The Community is the Company

TonStanco at TonStanco at
Fri May 25 17:10:49 UTC 2001

>  I'm not FreeDevelopers educated enough to answer you. Tony
>  could you explain why it could work ? 

My apologies for taking so long to respond, but I have been traveling.

I will try to answer your questions as best as I can on the CommCo. However, 
before I can explain the solution, I need to explain the background, because 
form needs to follow function.

I suggest that you read three background pieces.

1. A DCLUG speech that ties most things together 

2. Why Microsoft is a Dinosaur
[], which 
explains why old paradigms no longer apply with software, because this is a 
new age unlike the Industrial Age, and

3. Why FreeDevelopers used the Declaration of Independence as a model for the 
Declaration of Software Freedom: Is Software Law or Literature. 
[], which deals with why free 
software ought to be the paradigm on moral principles.

The short description of these pieces is that free software is morally and 
philosophically superior to proprietary, so it ought to be the paradigm. Free 
software is economically more efficient than proprietary and so it will be 
the paradigm eventually. But free software has one major obstacle in 
establishing itself as the paradigm -- paying developers. Since free software 
doesn't pay its developers, this fact causes the personal interests of 
developers to conflict with their social interest. As such, most of the 
world's 4 million developers produce closed code, even though it is 
inefficient to do so and also morally wrong as RMS as stated for 17 years.

This is like the case a few hundred years ago, when surgeons kept their 
innovations secret to benefit themselves personally, but harming everyone 
else at the same time. Over time, this was seen as immoral and inefficient, 
and therefore the paradigm changed, so that surgical innovations were shared. 
I believe that the same will happen with software. But like those surgeons 
who resisted at that time, because they personally benefited, we will have 
those who personally benefit now to oppose the change that is good for 

>   > [Warning: I'm a Computer engineer who has taken a few business classes
>   > and helps somes companies top level management understand their
>   > systems.]

FYI. I am a securities attorney, with a general law degree and a master of 
laws (LL.M.) in securities/corporate law. I worked for over 5 years at the US 
Securities and Exchange Commission, Internet and software group. I worked on 
over 300 IPOs in that time and had to analyze the industry in depth as part 
of my job. 

>   > It's interesting as an idea, but solely as that. This won't work. The
>   > reason why free software has worked so well so far is the connection
>   > between users and developers: the user is the develloper. 

This is one reason that free software works, but a minor one. The main reason 
free software works is because it is a much more efficient developmental 
paradigm. Perhaps as much as 10x more efficient. This is explained more in 
the DCLUG speech, but mostly in the article, Why Microsoft is a Dinosaur. 

The proof of the huge efficiency gains from free software is GNU/Linux. 
Without money and without corporate organization GNU/Linux should not have 
been able to compete successfully with Microsoft, which is probably the 
world's greatest corporation with a monopoly on the desktop, 85% gross 
margins and $25 billion in the bank. Unless free software development was 
vastly more efficient, GNU/Linux would not be possible.

>   > Even
>   > Microsoft, who is usually accused of not listening to its customers has
>   > the biggest usability labs in the world (yes, one of the reasons word
>   > has so many features is that they put "everything" in it the usability
>   > labs tell them to).
>   > 
>   > Now, if you believe Microsoft is not a sucessful company, from not only
>   > a financial view, but also from a political/advocacy point of view, then
>   > ignore this.

>   > 
>   > The structure they propose is not different from proprietary software
>   > companies, it's just like them,

I don't understand this statement. FreeDevelopers is a worldwide, inclusive 
membership organization that will be fully democratic. How is this like 
Microsoft or any other proprietary company? This structure is more like 
NASD/NASDAQ, VISA/banks, Medical Associations/doctors, or bar 
associations/lawyers. It is constructed as a self regulatory organization. It 
is more like these SRO entities, but will go far further than they do, 
because FreeDevelopers will have its own marketing entity. 

>   > but like the ones who were beaten up by
>   > MS. I believe this proposal was done with the best of intentions, but it
>   > has no way to survive, at least not in the big picture.

What are your reasons for this statement? This is a conclusory opinion. And I 
have an opposite one. The only way to think about which is right is to have 
reasons as a basis for either opinion.

>   > BTW I believe it's impossible to have a single entity doing the role
>   > proposed for Can someone explain me why, on a
>   > networked world, someone proposes a single entity point of access ? 

The CommCo is not a single point of access. It is a single marketing company 
distribution point, because otherwise GPL software can't be funded and the 
industry stays inefficiently proprietary just to pay the developers. 

Because of the freedoms given by GPL, there is a problem that competing GPL 
marketing entities will compete themselves to death, since they could always 
take the code (that they don't pay to develop) and sell for near zero cost 
that doesn't recoup the development cost. 

To recoup the development costs, the marketing entities have to be 
coordinated to not charge less than the salaries to the developers. With 
traditional organization and competition, competing free software marketing 
companies will collapse (as we are seeing with the open source companies). 

So we need a single marketing company to pay the developers. But a single 
distribution point is not a problem for developers, because they will own the 
marketing company as a community. Also, the development is still free and 
open like it is now and will be uncontrolled by the marketing entity. 

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