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ESR Interview in Fast Company Magazine 69

srl writes "Fast Company, a magazine that talks a lot about the "new world of work" and how the Net is changing business, has a long interview with ESR in this month's issue. The interview talks about how open-source is changing people's ideas about *why* we should work. " If you've been looking for a magazine to further educate your PHB [?] , grab this issue. They can read on dead trees about open-source and believe you, because it's in Fast Company, and everyone know dead trees don't lie. *sarcastic grin*
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ESR Interview in Fast Company Magazine

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  • If you cared to look back into pre-Web publications, you'd find that this was enshrined quite some time before as the Peter Principle: "A person tends to be promoted up to their level of incompetence."
  • Hey, I have always been first to loudly insist that nothing could ever hurt GPLed development. I don't like it any more than you do, but I am questioning some of your assumptions. In particular, I am questioning whether poorer software would necessarily lead to less success. I'm questioning whether such a hijacking maneuver could be damaging, most significantly to the mainstream acceptance of open source. And I am questioning whether giving away a major tactical advantage to corporate 'individuals' is remotely healthy considering that those are the people patenting everything they possibly can.
    I never said, or suggested, that such a 'hijacking' would stop free software development entirely. I am saying that there's a danger that such a hijacking, combined with determined pursuit of all possible patents, could have two major effects:
    • "Linux" would mean 'MS' linux or whoever gains the upper hand as a corporation
    • Free software development could be forced not only into obscurity but entirely underground, because on the one hand improper patents can be bought that would prevent public/official work on entire areas of computing, and on the other hand a 'fake Linux' could be produced by hijacking, to confuse the public and _stop_ any inroads that Linux might be making.
    If I was Microsoft, and I could be reasonably certain that the GPL applied not to individuals but only to the corporate entity, I would immediately take the opportunity to produce a Linux that was bundled with a great deal of proprietary software- which offered interfaces to Windows APIs. I'd get IE working on it, I'd bundle Office with it, I'd do everything possible to make it THE distribution to have around. The most important factor of this embrace and extend would not be the making an IE for linux- it would be making APIs available at all costs, and dumping the product on the market at a total loss to make damn sure that anybody who wants to make software for 'Linux' would be able to simply write software for Windows and then tell people to use a _particular_ Linux- MS linux! because that was the only 'compatible' version.
    It worked great for OS/2, and it will work great again. If you don't see the problem here... I don't know. I admit I don't share ESR's enthusiasm to co-assimilate with corporations and big business. As such, I am naturally more concerned at the prospect of a 'protected' way to completely debase the principle of free (libre) software and enable well-heeled corporations to exert added control on the market and the industry.
    It seems to me that a risk like this needs to be properly evaluated and taken seriously, and I'm one of the people formerly most fond of saying 'there's nothing to worry about, we have the GPL don't we?'. So many assumptions- that productivity is the only consideration, that 'cathedral' will automatically produce crap that is less robust, that Microsoft's testing process is worse than the distributed Linux bazaar (there are some serious omissions in Linux debugging, such as usability testing), that a heavily funded branded commercial Linux would _not_ damage the Linux market and cause intentional confusion in the mind of the customer... I appreciate the goodvibes but am not convinced. We'll see. And if Microsoft reads this and does what I outlined, they can test out whether the Microsoft Corporation really can move faster than the Open Source Movement. But faster or not- given that sort of opportunity, do you think they cannot take advantage of it, or produce massive success even if they have to half bribe people to do it and half make it all up?
  • BUT, they were number 17 or something like that when it came to productivity.

    ... and the US shows pretty mediocre productivity growth (1.1% pa over the past five years, compared to an average of about 2.0% in Europe).

    There was an article in the economist a couple of months ago that made an even more distressing analysis: almost all of the productivity growth was due to massive productivity gains in computer hardware (costs of production have been decreasing dramatically). Once these figures are factored out, the only industrial sector showing positive productivity growth was agriculture.

  • I am quite sure you are right about companies being able to work on a new distribution `behind company walls' so to speak. My understanding is that while an employee is working under contract, he/she is considered to be an `organ' of the company, and legally identified with the company under normal circumstances.

