Memetic Success

Bwahahaha! My sinister master plan for world domination is
working. Straight from the pages of the highest-quality general-news
magazine in English, check
this
out! The money ‘graf is the last one:

Moreover, the ease with which the internet spreads
wrong-headedness–to say nothing of lies and slander–is offset by the
ease with which it spreads insights and ideas. To regret the glorious
fecundity of new media is to choose the hushed reverence of the
cathedral over the din of the bazaar.

There’s an old saw to the effect that there’s no limit to what you
can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit. More precisely,
when your signature memes start showing up as generative metaphors in
elite and popular usage with your name stripped off them, you
know you’re winning.

Winning, that is, at the only game that is really interesting –
changing the world.

(Hat tip to my blogson Walter Hunt over at Stone of Remembrance,
though I’d have seen it anyway in my weekly Economist and
later did.)

92 thoughts on “Memetic Success

  1. Could this be an invite for an article in the Economist authored by ESR…

    send in your requests today!!

  2. Congratulations. Keep up the meme-churning, we need all we can get. I had a similar experience recently, where a pollution scientist was quoted in SA as saying “It’s easier to not make the pollutants in the first place, rather than try to clean them up later”. I first said that around 1978, in my previous incarnation as a chemical engineer. At the time, everyone looked at me like I has grown a second head.

  3. Congrats, Eric. I’ve become involved in some standards groups and have some idea what a big deal this is. Keys to the kingdom …

  4. Actually… I am less and less enthusiastic about the bazaar model.

    The problem with the bazaar model I think is the same as with libertarianism in general: it works nice when players are usually of the same size, and have roughly similar resources. power and capabilities, but the model is very sensitive to differences of orders of magnitude high. Remember, one of the prerequisites in the model of Adam Smith was that he assumed a virtually infinite amount of players AND a perfectly informed market – which would practically prohibit to big differences of size between players.

    To put it practical, the most important benefit of the bazaar model is that when you have a great new idea for a great new feature, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel again, but you can build upon somebody else’s work.

    The software market of the eighties has been similar to the ideal economic model – the were many small players, and they kept reinventing the wheel and thus cooperation looked like an ideal idea.

    The market of today is different: there is MSFT and there is everybody else, and the first one is generally stronger than the second – from a typical user’s viewpoint, he is using more MSFT software than anything else.

    And actually MSFT has the aforementioned advantage in-house: they have an application basically for any important purpose, so whenever they have a new idea, they can build upon an already existing application of theirs.

    And the important thing is that they can study the source of Firefox, OpenOffice etc. and “borrow” good ideas – giving nothing in return. It’s the race of Achilles and the turtle – they are destined to be always a step further, because they can borrow ideas from OS code but OS cannot borrow ideas from their.

    Of course, it means that everybody, who is not MSFT should follow the bazaar way, because they simply don’t have any chance otherwise – becase they DO have to reinvent wheels, because they do not have hundrends of applications in-house, like MSFT.

    So I have nothing against everybody who is not MSFT following the bazaar way. What I do have are serious doubts about whether they can win even this way – I am less and less convinced they can…

  5. >> And the important thing is that they can study the source of Firefox, OpenOffice etc. and
    >> “borrow” good ideas – giving nothing in return.

    There are always more leechers than seeders. There have always been great minds who create, and lesser men who must “borrow” from them.

    Of course Microsoft does this, and will continue to do so. The really important thing is that it won’t make Microsoft better at what they do. The really important thing is that it won’t make Open Source software any less powerful. The bazaar model will continue to innovate, and Microsoft will continue to imitate.

  6. How does Steve Ballmer come up with a pen-name like Shenpen anyway?

    Eric, I’m looking forward to seeing your first appearance in Bartlett’s!

  7. >The really important thing is that it won’t make Open Source software any less powerful. The bazaar model will continue to innovate, and Microsoft will continue to imitate.

    This kind of statement might not be laughable if not for the fact that the Open Sores people still haven’t produced a decent GUI, let alone anything even remotely comparable to Windows XP or OS X.

  8. The even more important thing is that by following the bazaar model, OSS gets to improve (by building on ideas from the whole OS community) whilst microsoft software also gets to improve. It is not a case of who ‘wins’, since that is not important. It is a case of which method produces the best software.

    If microsoft copies some ideas from OSS, then that will improve the experience of a whole lot of people using microsoft software. It doesn’t lessen the experience of those using OSS, though. So everyone wins.

  9. “…the Open Sores people still haven’t produced a decent GUI…”
    It’s true. I installed Fedora Core 5 t’other day and it was like being back in the stone age. I immediately reinstalled Windoze 3.11 for a taste of the high life.

    “…let alone anything even remotely comparable to Windows XP or OS X”
    True again. You’re on a roll here. Don’t even lower yourself to offer any detailed critique of anything…the truth of your wise proclamations shines through the non-sequiturs. You tell these dumbass OSS freaks what’s-what.

  10. Shenpen: Even if MSFT can constantly stay ahead of all its competitors, and from recent history I am not sure that it can, how does that harm the customers. Compare IE7 to IE6, and Windows XP SP2 to the launched version of Windows XP; I prefer Linux and Firefox, but I can still see the improvements. Competition is a good system for spurring innovation. If MSFT can single-handedly produce better quality applications than Open Source, then more power to them.

    Dan Kane: What do you expect from someone who posts under the name ‘BIG_HACKING’? I say butt him off the bridge.

  11. Shenpen, I agree that we are fighting an uphill battle against Microsoft on the desktop for some of the reasons that you mentioned, but you aren’t seeing that FLOSS is winning in many ways and it will be very difficult for Microsoft to counter.

    * FLOSS will probably always be more secure than Microsoft’s closed source code.

    In applications where security is important, FLOSS market share is probably going to continue growing. MS can counter this to some degree by focusing on security, which they claim to now be doing, but it is highly unlikely that they will ever become as secure as FLOSS alternatives–their architecture doesn’t allow for it. They may manage it plug a lot of holes, but the ship will still be leaky.

    * FLOSS will always be cheaper than Microsoft, both in terms of total cost of ownership and initial cost.

    MS can put out lots of false proganda about TCO to convince people that they are cheaper and they can lower the prices here and there when it iscritical, They can give away for free certain products, like IE, but ultimately, they have to charge for something. They can take a loss for years like they do with the Xbox, but they have to make a profit on their core products in their their OS and Office Suite, so they can only cut their prices to a certain point before their whole business crumbles.

    * People who value freedom will always see FLOSS as better than Microsoft.

    MS can put out lots of propaganda about how “you control your computer” and they may allow the user to alter the outward appearance of their applications to a greater degree than before, but ultimately, MS will never be able to counter the appeal to freedom and user rights.

    * FLOSS will always allow greater modification and specialization of the code than Microsoft’s products. This isn’t important to most desktop users, but it is to embedded applications, supercomputers, thin-client networks, and a whole host of niche markets.

    MS can open its code in a limited way, as it is doing in embedded environments, but it can never go as far as FLOSS.

    * FLOSS will always be “cooler” to the computer geeks and more of them will want to spend their time learning it than learning MS products — geek mind share is more important than you realize, and Microsoft is sweating the fact that geeks think that FLOSS languages like PHP and Python are a lot cooler than MS languages like Visual Basic and C#.

    If Microsoft designs good, clean languages and tools, it may regain some of the coolness factor. Mostly MS used to win because geeks saw that they needed to learn MS products if they want jobs, but this is slowly changing. There is more and more demand for people with FLOSS skills.

    * FLOSS will always have a larger pool of potential programmers, bug testers, and evangelists than Microsoft.

    Microsoft will never be able to match the beta testing of a popular FLOSS program. FLOSS has a network effect on its side. Microsoft can copy FLOSS to some degree and try and get its customers to start acting like FLOSS users who beta test and evangelize the product, but there are limits to what people will be willing to do for a product which they know that they have no real ownership over.

    Of course Microsoft wins in areas where FLOSS can’t compete very well:

    *Market share momentum.

    People will continue using the products because it is too much trouble to switch and they are familiar and comfortable with it.

    *Marketing. MS will always have more money.

    *FUD. MS will always be able to spread more.

