In the past, companies try to destroy FOSS by disreputing them. This is usually done by hiring an army of paid shills - people who spread hoaxes, misinformation, and self-promotion where FOSS people usually hang around (in forums, blog comments), etc. This is too obvious after a short while, so the (slightly) newer strategy is to employ "unhelpful users" who hangs around the same forum and blog comments, pretending to help, but all they do is to shoot down every question by embarassing the inquirer (giving "oh noobs questions, RTFM!", or "why would you want to **do that**???" type of responses, all the time).
Needless to say, all these don't always work (usually they don't) as long as the project is still active and its community isn't really filled with assholes.
In order to know how to destroy FOSS, we need to know how FOSS survives in the first place. If we can find lifeline of FOSS; we can choke them and FOSS will inevitably die a horrible death.
The main strength of FOSS is its principle of do-ocracy. Things will get done when somebody's got the itch do to it; and that somebody will, by virtue of do-ocracy, sets the direction of the project.
The main weakness of FOSS is its principle of do-ocracy. Things will get done when somebody's got the itch do to it; and that somebody will, by virtue of do-ocracy, sets the direction of the project.
The repeated sentence above is not a mistake, it's not a typo. Do-ocracy is indeed both the strength and the Achilles' heel of FOSS. Let's see this is the case.
Direction in an FOSS project is set by two groups of people:
a) People who work on the project, and
b) People who are allowed to work on the project.
Lets examine (a).
Who are the people who work on the project? They are:
1) People who are capable of contributing
2) People who are motivated to contribute
Let's examine (1).
Who are the people capable of contributing? Isn't everyone equally capable? The answer is, though may not be obvious due to popular "all people is equal" movement, is a big, unqualified NO. People who are capable of contributing are people who have the skill to do so. Contribution in documentation area requires skilled writers; contribution artworks require skillful artists; contribution in code requires masterful programmers. If you have no skill, you can't contribute - however motivated you are.
The larger a project grows, the more complex it becomes. The more complex it comes, the more experience and skill is needed before somebody can contribute and improve the project. To gain more skill, somebody needs to invest the time and effort; and get themselves familiar with the project and or the relevant technology. Bigger "investment" means less number of people can "afford" it.
And this creates a paradox. The more successful a project becomes, the larger it becomes. The larger it becomes, the more complex it becomes. The more complex it becomes, the smaller the available talent pool.
Let's examine (2).
People contributes to FOSS projects for many reasons, some are less noble than others. Example:
- School projects (including GSoC)
- Some does it out for "paying back" ("I used FOSS software in the past, now I'm paying it back by contributing").
- Some does it for fame and want to show off their skils.
- Some does it just to kill time.
- Some does it for enhancing their resume (oh wow - look at the number of projects in my github account !!! (although most of them are forks from others ...)).
- Some does it because they are the only one who needs the feature they want, so they just get it done.
- Etc, the reasons are too numerous to list. But there is one **BIG** motivation I haven't listed above, and I'm going to write it down in a separate sentence, because it is worthy of your attention.
👉👉👉 Some does it because it is their day job; they are being paid to do so 👈👈👈
What can we conclude from (1) and (2)?
A larger, more complex project requires people with more skills.
More skills requires more investment.
More investment requires more motivation.
Motivation can be bought (=jobs).
Thus it leads to the inevitable that: the more complex a project becomes, the more chance that the people who are working on it are paid employees. And paid employees follows the direction of their employer.
In other words: a larger project has more chance of being co-opted by someone who can throw money to get people to contribute.
We will examine (b) in the next installment.
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