Women in Technology

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  There Is No Open Source Community
Subject:   Materialist vs. Idealist Worldview
Date:   2006-01-21 15:42:00
From:   linus.walleij

First: I dig your article. The pin-down of a few points of economic trends is superb.

I didn't get the title at first: then I realized: OK he means there is not *one* open source community, there may be *many*. Allrite. (I read this out from one of your comments.)

However I really see nothing else than the old argument of materialists versus idealist in this following "debate". Whereas the former see history at large as driven by economic motives and will claim that wars and other societal transformations are ultimately caused by limited resources and their distribution, the latter will line up a large line of "great men" who shaped the world by their pure ideas such as the Nietzschean entrepreneurs that were so vividly portrayed by the economist Joseph Schumpeter. (As if some platonic higher reality was projected onto our world through their excellent minds.)

I understand if you are surrounded on all sides by people who tell such stories of "great men" and their endavours: I believe it's typical United Statesean. To us in Europe it's quite uncommon really. (I cannot speak for the rest of the world.) I think the tendency among historians in our time is to make a synthesis and not paint things in black-and-white either-or chessboard squares.

As for that old technology-push versus demand-pull debate: it is equally polarized.

David vs. Goliat etc themes: postmodernists call these "large narratives", i.e. stories that are so permeating that they control the way we can think about the world. Large narratives drive simplistic thinking, but does anyone really fall into that old trap anymore? I like to think positively about my contemporaries.

Eric S. Raymond has talked about the commoditization of the PC and I know he claimed at one point - though I can't remember which one - that when the cost of the operating system and applications of a commonplace mass market PC reach a certain percentage, it must tip over so that "PC packeters" start pre-installing free operating systems and application software to cut costs. Your article does not address this and the problematic issue as to why this has not happened to any great extent even though the operating system is today a substantial percentage of the cost for a new off-the-shelf PC.

More thougts than comments really.