Another Aspect of Free Software

Story: The Pragmatism of Free Software IdealismTotal Replies: 11
Author Content

Mar 25, 2011
4:53 PM EDT
Hillesley writes:
Quoting:In the beginning, the idea that software should be free was deemed unrealistic and laughable, and then unworkable. Now, for the most part, it is deemed acceptable and desirable – not just as a workable approach to writing software, but as a means of writing better software.

Besides actual software, much actual content wants to be "free" as well, and without violating patents and copyright laws.

There is another concurrent LXer post 'Review of "Linux Shell Scripting Cookbook" ' found at

Packt Publisher's Linux Shell Scripting Cookbook is USD $40+ and is a fully-copyrighted book, see

OTOH, another source of Linux Shell Scripting training is the online Bash Hackers Wiki meta-site; 'List of Bash online-tutorials' found at

Certainly some of the online-tutorial links themselves are somewhat dated. For instance:

- 'Bash guide on Greg's wiki' link is now instead of

- 'Steve Parker's shell scripting guide' is now instead of

- 'Deadman's' combination bash tutorial is now at the Wordpress instead of the two previously-listed links to

Yet, the key advantages of the Bash online tutorials over Packt Publisher's Linux Shell Scripting Cookbook are:

1. Their much less restrictive licensing conditions (e.g., GPL or similar such terms of distribution)

2 They are completely "free as in beer"; no monetary charge for the material even when this freely-available material is culled from other experts in the appropriate field(s)

So perhaps the actual content for the training used in the process of learning to develop free software should be at least as free as the actual free software this training eventually produces.


Mar 25, 2011
6:59 PM EDT
If all information were accessible for free, we'd still need people to solve specific problems.

Kind of how even if college were free, we'd still need people to use the information afterward.

In fact, don't the future workers actually *pay* for college? They pay for the degree (endorsement by school) and for the customized experience (service by school). Alternatively, they pay the college because they know they are becoming experts, and they will be recognized as such. This is why students would do a bunch of work and not demand payment from the college for that work.

You can write a book (like going to college) to become an expert and to show your expertise to the world. From the experience and recognition, you can get endorsements and offers for services (eg, to create more works, especially custom ones). You gain this even without having anyone (the college or other students) pay you for your work. You will likely make money afterward from customized applications of that experience.

To get money, you probably have to yield somewhere and do something for someone else that is less than fun, but you might be lucky and simply be able to live off past works; however, you will likely have to be talented and market yourself. You will also want to make a work that will be attractive to as many people as possible. If the work itself doesn't accomplish this initially, you might want to pad it (eg, create an ecosystem/attraction around that work).

The people maintaining these wikis/tutorials or leading the charge might be willing to do it for many reasons including purely to show appreciation and partake with others, but certainly they can leverage that into money in some way.

Just because it's not obvious how to monetize something doesn't mean it's not possible. Most people couldn't turn their skills into cash without the help of others (for most people, this would be an employer). Just because you don't see a way today, doesn't mean one doesn't exist.

Mar 25, 2011
7:32 PM EDT
Jose_X, all of your many words seem to boil down to one thing: you think creative artists should subsidize their own work so you can have it for free. Sorry if I'm missing the point, but that's how it reads to me. My point is very simple: if you possess a copy of someone's work (when it's not freely given away but sold) then you should pay for it. I think the cleanest and most sustainable model is for people to pay their own way-- when you like something and want it, then pay for it. Don't make all kinds of excuses how creative artists should be happy to give their stuff away just because you don't want to pay.

I already said why I think the advertiser/corporate subsidized model is bad, though at least the artist gets something. Usually.

Yes DRM is unworkable and dumb and so are the RIAA, MPAA, Disney, and all the rest. So why not cut them out of the loop and support artists directly?

Mar 25, 2011
10:31 PM EDT
TC -

I think you've got it about right.

Funny how many people seem to believe all of hat work is worthless, yet go apoplectic if somebody suggests they should not be able to take it for free.

If there is no value, restrictions impose no cost whatsoever.

Mar 26, 2011
10:16 AM EDT
>> Yes DRM is unworkable and dumb and so are the RIAA, MPAA, Disney, and all the rest. So why not cut them out of the loop and support artists directly?

I pointed to creators who appear to have had success doing this, not by appealing to the major copyright players but by appealing to ordinary folks.

Did you read the techdirt article about the guy who wrote minecraft software and says that piracy is good because it helps create a wide fanbase which can be tapped into later on? It appears he has been pulling in over 100K daily. I haven't verified this, but I have seen pictures of huge digital creations done within that game. Look at the numbers posted on the site . If he angered the people, many would be less willing to spend money. And yes he does imply that he has to be business savvy, eg, by continuing to make it burdensome to get all the good stuff easily if you pirate.

