Ned Batchelder's Ideal Open Source

Could’ve sworn I got this link from someone else on this forum. But now search isn’t turning up any results! At risk of posting again, and without due credit:

Personally, DHH more or less personally embodies the “I want open source to be an oasis from the rest of the software industry” point of view in my thinking. He’s the person I associate with it. It comes up fairly often on his blog.

This post states pretty clearly the difference between being “free to” and being “able to”. Poli sci nerds like my friend Luis Villa like to compare this to positive and negative liberty. See Positive and Negative Liberty (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy), Two Concepts of Liberty - Wikipedia.

Rich-guy-gal contributors often need and want very different things back from open source than workaday or up-and-coming stiffs. Pleas to “cast off your scarcity mentality” make a lot more sense for relatively wealthy people with life coaches than most anybody else, who haven’t been the ones I’ve heard feeding the meme.


I am somebody who has done the effort not only to develop software in the open, but to secure (to an extent) the economic means to do so.

And I can tell you… anybody who thinks open-source should be this hyper-idealized gentleman’s club for programmers, where everybody just writes software for the sake of it, and we can keep it pure and free from money… is a naive fool, or is just using their FOSS as a form of virtue-signaling and they want to protect their capacity to continue to do so in the future.

First of all: allowing FOSS to be developed, viably, within a capitalist framework will only enable more FOSS work, not less. For anybody who cares about the success of this mode of production; they should be in favor of charging for FOSS work, not against it.

Second of all: FOSS being commercially viable will not preclude the activities of anybody who wants to do it without any expectation of profit. There would be no rivalry or competition.

However, what I see going on is that most programmers who want to keep FOSS gratis are not even FOSS contributors themselves. Heck, they may not even be liable to get charged (it would mostly be their employers footing the bill). But they want to have the option to freeload, even if they’re not actively freeloading at the moment.

It is the loss of this option which they fear, and so they side with the companies (who are mostly silent on this matter), since companies are more than happy to avoid additional costs of operation.

It is this internal conflict, between the hypocritical commercial programmers who want to freeload on open-source (all the while showering FOSS work with their empty praise), and the actual FOSS workers (some of whom are trying to scratch a living) which creates the friction slowing the evolution of post-FOSS efforts.

The ideologues, like DHH, just provide a pretty facade for the parasites to obfuscate their true intentions.

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I might borrow that.

I wouldn’t underestimate the value to DHH himself, or the number of others in sync with him. I happen to think those kinds of folks are now a small and shrinking relative minority. But that’s a very hard thing for anyone to see.

A framing can favor its originator, their immediate audience, as well as unintended beneficiaries. I’ve got into trouble blaming originators for unintended use of their ideas, and for assuming they’re aware and therefore responsible for those uses.

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