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10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered, by Carlo Daffara
Monday, September 24 2007 @ 02:38 AM EDT

Introduction by the author, Carlo Daffara

May I request your input? This article is part of our research in the EU project FLOSSMETRICS, where we are preparing a guide for helping small and medium-sized enterprises on the adoption of free/libre/open source software (FLOSS). As the first version of the guide will be ready soon, I would ask my fellow Groklawers for suggestions on what additional aspects you would like to see in the guide, as the results will be freely published under a CC-attribution-share-alike, allowing also for commercial use. We already have planned chapters on software selection, adoption methodologies (especially for the smaller companies), guidelines for contributing code to FLOSS projects, interaction with public administrations, and an initial selection of 50-60 interesting packages for SMEs. I welcome suggestions on additional topics, and of course criticisms and corrections.

* * *

10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered

~ by Carlo Daffara *

In 1999, Tim O'Reilly, founder of a popular open source-oriented publishing house, gave a keynote speech to an audience of Fortune 500 executives called "Ten Myths about Open Source Software". As those myths are still perceived as true today by some, as shown by recent reports1, and are still perceived as a barrier towards FLOSS adoption, we will try to provide here some pragmatic answers:

Myth #1: It's a Linux-vs-Windows thing.

Recent debates about FLOSS continue to be focused on an all-or-nothing perception; that, for example, to introduce FLOSS in a company, a full software migration is required. This, and the fact that there is limited knowledge of FLOSS projects outside of a very widely known ones (like Linux, Apache,, has created the perception that most of FLOSS is designed and directed as a direct competitor of Microsoft's own products. The reality is that there is an enormous number of active projects in practically every field of IT, including business-specific ones like ERP systems, and most of these projects are cross-platform, and can be executed on Microsoft Windows, Apple's OSX (which is itself based on more than 300 open source projects) or Linux. (For an estimate of the size of the FLOSS project panorama, see Estimating the number of active and stable FLOSS projects).

Myth #2: FLOSS is not reliable or supported.

This myth is based on a common perception that FLOSS is exclusively developed by volunteers in a non-coordinated or unstructured way. There are many errors in this view:

  • The volunteer perception: While volunteer contributions are a significant part (and sometimes the majority) of large-scale projects, around 50% of developers have received a financial compensation for working on FLOSS projects, either directly paid to improve the projects or paid to support them. This has been shown in recent studies2 and can be inferred directly by the fact that in the software industry at large, 68% of software products include directly FLOSS-derived code.

  • Paid programmers are better: Even for the percentage of contributions that do come from volunteers, it is commonly perceived that those should be of inferior quality, as there is no financial incentive to produce quality software. This ignores the fact that intrinsic incentives are in many cases more effective than monetary compensation, and the fact that sometimes users are interested in improving the software that they are using3. This second effect, called user-driven innovation, has been shown in past research to be a significant force. For example, around 25% of innovations in fields like software security, printed circuit boards CAD systems, and library software were designed and introduced by advanced users. The same effect provides a fundamental design feedback, as a large project collects both good and bad experiences in using the software (for example, the Ubuntu Linux "Testimonial and Experiences page" that allows for a form of user-driven "steering" of the project and the identification of trouble points.

  • There is no support: Most large scale project do have companies that provide paid-for support, in a way similar to that of proprietary software companies. The availability of the source code and the modification rights gives also the additional advantage that support can be obtained even for projects that are no longer active, in stark difference with proprietary software where no code escrow clause was included in the acquisition contract.

  • FLOSS is inherently unreliable: Many believe that FLOSS is inherently of lesser quality when compared to proprietary software. The reality is that most FLOSS projects are controlled with at least a semi-strict structure, and only very modular projects are inherently "bazaar-style" and allow for large scale internal decoupling. In any case, the impact of FLOSS-style development has been assessed in several research papers, and for example in a software engineering article we found4:
    "The hypothesis that open-source software fosters more creativity is supported by our analysis. The growing rate, or the number of functions added, was greater in the open-source projects than in the closed-source projects. This indicates that the open-source approach may be able to provide more features over time than by using the closed-source approach. Practitioners interested in capturing market share by providing additional features should look to the open-source methodology as a method to achieve this. In terms of defects, our analysis finds that the changing rate or the functions modified as a percentage of the total functions is higher in open-source projects than in closed-source projects. This supports the hypothesis that defects may be found and fixed more quickly in open-source projects than in closed-source projects and may be an added benefit for using the open-source development model."
    This is consistent with results from vendors of software defect identification tools like Reasoning, that found that while the bug density ratio in initial project releases is on par with proprietary developments, it improves rapidly and for some projects defect densities have been found to be significantly lower than that of the average proprietary code. For example, Reasoning found in a study of MySQL:
    "At a defect density of 0.09 defects per KLOC, the version of MySQL we inspected has a defect density that is about six times lower than the average of comparable proprietary projects.”
    This was confirmed by other studies like the reports from Coverity.

The fact that FLOSS is overall reliable can be inferred by surveys like the already mentioned CIO Insight survey, where 79% of respondents answered positively to the question "My company's experience with open source products other than Linux has been so good we plan to expand their use".

Myth #3: Big companies don't use Open Source software.

This is the easiest myth to dispel: Apart from the large IT companies that are actively promoting Open Source software like IBM, HP, Sun, and Oracle, about 86% of Fortune 1000 companies are deploying or testing FLOSS, and a similar measure is found in Europe5. Of those, 35% or more are deploying more than 20% of their systems as FLOSS, and 11% of companies report more than 20% of their applications as being Open Source software. While usage in server-centric and IT infrastructure is more common, around 26% of large companies are mentioning the use of Linux on the desktop, and a much larger percentage are reporting the use of other FLOSS like and Firefox on Microsoft Windows desktops. A curious fact that is also evident from other surveys is that many companies and public administrations are not aware of their internal use of FLOSS, sometimes for simple ignorance of the licensing terms and sometimes because the product is offered or embedded in what seems a traditional proprietary offering (for example, many security and networking products use FLOSS internally).

Myth #4: Open Source software is hostile to intellectual property.

There are several aspects to this myth:

  • The GPL license is "viral": The most widely used license does have a specific clause that when a software product that is derived from GPL software code is redistributed, the entire product must be distributed under the same license. This has prompted some to claim that the "viral aspect of the G.P.L. poses a threat to the intellectual property of any organization making use of it". The reality is that for most scenarios, this clause simply provides a way to prevent appropriation of code without giving back contributions or credit, and this is also one of the reasons why many developers *prefer* the GPL to other licenses. Simple *use* of Open Source software in itself does not require any change to the license of internally developed software, and most companies routinely run proprietary software on top of GPL-licensed code like the Linux kernel.

  • The Free Software community steals the intellectual property of other companies: This is the byproduct mainly of litigation by the SCO Group company that in 2003 claimed that IBM improperly included copyrighted material in the Linux kernel. In the original claim, it was alleged that IBM "put SCO’s confidential and proprietary information into Linux, the free operating system" and that within the kernel several million lines of code were taken from SCO's Unix source code. However, the public was not told where that allegedly infringing code was found, nor were requests from the community for that information answered. Now, four years later, no millions of lines of code have materialized in the litigation, and the court in August of 2007 found that the UNIX and Unixware copyrights SCO claimed to have obtained in 1995 in fact did not transfer to SCO from Novell. Even if the copyrights belonged to SCO, there are less than 300 lines of code at issue in that case in the end, and it's mostly standard interface code that many believe would be found to have no copyright protection no matter who owns it. That's 300 lines of code out of more than 6 million lines of code in the Linux kernel.

