Will code for food

http://www.pixelglow.com/stories/will-code-for-food/

The Reciprocal Public License people were really way ahead of the game.

I found particularly interesting this author’s offer to split proceeds with additional contributors:

If you submit unique bugs or contribute new code yourself, you get a share of all subsequent registration fees.

It’s not terribly well defined. But the offer is there.

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Yeah… this was a surprise twist… especially for 2003. Overall I think it’s a very weak proposition. This dual licensing thing doesn’t feel much like a game to me… It feels more like a pantomime. Vendors of proprietary software don’t want to open up their proprietary code… (boo hiss!)… while it offers a very slim minority of more privileged freelancers an option to buy their way out of the copyleft community… the community that probably did a lot to make them influential in the first place… (huzzah!}

Microsoft / GitHub - Ugh!

Dual licensing enables companies, (companies we probably ought to care less about), to use critical infrastructure components for their own products and services, maybe a database or something… good for them and all… but it’s a terrible idea for an entire, standalone system or if the software isn’t going to be bundled with other products.

Reading about a small developer leaning on his fellow developers for compensation is more than a bit yucky. ‘Pixelglow Software’ says, ‘I have put my own blood and sweat into the code’ and suggests ‘you should register it by paying me’.

The person wants to be paid for writing software. Fine. They think other users (and let’s be honest… probably fellow developers) ought to be the ones paying them. That’s not fine.

People don’t go to work and expect other workers to pay them… why should freelance software workers be any different to other workers?

The trouble here is that Pixelglow Software looks really really small, and small business owners very often advance capitalist narratives about work rather than socialist ones… even though their business day has much more in common with low paid employees than big business owners… they make up about 96% of the business population and yet they get all their business modelling signals from FAANG.

Pixelglow Software don’t like other developers taking advantage of them… that’s a proprietary talking point, not a workplace agenda issue. Really, they mean ‘other companies’ so it feels like they are Tilting at Windmills with this whole thing. The enemy of freelance software workers (and by that I also like to include small business owners that treat their communities with respect and not like pariahs) isn’t other software workers/SMB owners… it’s larger corporates… and BTW… no… life is not more important than food… for a living organism that is an absurdly false choice to foist on their readers… (links to a quote from that well known users manual that is littered with bugs: the Christian Bible).

So developers owe the nebulous “copyleft community” whatever they achieve? Or some kind of political royalty on their labors? This same claim often gets made against folks who choose other than permissive licenses. Someone who wants free-to-use software for themself harps on how the developer owed “the community”, which conveniently includes them.

Only dual licensing with a free copyleft license. Dual licensing with a free noncommercial or other kind of license can and does work fine here.

The crux of dual licensing with a copyleft license is that it has a very similar effect to a noncommercial license, since the primary use case of the software is building other software, and most commercial software isn’t released. Dual licensors choosing GPL or AGPL or OSL here choose those license because they’re functionally noncommercial, or near enough that it’s worth dealing with the difference for the benefits of “open source”.

Why not? Why do developers get a free pass, but non-developers don’t? Honor among thieves? Guild privilege?

I don’t see anything yucky about developers paying developers.

Folks who come up in open source often aren’t aware of just how many companies are out there selling software components. Here’s another one I ran into again just the other day: https://www.moduleworks.com/ We see a brisk trade in code and other assets for games. We see a brisk trade in IDEs and editors and other development tools.

It’s fine to stump for socialism, but you can’t assume everyone else shares that affinity, or accepts the whole package of any particular platform.

Frankly, I don’t understand what’s particularly “capitalist” about small companies to begin with, especially small companies of just one developer. Selling horseshoes out the front of your blacksmith shop doesn’t make you a capitalist. Consulting for multiple clients doesn’t make you a capitalist. It means you’re participating in a “market”. But markets as we recognize them now predate capitalism by millennia.

I’m sorry. I really don’t follow you here. How is a claim for fair compensation a problem? Because it’s expressed in the wrong political vocabulary?

I don’t mean to pester you. But I don’t think charging money is something we only do to our enemies.

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So developers owe the nebulous “copyleft community” whatever they achieve? Or some kind of political royalty on their labors? Someone who wants free-to-use software for themself harps on how the developer owed “the community”, which conveniently includes them.

I think my initial remarks, the follow up (rhetorical style) questions you pose and the observation you make here is an interesting challenge to the assumptions we are each making about the fundamental economic measurement unit. (I think) you believe it is the sovereign individual, rather than what I see, which is the social group? I think those assumptions are always ripe for interrogation.

