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Sharecropping

http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2003/07/12/WebsThePlace

This is incorrect.  Open sourcers are the ones paid like share croppers

Mike
Sunday, July 13, 2003

Mmm.
Well argued.

Interesting.
Sunday, July 13, 2003

Mike, his point wasn't the pay. His point was that the land you work can be snatched out from underneath you, and you can't do a thing about it.

Troy King
Sunday, July 13, 2003

Okay, but are people so attached to something they can't move on if necessary.  Programming skills are portable.

Mike
Monday, July 14, 2003

Farming skills are portable too.

K
Monday, July 14, 2003

No Mike, it's not about people being "unable to move on".  The point is that since one outside entity owns the platform, they have the power to undermine you or kick you off the "land" as they see fit.  You have no say in the matter.  I agree with this.

I like the metaphor he uses, but I don't see anything that new being said.  He basically says the brower is good for database stuff, but native apps are necessary for anything else....which we already knew.  The article says it's going to tell us how not to be sharecroppers, but then goes on to say that there's this huge class of programmers (content creators) who are stuck being sharecroppers no matter what.

Also, I'm not sure I agree with his separation of types of software, but that's a post for another day.

Crimson
Monday, July 14, 2003

Dependence on a platform is inevitable in the software business.

No company would write its own, say OS, just for the sake of independence from Microsoft. It is obviously obscene.

Pavel Levin
Monday, July 14, 2003

that threat is not to do with anyone 'owning' the platform though.  Its to do with big companies with resources sufficient to match anything you can put forward if they wish.

The operating systems he puts forward lacks those companies _at the moment_ but will not do so forever.

Just because no single company 'owns' the operating system does not mean its impossible for one or two big companies to dominate the software market :)


<g> of course the real opportunity is the fact that currently no one is doing so......

FullNameRequired
Monday, July 14, 2003

Open source is a powerful concept. And, the success of products like apache is proof of this.

However, that concept of share cropping is not a good metaphor. If you own the farm, you still have to purchase grain, and things like tractors. If that grain is not being sold, you are still toast. If people stop buying what you make, you are still toast.

If the tractor manufacturer stops making tractors, then again you are toast.

I mean, the fact that I purchase some tools from  a commercial vendor and then use them to make money does not make me a share cropper.

Welcome to the communist manifesto!

I mean, just because you build a road, does that mean you are a share cropper to the pizza delivery man? What is wrong with the pizza deliver company making money by using that road to deliver their services? (sure, the road can be closed down.). I am just trying to point out that it is not wrong for some one to own some of the things you use to make money.

Further, what is wrong with being a share cropper? I mean, really, to fully realize this, I guess no person shall work for a company. No person’s labor shall NEVER be used for the gain of others (gee, I guess we have to abolish all employees). Every person will be their own company..right?. Gee, no one should make money by using roads!

Look, it is fair to note the obvious issues of vendor lock in. This is a important issue to our industry. However, lets not confuse that issue with the idea that it is not good for a society to have people working for a company, or for something that someone else owns.

Working as a share cropper is not always a bad thing.

The real question is ownership. I mean, if you don’t own anything, then you are going to hate the land owners.

Fact is, for you to control your destiny, we need systems that support ownership. The more ownership rights you have, the more you can control your destiny. Not the other way around. We all don’t want to use pubic transit, but some governments would ban cars if they could suck us in to public transit.

However, lets not confuse the concept of communities with the concept of private property and the concept of ownership.

If you write some software for a company, then does that make the company a share cropper to you?  (or are you a share cropper to them because you used their computers to run the software!!). Fact is, every company that hires you to make some software is doing so they can make money. Of course, the same can be said about a desk that they purchased from the furniture store. Hey, that store can stop making those desks anytime, and you are now toast. That company gets benefits and results every time they print a invoice using your invoicing software. You can bet that you are NOT TAKING a cut of the companies profits on a per invoice bases!. However, if you can get the company to pay out a cut of each invoice...then go for it!! A lot of web stores did this to brick an mortar companies...hey, we will sell your goods for a nice cut of the take. I have seen some unbelievable stupid deals signed by companies to get their stuff sold on the web...yikes!