    Subsequently, Microsoft issued similar allegations, only regarding patents, with Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer claiming that Linux "uses our patented intellectual property". However, once again, no specificity was provided. (See also Craig Mundie, Microsoft's vice president, speech at New York University's Stern school of Business in 2001, where he said that releasing source code into the public domain is "unhealthy", causes security risks and "as history has shown, while this type of model may have a place, it isn't successful in building a mass market and making powerful, easy-to-use software broadly accessible to consumers". Bill Gates said that the GPL "makes it impossible for a commercial company to use any of that work or build on any of that work", and Steve Ballmer famously said: "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches ... if you use any open-source software, you have to make the rest of your software open source".)

    The reality is that structured FLOSS projects do have a strict patch acceptance policy, and as an example the Eclipse project has a strict due diligence process, that covers external contributions, code rights assignments, code review and license compatibility. The Eclipse foundation also uses automated tools to check for code copying, keyword scanning for words with legal significance and a controlled release review prior to updating the code. Similar processes are in place in other FLOSS projects6

Myth #5: Open source software is all about licenses.

While FLOSS as a definition covers principally the licensing regime, by extension the "openness" of the code introduces the possibility of sharing development efforts among different groups, in a way similar to those of the early user groups of the sixties. In this sense, Eric Raymond introduced in his seminal paper "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" the concept of shared development, contrasting this "bazaar" style where every developer is free to choose on what part of the code to work, in contrast to the "cathedral" or formalized development approach that is rigid and structured.

While the concept took hold quickly, the reality is that collaboratively developed projects tend to be executed in a continuum between cathedral and bazaar. For example, for most projects there is a formal structure (with many sub-projects, more open to external contributions) while other are strictly formal (for example, projects that use FLOSS code for use in a certified environment like avionics or safety-critical systems). The important point raised by Raymond is the fact that both coding and ancillary activities like bug fixing and production of documentation can be shared in a large community, creating in a sense "virtual software houses" that in a voluntary way provide effort and resources. This helps also in the leverage of a large community of expert users, that can contribute back in a significant way, as shown in the articles from Von Hippel.

When such collaboration takes place, it may be not only in the form of source code, as for example7:

"In the year 2000, fifty outside contributors to Open Cascade provided various kinds of assistance: transferring software to other systems (IRIX 64 bits, Alpha OSF), correcting defects (memory leaks…) and translating the tutorial into Spanish, etc. Currently, there are seventy active contributors and the objective is to reach one hundred. These outside contributions are significant. Open Cascade estimates that they represent about 20% of the value of the software."
Open Cascade is a complex and sophisticated toolkit for the creation of 3D CAD/CAM systems.

A similar view has been presented in a presentation by Aaron Seigo at the Akademy KDE conference in 2006, where he presented the areas where volunteers collectively contribute to KDE:

  • Artwork
  • Documentation
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Marketing
  • Quality Assurance
  • Software Development
  • Translation

If overall software suitability to the task is considered, it is clear that non-code contributions are as important as source code; for example, translations, documentation and overall quality are vital for the software to be adopted by end-users worldwide.

This form of collaboration can happen even between competing companies; for example, notices of potential security vulnerabilities are commonly shared among different competing Linux vendors. As an example, Mark Cox of Red Hat (a widely used distribution of Linux) analyzed the results of two years of incident responses, and provided the sources for the information, and found that the largest source of vulnerability disclosure was the group of peer FLOSS distributors.

Myth #6: If I give away my software to the Open Source community, thousands of developers will suddenly start working for me for nothing.

There is no guarantee that simply "dumping" source code on the community will make a FLOSS project appear, and there have been several examples of such behavior to be viewed even negatively, because the community may see this as "garbage dumping" of code. The reality is that for a collaborative community to form, there must be first of all a good communication and interaction strategy and effort in place as a basic requisite. Also, investing in community creation and dissemination efforts does also increase the probability of a bidirectional effort sharing. It is important to mention that surveys like OSSWatch or CIO Insight found a significant proportion of companies and public administrations (between 14% and 25%) contribute back patches or participate actively in FLOSS communities.

Myth #7: Open source software only matters to programmers, since most users never look under the hood anyway.

The fact that most users are not interested in the source code does not imply that having the source code available in itself is useless. Several positive aspects can be identified:

  • The availability of the code allows the end user to pay someone for modifications or ongoing maintenance even if the original FLOSS project disappears or becomes inactive.
  • "Under the hood" there is not only code, but much non-code artifacts that are vital to a project, like translations, documentation, examples and much more. Many users can contribute in such aspects even as non-programmers.
  • For some projects, having the code available allows for a significant cost reduction or dramatically increases the flexibility of the offered solution. For example, in a project called MuleSource (a sophisticated middleware system) it was found that 64% of users perform at least one source code modification.

The important difference with the proprietary world (when sometimes code can be evaluated, but not changed or modified in any way) is that the code is not just a way to reassure buyers in case of bankruptcy of the vendor, but a real and living element. One can conclude that for the non-developing users the availability of source code is a form of "insurance policy", while for advanced users and developers the availability of code allows for deep customization and adaptation.

Myth #8: There is no money to be made on Free Software.

Even many researchers have proclaimed in one way or another that the freely available nature of the code precludes any potential commercial exploitation. For example8: "The GPL effectively prevents profit-making firms from using any of the code since all derivative products must also be distributed under the GPL license". This of course collides with the economic results obtained by companies like HP (that in 2003 reported more than $2.5B in Linux-related revenues), or the $400M revenues reported in 2006 by Red Hat. In an economic analysis by Gosh it is evaluated that:

  • Defined broadly, FLOSS-related services could reach a 32% share of all IT services by 2010, and the FLOSS-related share of the economy could reach 4% of European GDP by 2010.
  • FLOSS directly supports the 29% share of software that is developed in-house in the EU (43% in the U.S.).
  • FLOSS potentially saves industry over 36% in software R&D investment that can result in increased profits or be more usefully spent in further innovation.
  • The notional value of Europe’s investment in FLOSS software today is Euro 22 billion (36 billion in the US) representing 20.5% of total software investment (20% in the US).

This directly translates in a significant market (that is difficult to measure, when -- as most consultants do -- evaluated only through licensing sales in the server market).

There are many potential business models based on FLOSS; for a sample of 80 companies and their approach, see Open Source Business Models: a Taxonomy of Open Source Firms’ business models and Business models in FLOSS-basedcompanies [PDF].

Myth #9: The Open Source movement isn't sustainable, since people will stop developing free software once they see others making lots of money from their efforts.

This is connected to the view of myth #2, the idea that FLOSS is developed by volunteers, and that companies can only profit in a parasitic way from the code that is developed for free. As discussed in that part, the reality is that in most projects companies and volunteers participate in a collaborative and non-competitive way; also, the most widely used license (the GPL) forces companies to reciprocate their efforts by making dissemination of the source code mandatory whenever there is dissemination of code derived from GPL projects.

Myth #10: Open Source is playing catch-up to Microsoft and the commercial world.

The concept of software innovation is really rooted in two different aspects: technical innovation and field innovation. While technical innovation is mostly invisible to the user, "field innovation" (for example a new kind of application) is highly visible, and the perception is widespread that most FLOSS software is more or less a copy of some other desktop-oriented proprietary application.

