"A Contrarian View of Open Source" -
August 9, 2002 10:48 AM   Subscribe

"A Contrarian View of Open Source" - Bruce Sterling on the open source attitutude: "Don't like it? Hey, just reconfigure it yourself, don't bother me!" It's the Hippie Squat Model of software architecture. "If I want to paint the doors and floors bright blue and put the toilet right into the kitchen, why not?"
posted by GriffX (12 comments total)
Can you say "genius?"

Genius who doesn't know how to structure an argument, but nonetheless...
posted by tweebiscuit at 11:06 AM on August 9, 2002

"I love you Mom! I am the future, Mom! Demographics and birth rates are on my side, Mom! My new President is an atomic rocket scientist Mom! Someday you will die, Mom, and I take you to the Tower of Silence for a Parsi funeral where the vultures will eat your flesh, and then the future of computing will be mine as far as the human eye can see!"

...and you could hear a pin drop in the convention hall...

Bruce has still got the juice. In that one bit, and the metaphor before it (where the Hippie girl is talking to her son, Red Flag Linux), I got a series of chills down my spine.

But, in general, I'm less impressed with his arguments than I am with the writings of that other Cyberpunk demigod: Neal Stephenson. If you're interested in this topic, and you have yet to read Cryptonomicon (obligatory amazon reference), you're missing the big picture.

Neal's also got a great essay online called In the Beginning was the Command Line which is another bit of required reading.

It all comes down to a basic fear, and an slow encroaching need for me to unplug my cable modem. Anyone could be listening...
posted by thanotopsis at 11:23 AM on August 9, 2002

Rocking link.

"The computer business wants to be really hot and sexy. It's like eavesdropping on a rich kid's affair with a supermodel. He's the user, he's the customer. He's eager, he's gullible. But she'd better be taut, hot, and totally glittering, or he'll pitch her right off the edge of the loading dock."

I think that's exactly right. The problem seems to be that, metaphorically, the majority of men in our country prefer to fuck a supermodel that doesn't give a shit about them, or their well-being.

It doesn't matter if your product has real value (like the down-to-earth Hippie chick). Hippie chicks are dirty, they don't get their hair cut often enough, they don't trim their nails, and they've eaten more than 2000 calories this week. In short, they ain't gonna sell, even if they're really a better product.

Look at every single industry in our country. Cars, computers, video and audio players, bicycles, food, clothing, make-up, jewelry, everything. GOOD products don't sell. FLASHY products sell. Unfortunately I think we might as well face up to the fact that women are a market in our country as well, and only the cheap and flashy ones sell there too.
posted by zekinskia at 11:26 AM on August 9, 2002

I smell a lot of over-extended metaphors a'comin'...
posted by tweebiscuit at 11:30 AM on August 9, 2002

You gotta love anyone who get a transparent Janis Joplin, a Finish hippie gurl with removable ribs and LINUX in the same paragraph.
posted by cedar at 11:41 AM on August 9, 2002


Not bitter much, areya?

Lots of guys see the real worth in women. The problem is lots of these "less perfect" women have unrealistic expectations about men. "I like you," they say, "but what I'm really looking for is a Russell Crowe look-alike." Alternatively: "I like you, Joe, but I'm really looking for a drunken layabout who'll treat me like dirt."

I finally found a woman who could look past that, but I was in my thirties before that happened. It's not just guys, zekinskia, it's everybody.
posted by mrmanley at 11:56 AM on August 9, 2002

Unfortunately I think we might as well face up to the fact that women are a market in our country as well, and only the cheap and flashy ones sell there too.

It seems to me that this is a two way street. A quick glance at the NY Times magazine or Vogue shows no shortage of toned gorgeous male models in the advertisements.

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that most readers of fashion ads are women, sawing that limb off behind me I'm going to assume that most women would rather fuck a good looking man with expensive dental work and a gym membership than some hairy backed shlub with an overbite.
posted by cedar at 12:45 PM on August 9, 2002

Thanks for the link GriffX, I enjoyed the transcript enormously. I was fascinated by his views of the state of software development and the world in general, and his style always gets me paying attention. I found I agreed with much of what he said too, particularly his characterisation of the Microsoft monopoly.

I was a bit disappointed however that he offered only an analysis of the problem and not any potential solutions. I was looking forward to hearing what he had to offer, because pretty much anything from his very technological imagination would have been interesting, even if it was impossible. A fine read nonetheless, thanks.
posted by Gamecat at 3:54 PM on August 9, 2002

I got the impression that he found open source software to be bad for security in the sense that it is hard to track due to an interest in keeping it that way. Is that what he meant by the Red Flag Linux sequence taking down Wall Street? Is it truly the case? I don't know much about all this.
posted by mblandi at 6:44 PM on August 9, 2002

mblandi: I don't think his point is that open source software is bad for security (far from it); I think his point is that open source software is, by its very nature, nearly impossible for companies to restrict and commercialize in traditional ways. His sequence about Red Flag Linux was a humorous take on actions supporting open source software by the government of China (and how that might be perceived to be an ideological threat to capitalist Western society -- e.g. Wall Street).

My favourite part of the article: He chased the moneylenders out of the sacred precincts. They were extremely alarmed by this. They were screaming stuff, like "Hey wow! The Prince of Peace is beating the living crap out of us!"

posted by filmgoerjuan at 7:28 PM on August 9, 2002

Damn hippies. I hate Unix. Always have and I've been a developer for 20 years. Just give me a woman that I don't have to take care of, that I don't have to show how to dress, bathe, eat properly, and who hasn't tramped around with all other geeky guys.

Free love and such is great when you're young and don't have to get anything done. Utopia isn't reality.

Given a choice? I'd take the expensive girl because we both know what the deal is: I'm paying, she's providing.

I hear my wife calling.
posted by morningbit at 8:13 PM on August 9, 2002

Is there audio of that floating around anywhere? I'd like to hear him give this speech.
posted by mutagen at 8:34 PM on August 9, 2002

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