[clug] Your Best arguments please

Doug.Palmer at csiro.au Doug.Palmer at csiro.au
Fri Aug 8 10:19:28 EST 2003

1. "Open Standards" seems to be the key thing that any government should be
considering. A government has a duty to be interoperable, in the sense that
it should not tie itself to the vagiaries of unpublished, undocumented data
formatas and protocols. Once you have done that, the question of what
software you choose to use becomes one of best fit to purpose; it might be
OSS or it might be proprietary, depending on exact needs and budget.

2. Sytsma's arguement that "Open source software ensures interoperability
through adherence to open, platform-neutral standards." means that _only_
OSS fits that category is, ahem, interesting. It's also rubbish; as a
counterexample, there are a mixture of OSS and proprietary vendors competing
with J2EE application servers, which thay can do, since they adhere to an
open standard.

2a There is a point (which Sytsma doesn't make) that OSS doesn't guarantee
interoperability. Without adequate documentation and published standards to
allow the code to be navigated, OSS might as well be closed.

3. Sytsma states that "technological innovation for the most part has been,
and will continue to be, spurred on in the context of for-profit
entrepreneurial ventures" without any evidence. Probably because there is
none. Technological innovation generally comes from universities and
research institutes: languages, multi-tasking operating systems, GUIs,
email, networking, the WWW, the Internet itself -- the list is endless.
Proprietary companies _and_ OSS pick up these innovations as they see fit.
(Some of the research insititutes are funded by private companies, but that
does not necessarily mean that the innovations produced are of benefit to
that particular company: Xerox PARC, for example.) Proprietary companies do
have a greater motivation to clean up and package the innovations neatly,
but that's not always successful.

4. Consumers can still choose to use or not use various OSS packages, of
which there are usually several. There are any number of mail clients
available in OSS-land (not just Outlook). Since OSS programmers work towards
a market of popularity, there is a feedback channel available. 

4a There's half an argument here. I think that it's obvious, looking at most
OSS packages, that they're written by Morlocks for Morlocks[*]. I also think
that, with things like OpenOffice and Evolution, this is changing.

4b Having several packages for the same function available isn't always a

5. The Thomas Aquinas quote seems to be to be off-base. There are more
distinctions than just privately owned and commonly owned. Since consumers
"own" the OSS code, they have the ability to make their own improvements
directly and contribute them to the whole. Their motivation for doing so is
the simple one of getting something that they need. (Or they can contract a
software developer for the improvement, or be part of a consortium to spread
costs.) There's both a mechanism and a direct motivation for a sufficiently
large (like a govenment) consumer to get something made up to their

6. Sytsma asserts without evidence that TCO of OSS will often exceed that of
proprietary software without evidence. Possibly because the only "evidence"
comes from a tainted source. However, there's plenty of studies that dispute
this (not that OSS necessarily has a lower TCO):


6a. TCO arguments should also include the amount of time and money lost
through outages, viruses, worms, security holes ...

6b. "Most proprietary software companies will include the costs of future
maintenance and support in their packages." Most OSS packages are simply
maintained. Interestingly, one of these links points out that OSS support is
provided by multiple competing companies, rather than the customer being
reliant on a single company, which might fix a problem "when they get around
to it."

7. "Where proprietary software would otherwise be a more efficient solution,
legislation will stand in the way." There is usually a "where practicable"
clause in legislation. In any case, a concentration on open standards
doesn't necessarily exclude proprietary software, it's just got to be worth
the extra asking price.

7a. "The growth of successful proprietary software will be stunted, if not
driven out of business." Well tough. If it's not worth the extra cost, it's
not worth it. The government shouldn't be subsidising inadequate software

8. "various currently available small-scale World Wide Web solutions" This
would be Apache? Small-scale?

That's enough for now.

[*] http://www.cryptonomicon.com/beginning.html

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