    *Less diversity than FLOSS, so many companies chose MS because simpler to support only one OS rather than hundreds of variants.

    *Intellectual Property. Microsoft can always threaten to sue FLOSS for patent violation.

    *Threats to computer makers and general arm twisting in the industry. MS can twist Dell’s arm to prevent Dell from offering a Linux computer to the masses. It has worked so far, but it many not work forever.

    *Lobbying. Microsoft can always hire more lobbyists to artificially restrict FLOSS.

  12. >“…the Open Sores people still haven’t produced a decent GUI…”
    >“…let alone anything even remotely comparable to Windows XP or OS X”
    >You tell these dumbass OSS freaks what’s-what.

    You Fools,

    Linux and Unix use the X window system and you are free to improve it ‘if you wish?’.
    on top of the X server you have many window managers or desktops available.

    http://xwinman.org/index.php

  13. davidf, thanks for the link. Thanks to you, I now know that someone wrote a Window Manager in Common Lisp (named Eclipse). I will have to try this out.

  14. It’s true. I installed Fedora Core 5 t’other day and it was like being back in the stone age. I immediately reinstalled Windoze 3.11 for a taste of the high life.

    Going back to X Windows after using XP and OS X for a while is like visiting some by-gone era of computing. I’m quite happy using X Windows, but that’s because I don’t mind going without the modern luxuries.

    True again. You’re on a roll here. Don’t even lower yourself to offer any detailed critique of anything…the truth of your wise proclamations shines through the non-sequiturs. You tell these dumbass OSS freaks what’s-what.

    I’m not against OSS, but I am against OSS fanaticism that isn’t borne out by the facts. The superiority of the GUI’s provided with Windows XP and OS X is self-evident, and I’m confident the majority of computer users would agree with me.

    If you want a better example: OSS has not produced a game of even near top-shelf, commercial quality. If it requires a long-range creative vision, then so far OSS fails to deliver it.

  15. >I’m not against OSS, but I am against OSS fanaticism that isn’t borne out by the facts.

    So am I. One of the privileges of having helped found the movement that I’m immune from attack by its zealots.

    > The superiority of the GUI’s provided with Windows XP and OS X is self-evident, and I’m confident the majority of computer users would agree with me.

    Nah. OS X’s GUI is better than we’ve done yet, but the Windows XP one sucks pretty badly on several levels.

    >If you want a better example: OSS has not produced a game of even near top-shelf, commercial quality.

    Arguable. Tux Racer ain’t a bad arcade game.

    >If it requires a long-range creative vision, then so far OSS fails to deliver it.

    False. We do excellent long-range creative vision on techie things like programming-language designs,

  16. I agree completely that Windows games are vastly superior to anything the OSS world has put out so far, it’s all about the priorities of the developers.

    If you want to play games, you use Windows. If you want to control a Mars rover, you use Linux.

    Vista isn’t the real successor to XP, the 360 is.

  17. Nah. OS X’s GUI is better than we’ve done yet, but the Windows XP one sucks pretty badly on several levels.

    Whether OS X or Windows XP, the main thrust of the point stands.

    Arguable. Tux Racer ain’t a bad arcade game.

    You are truly talking out of your neck here – Tux Racer is laughable by top-shelf commercial standards. How can you compare Tux Racer to today’s benchmarks, such as Halo 2, World of Warcraft or Call Of Duty 2? It doesn’t even compare with the top-shelf games of yesteryear.

    False. We do excellent long-range creative vision on techie things like programming-language designs,

    I think you’re nitpicking here, because this is a given. You’re right though, so I’ll qualify: OSS fails it at projects that require long-range non-technical creative vision. Games are an example of this. The commercial games industry has been putting out dozens of high-quality games annually for more than a decade. OSS has produced Tux Racer.

  18. Let’s just be clear here…being a better positioned *economic territory* for certain genres of application software (eg. games) *does not* constitute evidence of a superior platform. Had you chosen ‘web service technologies’ as an example genre, *nix would leave ‘doze in the dust.

    On comparable hardware, I have only ever seen appreciably better performance out of the linux ports of games (I’m partial to UT myself). This highlights the technical superiority of the linux platform.

    As for the GUI…I really don’t think that x.org + gnome is in the shadows of anything. Here’s a teaser…let’s take bets on which GUI delivers true 3D accelerated support first (hint: it won’t be ‘doze ;-)

  19. PS. I first broached the subject of 3D accelerated GUIs 10+ years ago, upon being blown away by my dual SLI voodoo2 cards running Quake2…I wondered “why don’t we have translucent windows, so we can kinda see what’s behind them? Why can’t I rotate a window 85 degrees about the y-axis and stack them up that way? Why can’t windows be double-sided?” and so on and so on…you get the idea.

    Sadly I lacked the technical expertise to *do* anything about it at that time, and I was laughed at by the ‘doze monkeys for suggesting such an absurd thing. That was the last time I ever doubted myself ;-)

  20. Let’s just be clear here…being a better positioned *economic territory* for certain genres of application software (eg. games) *does not* constitute evidence of a superior platform. Had you chosen ‘web service technologies’ as an example genre, *nix would leave ‘doze in the dust.

    I said nothing of a ‘superior platform’ – I pointed out that OSS had not produced a single top-shelf quality game.

    On comparable hardware, I have only ever seen appreciably better performance out of the linux ports of games (I’m partial to UT myself). This highlights the technical superiority of the linux platform.

    Who was arguing this? Nobody is who.

    As for the GUI…I really don’t think that x.org + gnome is in the shadows of anything. Here’s a teaser…let’s take bets on which GUI delivers true 3D accelerated support first (hint: it won’t be ‘doze ;-)

    Here’s a hint: nobody cares. What people want is a consistent GUI that works the way they expect it to, and X Windows does not fulfill these criteria. XP is far closer to the mark. Your response highlights the root of the problem: OSS developers are driven by technical machismo, not customer requirements. Hence the plethora of high-quality system projects and the absence of a quality projects that are creative in the non-technical sense of the word.

  21. As another blogson, I’d like to note that I saw this too—and had the same thoughts of sweet, sweet (vicarious) victory. My (non-blog)father bought me a print subscription to the The Economist for Saturnalia…ahem, Christmas, so I’ve been forsaking the online edition of late. As a result, I’m always a few days behind (but the portability and contrast-ratio are worth it).

    Felicidades! Viva la revolucion!

  22. >You are truly talking out of your neck here – Tux Racer is laughable by top-shelf commercial standards. How can you compare Tux Racer to today’s benchmarks, such as Halo 2, World of Warcraft or Call Of Duty 2?

    Er…none of these are arcade games. You’re shooting down a comparison I never made.

  23. >davidf, thanks for the link. Thanks to you, I now know that someone wrote a Window Manager in Common Lisp (named Eclipse). I will have to try this out.

    Phil,

    glad i could help!

  24. davidf: Mac OSX tiger is *nix based!

    In fact, I just went and bought my wife an iMac, dual core intel chip, etc. Mac OS X 10.4. It’s sweet. And shows just how badly XP’s GUI blows.

    Another testimonial to how bad XP’s GUI is. Every power user I know, the first thing they do when they get a new Windows PC is make the desktop and start menu as much like Win95 as possible. Not because Win95 was something fantastic, but because then they can at least have a modicum of control over their desktop. The reality is that WinXP’s GUI is very difficult to navigate and significantly lacks intuitively. OS X does a much better job at it. PalmOS is far better at it than Windows Mobile. And, honestly, Gnome is about on par with XP (I use both on a regular basis). From a sheer appearance, ease of use and experience perspective, though, OS X is far and away superior to any other desktop OS and PalmOS is superior by far for PDA’s. In fact, it took Palm working with WM5 to make it even semi-usable. Before Palm got a hold of it, it was absolutely atrocious.

    Windows XP is a horrific GUI that I avoid like the plague as much as I possibly can. The pinnacle of MSFT GUI development was WIn95, it’s been downhill since there.

  25. Eric Cowperthwaite: In fact, I just went and bought my wife an iMac, dual core intel chip, etc. Mac OS X 10.4. It’s sweet. And shows just how badly XP’s GUI blows.

