The Arcology Garden

The rise of community-owned monopolies


Archive Capitalism Free Software

this is Essay is relevant to Free Software as a Community of Mutual Aide

Sports clubs and village communities focus on their members’ needs, interacting with the outside world by necessity, but only as a side effect. Most Open Source communities are more like political parties or non-government organizations in that they want to have an impact on the outside world. They care about the popularity of their products, and make efforts to increase their mind share. The reward they get in return is not money, but that’s the only difference from how a company works. Both Open Source communities and software companies have an interest in attracting new clients and keeping existing ones. Both can retain clients more efficiently by generating lock-in, and so they do.

Open Source communities tend to see themselves as communities of like-minded people that get organized to work together towards shared objectives. They see themselves much like a sports club that organizes practice sessions for its members, or like a village community that collectively plans its road infrastructure. But this is not at all how Open Source communities present themselves to the outside world. The Web site of a sports club says something like “We are a bunch of people enthusiastic about playing football. If you are as well, come and join us.” Now look at the Python Web site. Its first statement, in big letters, is “Python is a programming language that lets you work quickly and integrate systems more effectively.” The site is about a product. Its goal is to convince people to use Python, not to join a community. It is more similar to Microsoft’s Windows site than to the site of a sports club.

There is a demand for the Product, the software-output of a group of humans. KDE dealt with this in the era where there was the "KDE Software Collection" and the "KDE Community" and by god you better get it right and it's GNU/Linux by the way, and came through with "KDE is a community that puts out a set of applications, frameworks, and interfaces, and provides development services in mutual aide"

The essay talks on some wider points around Long Term Thinking, Capitalism, Lock In and, and Software Engineering, and grazes across the Attention Economy.