discussion policy add tag
This isn't a question, and I'm far from sure that it materially contributes to the development of TA. But! :) This is a "community of collaborators", some of whom I "know" and trust....

I just ran across [an article][1] (“Open Source is Broken”, by Don Goodman-Wilson, 9/17.10.2019) which questions deeply the morality of "open source" and explores the "what next?" question:

> What does a people-centric collaborative software development model look like? I’d like to explore some basic properties that such a model ought to have, as a starting place for building new institutions to support productive, non-exploitative software development.

This felt to me like an important article, and I would value some help in thinking it through. I'm fairly confident that at least a few folks here will have some thoughts about it. If you're willing to share, it could be a constructive conversation, especially as new communities are coming into being here.

P.s. I would have liked to tag this with `[tag:discussion]`, but that's not available and I couldn't create it. ;)

[1]: https://dev.to/degoodmanwilson/open-source-is-broken-g60

Top Answer
Jack Douglas
I read the article but I personally didn't find many of the assertions it makes very compelling[^1].

For example:

> …producers, by adopting Open Source, have locked themselves into a situation where they lose all control over their code once it’s released to the wild.
> This is pretty absurd…

The author doesn't make much of a big deal about the fact that Open Source is all about *choosing* to grant rights, and the implication that anyone who does so is making an absurd choice is a little over the top.

By analogy, if you've just invented the wheel, and choose to profit from that, fine — you have done something that will eventually benefit everyone and chosen to benefit yourself too, I see no reason to fault you for that. However if you choose to tell everyone that they can just go ahead and use your invention right now without paying anyone:

1. Wheels are going to help more people more quickly
2. There is going to be less waste on lawyers and marketing
3. You aren't going to get so rich

Maybe you made a bad economic choice there, but *absurd*? I think 'nice' would be a better word. And the whole 'but bad people can then use wheels too' argument feels a bit ridiculous to me — bad people are generally the most likely to just go right ahead and steal your invention without paying anyway.

> The key is that Open Source is literally about exploiting unpaid labor.

Only if you have a very broad view of what exploitation is. I don't think it's very helpful to include 'activities that people undertake completely free from all compulsion' under the heading 'literally exploiting'.

Apart from all that (and I could have added quite a number of further examples of what I regard as very suspect presuppositions), the ['Ethical' alternative](https://ethicalsource.dev/definition/) that the author suggests, as a step in the right direction, seems to have some very serious practical flaws, for example:

> Creators have the right to prohibit use by individuals or organizations engaged in human rights violations or other behavior deemed unethical.

This opens the door to endless interminable arguments between contributors about which individuals or organizations are the ones engaging in unethical behaviour.

Society needs to have those discussions, but do they really need to be had inside the community developing Postgresql, and JQuery etc etc? Would it really make the world a better place if every productive community had to be made up of not just people good at producing the particular product they are working on, but also people who are like-minded ideologically? I don't think it would. More than that, I'm quite sure the rate of progress would slow dramatically. 

> Creators have the right to solicit reasonable and voluntary compensation from the communities or institutions that benefit from the software

Either this really means 'voluntary', in which case the situation is no different to normal open-source software (there is no prohibition on *asking* for donations), or it means something else that is going to include lawyers and complex negotiations that will put everyone off using your software in the first place.

If we really want to focus on people, we need to think practically about the outcomes that will benefit people. making this platform not-for-profit and open source will help prevent contributors from being productised 10 years down the line. We are all here to give away our knowledge, and that isn't absurd — quite the opposite; it's better to give than receive[^2].

[^1]: N.b. this is just my 2c, and I have no qualification to say any of it with any particular authority.
[^2]: Which is not *at all* to say that receiving isn't good, just that giving is even better. I have lost count of the times I've been helped by something I found on SE, but the biggest benefit they have given us is the ability to *contribute*.

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