The reality is that most proprietary software is non-innovative in this aspect too; and that while very few examples of new concepts (like Dan Bricklin's spreadsheet idea) can be found, most applications are matched to the tasks that people perform daily, and as such there is a strong disincentive to innovate away from familiarity. A study of 500 sourceforge projects9 found that from a field innovation point of view, around 12% of the projects sampled were considered innovative, a percentage that is comparable to that of the proprietary software market. As for technical innovativeness, the already cited study by Succi, Paulson and Eberlein found that "The hypothesis that open-source software fosters more creativity is supported by our analysis. The growing rate, or the number of functions added, was greater in the open-source projects than in the closed-source projects. This indicates that the open-source approach may be able to provide more features over time than by using the closed-source approach." So, both from a technical and field point of view, FLOSS is on a par or better than proprietary software.

1 CIO Insight, CIO Insight OSS survey 2007. Evans Data, Open Source Vision report, 2005. Forrester consulting, Open Source Software’s Expanding Role in the Enterprise March 2007. IDC, Open Source in Global Software: Market Impact, Disruption, and Business Models. IDC report, 2006

2 Gosh, et al. Free/Libre/Open Source Software Worldwide impact study: FLOSSWorld. FLOSSWorld project presentation. papers/20051217/flossworld-intro3.pdf

Gosh, et al. Economic impact of FLOSS on innovation and competitiveness of the EU ICT sector. doc/2006-11-20-flossimpact.pdf

3 Von Hippel, E. and G. von Krogh, Open Source Software and the “Private-Collective” Innovation Model: Issues for Organizational Science. Organization Science, 2003. (2): p. 209-223. Von Hippel, E. Democratizing innovation. MIT press, 2005

4 Succi, Paulson, Eberlein. An Empirical Study of Open-Source and Closed-Source Software Products, IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON SOFTWARE ENGINEERING, V.30/4, april 2004

5 Augustin, L. Living with open source: the new rules for IT vendors and consumers. OSBC 2004 conference

6 Rigby P.C., German D.M. A preliminary examination of code review processes in open source projects. University of Victoria technical report, 2006,

7 Jullien N. (ed) New economic models, new software industry economy. RNTL report

8 Hahn, W.R. (editor), Government policy towards open source software. AEI-Brookings, 2002.

9 Klincewicz, K. Innovativeness of open source software projects. Technical report, School of Innovation Management, Tokyo Institute of Technology. 2005

* Since 1999, Carlo Daffara has been the Italian representative to the European Working Group on Libre Software, the first IST-supported working group to deal with Open Source and Free/Libre Software. The group was created at the initiative of the Information Society Directorate General to analyze FOSS, create a set of recommendations, and write a paper to be presented to the Commission.

He coedited with Jesus Gonzale Barahona the resulting white paper [PDF], presented at IST99 in Helsinki. Since 2000, he has been a member of the Internet Society (ISOC) working group on public software as part of the group committee, and contributed to the Open Source part of the article presented by ISOC to UNESCO on global trends for universal access to information resources.

Previous article by Mr. Daffara appearing on Groklaw are Overview: Initial Results of a Large-Scale Migration Project and Guidelines on Migrating to Open Source/Open Data Standards Software.

Copyright © 2007 Carlo Daffara


10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered, by Carlo Daffara | 374 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Authored by: Crocodile_Dundee on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 03:00 AM EDT
Please put the correction in the title and any description in the body


That's not a law suit. *THIS* is a law suit!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic
Authored by: Crocodile_Dundee on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 03:02 AM EDT
Please put your weird and wonderful stuff here and please make your links the
type that click.


That's not a law suit. *THIS* is a law suit!

[ Reply to This | # ]

The irony of Bill Gates's statement
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 03:09 AM EDT

Bill Gates's statement that the GPL "makes it impossible for a commercial company to use any of that work or build on any of that work" is pretty ironic, considering that Microsoft seems to be offering some GNU utilities as an optional part of their Utilities and SDK for UNIX-based Applications for Windows Server 2003.

Judging by the files on their FTP server, they may have already been using the GNU utilities by the time the statement was made. They may have inherited it from when they acquired Interix in 1999 (the notes still refer to it as "OpenNT") but, as I said, it still strikes me as ironic.

[ Reply to This | # ]

There's also "face saving"
Authored by: Crocodile_Dundee on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 03:11 AM EDT
I was working for a company that purchased a Cisco firewall. After using it for
some time I realised that there were some open source alternatives that were
easier to set up and maintain (i.e. cheaper - less time and effort).

We Used Linux-based software firewalls as we went forward, but the Cisco
firewall remained in place (and almost certainly still does) because the manager
did not want to admit that the purchase and maintenance of it was a mistake.

Paradoxically, being both better and cheaper was a problem.

That's not a law suit. *THIS* is a law suit!

[ Reply to This | # ]

10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered, by Carlo Daffara
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 04:06 AM EDT
"...those myths are still perceived as true today by

Could you be more precise about who believes these myths?
Programmers? Managers? Directors? The public?

Obviously I have some ideas about this but it would be
nice to know what the research actually says.

[ Reply to This | # ]

10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered, by Carlo Daffara
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 04:10 AM EDT
You may want to reconsider the form of this article. Recent research (can't find the URL, sorry) has shown that people tend to remember repeated statements as true, even if the repetitions are denials.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Another chapter for the book..
Authored by: ghost on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 04:21 AM EDT
The major software licenses in the FOSS explained in plain language.

In other word, a can do and can not list, for each license, together with the

In general, people are not really in to reading legaleese, and could do with a
little help, to show that these licenses actually are very friendly, and give
them a simple understanding of do's and dont's, and how to avoid the silly

A "licensees cookbook" if you will. =)

[ Reply to This | # ]

10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered, by Carlo Daffara
Authored by: hagge on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 04:25 AM EDT
I think these additional points should be covered, too.

1. To Myth 4: FLOSS licences are designed to *prevent* stealing of intellectual
property. The reason is simple: everyone can check by looking at the code. It's
much more difficult to check closed source projects for stolen IP, therefore
there may be a large number of stolen IP you'll never find.

2. To Myth 10: Ask yourself: Which kind of software is more likely to foster
innovation? A software covered by many patents and restrictive licenses where
any modification is disallowed and any new ideas lead to time-intensive
litigations over "IP"? Or some free-to-change software where everybody
is encouraged to add new parts and where such improvements appear only hours
after having been brought in?

3. New Myth: "FLOSS development is slower than closed source
No. A software that can build on already written modules can be built much
faster than having to develop everything anew from scratch. This especially
results in faster time-to-market.

4. New Myth: "Closed source can protect my ideas better. If I put my
improved code back to the FLOSS community, my competitor can take it and make
profit from it, too. This I'm afraid of."
As seen in the previous myth, the faster time-to-market compensates for any
"secrets" given away to the competitor. The net-effect of open source
software is always a faster development. Open source is a process of taking and
giving, but you always benefit much more from the taking than you are at a
disadvantage by the giving part of the deal. Licenses like the GPL just ensure
that you are not only taking (which would be unfair), but also giving something
back, helping to improve the overall project.

In general co-operating in innovation-friendly open source projects leads to a
quicker innovation for society as a whole than struggling alone in closed
sourced projects, where court litigations over patents and other IP are the
rule, not the exception, often delaying the development process by months or
even years.