    So I think the sketch you draw is legally plausible. Pragmatically, I think it isn't believable: it supposes that MS can permanently stay two steps ahead of the field with every release (implying a massive development effort at perpetual risk of being wrongstepped by the open source community), whose revenue model is profoundly breached by free redistribution.

  • Anonymous Coward wrote:
    "I cut payroll checks every two weeks for 600 people out of money that the company that I founded and run takes in as revenue on closed source. Don't fucking pretend that in twenty-five words or less that you can teach me anything about the relationship of the dynamics of motivation, money and passion. You can't even handle the fact that people should understand the heritage of the words they use. Go have another beer; it's the most significant thing you can do with the depth of your intellect.

    Sorry, I don't much like alcohol. You can buy me some orange juice, though.

    Do you really think the motivation you provide is in nothing but those 600 checks you cut twice a month? I doubt it. In fact, from this response it sounds like you can get pretty passionate.


  • The creation of phbs is a natural social process, it's called The Peter Principle []

    It basically says that people get promoted until they can't perform the job anymore. then they stay there.

    There's also the way people are hired. Most people hire you because they like you (or can tolerate you), and you can basically do the job. Being likeable is a different skill than being capable, but it gets rewarded very often in life.

  • I'm assuming this magazine is printed on boards. (2x4's, plywood?) Why would PHB's be particularly impressed by this?

    Because PHB stands for Plywood Hugging Boss, of course...



  • "the value of a company in the future will be tied to how much value it can offer people on the outside, rather than how much value it can extract from people on the outside. In other words, can companies make it fun, interesting, challenging, and rewarding for people who are not their employees to contribute their time and ideas?"

    Huh? Sounds like companies will still need to "extract value" from people on the "outside". Sounds kinda tricky. If a company wants me to contribute time and ideas, it better share some "ownership". How?

    example: VISA. ($1.2 trillion in sales last year.) It's an info-age corporation with 30 years experience, growing 20% every year past booms bubbles busts bear bulls. No IPO's, take-overs, buy-outs, trade-outs, shake-outs, raids. Why? It's owned by its members. Shared in "non-transferable rights of participation". Dee Hock, who founded VISA, wanted to extend ownership to merchants and cardholders, but it wasn't possible at the time. Had it been, he believes it would be four times more powerful today.

    Key to Visa's success is chaos/organized *open* structure that attracts the by far most valuable (and least used) resource on earth: human ingenuity. call it "chaorganization". read about it here [] here [] here []
  • Yes, I would assume this term is popular among tree-huggers and related crowd.
  • I think this post should be moderated way up.
    It deserves that.
  • What did you expect ? ./ is primarly Linux zealots meeting point and consequently,hardly ever, reasonable opinion has any chance of being recognized as such. Specially, any disputes involving MS end up being heavily censored by mostly clueless moderators.
  • Not really the same I think, if I remember the Peter Principle is that people who are good at their job will be promoted and people who aren't won't, hence people will be promoted out of positions they're suited to then stick once they "reach their level of incompetence" i.e get given a job they can't do. They are promoted for being good at what they are already doing, not for being good for the new job.

    What the previous poster was suggesting was that people who aren't any good in their current position would be promoted, this is pretty much the opposite, and doesn't seem likely since it means deliberately putting incompetent people in charge where they CAN do damage. Shunting them off to non-managing admin jobs seems more likely.

    The Peter principle is much more plausible as a genuine effect.
  • I think you better check that again. I took a quick look at all the posts, and there are only about 4 posts that have been marked down, and they are all worthless drivel that has nothing do do with the article (ie first posts, and the like).

    All of the the other articles that you assume have been marked down, haven't been moderated at all. You can tell if a comment has been moderated, because it has a rating plus a reason for the rating (ie Interesting, Funny, Flamebait, etc...)

    There are several comments that are rated at 2 that haven't been moderated because that users karma is higher (they have earned this extra point by continuously providing interesting or insightful comments). Also, the comments that you assume are marked down are starting at 0, because the user is either and Anonymous Coward, or have posted enough drivel on the site to have lost a Karma point.

    I agree that there are many moderators who need to get their heads out of their collective butts, but most of the time, the system works quite well.
  • Have any studies been done relating the percentage of PHB's in upper-management of a company with the success of that company? Unless PHB's really do benefit a company in some way (upper management communication?), I would hope that they would eventually be naturally selected out.

