I would like to add two follow up thoughts to yesterday's post about Free Software.
First, I was speaking with giuseppe on IRC who said:
however, the economy of free software goes beyond passion. You can make money with services, as you have done, personally, for years!
Giuseppe is, as usual, right on. I hope I did not imply that I thought it was impossible to make money or to make a living around Free Software, or that to endeavor to do such a thing was folly. What I was trying to get at is that pursuing the writing of software with the goal of becoming rich
was a bad idea. It might happen, but if it does it will likely be due to luck.
I am currently paid by Sun Microsystems to write Free Software. I am thrilled about that, and think Sun are wonderful for supporting me. I would also love to have some chunk of Free Software that I write make me rich - but neither my employment by Sun nor my desire to have countless large estates worldwide have much to do with my desire to write Free Software. The two are largely orthogonal, although they do intersect at the point where one is beneficial to the other.
Second, I received a blog comment from thpi:
Don’t you think that you need professionals for the sciences to evolve?
The bare definition of a professional is related to getting paid.
I wonder if movies would’ve became what they have, if there was no money behind actors (directors, producers, etc).
Do you make a living writing code? Would you be as good as you are if you had to live on something else?
Maybe there’s a healthy middle between everything for a penny and all for free.
I would like to agree with this, then answer a question. I would like to end by agruing with the semantics of a word choice and rejecting a premise. (All in reverse order)
First of all. I agree. There is certainly a healthy middle between everything for a penny and all for free. As above, I think making money from writing software is fine, and I'm glad that I do. I'm more on about motivation - but we've covered that. Also, we have the ever-present problem in English of the overloading of the word Free. It's been beaten to death, but here I'm talking about Liberty, not the eradication of Capitalism.
Secondly, yes, I do make a living writing code. Although it is quite difficult to prove in any sensible way, I don't think that I would necessarily be worse at it if I did not make a living doing it. The more operative thought here might be that if I had a non-computer related day job, then I might not be programming as much. However, I currently only rarely design lighting for a show, perhaps only once or twice a year. I still get paid to do it when I do, although I do not light shows so that I will get paid. And I'm at least "skilled" to fit the other implied definition of the word professional above.
Which brings me to professional vs. amateur. Now, I know I have as much chance in reverting changes to English on this as I do on convincing the pop-culture folks that the word "hacker" does not mean someone who breaks into computers. But bear with me. To me, the word professional means someone who does something because they are paid to, and the word amateur means someone who does something by choice. Modern connotations there are that professionals are skilled and amateurs are unskilled. So there are two different possible meanings implied by the sentence "Don’t you think that you need professionals for the sciences to evolve?" Of course, I think that skilled individuals are necessary for the sciences to evolve. As I think I've already made it clear, I do not think that paid individuals are necessary. So I think that the words professional and amateur are unclear and potentially clouding in this discussion, and I reject the premise of attempting to entangle skill and employment status merely because we use the same word in English to describe both things. It's the same problem we have with the entanglement of Freedom and Without Charge.
Of the 49 definitions of the word "free" that are listed in the Random House Dictionary, only 5 of them have anything to do with money or cost. I'd cite the OED, but their services are not without charge.
I won't deny that monetary injections can remove obstacles and make things easier. All I'm really getting after is that I have gotten together with a group of fellow artists and put on a production of a three-act Sam Shepard play in a borrowed warehouse for no pay where we charged nothing at the door. We rehearsed 6 hours a day in an un-air conditioned warehouse in West Texas in May. It was dirty. It was hot. I was a lot of work. Why did we do it? Because we wanted to.
Will Free Software go away once the economy collapses? No. We may have to find friends who will let us borrow their warehouse for a little while. We may have to get day jobs farming or fishing or fending off looters - but we will keep doing it and our products will continue to be better than those produced the other way, because it's what we want to do.
But please, by all means, make a living!