Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Friday, April 04, 2003

What the heck is Harvester? Head over to Chris Hollander's site to find out. Looks like some sort of news aggregator or something. Hey, one of my posts is in one of his screen captures. Several folks are already raving about this to me. I can't wait to see what's so neat. The early hype on it is that it'll change how you browse RSS files.

Dan Shafer replies to me here.

Here's my point-by-point counter reply to his reply:

1. Dan says open Source is not the same as free software. Yeah? Then start charging for it, see how well THAT goes over. But, seriously, I never said it was the same. Did you realize that I have access to the source code for Windows? So? Is that Open Source? I can see all the source. So? (Yeah, I know that with true open source software I can make changes and add them back into the pool, but, again, what motivation do I have to help my competitors. Take a software-author's viewpoint).

Dan says there are other ways to make money off of software. Wait a second, so you're saying the musicians in a band should give away their work and then only the folks selling beer to the audience should get to make money?

Dan says "you are again assuming that even if the software is free, nobody makes money. Just not true." I didn't say that. But, the guys writing the software aren't making money. Now I know, though, why consultants are pushing Linux so hard. They don't need to pay the authors of the software, plus the software is harder to use so more consultants will be needed. Hence, what the software industry should do is to make their software even harder to use, give it away for free, and then charge for consulting. Oh, wait, that's exactly what Oracle does. Hey, it works for uncle Larry! (Update: yeah, I know Oracle doesn't give away its software, but you must admit that they love running on Linux cause now they don't need to share revenue with Microsoft and their overall solution is cheaper -- not to mention that Oracle has a HUGE number of consultants. Oracle makes more money after you buy Oracle than when you purchase the software itself.

Dan says: "What I get is that there are a bunch of people out there who think software companies often overcharge -- badly -- for their software." Well, if the price is too high on a product, go buy something else. No one is forcing you to buy a Ferrari. And, is $200 too much for Windows? It might seem that way, but Microsoft is spending billions of dollars per year on research and development. Where will that money come from if you don't pay $200 a copy? There are still choices in this industry, but why force your employees to only choose the "free" choice? (or justify when you pay for something everytime you do?) Why doesn't Oregon pass a law forcing politicians to justify their paychecks every two weeks. "Yes, sir, you can work for free, or you can justify your paycheck to me every time you take it."

Dan says "Bugs get fixed far faster on Open Source projects than on proprietary projects." Really? Well, tell me, why do the best open source projects look like poor copies of what Microsoft did in 1995? (Which are poor copies of what Apple did in 1984?) And, when I use Lindows I get far more weird things happening than I do on XP or OSX. So far, I can't agree with you here at all. This might be true on small projects that have passionate supporters, but when you have a project like Windows that has 50 million lines of source code, I can't see Open Source scaling. Not to mention that everytime you would fix something you'd be helping a competitor out. As time went along I'd get real tired of helping Lindows out, if I was RedHat, for instance.

Dan says "Improvements and compliance with standards happen much faster on Open Source projects than on proprietary projects." Really? Well, you might have a point here, but then standards only matter if they get used by most of the people. Not to mention. Which platforms have SOAP support built in? OSX, and .NET, right? Which ones supported CSS first? Opera and IE, right?

Dan says "In part, I think, it's also because Open Source developers tend to eat their own dog food with far more frequency than proprietary coders." Hmm, I don't get that at all. When I see Don Box programming, he's working with a version of Visual Studio that's not out yet. When I see the computers that are compiling the next versions of Windows, they are all running a version of Windows that isn't out yet. I don't know that you can say one group eats their own dog food better than the other. Are you saying that RedHat guys are running Lindows too? I didn't think so.