    Since everyone seems to hate the PHB, I wonder how they get hired/promoted in the first place. I would have to say that a company with a large amount of PHB's amounts to a house of cards..there'd be no way that I would want to work for that kind of company, because eventually, something would be thrown at it that it could not handle.

    In the meantime, I've found a way to deal with PHB's, keep a technical manager between you and them at all times. :P
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @06:34AM (#1599343)
    If anyone's interested and in the Midwest. ESR will be speaking at the Mizzou LUG this weekend in Columbia, Missouri. You can get the details at
  • It's interesting how the world's work ethic is changing now. It used to be that we put in a forty hour week and drew a check, and after that, we went home. Now, the individual worker has the attitude of an artist, that the work he does should be a value to others. We take that pride in what we do, and although we might become workaholics because of it, the entire society benefits? Why? Because of the inevitable increase in quality.

    I read a statistic last week that said on average, Americans work more than any other group of people in the world. This was shocking, because the Japanese have held this title for years now. It would be neat if someone could link the results of this statistic to the booming success of Open Source.

    But seriously, I think that what has happened to the world to make us proud of our work is for the best. We are a group of people who are producing quality products at quicker rates and we are doing it for free. The Open Source Community is setting the stage for a change over the entire world!

    Brad Johnson
    Advisory Editor
  • Raymond is a visible and vocal advocate of open-source software -- a radically
    different approach to software development that has produced,
    most famously, the Linux operating system, the Apache Web server,
    and the Perl scripting language.

    So you people who were annoyed that Apache, as an Open-Source success, never got a mention seem to have been heard somewhere.
  • by osterby ( 104420 ) on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @06:42AM (#1599346) Homepage
    ESR makes a fly-by of an interesting parallel between open source development and the media.

    He says:
    "If you know that thousands of people will be scrutinizing your work and that the errors you make will almost certainly be spotted, and if you care about your reputation, then you will take great pains to create error-free work."

    This is the same dynamic encountered by reputable and successful journalists. To me that suggests that the press and open source development have much more in common than initially meets the eye.

  • Last time I took a dig at Fast Company, I got moderated down. I don't know why - perhaps the moderators assume that a thick glossy monthly business magazine must have credibility.

    Think again - Fast Company is a lifestyle magazine for people who admire the image of business...i.e., MBA students.

    Unless you actually beleive "people are brands!!", its hard to read this magazine without laughing out loud.

  • by emc3 ( 22477 )
    ESR continues to be one of my primary heros. He always manages to explain the heart of our community with such well-spoken clarity, without sounding like a zealot.

    One of the things he points out, which I think that many PHBs don't get, is that programming is a creative process. We often allow ourselves to think that technical thinking and creative thinking are on opposite ends of a spectrum, but that just isn't so. Hacking -- programming in particular -- is very much a creative process, where we manage to encapsulate leaps of logic into a logical framework. This is why we tend to be so passionate about our work, because art and passion are inevitably linked, and we are artists in our own right

    This interview allows ESR to reiterate so many of the things he said in Homesteading the Noosphere: Open Source is a forum where we geeks can indulge in a little self-agrandizment. We can say "Look at what I did!" to a community that understands why it is that what we did is cool.

    I really like his notion that the company of the future will concetrate more on how much value it can offer to people on the outside, rather than how much value it can extract from people on the inside. This is the kind of image some companies today are already trying to display, but few actually live up to.

    I've been really excited by the headway that Open Source is making into more "traditional" business circles these days. I don't think it will be much longer before we begin to see its promise realized a higher and higher levels. Really, we're already beginning to see it, as the examples of Cisco and IBM that ESR mentions show.

    Ernest MacDougal Campbell III / NIC Handle: EMC3

  • Company : Brand
    The Coca Cola Company : Coke, Surge,etc...
    3Com : Palm
    Intel : Pentium

    Oreilly & Assoc. : Larry Wall, Perl
    Transmeta : Linus
  • The same study showed that yes, Americans, on average work more hours than any other groups. BUT, they were number 17 or something like that when it came to productivity.