Dual licensing with a free noncommercial or other kind of license can and does work fine here.

Who for?

Why do developers get a free pass, but non-developers don’t? Honor among thieves? Guild privilege?

Nope. Solidarity among workers. If I write useful code, I don’t want my fellow developers to pay me. I want capital to pay.

I don’t see anything yucky about developers paying developers.

Well, there are developers and developers. Pixelglow Software is no Microsoft! I don’t want Pixelglow to pay me, I do want to be paid by some MS outfit though. Better still, I would want to MS broken up into tiny fragments before they could even negotiate with me.

It’s fine to stump for socialism, but you can’t assume everyone else shares that affinity…

Oh, but there is a helluva lot of socialism among tech entrepreneurs, media proprietors, industrialists and financiers, right? They just don’t want the rest of us to see the sense in working together, for obvious reasons. They want us to quibble with each other about the license fees we have to pay each other… just like this Pixelsoft scam.

Frankly, I don’t understand what’s particularly “capitalist” about small companies to begin with, especially small companies of just one developer. Selling horseshoes out the front of your blacksmith shop doesn’t make you a capitalist.

Sure. Not sure where I implied that? If you can find it I would retract it immediately, or at least edit it to make it clear that I am all for small business… I think I have said as much here?

How is a claim for fair compensation a problem?

If you are asking for compensation from your peers, that’s divisive in so many ways.

Because it’s expressed in the wrong political vocabulary?

No, because here Pixelsoft are asking their peers for a handout… it’s like an industrial provident society model… it might be fine in exceptional circumstances but it doesn’t advance the political and economic interests of what I am assuming to be their class… exploited workers.

I don’t think charging money is something we only do to our enemies.

Well, I am not in the habit of charging my friends, family or peers money for what I do. If you do, that’s your choice and I have no compulsion to persuade you otherwise, and I certainly don’t think it’s wrong.

However, whatever our personal preferences might be about how we work, I do think advocating for a general way of doing business with lots of people requires a much higher level of justification, and this piece from Pixelsoft I don’t think provides it.

@Tammy, first I just want to say that your comments and replies couldn’t be more welcome here. We may disagree about things that come up—here and elsewhere—but that’s okay.

I imagine @boris feels the same, though I’d never speak for him.

I am a bit ruffled by calling Pixelsoft a scam and a handout. I suppose neither of us knows them personally, or their software particularly well. Perhaps we’re working from the same thin sliver of facts. For what it’s worth, my conscience doesn’t recoil at any of what I see. I did feel a twinge reading your harsh assessments.

As for individual-versus-group and capital-versus-labor, I don’t find those distinctions useful. Except, perhaps, for sorting folks toward established ideological camps. Having spent a little time in both of those camps, I feel I’ve been burned on both sides. Too simple.

Looking for a case where I’d guess our views might overlap, I came up with the early days of open source developers signing up for Patreon. I never asked for money that way, myself. But on the giving side, I was almost certainly a node in a few Patreon “social graphs” with awkward cycles, where one under-appreciated developer “patronized” another, who “patronized” them right back, directly or through still other under-appreciated developers. If you got past individual profile pages and took the picture in as a whole, it was a number of devs passing sandwich money around, but on the Internet and with a platform and a payment processor in the middle, each taking their toll.

Anybody selling that as a systemic solution would have been selling a kind of scam. The developers, having released their work under permissive work and continuing to do so, were asking for a kind of handout. There was a passable argument, early on, that all those strange loops of clients patronizing clients patronizing them right back could help normalize the concept of patronage. A bit like the founders of Reddit bootstrapping Reddit by posting most of the early content. Not so much once the familiar pattern of a few runaway successes and long, unhappy tail set in.

I think it would be fair to say that Indie Code Catalog, the project I’m working toward launching in the next few, would look a fair bit like Patreon with a few tweaks:

  • one-time payments, rather than recurring
  • no “donations” or “patronage”, but payments for commercial use of software
  • first-class support for companies and other organizations, rather than individuals, as customers

I look on general terms like “solidarity”, not to mention “freedom” and “open”, with a lot of suspicion now. C.L.R. James had a great line: “In politics all abstract terms conceal treachery.”

That said, I would like to see more developers preferring tools, frameworks, libraries, and even languages produced by peers charging for business use, rather than scoffing at anything with an apparent, credible financial plan. And I’d like to see them paying for use of those tools, as a means of affirming the value of their peers’ work, as well as their own.

