Just a Few Clarifications
The Objective Observer wrote an article entitled, "Penguin Suicide Bombers: The Terrorism of Open Source". The article is quite inflammatory although along the way the author tries to justify his handle. In any event, I thought it important to give the author the benefit of the doubt and to try my best to set the record straight... or my version of it anyway... in as positive a way as possible. What follows are the two, somewhat quick emails (please forgive any typos) I sent in response to the article... oh, and I'll be happy to include any responses I get back from him if any.
Dear Objective Observer,
I haven't completed the article yet (am about half way through) but I will. Here are few points about what I've read so far... and I doubt I'll need/want to send a followup... since I already wrote too much. :)
While you mention that characterizing what Open Source is... is quite difficult in a sentence... I did want to point out a few things:
1) Some FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) programmers are INDEED paid and work part or full-time for commercial companies that use/sell the FOSS they pay to have developed
2) Red Hat employs a number of top level Linux kernel developers and sponsors a lot of work on dozens of other FOSS projects... and all the code they pay people to develop is licensed under a GPL license... with a few, rare exceptions (their Red Hat Network service for example)
[Added later: There are certainly a lot of other companies paying for Linux and FOSS development as well. One of your main examples (Firefox) has a multi-million dollar foundation setup to support it with lots of paid employees.]
3) FOSS software is not "public domain". While some software is public domain, most licenses used by FOSS developers allow for the program authors to retain copyright on the code they have written... or the authors hand over their copyrights to a body/organization that has long term responsibility for the body of work
4) The best way I've seen GPL described (although I know you were talking about Open Source in general and not GNU/GPL) is that the software license is geared to retain the rights of the software users rather than the software makers... and because of this reverse, it is often referred to as "copyleft"
5) You can buy FOSS if you want to. There are a number of companies that package it and sell it... or sell services built around it
6) So far as GNU/GPL is concerned, it is "Free Software"... with free being "Free as in Freedom". The Free Software Foundation has historically sold collections of their software in various formats although I haven't checked in years... so I'm not sure they are still doing that. The point being that the more important of the two types of free is "Free as in Freedom" rather than "Free as in Beer".
I'm sorry if you clarified any or all of those points later in your article. It was just getting to the point where I was building up so many points I wanted to make and needed to write them down before I forgot something.
Then I read on... and followed up with...
Dear Objective Observer,
Boy was I wrong when I said I didn't think there would be anything else I would need to comment on. :(
1) While there is a good bit of "Microsoft is Evil" dogma among FOSS users... it isn't really a battle against Microsoft software... but bad, anti-competitive business practices... that are bad for users and for the industry. You have to understand that the vast, vast, vast (hmmm, I guess that is enough) number of commercial/proprietary software that has been written is no longer available because the companies/publishers that marketed them went out of business. Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, Oracle, etc... are really exceptions to the rule rather than examples of it. It has often been the case that people have put a lot of time, effort, and data into closed applications and data formats only to have it become unusable after a product disappears from the marketplace. Open Standards and file formats are important. I don't think as many people would have a problem with Microsoft if they really followed or used document standards or if they released their software under a FOSS license where the customer couldn't be left out in the cold if Microsoft decides to go a different way with one of their products. As you may know, Microsoft has made a few attempts to get into "Open Source" and to create new standards based on their protocols and document formats... but often it was because they were either forced to do so (by legal action) or they did it as a marketing stunt. Take the OOXML "standard" they tried to get through the OSI.
2) Regarding Linux, Linus Torvalds has time and time again explained that he is pragmatic... works on Linux because he finds it fun (see his semi-autobiography entitled "Just for Fun" with David Diamond) and doesn't care a hoot about Microsoft. Richard Stallman has said several times that he doesn't have anything against Microsoft and thinks they get picked on too much... as they aren't any worse than a number of other proprietary software companies. Just watch Richard (and everyone else) in the freely available "Revolution OS" video on Google video to hear straight from the horse's mouth.
3) Eric Raymond has lost some of his credibility in the "movement" and is often made fun of... as is Bruce Perens (we are all human and flawed)... although they do get respect for all of their past glories and any possible future glories. :) There have been a number of comic strips done on Eric Raymond although the domain name of the site eludes me now.
4) Regarding "crude propaganda and hate-filled rhetoric"... I know there is a lot of it but I would NOT characterize it as coming from leaders in the "movement" and would actually have a hard time saying it even came from mature adults. I think the popularity of FOSS these days and the numbers of people using it -- there are always going to be a small percentage of "squeaky wheels". While some of the leaders (take Linus Torvalds for example) have said some negative things about... oh... Microsoft or others... it was always in jest... and he is just as likely to jest in the same manner with his own developers or developers of other FOSS projects. I think if you ask serious questions of most of the leadership in the FOSS community you will find out that often there is a large degree of respect regarding Microsoft's technical aspects... but not so much about Microsoft's business/corporate marketing aspects.
5) Regarding "rejection and opposition to the direct capitalization of software", I think you have completely missed the mark. As I mentioned in my last email, "Free as in Freedom" is the important flavor of free... where "Free as in Beer" is nice but not necessary. There are a number of commercial companies based on free software and Red Hat is one of the most successful. While there is a certain amount of backlash against Red Hat because of its success (they are sometimes called the "Microsoft of Linux"), most of that is FUD/myth. Richard Stallman actually presented several business models (for like... making money) in his original GNU Manifesto... if I remember correctly. If not in that, one of is other early writings. Cygnus was probably the first commercial company founded to support free software (1989) and was bought by Red Hat in 1999. The point here is that FOSS isn't anti-money... but it does often operate with different business plans. Red Hat seems to have the most visible case... where they think open standards and software makes much better business sense than the closed alternatives. To see the business case for FOSS that Red Hat makes, visit here (two clicks from their front page): http://www.redhat.com/about/whyopensource/
6) Regarding security claims... only ignorant people claim FOSS is more secure. While many do believe that the software development model used by FOSS has a greater potential to be secure... the mantra is that security is a process and not a product. Linux Weekly News, a popular site for Linux news and original content has written several lengthy articles over the years documenting security problems in FOSS and has said clearly every time that FOSS is not necessarily more secure... and that we are basically lucky that there hasn't been a major security exploit on a FOSS project yet. I think we have had one... as this week it was reported around the net about the defacement of approximately 100,000 websites... mostly through phpBB. The point here is that the typical mature FOSS projects are as security conscience as commercial developers if not more so... and they must not fall asleep at the wheel.
7) Regarding "open source movement often skirts the boundaries", I totally disagree with you and here is why. I have seen discussion after discussion like the one here: http://lwn.net/Articles/273710/ Developers in the US are very concerned about patent and copyright issues... and there are even patent pools and organizations that have been formed to provide patent protection... in a mutually assured destruction (MAD) format... ie... you sue us over patents and we have patents we can sue you over. Regarding FOSS folks being hackers, while I don't have any data to back it up... the perceptions I've gotten over the years that most of the hacking going on on the Internet was done by "script kiddies" predominantly using Windows. I do concede that there are a small percentage of "crackers" (the better term for what you are describing) in all groups of users including FOSS.
8) Regarding "Now, I do not say this to be pejorative or otherwise mean-spirited to the open source movement but the similarities are rather striking"... I think with the addition of the information and clarifications I have provided... that hopefully it will be more clear to you how distorted and unstriking your comparison is. I can help lead a horse to water, but...
I would have provided you more links (citations) but are you really going to read all of the ones I have already listed? If you want more, just ask. I can find them but there isn't one nice collection of the information and I'd have to spend some time doing some web searches.