    I agree, I saw several apple computers at a local store, they all had incredible screen
    resolution and ease of use! One had a wide screen almost to big to navigate without a set of extra eyes, and no comparison to the windows boxes down the aisle.

    I gave up on windows during the win2000 farce and have not gone back.
    Linux and FreeBSD are my current hobby now… Yea…

    I’ll take a look at one of those new iMac’s again. A potential holiday gift for me!
    I like those Palm products too.

    Enjoy…

  26. You are truly talking out of your neck here – Tux Racer is laughable by top-shelf commercial standards. How can you compare Tux Racer to today’s benchmarks, such as Halo 2, World of Warcraft or Call Of Duty 2?

    Er…none of these are arcade games. You’re shooting down a comparison I never made.

    I said that OSS hasn’t produced any games of top-shelf commercial standard. You cited Tux Racer as a counter-example, and I produced examples of top-shelf games. If you didn’t mean to draw comparison between Tux Racer and top-shelf games, what was your point?

    The kind of game Tux Racer might compare to does not rate as a top-shelf item. Diddy Kong Racing from back on the N64 is a similar game, but of top-shelf quality. Tux Racer doesn’t even rate by comparison.

  27. I’m gonna have to call BIG_HACKING on his flagrant bullshit here.

    The games industry has far more in common with the movie industry than the software industry. The fact that games happen to run on computers is beside the point. I’ll draw a quick example: a couple of months ago I bought and played Doom 3 (on Linux of course). I quite enjoyed it. At some point I intend to buy Quake 4, because I’ve played the demo and it looks pretty fun. WHOA but wait, they use the same engine, so they’re the same game right? Of course not, the developers put a lot of work into developing new artwork, plotlines, sound effects, voice acting, etc. The only difference between Doom 3 and Quake 4 is the content, but this is enough to make them seperate games.

    So what’s my point? The point is that the games industry is a content industry that happens to rely heavily on specialised code. LoTR relied on a lot of AI and animation software to create its orc hordes; are you going to bemoan the fact that there’s no OSS blockbuster movies too?

    Fact of the matter is that complaining about the lack of top-shelf games from open source developers is about as sensible as complaining about the lack of OSS movies playing in A Theatre Near You (TM) or the distinct absence of OSS paintings hanging in the Tate Gallery.

  28. Shenpen says:
    > And the important thing is that they can study the source of Firefox, OpenOffice etc. and “borrow” good
    > ideas – giving nothing in return. It’s the race of Achilles and the turtle – they are destined to be always a
    > step further, because they can borrow ideas from OS code but OS cannot borrow ideas from their.

    I’ve given this consderable thought in the past and concluded it’s not a serious problem. A business who’s product features are copied from OSS is trying to sell something that’s already free, and arriving late to the market to boot. When MSFT copies OSS they are playing catchup and we can be safely amused.

    To survive, a business needs to innovate. When (if?) MSFT innovates, OSS can copy MSFT nearly as easily as MSFT copies OSS. Let’s face it… a zillion enthusiastic OSS hackers can duplicate any good idea once they’ve thought of it.

    OSS hackers do have a problem seeing past the code and designing easy-to-use software for real users. Ease-of-use is the main feature keeping us from trampling MSFT in the market. And we are getting better. MSFT’s Windows cash cow is in trouble and they know it. Eventually Linux will have every OS feature anybody cares about and Windows will still cost $100+.

  29. >> Eventually Linux will have every OS feature anybody cares about and Windows will still cost $100+.

    I am not so optimistic. I do think that Linux will triumph eventually, but I think the desktop is a lost cause. Most of the giant companies only lost ground when newer systems replaced their main product line. The tech industry has never been static, and something (probably cellphones) will oneday largely replace the desktop. My problem with this is that I think desktop is the best tool for many situations. (Do you really want to type research/term papers, hack code, and watch movies on your cell phone/PDA?)

  30. BIG_HACKING said that OSS hasn’t produced any games of top-shelf commercial standard. So, he is obviously ignoring all the work of the mod community that produce absolutely amazing work using OSS methods. To mention a few, Team Fortress, Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat for Half-life. I could probably name at least 2 top-shelf mods for almost any successful FPS game you want to name, but at least 2 for each of the major series, Quake, Doom, Half-Life, Unreal, and so on.

    For RPG’s, take a look at some of the mods for Neverwinter Nights, Dungeon Siege, etc.

    Sure, they reused the original game elements and engine but many of those mods completly changed gameplay, introduced completely original elements, models, story-lines, etc. Game developers that license game engines do pretty much the exact same thing. So, I don’t buy this argument for even a second, especially when you take in the fact that many of these old games ONLY continue to survive today based on continuing work by the mod community.

  31. Honestly, who gives a rip about the desktop? It’s yesterday’s paradigm anyway. PDA’s, cell phones and laptops using applications on the web is the model. Getting bent about who is “winning” in the desktop marketplace is like someone in 1985 worrying about whether they were going to dominate the terminal market.

    Which is why MSFT is running scared about Google, has no idea what to do about Google, or even how to compete with them. Google (and some smaller competitors) have figured out the new paradigm. So has Six Apart, WordPress and some other folks. Look at what we are doing here. And the desktop OS we are using doesn’t matter one bit. The GUI is no longer important because I’m now using a WP GUI to interact with the rest of you, customized by ESR. My chat client is Google Talk, which is available in my browser, no need to download. My email client is GMail. GMail darn near has all the word processing features I need, how long until Google beta tests GWrite?

  32. Bryan Phinney: especially when you take in the fact that many of these old games ONLY continue to survive today based on continuing work by the mod community.

    Not just survive either, but continue to be popular and played by a lot of folks.

  33. if you use your email address on your website for the ‘Leave a Reply’ fill in for mail
    can someone spam the blog in your name?

    a question for admin?

  34. BIG_HACKING said that OSS hasn’t produced any games of top-shelf commercial standard. So, he is obviously ignoring all the work of the mod community that produce absolutely amazing work using OSS methods. To mention a few, Team Fortress, Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat for Half-life. I could probably name at least 2 top-shelf mods for almost any successful FPS game you want to name, but at least 2 for each of the major series, Quake, Doom, Half-Life, Unreal, and so on.

    Not only can I not find the source code for Day of Defat or Counter-Strike, but these mods are riding on the coat-tails of commercial games. I don’t see your point here. Additionally, why are there so few TC’s? Because very few people have the vision to see it through.

    Sure, they reused the original game elements and engine but many of those mods completly changed gameplay, introduced completely original elements, models, story-lines, etc.

    Very few are TC’s, and the TC’s are still using a commercial engine.

    Game developers that license game engines do pretty much the exact same thing.

    That’s right, they use _commercial engines_.

    So, I don’t buy this argument for even a second, especially when you take in the fact that many of these old games ONLY continue to survive today based on continuing work by the mod community.

    What’s keeping an old game alive with enhancements got to do with producing a complete game from scratch?

  35. I’ll draw a quick example: a couple of months ago I bought and played Doom 3 (on Linux of course). I quite enjoyed it. At some point I intend to buy Quake 4, because I’ve played the demo and it looks pretty fun. WHOA but wait, they use the same engine, so they’re the same game right? Of course not, the developers put a lot of work into developing new artwork, plotlines, sound effects, voice acting, etc. The only difference between Doom 3 and Quake 4 is the content, but this is enough to make them seperate games.

    Doom 3 and Quake 4 use a commercial engine as their basis. Secondly, your claim here is essentially that because games involve creative work, the OSS community can’t be expected to keep up.

    So what’s my point? The point is that the games industry is a content industry that happens to rely heavily on specialised code.

    Your claim that there is little programming in the games industry is a joke. Tell that to the people who wrote World Of Warcraft.

    LoTR relied on a lot of AI and animation software to create its orc hordes; are you going to bemoan the fact that there’s no OSS blockbuster movies too?

    Fact of the matter is that complaining about the lack of top-shelf games from open source developers is about as sensible as complaining about the lack of OSS movies playing in A Theatre Near You â„¢ or the distinct absence of OSS paintings hanging in the Tate Gallery.

    The claims are not even comparable – if it were a matter of content only, then we would see games with equivalent game-play, but with poor graphics. We don’t see this.