There’s a not-terrible analogy here to some of the things referred to as “solidarity”. I know tradesmen who strongly prefer to pay more money for union-made workwear, tools, and materials, for example. And I’ve known design studios that refused to use logos, photos, fonts, or other design assets commissioned on bottom-dollar contractor platforms.

As an aside, I’ll admit I harbor a sharp negative reflex to the idea that people shouldn’t pay, just companies, or just some unsympathetic category of companies, like huge ones or evil ones. That came up a lot with License Zero, which only sells individual licenses. Mostly, it turned out, because people just didn’t want to pay, or even deal with getting an expense reimbursed at work. It’s much easier to say “Big Tech should pay, not me” than “I don’t want to pay”. Poke these people, I tended to find they didn’t actually care whether the dev got paid in the end. They just didn’t want to do any paying.

If you’re interested in the background that’s led to this, this is probably as candid as I’ve been about it: https://blog.licensezero.com/2017/10/16/mercenary-rapport.html. Especially the “Hired Guns” section.

I’ve been involved in many spaces where the word “scam” gets thrown around so much it just devolves into basic tribalism.

I think “I don’t like Pixelglow’s model because I prefer worker cooperatives” is maybe the kind of thing that I might say rather than “scam”.

Making a corporation is mostly a tax optimization and ease of doing business choice in many countries in the world — not only/primarily/because of a particular ideology. Which is a discussion happening in another thread here.

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I’ve been involved in many spaces where the word “scam” gets thrown around so much it just devolves into basic tribalism.

@boris. Thanks.
This might be an exception that proves the general rule? We could even try a Nazi analogy at some point if we want? I’m v. open to reviving banalities in open discourse… it often evinces fight-or-flight reflexes that are possibly one of the most reliable indicators of the sort of politics supporting a particular narrative.

So, rhetorically, how might you feel about the old chestnut, ‘property is theft’. Of course, it conventionally isn’t… but it seems to convey a sensible sentiment nonetheless? Calling the Pixelglow licensing a ‘scam’ operates in a similar way I think? While I am here, this is NOT an assessment of the company, which AFAICT is a one-man band called ‘Glen’. I am sure they are a fine person. My comments are strictly about the licensing in that document. I don’tlike it… it feels like an old-fashioned ‘Industrial Provident Society’ type thing to me - but in this case it’s not run for the benefit of a class of person but one person within that class[1].

According to the internet, a ‘scam’ is a kind of fraud and fraud is:

fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain, or to deprive a victim of a legal right.

So, the licensing is intentional and secures what I believe is unfair gain to deprive licensees from a legal right they might enjoy if it were say… I dunno copylefted or some such?

I think the main contention might be whether it is ‘deceptive’?

If I were to consider climbing down on this, I think it would have to center around a discussion on the degree of deception here?

an act or statement which misleads, hides the truth, or promotes a belief, concept, or idea that is not true. It is often done for personal gain or advantage. Deception can involve dissimulation, propaganda and sleight of hand as well as distraction, camouflage or concealment.

I will consider @kemitchell remarks separately when I find time, because I do feel they deserve attention also.

Thanks.

[1]: I do think in order for a license to be a good candidate for pro-commons/cooperative/P2P/workerist/anti-capitalist/ethical/fair/left liberal/socially democratic/whatever the bag is, the credentials have to offer more than just a form of bad/less worse capitalism. It would have to show evidence of constraining exploitation where it is actually happening, not at small scale SMB2SMB like this but at large scale worker->capital ?

@kemitchell

I am a bit ruffled by calling Pixelsoft a scam and a handout.

My reply @Boris I think deals with the idea of it being a scam. TL;DR: I would climb down from that if there was some more clarity around the level of deception involved. As to a ‘handout’ I think I am responding to the tone rather than the content. The tone is set by the title: ‘WIll Code For Food’ which of course is meant to be facetious but I think they really mean it all considered. The references to ‘food on the table’ and ‘blood and sweat’ are deliberatly emotive. I can’t overlook that in my assessment. If you can, then fine… but I think an alternate reading would have to rely on the content… and that is where I think things get worse… it is the content that feels like a scam to me in that the dual licensing here must surely be targetting other mom-and-pop devs. I think that’s pretty shameful IMO. I am not against SMB2SMB in principle… if a sole trader buys some goods of another then that kind of exchange is fine and dandy. But to actually go to the trouble of setting up dual-licensing that clearly leans on your fellow travellers I think leaves me feeling quite nauseous.

As for individual-versus-group and capital-versus-labor, I don’t find those distinctions useful.