    Open Source Community is not purely American. KDE is based in Europe. GNOME was started by a Mexican (if I remember correctly). Open Source Community is a very international community.
  • Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly is a PHB?
  • by Glytch ( 4881 )
    >Can't you spell 'paper'?
    Paper? What's that... oh, wait! I know! It's that white flat stuff that's ejected from those ink-machines. Sometimes I have to use an ink-machine to present something to my professors. Oh, well...

  • The Dilbert principle states: If you are *bad* at your current job, you will be promted to a PHB job so you can't do any harm.

    The Peter principle states: If you are *good* at your job you will be promoted to do a different job. Repeat until you reach a job that you're not good at. Stop. This is more or less the oposite of the Dilbert principle.

    The Dilbert principle is intended to be funny (but as was noted, there is nothing funny about how popular Dilbert is). The Peter principal is based on observation.
  • I assume/hope/prey that everybody here is a "Homo sapiens var. sapiens...

  • Starting around the "September that would not end", there was a "company" called Cyberpromo, which would send out mass email to any email address they could find on usenet, and anywhere else they could find.

    This email promoted their services in several ways, including "Email uses no trees." Other dubious claims about low cost to send, and high response rates were also included. None of those were accurate, but they all seemed to imply the better "economy" of sending junk email versus junk postal mail. Almost everyone on the net at the time got at least one copy of that message. Perhaps the "dead trees" saying came about as a response to the "save trees" meme having been spread all around the net by a truly annoying company that wouldn't take "Stop sending email" for an answer.

    Then again, dead trees have been around longer than paper. Originally, it was more like "dead papyrus plants."

    All is not yet^W^W lost.
  • Pointy Haired Boss. If you read Dilbert, a PHB is somebody like Dilbert's boss. If you don't, read on...

    In the Dilbert comic strip, Dilbert's boss is never named, but often referred to as "the boss". He has receding-hairline baldness so that he has a horseshoe of hair, and that is pointed on both sides. If I remember correctly, Scott Adams (who writes Dilbert) said once that he more or less used it to symbolize Satan's horns.

    You must understand two things about Dilbert's boss: he is overbearing, and he is completely incompetent. Worse than Homer Simpson (indeed, this is possible).

    Thus, by extension, a PHB is any clueless supervisor. Not all managers are PHBs (though others may disagree with me on that one), but there are a lot of them out there.

  • "There are no patents, no trade secrets, no intellectual-property protections whatsoever. That's because no one person or company "owns" the software. A global, volunteer army of programmers create the software."

    We would all like to believe that, but there might be a problem, and we need to have some lawyers' opinions on it. There would appear to be a loophole- maybe.

    I've been having an argument with 'Fastolfe' in another Slashdot article, over application of the GPL, and he has raised a point that seems to have never occurred to anyone- and that could be fatal to the GPL and software using it. It has to do with a certain non-commonsense but possibly binding interpretation of what is a legal entity.

    My argument was that regardless of context, a person conveying binary to another person was 'distribution', and the person distributing was subject to all the rules of the GPL. This includes being forbidden to work on the code if other restrictions prevented the person from living up to the GPL's rules. All this is in the GPL, and I read it literally as legal wording is meant to be read. It appeared to me that if a corporation was placing NDAs on internal developers, that this would forbid the developers from working on GPLed code unless they were allowed to follow the GPL's restrictions and got permission to distribute as individuals.

    Under that interpretation, the GPL is bulletproof, and will 'route' information around attempts to block it. In any situation it would take only a single person to get information past a block, and all people cooperating on a private dev project would have to be keeping it private _voluntarily_ and could not be coerced without becoming unable to develop under the GPL at all. This is very obviously the _intent_ of the license. Unfortunately, there's a problem.

    Fastolfe's position was this: a corporation is considered a legal entity. If a corporation has GPLed code, it can work on it in private as much as it likes, and only has to give source and let other people into its process when it feels like it. Furthermore, it is allowed to restrict its employees and forbid them to share information with the outside world, because for the purposes of the license agreement the code is being worked on by the corporation (a legal entity), and not the individuals. As such, the individuals can work on the code without personal liability as they are not working on it 'as themselves' but as parts of the corporation- and of course the whole point of a corporation is to do exactly this.

    This is fatal to open source/free software, and in particular it is death to the GPL.

