The pen is mightier than the FUD

Posted by Scott_Ruecker on Jul 19, 2007 5:08 AM EDT
LXer Linux News; By Sander Marechal ('s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands)
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LXer Feature: 19-Jul-2007

A few days ago Rob Enderle proclaimed that Open Source and Linux are losing momentum, without any evidence to back this up and despite that IDC and Gartner are saying the exact opposite. The FOSS community responded with rebuttals after which Rob posted a follow-up in which he makes some particularly nasty accusations. However, trying to follow Rob's logic in the original article quickly showed that it was not about a loss in momentum at all. That was just a framework on which to hang a different tale, one that gives us some insight in how he sees the world of software development.

Normally I try to avoid Rob Enderle's stories. The one-man analyst group is more often wrong than right, his analyses incoherent and filled with off-base assumptions. His latest few pieces are downright insulting but also offer us an insight into his reasoning.

It started a few days ago when Rob proclaimed that Open Source and Linux are losing momentum, without any evidence to back this up and despite that IDC and Gartner are saying the exact opposite. But that matters little, as even Rob himself hardly references this subject in his article. It's only a framework on which to hang a different—and often debunked—tale: Free Software is communist. Yup, here we go again.

For those who have tried and failed to follow the train of thought in the article, it goes a bit like this: Richard Stallman personally cares little for material wealth, so RMS's main objective must be to strip other people of their wealth as well, or to prevent other people of ever becoming wealthy. The Free Software Foundation and the GPL were created with the specific, unwritten goal of making that happen.

The means: make software free-as-in-beer so companies would be unwilling to pay for it anymore. Companies took the bait because Microsoft is not liked very well, being a monopolist and all. Now that they are accustomed to getting everything for free, they stopped paying large amounts of money for software and the days of IT millionaires are over. The entire software industry is scarping to get by and the richest man on the planet is a foreigner, and he's not even in software. How dare he!

Or shorter: Richard Stallman sent your job to India and he was planning it all along.

And then he acts surprised if the people he attacks react and rebut his piece. In his follow-up called “Decline of Open Source Follow-Up: FUD Attack?” he likens the community to religious fanatics, accuses us of intimidation and trying to limit free speech. How original.

Besides Gartner and IDC telling us that FOSS is booming instead of declining, Rob gets many other facts wrong. First off, FOSS does not have a political agenda, let alone that it be anti-Microsoft. When FOSS is attacked, we counter—sometimes with vitriol—but for the most part FOSS just does what it does best: create great software. And that's the reason why Microsoft is loosing ground. It is simply being out-engineered, out-innovated and it is bleeding developers.

FOSS is also not the reason that jobs are being sent to India. It's not just software development that is sent to cheap countries but all kinds of jobs. India (and much of the far east) is developing itself. They did not have the technology or knowledge to do our jobs 10 years ago but they do now. There is no "Free Textile Foundation" that is commoditizing the market and sending clothing fabrication jobs to India. This argument could only hold water if it was FOSS that boosted development of the east at such a rapid pace, but it didn't even do that. The bulk of the east runs on (pirated) Microsoft software. In that vein you might as well blame Bill Gates' lax anti-piracy policy for sending your job to India.

Rob's argument that there is a developer shortage also holds no water, The proof he links to is actually talking about developers on a global scale and talks about a potential situation where the need for computer code outgrows the supply of new developers worldwide. Jobs moving from the U.S. to India isn't a factor because it does not change the global supply of developers. It merely shuffles them around. In such a scenario FOSS is the solution and not the cause, because FOSS lets you develop faster, reuse more and prevents reinventing the wheel a thousand times over. With a FOSS development model we can produce more code with the same amount of programmers and thus fulfill the need for new code.

Programmers will always get paid. Companies always have a need for code that is not interesting enough for a FOSS hobbyist to create in his free time for geek points. Take me for example. I get paid to write FOSS and no, I am not some kind of hot shot programmer working on a sexy FOSS application that got snatched up by a VC-funded start-up. I build business software for a company that is not in the software business. My company releases it under an open source license simply because there is no reason not to release it.

Reading through the lines of Rob's analysis and reasoning I get the impression he is suffering from tunnel vision, especially with regard to FOSS. He is blind to the 80%-85% of software developers that are not employed by software development companies. He is also focusing far too much on the large U.S. software companies, Microsoft in particular. There is nothing wrong with giving advice targeted at the large U.S. companies, but in his opening sentence Rob admits that this is also where he gets his information from in the first place. This tunnel vision has left him with a very distorted view of how the world of software development works; A bleak picture in which Richard Stallman is trying to send your job to India.

No wonder his analyses are off-base.

» Read more about: Story Type: Editorial, LXer Features; Groups: Community, GNU, Linux, Microsoft

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
A telling blunder by Mr. Enderle loyeyoung 3 1,913 Jul 23, 2007 8:10 AM
The Pen is mightier than the FUD pogson 13 2,381 Jul 22, 2007 9:34 AM
OK, Rob, I take back my assertion that you are smart. dinotrac 38 2,109 Jul 20, 2007 4:35 PM
Who is UnAmerican? de Tocqueville says... cjcoats 0 1,687 Jul 20, 2007 4:45 AM
You mean SCO *won't* crush us all any day now?!?!? DrDubious 5 1,783 Jul 19, 2007 4:38 PM

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