The Community is the Company

Lutz Horn lh at
Sun May 27 21:09:54 UTC 2001


a bit late but I've to drop my .02$ on this thread.

* TonStanco at <TonStanco at> [Sun, 27 May 2001 at 08:16 -0400]:
> That freedom [to make copies] remains. Anyone can take the software .
> The question is will everyone do it? 

The freedom to make copies is not the same as the freedom to modifie the
software. Even the non-expert, as you would call him, may want to burn
an additional copy of that Debian CD for a friend, even when he's not
modifying anything on it. He doesn't have to be an expert to just copy
the CD or whatever piece of free software. This is different from law
and medicine you take for a comparison.

> Both of those are intellectual activities that society got right, i.e.
> they have the 4 freedoms of the GPL. (However, they originally were
> not free either, but have become free over time, just like software is
> doing now). So you can be your own lawyer or even your own surgeon,
> because all the information is in the law or medical library. But who
> does that? Only the expert. Everyone else goes to the expert. 

But why is it like that? Because you can't work as a doctor or a lawyer
without an official exam or some other form of proof of your
qualifications. If I, as a medical law man, tried to treat my neighbor
when he was ill and he got even more ill due to my treatment, I'd be
in serious trouble. The same goes for law. No court would accept me as a

This is different with software. I don't need any official qualification
to program free software. I can do it in my free time, publish it if I
want and take the praise or critic from anybody who's interested in it.
If nobody likes what I wrote, too bad. But I definitely don't have to be
an expert to be part of the community.

> Yes, the analogy is not exact. But it is more like this, than not like
> this.  This is the correct paradigm to think in, especially as the
> code becomes more complex. As I said, law and medicine both took this
> path as they moved into more complexity. In fact, law in the earliest
> times was really just speaking for yourself in front of judges (no law
> as in rules). But even then people over time went to experts to speak
> for them, because the experts developed expertise in persuasive
> speech. Now most people can speak, so it is not that they *couldn't*
> do it. It was that they chose not to do it and would rather pay the
> expert to do it for them. 

Do you really think that most people 'can speak' and defend themselves
in front of a court? I doubt that. They don't have the choice of not
taking a lawyer to defend them if they don't want to loose their case in
the first place.

> So even if everyone else just takes the software as you think they
> would, it will still work. But most of them won't either. Most people
> work for a living and want to be paid for their work. So they
> understand paying for things is a fair thing to do.

Well, and exactly this is the point where you settle for too little. All
you're doing is trying to move free software back into the realm of
commercial exploitation. Of course people make the daily experience that
they have to pay for every damned thing they want or need. But this
experience doesn't make it natural that every thing or thought or
activity has to have a price. Developers wrote free software even though
they were not getting payed for it. They did it because they wanted do
do it, because they had an interest in they subject covered by the piece
of software growing under their hands. Paying for this kind of activity
may be a fair thing to do from a market point of view but it doesn't hit
the point of it. I dare to say that developers of free software don't do
it for the money or for feeding their kids or paying theri rent but for
the pure fun of doing it, together with others of the same kind. If some
user in the commercial world can use it afterwards: fine! But if not the
developer will write the software for the pure fun of it, knowing that
there are people who like what he's doing and how he's doing it.

So instead of taking the customers point of view as the point from where
to develop paradigms let's take the developers point of view. This point
of view is not commercial.

> What they don't like to do is pay for buggy or overpriced software.
> But if it goes to fund development by getting money to developers,
> many will understand. The minority who don't is not worth worrying
> about. It is a cost of doing business.

Exactly. But the cost of doing business is not that some customers will
take without paying. The cost is that developing free software will be
just one of many commercial activities that people do to pay for thei

> Now, I have a challenge. I have spent a lot of time working on the
> CommCo and explaining it. Now, instead of putting me on the defensive
> and having to defend my system. Why don't you construct a better one?
> I find most people in the community attack any idea as bad, which is
> the easy thing to do, but then do nothing more. While an idea may be
> bad, the current situation can still be worse. It is silly to attack
> any new idea and remain with a bad status quo. 

I definitely don't want to return to the status quo. The better system
would be for developers of free software to recognize the power of their
work to leave the commercial world behind. Let's think about how the
principels of free software development (world wide collaboration across
the net; doing what people want to do, not what they are told to do;
organizing things according to one's own needs) can be transfered to
other parts of human society. Don't let's just say: "There's free
software which works better than propietary software. Great! How can we
make a buck out of it?" but "There's something people are happy doing.
How can we transfer this way of doing things to other parts of society
to make even more people happy?"


Lutz Horn <lh at>
For PGP information see header.
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 240 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <>

More information about the Discussion mailing list