Most of the feedback users send to us privately is good, but not all of it. We do get some negative feedback every now and then, though we try not to get too worked up about it. In a way negative feedback is good too, because at least a user cared enough to bother to shed light on an issue that was troubling them. We can (and do) resolve most issues users commonly report to us by making technical fixes to TurnKey, but sometimes users complain about things we can't change. Except perhaps to try and explain our thinking better.
For example, shortly after we came out with a TKLBAM related announcement, one user sent us a private e-mail with the following complaint:
TKLBAM is not anything I would be interested in ever. I do not want to jump to conclusions as I love the work you are doing but are you somehow sponsored by Amazon? I have no desire to use another company's cloud.
I hope you move onto other things soon and move away from what at least to me seems like the end of your open source days and moving to making money.
I responded as follows:
Thanks for your feedback. We're not currently sponsored by Amazon, though it would be nice if we were!
We started with support for Amazon Web Services because they're the leading public cloud vendor and have the richest API. In the future we'd like to support other public clouds and eventually private clouds as well.
Also, you don't have to use Amazon if you don't want to. If you read the FAQ carefully you'll notice that TKLBAM works with any storage target you want (e.g., filesystem, NFS, rsync, SSH, etc.). It's just a bit more difficult to use without the cloud infrastructure.
I can understand how some people aren't too enthusiastic about the whole cloud concept. I personally don't think we should view the cloud as the end-all solution for all computing woes, but rather as another tool in our belt. A tool with pros and cons. Like any other.
What really puzzled me was that it sounded like our user was inherently hostile to the notion that an open source project could have any sources of revenue to sustain it at all, as if business and open source were two opposing sides in a zero-sum equation.
But most open source projects are funded by providing various commercial services (e.g., support, training, customization) to large companies. That's where the money is. Most large companies wouldn't touch a solution that wasn't commercially backed somehow. They just don't get how that could work.
So I have a hard time imagining any individual, regardless of political bent, being ideologically opposed to the funding of open source software by for-profit entities. It makes about as much sense to me as being opposed to business funding of common-good causes such as environmental protection.
In my opinion, this sort of "us vs them" thinking is so out of touch with reality it's not even wrong.
To the best of my knowledge there's nothing inherent about open source that makes it incompatible with business. Companies such as RedHat, Canonical are good examples of how you can make it work. There are many others.
We've come a long way since Eric Raymond explained how open source works to the business world in the Cathedral and the Bazaar. Today most open source code is written by developers who write open source software for a living. That implies employers who view open source development as financially sustainable. It's a win-win situation, not a zero-sum game.
The end result is more people working on open source full-time, more open source software, and a richer ecosystem. It's not a pie that needs to be divided, but a tide of technological wealth that lifts all boats. How can this be a bad thing? Even Richard Stallman the Free Software Foundation, free software purists, encourage people to earn a living from open source software:
Many people believe that the spirit of the GNU Project is that you should not charge money for distributing copies of software, or that you should charge as little as possible — just enough to cover the cost. This is a misunderstanding.
Actually, we encourage people who redistribute free software to charge as much as they wish or can. If this seems surprising to you, please read on.
The word “free” has two legitimate general meanings; it can refer either to freedom or to price. When we speak of “free software”, we're talking about freedom, not price. (Think of “free speech”, not “free beer”.) Specifically, it means that a user is free to run the program, change the program, and redistribute the program with or without changes.
That's reasonable enough. Open source developers need to pay rent and buy groceries too after all.
My personal take on this is that it can be highly beneficial, especially for large open source projects to have some kind of business model. Otherwise there is a strict limit to how much resources you can put in. Having a way to pay the bills is a good way to ensure long term sustainability.
The tricky part is finding just the right balance between commercial interests and open source ideals. Many projects that give commercial open source software a bad name fail to find the right balance and lose the community's trust as a result. In the long term this can be fatal because engaging the community is essential for a successful open source project. Otherwise you get all of the disadvantages of proprietary software (e.g., no outside contributors) with none of the advantages (e.g., various "IP" protections).