He is also benefiting form a network effect. [I mentioned "culture" in the third and recent comment here ] This is a reason to keep growing the works and investing in a community around the work rather than abandoning the work to a dark shelf on Amazon somewhere. People need to be enticed. To make extra money, you want to remove barriers and address what readers want if you possibly can.

See comments by sgtrock on free digital downloads of sci-fi #comment-3674 . In this case, we have free samples.

>> you think creative artists should subsidize their own work so you can have it for free.

What if "piracy" helped open up a market that otherwise would not exist?

Of course, writing something popular (even if judged to be horrible by professional critics) will have more earning potential than writing something less popular.

Anyway, there is no need for us to get upset at each other. I pointed out information I have come across and what might be the reasons that allowing many people to experience the digital content for free can ultimately be tapped to bring in more revenue.

[ What follows states that I like open licenses (not piracy) and I have incentives to support them. I state also that there is much competition in certain areas, so those not opening up more face a growing barrier. The PS at the end is to say "hi".]

As I have stated elsewhere, I personally want people to use open content/source licenses, and that is what I legally "pirate". It is nice having access to Linux, audacity, and everything else for $0. No one person shoulders all the load. Some, who do put in many hours, are college professors or others who leverage the work for income. And these are creators giving it away voluntarily. This is what the competition is offering (putting piracy aside). And there are artists who do similar and have made money. I haven't personally made money doing that (not that I have tried), but others claim to have found success.

If I have to pick between using a voluntarily free online resources or going out hunting for a book I may not really use and which will cost money I may not want to spend right away, I will pick the free resource most of the time. I also do value digital resources (I agree with you how this adds flexibility).

However, if I wanted a book or to make a gift, I would seek that out (because a download would not do), and then I am much more likely to pick something I will like and know of.

Note that different people seek different styles of books. No matter how well a sci-fi is written, some people won't touch it. No matter how well a romance novel is written, some people will not touch it. No matter how well a particular tech book is written, some people will not touch it. Or at least they may not touch it without some help. In this landscape, it can really help to try and reach a wide audience and to seduce them.

Obviously, not everyone uses CC licenses and such, but there are many who are embracing "piracy" to improved outcomes and to their surprise.

Use the information as you wish, and I hope I can help a bit if you are able (eg, own the copyrights) and willing to release some of the digital content under an open license. [I got around to writing a plugin for firefox and am planning on leveraging the new skill to further this cause of open content businesses.]

PS: Glad you are alive and kicking. I never realized lxer aggregated news, similarly to what LT offers. I think it might help to give the lxer news titles a larger font size so they stand out better, but I'll get used to it eventually. Also, an opt-in to viewing advertizing (to contribute pennies to lxer) could help lxer and those who are willing to be exposed to the ads, without negatively affecting those who want to continue ad-free.

Mar 26, 2011
10:35 AM EDT
dinotrac>> If there is no value, restrictions impose no cost whatsoever.

I value the GPL because many with large levers will use the law to protect their goods and then easily take what you contribute if they can. This use of copyright to defend from giants is a different issue than making things difficult for potential buyers or those who would spread the word.

I value Linux, audacity, and a great amount of specs and source code all at $0 and freely usable. It makes sense I'd prefer this over what isn't freely usable and $0. The competition is tough. Much of high quality exists under these terms and is growing. If you don't open up, you will face a continued growing bar. You will have to deal with individuals more enthusiastic about a comparable open work elsewhere than about your closed work.

As concerns piracy and art, that field has differences with software and has also been well established under proprietary terms. But, as stated elsewhere, attacking those who do find value in your work is business risky. Also, limiting access to content, especially when you aren't a household name, is business risky, especially in today's environment where the amount of respectable free digital information keeps growing.

Mar 26, 2011
10:44 AM EDT
tuxchick>> Jose_X, all of your many words seem to boil down to one thing: you think creative artists should subsidize their own work so you can have it for free.

In case you don't read the rest, I'll try to be brief.

Yes, if I have a quality comparable option, I'd *much* prefer the free information and access. Being open carries extra weight beyond the also better price tag.

I'd also want to help out those contributors rather than those who are not opening up. I will go to a greater effort to keep them in mind and to promote them should I or someone I know at some time in the future be in the market to buy a scarce good/service. Them being on my mind also means I am more likely to contribute in other ways to an ecosystem that is centered around them.

Not everyone views things this way. YMMV.

Mar 27, 2011
10:09 AM EDT

What about a LXer column line for your thoughts? May I suggest: "A Blueprint for a Successful Business Model for Free and Open Source Software", with your, byline, of course.

However, while 'Words are Cheap', do not spend them too freely. The result is angered editors and nil to none readership. Be aware the best writers are economical in their output.

Of course, there will be no real renumeration for your exertions, but your praise will be sung loud and wide.

YBT [since you are new here: a.k.a. == "Your Buddy Txt."]


