Louis Suarez-Potts: On Escaping the Orgy of Consumerism

Louis Suarez-Potts @ UB

Louis Suarez-Potts’s “The what, why and how (not to mention who) of Open Source — and why it is important” was held at UB North Campus, Clemens 120 on Jan 29th, 2pm. Here’s the event description:

The Digital Humanities Initiative at Buffalo is pleased to announce a lecture by Louis Suárez-Potts, who holds a PhD in English from Berkeley and who is now the community manager at Sun Microsystems for the open source project OpenOffice.org. This promises to be a fascinating presentation from someone who understands both the scholarly concerns of humanists and the rapidly growing prominence of open source approaches to computing.

I got a chance to chat with Louis after the talk, where he stated how monetary-based transactions strips away the emotional aspect of innovation, as opposed to the “love thy neighbor” approach (aka gift economy) which thrives on sharing and transparency of ideas. He agreed with me that the communal innovation approach would be more sustainable on the long run since the user/producer (see Axel Brun’s Produser concept) community could (theoretically) directly address its own needs more effectively than a corporation would.

Louis noted that “[t]he issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible. […] What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.”

Now here’s the 40min pre-recorded live stream I shared for folks who couldn’t attend, including the backchannel chat log as well as my raw notes from louis’s talk…

Here’s the chat log (backchannel) from the live stream:

02:40 kevinlim : Feel free to ask questions. I’ll try to relay for you.
02:43 ustreamer-87231 : what does he think about Apple doubling down on proprietary office apps instead of contributing to the community?
02:44 ustreamer-87231 : IOW, what amount of interaction does he expect/hope for from Apple as part of the OpenOffice movement in the future?
02:45 kevinlim : OK, I’ll ask when he’s ready. I might shorten it.
02:46 ustreamer-87231 : well, sure. My question is a little lengthy
02:52 ustreamer-87231 : how does Sun’s efforts in the FOSS arena increase shareholder value?
02:53 kevinlim : Do you mean how does SUN “profit” from FOSS?
02:54 ustreamer-54829 : well, yes. They are a public company who need to return profits to shareholders
02:56 kevinlim : Got it πŸ™‚ Will ask.
03:07 kevinlim : Lady is asking the second question
03:09 ustreamer-54829 : by latest financial reports, Sun is essentially a non-profit company anyhow. πŸ™‚
03:11 ustreamer-54829 : UB should standardize on SunRay thin clients and OpenOffice, would save millions annually in PC support and Windows licensing
03:11 kevinlim : OK, so Lousie is saying technical support is something they make from
03:11 kevinlim : I believe UB seeks a balance, from what’s used outside i working world, with ideal economic measure
03:12 ustreamer-54829 : Well, Sun makes support revenue off of StartOffice, not OpenOffice. Which is their productized version
03:12 kevinlim : cool
03:13 kevinlim : running low on battery
03:13 ustreamer-54829 : re: balance. I’d like for academia to lead the charge in open formats and slowly watch the business world adapt. Not the other away around. personal viewpoint, though

Finally here are the raw notes I took from his talk. Sorry I really have little time to spruce this up as I typically would, since I have to work on my dissertation:

Consumerism is no longer decent, edges onto obscenity
Making versus Buying

Open Source is neutral
Is a way of producing and distributing works.

However, a political gesture, third world countries see it as a political movement. Gives people power to do things on their own, defying expectations of mega-corporations of telling people what they want.

Affords ability for individuals to start industries.

Technology should be invisible.
Brand recognition is not required.
Use is required.
Typewriter, it just works. No compatibility issues.

GNU Public License
Use, alter, distribute without privatizing it

The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric Raymond Make the community
The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric Raymond
Open source as seeing and solving problems
Individual and community
Is about individual freedom, yet about community by exchange of ideas, their trade

Larry Lessig’s Creative Commons
louis believes in intellectual property, but needs to be improved

Open source is not a new thing
Cooperative situation, sharing with community, not market based, e.g. food co-op
Academia familiar with coop, but faces dangers of privatization, e.g. journal subscriptions?

What makes open source development different?
The Internet.
It’s easy to copy electronic files. Cut and Paste. Technological impediments.

Open source does not seek to weaken property laws.

The goal is to disencumber collaboration and thus build a commons held in joint by all participants.

Meritorious work (ideally) becomes part of the commons.

Tragedy of the Commons

Why is this a better solution than just having lots of companies or a few big ones profit from the market?
Microsoft Bill Gates calls it Communist. Being unAmerican?

Open Source is not opposed to markets, but it is opposed to monopoly, which is contrary to a free and open market.

And it is implicitly opposed to any impermeable membrane between produces and consumers

Open source licenses legally enable any consumer to become a producer of the work she enjoys.

Thus
– Saving Money / Resources
– Making a better product – faster
– Lowering the risk for innovative work
– Adding a cushion against market swing
– Addressing needs outside market considerations

Open source has enabled the realization of socially responsible goals in numerous fields.
And it has enabled developing nations to move into modern economies as producers.

No chance of profit making for OpenOffice, even by localization, at least on short-term.

Its logic of free collaboration has also affected how data is to be expressed (the format): Open standards for electronic documents

Under proprietary regimes, formats tend to opacity and incompatibility, to vendor lock-in

The ideal result of all this?
A modern logic of copyright that takes into account contemporary technology and needs.

Question: How does SUN Microsystems profit from FOSS?
Answer: Paying for support. Microsoft charges for technical support, so does Sun.

80 thoughts on “Louis Suarez-Potts: On Escaping the Orgy of Consumerism

  1. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  2. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  3. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  4. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  5. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  6. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  7. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  8. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  9. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  10. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  11. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  12. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  13. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  14. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  15. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  16. I've not read you for a long while, but this entry really got my attention. Thanks for posting all this, Kevin!

  17. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  18. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  19. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  20. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  21. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  22. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  23. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  24. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  25. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  26. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  27. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  28. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  29. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  30. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  31. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

  32. Hi,
    Well, I never said, “love thy neighbour” and never would advocate that as a solution to anything; and it is not at all related to the gift economy. The issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible.

    To reduce open source to altruism and feel-good sentiments is an injustice. I'd be delighted to clarify these points further–and guess I shall, in a blog, but other fora exist, too.

    What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.
    louis

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