[ Reply to This | # ]

O'Reilly open-source
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 04:34 AM EDT
O'Reilly was not founded as an open-source-oriented publishing house. That was
one of several re-inventions of the company, the recent being that Web 2.0 thing

IMHO O'Reilly is also today not open-source oriented. Open-source is just one of
their current lines of business. They grew with their original audience (Unix
programmers), and that brought them into open-source as some kind of a natural
flow of things. But they make money with everything that sales, just like any
other business. Nothing wrong with that. But there is a reason they call open
source writers of open source documentation "amateurs", because unlike
open-source source-code writers the open-source documentation writers could
affects their business.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Myth #4
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 04:36 AM EDT
If you want Viral licensing - take a GOOD look at the licenses for the
commercial software you use.

Quite a few vendor toolkits have quite nasty gotcha's - of course almost no-one
reads 50 pages of legalese - but most make the GPL look decidedly friendly.

And the GPL isn't viral - all it says is that there are restrictions on what you
can do with OUR code. If you don't like that, write your own equivalent. It
doesn't force anyone to make their own code GPL - remedies are pretty much
limited to not distributing the GPL code any more.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Problems with Myth 4
Authored by: mattflaschen on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 04:53 AM EDT
The whole list is quite good. However, in parts you are actually just
reiterating the myth rather than refuting it. For instance, why do we need to
hear every Microsoft allegation against the GPL? You can mention there patent
allegations, but then note that no evidence was provided and move on. Also,
point out that it is effectively impossible to avoid infringing software
patents, since independent innovation is not a defense (it doesn't matter
whether you meant to copy; if they published a patent and your code does the
same thing, you're automatically infringing). That's why Microsoft (among many
others) has been found guilty of broad patent infringement.

With regard to copyright, you shouldn't half-concede that 300/6 million lines
are infringing. No court has explicitly found /any/ of these lines to be
copyrightable, or infringed by Linux. In fact, no court to date has found any
FLOSS project guilty of copyright or patent infringement.

Also, you spend too much time on Eclipse. Most FLOSS projects are careful about
copyrights. For instance,, Apache, and GNU all have copyright
assignment policies. Of course, that doesn't guarantee code isn't falsely
assigned, but it's fairly effective at tracing the sources of code.

Thanks again for writing the article. I hope you get some good tips.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Myths and thruth
Authored by: eskild on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 04:56 AM EDT
Many myths contain a certain amount of truth with exageration as an adaption

This is rather obvious for myth1: Interest in FLOSS may be spurred by an
arrogant and appalling treatment by M$, giving a desire to leave the windows
world. To the newcomers, Linux takes the focus, as it is more known to the
public, than other FLOSS projects. Press coverage adds exageration, because the
press in general seams to prefer to cover one-to-one fights.


[ Reply to This | # ]

10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered, by Carlo Daffara
Authored by: Nomen Publicus on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 05:23 AM EDT
If I wanted to drive a Ford-like car, I would buy a Ford. I wouldn't by a Citron and modify it till it looked a bit like a Ford.

If I wanted to use Windows-like apps I would use Windows.

Creating Open Source Windows-like applications for Linux/Unix may be satifying for the authors, but essentialy it is a waste of time and effort. While Microsoft, using evil mind rays, can alter user interfaces at every release but not lose a single customer, the open source equivalent application will always be critisised for not being 100% compatable with the original.

It is unlikely that the Windows user interface is the best possible. So why not do something far more interesting that copying a bad example?

If you love some code, set it free.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: aj on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 05:24 AM EDT
How about "open source software is less secure than proprietary

[ Reply to This | # ]

Myth #7
Authored by: SteveRose on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 05:29 AM EDT
I suggest Myth #7 asks whether people would buy a vehicle that had the hood
welded closed, even if the vehicle was so reliable it would never need to be
Perhaps point out that it's mechanics who open the vehicle hood, just as it's
software "mechanics" who would open the software "hood".


"May the source go with you" - Gavin Flower, Wgtn, NZ

[ Reply to This | # ]

Reliability: a study from 1995
Authored by: xtifr on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 05:37 AM EDT

Even many FLOSS fans believe that the stability and reliability of Free Software is a relatively recent phenomenon related to the commercial interest in and support of Free Software. But it's actually been higher quality than most proprietary software all along, suggests a study from the University of Wisconsin in 1995: Fuzz Testing of Applications. (Scroll down to see the 1995 study.)

They compared a number of standard UNIX toolkits from a number of vendors, including IBM (AIX), Sun (Solaris), HP (HP/UX) and GNU. Standard utility programs were fed huge amounts of random data to see if they would crash or hang. Among the results they found:

It is also interesting to compare results of testing the commercial systems to the results from testing “freeware” GNU and Linux. The seven commercial systems in the 1995 study have an average failure rate of 23%, while Linux has a failure rate of 9% and the GNU utilities have a failure rate of only 6%.
This is one of the oldest formal studies of the relative reliability of Free Software vs. proprietary that I know of, which makes it particularly interesting, in my opinion. Plus, those numbers are pretty dramatic! :)

Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for it makes them soggy and hard to light.

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Focus on the negatives
Authored by: capt.Hij on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 06:37 AM EDT

One of the things I do not like about these kinds of lists is that they focus on the negatives. It would be nice to see the statements made in the positive rather than responding to a negative.

Additionally, this article focuses on the utility of open source. Something should be said about the moral dimension of free software. The repeated use of the term "open source" rather than free makes it clear which side of the aisle this is coming from.

With respect to myth 7, that end users do not care about source code. One of the great things about free software is that it is generally instigated by end users who are trying to fix a problem they are intimately familiar with. This is end user driven software in its most basic form.

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10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered, by Carlo Daffara
Authored by: Dark on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 06:50 AM EDT
There is no guarantee that simply "dumping" source code on the community will make a FLOSS project appear, and there have been several examples of such behavior to be viewed even negatively, because the community may see this as "garbage dumping" of code.

What are these examples? I am always grateful when companies release their code under free licenses, even if I have no current use for the code. In fact, I'd like it to become the default action for code that is no longer useful. I'm distressed by the thought that some people are going around telling companies that this is a bad thing to do.

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10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered, by Carlo Daffara
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 07:00 AM EDT
Just about the patent myth: Microsoft has never made any claims of Linux patent infringements in Germany, and I suppose many Groklaw readers now why.

For those who don't know: In Germany, making such claims would be considered "unfair competition" against companies like RedHat distributing Linux. A court would tell Microsoft within ten seconds that they should either put up and tell the public exactly which Microsoft patents are infringed upon by which Linux source code, or shut up.

So as long as Microsoft doesn't publish any such allegations in Germany, you can be sure that they are FUD.

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Not so sure...
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 07:59 AM EDT
I think I agree with some other posters that this article - although obviously
written with the best intentions - risks providing a platform for the very FUD
it seeks to debunk.

It is important to remember that the "pointy haired boss" types at
which anti-
linux FUD is addressed are naturally inclined to respect the likes of Gates and

Ballmer - so citing them, then (effecively) saying "...but they're
wrong" is
unlikely to be effective (don't expect the majority of readers to follow the
footnotes and get to the evidence).

