|| ||"Robert A. Knop Jr." <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
|| ||Thomas Warden's letter|
|| ||Thu, 8 Aug 2002 09:15:29 -0500|
This is in response to Thomas Wardman's letter on August 1. That letter
was evidently written by an outsider trying to understand why LWN needs
what it claims it needs in order to continue. I am in a similar
situation, and write this letter from a similar uninformed position. My
opinions, however, are quite different.
I don't know if Mr. Wardman has ever run a volunteer website for any
length of time, but unless the maintenance on a site you run is
relatively lightweight, or it is part of one of your significant hobbies
and quite different from what you do at work, burnout is a significant
issue. What is fun to do gratis for a few months after a while becomes
one more thing that you have to get done. It becomes one more drain on
your time. I know, I have experience with this. A friend and I run
www.dramex.org, and have since 1994. The maintenance of that site
really does not take much time at all, certainly much less than what
goes into LWN.net. Theatre is one of my great loves, and it is indeed
quite different from what I do at work. And, yet, we still frequently
manage to get months (and in two cases, years) behind on maintaining the
Consider the simple economics of the matter, from two points of view.
First, the people who run LWN.net *can* get jobs somewhere else, doing
similar things, that pay, leaving them without the time (or,
significantly, the energy) to do the same sort of thing gratis for
LWN.net. Second, there are jobs out there doing things similar to what
must be done LWN.net, jobs that pay. (It sounds like the same thing
stated twice, but there are two points: the people could get jobs, and
the things the people are doing are very similar to what other people
are paid for.) Given that, it just doesn't make economic sense for
LWN.net to be maintained at its current level completely gratis by a
small number of people.
Mr. Wardman compares LWN.net to Kuro5shin.org, wondering why LWN.net
would require more money than k5 to maintain. I hear this comparison
often, or a comparison between LWN.net and slashdot. I don't understand
it. Yes, K5 takes time to maintain. However, it is a very different
site from LWN.net. It is a community contribution site, and most of
what you see written on the front page are written by the readers.
Rusty, the maintainer of the site, is there to keep it running; it's a
real job, yes, but he's not *writing* the most important text for site,
and can keep it up as one (full-time) person. LWN.net is much more akin
to a traditional magazine. Yes, a lot of it is finding and culling
material from the web, but there are also insightful editorials, and
there is a sane, clear, intelligent "voice". You wouldn't expect the
editors of Linux Journal to edit the magazine as a hobby, charging
subscribers only what is necessary for the direct physical costs of
printing. It would be insane; they would go edit another magazine where
they would get paid, leaving them with money to eat and time for a life.
Similarly, you can't demand that LWN.net maintain their level of
excellence simply because we as a community are entitled to their
donation of time.
I have long scratched my head as to why slashdot.org every year wins the
"best Linux website" readers' choice award from Linux Jounral. Sure, I
like Slashdot-- but if you're talking *Linux* news, LWN.net is far, far
superior. The signal to noise is tremendously higher, the editorial
"voice" is more consistent, more mature, more clearheaded, and better
written. Slashdot's value comes in collecting nerd stories from the net
and the discussion. LWN.net collects Linux stories from the net-- but
does much more than that. It organizes and comments on that, and
provides clear, cogent summaries and discussions of some of the most
important trends and issues (including the all-important "intellectual
property" issues which are every bit as key to the continued health of
Linux as technical kernel issues).
Does LWN.net really need five full-time people? I don't know, I'm not
there. But I do know that it is vaguely insulting to demand (even if
only by implication) that they should continue what they are doing
completely on a volunteer basis, and like it. Mr. Wardman is right in
saying that the Linux community shouldn't have to shoulder the habits of
the LWN.net employees simply because they are all brilliant software
engineers. On the other hand, he is very wrong to imply that the Linux
community should expect LWN.net to continue to exist in a form and
quality approaching it's current state if they aren't willing to
"shoulder the habits" of those who maintain it. The connection he fails
to make is that not shouldering the burdern means not having LWN.net.
If he really believes that a site as good as LWN.net could be run on a
volunteer basis: I invite him to do so.
Comments (none posted)
|| ||Joey Hess <email@example.com>|
|| ||Re: Where has the pioneer spirit of LWN gone?|
|| ||Wed, 7 Aug 2002 22:59:09 -0400|
While I disagree with Thomas Wardman's letter on some points, I find I
must agree with his central analogy and point. LWN, it seemed to me when
I read that first short issue way back when, was being made for two
reasons: To do a little bit of indirect promoting for a small consulting
firm we'd never heard of called Eklektix Inc., and because the couple of
people who were putting it out had something important to contribute to
the linux community, and had the desire to do so. Between then and now
the focus changed so that LWN itself became the business that was
supposed to make the money. And then that began to look less and less
I belive that Thomas's suggestion that you try to farm out some parts of
LWN to volenteer third parties, and go back to working on LWN only,
well, 50% of the time, is feasable. For years I wrote Debian Weekly
News, and was happy to see LWN refine my already condensed summary of
what was happening in Debian, and satisfied to see you sometimes quote
whole sections as most of a week's Debian coverage. I would miss Jon's
writing about the kernel and editorials, but the summaries of basic
news, security, development etc, could be contributed by talented
Some of the extraneous bits could even be stripped out -- this week's
"mini-LWN" was still LWN, despite its relative brevity (though you
trimmed entirely the wrong sections this week. :-P).