    It's a question of practical distributed development. The reason the GPL works in the open source community is that people let each other into their process- even so, there is concern that a larger company like Red Hat will 'take over' by beginning to define what Linux must be. It is thought that this is impossible because of the GPL and the tendency of hackers to cooperate.

    If corporations are able to work on GPLed source as themselves, it's as simple as this: Microsoft takes Linux. Microsoft develops an internal version of Linux, under tight wraps, as is their 'right' as a corporate entity, forbidding developers from communicating with others under harsh penalties, as is their right to make NDAs and restrict their employees. Microsoft then takes to releasing versions of Linux, as well-crafted as they can, using their own resources for distribution and promotion, and including whatever they need to (IE, Office) to make it the only distribution to own. The code that was originally GPL remains GPL, and source is duly released for only the _frozen_ and completed releases of the binaries- anyone attempting to interact with the GPLed code is told, quite legally, "That doesn't work with the current developer version, which is NDAed. If you're good we can hire you, you can sign the NDA, become _part_ of the corporate entity, and _then_ you can see it!".

    As such, the corporation would be completely within the law and the GPL in hijacking development of GPLed source and 'leading' by ability to promote and distribute a particular version, flood the market with it. Anybody would be able to take final versions and do variations on them, but it would be trivially easy to make the MS version incompatible with any other version, because the active development would be under tight control.

    The ONE point that would make all this possible is simply this: Is a corporate employee working on GPLed source the individual to whom the license applies, or is the corporation the one to whom the license applies and the individual 'insulated' from its effects?

    That one question could change the world, and right now, I couldn't begin to guess what the legal answer truly is. The GPL is clearly aimed at applying to individuals, but the very concept of the corporation is aimed at 'shielding' individuals from exactly such obligations as the GPL attempts to impose. And if the corporation ends up able to legally and contractually maintain totally insulated GPLed development, Linux and any significant GPLed software is inevitably going to fork into mainstream corporate versions and the niche free versions we now know.

    HELP! Is there a lawyer in the house, or anyone who can get it legally established that corporations cannot 'seize' GPLed source and fork it into 'corporate entity' owned development? This is a problem waiting to happen, and it does NOT seem that the answer is obviously favorable to open source. It could be fatal to open source as we know it.
  • I would hope that if you spend 8 hours a day, you'd at least enjoy what you're doing. Let's face it, that's at least 1/3rd of your life. Already there is increasing blurring between work and home with the arrival of mobile phones and laptops. The problem is that there are still many jobs that a dull but necessary. Somebody has to go around cleaning stuff, somebody has to go around flogging pizzas, some poor soul will be stuck in a sweatshope factory trying to earn a living for their family. If there was a surplus of IT workers (and corresponding salary drop) would there be as much enthusiasm? How easy is it to get passionate about the next database? One hope is that OpenSource is the ultimate free market, you choose your job and (hopefully) if you're good at it, you get picked up by a commercial mob. In this sense, you effectively make your own employment if you can figure out an area of the noosphere which is important but nobody has realised it yet.

    I can imagine the future now, Linux ... the ultimate CV. Imagine employors saying "Show me the source".


  • Umm, sounds like you're saying that

    (A -> B) -> (A -> !B)

    which is incorrect.
  • I don't think this linkage could be created, because although open source has definitely had a banner year, as a fraction of the GDP (and especially GWP, since OS is an international movement), it's not going to be that great. In fact, programming in general is only a portion of this.

    I would be interested, however, in any studies linking more hours worked per week with the low unemployment/inflation of the last few years.
  • Apparently he mixed up these two basic thoughts: a> "Peer review also prevents mistakes from being made...", and b> "Peer review [results in] fewer mistakes being made...". Not faulty logic, just uncareful word selection I'd say. You've done it too, as have we all.
  • No, I don't think I missed your point.

    The 'superstars' of the Open Source community, like Linus and Larry Wall, are complete human beings, with all of the depth and complexity you would expect from a real person, but they can be used for branding purposes.

    Larry Wall is much more than just perl, but since perl cannot be owned, Oreilly bought the next best thing, Larry himself. I don't say this to be critical of either Larry or Oreilly. Larry has not sold out, or betrayed anyone. He does what he wants to do and is well compensated for it. The perl community benefits, Oreilly benefits, Larry benefits, but one way Oreilly benefits is because they get exclusive use of the Larry Wall brand.

