FOSS: First Generation is Costly

There is so much new stuff being brought out right now, everything from Google Wave to some very interesting ubunet ubuntu karmic integrations.

What is interesting is how costly the first iteration of any idea is, it seems that before an idea is really solid or cohesive you need to spend a lot of time just thinking about what your trying to achieve. This includes a lot of pondering, staring into blank spaces and coding stuff that may never be used, over and over again.

Once you’ve got the idea nailed down, seemingly any programmer and her dog can recreate it with a fraction of the effort and even start evolving it using ideas from other spaces. Perhaps it’s similar to how some artists can take other people’s works and redraw them, but would always claim never to be able to draw.

It’s interesting because we may have to try and work out the economics of “first to market” projects, ideas and what essentially boils down to software research. Currently it’s kind of expected that projects that are first to market will be able to recoup their costs from that advantage, selling licenses and such.

But this is FOSS not proprietary closed source, it’s possible but not really very efficient to sell GPL licenses. So exactly how are we going to fund software research and unique projects that may have a high failure rate? Can we expect normal users to invest time and money into these kinds of projects using previously proposed methods for funding features and bug fixes? Would that really work if we knew it was very risky and the users are even less likely to understand what the result is really going to deliver?

Or perhaps it’s more likely that the developers will work for free on new ideas with the hope that one day people will be paying them to keep them active as successful projects. It seems like an enormous investment for volunteers, but they would be best placed to recoup from their experience.

Perhaps it’s best to leave this kind of thing to Universities like other industries do? Get government subsidised labour to do all the ground work and then be ready to jump into the successful projects later on, perhaps this might even get the students jobs later on based on their work.

An alternative thought might be to dismiss any kind of dedicated research and be contented with purely evolutionary work. No need to test new ideas or research user interaction, just follow user demands and what ever else is currently in the market.

I don’t really have any answers, I just figured I’d throw this out there. Maybe all of the above works, I obviously want lots of new cool stuff in Ubuntu.