Aquarium Blog

Sunday, February 29, 2004

More on free software economics and real life

I have been reading some other follow ups on Clemens Vasters' piece here, specially this one by Ryan Lowe here and then again Clemens replying here and here.

I know nobody cares about my opinion on free software, however I have one. I don't like confrontation, and I think many people that work in free software is really cool, so I will try to only use mild rhetoric.

If you want to work in "free" software or "open source" software or "proprietary" software, if you want to use GPL, BSD, X or MIT, Mozilla, ZPL or some kind of shared license for your source code, it is all ok for me. If you want to work for Microsoft, or if you hate Microsoft and want to work for a company that gets its money from Microsoft competitors, it is ok. If you are really making the world a better place through free software or just spending my tax money in your own education, it is still ok.

How could I disagree? As far as it is legal, it is your choice. Of course each choice you make have some implications, and as long as you know and understand those implications, it can only be ok.
But something I learned when I was studying Sociology (especially collectivists like Marx and Durkheim) is that you just can't know. You can fool yourself believing you have some level of precise knowledge about the reasons and implications of your choices and still there is a big piece of the iceberg you will never grasp.

If you love to write software for others to use for free, I don't expect you to change your mind and refuse writing more code until you get a paycheck. Would you expect the people that already get paid good money for coding to reject their paychecks?

We are all just trying to grasp as much as we can the meaning of that big piece of ice under the water that is the real meaning of our decisions.

So when Clemens expresses his opinion (which I happen to share in more than 90%) he is only giving out some information he believes you could use next time you have to decide. If it is useful for you, great. If you don't agree, you can even claim that Clemens is dumb, a lier or whatever. It will still be ok.

Free software is used today by ordinary people, but also by Big Iron and Big Consulting Companies. They have devised business models in which free software helps them charge more money and have lower costs. They sell software + services, or software + hardware so they ultimately charge for it. Then, if you can take this, tell me what is wrong if a company or an individual wants to charge for the software alone?

The only thing that really drives me mad is when people that have a deep understanding of this dialectic try to fool us on believing that the free software crowd are the good guys and everybody else is evil.

Religious manipulations of the facts like those are meant to divide people, to call people in arms, to cash more money in, or whatever, but it doesn't help anybody to understand their own personal choices.

And I am so tired of it!

My personal policy could be put as simply as this:
  • Open source, and free software is sometimes cool.
  • Proprietary software is sometimes cool.
  • I have zero tolerance to hypocrisy.

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