies have many obstacles to overcome to allow their developers to contribute to open source and unless you have people who really push it, many developers manage to leap over a few hurdles only to be tired down by all of them.

  • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:34PM (#28172187) Homepage

    What you said is no different from having a millionaire eating at a charity soup kitchen without donating a cent.

    It's HUGELY different! Eating at a charity soup kitchen means that much less food for the truly needy. Using Free/Libre software doesn't affect the amount of available Free/Libre software at all! It just means one more person using Free/Libre software. There's no reason to begrudge anyone, no matter how rich or powerful. And speaking as someone who's been developing Free/Libre software for many years, and has been an active member of the Debian project for a decade, I don't begrudge anyone who uses Free/Libre software I've written or contributed to. I do, however, begrudge misguided idiots who try to guilt people out of using software I've written or contributed to. When I sent it out to be freely copied , I meant it!

    Not that I object to helpful bug reports or handy patches that provide nice new functionality. But it's not and never was a condition of my initial distribution of the software.

    Your "analogy" about not helping an injured person makes so little sense to me that I'm not even sure how to respond to that one, assuming it really was supposed to be some sort of analogy, and not just the completely irrelevant, off-topic blather that it looks like.

  • Whiners (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @03:58PM (#28172543)

    Open Source should STFU and get busy designing a decent desktop interface or unified graphics API for Linux and stop wasting time bitching who is or is not contributing to "free" software.....or start charging for it.

  • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @04:16PM (#28172831)
    And there's nothing at all wrong with that!! It is a major hassle to get bug fixes back to open source developers. I've fixed bugs, but it's not worth the effort for me to figure out where the central bug base for that product is, to create a reproducible case suitable for the bug, to deal with all the questions that come back about my weird corner case, etc.

    If you don't require Joe Hacker to participate, then you shouldn't require MegaCorp to participate either.

    If you don't like this, then do not develop Open Source software or Freeware; instead create software with restrictions that only like minded individuals may use it.
  • by noundi ( 1044080 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @07:59AM (#28180201)
    Hatta defined the supply and you defined the demand. Both are vital. The point is that the single most important part of OSS is using it. There's simply nothing more important, no ifs or buts about it. Because no matter how much money you spend or how much code you hack the software is ironically useless if it isn't used. However if it is used you'll get publicity, and publicity leads to interested investors and coders, which leads to old fashion kaching.

    Having said this there's still another side to the story. Companies that violate the GPL, or other OSS licenses, are not to be tolerated. As we said, by merely using OSS you eventually nurture it, but if one cheats the license to ones advantage then we have taken a step back. This potentially harms the entire community instead. As long as the licenses are respected, I'm mainly thinking GPL and licenses alike, there's no shame in using OSS without ever reporting a bug, or proposing code, or any of the actions mentioned. Because even if you do none of the above you will eventually talk to somebody about this software, which will nurture it by growing even larger. And even if you never mention this software to anybody it will at least affect google search hits making their site more popular and likely to receive those hits, thus nurturing. At the smallest scale changes might go unnoticed, but it doesn't mean they never occurred. And let's not forget, as long as we're not taking any steps back we're not losing anything, but instead gaining, not matter how small or big the gain is.

    To me that's what's important to remember about OSS.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie