Free Software - Money is not the only motivation

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    Registered User C_ntua's Avatar
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    Free Software - Money is not the only motivation

    Well, I had an argument and I used the example of free software to show that not everything is based on money as a motivation (obviously I was arguing with fans of capitalism). My argument was "Whatever a huge company has built, Microsoft, it is provided by free by people not being paid to develop it". Implying of course Windows vs Linux and MS Office vs OpenOffice.

    My opinion behind free software and for forums like this and for anything people do for free is that simply there are motivations alternate to money which are not THAT rare. And we should see them as a bright example (than you all) as people not only working for wealth.

    What do you think??

    P.S. The argument it self came from somebody asking me "Do you believe in a Universal Health care" and "Who should provide it to the people" after I said yes. My idea is that the government in the end is more suited for the task. Even though it is inefficient, corrupted, unmotivated etc etc still theoretically at least you shouldn't have a "pay to get healthy" equation. Don't ask why I used my example as an argument...

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    Although I agree there are other motives than those targeted at gaining wealth, your argument is flawed. In the question posed, the options were private or public health care. In you example, you compare private and the nonprofit sector.

    Apples and oranges, IMO. The nonprofit sector is better, in almost all ways, than the public. As you said, the public sector is corrupt, and the system lags. Too much bureaucracy, and people worrying about their political careers to get anything done. The nonprofit on the other hand is organized by people with the goal of helping others, rather than themselves, and are usually much better at it.

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    Registered User whiteflags's Avatar
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    I was introduced to an interesting article on what motivates us through a post on some blog. Would probably give you some ideas. Cognitive Surplus: The Great Spare-Time Revolution | Magazine

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    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C_ntua View Post
    Well, I had an argument and I used the example of free software to show that not everything is based on money as a motivation (obviously I was arguing with fans of capitalism).
    Careful. Capitalism, and I'm a fan, does not preclude free software. On the contrary capitalists everywhere readily embrace it as soon as it is demonstrated as a business model that can actually generate value, monetary or otherwise.

    Quote Originally Posted by C_ntua View Post
    My opinion behind free software and for forums like this and for anything people do for free is that simply there are motivations alternate to money which are not THAT rare. And we should see them as a bright example (than you all) as people not only working for wealth.
    You are essentially correct in my opinion. I would go as far as saying those motivation are in fact the most important ones. The ones that really work. You really want to see this very entertaining presentation of a Dan Pink 'Drive' talk on RSA in January this year. The original one, and more extended, can also be found on the RSA website. Check the animated one first. The original one is 41 minutes long.

    Quote Originally Posted by C_ntua View Post
    What do you think??
    Challenge mastery & making a contribution. These are the two driving forces of free software.

    EDIT: Note that you REALLY want to later get some time and see the extended presentation. Those 41 minutes are not the 10 minutes of the animated one for a reason. You'll be give a lot more food for thought.
    Last edited by Mario F.; 12-03-2010 at 10:02 PM.
    The programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.”
    The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.


    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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    Some free software is created to make money, just not directly through the sale of the software. Eg. Android is gaining Google a very strong foothold in the mobile market, which undoubtedly gives them many ways to make money. OpenOffice started as StarOffice, a commercial office suite. A more direct example would be hardware manufacturers developing open source Linux drivers for their hardware to increase adoption. Or companies helping to develop Linux because they want to use it to replace Windows (cost saving = making money).

    I know some people join open source projects to get more experience and prettier resumes, which, arguably, is also for making more money later on.

    And then most other open source projects are programs people wrote for themselves, and open source them as afterthoughts.

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    Registered User C_ntua's Avatar
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    ^^
    Google is a company as a private-free Television/Radio station is. That is a different story, even though they provide their service for free they still do it for profit (advertisements etc).

    Of course there will be a lot of people having motivations to help projects like Linux and a company cannot usually do anything without a profit even if they wanted to (unless you are the owner) but still the service is provided for free.
    Unlike a TV station where indirectly you are hearing an advertisement and later on consuming, using a free software is a completely free deal.

    But the point is that there are people that doing it for alternate reasons than money. Not that everybody does it for alternate people. Just a significant amount of people.

    ------------------
    Allow me not to comment on the political site, since I agree that my argument is not the best in this case and it is for another thread. I will want to focus on the free software being a proof of people providing services for free.
    ------------------
    I will check the links later on. Not time now and my 3G powered internet is too slow today....

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    Registered User whiteflags's Avatar
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    >> Some free software is created to make money, just not directly through the sale of the software.

    I think it's possible to find a business interest in any type of software, even when you think that interest isn't being exploited. I think the point is more about the people actively working on the projects who really aren't being paid to do so.

    >> I know some people join open source projects to get more experience and prettier resumes, which, arguably, is also for making more money later on.

    This isn't just a myth? I don't think it's healthy to have some sort of illusion that you will be compensated more later for things you've done earlier for free. At best I think this merely proves you are a skilled candidate, not necessarily more experienced, unless interviewers are really buying it is experience.

    >> And then most other open source projects are programs people wrote for themselves, and open source them as afterthoughts.

    Yeah and they either die immediately or other people will contribute to them.

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    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    ...unless interviewers are really buying it is experience.
    I would call it experience because it keeps you in code. I have met so many developers who do not code at home and only rely on what they do at work to maintain their skills. Very few attempt to learn new technologies or expand on existing ones. So if someone is sitting across the table from me in an interview and they list any type of outside experience it shows me one thing: they program most likely because they like to or have a passion for it. To me that speaks volumes about the person and possibly that they may be more willing to go the extra mile to complete projects since they have obviously done it in the past without any or with very little compensation.

    It does sound strange but professional experience and programming have an inverse relationship. The less experience you have the more you program and the more experience you have the less you program. I do not think this is true with personal experience and/or open-source project experience. On an open-source project there is a very good chance you programmed a lot more and submitted more code than on any professional closed source project. There is the question of quality but good open-source projects usually have decent quality control coupled with code reviews. I think documentation is usually sorely lacking on open-source projects but I guess you could say that about some professional ones too. Plus there are a wide range of freely available tools that can help any type of project with UML, coding standards, revision control, code reviews, test automation, etc. Just as in any type of project a professional one has no more chance of success or failure as an open-source one.

    That being said I'm still a capitalist at heart. Based on my previous statements you can see that I'm not against open-source but I do not believe it is a viable business alternative to what we currently have. At some point someone has to pay the bills and that is the consumer of the product. If you really step back and think about it most open source projects are funded by companies in a matter of speaking. If employee A works at company B and is working on open-source project X and uses any of their finances to buy tools or other items for the project then in essence company B actually funded part of project X b/c without funds from company B in employee A's bank account...he/she could not work on project X. So while company B did not directly fund project X they did give employee A the spending and purchasing power to fund it. Isn't that what going to work is all about? Purchasing power?
    Last edited by VirtualAce; 12-04-2010 at 10:51 AM.

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    Very interesting thread, with some excellent points made...

    Speaking for myself and as someone with free software online, I did it out of "love". I am retired now, struggling on what's left of my life savings and pensions. I've got time to kill and coding up a few projects just fits my bill perfectly. My career experience, past hobbies etc. all come together when I'm either writing code or building a project. In the case linked in my signature, I hit on an idea that probably has no commercial value but does give users of home theatre PC systems a whole new level of functionality. Although I did make inquiries about marketing it commercially with some industry contacts, I think it was apparent from the beginning it would end up first as a "private use" project then eventually, once fully developed, as Freeware.

    It's a useful thing, I had fun writing it... so why not let people have fun using it?

    Sometimes I wonder how much really great code is sitting on people's hard disks, wasting space, because they can't get money for it...

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    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    As a business model capable of generating revenue, open source seems to only have been viable for corporation and not for individual gain. The ability to sell open source software has proved disastrous on a small scale. Financial viability comes instead when a business firm is established around it, and it charges for sales, support and maintenance of their software. A typical capitalistic endeavour.

    On those grounds I'm sometimes critical of certain open source projects that seems nothing much more than a perfect method for gathering sharecroppers, whose work goes unrewarded in financial terms, but where the company can draw a sizable amount of money.
    The programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.”
    The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.


    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    Sometimes I wonder how much really great code is sitting on people's hard disks, wasting space, because they can't get money for it...
    I'm not so sure there is that much great code sitting on people's hard drives. Defining 'great code' would also be an interesting pursuit b/c I would imagine with all the viewpoints we have here on this forum we all have vastly different opinions about what 'great code' is.

    I assure you I'm not hiding anything noteworthy on my hard drive. I've always been suspicious of a few gurus here hiding some great code but I have no proof of it.
    Last edited by VirtualAce; 12-04-2010 at 09:16 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bubba View Post
    I'm not so sure there is that much great code sitting on people's hard drives. Defining 'great code' would also be an interesting pursuit b/c I would imagine with all the viewpoints we have here on this forum we all have vastly different opinions about what 'great code' is.
    Yeah, I've noticed that. Clashing styles is a common occurance here, even though we all produce working code... Keeps life interesting.

    I assure you I'm not hiding anything noteworthy on my hard drive. I've always been suspicious of a few gurus here hiding some great code but I have no proof of it.
    Well, I can hardly claim "Guru" status so you don't need to suspect me...

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    Registered User C_ntua's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bubba View Post
    That being said I'm still a capitalist at heart. Based on my previous statements you can see that I'm not against open-source but I do not believe it is a viable business alternative to what we currently have. At some point someone has to pay the bills and that is the consumer of the product. If you really step back and think about it most open source projects are funded by companies in a matter of speaking. If employee A works at company B and is working on open-source project X and uses any of their finances to buy tools or other items for the project then in essence company B actually funded part of project X b/c without funds from company B in employee A's bank account...he/she could not work on project X. So while company B did not directly fund project X they did give employee A the spending and purchasing power to fund it. Isn't that what going to work is all about? Purchasing power?
    At one degree it can though. For example you can have an equation like
    MS Windows Developer - MS product = Developing for free - Free software
    I am not against MS nor is the salary as a developer near equal to the money you pay for the product, just using it as an example to show that in the end if the product is free and the work is free you can replace the money part without needing anybody to pay for you.

    But, I do NOT find the above as an alternative to capitalism. Just an alternative to private property***. The idea is that you contribute for free, you provide services in which you will also benefit for free. You don't need to put a price on your service and a price on the product.

    As for Cognitive Surplus: The Great Spare-Time Revolution it is really interesting and I totally agree. I will keep this phrase "When Deci took people who enjoyed solving complicated puzzles for fun and began paying them if they did the puzzles, they no longer wanted to play with those puzzles during their free time". Money are simply not the only motivation human beings have. Smart businesses today don't rely only on a good salary as a matter of fact to keep employees. A good company will rely on a good working environment which will also motivate employees to succeed without necessarily a bonus. Where I work the working hours are 9-5. I can tell you that we stay until 5.30-6.00 every day without being paid extra for overtime when we have a lot of work. Our motivation is to do our job well. If you add money for overtime, then I would work overtime for the money. My motivation suddenly changed. So if I didn't need the extra money, but preferred the time, I would leave at 5.00. It is "leaving a job incomplete" versus "throwing away money". The first makes me more guilty, thus it is a bigger motivator provided that the salary is generally generous from the beginning.
    Of course this wouldn't work for every type of job. For a non-interesting job where employees work only for the money you have no alternatives.

    EDIT: Finally got to see the RSA: Animate video and it agree on what I said above giving my work as an example. Very Interesting indeed (thanks Mario F.)
    Unfortunately it took like an hour to load for me here so I won't see the 41m version soon...