  36. Hacking, there was no claim that there is little programming in the games industry. You, apparently, don’t read for comprehension. The “claim” was that the games industry is, essentially, not an application development industry, but is, instead, a content development and management industry that happens to use code to create their content. I think that’s a pretty solid claim. The conclusion, that the games industry should not be judged by the standards of application development, seems pretty reasonable.

  37. Hacking, there was no claim that there is little programming in the games industry.

    It was a clear implication. The claim was that the code is secondary to the success of a game (which is plainly wrong). ‘Little programming’ wasn’t the clearest way to put that, I admit.

    You, apparently, don’t read for comprehension. The “claim” was that the games industry is, essentially, not an application development industry, but is, instead, a content development and management industry that happens to use code to create their content.

    Well that’s flat-out wrong, and the comparison with the movie industry is spurious. In the movie industry, code is used solely during the development process; in the games industry, the code is part of the end product of the development process.

    I think that’s a pretty solid claim.

    Not only is it a shaky claim now, it has been even less true in the past. Besides, if this were true, then you would expect OSS games with top-shelf gameplay, but with sparse graphical and audio content. This is not the case. There are loads of OSS game projects, but they go nowhere because the author’s itch to work on them disappears.

    The conclusion, that the games industry should not be judged by the standards of application development, seems pretty reasonable.

    If you read my original post, I was responding to ‘Fuzzy’ saying: ‘The bazaar model will continue to innovate, and Microsoft will continue to imitate.’

    Games and GUI’s are only examples of why this is a joke. OSS is playing catch-up with the commercial players in these and other arenas. Even if you claim that games are irrelevent because of the heavy non-technical content, game engines suffice as an example. There are a few out there, but they’re pale immitations of commercial engines.

    As for Tiger running on X Windows (mentioned some posts back), it will be the commercial component provided by Apple that makes it usable, not X Windows.

  38. Hacking: Not only is it a shaky claim now, it has been even less true in the past. Besides, if this were true, then you would expect OSS games with top-shelf gameplay

    No, actually, if the gaming industry is about content, not code, then I would expect OSS to not do well at all. I’m not sure why you would think that. I fully expect that areas that require good, solid code development will be technically better if done by OSS. Although closed code shops may sell better. But, if it isn’t really about code, per se, then I don’t expect OSS to do well at it. That observation is borne out well by the lack of quality OSS games. The fact is, games are about content. If the content sucks, it doesn’t matter how good the code is.

  39. No, actually, if the gaming industry is about content, not code, then I would expect OSS to not do well at all. I’m not sure why you would think that.

    Because if OSS produces the best code on-time, then an OSS project should be able to produce a game engine that competes with the latest commercial offering. The reality is, that like in some other arenas, OSS mostly eats the left-overs of the commercial players.

    I fully expect that areas that require good, solid code development will be technically better if done by OSS.

    I never contested this. Again, if you read my original post(s), I was referring to the fact that OSS is driven by developer itch rather than customer requirements. Thus we have some excellent system software, and not much else. OSS applications are, by and large, not user-friendly. esr has admitted this himself, IIRC.

    Although closed code shops may sell better. But, if it isn’t really about code, per se, then I don’t expect OSS to do well at it. That observation is borne out well by the lack of quality OSS games.

    Early commercial game shops operated on shoe-string budgets, and yet have always produced better games than their OSS counterparts. The current Hollywood-like state of the industry is really a cop-out – even in the casual arena OSS is hugely outcompeted by small commercial companies (1-2 people in size). They are outcompeted because those small companies have dedication and creative vision.

    The fact is, games are about content.

    Please point me in the direction of the MMORPG engine on the scale of WoW. Why aren’t OSS people producing game engines that are used by content-producing commercial companies? It’s the other way round.

    If the content sucks, it doesn’t matter how good the code is.

    I repeat: the best, most bleeding-edge game engines are commercial.

  40. Oh yeah Hacking, one other thing. I have a really hard time coming up with examples of innovation by Microsoft. Since you obviously disagree, give some examples of true innovation coming out of Redmond.

    And, on the OS X front, what you seem to fail to see is that OSS has enabled Apple to produce the truly great commercial software called OS X. But, under the hood, it’s still based on OSS work and could not have happened without that OSS work. Because the alternative is Windows, and it’s ilk. That bloated, painful, frustrating, counter-intuitive thing is what happens when you do it all in a closed shop cathedral.

  41. Oh yeah Hacking, one other thing. I have a really hard time coming up with examples of innovation by Microsoft. Since you obviously disagree, give some examples of true innovation coming out of Redmond.

    I never said Microsoft was innovative. That paperclip thing in Office is a fairly representative sample of their idea of innovation. I said the commercial players at large are innovative.

    And, on the OS X front, what you seem to fail to see is that OSS has enabled Apple to produce the truly great commercial software called OS X.

    We were talking about OS X’s GUI, and the presence of OSS software under the hood is incidental to its quality. I have stated several times that I believe OSS produces high-quality system software, as you describe. The GUI itself is distinct from that, and it’s something the OSS people have so far failed to produce.

    But, under the hood, it’s still based on OSS work and could not have happened without that OSS work.

    This is pure crap. OSS is capable of producing things that are _impossible_ in a commercial setting? That is no more than a dubious assertion.

    Because the alternative is Windows, and it’s ilk. That bloated, painful, frustrating, counter-intuitive thing is what happens when you do it all in a closed shop cathedral.

    Bloated is a given, but Windows XP has an intuitive, consistent GUI, and the continuing refusal of the OSS community to accept this belies their detachment from reality. I don’t know anyone under the age of 25 who has trouble installing and using software on Windows XP. I do note frustration when I note to those same people that keystrokes do completely different things in different applications under X.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind X myself – I’m primarily a VI user, so I have no problem with cryptic keystroke combinations. Trying to compare it on a strict usability basis with Windows XP is a losing proposition.

  42. You are so missing the point Hacking. I’m not gong to bother trying to explain again.

    This must be the mating call of the OSS folks. The rest of us “just don’t get” why OSS is so superior in every avenue of development. Nevermind providing evidence of your claims, assertion suffices in such insular circle-jerk communities.

  43. I didn’t claim any such thing. I said, and will continue to say, that you are failing to understand the point a couple of folks are trying to make. It’s pointless to continue saying the same thing to you over and over. If you understood, and disagreed, that would be one thing. But this is something else.

  44. BH: I never said Microsoft was innovative. That paperclip thing in Office is a fairly representative sample of their idea of innovation. I said the commercial players at large are innovative.

    Be specific. Aside from Apple, and their GUI, since that’s already stipulated to be the best GUI on the market. Let’s also stipulate that gaming isn’t included, although you fail to understand the point made about what their industry really is.

    BH: We were talking about OS X’s GUI, and the presence of OSS software under the hood is incidental to its quality.

    Apple didn’t have the resources to develop a world class operating system kernel AND a world class GUI. As evidenced by the fact that they never brought their closed source successor to OS 9 to market after years of trying to do so. Once they adopted an OSS kernel and focused their closed shop resources on what they do best, they brought out OS X fairly rapidly. The OSS software involved directly contributes to its quality, whether you like it, or not. Both technically (a solid foundation to build on) and resource wise.

    BH: This is pure crap. OSS is capable of producing things that are _impossible_ in a commercial setting?

    Yes. Pure closed source has proven incapable of producing an operating system that is secure, reasonably free of bugs, tightly coded, stable, technically well done and general purpose. Hybrid development, such as the various commercial *nixes (including OS X) have done fairly well. Windows is not able to be all of those things, and I doubt that it ever will.

    BH: Bloated is a given, but Windows XP has an intuitive, consistent GUI, and the continuing refusal of the OSS community to accept this belies their detachment from reality.

    XP is not as intuitive as Win95. I find it much more difficult to do most things than I did in Win95. Which is sad, since Win95 wasn’t all that great for ease of use. If XP is the best that tens of billions in annual revenue and thousands of employees can produce, then closed source has failed and hybrid (like OS X) and pure OSS is going to prevail.

