I’ve read your criticism so far as criticism of the business model, not their honesty. The software is the software. The terms are the terms. The prices are the prices.
On individual-group, labor-capitol, &c
Personally, I’m not concerned with their popularity among theorists or political parties, or the amount of writing done through the lenses of those preconceptions. I’m concerned with ways to get done what I want to get done. Some of the terrain is Big Ideas, the relative few who take them seriously, and the sway they hold over others. But most of it is not. Call it “material conditions”.
You mentioned ideology as a draw toward some of my writing. I hate to disappoint you, and I don’t mean to drive you away, but if you detect any consistent ideology in my thinking, please tell me immediately. I’d like to drive it out as soon as possible.
I keep a few disciplines to try and avoid preconceptions, but they inevitably slip through. I can’t diagnose myself when they do. It’s taken me years to recognize and wriggle free of ways FOSS marketing warped my perception, for just one example.
On collaboration versus exchange
I’m trying to avoid quote-and-reply, because I think it’s half the problem with online nerd talk. But I want to honor this statement, which I appreciated:
I’m sympathetic. But I hold two things against this plan of attack, at least as I read it.
First, it leaves the comp problem unsolved. How to make money outside the peership is left to the reader.
This is what I meant by “honor among thieves” or the “guild”, what I’ve elsewhere called “conspiracy against the laity”. I regret those turns of phrase in this thread, because I think they added more spice than sustenance.
If peers aren’t charging each other, they’re charging people who aren’t peers. If we don’t like behemoth mega companies, they’re not charging those, either. Because we’re trying to model an industry without them as cornerstones.
Second, I see a harmful distinction between coders whose users are other coders and coders whose users are paying customers. It’s commodifying complements and inputs, or rather the people who make them. Databases “ought to be open source”, because that’s “community” or “infrastructure” or “low-level” work. No such rules apply to web apps, installed applications, plugins, or the like, except when the users are coders. Probably everybody on this forum has pointed this hypocrisy out elsewhere: demanding open source for work you need, but passing nothing of the kind along to those who need yours.
We see this in widespread practice right now, just without the rules excluding big companies, evildoers of various stripes, &c. Even experimental approaches adding rules against those, like some of the ethical licensing projects, leave the intra-coder equity problem unsolved. I’ve read probably half a dozen papers and blog posts in the past few weeks that draw a line between “ethical issues” and “economic issues”. In my view, the economic fairness issue is the biggest ethical issue, because it strongly affects power distribution in the industry.
On payment, relationships, motivation, &c.
You’re right about the research about money and motivation. But I think you’d also agree that if we graphed change in motivation over change in compensation on a linear scale, the line wouldn’t be straight. Money doesn’t make us happier above a certain level of income and wealth. And money doesn’t make us more motivated above a certain level of security, either. Below those levels, however, every $100 does wonders for quality of life, and for motivation.
There’s an inflection point at basic subsistence. But I also believe there’s a line at subsistence with family. And at economic independence. And eventually at economic emancipation—freedom from want.
I want to make it possible for a lot more programmers, especially programmers writing code for other programmers, not just to “code for food” and basic necessities, but to earn their way as independents, outside of large firms if they so choose.
I also really enjoy paying people whose craft and output I respect. I wish I had a bigger budget for it, and I wish I had more things worth spending it on. When I pay a subcontractor or a supplier for good work at a fair price, they’re still helping me. And there’s nothing antagonistic or oppressive about the exchange, even if we end up dickering price or other terms. It’s normal to pay honest money for honest work, or at least it ought to be.
I got my start in professional software development working under a freelance designer in Austin, Texas. I remember the first time a job came down that involved a language I wasn’t familiar with, so I’d have to study up. I’ll never forget the reaction when I tried to leave that time off my bill.
Like Hell was my designer going to have someone working under him for nothing, even a college freshman. Even if he hadn’t personally believed that to be unethical—which he definitely did—the reputation effect if word got around would be severe and certain. Meanwhile, freelancers were also rigorously defending their rights to network about clients and jobs, in part to ensure word gets around.
The essential lesson was that if you want to stand on your own, as an independent, you take all your hangups, anxieties, reverences, and mystifications about money and snuff them out cold. First in yourself, to start, then for the rest of your career, wherever you find others using them to keep others dependent. You take direct responsibility for ensuring dollars flow justly to and through your hands, just like credit.
It’s a lesson so valuable nobody ever pays it back. You can only pay it forward. That’s where I come from.