It was true before coronavirus and the black lives matter protests, and it’s definitely true now.

A dark cross with an AR-15 strapped to its side
A dark cross with an AR-15 strapped to its side
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition

A toxic mixture of Evangelical and Charismatic protestants, conservative Catholics, and conservative authoritarian Jews (from here on I’ll refer to them as “evangelicals” and “evangelical-adjacent”) have banded together to form an authoritarian death cult with an insatiable thirst for power and the belief that might makes right in all circumstances. They don’t listen to reason. They’re not interested in your livelihood, unless you’re one of them. They are not willing to compromise or be reasonable. They are interested only in building a dystopian utopia — a fantasy that ends, even according to them, in a glorious destruction of humanity, a…


(3rd in a series. Miss Part 1 or Part 2?)

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Atom text editor window viewing source code

Source code as derivatives market

(I know, I know — this doesn’t *exactly* meet the definition of a derivatives market as understood by Wall Street, but work with me here)

Now that I’ve told you how much we overvalue source code, I’m now going to argue that software does have inherent value. LOL Ok, fine — I admit it. Source code does have value. It’s just not in the way that you think.

Obviously, you have to build on something, and source code — and those who write it — lay the foundation, and the…


(2nd in a series. Read Part 1 and Part 3)

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Ramifications of Inflated Value of Source Code

Now that I’ve established that source code is overvalued, what impact does this have on the tech world?

  1. Tech Bros

Ok, so what has this dastardly turn of events done to the tech industry? It has led to a proliferation of insufferable tech bros who lecture us about free markets and other techno-libertarian hobby horses. Some of these are reasonably good (THC legalization) and some not so much (Buy Bitcoin!) It’s perhaps a little too tidy of an argument to blame one phenomenon on a single source, so it’s probably…


Exploding Myths

(1st in a series. Read Part 2 and Part 3)

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Atom text editor with source code window

So much of what “everybody knows” turns out not to be quite correct at all. Conventional wisdom, while allowing large groups of people to come to a general agreement on complex topics, invariably misses a few things, sometimes a few several big things. The tech world is no stranger to this phenomenon, and neither is the world of open source collaboration. But first, I’ll start with an allegory not based on the tech industry.

If you’ve seen the movie “The Big Short” you know that markets aren’t omniscient…


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John Mark Walker

(This was originally published on January 12, 2006, on O’Reilly Media’s “OnLAMP.com” site, which has been decommissioned. I’m republishing it to gain a new audience, and because I got many things right. If you want to read what amounts to a sequel, see “Why Open Source Failed”.)

Conventional wisdom says that powerful individuals drive open source by working against the grain to institute a methodology of sharing that would balance the power between software vendors and users.

While this makes for an entertaining narrative, there is quantitative evidence to the contrary. The reality is that placing too much emphasis on…


Don’t Let the Tail Wag the Dog

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Free Software! Get your Free Software! Super cheap!

In recent months, the debate on so-called “open source business models” has begun to rage once again, thanks to recent moves from Mongo, Redis Labs, and Confluent. Taken individually, each situation presents unique characteristics that warrant further analysis without jumping to conclusions about each entity. Taken together, however, the sum total of their individual acts presents a clear trend: movement by companies that build products on open source software towards a more proprietary approach. While each case is different, they have in essence declared that an open source approach is inadequate for generating enough revenue to yield return on investment…


Following up on “Why Open Source Failed

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Open Source Man Saves the Day

After I enumerated all the ways that open source has aided and abetted our current dystopian reality by helping to redistribute wealth upwards, I’m now going to identify ways we can arrest this corrosive element of high tech and hopefully become part of a solution rather than a continuation of the problem. Since I painted the problems inherent in open source ecosystems as a microcosm of the rest of the world, I’ll do the same with the solutions. …


Thoughts for my Red Hat Friends

Dear Hatters,

Despite my better judgment, I’ve decided to post this letter outside of the Medium partner program, which means that you, dear Hatter, get to take advantage of my brain, free of charge. This seems appropriate, given that the Twitterati think your entire company subsists on the free labor of others <cymbal crash>.

So you’ve been acquired. If you’re lucky enough to have stock, and I know several of you who were, then congratulations! Enjoy your bump in pay and remember to sell, sell, sell as soon as humanly possible! If you’re one…


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Money” by Andrew Magill CC-BY

(If you like this essay, you may be interested in my follow-up, “Save Open Source, Save the World”)

2018 is the 20th anniversary of the term “open source”, and a good number of articles have been written and conference talks given about this landmark year, the vast majority of which have been of the self-congratulatory, navel gazing type. Unfortunately, open source proponents seem unable or unwilling to tread into reflective contemplation about the actual impact open source has had on society at large, resulting in a rather large blind spot. I’m afraid, dear reader, that the world has left it…


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Stepping Stones” by oatsy40 CC-BY 2.0

Much has been said recently about privilege and, specifically, white male privilege. How it feeds into the success of many people, especially those who benefit from institutions that privilege whiteness, maleness, and more specifically, maleness that falls within the strict bounds of gender and sexuality norms. It has been said that it’s impossible to separate the role of privilege from one’s success. That they are tightly coupled, and to suggest that one can have success without acknowledging the role of social privilege is highly disingenuous and tantamount to thievery. In other words, check your privilege. …

John Mark

Recovering evangelical. Long essays on politics, society, tech, and the intersection thereof.

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