    ----------------------------------------------
    ***Let me give you a little bit my train of thought on how I view capitalism and where free software is an alternative:
    Capitalism for me is when you need concentrated resources in order to do something. An alternative to capitalism is when you don't need concentrated resources. Resources are not necessarily money.
    So if you have a big company with a lot of stocks and thousands of people owning like 100$ of stocks so you have like a million of people owning the company is that capitalism? If you didn't have capitalism and the government had the company which government belonged to those millions of people through taxes then you would have the same economical model. Now, in todays typical government that company would be assigned to be run by a few individuals. So let me ask you this. Which is actually more capitalistic in the end? The company run by million of people with stocks or a company run by a few elected from the millions? Didn't communism as it was manifested rely on maximum capital since all the resources belonged to the government? On the other hand todays capitalistic America actually spreads the wealth, divides it. So the term "capitalism" for me doesn't really tell me anything. It is mostly a term that combines a lot of other terms, a package of terms. Which I don't like at all, because you might as well combine those sub-terms to something else.
    Of course I am using capitalism as a term of a capital being the essential part. The meaning of the word has a different meaning today, not that clear one, so my point is that the word doesn't really tell me a lot of somebodies ideas.

    Let me use the word free market. Is free software against a free market? Again I would say no. Free market is mostly about antagonism. That is its key point. Free software apply to that since you can have a lot of software doing the same thing. The best will survive in the end. You are free to develop or use whichever you want. So free software for me complies with the free market.

    Finally, let me use the term of private property. Here for is where free software doesn't comply. The free and open source is exactly the opposite. The code can be used by anybody. As an alternative of private property is where I would most likely use the example of free software. The motivation is not to "own" something. You are not "this is mine". This belongs to everybody that wants to use it and I will use their code as well. That is very different from private property.

    Concluding: If I could divide the meaning of capitalism into "free market / antagonism" and "private property" I would say that on the private property is where free software is an alternative.
    Last edited by C_ntua; 12-04-2010 at 10:59 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by C_ntua View Post
    Finally, let me use the term of private property. Here for is where free software doesn't comply. The free and open source is exactly the opposite. The code can be used by anybody. As an alternative of private property is where I would most likely use the example of free software. The motivation is not to "own" something. You are not "this is mine". This belongs to everybody that wants to use it and I will use their code as well. That is very different from private property.

    Concluding: If I could divide the meaning of capitalism into "free market / antagonism" and "private property" I would say that on the private property is where free software is an alternative.
    Very interesting. If I may I just want to comment on the "Private Property" aspect for a moment...

    In my way of seeing "Freeware" the Source Code is my private property but the program code is not. I've decided to allow anyone who wants it to use that. I see a line between "component parts" being private and "finished product" being public.

    Curiosly when I work on circuitry this is reversed. The plans schematics and parts lists are considered public but the finished product --an amplifier, receiver or some silly gadget-- is mine to keep.

    Both perspectives hinge around the notion of something that is replicable and something that is not... With software I can make as many copies of the finished code as I want, without losing that one one private copy of the Source Code. With electronics I can reproduce the plans ad infinitum but still have the finished product.

    So how does this fit into the capitalist minset? I don't exactly know. I tend to think more about "sharing helpful things" than money... which may explain why I liked electronic service so much... I could be helpful and get paid for it

    (BTW... I peeked at your homepage... a board game compiler... very interesting stuff.)

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    Registered User whiteflags's Avatar
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    >> Is free software against a free market? Again I would say no. The best will survive in the end. ... So free software for me complies with the free market.

    Allow me to reply with respect to the economics: Price is merely a system of supply and demand. You can only undermine competitors by offering something for free, trying in vain to go against the market. If the product is a program that facilitates a service that is also offered for free, you are basically doomed to market forces if you own and operate both ends of the business. Other free, open source software and freeware is a lot harder to explain by the same point (probably just because I'm only pretending to be an economist). There are bound to be exceptions based on how popular something I don't use is, but the rule seems to be that for relevant freeware and free open source software there is an active business interest. Either the organization offering the work is also generating ad revenue to cover operation costs or they are owned by other organizations with variable business plans.
    Last edited by whiteflags; 12-05-2010 at 04:31 AM.

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