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Re: Mostly free software...

On Thu, 25 Mar 1999, David Welton wrote:
> Supporting is quite distinct from developing.  Who is making a living
> developing free software?  I'm quite interested in hearing about it -

I am!

> there are a number of models floating around there now, and I'm
> anxious to see which ones prove successful.  Abisource is one of the
> few that I can think of that is purely free, and is actually creating
> their own product, instead of bundling, or supporting other's stuff...

Keep in mind that a large proportion of software is *not* developed to be
a shrink-wrap product, and free software may well be poorly suited to that
business model. The figure I heard once is that 75% is written for
in-house custom applications.

Often there's no particular reason for these in-house apps to be free, but
often there is, and there's certainly no harm in it most of the time.

Guppi (http://www.gnome.org/guppi/) is my main work responsibility right
now, for example. There are also all the guys at Mozilla, Red Hat, Cygnus,
AbiSource... I am willing to bet lots of the admin-related applications
are written on company time to meet some local need. I wouldn't be
surprised if many Debian developers do this.

Still, I worked on free software before I was paid to do so and I still
work on non-work-related things in the evenings.

> > If people want to write commercial software, then it's up to them,
> > but I can do without the "I'd really like to do free software, but I
> > need to pay the mortgage" crap.
> How about - "I'd like to write free software not just in the evenings,
> but 8 hours a day - how do I do it?".  
> I never said anything about making compromises, I was just grousing:-)
> I think free software is *right*, but don't see any real clear answers
> regarding the economic side of things.

It may well be that there are no clear answers, and free software will
remain a largely volunteer effort. There's nothing wrong with that really.
"I'd like to get paid to write free software so I'll write non-free
software" seems a little silly though, this seems to be what people like
Larry McVoy are saying.

I work on non-free software too; we have in-house software that contains
"secrets." I also write documentation, both free and proprietary. 

However I think it would be kind of lame if I tried to say "Since I'm
writing proprietary software to make a living the free software community
should use my software and not try to create a free clone" (Larry
McVoy) or "Since I'm writing proprietary books it's offensive for the Free
Software Foundation to try to get people to write free replacements" (Tom
Christiansen & the O'Reilly club). The community has the right to pursue
its interests - fully free software and documentation - just as I have a
right to pursue mine.

For example, my upcoming book will likely (though not definitely) be a
proprietary book. If you say "this book isn't a contribution to the
community because it's proprietary" I'll be the first to agree with you.
However, some authors would flame you and claim that you should support
them in their decision to write a proprietary book. Too touchy-feely for
me: if you can't take the heat, don't hoard the book/software. :-)

Some people and companies are trying to get the debugging, the community
accolades, all the benefits of free software, without giving the community
the software. Our job is to make it an either-or decision, keep them from
having their cake and eating it too.


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