This concept applies to opened source software, or closed source tools that you use. Companies benefit from that software, and you don’t get any returns beyond your labor (ie: what you got paid for your labor, or what you charged for the product, or what your agreement was).  A LOT of open source work is being done by people getting paid a good deal of money these days.

The fact that you drive on a road that was built by a company, or by the community does not change the above one bit.

As for the so called farmer stealing your ideas...well, gee, you don’t think that is easier to steal ideas in a open source environment? (duh....how stupid can one get?? !!).

There is a LARGE portion of the population that is better off working for some one. If every one COULD work for them selves, then that would be great. Unfortunately, we are not all at the same level of abilities. Often, it is better to work for a very successful business man, then it is for your selves (you can make a lot more money by working for a very successful businessman, then trying to start and run your own). Not everyone has it out to be their own boss, and many people I know are a poorer for the fact they work for themselves.

However, at least if you invest the capital and time you can reap some rewards for your intellectual designs. That is what intellectual property rights are all about. (and, the major  reason why our industry can exist). Ownership is a good thing.

It is very seductive argument to have not have ownership of anything. It is a very easy trap to fall into the idea that no one should benefit from the labors of others.

For many people, share cropping was the only way of life. Tomorrow you can be fired by your employer. However, as a business owner, you can lose that contract or customer tomorrow also. There is always two sides to a coin.

Fact is, anyone who works for a company is a sharecropper in some way. It is not a bad thing.

However, I will say that authors observations about the success of the browser VS a rich windows interface is a very powerful statement. So many of us has such a strong belief in the rich windows interface. The author points out that for general data interface, the browser is winning over the rich windows interface by a long shot. The whole computer industry did quite well with a green screen interface. The browser is a good deal better then green screens.  He makes a very compelling case as to how the simple and ease of the browser is winning over a complex and rich windows interface. That I have to think about for awhile.....as it is a very big observation on his part.....

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
kallal@msn.com
http://www.attcanada.net/~kallal.msn.

Albert D. Kallal
Monday, July 14, 2003


Nice to see the ABM'ers engaging in a little FUD of their own.

Isn't Linux "owned" by Linus? I'm not that in tune with that side of the world, but I thought I'd read some articles that indicated that he still makes the decisions on what goes into the kernel and what doesn't.

Even if it's not him, *someone* is making the decisions as to what's goes in 2.6, 2.8, etc. If that someone isn't you, you are no less screwed than if it's MS determining not to support .ini files any more.

EXCEPT that Microsoft answers to the masses, and open-source developers answer to no-one.
http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/I/If-you-want-X-you-know-where-to-find-it.html

The Apache group could decide tomorrow that Perl is passe and they don't want to support it any more. Go read the thread on the recent distribution of PHP - an author howling because the latest distribution didn't include the build for MySQL API's.

If you don't own the source code all the way down to the silicon, you're a sharecropper. It doesn't matter if you're working on OSS or Windows.

Philo

Philo
Monday, July 14, 2003

Tim's argument is not that it's bad to depend on a platform, but that it's bad to depend on a proprietary platform.

He has consistently promoted what he calls "the Web platform" -- XML, HTML, LAMP technologies -- over what most of us would consider a classic platform.

Terry B. Barry
Monday, July 14, 2003

"You’re not a sharecropper if you’re building around the Apache webserver and the increasingly-large suite of associated software. Nobody owns it, and it runs on anything; nuff said"

The article still reads to me like "Microsoft Bad, *nix good."

I'll point out another angle - you're also a sharecropper if you're depending on someone else's *choice* of platform.

Philo

Philo
Monday, July 14, 2003

The guy talks about "millions of people giving up their rich interfaces to download Netscape".

This is rubbish. The web was an addition to native apps and not a replacement. And if the guy thinks a web browser is the best interface for database interaction, he evidently doesn't do much work with databases.

Stephen Jones
Monday, July 14, 2003

As for Stephen's comments about the browser being more of a addition then a substitute for the windows UI, I tend to agree.

Storefronts, and things like googol don’t really need much of a rich interface anyway.

Of the course the issue of having a always on connection is a also important.

I will start a thread on this issue, as one  has to ask is the web really an addition computers, or can/is it is a substitution for the rich windows UI?


Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
kallal@msn.com
http://www.attcanada.net/~kallal.msn

Albert D. Kallal
Monday, July 14, 2003

Philo you're missing the point about open source. If Apache decided that perl was passe and development was stopped on mod_perl no-one can stop me keeping and using the source code to Apache or mod_perl.

As long as people still use HTTP and HTML I can happily use my Apache and mod_perl code forever.

Matthew Lock
Monday, July 14, 2003

What makes someone a sharecropper?  Is it the potential to lose one's job?  Let's face it.  Getting kicked out on the street could happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time.  Doesn't matter if you work for yourself or for MegaCorp.  If the economy changes -- or if the the times change -- old established ways of life could be gone in an instant.

Sharecropping is only a recent example of this fact.  But it wasn't the only one, and it certainly won't be the last.

Alyosha`
Monday, July 14, 2003

Matthew - nobody is forcing you to upgrade from Windows 2000, either, and there's a ton of life left in IIS/ASP[.Net]/SQL.

I think the whole "What if MS pulls support" is a straw man - when has commitment to a Windows platform bitten *anyone* based on some future decision by MS?

Philo

Philo
Monday, July 14, 2003

I dont get why everyone seems to think this is a pro-open source article,  he explicitly says that if you develop on Solaris or AIX you are not a sharecropper. What he's saying is that if you depend heavily on a single platform then you are sharecropping because that platform can be taken away from you and you are left with nothing. Microsoft (or Apple or whoever)  could decide tommorrow that the features you depend on are no longer needed and remove them leaving you and your now obselete source code with nowhere to go (consider all those developers who made a living working on MacOS9 dumped when OSX came along). However if you depend on Unix because they are all varients of the same OS you can switch to another varient and keep on coding. No one person or company controlls the whole Unix  territory so you are free to move on without having to trash everything and starting again

The arguement about wether open source is good or bad is entirely seperate to his point.

bil
Monday, July 14, 2003

In my humble opinion the point of a Microsoft-like-provider of a proprietary platform who might decide to quit support for it and/or change usage conditions is hypothetical beyond belief. If future failure or threat due to external, uncontrollable events were the only point of decision, Tokyo must have been abandoned by now (cf. "Tsunami").

Also, I notice an irritating gap between the self-postulated driving reasons for developing OSS: "no, I don't do it for the money ... no I don't want to build the best application ... I do it for the fun only!". But then: why would it matter if you start development and your platform ceases support for it, rendering your project "useless"? You've had fun, you've learned something, so you got your benefit.

Yes, I'm being devil's advocate.

Johnny Bravo
Monday, July 14, 2003

Philo: I think the whole "What if MS pulls support" is a straw man - when has commitment to a Windows platform bitten *anyone* based on some future decision by MS?

Oh, the company I used to work for that purchased millions in publishing systems based around NT for Alpha were pretty pissed when it was discontinued a month or two after they set the gear up.

Rodger Donaldson
Monday, July 14, 2003

The deep problem with this article is that the analogy between software engineering and farming is not particularly apt. 

The analogy is from stereotypically poor, rural, uneducated sharecroppers to stereotypically middle-class, urban, highly-educated computer programmers. 

Why make this analogy then?  Because it is an "emotion pump" -- the reader thinks "good heaven's, I do not want to be like that poor, rural, illiterate 19th century southern plantation sharecropper!" 

We could construct an improved analogy -- say, a highly skilled mechanic who installs custom after-market turbochargers in Miatas.  If Mazda comes out with a turbocharged Miata, well, I guess the mechanic is screwed, right? 

Of course not. Our highly skilled mechanic would go to work installing turbochargers on Honda Civics, or use his expertise to repair the new stock turbochargers, or whatever.  Highly skilled, well-educated people have the great advantage of being able to absorb the risks of someone moving their cheese.

But the mechanic analogy doesn't play on your emotions nearly so well, does it?  The risk of being screwed over by the big corporation seems a lot lower when you're not a poor sharecropper at the direct mercy of a cruel landowner. 

Being that mechanic sounds kind of cool, actually.

Eric

Eric Lippert
Monday, July 14, 2003

Philo, Johnny Bravo, Eric -

I agree with your points the most.