Perhaps you could turn the article on its head and make it "10 unpleasant
truths about closed-source software" - and (e.g.) compare the escape-
clause-ridden "warranties" of closed source with the patent pledges,
contracts and indemnification policies now available for open source.
Highlight the nasties lurking in EULAs; the derivative nature of closed-source
applications (Bloated descendants of Wordstar and Visicalc, vs. Open Source,
which built the modern internet...)

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Myth 11: TCO of Open Source Operating Systems is higher than proprietary OSs (n/t)
Authored by: kh on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 08:05 AM EDT

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Myth 12: Open Source Licensing is difficult
Authored by: kh on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 08:21 AM EDT
Myth 12: OS licenses are difficult to understand and companies will have to pay
licenses for each server and each user and have an expert in licensing to
understand their licensing obligations.
SWAT teams may bust down you door and force you to pay large amounts of money
for any software you haven't paid for.

If you are just using the software and not changing it and distributing it to
anyone else there is no cost. You can even copy it and give it away.

If you are adding your own code to someone else's software and distributing it
then OS is much simpler than either writing proprietary software from scratch
and distributing it or adding your code to someone else's proprietary software.
With some Open Source licenses there are some small obligations such as having
to distribute the source of your software.

No-one will be busting down your door for using open source software.

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Two True Myths About Open Source Software
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 08:35 AM EDT
Myth #1: It's a Linux-vs-Windows thing.
It is a Windows vs Linux thing.
Recall 1984 that is the book not the year.
Society is divided into 3 classes. The high, the middle, and the low.
The objective of the high/upper class is to remain on top.
The objective of the middle is to get as many goodies as they can from the
The objective of the lower is to have a revolution so that there is no classes
in society.
On occasions the lower succeeds and overthrows the Upper.
From which society again splits into three classes with the same desires.

There is a war between Windows and Linux. If you do not believe that ask the
people at Microsoft. They are definitely at war with Linux and will do any thing
to oppose it.

Mac is doing what the middle class always does belly up to the upper class.

Linux has the typical lower class psychology of establishing an equalitarian
Myth #2: FLOSS is not reliable or supported.
Wonder has anyone bother to visit the Fedora, OpenSuSE, OpenMandrake, PCLinux,
Sabasian et site lately or the KDE or Gonome site either.

Funny they keep changing.

When you have development you have change.

That means that what your developing is UNSTABLE in the aspect of there being NO

CHANGE = UNSTABLE with unstable being defined that what is today is not what was
yesterday. One can think of instability as computers crashing. True. But, that
is only one form on instability. There is also instability over long periods of
time due to change.

Base on this since

As development equals change the that implies that the instruction manuals for
yesterday are not applicable for today as writing instruction manuals lags the
developers producing the change.

Bases on these concepts then one can only conclude that the Myths are not Myths
but reality.

Of course we could have stagnation.
We could leave Microsoft in a dominant position.
We could not improve Linux.

That is the other alternative.

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Authored by: swmcd on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 08:48 AM EDT
You cite Dan Bricklin's spreadsheet idea as a new concept.
In fact, businessmen had been writing spreadsheets on blackboards and summing
the rows and columns by hand for decades. Bricklin took the (obvious?) step of
writing a computer program to do the same thing.

That's one reason that VisiCalc was an instant success: every businessman who
saw it knew
- exactly what it was
- exactly how it worked
- how much time and effort he was going to save by doing it on a computer rather
than a blackboard.

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Myth 10 is near the reverse of the truth
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 09:12 AM EDT

I don't think one should counter Myth 10 merely by saying it isn't true (although of course it isn't). I think that instead one should identify some of the ways in which Microsoft has struggled to catch up with the Free Software world, and in some cases has yet to do so.

  • Despite all the help which the Free Software community gave to Microsoft in the form of Internet specifications (a lot of the Internet RFCs are technical specifications), Microsoft has still not implemented all of these useful facilities correctly.
  • Indeed, if we are believe Microsoft's testimony to the European Union, Microsoft has not even learned how to write software specifications.
  • No Microsoft web browser has been even close to the state of the art for about 4 years.
  • Conflicting versions of libraries can cause problems to users of every operating system; but while most OSs (including Linux) at least have a solution (albeit not always simple for the users), "DLL hell" in Windows doesn't yet have a solution even in principle.
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Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 09:33 AM EDT
The FLOSS needs the credibility of non-profit consumers associations
successfully operating in many countries around the world; in order for FLOSS to

For example, in the USA (and Canada) there is the Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports magazines. In
the U.K. a similar non-profit publishes Which? magazines. And there are similar
non-profit organizations in Holland and many other countries.

What the above non-profit consumer associations mainly do, is to buy products
and services out of the market place and do precise scientific comparative
testing; and then apply a simply rating so that consumers can instantly
understand which products are better and why.

For example, there are FOUR million subscribers to the monthly Consumer Reports
magazine; but, even more important, thousands of local television stations in
the USA use the constant stream of information released directly by Consumer
Reports to the TV stations on a weekly basis.

The reason for the success of the above non-profits consumers associations is
the credibility; a credibility that arises from the fact that consumers realize
that ZERO money comes from corporations to carry out the extensive testing on
products. That in fact, corporations don’t even supply the products being
tested; the associations send out their own buyers into the market place and buy
from retailers.

The connection between FLOSS and Consumer Reports, would be relatively simple;
because Consumer Reports has been testing computers and some software for the
past 20 years. Even better, Consumer Reports have been assisting consumers in
dealing with the internet in general; check out

To date, FLOSS hasn’t even appeared on the radar at Consumer Reports (as far as
I can remember) and I feel that speaks volumes. Imagine all the office suites
being tested against each other and ranked; spread sheet against spreadsheet and
so on. Imagine all the “multimedia” software being tested against each other.
Imagine the interoperability of various formats being tested. And so on.

To me it’s a no-brainer. Shall we dance!

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Additional info for #7...
Authored by: TemporalBeing on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 09:45 AM EDT
Myth #7: Open source software only matters to programmers, since most users never look under the hood anyway.
Something else that would be good to mention - when small software companies start out and get a big contract, or a government contract, they are usually required to put their code in escrow with a company that can back them. I could be wrong, but I would think that the company holding the code would be charging a fee to do so, however large or small that fee may be. This is done so that if the company goes under, the purchasing entity may still be able to make fixes to the code by hiring another party, or doing it themselves. This is used to reduce the risk of the purchasing entity - risk that the small company may not be there to support its proprietary software.

As Open Source is already public, a company could be their own escrow holder if they so desire to have that kind of arrangement and thus be able to avoid having a third party involved as an escrow holder.

Any how...just a thought. More research would need to be done to show its viability, but it is a point nonetheless. (BTW, the big companies like IBM and gang - perhaps even Microsoft - do the escrow holding.)

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Myth 13: you have to run anti-virus on linux
Authored by: kh on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 09:59 AM EDT
Linux is not subject to viruses.

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10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered, by Carlo Daffara
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 10:23 AM EDT
Although I support the effort and goal, I'm not certain that the article has the
right approach.
It's like trying to defend against negative campaigning. You cant effectively
fight a negative message, especially when it's factually and blatantly false.

It's just my own opinion. I'm trying to be constructive. But I believe an
article using the same facts, but constructed as "10 facts you should know
about FOSS" would be more effective than 10 myths dispelled. Affirmative
comments are more effective than defensive ones. It's time FOSS stopped being on
the IS better at a lot of things after all.

Just my opinion.

