If someone says something you don't understand or agree with you could conclude that they're not as knowledgeable as you and dismiss what's said. I see this happening as people exchange opinions about John Robb, who I think I know better than they do. "He's a suit," some say, and therefore doesn't understand deep technological issues, as they do, presumably. I don't make any such assumptions about John. If he's a suit, he's my suit, which is fine, I definitely need one, but believe me, when I want to work out a tough software problem, very often I talk with John about it. Perhaps some people think software can exist without users. That's where the open source thing is lost in space. Instead of dismissing, if you're a serious developer, dive in and learn. John is definitely a user, but he's also a technological visionary. A pretty unique person in that regard.
Mr. Barrett points out that USA Today did not include British sci-fi cult novelist Douglas Adams in their list of notable Gone But Not Forgottens for 2001.
Michael Fraase: "While open source software has an incredible amount of potential, it has—with very few exceptions—failed to live up to that potential let alone its hype. This is most likely because all of us like to get paid for our work. And the idea that there is somehow something wrong with that is preposterous."
Wes is in New Orleans. He says "Mm, there's nothing like a hot jalapeno smoked sausage po-boy." Oh am I envious. The only thing that's better is an oyster po-boy with my-nez.
Eric Sink bet several hundred thousand dollars on an open source word processor. "The cost of software construction is still very high. Open source is the lowest-margin way to run a software business, and low-margin businesses are very hard."
Maybe it's possible to go back to my invitation to Brian Behlendorf from April of last year (seems longer-ago than that) and agree that "we can work with various different copyright and trademark systems, that each approach has its place, and that our common bond is love for computers and people who use them. And love for our own creativity, and wishes to see it thrive and be built upon by others." If I could re-draft that statement I'd take out the michegas about ESR and O'Reilly. These are no longer issues. That shows you how far the loop has unwound. What counts is clearing the path for progress, and working together to make things work better. If I want to charge for some of my software that shouldn't be a problem for anyone except my competitors who are free to charge less, but let's leave the holy wars for Uncle Osama and his pals (look where it got him, he looks terrible!).
I had a feeling John would get flamed for saying open source was a flop. It's almost a mathematical statement. It's as if the Mets said they were going to win the World Series and so humiliate and demoralize every other team that they would just give up baseball. Well, OK, they could say it, but then at the end of the season, if they didn't win, and the other teams were still playing, you could reasonably say it was a flop.
The problem of course is that they set the expectations too high. Any good coach or political consultant will tell you not to do that. Set the expectations so it's likely you'll exceed them, but not by too much. As Mets fans know so well, you may have to wait till next year.
I got a few requests for citations on the bluster. Now first let me say that I like Brian Behlendorf. I'm not saying he's not a nice person. Nor am I threatening his business, or livelihood, he's a rich man (I think). But he went on the record on how open source would effect commercial software (I hate the term closed-source, it's so pejorative) and here's what he said. "Everyone in the Internet industry at one point or another has to compete against someone who provides the same service for free - everyone, that is, with a business model not based purely on time and materials." Well, what John is saying, and I'm supporting is a simple idea. It didn't work out that way.
NY Times: The Year in Internet Law.
One year ago today Mary Jo Foley went looking for Web Services and didn't find much to talk about. That story was rewritten many times in 2001. Did the BigCo's have a clue? Well, they sure knew how to spin the press to ignore everything else. In that way 2001 was much like 2000, or 1999, or whatever.
Even so, somehow this article appeared on IBM's site. It would be interesting to see one of the BigPubs pick up this angle on Web Services. In the end it matters less how Big the Co is, adoption of new formats and protocols is probably inversely related to the size of its proponents. The BigPlans of the BigCo's usually get flushed down the toilet by apps coming out of left field from people who have no right to create them. Perhaps that should be another element on Metz's qualifications for what gives a protocol or format juice.
And why exactly is it inversely related? For that you have to look into the cultures at BigCo's where permission to innovate is so jealously guarded. Most people inside the firewall don't have it, esp the people who are likely to have a good idea once in a while. They're usually highly irritating people, who seem self-centered and arrogant. (Who does he think he is?) The good ideas do actually sometimes get implemented, but often in a hidden corner of some marginal product where it makes no difference. The people who do the standards work at the BigCo's can be great engineers, some of them are very smart and experienced people, but as you can see in specs like UDDI and WSDL, they also have to work with low-road idiots who carve out political power in their companies by polluting simple ideas with incomprehensible compromises. No one fights for simplicity, and if they do they are ground into submission by the compromisers. You don't need a degree in rocket science to figure out what's going to fly. If you can't make sense of the spec in 10 minutes no one is going to use it so you can safely ignore it.
Lots of email this morning. Sri Lanka has a terrorism problem. Might be worth learning more about. Of course some people from Pennsylvania take exception to my sweeping bash of the entire state. I will never run for President of the US, because Pennsylvania is pivotal, but then so is Michigan, which proves my point. If you want to be President you have to watch a lot of bad baseball. Michigan has one major league team. American League. Also hardly worth mentioning. This is the beginning of a review of US baseball. In the end the only teams that matter are the Cubs, Red Sox and of course the Mets. Why those three teams? Well, because the Mets need someone to play in the regular season and in the post season.
Pat Berry is running for President of the US in 2008.
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