The Circus Midget and the Fossilized Dinosaur Turd
"What up with that software industry?"

A Treatise on Free Software Development.

With apologies to Eric S. Raymond.

By Martin Hock (


Copyright 1998. This is a parody. It is completely fictitious. I assume no liability. Please don't hurt me.
Yes, there's an actual point to this.

I went down to the Ethnic Quarter of the Montanan "city" I live in today, which normally consists of approximately three black people. Today, however, was different. Not only were there the normal three black people, but there were a couple of weird Europeans who had apparently gotten lost. On my way into the Cheap Legal Drugs Mart, I happened to overhear their conversation, which went approximately as follows:
"You looka at the state ofa the software industry today, my frien, anda what do you see? You see a biga ball of the shit. That'sa what you see."
The other guy didn't say anything, probably because he was too busy staring at a woman across the street. Still, it got me thinking. What up with that software industry, anyway?

As I went home that night, I couldn't shake the image of the slobbering man from my mind. While I watched for the umpteenth time the Juiceman Juicer infomercial formed by a beam of electrons refreshing half the screen 60 times a second, I suddenly realized that I could make money off this concept if I went around the country making speeches about what up with that software industry. I looked at the room around me. Filled with empty beer bottles and crinkled pornography magazines dating back to the late 1970's, I realized that sinking all of my money into the simple pleasures in life brought me all the satisfaction that I ever needed.

Oh, right, the software part. Yeah, anyway, I thought back to when I was a little kid and how I used to love the circus. I didn't like the lions, or the stupid gymnasts, or the evil foul-smelling clowns. What I liked were the freaks. They helped remind me that there were people in the world who were even more pathetic than myself. I especially liked the midget. His bulging little eyes used to follow me around my room, his stained leotard a constant reminder to the audience that bladder control is essential to functioning as a part of society.

I wondered what that little man got paid. Probably sub-minimum wage. My parents used to feel guilty when they walked by him. He had a little tattered hat next to him with a small card taped in front that simply stated, "Donations." It was always empty, except for a couple of pennies. "The horrible way that circus treats that poor man," my mother always said. "If he didn't like it, he'd work somewhere else," my father would respond gruffly, his mono-brow dipped downward in the middle. They never put anything in the hat.

Other days, we used to go to the museum. There were many things to look at when we went there, but the ones I most liked to observe were the dinosaurs. They were so huge and fierce. They reminded me that there were forces in life stronger even than parents. The big, bony structures didn't really tell me much, though. What I really liked to look at were the turds. They were these gigantic, ellipsoid masses. I could almost touch them except for a thin pane of Plexiglas. The small brass plate called it "excrement" or "feces" but I knew better; it was a turd, nothing less. I would dream about going in there at night, shattering the barrier, and taking the mass home with me. It wasn't scatological or anything. What I really wanted to do was drop it on a car from the overpass. Those cinder blocks did hardly any damage on the hardtops and hitting the windshield was nearly impossible from such an angle.

The midget was a lot like free software. True, getting into the carnival wasn't free, so I guess that's like the hardware. But you could look at the midget all you liked. You could take pictures of the midget and bring them home. He modified himself sometimes; you'd see a new stain every time the carnival came in town. He'd get a little older, a little uglier. Back when I was a kid it was really cool, but if I went there today to see the midget, I wouldn't even care. There are better things to do with one's afternoon than to go look at a midget.

The fossilized dinosaur turd was a lot like commercial software. It was big and robust. It was well supported by a velveteen cushion. It even had a nice layer of security instated by the Plexiglas. I could have stolen it, but there would be potential repercussions. I know that I could have taken the midget with me, but what would be the point? Also, the turd has a lot of potential uses. You could drop it on a car, a bus, or even a pedestrian. That's what I call adaptive. I could have modified the midget by feeding him lead shot over a course of several weeks, but this would have been time consuming. Why waste your time when the turd is already there, ready for use?

So that's what I have to say about software development. You wanna give me my money now? Oh, I suppose you'd expect a little more than that for ten grand. All right, I'll continue.

Look at the midget. It is feeble and weak compared to the dinosaur turd. It is the undiscovered, the lost. There was no banner trumpeting the arrival of the midget in town. However, it is alive. The dinosaur turd, though famous and strong, is dead. It has little hope for improvement, as the dinosaur that laid it is long extinct. Young dinosaurs may have frolicked in the field of turds, but a thick dust cloud ended all hopes of survival. A dust cloud, you might notice, made up of thousands of tiny particles, all working in unison. The midget stands alone, hoping for support, but the dust particles, all driven by the jurassic breeze, manage to topple even the largest dinosaur. Only the small, well-protected creatures remain.

So what of the dust? Ah, it is the proletariat rebellion, waiting to happen, to conquer the bourgeois beast! It is inevitable, but we can bring it on ourselves if we work hard enough. We must employ thousands of workers at equal wages to create a giant fan fit for the ages. Then, we make a solar-powered generator, which allows for the falling away of the state since we won't have to turn the crank ourselves. Then, we just sit back and relax as the winds blow the dust and blissful anarchy sets in.

But what of the tiny creatures? Ah, these are the seeds of a new generation! These will grow up one day to form factions, which can only be prevented from taking over the government if we implement plenty of checks and balances...

Oh, I'm done now? I get the check already? But I have another nine and a half hours...