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Which license is truly "viral" ??
Authored by: zman58 on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 10:47 AM EDT
The GPL provides a coherent and relatively straightforward licence. If you
understand it, then you understand the requirements for use of all software in a
GPL system--such as a GNU/Linux system. This provides a far more
"standardized" approach to licensing. It provides a clear
understanding of terms for the entire system.

On the contrary, consider the variances in proprietary software licenses in a
given proprietary system. There is no consistent proprietary license model. They
are all different and require careful consideration. Additional, any one of
these can change at any time--so most seem to state anyway. The user has
virtually no control.

Consider the variances in licensing terms across Microsoft products alone. Each
product carries a different license designed predominantly to protect the
financial interests of the vendor. There could be literally dozens of different
licenses in a given system. How do you grok that?

Consider the Microsoft EULA for a Windows OS desktop system. One good example of
the truly viral aspect of this proprietary license model can be found in a
restriction that includes requiring a user client license for any system that
attaches to a Windows system--even if it happens to be a Linux system that is
used to access it. Why would I have to purchase a Windows license, when one has
already been purchased for the system I am attaching to? The viral nature of the
Windows EULA forces me to be subject to it when I am using a non-Microsoft
system. THAT is viral!

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10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered, by Carlo Daffara
Authored by: talexb on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 11:27 AM EDT
    Myth #6: If I give away my software to the Open Source community, thousands of developers will suddenly start working for me for nothing.

OK, maybe not thousands, but there will almost certainly be folks who are interested in extending your code. My case in point is the terrific Perl module Mech, otherwise known as WWW::Mechanize. I have this module installed, and recently wanted to extend it, so I copied the code from the library directory to a development directory and modified the source code to add the feature that I wanted. I asked on IRC about the protocol for adding improvements to a module, and posted the information on Perlmonks, in this node.

If my patch is accepted by Andy Lester, I will have made a small but (I hope) useful contribution to the open source movement, and that's the kind of improvement that's virtually impossible in the world of closed source. And it's important to me to give back to the world of open source, since that's where I've worked for the past ten years.

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Do we truly need another list?
Authored by: mdarmistead on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 11:32 AM EDT
Google Searches:
Results 1 - 10 of about 53,000 for dispelling myths about linux.

Results 1 - 10 of about 47,500 for dispelling myths about "open

Results 1 - 10 of about 742,000 for debunking myths about linux.

Another list in the same vein is admirable, but pointless. I agree with the
concept of combating these myths; however, I feel, as others do, that our
community would be better serviced by a paper about the positives of open


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Volunteer programmers
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 11:37 AM EDT
A very important point is that most of the volunteer contributions come from
people who program for a living (or from college/grad students who soon will be
programming for a living).

So, most FLOSS code comes from professional coders, but not necessarily on a
paid basis.

(There are exceptions, of course. I'm one. I am a surgeon who codes as a
hobby. I had taken a lot of comp sci courses as an undergraduate before deciding
to go to medical school. I got back into programming about 20 years later when
my daughter needed to learn her multiplication tables. The best free program I
found (TuxMath) asked the questions too fast for her, so I taught myself enough
C to modify it for her use. One thing led to another, and for the last two
years I have been the lead programmer for the project. But I think my case is
the exception, rather than the rule).

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Myth 4 is disproved by Germany
Authored by: Peter Baker on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 12:10 PM EDT
Here's an exercise in logic for you:

(1) MS has made IP claims against Linux. Logically, a business owner would
assume there is some truth in them.


(2) MS has kept schtumm (quiet) about those same claims in the one country where
they would have to prove them - Germany.


IMHO, they have thus proven their claims have nil substance. If there was ANY
substance in it whatsoever, do you really think they would have hesitated to
push it further?

= P =

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Linux and its identity crisis
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 12:57 PM EDT
Linux and its identity crisis
By Don Reisinger, CNET
Monday, September 24 2007 10:10 AM,39044164,62032550,00.htm

If you've been following the current rift in the Linux community between Linus
Torvalds and his minions squaring off against Con Kolivas and the mainstream
Linux fanatics, you probably know that it's getting quite heated.

You also probably know that these two entirely different ideas could create
three possible paths Linux can take for the future: stay geeky and appeal to the
advanced tech guru in all of us; go mainstream and leave the advanced
functionality and reliable kernel behind to compete with Microsoft and Apple; or
face a "civil war" that could lead to total Linux annihilation.

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But, it's not made by Microosft.
Authored by: TheEvilTroll on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 01:14 PM EDT
Any software not made or sanctioned by Microsoft is evil and bad. It will cause your CPU to rust, and leak bits. Use at your own risk.

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footnote 3
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 01:30 PM EDT

Von Hippel's Democratizing Innovation is available online as a PDF as well as in a print edition. I know because I have a copy on my virtual desktop. I can't remember where I got it though.

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  • footnote 3 - Authored by: artp on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 05:40 PM EDT
10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered, by Carlo Daffara
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 01:51 PM EDT
PJ, groklaw has been excellent on SCO and some IT law. Good job and lots of
hard work there! Helped defend OSS community, deserve your awards.
I think you serve best by sticking with developing IT law, lots of work and
readers need that.
I mention this, becuase groklaw is starting to get watered down, there are tons
of OSS 'reporting' and 'movement' web sites.
There are some very important changes going on in OSS now. If you want to
report on OSS movement, lead the way, otherwise stay focused in this bewildering
land. These Myths time apply in 2000-2003, OSS world is really changing, some
for the bad. AIX or Linux at IBM, hum? Redhat EL or Fedora, Quality or
Side point, we all read too much today, what is in demand, is short, crisp, real
news and whats going on now...Use links to established works for intros, ask
your readers perhaps?
Perhaps a Groksource website is in order? A minilinks, like EFF, would be
Excellent work overall, hard to get everything done.

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Myth #2: support and competition
Authored by: vortex on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 04:46 PM EDT
  • There is no support: Most large scale project do have companies that provide paid-for support, in a way similar to that of proprietary software companies. The availability of the source code and the modification rights gives also the additional advantage that support can be obtained even for projects that are no longer active, in stark difference with proprietary software where no code escrow clause was included in the acquisition contract.

This fails to address:

  • The tacit myth that proprietary software (meaningfully) has support.
  • The vast advantage, with support for FLOSS, that there's a free market in its provision.

In terms of fighting the myths, it is worth addressin the former – proprietary software charges you for support, but what you get for your money is pretty much what FLOSS provides by default. You get updates / patches. You can report bugs, and you might even live long enough to see a fix for it (on both sides of the fence, there's variation in how quickly). Finding documentation or user guides is a mixed bag – whether proprietary or FLOSS – and you might be able to get it from third parties; but, with FLOSS, the supplier is more apt to link to the better third-parties, where the proprietor is more apt to view them as undermining the "support" revenue-stream. Contacting someone for a support dialog works differently – in the proprietary model, you 'phone a pay-per-minute line during office hours and spend many minutes listening to piped music before anyone listens to you (or tries to sell you something); with FLOSS you get a newsgroup or chat room which is active at all hours – but it's there either way.

The second point is even more important. If the supplier of the software doesn't regard your problem as important enough to be worth fixing, your options are really limited if you don't have access to the source code under a license that gives you the freedom to study and modify it, or that restricts you to doing those things only for yourself. A central plank of the GPL is that you have the freedom you need to be able to solve your problems even if the supplier isn't interested, or charges too much, or provides lousy support. The proprietary model leaves you at the mercy of the proprietor; if their support is expensive and/or lousy, there's no-one else you can turn to. Businesses can offer support; and no one of them can have a monopoly on provision of support, so there's competition in the support market, which greatly improves your chances of getting what you want at a price you can afford.

