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In the earlier Warpicity session a participant, Eric Henshaw, proposed the establishment
of an escrow account into which participating OS/2 users could deposit $20 each,
using this as a barometer to determine both the pro-active interest and size of
the OS/2 community. VOICE has considered doing so, possibly co-sponsoring with one
or more of the established OS/2 user groups like POSSI or SCOUG.
If eventually undertaken, we have at least two possible outcomes. Within a set,
participant-defined interval we will either have the number (and the funding) to
continue or we will not. In either instance we need an agreement beforehand relative
to the length of the interval, the amount of the contribution, and other participant-determined
rules, terms, and conditions. All necessary operational considerations to both assure
and protect the participants.
Before going further we need to be clear on one important point. While the organization
is a part of and included within the Warpicity Proposal, any resulting organization
does not have to include any part of Warpicity. The Warpicity Proposal had three
parts: an organization, a staffing, and a methodology. At its core and most important
part lay the organization. The other parts represented only one of several possible
scenarios once a financially viable and responsive organization was in place. We
could, for example, decide to fund the writing of device drivers, to aid a vendor
in porting an application, or any number of projects deemed useful by the participants.
So think then in terms of an organization and what it would need to insure your
participation. That is the subject of the session on the 28th.
Also understand that many of the people in leadership positions within our community
don't believe that we have what it takes to do this on our own. They are not so
pessimistic as they are mindful (and interpretive) of the history of our community.
They are particularly skeptical of our willingness to shift from a free to a fee
support basis. In short they have their doubts that we as a community have any viable
capacity to treat our software investments in a business-like manner.
More often than not they hold three negative judgments about the community in
general. One, we are too diverse. Two, we are too fragmented, And, three, we are
given to internal bickering. Whereas we might look at these positively as signs
of a healthy community, the more common view is that they prevent us from achieving
unity. In their view then we are incapable of self-direction and must therefore
forego leading ourselves. This leads us then depend upon others without these deficiencies
to form and direct organizations in which we join as followers.
The fact is that I have not met any of these people that I did not personally
like. The problem I have is that this rings of a class distinction, something which
increases diversity, fragmentation, and internal bickering. It would seem that we
share a specific as well as a generic practice in this. We allow all this to get
in the way of that which we agree on: the desire to protect our existing OS/2 investment
now and into the future. We have no diversity, fragmentation, or bickering on that
Let's adopt another more objective, factual perspective on another point. IBM
has never dropped support for OS/2. IBM continues to accept error reports and incorporating
fixes and enhancements in a regular manner, almost on a quarterly basis, as fixpacks.
IBM ceased marketing OS/2 where it did not offer a direct sales force. IBM never
sold OS/2 directly, in the traditional sense of IBM selling, to the SOHO marketplace,
leaving that up to the retail channels. Even though it withdrew marketing OS/2 through
the retail channels, it never withdrew OS/2 from those channels.
No one reading this should have any doubts that with respect to OS/2 and the
IBM PC, IBM found itself in a losing battle to the tune of some hundreds of millions
of dollars annually. It does not make any difference whether you are a 70 billion
dollar business or not, a hundred million (or more) dollars is a lot of money. More
money than any amount suggested in any discussion of being able to raise within
a user organization. Certainly Microsoft was a contributing factor, increasing the
per unit cost of the IBM PC, reducing the total number of sales, and in turn reducing
the amount available for development and support of OS/2.
So IBM, knowing full well that it faced years of continued losses, made a business
decision to institute damage control, to significantly reduce those losses. It was
a business decision that any business, including you and I, giving the same set
of facts would have made. It was a business decision. It was one that IBM made on
its own, alone. Therein, you see, lies the crux of the matter and essentially the
theme of this article.
Why was IBM alone in making this decision? You cannot fault someone for choosing
to do something, however distasteful, when he does not have a choice. The answer
is simple: we, the OS/2-using community, had left it to IBM alone. We did not have
a means of being a part of any business decision. In a completely passive manner
we had voted not to be in such a position. We, not merely ISVs, were not then or
now an IBM business partner. We have no representation with IBM. We have no voice.
We have nothing that IBM can point to and say speaks for us.
No amount of interviews with IBM management and executives, no number of invited
IBM speakers, no intimate hobnobbing and communications with the masses of IBMers
supportive of OS/2 constitutes a business. They may be fun, but they are not a business.
They do not get the recipients recognized as such.
Currently Brad Wardell and Stardock Systems are negotiating with IBM to release
under the Stardock label a new e-business OS/2 client. Stardock is a recognized
business. IBM will sit down with any business in a position to propose a legitimate
business deal. It's business to business. Peer to peer without concern of the size
of one relative to the other. Regardless of the success or failure of the negotiations
they provide evidence that IBM will come to the table.
Brad Wardell in the latest Stardock newsletter has flat out stated that subscription(fee)-based
support is a certainty, the wave as it were of the future of software support. Stardock
has already begun a model of this subscription-based support with users of their
WindowBlinds product, still in beta testing. That particular annual fee for all
the software services included is $49. It's a business man looking at his cost structure
making a business decision.
In an earlier VOICE speakup session guesting Bard Wardell of Stardock and Tim
Sipples of IBM which discussed the current negotiations and some of the thinking
regarding the OS/2 client when available, Brad mentioned the need to form with the
using community a support infrastructure. The basic model he had in mind was close
to that of the Linux community in that it had a dependence upon volunteer effort.
Even at that Brad suggested that he might reinvest some of the income from client
sales to help fund some of the activities of the infrastructure.
However, he is not leaving that infrastructure to chance. He intends to form
and operate it with professionals while inviting the community to join under that
leadership. I had to admit to him that experience says that he has a higher probability
of success doing it his way than we have in what I have proposed.
Some years ago a cartoonist Walt Kelly amused us greatly with a strip called
Pogo Possum. Like Dilbert of today Pogo had this way of hitting a nerve. One of
his famous remarks which sticks in my mind was, "We have met the enemy and
he is us." I would add to that, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
Just to keep within the rule of three toss in, "The Lord helps those who help
The point is whether we as a using community choose to remain in a react mode,
defenseless to protect our interest, or whether we choose to become pro-active in
support and protection of our interests. Moreover whether or not we will determine
the nature and direction of those interests. We can choose to do so. Nothing other
than our own volition or lack of it can stop us from doing so. Nothing. It is our
choice. It may not be your choice or mine, but together it is ours. In unity there
is strength. We have not yet demonstrated our strength.
The Warpicity Proposal for an organization offered it on an annual fee basis
(subscription). It further suggested the membership act as a board of the whole,
eliminating any representatives making decisions for it. Thus a direct democracy
of one member, one vote regardless of the size of any member. In that manner every
vote counts, win or lose.
To operate as a board of the whole means that every member has equal access to
the status, the current state, of the organization. That means that all information
is public, that any information not public is not allowed in any discussion, cannot
even be hinted. Full disclosure.
It's possible to use a website which reflects at any moment the current state
of the business to any detail within it. It is also possible to have a "running"
vote mechanism in which members can vacillate up until the time they as a whole
determine to make it count as part of a decision. This says that you set up a system
with an integrated data repository for all the information of the business accessible
by any member in any manner.
With that I think I have provided enough food for thought and discussion for
the speakup. May it prove fruitful for all of us.