More About Open Source vis-à-vis Dolphin Smalltalk

I’ve come across another interview with Linus Torvalds and the one thing that sticks out, in light of what I wrote yesterday about Dolphin Smalltalk’s demise, is how totally opposite people can be about why they open or close their code.

Consider this:

I was hoping to get people to tell me what they thought needed improvement or what was good, and thus make the project more interesting for me. If I hadn’t made it public, I’d probably have continued to use it myself, but it would have been good enough for what I did, and then I’d have to find a new project to work on. But it worked beautifully. I’ve been doing Linux for 16 years, and it’s still interesting, exactly because I made it available publicly and asked for feedback….

It was never about intellectual property, it was about all the effort I had put in, and it was about the project being something personal. But yes, I was a bit worried that as a totally unknown developer in Finland, somebody would decide to just ignore my license, and just use my code and not give back his changes. So it worried me a bit. On the other hand, what did I really have to lose?

….The biggest advantage has very little to do with the money, and everything to do with the flexibility of the product. And that flexibility has come from the fact that thousands of other users have used it, and have been able to voice their concerns and try to help make it better. It doesn’t matter if 99.99 percent of all Linux users will never make a single change. If there are a few million users, even the 0.01 percent that end up being developers matters a lot and, quite frankly, even the ones that aren’t developers end up helping by reporting problems and giving feedback. And some of them pay for it and thus support companies that then have the incentive to hire the people who want to develop, and it’s all a good feedback cycle.

That’s quite different from the mentality of Dolphin’s developers. If they can’t sell their IP, they want it to wither and die. That’s their right. But so is their customers’ indignation that they’re being left out in the cold.

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