Well, that’s kind of sociologically and politically agnostic I think. These distinctions are fairly well established across many fields, but hey-ho, if ‘ideological camps’ are not your thing then how would you talk about something like climate change? I think it would need some ideological commitment maybe big data science, mathtusianism, opportunism and a whole lotta other -isms maybe? Political agnosticism, if that is what this is… is of course an ideological camp of it’s own… negatively defined it tends to fill in with whatever is ‘useful’ to the person holding it out?

‘If you don’t stand for something…’ and all that? BTW: This doesn’t feel like a very good representation of your work. I was initially drawn to it because it did seem ideological, and I hang around in the hope I might find out what you do believe in. It’s hard work, but I enjoy it.

I will look at your Indie-Patreon thing for sure, you seem to welcome critical friendship.

I look on general terms like “solidarity”, not to mention “freedom” and “open”, with a lot of suspicion now. C.L.R. James had a great line: “In politics all abstract terms conceal treachery.”

Okay. I get that, but treachery is more like a hermeneutic of cynicism. Other hermeneutics are available is what I would say… faith and suspicion for example.

produced by peers charging for business use, rather than scoffing at anything with an apparent, credible financial plan.

That form of argument is like: ‘I think you should agree with me that nicely cooked eggs for breakfast are more welcome than stale bread’. It’s a valid argument but the premises have been exchanged.

My argument is more like: I think peers ought to be helping each other out by letting each other build up a store of common assets while disallowing big business from exploiting them - rather than quibbling about micropayments to each other.

That’s more like ‘I think nicely cooked eggs for breakfast are better than uncooked eggs’?

I’d like to see them paying for use of those tools, as a means of affirming the value of their peers’ work, as well as their own.

Okay. I really don’t like that idea at all. It’s awful IMO. If you pay someone what happens is they get an initial bounce and do a bit more then after a few weeks they go back to their old working habits. The ethics/psychology of financial compensation against other forms I think is empirical.

I harbor a sharp negative reflex to the idea that people shouldn’t pay, just companies, or just some unsympathetic category of companies, like huge ones or evil ones.

Wow. Economic misanthopy being integral to being human is one helluva ideological ecampment though, er… it’s textbook OSI defense that defends corporate use as being exactly equivalent to human use. I get it, but I also don’t get it (as you say).

‘these people’

I don’t know them, but if they were C-levels of large corps then I sympathize, but if they were ordinary citizens trying to save a buck on computing then I will only antagonize.

https://blog.licensezero.com/2017/10/16/mercenary-rapport.html

Lots of correct stuff there. Relentless correct opinion. TVM. The trouble is, I am not sure that in terms of the Longue durée, much of it will even matter?

On Pixelsoft

What deception?

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.

Dubious Self-Analysis

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.

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On Pixelsoft

I am 99% sure it’s ‘Pixelglow’ BTW. Easy and trivial mistake to make if so.

I have revisited the external link to Pixelglow and I think it raises far more questions than it answers, without engaging in further discussion like this. I have tried to highlight what I think are the primary working concerns other coders might want to reflect on with SMB2SMB dual-licensing… (sort of) foraging towards the ‘economics of information’ more generally.

I think asking for money from other users without an appraisal of who those users are, and how they want to use the software is socially, politically and economically very dangerous in our time, not least because it obstructs the reality of social relations. If you don’t buy into the social relations theories of the economy then maybe the risks this presents to humanity may persuade you to pause? If none of that then maybe that this business model is only for the personal gain of one person makes it (at best) - a trivial matter.

I’ll leave it there, but that way of thinking about work does not get my approval for reasons which I am hoping are obvious, so that leaves us to discuss how/why the dual-licensing model more generally appears to obtain yours.

Your comments here are much more useful than the linked motivational piece by Pixelglow so I don’t anticipate refering to that again here. I think your comments are much more analytical… well ‘tightly scoped’ anyway… and have not lost any of the comprehensiveness needed for a searching discussion on dual licensing. That is a hard nut to crack in writing. I appreciate it.

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.

That’s unremarkable in F/LOSS advocacy. Agnosticism offers the least friction on all the main vectors of cognition. It’s very useful for short positions but the trouble is that a pragmatic and purely functional philosophy like that turns out to be neither very pragmatic or functional for long positions. I say this because it seems plausible to hold out that anything that humanity as ever achived that we might stick the label, ‘good’ to has involved some very dysfunctional functioning and some very idealistic pragmatics!