    Unlike a bar of soap, Larry could pack up and tell Oreilly to find someone else.

    Some might say that this dehumanizes Larry Wall, that he shouldn't allow his name and personality to be used like this, but in the end, he will not be remembered as a brand, but as the complex person that he is.
  • And, ideally both PHB and technical manager should be below you in the org structure.
  • interesting that raymond is so quick to make that particular analogy (open-source--media) and so quick to dismiss the analogy (indeed, the whole article) between open-source and the scientific community written by nikolai bezroukov (anyone remembers that?)

    well, maybe he had a bad day that day. at any rate, this interview sounds more like the professional eric. again, not like the eric that threw a tantrum when publicly challenged by bruce perens on that whole apple licence thing.

    gee, it just struck me--maybe if people would simply stop doubting eric's cleverness, we could actually benefit from his discerning (There's nothing funny about the popularity of "Dilbert." Companies should take that more seriously than they seem to. ) social commentary.



  • Actually, now that you mention it, I have actually seen something close to the Dilbert Principle in action. Last year, my boss quit. His replacement was drawn from the ranks of the people who used to work for him; he also happened to be the only person who applied for the job.

    This guy had been barely competent as an engineer; when his application needed a timer, he was not even capable of looking at the block diagram of his chip affixed to his own wall and say "Wow, there's no timer block on any of the busses going to the CPU core!" And he was the guy who was promoted to be my boss. He succeeded in cutting me off at the knees when we needed to present a united front to a supplier who was intent on screwing us. It wasn't like I needed another reason to move on, but that helped. ;-)

    I have no idea if he would have received the job if there had been other applicants, but the fact that he was given the job rather than a search going for applicants from the outside says something about the organization (a Fortune 50 company, FWIW).

  • ... why not?

    To the A.C. who released this stream of vitriol:

    Your argument relies on the premise that the best people can all (demonstrably and primarily) be motivated by money.

    Without geting into the semantics of what constitutes motivation, we could probbaly agree that money is only one of many possible incentives to do just about anything. Some people want to feel powerful, some people want to do nothing but examine the world around them with curiosity, some people want to be known far and wide, some people want to pass on their genes as often as possible, et cetera. (Please, do enlighten us with your knowledge of Latin.)

    I'm all for programmers getting money for the work they do, if that is the way they choose to define their worth. Just like I'm all for artists selling their work, if that's what they want to do. But any programmer who also (or only) creates work that is free for the use and perusal of others I think deserves commendation as well, if that is how to choose to release it.

    ESR doesn't seem to be holding any whips (or handguns, a la Atlas Shrugged*) denying programmers compensation. He's just pointing out that Open Source can be a smart way for things to get done, because the open source method invites critique, review and improvement.

    Your 7-year-old would probably understand; when you grow up you might too.



    *(Though he does as a private citizen.)

  • by remande ( 31154 ) <remande@ b i g f o o t . com> on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @08:34AM (#1599383) Homepage
    I doubt that such a study has been conducted. The first problem with this is indeed defining the PHB. Egad, if you could do that you could actually launch PHB pogroms and purge your company of idiots.

    As far as why PHBs get hired and why companies survive with PHBs in them, let's just say that corporate America is not as Darwinistic as it is cracked up to be--especially in tech firms.

    Tech firms have what I call the Gorilla Effect to deal with. The Gorilla Effect is both the reason that Microsoft makes so much money and the reason that Linux is catching up to it in many ways.

    The Gorilla Effect is: In a set of competing communities, the largest will gain size, even at the expense of smaller ones, regardless all but the most blatant discrepancies in quality of the technology holding the communities together..

    This keeps Microsoft afloat because they sell more community than software. I am running Windows both at work and at home. IMHO, it stinks. But it lets me interact with a large community of software developers (mostly by purchasing their wares). I use Windows because it's the only way to run the software I want to run, because it lets me interact with a big enough community to meet certain of my needs.

    This used to work against Linux, but Linux has gotten to the point this year where it is actually riding the effect. Linux is actually having a field day with the Gorilla Effect because it is open source. Closed source software improves at a rate only slightly related to the user base (popular code allows the vendor to hire more engineers), but open source software improves at a rate highly related to the size of the user base. This will allow Linux to meet that "most blatant difference" test, likely in the next year or two.

