or
David
policy discussion
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*.
Models of collaborative online culture?
Caleb
I've also been thinking about how to handle future new projects. I've been talking to one guy about a project he's working on and I want to help, but he hasn't figured out how to reconcile the need to feed _his_ family with the reality that the project will be much more successful if he can open source it and hence accept code contributions. Even for  his single scenario I have to agree there is currently _no_ funding model that is a great fit.  I recently [signed up for Github Sponsors](https://github.com/sponsors/alerque), which is an interesting model in an ideal world but it's not likely to work for more than a small percentage of developers whose projects get enough attention. The reality is that there are quite a few different scenarios and no one model will ever be a good match for all of them. Hence why articles like that with sweeping generalizations don't really help (my 2¢).
Caleb
I haven't done more than skim the article you linked (yet) but I've read several along the same vein that have been passed around in the last couple years. I think I disagree on a pretty fundamental level. There are some real issues, but in order to even attempt the "OSS is a moral travesty" argument you have to ignore the bulk of real world scenarios and focus in on only the worst aspects of the most problematic scenarios.
Caleb
I've actually been thinking about this issue a bit more recently. Having first a wife and now a little one on the way has definitely changed my time priorities, but not necessarily the principles involved. I still contribute a lot to OSS projects, but I'm more than a bit more selective about which  ones get time when.
Caleb
@David Hey, now there's a face!
Monica replying to David
I'm looking forward to seeing what comes out when you're done swishing that baby & bathwater around. :-)
David
@Jack Grateful for your answer, Jack. I don't know anything about article's author, but some of the argument/rhetoric seems over-stated as you point out. Certainly the matter of competing "ethical" commitments and frameworks is a problem here. I'm still thinking there might be a baby in that bathwater, and when I'm done swishing around looking for it I'll post some reactions of my own. FWIW ... < than your "2c" I reckon!
David replying to Monica
Thanks for that, Monica — those are helpful reflections! You've spotted some things that passed me by, which is why "reading" in a group like this can be so worthwhile. I'm pondering a bit more, but will post my own reactions hopefully in the next day or so.
Monica
That doesn't seem like an alarming place to be.
Monica
I don't know if the OSI in fact encourages the negative values he talks about, but I don't care a lot about the OSI, either, maybe because OSS isn't central to my life already.  I'm here to work with others to build something useful, including something *I* want to use, and so long as those goals continue to align, I'll be here.  If some company wants to use my work but wants me to make changes specifically for them, rather than because they've persuaded me that those changes are inherently valuable enough that I want to make them, then we'll talk about what I get out of it.
Monica
Ok, finished.  I take his core point as being that people and people's needs trump software and corporate needs.  Totally agree there!  And he also has a beef with a particular style of open-source software, encapsulated by the OSI, which I don't know as much about.
Monica
Skimmed until I got to "People > Software".
Monica
To an extent you can mitigate with license terms, like some OS projects already do.  I don't know if anybody restricts use, but, for example, some licenses require that you contribute improvements back to the project, so companies can't take your open work, make improvements, profit from those improvements, and refuse to share.
Monica
The problem of evil: "people might use my stuff for evil" is a problem that goes well beyond OS.  If somebody *buys* my book/software/services and uses it for evil later, I can't do anything about that either.  I think this is an unfortunate cost of producing anything that you share with others.
Monica
Ok, back to reading now. :-)
Monica
He talks as if the producers of the OS code get nothing from it, but they must get *something* or they wouldn't do it.  For me, I contribute to Codidact and TopAnswers because (a) I care about the thing being built and (b) perhaps I accrue some personal benefit, whether it's a positive feeling or something to show on my resume or whatever.  That stuff might not have a $ value but it matters.
Monica
He talks about some projects that have ceased to be because of this, and my answer to that would be: if you depend on it as part of your business and the original maintainer steps away, well, then it's on you to do something about that yourself.  You saved the cost of initial development; don't complain if you now have to spend something on maintenance and improvements.
Monica
The comments about OS allowing consumers of the code (e.g. big companies) to exploit the people who created it seem to need more support (maybe it's coming).  What authority does a big company have to demand support?  They can take the code and support it themselves, or they can make requests, but they're not in charge and they don't control the contributors' paychecks.
Monica replying to David
Still reading, but want to record some initial reactions.  First, a disclaimer: I haven't been part of the open-source world before TopAnswers and Codidact, so I don't have direct experience of how practice varies from theory.  That said...
David replying to Monica
Hi Monica - Yep, 'tis me, brought here by your blog post. These gravatars are a bit on the teensy side! Would be interested in your thoughts on this if you have time for it. Nothing hangs on it, of course, but it was a stimulating read and there are some valuable insights (I think!).
Monica
@David I haven't read the article yet, but just wanted to ask: is this Edinbugh David who I know from SE?  The gravatar looks right at least in broad strokes, but at this size and with my vision, I can't really say for sure -- I'm basically matching main colors and coarse shape.
David
This discussion may relate to the [kind of license](https://topanswers.xyz/meta?q=28) that the TA platform's source code should have, although I doubt there's anything well developed enough to qualify there. OTOH, the [CAL license](https://legaldesign.org/cal-software-license) caught my eye.