“material conditions” to me means something possibly very different to the way you are using it… ‘material conditions’, to add some contrast I’ll insert a switch here between the avid collector of Veblen Goods who I am assuming deploys it in their conversations with dealers at wine mixers very differently than a professor of polical science deploys it in their undergraduate lectures.

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 didn’t say it was consistent, I said it was ideological, and broadly conceived ‘driving out ideology’ is about as feasible in writing as avoiding metaphor IMO, as Deleuze admirably demonstated by writing all about eliminating metaphors through his self-defeating enterprise called ‘A Thousand Plateaus’.

Writing is itself an intellectual excess, IMO - an exemplary ideology itself… any written instrument is deliberately produced to breach it’s provenance and materiality… so to speak.

It’s taken me years to recognize and wriggle free of ways FOSS marketing warped my perception, for just one example.

Me too. I also have had a similar problem with yoga… fomal education and identity politics… I think that’s about it though.

These are possibly too far-reaching/high-minded remarks which might be infuriating but I add them only for a sense of completion. I will get into your remarks about collaboration, exchange and self-analysis in a separate comment because they are on a different… er maybe more ‘human’ scale of analysis and I think demand a more precise, (or ‘humane’?) treatment.

TVM

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On collaboration versus exchange

It’s maybe worth repeating that I am not against SMB2SMB charging for producer or consumer goods.

I don’t see why collaboration cannot be coterminous with financial transactions either, if that’s what people want to do.

What I am against is dual licensing that establishes a kind of economic apartheid based on criteria set by the licensor, which is normally one person in most F/LOSS projects.

It’s a simple case of dictating copyright for some, and copyleft for others not too far from what Schneider, N. calls, ‘implicit feudalism’.

Your worries about freelancer’s getting paid for F/LOSS projects without behemoth corporates are I think justifiable.

Your preferred solution I think is not.

The best solution is to simply deny access to bad actors. There can be lots of fruitful discussion about what a bad actor is, but I reckon most developers would want to choose from a repetoire of disallowing FAANG, disallowing for-profits, disallowing certain industrial classifications, like arms manufacture or only allowing certain business formats, like cooperatives or non-profits for example. The choice architecture would be down to the project contributors I think.

The only people that get excited about this kind of proliferation are the FSF and OSI zealots, and their lawyers who are essentially lobbyists for standardization - an aggressive market-led policy to make code extraction frictionless, and nothing else, all the while advancing extremely damaging ideas of freedom and openness dissimulating all the political agnostics who hanker after a kind of ‘Zen of Economics’.

The sticking point is that to admit that F/LOSS overpromises on freedom and openness is a serious attack on their reputation, influence and power so they shut it down instantly and are targetting lots of resources to prevent this kind of proliferation around what I call, ‘Freedom Negative Zero’ - which revokes Freedom Zero in favour of adding restrictions.

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.

That’s not hypocrisy, thats fairly standard economic theory… more usually it’s about producer goods vs. consumer goods. It’s an economic reality that licensing doesn’t touch AFAICT.

The intra-coder equity problem unsolved.

It’s not a problem IMO. At least I don’t see it as one. Broadly speaking, coders should collaborate on infrastructure and charge for consumer goods - the same capitalist approach, work to reduce costs of buildinga common infrastructure but charge as much as they dare for consumer goods… all without allowing access to the baddest actors.

On payment, relationships, motivation, &c.

I recognize the kind of hierarchy of economic needs perspective you outlined. Yes. I don’t think we are arguing ends, I think we are discussing the means to those ends. That is a question of using the right technology I think. Berlin’s ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’ is a recommended classic piece if you have missed it. I don’t agree with the centrist paternalism but it does a good job of work here and their I think.

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.

Oh right, well that’s a niche… again… what would dual licensing do that a license that simply denied access to firms looking to exploit them couldn’t?

At some point somebody is going to pay for that… and I reckon the best way to encourage the next Apache server or MySQL database isn’t dual licensing but for software developers to build the code free from interference from the large corporates, deny them access and then create a market for the product using something @Boris would probably like… a cooperative or community interest company or some other firm format that does a better job of looking after people than the bare, joint-stock company.

Dubious Self-Analysis

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.

I am not qualified to speak to the tech freelancer’s you want to support because even though I am one, I have made a terrible job of becoming economically independent, the apex of your program by what it sounds like. I have passed up too many opportunities to make a good amount of money in business and am chronically under-compensated. I only scrape by from month to month even though my tech abilities are actually pretty darn good.

My eldest child is a CompSci postgrad and works for a huge fintech company and is paid handsomely, my other child is a graded civil servant with a good pension and my partner is an education professional with a good salary and pension too.

