The Community is the Company

TonStanco at TonStanco at
Sat May 26 00:44:36 UTC 2001

>  Done that. If I understood what you wrote and the pieces your main
>  points are that:
>      - Free software development is more efficient than proprietary
>      software.
>      - Software should be free because it can enforce controls on people.
>      - To become the only kind of software development, free software
>      development needs to find a way to get money to developers.

Yes those are the main propositions.
>  > >   > 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 
>  > >   > 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 
>  > the DCLUG speech, but mostly in the article, Why Microsoft is a 
>  I disagree. I believe that then power of free software appears when a
>  user has a problem and solves it and can share it with others. His
>  solution evolves with the feedback from others and becomes several
>  solutions to several people problems. I believe that this is more than a
>  minor reason, it's the reason why free software works.

Stating it like that and emphasizing the feedback loop eliminates the 
disagreement between us. Because the interaction of minds in intellectual 
products is the reason for the greater efficiency of free software. So it is 
same idea expressed in different ways. So we agree here.
>  > The proof of the huge efficiency gains from free software is GNU/Linux.
>  I prefer effectiveness to efficiency. Means getting results while
>  effectiveness may mean to optimize a single step of the solution.
>  > >   > 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 
>  > It 
>  > is more like these SRO entities, but will go far further than they do, 
>  > because FreeDevelopers will have its own marketing entity. 

>  My this is just a question of belief, but I don't believe that a single
>  entity (FSMC) can represent either the diversity or the power of free
>  software. 

What if the FSMC employs a diversity of local marketing or free software 
people to sell/maintain/service at the local level? 

It isn't clear yet if that should be employees or local independent 
consultants/marketers, but there needs to be a coordinating body between the 
multitude of developers and a multitude of local marketers. Without the 
coordinating body, the marketers will always end up controlling the multitude 
of developers (as in proprietary) or not paying the developers (as is 
currently with open source). 

The main economic problem is a collective action problem where developers 
have to act as a collective entity, otherwise they will be individually weak.

>  I understand marketing has giving to people what they want or
>  need. I don't believe that anyone who is not in close contact with the
>  developers can effectively market a software product, especially if you
>  take into account cultural differences. Having a single entity doing
>  this for all free software is just a task too big to be done.

This is a good point. But the confusion is that the diagram is not totally 
complete. There will have to be national branches of the FSMC and even more 
local branches too. But they would need to not compete with each other only 
on price, but rather need to act as a transmission system to signal to the 
FSMC what software is being demanded by the market, so that that marketing 
information can be relayed to FD, so that interested developers can produce 
it, if they want to serve that market segment. 
>  What I do believe is in a network of "Independent consultants", as the
>  document calls them, that can be either persons or companies. The nodes
>  of this network will have 2 things working for them: the knowledge of a
>  certain market and an understanding of free software that allows them to
>  contact directly the free software community.

Yes. This is very important to get the local marketing information to the 
developers. However, it is still not completely clear whether this local 
marketing function should be independent or as employees, though independents 
will probably be more efficient.
>  Companies like would eventually appear as
>  the network develops itself, not before, and probably not as a single
>  company.

I am not sure I understand this. If a single point distribution company is 
not needed, it should not be used. So, if developers could be paid without it 
to develop free software, why do it after? The main proposition for the FSMC 
is that without it, the collective action problem will end out causing 
competition to death and no developers will get paid. 

If developers can be paid without the FSMC, it is certainly better not to 
have a single point distribution system before or after. But how does your 
system pay the developers without one?
>  > >   > 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.
>  > 

>  I hope I have exposed them above. If not, let me try to clarify:
>      - No single entity is able to represent all free software solutions.
>      - No single entity is able to effectivly represent any software
>      solution to all or even most of the world's cultures.

Agreed. That is why there must be local branches of FSMC. But the single 
point entity is not to solve this problem that you state. Stating it this 
way, you are right that if you can do it only with local entities, it is a 
better solution. 

