What do we want Open Source to look like in 10 years? #11
Ok, so we've talked about what's wrong with open source, but what is it that we love, and what are we aspiring to.
A lot of the anger about this module is coupled deeply to values many of us share about this space. Let's name those, but also dream bigger - what are we trying to do (beyond keeping ads out of our faces).
You can extend this thread by talking about things like:
What this thread isn't about:
Ignoring for a moment that there is not much real commercial value to advertising impressions generated in this way.
I can't imagine a future in 10 year where development is largely advertising driven, if this future did eventuate I would imagine another future being actively worked on which attempted to escape from such a dystopia.
It would become a race to the bottom where users are eventually predated until the ecosystem once again collapses.
"We" who is "we"? Why is this discussion so directed and restricted? Looking for nodding agreement there being something wrong with Open Source?
I'd like it to personally look like a bunch of neckbeards running Linux with a stretched-out jpeg of some anime girl as their desktop background just making software because they love doing it. In other words, open source as it was from the beginning.
More seriously, open-source software has been great for years now. There's nothing that I feel needs to change about it. There's already many avenues for monetary gain from open-source software that are very much well-established.
Of course, the main point of contention here is the idea of monetizing free software. The distinction between open source software and free software should not be discarded. The entire concept of free software is that it should be free, no strings attached. This categorization inherently prohibits any form of mandatory monetary gain. Typically, things like optional donations are acceptable so long as they are not required to access additional functionality.
Let me be clear that I am perfectly fine with all forms of software distribution, whether that be commercial, open source, free, or anything in between. I begin to have objections when software that was previously considered free suddenly changes models. It is, in my opinion, unfair to the users of the previously free software to attempt to monetize software after they've already integrated it into their workflow under the assumption that it was free.
If you require compensation for your contributions, consider starting with a project that is conducive to such from the beginning instead of hijacking an existing project. If you no longer wish to maintain software due to lack of compensation, consider finding a different developer who is interested in taking it over.
Monetizing open source is a very delicate act that involves carefully balancing peoples expectations, so it must be approached thoughtfully, otherwise it will only end up backfiring.
Dan Ariely's book Predictably Irrational goes into detail on just why this is a delicate undertaking, but the gist of it is that monetization presupposes market norms, open source on the other hand presupposes social norms. There are a few blog posts such as link 0 and link 1 that summarize the effect of mixing social norms with market norms: "Introducing market norms into social exchanges thus violates social norms and hurts relationships. Once this type of mistake has been made, recovering a social relationship is difficult."
Link 1 even has a handy graphic summarizing the differences:
For different funding approaches that have been tried, some of which make long-term contributions to open source sustainable, you can check out the lemonade stand repo.
Where I'm coming from: I maintain a few moderately popular OSS projects. I haven't had to deal with angry mobs and I'm sorry that y'all do. I'll be writing this from the perspective of "we" the maintainers aka contributing members of the community, because I sympathize and because I believe non-contributing members can learn from it.
I love OSS because it's democratic and proactive. When we find a bug we take initiative to fix it ourselves. When we can't, we engage in fun discussions and creative thinking. When consensus can't be reached, we fork and continue to live side by side, still trading other modules. I love modularity in OSS, because we can be the guardian of one small part and give it all our love. I enjoy collaborating with people without either party having to acquire some kind of social status.
I also enjoy not worrying about money. I work on OSS one unpaid day a week - I can because I'm privileged and live cheap. I don't know a single maintainer that is looking to get rich nor is that realistic. Making a living though, that we can aspire to. OSS has a total market value of billions. Almost none of that trickles down.
We need money for those that otherwise wouldn't be able to contribute. Like a basic income guarantee, which'd ideally be solved on a societal level (hey, this is the blue skies dreaming thread). Developers shouldn't have to be procuring funds. Non-tech people, adept at finance, law, politics and other areas of expertise, also (unknowingly) rely on OSS and we need their help.