I am the opposite of an economically independent tech. freelancer, so I can’t speak reliably into the space you want to work in. Sorry.

I think I know what you mean, but that metaphor’s incendiary enough to burn your point down. Candidly, I checked out the first time I read it.

As for “standardization”, I agree it’s been used as a tool to advance various interests. No surprises there. But within standardization itself, there are some fundamental trade-offs.

To put it short: At a certain point, when you’ve piled enough rules into your license, you should really just license one-by-one and filter case-by-case. You can easily end up with way too many folks you actually want using your software giving up and running away because they can’t figure out the rules or feel certain they fit in them. Even if you take the time to write those rules out in relatively approachable language.

There are some tricks you can use to try and make complex standards more grokable. Like mix-and-match or component-based approaches, like Creative Commons’ and now PolyForm’s. But both of those arguably overreached. CC-BY-NC-ND versus CC-BY-NC-SA is lost on most. So is the idea of licensing under both, say, PolyForm-Noncommercial and PolyForm-FreeTrial.

The alternative is energetically educating/advertising the broader public about your chosen set of rules. But that’s an enormous burden to bear alone—literally you versus the world—over and above writing your software. Which is why it’s so important to recruit others invested in the same campaign for the same terms, to have a really important and popular project, or both. Free Software had both right around when it became “Open Source”. It is hard to get both when you pile on terms, and therefore the surface area for disagreement.

It’s fine for us to disagree about this. But we definitely do.

Suffice to say I don’t see why a coder can’t also be a consumer, and a consumer of coder-specific products and services at that. The initial motivation for License Zero, and Artless Devices behind it, was finding a model for independent library, framework, and especially development tool hackers. Those are very much specialties in their own rights, and distinct from academic research, too.

I still dig computing. I’d like to see a far brisker trade in big ideas in the basic tools and techniques of computer programming. There should be more options between getting a job to join the Python core team and saving a bunch of money to give yourself a yearlong speculative sabbatical, Rich Hickey style. If there were, I doubt we’d still be programming in “programming languages” in plain text.

Indie Code Catalog’s standard deal is dual licensing with a noncommercial license on the free side. The question is whether anyone willing to buy a license can get one. IndieCC says yes, self-serve. Because, in my experience and the experiences of others I’m familiar with:

  • Running a high-touch, high-volume sales operation is a full-time job. If the developer’s independent, they now have two of those, each demanding very different skills. You’re almost certainly going to need outside professional and administrative help. At which point you are also a manager.

  • The exceptions are niche products that a few customers pay a lot for. To a first approximation, enterprise software. So you’re working for big companies. You’re just working for a few at a time. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you want to do.

In the former case, transactions costs are high and you need to do a lot of transactions. So my advice would be to sell through an intermediary—an agent, a reseller, an app store—if one exists. One didn’t, for the kinds of software I had in mind. So I built License Zero, which is evolving into IndieCC.

In the latter case, per-transaction costs are high, but you don’t need to do a lot of transactions. Profit per transaction is high, and there aren’t an infinite number of big companies, so you actually want to put a high amount of personal attention on each deal.

My recommendation there would be to engage me as legal counsel, not sell through an app store. It’s not a cost or time to close problem. Intermediaries are there for a cut, which you shouldn’t pay unless they keep the gate of the market, like iOS or Android.

One approach is just to put the idea of making sufficient money off, and growing a critical mass to the point where it’s no big deal to hire or outsource process, since you’re already an organization anyway. But that means undertaking the same kind of speculation we see in open source now: having spare time to spend, having spare money to spend freeing up your own time, moonlighting, reducing quality of life.

Some projects have marketable applications in consumer software or services that you can use to bridge instead. But the pattern I’ve noted there isn’t monetizing the project itself, but monetizing something that builds on it. For example, Ruby on Rails and Basecamp. Again, that means two jobs: developing the shared thing and developing the paid thing. And the paid thing will bring with it all the problems of having customers, many of which have nothing to do with software development.

I suspect this is why I see far more shared projects falling out of independent paying projects than paying independent projects growing out of shared projects. I do see new companies sprouting up around shared projects, but in those cases, the projects had some other source of initial funding. Projects spinning out of universities, for example. Or developers leaving big companies to commercialize the work they did at their prior job, and convinced the boss to release under Apache 2.0.

Please don’t take my notes on money and freelancing too harshly. They all go to means, and not necessarily to ends, which we’re each free to choose for ourselves.