IT and computer science have degenerated from a quest for excellence in design and development into arguments revolving around irrelevant ideological obsessions that result in logical sounding but factually flawed conclusions.

It's gotten so bad in our industry that you literally can't express "like" for certain software things in the context of a job interview without an OSS zealot nailing you to the wall for supporting the "Microsoft Antichrist", or for being called an open source "zealot" by an MS-indoctrinated loyalist. A Win32 developer walking into a "shop" dominated by some twerps who breath Red Hat will be dead meat, as would a talented Perl and gcc developer walking into a Windows shoppe. Both camps turn desired technical knowledge into a poltical loyalty oath and "conflicting" technical knowledge into a liability. You're honestly better off being entry level than being experienced but having "the wrong experience".

It's all tiresome, juvenile, emotionally arrested, and stupid, similar to 8 year old Marvel Comics fans in my youth who would trash DC "anything" and vice versa.

"Sharecropping" is the word used deliberately to emphasize crushing economic might, and to push emotional buttons. It doesn't reflect the fact that the big software companies *always* have to maneuver around the reluctance of their customers to rewrite perfectly working legacy code.

Silly, silly, silly. Do the people wrapped up in these software ideology wars ever get any real work done?

Bored Bystander
Monday, July 14, 2003

A better analogy for opensource is sustainable farming communities.  It can be very easy to have a bad standard of living, but the outside world doesn't have any leverage on you unless you want something from it.  You're free to leave at any point or try to search for a balance that suits you.

Obviously analogies suck...

sammy
Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Bored -
Human nature.
Step One: Find a common bond to form an exclusive group
Step Two: Persecute those outside your group.

To quote "Dead Like Me":
"People will use any excuse to bond. 'Hey, you have ten fingers? *I* have ten fingers! Let's make a club, and have a secret handshake, and patches and signals - then we'll find someone with nine fingers and beat them up!'"

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, July 15, 2003

[You're honestly better off being entry level than being experienced but having "the wrong experience".]

I find that having an equal disdain for all software works well. ;-)

Seriously though, In my past having an objective viewpoint and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each platform usually overcame any platform loyalty when interviewing. It's hard to cast either as "good" or "evil" IMO. Does MS bully people around? Most certainly. Does the GNU/Linux movement bully people around? Most certainly.

A comment about the sharecropper post: Even though GNU and Open Source software is not owned by any particular entity you are still forced to abide by someone elses rules. In their case it's the rules set forth in the GNU license. That's fair IMO. But being controlled is being controlled no matter how you spin it or who is in control.

Ian Stallings
Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Ian,

That kind of wisdom doesn't grow on trees - depressingly.

But, very well said. The 'disdain for all' part may be the best advice. Don't buy into anyone's cult. Be a software "Switzerland", a neutral entity by choice and by policy. I think it's safe to say that if you aren't closely identified with a particular clique, at least you have a chance to make alliances expeditiously w/o being preempted.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, July 15, 2003

FullNameRequired,

One critical difference is that the farmer has  MONOPOLY over your land.  ONE person (company) has control over your land.

If the tractor company stops selling you tractors, you can get your tractors ANYWHERE. Same for seeds, etc.

Entrepreneur
Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Opps... the above should've been addressed to: Albert D. Kallal

Entrepreneur
Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Entrepreneur - the problem is that that's a false assurance. Sure, lots of people make wagons and harnesses, so you can feel comfortable selling wagon bridles and bits. Doesn't help you at all when tractors replace horses. Everywhere.

"ooohhh - HTML isn't owned by anyone, so you can feel safe building HTML tools"

Until XHTML breaks all your tools... ;-)

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, July 15, 2003

XHTML will displace HTML the day after IPV6 displaces IPV4 - which will be the day after hell freezes over. (Read never)

Matthew Lock
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

The article basicaly is advocating programming in C/C++/Unix/X-windows environment. Doing so is quite portable, but to do anything non-trivial in an efficient manner, you will need to use other, less portable tools. For example, using dotnet, Java or even MFC will be much more efficient when writing typical n-tier business software.

So, being completly platform has it's costs, but if you are that paranoid, go for it.

pdq
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

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