Anyway, I can think of a dozen reasons why you probably don't want to
follow this suggestion; one reason is that it would mean probably 75% of
the company losing their jobs. But if the subscription service should
fail to live up to your hopes, and there is no other choice, I hope it
*will* be done -- I hope that you at LWN are still in this for what
Thomas terms the "pioneering spirit" of the original LWN.
In the meantime, best of luck with the subscription service! I for one
will continue to support LWN in any ways I can.
see shy jo
Comments (none posted)
|| ||Crippleware vs. Guiltware|
|| ||Fri, 09 Aug 2002 03:31:53 -0700|
Dear LWN folk,
I have a friend who runs a payment processing service for shareware
authors (plug: www.kagi.com). Just as free software is often categorized
by the license, shareware is generally categorized by the payment scheme
and/or business model. Two popular types are "guilt-ware", in which the
author of the program makes a humanitarian plea for payment, and
"cripple-ware", in which certain advanced features of the program are
disabled unless a payment is made.
According to my friend, crippleware programs bring about 5 times as much
revenue for their authors on average as guiltware programs do. The
lesson here is clear: All of the appeals to the good side of human
nature will only get you so far. About 20 cents on the dollar, as a
matter of fact. (You might think this view is cynical, but that's only
true if you place a negative moral judgement on people who use things
and don't pay for them. I don't.)
What makes a good crippleware program? Well, for one thing, the crippled
version needs to be useful and addictive in its own right - it needs to
leave you "hungry for more". It must not be time-limited - that's called
"demo-ware", and is a different (and IMHO less effective) category of
shareware. It should be useful enough that it is readily incporporated
into the user's habitual work pattern. Yet the extra features should be
beneficial enough that once you discover how useful it is, you'll
realize how much more you could get for a small fee.
A lot of websites have moved to this model as well. A lot of good
examples can be found in the many fan-maintained web sites for online
games. For example, the site http://everquest.allakhazam.com is
essentially a huge database of EverQuest game items and player tips. If
you pay nothing, you get full access to the entire database, forums,
user accounts, etc. However, if you pay their low fee ($20 a year or
so), you get: 1) elimination of all ads, 2) an advanced query tool, 3)
automatic character wishlist creation, and a bunch more really neat
I am even beginning to see the development of aggregated subscriptions -
you pay one fee and you get access to "enhanced features" for a bunch of
thematically related websites, maintained by different authors and editors.
Finally, I'd like to respond to the gentleman who wrote in last week
complaining about the reported costs of maintaining the site. I believe
he misses a number of important points:
1) In a sea of near-infinite information, the role of editor adds a
huge amount of value.
2) In a sea of near-infinite information, being a good editor is
really, really hard.
For example, I used to read Kernel Traffic on a weekly basis, but I gave
it up because I just don't have the time to pick through all the content
and decide which items are relevant to me and which are not. Your few
paragraphs of highly-distilled explanation of kernel activity
highlights, with the background context filled in (so I don't have to
remember last week's edition) as well as your filling in of the human
story behind the kernel design process, all this is just exactly the
right information I want, in the right amount. Simply giving me a raw
data feed is exactly what I don't want. I don't imagine that creating
this is a particularly easy task.
(please withold my email, if they want to contact me they can search for
me on Google. I get too much spam as it is)
Comments (none posted)
|| ||Tres Melton <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
|| ||CBDTPA and others|
|| ||Tue, 13 Aug 2002 00:49:37 -0700|
I seem to have missed reading the part of the CBDTA bill that defines
the penalties that this ludicrous legislation would impose. Judging
from what I have read the penalties for violations seem to be quite
extreme: in ALL cases. This obviously includes the penalties for us
average citizens that want to utilize our fair use rights on a variety
of platforms and in a variety of places and, god forbid, enable our
friends to do the same. These penalties also encompass the case of the
media industry limiting our fair-use rights. Even if the penalty is a
Exactly what constitutes fair use is debatable in most cases but the US
Supremes have declared that "time shifting" is legal courtesy of one of
the bill's sponsors: SONY. When Sony went to court to fight for the
rights of consumers to record programs using their Betamax video system
I don't believe that they were a content company. Well they are now!
We can thank Sony for putting the ability to destroy the entertainment
industry into case law. I realize that the penalties for removing our
fair use rights might simply be a few hundred dollars in fines; I also
realize that the destruction of the industries that provide the
addictive drug for "herion in a box" - I mean television - is just a
fantasy that will never be realized. However the bill (or more
accurately: case law) provides that penalty for EACH offense.
That is each person that cannot time shift a program! If just one
broadcast that is viewed by millions of people does not provide the
ability for them to view that program at a later time then the penalties
should be somewhere in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars.
That amount of money would make any greedy class action lawyer salivate
at the thought.