    I use, by the way, Debian, SlackWare, Solaris and Windows XP on a regular basis for desktop productivity of some sort, normally daily. My wife uses OS X and now refuses to even consider using Windows again. I’ve tried Windows CE and Mobile, and find them to be absolutely counter-intuitive and difficult to use, although much “flashier”, compared to PalmOS. The Treo 700W is barely usable, after major improvements to WM5 by Palm. Every one I consider a “power user” that I know immediately makes XP appear as much like Win95 as they possibly can because the XP GUI is designed for a 5 year old. This includes people who don’t necessarily like *nix. The majority of non power users that I know have to continuously ask for help on how to do things in XP, which should not be the case if it was “intuitive”.

  45. >If XP is the best that tens of billions in annual revenue and thousands of employees can produce, then closed source has failed and hybrid (like OS X) and pure OSS is going to prevail.

    And I believe this is exactly our situation. The reasons are fundamental, and have to do with the way that bug counts and bug densities scale up as the line count of the average development project rises. Closed-source development doesn’t scale up to current project sizes.

    That said, the open-source crowd still has a lot to learn about designing software that is tolerable for end-users.

  46. Be specific. Aside from Apple, and their GUI, since that’s already stipulated to be the best GUI on the market. Let’s also stipulate that gaming isn’t included, although you fail to understand the point made about what their industry really is.

    Your stipulation that game engines can’t be included is totally arbitrary. I’m not even talking about game designs or content. I understand perfectly what you’re saying, but it’s a non-argument – games are software, and OSS fails to provide them, even stripped of content. I repeat: where are the bleeding-edge OSS game engines?

    Apple didn’t have the resources to develop a world class operating system kernel AND a world class GUI.

    It is you who doesn’t understand – this argument was never about the system software, it was about the GUI. Apple wrote the GUI that sets the standard, and the OSS people have not come up with anything comparable. I’ll repeat again: OSS produces high-quality system software. There is no contention here.

    As evidenced by the fact that they never brought their closed source successor to OS 9 to market after years of trying to do so. Once they adopted an OSS kernel and focused their closed shop resources on what they do best, they brought out OS X fairly rapidly.

    Again, the OSS people have failed to make a GUI that competes with OS X. How many times do I have to repeat this? The fact that it runs on top of OSS components is irrelevent – the bits that count were produced by Apple.

    The OSS software involved directly contributes to its quality, whether you like it, or not. Both technically (a solid foundation to build on) and resource wise.

    This is like saying that the council knows how to make good cars because they make the road they’re driven on.

    Yes. Pure closed source has proven incapable of producing an operating system that is secure, reasonably free of bugs, tightly coded, stable, technically well done and general purpose. Hybrid development, such as the various commercial *nixes (including OS X) have done fairly well.

    The fact that open source has outcompeted closed source in this arena does not imply in any way that commercial development is incapable of meeting these criteria. By extension of this argument, one could say that it’s impossible for the open source model to produce a competitor to Microsoft Office because they haven’t done so thus far. (Note that OpenOffice is derived from a commercial product before we go down that road.)

    Windows is not able to be all of those things, and I doubt that it ever will.

    Windows isn’t the only commercial OS out there. Your criteria are ridiculous, anyway. ‘Tightly coded’? What is that supposed to mean?

    XP is not as intuitive as Win95. I find it much more difficult to do most things than I did in Win95. Which is sad, since Win95 wasn’t all that great for ease of use. If XP is the best that tens of billions in annual revenue and thousands of employees can produce, then closed source has failed and hybrid (like OS X) and pure OSS is going to prevail.

    Your argument here rests on the earlier point that Apple’s success producing a quality with the hybrid model was predicated on its reuse of OSS code. I explained why this is bunk above.

    I use, by the way, Debian, SlackWare, Solaris and Windows XP on a regular basis for desktop productivity of some sort, normally daily. My wife uses OS X and now refuses to even consider using Windows again.

    Good for her. OS X is a commercial GUI: OSS loses.

    I’ve tried Windows CE and Mobile, and find them to be absolutely counter-intuitive and difficult to use, although much “flashier”, compared to PalmOS.

    Agreed, but the Palm GUI was not designed by OSS developers.

    The Treo 700W is barely usable, after major improvements to WM5 by Palm. Every one I consider a “power user” that I know immediately makes XP appear as much like Win95 as they possibly can because the XP GUI is designed for a 5 year old.

    I do the same, the default layout is horrendous. This is also horrendously off-topic.

    This includes people who don’t necessarily like *nix. The majority of non power users that I know have to continuously ask for help on how to do things in XP, which should not be the case if it was “intuitive”.

    I would wager a guess that those same people would require even more help doing those same tasks under X Windows/Unix. OS X is the clear winner over XP for usability, no question. The OSS community did not design that GUI.

  47. And I believe this is exactly our situation. The reasons are fundamental, and have to do with the way that bug counts and bug densities scale up as the line count of the average development project rises. Closed-source development doesn’t scale up to current project sizes.

    Keep saying this esr, and keep not citing any evidence. If this were the case, the closed source companies would all have fallen over and open source would be prevailing in the market place. That’s not happening.

    That said, the open-source crowd still has a lot to learn about designing software that is tolerable for end-users.

    Isn’t this what I’ve been saying all along? OSS projects are driven by developer itch, not customer requirements. Thus, they haven’t produced a competitive GUI to date.

  48. > where are the bleeding-edge OSS game engines?
    Crystalspace and Irrlicht are pretty decent engines.

  49. Crystalspace and Irrlicht are pretty decent engines.

    I said bleeding edge, not decent. Are you positing these as substitutes for the Doom 3 engine (which will not doubt be superceded in the near future)? My original point was that OSS is not the innovating side in many avenues, and Crystal Space is an example of OSS immitating commercial work. Irrlicht isn’t even a game engine.

  50. > Are you positing these as substitutes for the Doom 3 engine (which will not doubt be superceded in the near future)?
    Sure.

    > Irrlicht isn’t even a game engine.
    Yes it is.

  51. Irrlicht isn’t even a game engine.

    Yes it is.

    Wrong. It’s a 3D engine. Looking through its list of features, the only game-specific functionality it provides is collision-detection. At any rate, it is an even poorer example of the bleeding edge than Crystal Space.

  52. Tenebrae 2 looks decent, and I heard it used algorithms that were very similar to Doom 3. It has not been updated in a while, though.

  53. BH: The fact that open source has outcompeted closed source in this arena does not imply in any way that commercial development is incapable of meeting these criteria.

    The fact that closed source projects have had tens of billions of dollars of funding, thousands upon thousands of programmers and 4 decades is telling. Hobbyist programmers, in a mere 13 years, with no budget whatsoever, no managers, no marketing department, and so on, have provided a superior kernel. Or we could compare the entire line of development of closed source vs. open source operating systems. Any way you look at it, closed source has built a barely adequate, mediocre, unstable and bloated kernel. Their winner has been put forth, it beat all the other closed source kernels. The open source world’s “winner” is out there too. And it is distinctly better in all ways.

    Now, I will argue that it is impossible for closed source to build something that is general purpose, commercially viable and meets the same standards as the Linux Kernel. If closed source could have, it would have over the past 5 years, to meet the challenge that the Linux Kernel has posed. MSFT (and ever other closed source kernel) has lost tremendous market share to open source, mostly in the data center. That trend is accelerating.

    Closed source can build a general purpose kernel. Is it impossible that they can build one as good as Linux? No, but the statistical likelihood is so low that we need not consider it. For all practical purposes, we can consider it impossible.

  54. Oh, and as I said earlier, winning the desktop is really pointless. It is more or less equivalent to Wyse winning in the terminal markets after the advent of the PC. Who cares? 10 years from now the idea that you would want to dominate the PC desktop GUI market is going to seem rather silly. We already see it started today. And, I think we should point out that new ideas of interface brought to the table by OSS is superior. Who cares what the underlying OS is, go out to a web based application that gives you the interface you like, and do your thing.

    The reason to point out that Palm’s OS is superior to Windows is to point out that big closed source isn’t the solution. One of the key points to Palm’s OS is that it is easy for 3rd party developers to write to it. One of the main drawbacks to Windows is how difficult it is for 3rd party developers to write to it. I think this is inevitable as a closed source operating system gets larger and more financially successful. Certainly nothing in the past 3 decades demonstrates otherwise.