Dan says "denigrating people who work hard with great motivation on Open Source projects as being interested in keeping us all hobbyists is presumptuous at best for someone who's as new to this as you are (and, for that matter, perhaps for anyone, regardless of their experience), and insulting at worst." I'm not denigrating anyone. Most of my Microsoft friends are giving away their software too, but there is a culture developing that says "the only good software out there is the free stuff" and THAT'S denigrating to the entire industry. Go and read Mike Sax' report of how the "open source industry" (I'm going to start calling them the "free software industry") is representing YOUR motives! Talk about a denigrating point of view.

If I want to treat my software development as a hobby then that should be my choice. It shouldn't be legislated and I shouldn't have to defend the industry's right to charge for software.

Dan says "We'll get rich, but we'll do it using our tool, not selling it. We're not hobbyists, my friend, we just have a different take on the biz than you." That's cool, and I'm glad you have a choice. How will you get rich by using your tool? Will you build software that humans value and will pay money for? Sounds like it. I got my copy of the .NET Framework for free, by the way. From that evil company Microsoft. But, that was their choice and they clearly believe in making money off of software. I was just arguing against the Silicon Valley (and now Oregon) attitude that "everything must be free." If you want to give away your work for free, go for it! But don't force folks to use free software and don't denigrate Microsoft's efforts to charge for their software.

Oh, I should have seen that Chris Sells wrote something similar about open source software.

I see that Oregon is considering making it a law that state agencies must consider open source software.

Now, that's interesting. Why don't they also write a law that says that all politicians must consider eating at In-N-Out instead of the $20 lunches (probably $40, now that I'm thinking about it) they usually do.

Why not force state agencies to consider buying used cars and trucks, instead of new ones?

Why don't they write laws like "all politicians must work for free?"

See, this is what I don't get about the software-writing community. All of those who support free software want to turn our industry into a hobby. Now, I don't mind that if that's really what you all want to do, but I'm in this business to make some money, pay my rent and stuff, and maybe buy a toy every year or so.

Personally, I don't get it.

Software costs money to develop. At UserLand we had an office. A fax machine. A T1 line. Phones and phone line. Plus a co-located box at Exodus with a bunch of servers, a T3 line. I paid all these bills. I was the bookkeeper for a while. Oh, there was postage. Electricity. Water. Salaries. None of it was free.

But, there are a bunch of people out there who want software developers to work for nothing. They all look at Bill Gates and say "he has enough." They are totally missing the point.

Maybe Bill has enough, but he has 55,000 people working for him. They all appreciate getting a paycheck. I look around the valley. I see tons of companies who are in the same situation. SAP. Oracle. Sun. Apple.

You want this industry to remain healthy and vibrant? You want your bugs fixed? You want software to get better? Then expect to pay for it the same way you expect to pay for a meal or you expect to pay for tires to your car.

But, no, I've been getting poked at the past few weeks. I'm a "Microsoft shill" (or worse). When I suggest PressPlay, tons of people say "try EMusic cause it makes it easier to copy the music and pass it to your friends."

At some point people in this industry must switch and say "sorry, if we want to be an industry, we need to expect people to pay for software."

I can't wait for the day when Linux gets so good that that community is gonna say "hey, you know what, it's about time you start paying for this software because it has intrinsic value and it's not just a copy of what everyone else is paying for.

I can't wait for the day when the press reports "Apache's market share holds firm, even after instituting a $50 fee to buy it."

Why? Because that money will help feed more programmers who in turn will improve the software even faster.

Software isn't my hobby. I'm not spending my nights and weekends learning C# so that I can give away my software. Sorry. That ain't gonna happen. An hour of my time is worth about $40. If I spend a year building an app, I expect that I'll get paid at least $100,000 for that.

To tell me that I better start working for free and giving away my value is just plain and simple wrong.

Oregon: if you pass this law you can guarantee that I will never open a software development office in your state. Think that matters? Wait until your citizens complain there aren't any jobs. Then turn around and tell them "well, at least we got our software for free, aren't you happy?"

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Robert Scoble works at Microsoft. Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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© Copyright 2004 Robert Scoble Last updated: 1/3/2004; 2:18:26 AM.