Finally - the end game.
Break out the pop-corn, sit back and watch the fire-works.

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#5: it's all about collaboration
Authored by: vortex on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 05:22 PM EDT

Reading #5, I didn't feel like the question had been answered, per se. The information provided does match with what I consider to be the answer, but it doesn't articulate that clearly. So I would suggest changing the opening, e.g. along these lines: replace

While FLOSS as a definition covers principally the licensing regime, by extension the "openness" of the code …


While FLOSS as a definition covers principally the licensing regime, FLOSS is actually all about collaboration – the licenses are merely a mechanism for promoting collaboration. FLOSS licenses ensure that all comers are free to collaborate; some licenses also endeavour to prevent any one party from hijacking the collaboration – but the very process of collaboration itself, and the FLOSS culture that's grown up around it, protects even the projects whose licenses don't. The "openness" of the code …

except that I'm not very good at keeping things pithy and brief, so you probably need to find someone who is to rearrange that somewhat ;^)

Finally - the end game.
Break out the pop-corn, sit back and watch the fire-works.

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Propaganda HOW-TO
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 05:57 PM EDT
Skimming through the article, I have to agree with other posters, that the
authors are a little naive in how to manage a propaganda campaign. So I'd like
to start a thread here explicitly for the purpose of anybody who wants to post
about how to disseminate effective propaganda or how to fight propaganda. I
wouldn't claim to be an expert, but I'll start off with some points others have
already made:

1) Readers interpret bolded, larger print information as being more important.
You must make your headers be the talking points you want your readers to
remember, as many readers will only skim those headers. In this case, making
the myths be your headers is 100% contrary to your purpose.

2) Defending yourself will always give the attacks validity in some readers
eyes. The more you protest your innocence, so to speak, the more some people
will be suspicious.

3) Your target audience with a piece like this are not logical, rational,
get-the-facts type of people. They are susceptible to FUD, which is an
emotional response. If you intend to use facts, they must support an emotional
appeal, not an analytical one.

4) The messenger is just as, or more important, than the message. Of course,
who makes good messengers depends on the audience. In this case, I'm not sure
your organization is in a position to buy off a spokes(wo)man to present the

5) Whoever gets to frame the debate pretty much wins. Debating something that's
inherently set up against you is a bad idea. You have to make an effort to
reframe the debate, to set its terms and parameters. Attempting to correct
misinformation is fighting on their terms.

6) Instead of just trying to give people "true" information, tell them
that they've been lied to, manipulated, suckered and used, knowingly and
callously by libelous and borderline fraudulent executives. Make it personal.
Make it emotional. And then use your facts to back it up. Then trumpet it to
the world with an appropriate messenger.

There's a reason that most politicians fight dirty. It's because so much of the
time, that's what works: their target audiences respond to emotional ploys and
not facts. A holier-than-thou, I'm-too-good-to-play-that-game attitude might
feel good but loses the election. So if you want to play this game, forget the
moral high ground and fight propaganda with better propaganda. You at least
have an incredible edge: the facts are on your side.

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Missing the biggest myth of all time!
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 06:17 PM EDT
the biggest myth of all is missing, where's the response to this:

myth #X: there's no one to sue when something goes wrong.

ok, guys, what of it?

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Myth #2: Proprietary is supported.
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 08:12 PM EDT
OEM installed software is not supported by the people that wrote the software
but the OEM. They hire people, give them a 3 week training progam and they then
provide support. If your problem will take more than 20 minutes to resolve then
they recommend a format reinstall (they claim to have studies that show this is
what the customer prefers). If you find a problem in your software the best
that they can do is give you a work around. They cannot write a patch for you,
unless is is a common documented problem they will recommend a format reinstall,
and hope another agent takes your callback. Eventually you will either stop
using the product, hire a local person to help or move to another platform.

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10 Myths About Open Source Software: A Marketing Perspective
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 09:43 PM EDT
I apologize for the lateness of this post. I needed a bit of time to think
about what you are doing. I'm a marketing professional. I've taught it and
I've done it. I can't say I fully understand what you want to accomplish, so
this is my take from a position of ignorance. Apologies for the length, but I'm
trying to do a lot in a small space.

You write "we are preparing a guide for helping small and medium-sized
enterprises on the adoption of free/libre/open source software (FLOSS)."

I'm not sure who the intended readers are. I'm guessing that the ultimate
target audience are management decision-makers, who determine the fate of a
proposed adoption of a FLOSS product. Since this could be any of a number of
possible product offerings, I've tried to keep things at a general level.

The tone and orientation of the guide should reflect its role in the (FLOSS)
adoption process. Here's a very quick and general look at such a process from
the point of view of the seller:

Creating awareness—generally done with some form of advertising or publicity.
Arousing interest—what's the quick, powerful answer to "what's in it for
me?" This would be the headline of an ad, the start of a presentation, the
hook in a sales call. Bear in mind that you want something from your audience
(and you should have a very clear idea of what that is). What's in it for them
is why they'll listen.
Passing preliminary evaluation. This is relatively cursory testing on whether
the promised benefit(s) are believable. Some call this a smell test.
Reinforcing interest—now you can begin to describe other benefits; they're your
answer to “Is that all?”
Providing further information. This is, generally, responding to active
inquiry, (For the buyer seeking information, this amounts to looking at the
package and reading what's on it in some cases. If you've done that, for
instance, in a store with a food product, you were at this stage.) If you went
to a website it's similar, except that you can't buy-it-take-it home unless it's
Identifying and overcoming objections. This is generally something for an
interactive selling situation, and it's what you seem to be trying to do with
your article: set up the objections and knock them down. This is fine if it's
intended for use by a sales person. If it's intended for your prospective
"purchaser" it needs reframing. Essentially it needs to serve as a
set of additional reasons to move to FLOSS product—both benefit claims and
support for those claims.

This is tricky territory. To illustrate, let's suppose that, generally
speaking, FLOSS offerings have better support than proprietary products. Simply
asserting that "FLOSS support is better" won't do. The assertion must
be done in a way that makes it "instantly" believable. Otherwise
you're hit with another objection. In this case, and purely for illustration,
you might say "Support for FLOSS products is available 24/7, with little or
no waiting" then add "most FLOSS products have more support personnel
in more places than Microsoft" and give some data to prove it. [Clearly
you would not say this unless it were true. I'm just illustrating.]

You've been told about the perils of negation--the brain seems to ignore
"not" and it's a good point. Another basic of psychology is loss
aversion. The American Declaration of Independence puts it well
"...accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to
suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the
forms to which they are accustomed." This may be the core of the FLOSS
marketing problem.

Marketers are well aware of loss aversion and will often point out that there's
a limited time only, while supplies last, sale ends soon. Be the first in your
neighborhood.... Notice that the potential of losing out can help offset the
potential loss from making a mistake.

Speaking of mistakes, we tend to believe that “50 million Frenchmen can't be
wrong.” If we believe that a product is popular, we tend to think that we can't
go very wrong if we make the same choice—provided that we think that our
situation or tastes are much like those of others. (A connoisseur of teas is
unlikely to think that the popular brands have much to recommend them.) A proxy
for popularity that we often use is weight of advertising or distribution. We
reasonably conclude that McDonald's is popular if we see a lot of McD's. If, as
a small business I keep hearing about a particular FLOSS product, I'm likely to
assume that there must be something there.