As we explore new technologies like AI it's incredibly important to be inclusive. We don't just need funding to maintain tech, we need it to give voice to marginalized people that can and will be hurt by new tech.
Lastly, I wish consumers would treat OSS the same as many maintainers: if you choose to use software that was shared for free, that's awesome and maintainers will do their best to make your continued use pleasant. But the risks are entirely yours. You never have a right to be angry. So think about what can you do instead. Take responsibility.
The problem with this issue is that it was started from another thread, where an upstream developer decided that he can force onto downstream users that they have to see ads.
It is somewhat understandable why this has been done (funding) - but it is COMPLETELY INACCEPTABLE. No permission was asked, so it considered a breach of trust.
As a consequence, mixmix started this issue here that insinuates that "we" want to look "open source" differently. This discussion is ok - but it is not ok to start it from a situation where misuse of users has already happened. All the continued abuse such as locking people out from discussions or telling them that you are not interested in their opinions CONSTITUTES FURTHER ABUSE, all based on a wrong premise to begin with - which is just horrible.
A big mistake was done in the first place, and rather than simply admit that this was a mistake, the abuse continues from people (== developers) associated with this. This is terrible.
I suggest to completely call it a day, and start discussions DECOUPLED FROM THE PRIOR ISSUE that has been created by a developer trying to milk off of users without asking them. THAT model that you describe is totally dead mixmix; it was never alive to begin with and should not receive any credibility to begin with.
It's ok to look at funding; lots of people do so, but there are numerous differences in regards to funding - compare spamming them with ads, to e. g. patreon. Two very different models.
People even pay for watching other people play video games, in a voluntary matter. I don't think anyone wants to pay to get ads displayed.
If Open Source is honestly going to be CI logs stuffed full of interrupting ads stretching across my screen not allowing me to get my work done on time 10 years later then I think I'll just stop using OSS then. Thankfully people with more sense don't necessarily feel the only way to monetize their work is through ads on the CLI or the dev console
I don't understand how the way to go about this was to implement a solution FIRST and THEN have this discussion. Especially when the controversy is around a package that's a glorified eslintconfig file. I understand that FOSS is tedious and tough to maintain and get around and I definitely recognise that people want to be paid for their work. But chief, this ain't it
I want to live in the Star Trek future - on a humanitarian voyage of exploration with a crew of rad people. No one has wages, but we're doing great work, and society recognises and cherishes that.
So "labour" isn't paid labour, it's following our passions, and focusing on the needs of our communities, and being supporting to do that.
This isn't 10 years away, it's maybe 50-100 years. I think we'll need to evolve how we work and relate to companies + society as open-sourcerers significantly. We might need to start building a Starfleet, we might need some bureaucracies (and svelt uniforms to boot?). I don't think it needs to look like captains and chains of command.
In 10 years I want to look back and see a range of clear concrete experiments with organisational forms, and using organisational tools (e.g. licenses). I want a wider range of people to be involved in this work - more queer folk, more Indigenous folks, more women. I want it to be clear and obvious that the community aspects of open source is an equal partner to the code aspect. This would look like valuing communication, support, cheer leading, hosting conversations, resolving conflicts etc.
In 10 years, I hope to find much more diverse representation on this list: https://gist.github.com/paulmillr/2657075
In the short term, I hope the FOSS community can just acknowledge that the diversity problem is harmful to the FOSS community, and be open to discuss why that list (and these discussions here) are made up largely of people in relative privilege, rather than defaulting to how open source labour has always been because it clearly has failed in the diversity aspect.
I can clearly see the "FOSS as labour of love" argument, as lovely as it sounds, to be perpetuating lack of diversity in FOSS.
If FOSS is to serve everyone, how can we accept that the creators of software be so highly biased. What does it mean that we are creating "free" software for parts of the world that have very little means of participation? Marginalized communities will have no way to "fork" the project when the maintainer adds ads to their build logs and they don't like it, because there is zero local capacity within the community that is affected, because they were excluded from the creator circles in the first place.