But I contend that if you only have local entities without a coordinating 
single entity, the local entities will compete to death because the GPL 
allows them to just take the code without paying the developers. And then the 
industry has a major problem. 

So the problem the single entity solves is the payment to the developers by 
making sure that the local entities include the real cost of the development 
of the code as part of their cost structure when they market the goods. 

>      - Marketers have a natural power over developers (even if most
>      developers don't want to recognize this): they know the customer and
>      understand what he/she wants.

Yes. This is explained in the CommCo. That is why the CommCo has the 
marketing company owned and controlled by the FreeDeveloper entity. These 2 
entities can balance out the power of the marketers with the power of the 

In the proprietary companies, the developers are not unitied, so they have no 
countervailing power to offset the marketing arm of the proprietary company, 
so you end up with Microsoft, where the marketers have all the power and most 
of the wealth, and the developers are just replaceable human inputs.

>  > >   > BTW I believe it's impossible to have a single entity doing the 
>  > >   > 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 
>  > industry stays inefficiently proprietary just to pay the developers. 
>  > 

>  If I understand it right model of paying developers
>  depends on the effectiveness of FSMC. 

Yes. The FreeDevelopers part is the development/production arm. The FSMC part 
is the marketing arm to sell the software that the FreeDevelopers produces.

> For the reasons stated above I
> don't think this will work. 

Do you still think it won't work after the further explanation? If so, tell 
me where you disagree still.
>  > So we need a single marketing company to pay the developers. But a 
>  > distribution point is not a problem for developers, because they will 
>  > the 
>  > marketing company as a community. Also, the development is still free 
>  > open like it is now and will be uncontrolled by the marketing entity. 
>  >
>  Sorry, this makes me remember how Jeff Bezos on unions ("our employees
>  don't need a union because they all own the company"). A single
>  distribution point IS a problem for a lot of developers, that have
>  learned to contact directly with their users and have seen the feedback
>  loop work for them.

I don't understand. If the developers can get paid for their work directly 
from their customers, it should be done that way. The CommCo is constructed 
to solve the problem where developers join together from around the world to 
produce major free software projects. But once those projects are done, 
*others* just take the code and sell it to their customers without paying the 
original coders, who did the work. This is the problem the CommCo is 
established to correct. 

>  Unless I'm completly missing the point, model depends
>  on controlling GPL projects distribution, creating an artificial
>  scarcity. In my opinion this will not work, as proprietary software
>  model won't work. 

No, the CommCo is not to create artificial scarcity. It is to ensure that the 
cost of the development of the code is included in the price to the customer, 
so that it can be relayed to the developers who created the code. Unless the 
developers are paid to develop the code under a free software model, most 
will do it under a proprietary paradigm, even though that is less efficient 
as a development model.

Also, it is fair that people who do the work get paid for it. If they 
personally don't want the money, they can give it to charities. However, most 
developers have to pay for food, shelter, clothes for their kids, so they 
need money. Right now, they get their money at another job and then code for 
the movement in their spare time. This is another inefficiency, since if they 
are paid to code fulltime in free software, the world is better off with more 
and better applications.

>  Something more like the "Street Performer Protocol",
>  user donations or some kind of "work recognition" awards.

This is not a bad idea, because the issue is fairly paying the developers for 
the work they do. So we are now just talking about *how* best to do that. 
Again, if there is a viable way to do that on a individual developer or 
entity basis without the CommCo, it should be done that way. But if there was 
an easier way to do it, it would have been done a long time ago.
>  Supporting a worldwide freeflow of money (like a worldwide cheap,
>  localized paypal-like service) that allowed these recognition systems to
>  work would be, in my view, a more effective help to free software
>  developers than any other structure.

The problem with this structure is not the lack of a micropayment system. The 
problem is that with the GPL, competing marketing companies can take the code 
and not include the cost of development in their cost structure. So, they 
will exclude the cost of development to get a marketing advantage. 

What is needed is a superstructure that makes all the individual, local 
marketers include the costs of development in their selling price. This is 
why you need a single point distribution system. So all the local marketers 
have to pay for the development cost for GPL code. 

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