I did feel pain reading you refer to yourself as “chronically under-compensated” and “scraping by”. If you want encouragement to try to make changes on that front—and only if you do—you can have plenty from me. And I suspect from several other folks here on the forum.

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that metaphor’s incendiary enough to burn your point down. Candidly, I checked out the first time I read it.

I hoped it was more of a ‘pointing out’ than a ‘pointing to’… I don’t think it’s controversial to suggest that the financialization of everything (including software) has created societal division on a huge scale. Wherever it goes and whatever it touches, the tech industry is typified by the rise of digital oligarchs and the immiseration of workers and users? If that observation is controversial, I think that says a lot about the ideological commitment needed to make it so w.r.t. to the current political economy. It also equires a rather ‘economical’ use of empirical studies like this. F/LOSS IMO is far from being a good example of the broad, freelance labor agenda. In fact, tech is one of the lowest sectors for freelancing and F/LOSS in particular serves mainly the interests of venture capital… and almost nothing else.

Thus, working to reform F/LOSS institutions I believe is tantamount to propping up more rounds of venture capital, which I think is (being as charitable as I can) an ‘esoteric’ method of making society better.

I don’t see why a coder can’t also be a consumer, and a consumer of coder-specific products and services at that.

They are, but to be ‘a consumer of coder-specific products’ makes them a co-producer of producer goods, not a consumer. If you are working on an Andoid APP I would bet that is a consumer good, but if you are working on a Apache webserver module I’d also be as certain you are working on a producer good. That distinction is important to be able to make sense of how dual-licensing is (AFAICT) based on an unreliable analysis of the economics of F/LOSS and then proceeds to ‘fix’ a problem that doesn’t seem to me like a problem at all… maybe it’s more like a ‘bug’ because it seems to operate in favor of freelance tech at the human scale but at the scale of the economy it’s an arbitrary distinction to make I think when the immiseration of guilds and freelancers is hardly new to political scientists. The cause of that is well known… capital.

I don’t recognize much of your experience, which is not to say I don’t agree with you. The conclusions you draw seem to be supported by your experience, but my experience is very different to yours so it would be surprising for us to reach similar conclusions about what we each needs to do.

Of course, for me the means ARE the end. Software has to be owned by the producers and the wealth accruing must be a common wealth among producers and natural persons, not a private wealth owned by large corporations. As our different experiences can testify, the means we get to choose are what other people, and by this I mean, institutions want to offer us.

Dual licensing to my mind is not about changing this landscape, it’s about instituitionalizing economic divisions based on corporatist norms that expect people to pay based on their dictats and not on the needs of society and humanity. That can’t be good in any language?

I think encouraging indie devs towards greater financial independence is exactly the kind of ideology I despise…

In the other direction, I think the only way forward is for indie devs to continue to collaborate on producer goods for free, ban the bad actors in those communities with whatever ‘freedom negative zero’ restrictions they want… and then monetize the consumer spin-offs and actively compete with Big Tech with eyes firmly set on dominating those that dominate us.

Our mileage I would say is clearly varied… and as such… I don’t see much here for us to be able to co-create a sense fairness in our work.

Without blocking venture capital, dual licensing of every kind looks to me like an affront to the way I want to see technology made.

I’ll hang around to be corrected… I would love to be wrong again, but I am not optimistic that will happen.

How is the producer-good/consumer-good distinction important? And why does it so neatly coincide with coder/not-coder work?

Aren’t a fair number of software “products” producer goods, rather than consumer goods, for non-coder customers? I suppose we “consume” some kinds of software as entertainment, like video games we play through once and want no more of. But most of the software I use, I use to produce other work. Is Photoshop a consumer good?

As for making sure collaborators benefit from their work, the median number of contributors to an open source project is one. Some define open source to mean a large, distributed team, like Linux or Apache. But empirically, those are far outliers. The picture changes when you see strong interoperability, and therefore modularity, and therefore smaller scopes and fewer developers.

I don’t see license conditions as dictatorial decrees. With very rare exception, strongly correlated to monopoly, use of a particular software program is not compulsory. When demand is high and conditions are stringent, we see strong pressure to develop and market more liberally licensed substitutes.

Nobody gets to design the software industry from the top down. Even if you try to rebuild it from scratch. GPLv1, and the decision to proselytize it, were bottom-up tactics. And tactics designed to exert pressure on the industry as it existed at the time. If you want to draw talent out of the current system, you have to make sure it gets paid.