    The successful model of OS and GUI development in the future is likely to be a hybrid of closed and open source, like Apple. To argue that Apple’s GUI has nothing to do with OSS is silly. Apple could not devote enough resources to the GUI to do what needed doing if they also had to develop the kernel and the windowing system. By leveraging the OSS work as they did, they enabled themselves to build a superior GUI. To argue that Gnome, for example, is beaten out by XP in all ways is also silly. Gnome is a quite capable GUI. It may not have the commercial polish of XP or OS X, but that doesn’t mean it is not capable and intuitive. I prefer Gnome to XP and OS X to Gnome. I use all of them on a regular basis and find your claims about the superiority of the XP GUI rather untrue.

  55. Apple could have kept the Darwin kernel closed-source and still developed a whoop-ass OS.

    I submit that they OSS’d the kernel for one reason and one reason only: to take market- and mindshare away from Linux among the geek set (something which they have been moderately successful at doing). A fully proprietary Mac OS would still have been a success among Mac devotees and neophytes looking for a stylish, easy-to-use machine.

  56. Jeff, they weren’t succeeding in bringing a successor to OS 9 to market during the entire time they kept their various attempts closed source. As soon as they went open source with Darwin, they rapidly brought OS X to market.

  57. “Wrong. It’s a 3D engine. Looking through its list of features, the only game-specific functionality it provides is collision-detection. At any rate, it is an even poorer example of the bleeding edge than Crystal Space. ”

    And then the penny dropped…we’ve been engaging a clueless luser…

    Thanks anyway for the pointers Daniel :-) I had not heard of these projects before. I have to say I am encouraged by Irrlicht…

  58. >Apple could have kept the Darwin kernel closed-source and still developed a whoop-ass OS.

    *snort*

    How many times did they fail at this, again? I remember Rhapsody and Copeland. There were others. Every time Apple tried to build an OS9 replacement in closed source, the effort simply collapsed of its own weight.

    Much as Vista seems to be doing now…

  59. > How many times did they fail at this, again? I remember Rhapsody and Copeland. There were others. Every
    > time Apple tried to build an OS9 replacement in closed source, the effort simply collapsed of its own
    > weight.

    Eric, NeXTstep/OpenStep wasn’t “Open Source”, either, yet OS X >is Much as Vista seems to be doing now…

    MSFT’s problem with Vista is not that its bug count is huge, or that its NLOC has increased beyond the ability to generate self-consistant releases. Rather its that nobody in their right mind (those who act in their own economic interest) will pull actual money out of their actual wallet to pay for a copy of Vista. This includes consumers (1-3 computer households), SMB and Enterpise markets.

    People aren’t going to purchase “Vista” because what they have now (XP) works well enough. MSFT didn’t solve any of the problems that plague current XP users, either. A MSFT release that fixed the Virus/adware/… problem and was priced at $99 might get soem traction.

  60. Yeah, I said this like 3 times, but apparently if you keep repeating something completely silly it will somehow become true. OS X is kick ass precisely because of the hybrid model that Apple chose. They focused commercial resources where they would be most effective and OSS resources where they would be most effective. Apple now has an OS that is arguably the best consumer OS ever produced. This fact, by itself, destroys the theory that only the Cathedral can work in the long term that you guys are trying to put forth. Whining about how the GUI is closed source and this proves how the Cathedral is better is silly.

  61. This fact, by itself, destroys the theory that only the Cathedral can work in the long term that you guys are trying to put forth. Whining about how the GUI is closed source and this proves how the Cathedral is better is silly.

    I do not believe that that was the idea which BIG_HACKING put forth, though it may speak for shenpen. What BH argues, and what I agree with, is that sometimes the bazaar wins, and sometimes the cathedral wins. This strikes me as reasonable.

    That OSS has failed to be a player in the games industry is certainly evidence of a task for which the bazaar model is inferior vis-a-vis the cathedral. Whether this is for technical reasons or artistic reasons isn’t relevant — what matters is that, when you add eye of newt to your OSS brew and chant for an awesome game, you don’t get one. You have to go to EB like the rest of the world.

    Games do depend much on artistic content, and it would seem reasonable to posit that OSS is bad at producing art. Therefore, it’s no surprise that it doesn’t produce good games, and we shouldn’t expect as much from it. But the flaw in this logic is the assumption that good gameplay hinges on good art. Counter-strike was, for a time, the most popular online game in the world, and it’s art was essentially crap. It was produced by a couple of kids, so whatever resources they had access to are no doubt available to the OSS community as well.

    So artistic ineptitude is a red herring. Further evidence lies in the portable gaming market, where games (by definition) have art that is a generation or so behind the times. I finished playing Sonic Rush on the Nintendo DS about a month ago, and I was positively blown away by the riveting gaming experience. But the art, compared to Sonic Heroes on the Nintendo GameCube, was utter crap.

    There is something about games that OSS can’t effectively handle, but that something is not art. And this seems to extend to many other things. The term “useability” gets bandied about a lot, but OSS actually does produce some very useable software — it’s just that the standards of useability for an ssh client are very different from those for a desktop.

    As for the engines themselves — OSS is soundly, soundly, soundly trounced. Just take a look at the source for Qauke 3 Arena, now that it’s GPL’d. It puts everything in the OSS world to complete emo-wrist-slitting shame. And while Ogre3D and Irrlicht are decent 3D rendering systems, they are quite far from the bleeding edge, and they are not game engines. You don’t have a game engine until you have a scene graph management system, and as far as I know, the only OSS offering in this department is crystal space. That’s been around for about 10 years, I think, and gone nowhere. 10 years is a very long time to develop a game. That’s two gaming generations, in fact.

    A closing thought: so long as restricting myself to the use of OSS feels like taking an oath of asceticism, I will remain unconvinced of it’s superiority, to say the least.

  62. Rhapsody was, if anything, a success. It became Mac OS X and was revolutionary even before the Darwin kernel source was opened up (which happened just before the commercial release of Mac OS X to the public, i.e., it was a finished product by that time).

    Eric seems to take as axiomatic the notion that all other things being equal, open source development methodologies will produce better software than closed source ones. We have seen that this is not the case. There is no open source equivalent to Photoshop (GIMP doesn’t count), or Cubase, or even Windows Vista, which will sell lots of copies if only for the simple reason that it will be necessary to run the PC version of the next Halo game. The reason why is people want to make money, and the best way of doing that is still selling copies of software with restrictive license agreements. As long as buyers in the marketplace are willing to pay money for software that meets their needs, without concern for ideological or technical issues w.r.t. the source code, software will be sold in just this way.

    I love open source as much as the next guy, but where the rubber meets the road it’s just not practical to assume that it will trounce all comers. It hasn’t and won’t.

  63. I do not think there will EVER be a proprietary equivalent to MAME or MESS, either. Also, I do not think there will be a non-free compiler that supports as many architectures as the GCC. Proprietary offerings may beat-out open source offerings on individual systems, but proprietary software will never win the “breadth” war. So, there are different advantages to both systems.

  64. > But the flaw in this logic is the assumption that good gameplay hinges on good art.

    You seem to be restricting the term ‘art’ to be solely visual art (sprites, models, textures, etc). However, I would argue that gameplay design is a form of artistry. It is certainly a creative endeavour, and subtle changes can greatly affect its quality. If you add something that doesn’t ‘fit’ to a game, the quality of the entire game is decreased, even if what was added was technically perfect.

    As for the game engines, I don’t know of any ‘good’ game engines (commercial or otherwise) that were not orignally written for some particular game and then licensed for use by others. That may just be a matter of ignorance on my part, but if this is true, then it seems the only successful way we have found to make a game engine is to make a game and then strip out the bits specific to a particular game.

    In general, a game engine is the implementation of a set of gameplay bits that many games may have in common. As such, designing a game engine is as much artistry as designing a game. The same may be true for GUI design, but I’m not sure about that yet.