If you are a proud volunteer contributor to FOSS projects that's great, but don't criticize others for trying to find financial sustainability and tell them to get a job. You are perpetuating paulmillr/2657075.
Getting paid for open source work is not capitalism, it is diversity and inclusion and empowerment.
In 10 years, I'd want to see more robots get in the busywork of the conversation. But not the kind of robots that we have today, that close an issue without even saying "thanks everyone for working this out", but instead caring robots that made sure everyone was being useful, and probably even helping people with their emotional intelligence, where needed (like, "hey, this expression may feel rude" or "please consider not excluding anyone with your language"). I'd want the process of onboarding to be as easy as possible for anyone, and I'd love to see some egos removed. Instead of projects belonging to their creators, I'd love to put more emphasis on all the contributors and more openly mentioning the value that everybody else provided.
I'd love to see free software as the only actual kind of software that needed to exist, and all former proprietary software get published and improved magnitudes above anyone's expectation. For example, I'd love to see how a binary nvidia driver download could shrink from an old 700MB download to just 20MB because the amount of game-specific patches would be uncluttered from there and applied to the respective games.
Moreover, I'd like to see a less pervasive use of English in issues and human communication in general. Since all contributors know at least a couple of computer-oriented languages, why shouldn't we communicate in more human-oriented ones? In the end, English has quite poor syntax for conveying some meanings, and it alienates everyone on the non-english-speaking communities. It's not even the most known language in the world, although it's one of the easiest to learn, and precisely due to its simplicity, some nuances are not that easily transmitted.
I'd also appreciate a deeply integrated platform for localization and accessibility. I'd love to see Android's Talkback become open-source again. It was privatized circa Android 6, and has been mostly unnoticed. I'd love to see these kind of actions being publicly shamed, for they work towards increasing the diversity gap, despite PR saying otherwise. Maybe even having a Braille IME on smartphones and computers become mainstream, or at least become mainstream for developers to have. Even evolving in a way that made mainstream the communication via Talkback/Universal Access with the apps we develop, because it just became faster for everyone when we realised its untapped potential, instead of just leaving that aside for the few % who need it.
I would probably not love a for-profit capitalistic system in this journey, but 10 years is likely not enough time to change. However, I would hope to forsee a change towards a system more similar to what we had in the '80s, with companies worrying more about all the stakeholders and not just shareholders, a thought that the Business Roundtable seems to have just come up with recently, hopefully starting a journey to put to rest some of the neoliberalist ideas from Friedman. With that in mind, I would hope that these companies finally took turns to increase the health of their community of shareholders, which would be expanded to the whole world, and took care of employment, putting special emphasis on plurality and diversity.
Open Source Programs at companies would also have a stewardship for employees taking part of their time to open source, to regulate their implication in the program in a way that would also improve conditions to get plurality and diversity also represented under those programs.
I'd also love some of the grievances from OSI and FSF to be softened, so that we could all call it free software and not break any feelings. And also to see more copyleft free software.
But all of that speaks on how I'd want to see the community and the societal status quo of open source be in 10 years. However, I think I'd still want the definition of Open Source in 10 years to look like it is now, and in particular, safeguard the four fundamental freedoms.
It could be that in such future there isn't private property, or a wage system for employment, but whether there is or isn't, I don't think free software licenses should be in the way with respect to the four freedoms. And yeah, worst case, this could also mean that we end up launching thermonuclear missiles and M.A.D. thanks to, I don't know, Arudino, or whatever. But if so high was the interest, we'd end up dead anyway.
Maybe this is not what I want Open Source to look like in 10 years; but more like what I'd want Open Source to look now if we could go and change the last 10 years of the past. Maybe in this 10-year journey other socioeconomic events happen in such a way that we'll have to revisit this question again :-)