Ask for the order—this is the classic call to action. In the final analysis you
want prospects to do something. This is where you tell them what it is: sign
here, pick up the phone, come to our showroom at.....

Best of luck!

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agreed - don't refute myths
Authored by: pcrooker on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 11:03 PM EDT
When people come to your site, they won't have their list of myths looking for
answers. Just ignore the lot and present the answers to the myths in their own
right. Just positive statements as the others in this thread have stated. I
think there is little point in retaining this myth focus at all.

Also, put in the silly corporate jargon that marketers use, at least as
headings, eg "Open Source is Enterprise ready", "Build you
business with flexible, innovative tools", "Budget-friendly
software", "The open source community vibrates alot, er is
vibrant." Just kidding, but you'll get the idea.

Certainly the more serious, detailed stuff can be put somewhere, but make sure
you are interesting and relevant for this group. Once you get something up, ask
them. And do what they say.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The other way around: 10 Facts About FLOSS
Authored by: hagge on Tuesday, September 25 2007 @ 04:56 AM EDT
I attend to agree that stating the (negative) myths in bold once again with this
list may be counterproductive in the end. On the other hand we need some precise
answers for those people who have just exactly these concerns and questions.

So how about this? Just invert the headlines to make them positive, but rebut
the myths in the explanation as before. You still have to sense the myth in the
headline, even as it is phrased somewhat differently now. Here is my

Fact 1: FLOSS is way beyond a simple Linux vs. Windows thing
Fact 2: FLOSS is reliable and well supported
Fact 3: Many big companies use FLOSS
Fact 4: Open Source software honors intellectual properties
Fact 5: Open Source software is more than just licenses
Fact 6: (I would leave that out at all; put one of the other more important
ideas from this discussion here)
Fact 7: Open Source software matters to everyone, not just programmers
Fact 8: You can make money with Free Software
Fact 9: Open Source is an attitude, not just one way of writing software
Fact 10: Open Source fosters innovation and goes new ways

I think with these headlines, we could also include more of the ideas and
thoughts mentioned here in the discussion.


[ Reply to This | # ]

10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered, by Carlo Daffara
Authored by: mlwmohawk on Tuesday, September 25 2007 @ 08:42 AM EDT
I have to agree with the others, refuting accusations and FUD is only a way to
re-enforce FUD.

According to Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently was able to convince people he was a
psychic by a set of strategically deployed denials. It is fiction, but it points
out that it is often the case that if you deny something, you merely propagate
that which you are denying.

You make excellent points, but they could be made as "little know facts
about Free Software." People like things like "little known
facts" because it sounds like they are being let in on a secret, and if
they think it is a secret, they give it more weight than a denial.

[ Reply to This | # ]

78% Of All USA Businesses AND 60% of All European Businesses Are One Person Businesses (OPEs)
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, September 25 2007 @ 10:12 AM EDT
Perhaps folks here don’t know how pervasive "One Person Businesses"
are in the USA and Europe. First of the all, in the USA, 78% of all businesses
are One Person Businesses!

The U.S. Census has new statistics out — and they show that the numbers of
single-person businesses are booming. There are now over 20 million such
businesses, based on the most recently available data as of 2005.

To be exact, the United States has 20,392,068 single-person businesses. In the
space of three years, 2.7 million more people became the owner of a “business of

These single-person businesses account for 78% of ALL U.S. businesses. You know
those millions of small businesses that everyone is always talking about? Well,
the majority of them fall into this category of single-person business.

When it comes to Europe, 60% of all businesses are One Person Businesses!

Around 60% of European businesses are “one-person-enterprises” (OPEs), i.e.
enterprises that employ no personnel. These 15 million single self-employed
entrepreneurs constitute more than 8% of total employment. They are primarily
active in crafts, personal and business services, trade and transport,
construction and agriculture.

The following facts and figures are results from an analysis conducted by the
European Commission Enterprise and Industry Directorate General, which included
a Eurobarometer survey among 4,000 OPEs in 19 countries and a group of national
experts. The aim was to identify reasons why OPEs do not recruit in order to
come up with recommendations as to how conditions could be improved to make
recruitment easier.

What the two above quotes means is that there is a potential of 35 MILLION
people/businesses, to switch to FLOSS (plus a percentage of the contractors who
will switch because of "word of mouth"). You likely have heard of the
notion of the 'TIPPING POINT", and it would be interesting to see what
would happen after 35 million USERS switched to FLOSS.

One Person and Family businesses survive by being extremely conservative on how
they spend their money. And if anyone, running a one person knew about FLOSS (or
FOSS); they would adopt it immediately! Why? Because a “penny saved is a penny
earned”! Of course anyone running a One Person or family business would want to
know that FLOSS software was “good”. And that’s where the various consumer
associations come into the picture - doing comparative tests, comparing FLOSS to
NON- FLOSS software.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Food for thought...
Authored by: hamstring on Tuesday, September 25 2007 @ 11:13 AM EDT
IT support companies have not yet found a good method for making revenue from
FLOSS. This is probably the single biggest hold back to adoption of FLOSS.

Since many FLOSS programs now run by companies used to be considered
"Unix", there was simply a migration of practice and knowledge from
platform to platform. A HP-UX administrator competent with Sendmail and Apache
has little adaptation time going to Linux. An IT support company providing
Apache and Sendmail had a fixed cost for their HP-UX system running those
applications. It is a pretty much a straight translation moving to Linux for
both the company and technical people.

Now we come into the problem for the IT company. Currently, a company sells a
seat of M$ Office for X dollars a year. The support company makes a fixed
percentage of that cost. The model generally will generate enough revenue for
profits and the cost of paying someone to install it, and re-install when it

How can an IT company make profit selling OpenOffice?

It is very easy to hide profits in mark ups in proprietary software, and most IT
support companies have relied on this structure for income for a long time. New
models have to be built which can justify the cost for the Admin time now, that
were hidden previously from customers.

Currently, if you told a customer that you were going to charge them $60.00 a
seat anually to run OpenOffice, they would think you are crazy. "But that
software is free" is generally the thoughts from a customer. The customer
does not realize that the IT companies previously made that same $60.00 from
them per seat of M$ office, and maybe more if the rebate cycle was good or M$
had incentive programs.

IT providers loose money on software required for Windows, but Not Linux. Linux
does not charge money for each user attaching to a server, while M$ does. This
translates to lost revenues for IT providers. Additionally, AV software,
registry fixers, remote access services, etc.. all get lost when moving to
FLOSS. Yes, computers become much cheaper for the end user.. but IT providers
still need to support them.

In an FLOSS world everything support does shows as overhead.

This is not an easy problem to solve.

# echo "Mjdsptpgu Svdlt" | tr [b-z] [a-y]
# IANAL and do not like Monopoly

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10 Myths About Open Source Software Answered, by Carlo Daffara
Authored by: vinea_mayhem on Wednesday, September 26 2007 @ 11:41 AM EDT's a useful tidbit that you can add:

"Real Time Linux is being used to support the US Navy's Aegis system."

That's a little wishy washy sounding but I think it is because RedHawk Linux is
not actually part of the weapon system but being used in some test and
simulation equipment or something. You can probably contact the Concurrent guys
to get details on Aegis Open Architecture and how Linux plays in that.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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