    Why do PHBs get hired? Often, a person looks a lot different to his superordinates than to his subordinates. Often, superordinates and subordinates use two different yardsticks.

    Again, this is rampant in tech firms. Superordinates see a manager who is using classical MBA-style management theory--that is, going by the book. A lot of this theory is built upon assumptions that don't jibe with the tech industry. Creative professionals (software engineers, musicians, actors/actresses) simply do not respond well to the MBA textbooks built to manage steelworkers and retail clerks.

    Secondly, never underestimate the power of bull-slinging. Managers can often get away with several forms of lying--straight out, legalistic (a la Clinton and Gates), and the ever-popular lying by bamboozlement (string enough long words together, and people won't admit that they have no clue what you're saying). They can get away with this because their world is further from reality. The job of a manager is, quite literally, to stay a step back from reality. Theirs is not to actually do the company's business, but to motivate, assist, and coordinate others who actually do the company's business.

    Individual contributors (ICs, basically everybody but the managers) immediately get burned by Real World effects: if the cash drawer doesn't add up, the donuts not made, the bridge not sturdy, the software buggy--they feel the consequences right quick. Such consequences get filtered through individual contributors before getting to managers at all.

    Honestly dealing with reality is not a moral superiority of the individual contributor over the manager, but a matter of practicality. It simply hurts more to be a pointy-haired IC than a pointy-haired boss.

    Finally, few PHBs get sent to the can-o-matic because relatively few idiots at all get sent to the can-o-matic. In my world at least, firing is pretty rare. Layoffs are less rare, but they are almost by definition not merit-based, so they aren't good for ditching the idiot. Frankly, firing people can open you up to legal action (so can breathing--don't get me started). In many European countries, it is even harder to actually fire people.

  • You don't follow perl that closely do you?

    No, I don't.

    Perl5 is actively maintained by someone other than Larry. Perl6 is being written by someone other than Larry.

    That's the beauty of open source, isn't it? Larry Wall is not perl. He couldn't stop perl if he wanted to.

    People are not just brands, but they can be used for branding purposes. Perl has benefitted because Larry Wall is an excellent spokesperson. Oreilly has benefitted because Larry Wall is an excellent brand.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In the very first line he says "You can't motivate the best people with money." Well, Eric, prove that you can't motivate the best people with money. If you can't demonstrate that's true, then you are wrong. If I can demonstrate that the best people can be motivated by money, then you are wrong. You're wrong. Then he talks about passion, and how there's a new kind of passion on the face of the earth lately. Well, demonstrate that this is true while you're at it. If you can't demonstrate it, then you're wrong again. And you are wrong, again. It's easy to fool a lot of the people, Eric, but you simply can't fool those of us who know that you didn't invent the idea that the world's best and the world's rest-of-us have been passionate since time immemorial about what we do with our lives, about what we create and about earning as much money as we can for doing it, including writing great software during the last 50 years. Even my seven-year-old son would be able to see past the juvenile bullshit that ESR spreads all over the place, if he were exposed to it. Gang, the real world works a lot better than ESR imagines it does, and is filled with people who are a lot more motivated, passionate and proud of their work than he portrays that they are. Open Source did not build this world. It was build by many generations of people who could teach ESR a very great deal about passion, quality, dedication and WORK. Open Source is only what it is, and it is no more something new in history than the Age of Aquarius turned out to be - just a quaint little idea that the simple-minded grabbed on to for a little while. Y'all can do better than to keep trying to cream your shorts with the shallow rhetoric of this leprechaun.
  • The statistics about American productivity that you reference may be correct, but I'm not sure anymore that they are meaningful.

    If productivity is measured anything like "How many widgets per hour...", the issue gets confused, especially in this profession, when 1) we're not making the right (or even the best) widget, and 2) we re-use someone else's perfectly good-and-trusted widget. And if we do our jobs well, then it's not clear to me how that would show up in the stats. the way they are defined.

    This same issue comes up when we're pounded with stats. that seem to indicate no (or at best, marginal) gains in productivity over the past 15 or so years, despite the fact that we've got a whole lot more stuff connected to the net these days.


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