  65. I would tend to argue that the advances in empowering the individual have led to individuals being able to create better OS kernels than Cathedrals could. Now, we are on the verge of seeing other sorts of software, like database engines, ERP, CRM, etc. that is on par with, or better than, their Cathedral competitors. It is only a matter of time until the individual has enough advantage, conferred by the exponential increase in technology available, to design a GUI that is competitive (or even much better) with Cathedral efforts. The main reason that OSS has not successfully designed a game engine or GUI that outstrips the commercial efforts is two-fold. One, they don’t have the data center capacity that the commercial shops have …. yet. Two, the folks that are attracted to OSS, right now, aren’t all that interested in those things (I suspect that is due in large part to number one). Those things are rapidly changing. In 1998, the debate was whether the Linux kernel could be as good as commercial OS kernels. That debate is settled and Linux won, unless you happen to work in Redmond. Now, the debate is whether application servers, ERP, DBMS, etc. can be as good as commercial ones. That debate seems more or less over with. Who could have imagined that a short decade ago?

    You guys who are nay-saying are taking the past for granted, and assuming the future is immutable and will be just like today. This is the classic mistake I see of everyone who ever tries to argue that nothing in a given arena is going to change, that the top dogs will remain on top.

  66. I do not believe that that was the idea which BIG_HACKING put forth, though it may speak for shenpen. What BH argues, and what I agree with, is that sometimes the bazaar wins, and sometimes the cathedral wins. This strikes me as reasonable.

    Exactly – although it’s pretty much standard here for Eric C et al to stick to arguing a point which is subtlely but significantly different to that which was made. This is why this forum is mostly a pointless circle-jerk.

    This is the classic mistake I see of everyone who ever tries to argue that nothing in a given arena is going to change, that the top dogs will remain on top.

    Once again, you’re countering a phantom argument – all anybody said was that OSS does not automatically win over commercial development.

  67. Actually, BH, you have pretty consistently argued against OSS, and used games and GUI to do so.

    I’ve only argued against it being a) the best for everything and b) consistently innovating where Microsoft immitates. Please quote me where I say that OSS is bad in general. The most general accusation I’ve made is that OSS is driven by developer itch rather than customer requirements, and I don’t think that’s a terribly controversial statement.

  68. I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, so maybe OSS will trump all in the future. But I consider it an established fact that it hasn’t trumped all now, and the thrust of my posts is checking to see if we’re all on the same page about that.

    In my young(er) days (I’m 21 now), I would have said “I hope that OSS will, in fact, trump all in the future, I’m just not going to be placing a bet either way.” But I was also a marxist back then, and I had very different motivations for supporting OSS than I do now. So currently, I can only say that I am interested to see what the future holds in this department.

    My only attempt at a nostradamus will be that, so long as the producers and the consumers are largely one and the same, we can expect the product to cater to the producer. In this instance, that means that OSS will continue to be slanted to the developer. If that is to change, developers must cater to non-technical users — but that means catering to someone other than yourself. I would expect some form of monetary compensation to be necessary for this to occur, and so long as proprietary software holds a distinct upper hand in this department, it wouldn’t surprise me if OSS stays in the server room. But Firefox provides compelling evidence to the contrary, so take this with a grain of salt.

  69. There are two distinct trends that lead me to believe that OSS will trump all in the future, plus an observation of the past. The first trend is in computing, the paradigm shift from PC computing to network computing. This paradigm change is as significant as the mainframe to PC shift was 20 years ago, and just like then, people don’t yet seem to be grasping that. The second trend is the continued empowerment of the individual (see Reynolds “An Army of Davids”) that is essentially leading us to the point where we are all both consumers and producers.

    The observation of the past I just laid out, but I’ll recap. At each stage of open source development the conventional wisdom has been that OSS could possibly compete in the area that it was then tackling (whether that was compiler, kernel, dbms, etc.), but these other areas it just couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be good at due to some limitation of OSS, whether real or imagined. And then those walls have been broken down and OSS has gone ahead and competed where the CW said it couldn’t, or wouldn’t.

    On a side note Peter, liberty minded folks should want to see OSS triumph. The only reason I would expect a socialist, of any stripe, to support OSS is because it was bad for capitalists. But this overlooks the fact that computing, in general, allows the individual to trump the collective. It has always seemed to me that socialists were acting tactically with OSS, not strategically.

    BH, I didn’t say that you think it is bad, I said you have consistently argued against it. Given that, I can’t provide a quote to support something I didn’t say.

  70. Eric C: BH, I didn’t say that you think it is bad, I said you have consistently argued against it. Given that, I can’t provide a quote to support something I didn’t say.

    I said:

    (1) BH: Once again, you’re countering a phantom argument – all anybody said was that OSS does not automatically win over commercial development.

    and you responded with:

    (2) Eric C: Actually, BH, you have pretty consistently argued against OSS, and used games and GUI to do so.

    I’ve obviously ‘consistently argued against OSS’, but this doesn’t contradict (1). Thus (2) had implied meaning, or you weren’t making a relevent point. Please provide the relevent quote that contradicts (1). This is your usual misleading argumentative style when you’re cornered, and I tire of it.

  71. If you choose to think that implying I said something I never said and demanding I provide a quote for to substantiate something I never said makes me “misleading” and “argumentative”, you’re welcome to do so, of course. Your choice of quotes proves nothing more than that I said you’ve argued against OSS consistently. Anyone who reads this thread can see that.

  72. “The most general accusation I’ve made is that OSS is driven by developer itch rather than customer requirements, and I don’t think that’s a terribly controversial statement.”

    You generally go out of your way to show how little you think these things through and here is another case. Your contention is that OSS isn’t driven by customer requirements yet this thread was filled with your need to have OSS focus on games. Look at Redhat. How many game developers do they employ? I would say that Redhat is possibly the largest employer of true OSS software. They are obviously focusing on customer demand as they are growing and paying salaries. Where do they get all of that money? Games?

    We spend more here on software than probably every gamer in this city. We don’t buy games. Web software, database software, OS, etc. Not games. A fair portion of the OSS community is in fact focused on the customer. That customer has a business card and doesn’t play games. If you want a game, buy a Nintendo. For OSS to have a market the business desktop is where the money is. That is where OSS effort is going. Visit Gnome Planet once and look for game posts. Then look for business desktop posts.

    So in one case I do agree with you. You said “I don’t think that’s a terribly controversial statement.” That I agree with. Most people are in complete agreement that OSS is very customer requirement focused. Just not game customers and just not you. No controversy there.

  73. You generally go out of your way to show how little you think these things through and here is another case. Your contention is that OSS isn’t driven by customer requirements yet this thread was filled with your need to have OSS focus on games.

    There is a market for games, and OSS doesn’t fill it, because the OSS people either a) don’t feel like making games or b) don’t carry the projects to fruition.

    Look at Redhat. How many game developers do they employ? I would say that Redhat is possibly the largest employer of true OSS software. They are obviously focusing on customer demand as they are growing and paying salaries. Where do they get all of that money? Games?

    You are saying that because one company happens to meets some demand of some customer base, that OSS is customer focused in general. This is neither implied nor borne out by the evidence. Meeting requirements fortuitously does not make OSS driven by customer requirements.

    We spend more here on software than probably every gamer in this city. We don’t buy games. Web software, database software, OS, etc. Not games. A fair portion of the OSS community is in fact focused on the customer. That customer has a business card and doesn’t play games. If you want a game, buy a Nintendo. For OSS to have a market the business desktop is where the money is. That is where OSS effort is going. Visit Gnome Planet once and look for game posts. Then look for business desktop posts.

    This whole line of argument is spurious. I never said nobody buys OSS, as that is the point you’re arguing here. I said OSS is driven by developer itch, and the fact that the itch sometimes overlaps with a customer need does not contradict that.

    So in one case I do agree with you. You said “I don’t think that’s a terribly controversial statement.” That I agree with. Most people are in complete agreement that OSS is very customer requirement focused. Just not game customers and just not you. No controversy there.

    They are wrong. Clearly, the large majority of OSS developers work on projects because they feel like it, not because some client has written them out a clear-cut requirement. You are dodging the example of the GUI and Photoshop. Nobody has produced either of these because it’s hard work that nobody wants to do.