If I had to guess why we disagree here, it’s because you don’t want developers engaging at all with existing structures you don’t like: venture capital, big companies, and so on. I like me some indie software and services, from Pinboard and Feedbin and Fastmail to prgmr and DNSimple. I like paying those bills. But as a rule, they aren’t more restrictive in who they serve than the norm. They’re restrictive in what they use to do their work. That’s the direction the ratchet spins.

How is the producer-good/consumer-good distinction important?

I’ll say more about that as a kind of footnote… because it’s as dry as hell… and it’s also ideological which you have previously said you are allergic to. I have no wish to spread a metaphysical rash.

And why does it so neatly coincide with coder/not-coder work?

I am not certain it does… no one should care if people code or not when it comes to licensing should they? I don’t think I have said that a distinction between coders and non coders in licensing is relevant. I am sure I didn’t. Would be happy to delete that implication if it’s there. Sorting out this occupational terror we are both so tired of with F/LOSS IMO is about whether software is being written for producers or consumers… you must have an intuition for this… apache modules… java patches… containers, security fixes for PHP… SSL… MVC frameworks - a producer good in software is pretty easy to grasp I think. Consumer goods… everything else really… PC operating systems… Mobile Apps, games, entertainment again… it’s pretty intuitive I believe?

Aren’t a fair number of software “products” producer goods, rather than consumer goods, for non-coder customers?

Yeah… it’s not about if you can code or not though, it’s about the type of software being built, LESS INTUITIVELY then MY UNDERSTANDING is: an order form extension/mod for a complex/enterprise CMS frontend deployed for large foodchain is a consumer good… (the corp. is the consumer overall) while a javascript snippet with six lines of code that a grade 6 kid could probably understand that delivers a pop-up dialogue saying… ‘have a nice day’ on the McD’s website is a producer good (because the code is being used to save the corp paying for a person to deliver the same message.

most of the software I use, I use to produce other work.

You are an individual consumer of consumer goods, the fact that for tax purposes you are a business, or partner of a firm on an employee doesn’t matter for the purposes of analyzing the political ecomomy of F/LOSS and coming up with a better way of organizing it - IMO.

Is Photoshop a consumer good?

Of course. Yes. Again, the fact that employees in medium sized businesses use it doesn’t mean it is a ‘producer good’. Large firms use consumer goods like Wordpress a lot AFAIK…

I don’t see license conditions as dictatorial decrees.

Well, they surely are if the project is led by one lead… which we agree the vast majority are. The lead has total authority over the licensing regime… that’s exactly the same as a feudal lord, no?

Nobody gets to design the software industry from the top down.

How would you describe FB graphing surveillance, SPDX, Windows, iOS, Android, AWS, OpenJDK, monopoly and high level collaboration? It’s all top down, and very monopolistic, and very VERY powerful and influential.

If you want to draw talent out of the current system, you have to make sure it gets paid.

There’s no such thing as talent in engineering. There are only social relations - IMO. There are no talented software engineers, only capable and incapable ones that will have varied unobserved advantages, job market signalling opportunities and access to venture capital at that seed/startup/early stage in lifecycle of a firm.

If I had to guess why we disagree here, it’s because you don’t want developers engaging at all with existing structures you don’t like: venture capital, big companies, and so on.

You don’t have to guess. It’s obvious to me. You have every incentive to proselytize the things you do, and I wish you no harm with any of them. The difference is I think is my confidence about some of the things you like being harmlul to my interests as a freelance techie, and people like me that long for a fairer society is too stubborn to be shifted by dialogue through an online forum. I have no doubt both our observations are both valid, but our theorizing on causes and efficient means to achieve a fairer society I think makes the chances of a discontinuity in discourse more likely than not. I would rather that wasn’t the case but without some agreement on how best to improve the working lives of people working within the industry I think we are setting ourselves up for a very meagre harvest here?

it is useful to refer to the treatment of capital goods by Marx (1978) in his discussion of Departments 1 and 2, the two ‘great departments’ of the economy. Department 1 comprises the means of production (i.e. all products which enter productive consumption), whereas Department 2 comprises the ‘means of consumption’, including all goods which are consumed by individuals. […]both departments have two components: (i) variable capital, consisting mostly of wages for labour; and (ii) constant capital, mostly constituted by fixed capital (such as machines and buildings etc) and circulating constant capital (e.g. components and materials).

Acha, V., A. Davies, M. Hobday, and A. Salter. 2004. ‘Exploring the Capital Goods Economy: Complex Product Systems in the UK’. Industrial and Corporate Change 13(3): 505–29.