With Linux vs. Because of Linux

I'm looking to compare how much money is made with Linux, vs. how much is made because of it. While I know it'll be hard to find the former and impossible to determine the latter, I think comparing the two will still be revealing.

What I'm looking to do is unpack the a distinction Eric Raymond began making many years ago, between sale value and its use value. The number that matters most, of course, is the latter. Even if it's not entirely measurable, I'd like to see some ideas about getting close.

Got some?


Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


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I enjoyed the quote from the

FredR's picture

I enjoyed the quote from the most recent issue:

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is the inability to understand the exponential function." -- Albert A. Bartlett

And to build on it, I would pose the question: Would you do something small, and insignificant, if the direct results were minor but there were massive exponential side effects?

-- FLR or flrichar is a superfan of Linux Journal, and goofs around in the LJ IRC Channel

Econometric Model

Anonymous's picture

When you want to measure the economic value of something that seems to be intangible, you try to describe the situation with an econometric model. That model has variables that describe different components such as a+b+c= value. The variables may vary like 2a+4b(cubed)+the square root of c = value.

Here is the wiki link for econometrics

Doc, do you know anybody at Harvard that is in the economics department?

This is a complex question. Econometrics is the tool for the job.


Doc Searls's picture

Thanks! Good advice. Appreciated.

I'm sure I'm not more than 2 degrees from somebody at Harvard or MIT who knows.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

Two degrees plus or minus

Anonymous's picture


I Googled Mit and Harvard for econometrics and the Harvard Economics Department has two professors that specialize in econometrics.

Susan Athey

Gary Chamberlain

You will have to describe all the factors that relate to Linux for each of your questions to build these models. I would dedicate a page to each to build your list and get as much input from the Linux community as you can to describe these questions. If a major factor is left out, the model will be incorrect.

Think of it in terms of describing a photograph or image.

blind to abundance

marekj's picture

We are blind to abundance.
My 12 year old would say 'you mean there was no internet when you were 12?'
Infrastructure is what we take for granted and so we are blind to it. One would have to experience lack of infrastructure to be present to the 'loss' that is in abundance when 'present'. In this context the 'loss' we would experience would be its 'use value' and not necessarily 'sale value'. The 'loss' experienced is the loss of 'value' that is created 'because' of that the abundance of infrastructure and not the infrastructure itself.

And it is necessary for us to be blind to our infrastructure sometimes, it frees us to create stuff without managing the infrastructure. My 2 year old does not manage the 'infrastructure' of her current living conditions. It is our job as parents to feed her and provide her a safe place to sleep. Our 2 year old then can dance and laugh and be a child and create memories of happy childhood (I hope) because she 'trusts' the 'infrustructure' we as parents provide. (I think mother nature arranged this kind of relationship of abundance).