Mar 28, 2011
10:02 AM EDT
TxtEdMacs, thank you so much for the advice on taking a path towards glory with potential future riches... but (a) these thoughts aren't mine and (b) there are better writers than myself at keeping readers awake and following along.

I enjoy writing software when I can, but a need to invoke my amateur communication skills to help others spread messages of openness has been cutting into my time quite a bit for years.

So please consider spreading the word so that I will find more time to indulge in more Dr. Spock-ish hobbies. Start all the columns you want, you won't be the first nor last to tackle these topics. .. I might as well say it: I post comments as if a CC-by-sa 3.0 license was automatically attached (with lax attribution requirements).

If a message gets molded into something good, we will all be able to smile.

If I do come up with a decent essay, I may submit it for advice or whatever. Trust me, it's not easy to take the tendency to talk inefficiently out of the inefficient talker. Don't provoke me.


[that's: Your Buddy Tackles Topics Today Till Tomorrow That "They" Tend To Take Twenty Tick Tocks To Tell]

PS: is loaded with postings on this sort of topic of open content business models (focusing a fair amount on copyright issues relevant to artists).

Mar 28, 2011
10:09 AM EDT
I do intend to contribute to the essence of such a column, but I really want to focus more each week on writing software (at least until I meet some self-imposed goals) and laying back some on the prose. The software or business mini-projects I have placed on the back burner have now taken up the entire counter and most of the floor space in the house. M-u-s-t f-i-g-h-t b-a-c-k.. quickly.

Mar 28, 2011
10:32 AM EDT
I think billboarding of lxer on a per user opt-in basis would be a great way to help the willing reader raise funds for lxer.

If I had "guarantees" it would help, I would opt-in and then try to make a habit of clicking a bit on ads and following along to the sponsor's websites to check them out.

Apr 03, 2011
2:41 PM EDT
Teaching/tutoring with quick and easy customized solutions.

"You" write software, book, tutorials, demos, etc. The digital versions of these are freebies.

What happens is that if enough people get word of the cool things you can do and you advertise that you are open for business, you will find many people who will be willing to pay $20, $100, and many other dollar amounts in order to save time or gain extra insight into material you are able to tutor them on. They will pay for a quick few lessons where you help them create a work of art they keep (eg, using audacity, blender, etc) while showing them the ropes around the apps and freely available docs. This is a great deal for many people and gives you work at fair pay while others gain as well. At no point do you attempt to restrict digital copies, rather you want everyone to try out the stuff and tell their friends about it. When you get together (maybe virtual forum) and offer you various services, they will surely have a free digital version of the product.. and they will very possibly want to buy the book (maybe even signed by you, the author). A good experience will lead to referrals and new ideas.

Carla is in an ideal position because of all the software she has studied and on which she appears to be some sort of expert. [Hey, she's published!] Possibly, she would gain more financially from audacity than some of its major developers.

Carla, you need to contribute your works to the public [I'm telling you so], but you do have to work the business (like with anything else where you bypass employers). Keep coming up with services and products on a continual basis and sell these online [I plan on putting in place some support for this myself]. Keep giving away things you have packaged. You will make easy money once someone can come to you to save themselves hours of confusion or slow progress when perhaps they need or want results much quicker. You will have an easy time (well, much easier than they would) showing them how its done, while skipping all the long boring parts that just could not be explained that efficiently in the book(s).

[In some other comment, I mentioned a lady that posts up free online video tutorials on knitting and related arts and has built up a decent sized clientele of those who buy products from here. I'm sure she could also engage in custom solutions and personal teaching. And she is doing something she probably really enjoys while feeling good about her work.]

[Edited a few hours after initial posting:] I woke up feeling optimistic and rushed to write this comment above. I didn't intend to appear to be "lecturing", condescending, or pushy (as I realized certain parts of the comment might sound). I wrote down some thoughts others might find useful. I think employers and third parties may find copyright attractive because it's a tradable asset and because they are by nature impersonal and, wanting to maximize profits whenever possible, are somewhat threatened by personal employees or other humans who might pull away clientele. On the employee side, I'd think someone who wanted to focus on writing only would be willing to acquiesce to the terms (like copyright assignment and support) painted by third parties who promise perhaps a more stable income. Authors of the Internet-less and FOSS-less past might also have felt very limited in options and fearful others would leverage their work for gain. However, as to this last concern, I'd guess most books are sold today with the understanding that buyers can use them in teaching, to essentially play off that particular work to earn a daily service income. Then when/if students want or are required to buy the book, the author would gain from the teacher's ongoing value-add work. This might be why many educators with writing and topic skill want to write their own books. However, without leaning on copyright restrictions, the author could just as well offer something not to difficult to provide to the "distributors-promoters-teachers" and to their students in exchange for some sort of fee/cut while encouraging reuse of their books (which attracts large numbers).

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