  74. # Eric Cowperthwaite Says:
    May 8th, 2006 at 9:41 am

    If you choose to think that implying I said something I never said and demanding I provide a quote for to substantiate something I never said makes me “misleading” and “argumentative”, you’re welcome to do so, of course.

    Implying I said something that I didn’t most definately counts as misleading, especially when you go on to deny that the implication was intentional. Given that your post was made as a direct rebuttal to something I said, it seems reasonable to assume you were actually trying to make a point and not to spam the forum.

    Your choice of quotes proves nothing more than that I said you’ve argued against OSS consistently. Anyone who reads this thread can see that.

    Excellent. Then we can consider your last response to that argument irrelevent, because that does not contradict the post you were replying to in any way.

  75. “Clearly, the large majority of OSS developers work on projects because they feel like it, not because some client has written them out a clear-cut requirement.”

    You just don’t get it do you? They work for a company. The company gives them a paycheck. The company gets the money from a customer. The customer has requirements. Off the top of my head I’d bet 80%+ of open source is written to a paycheck to satisfy customer requirements.

    Torvalds, Cox, Morton, Garzik, Hartmann, Molnar, Reiser, Tso, Smalley, etc, etc, etc write the kernel. All as an occupation.
    Packard (Intel) and crew (Intel, Novell, Redhat, IBM, ATI, NVidia) write Xorg’s Xwindows.
    Gnome is heavily Redhat and others.
    KDE is Trolltech and others.

    Troll the mailing list for the Kernel, Desktops, and the apps (Firefox, Apache, SQLs, etc) and you’ll see the mail addresses are major open source firms, not private addresses unless the person elects to use one.

    You’ve shown a clear lack of understanding of open source. Your assertion is absolute unsupportable nonsense and you’re unable to divorce yourself from an untenable position. That’s the sign of a troll. I’ve listed, by name, 10 major open source coders in this post. List 10 major ones that aren’t getting a paycheck for their work. Then we’ll go to the kernel and gnome list for more names. Followed by JBoss, KDE, QT, GTK, Apache, OpenOffice.org, etc. We’ll see where the coders are at. Where the paychecks originate.

    Open source is massively customer funded. I know this as I’ve dropped zero dollars for game software. I write PRs for open source software to a pretty large tune. You’re talking out your rear.

  76. BH wrote: They are wrong. Clearly, the large majority of OSS developers work on projects because they feel like it, not because some client has written them out a clear-cut requirement. You are dodging the example of the GUI and Photoshop. Nobody has produced either of these because it’s hard work that nobody wants to do.

    I won’t argue the first sentence. Joe did a great job already. I’ll just add that the list of commercial organizations doing serious OSS work to meet customer requirements is even more extensive (Oracle, BEA, HP, Sun come to mind).

    As far as your continued argument that no one has tackled the GUI or image manipulation because “it’s hard work that nobody wants to do”, that is plain silly. You may not consider Gnome and KDE to be equal to XP’s GUI (many people do, though), but clearly OSS developers have tackled the GUI, and continue to tackle it. Where on earth did you come up with that inanity? Or, did you simply decide that Gnome and KDE don’t count because you don’t like them? Fine, I’m going to stop counting MSFT as a DBMS developer because I don’t like SQL Server and it isn’t as good, clearly, as Oracle and DB2. That appears to be the sum total of your argument on the GUI.

    As far as image manipulation and graphics goes, I don’t know much about those toolsets. For my limited needs, GIMP works quite well and I see no need to purchase Paintshop or Photoshop. But, I would also argue that, much like OSS has taken on the kernel and the DBMS, and done quite well in those areas, as those problems are solved, there will be more and more focus on other areas. CIO’s hate having to pay outrageous prices for software. They will continue to push for things to be low cost or free. They will continue to want to focus their resources on people and processes rather than software. This is good for OSS and bad for the Cathedral.

  77. BH: Not only can I not find the source code for Day of Defat or Counter-Strike, but these mods are riding on the coat-tails of commercial games. I don’t see your point here.

    The current version of Counter-Strike is a commercial offering and thus the source is no longer available. But the first version which was a community produced mod for Half-Life was distributed in essentially open source format. Basically, what amounted to a collection of zip files that could be taken apart and modified to your heart’s content. The only part that was closed was the engine which was not distributed with the mod files. Thus, you could always produce your own additions and insert them into the mod. Custom skins, levels, etc. In fact, much of the development was done in exactly this way by the original modders.

    BH: Additionally, why are there so few TC’s? Because very few people have the vision to see it through.

    Paraphrasing House, “Is it my turn to state something obvious?” Thanks for making that truly original and enlightening point. Probably fewer people yet have the vision to see through the creation of an entire Operating System for PC’s but that doesn’t mean that it never happens. Or that proprietary methods are better in the production of those.

    If your point was that an expectation of profit will help to increase the number of people who attempt to see things through, you won’t get any argument from me on that score. However, increased numbers does not necessarily equate to increased quality.

    BH: Very few are TC’s, and the TC’s are still using a commercial engine.

    BP: Game developers that license game engines do pretty much the exact same thing.

    BH: That’s right, they use _commercial engines_.

    Yes, which means that the TC products of a community using an existing game engine and the commercial game products produced by developers who license game engines are fairly equivalent efforts. Which brings us right back around to my original point that you didn’t see. And most of those TC’s start out as community based, very much like OSS projects. And I can still remember downloading the completely open .pk3 files for Counter-Strike and Team Fortress, and even inserting custom models and logos into them, much the same way that I might pull down an OSS software package and build the source into a binary product. Granted, I did purchase the original engine but the fact that a commercial product built on a licensed engine includes said engine doesn’t make the relative difficulty for development any different. The only real difference there is that the community hasn’t purchased a license to distribute the engine. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t do that.

    So again, if your suggestion was that there are no examples of community based (OSS) games that rival commercial games, I would disagree. A TC that produces something like the original Counter-Strike or Team Fortress is very much equivalent to the production of a commercial game like Star Trek: Elite Force or Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines.

    If you major point was that OSS developers are loathe to purchase a license for each copy of their product that they are going to distribute for free, or that they are forbidden to allow subsequent distribution of that product, then I concede the point. Or that there are more commercial offerings than OSS ones, again, I would concede the point. However, that speaks nothing to the relative quality of the products themselves.

    There are lots of commercial computer games. There are relatively fewer quality ones.

  78. http://www.flightgear.org/index.shtml

    I know, “it’s not a first person shooter!” Yeah, well, not everybody thinks OSS has failed if they don’t give you a free FPS games. Myself, I’m just happy to have Linux. Apache, Gimp, Gnome, X, Firefox, DVD::Rip, GStreamer, Rhythmbox, Samba, Gnumeric, Abiword, GThumb, and Gramps are just bonuses. I don’t game.

  79. Joe,

    I forgot about FlightGear! Truly a “game” in which the open source ethic really shines, with many contributors building an extensive base of content: scenery, planes, simulation dynamics, etc.

    I have noticed that most traditional games are, in point of fact, more amenable to “cathedral” style development, with relatively small focused teams dedicated to a common vision. Two of my favorite games, Rez and Shadow of the Colossus were developed in this way. One of the games considered among the worst in the trade, Daikatana, suffered from a dreadful case of “too many cooks” syndrome and mismanagement.

    And then there’s the whole issue of, if you have a computer with free source code to the operating system, compilers, etc. then playing games starts to become a sort of secondary entertainment source. The machine itself becomes a more captivating toy…

  80. Jeff: Only to a small subset of humanity – unless, like the Bene Gesserit in the Dune novels, you don’t consider the rest of them to be quite human…

  81. markm, the demographic that’s likely to think that way is also the demographic that’s likely to write open source software, which is a potential barrier to nucleating the desired “bazaar” to produce open source games.

  82. Epilogue: Eric may well indeed believe that Mac OS X would have been a failure were it not for the open source development model of its kernel.

    However, it seems that Apple respectfully disagrees.

    I guess time will tell, eh?

  83. >However, it seems that Apple respectfully disagrees.

    Time will tell, indeed. If they’re really closing source (a matter of some dispute on Slashdot, where some apparently levelheaded commenters are saying this story is breathless garbage) than I’m a lot less worried about MacOS than I was yesterday, because its competitive position against Linux just took a bad hit.

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