Let's run through some numbers: Imagine the Superbowl. The last one
was viewed by 131,200,000 viewers (according to superbowl.com). Now
imagine all of the interactive digital devices that must function
"reliably" that could be sitting in everybody's home. There must be
thousands of different ones and many more versions of every one at
that. The media circus is required not only to be able to work with
each of these devices in preventing piracy but more importantly NOT
prevent fair use. I assume this also means that the live broadcast must
also work. At this point I must start to guesstimate the numbers: my
apologies. Assume 90% of the devices work perfectly; that still leaves
13,120,000 people that are going to get screwed in one way or another.
Put another way that leaves over 13 million people that will have a
legal claim against someone for hosing their chance to view the
superbowl. Let's assume that the bill carries a $100 fine for
noncompliance. That leaves a 1.3 billion dollar liability bill that
someone is going to have to foot! Just for good measure let's assume
that the pre-game and post-game shows use the same technology; that
kicks the bill up into the neighborhood of 3.9 billion.
Are we having fun yet? If not then lets throw in the suits from the
advertisers who are paying how many millions in advertising to reach the
stated audience. If that audience is reduced by 10% don't you think
that there is a possibility that they will want a 10% refund? Not to
mention that the offer could be construed as fraudulent.
What about your local pub that is having a superbowl party, goes to
great expense buying new big screen high definition televisions, and
ends up with a room full of rowdy drunks that can't watch the program
that they got all lubricated to see. Are the content owners responsible
for the ensuing chaos? Now consider that one of those well lubricated
drivers goes flying across town to see the show at their house and has
an accident. American jurisprudence is rife with attorneys going after
the people with the "deep pockets".
I could go on and on but I trust that I have made my point. Perhaps we
should take a page out of the book of congressional lobbying: instead
of trying to stop the bill from passing in the first place we should
seek enough amendments to poison the bill for the sponsors! I think
that I may have found a way to take the fair-use provisions seriously!
I realize that this is probably fantasy; wouldn't it be fun though.
This community has the resources to change the world; if we could just
unite! Unfortunately the task is futile by definition.
The best defense is most often a strong offense; since the courtroom is
to be the ultimate battleground let's get the best litigators we can
find. If we started a legal fund and convinced every open source
afficionado to forgo the purchase of just one CD/DVD/Monopoly tax
payment and donate that to the legal fund then we could mount a
formidable challenge to their oligopoly.
P.S. My preferred plans:
Imagine a class action suit against the studios for every US soldier
that lived overseas, purchased a DVD player, and purchased some movies.
According to intellectual property laws, as I understand them, there are
a few relevant facts worth mentioning. Fact(1): the said individual
has purchased the physical medium that contains the work of Intellectual
Property. Fact(2): the said individual has purchased the legal rights
to listen/view/enjoy the contents of the aforementioned physical medium.
Fact(3): the actual rights that were purchased have never been clearly
defined from either party's point of view. Court case is as follows:
Plaintiff John Doe and others seek judicial relief from the obligation
of repurchasing both things that were above described in statements one
and two. John recently returned to the US and has found the following
facts to be true:
1) That the DVD player that this American Soldier purchased while on
active duty in Europe is incapable of playing DVDs that were legally
purchased in the United States after his return.
2) That the new player that his wife has for the bedroom is incapable
of playing the movies that this soldier, representing America in the
'War on Terrorism' while abroad, has purchased in a location other than
the United States.
3) The Macrovision incorporated into both of the DVD players prevents
him from making copies on VHS tapes for viewing in other areas of the
Plaintiff Doe recognizes the costs associated with manufacturing the
plastic cookie with the dimpled metal center and therefore agrees to pay
for the replacement costs of the physical medium. However, since
plaintiff Doe has already purchased the pattern of dimpled bits -
otherwise known as the intellectual property - he should be under no
obligation to repurchase them. Further plaintiff Doe should enjoy the
right to copy the DVDs to VHS form for his enjoyment in the children's
A law abiding citizen arrives home to find that is home, located in the
forests that are prone to fires, has burned to the ground. Thinking
ahead the individual has video taped the contents of his home to prove
their existence to an insurance company of the need ever arises.
Discovering that the homeowner has a limited policy on his audio/video
equipment and the media for its use the insurance carrier does not fully
reimburse the plaintiff in the case for his losses to his CD
collection. A collection of approx. 500 CDs that has taken many years
and many thousands of dollars to accumulate. The plaintiff realizes
that intellectual property cannot actually be destroyed and that it
still exists; he just no longer has access to it. The plaintiff in this
case should be able to sue the recording industries into replacing the
contents of his collection for the cost of the physical medium alone.
Why should he have to pay twice for the same intellectual property.
The recoding industry finally comes out with an audio DVD format.
Desiring the new format a consumer may want to replace his existing CD
collection with audio DVDs. Once again the consumer has already
purchased the right to listen to the contents of the CDs in question so
why should he have to pay the same price for an audio DVD as someone who
never purchased the CD version.
If we could force the content creators to define what percentage of the
price of an item is for the content (intellectual property) and what
percentage is for the medium upon which it was recorded then we will
have made great strides in reigning in these seriously over compensated
Obviously these are fantasy cases; but fun to think about none the less!
Comments (none posted)
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