Subject: Re: Barriers to Lisp acceptance - a "survey" question
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1999/03/05
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Francois-Rene Rideau <fare@ZhengHe.augustin.thierry>
| AFAIK, I don't preach doomsday. Actually, there *cannot* be a doomsday,
| since the end of all LISP vendors are such would only mean that all
| (remaining) LISP are free, which would be regeneration day!

  I think you just made anybody interested in providing professional Common
  Lisp systems anxious and less willing to help you reach your goals,
  because your goals clearly include the elimination of a livelihood for
  Common Lisp vendors.  this is not smart of you.  in fact, it may cause
  what source access we have today to be retracted because people like you
  are likely to steal it and violate license agreements as you see fit.

| That there would be a tall wall between the lucky ones who can access
| LISP for their work, and those who mostly can't.

  the existence of all life forms is based on whether they can get what
  they need to thrive and survive.  there is nothing in the human condition
  that invalidates this.  "have vs have not" is a fact of life as such, and
  as unchangeable as the earth orbiting the sun.  humans, however, tend to
  worry about it and want to change it, and this is perhaps good for some
  of us, but we can't get rid of the fundamental principle of life: there
  will _always_ be a "tall wall" between the "lucky" ones and the rest.

  moreover, "luck" is not what you think it is.  success is exploiting
  timing.  luck is _only_ timing.  luck is like winning the lottery.
  success is seeing and taking advantage of any break you can get.  that
  both have to do with timing is a mere coincidence of timing (luck :).

  however, what you are doing is actually _depriving_ people of what they
  need to thrive and survive: if writing something in Common Lisp means it
  can only be given away, people with financial responsibilities will flee
  in panic as all they can see is non-recoverable expenses, and everybody
  _but_ the people who do the real work will be rewarded, in much worse
  ways than "capitalists" are supposed to exploit "workers" today.

  in my view, Common Lisp provides _values_ that far exceed what other
  languages do, but I fully realize that people won't understand this until
  they have actually experienced the problems that it solves for them.
  now, what's _really_ sad is that those who want free Common Lisp systems
  have _not_ seen what the commercial systems provide in just this way, and
  they will go on to make free Common Lisp systems that just _don't_ offer
  the serious advantages that solid Common Lisp systems do that people
  can't _afford_ to provide for free.

| That's the disappearance in irrelevance that I fear.

  one man's niche market is another man's irrelevance.

| This would be (and this actually is) an enormous waste or human
| resources: people (LISPers and non-LISPers) who do things independently,
| and ever restart from scratch, instead of building on each other's code.

  geez.  welcome to planet earth.

| So much human resources spent for no progress!

  you _really_ have to be new here.

| Granted, nature lives on infinitesimal yields.

  yes, this is a _fundamental_ premise.

| Still, unless I am proven that this is a inevitable doom, I won't be
| quite satisfied.

  some people will never be satisfied no matter what you give them or do
  with them.  it is important to know who those people are, so we don't
  waste any time or other resources on them.

  doom is inevitable, BTW.  mankind will die out, planet earth will be
  vaporized when Sol goes nova, if not sooner, and then Common Lisp will
  have to acknowledge defeat to the unwavering hostility of the universe.
  for those of us who plan to become immortal, this is a serious concern.

| Well, maybe I'm just unlucky, and not introduced in the right places, but
| here in France

  depression is all about focusing on the negative things you observe,
  about expanding the impression of being "unlucky" to some kind of cosmic
  condition and from then on doing the opposite of what normal people do,
  which is to ignore the negative and the hardships because they _expect_
  every ounce of positive experience to have a pound of cost, and they
  _know_ that errare humanum est, and that errors have costs, too.  on top
  of this, the depressed tend not even to _see_ anything positive.

  instead of blowing your own dismal experiences out of proportion, look at
  what made people change their minds to use clearly inferior languages in
  somehow superior _tools_.  see if you can do something about this and
  make a couple franc on it.  instead of doing the stupid "if everything
  were free, we'd never be hungry and there'd be peace on earth" routine,
  think about what _you_ need to _supply_ a Common Lisp environment to
  people, what you would need to do to make people _buy_ from you to keep
  you alive, and what your _customers_ would want to do.  think business.

  "free" works very well for the hobbyist market.  it works not at all for
  the professional market.  now, you might argue that all programmers are
  hobbyists, but I'd argue that that's about as relevant as your experience
  with Lisp "dying" in France.

| While I'm happy for you, and convinced that the positive activity of
| people like you will only increase the number of people using CommonLISP,
| I fear that, thanks to your own value, the world around you is much
| better than it is elsewhere, and I'm still worried about the future of

  this _really_ sounds like clinical depression.

| Feats of exceptional individuals are not enough to make prosper large
| economies; economies work as the result of a network of normal people,
| with a normal bell-curve distribution of proficiencies.

  I'll take that as a compliment, but I think you exaggerate my abilities
  and what I have done so you don't have to consider me as part of "normal
  people".  this is not new: if normal people do something exceptional or
  out of the ordinary, they somehow have to be exceptional individuals, and
  whatever remains as "normal people" can feel better about not doing
  anything exceptional.  I think this is fundamentally false.  first, this
  delusion gives normal people a psychological barrier to break out of the
  pattern.  instead of facing hardships and surviving them, they meet
  hardships with "am I sufficiently exceptional to _ever_ win?", and go on
  to lose, which only serves to prove their point.  second, it makes it
  much harder for normal people do to a _few_ exceptional things, because
  they then have to defend why they, as exceptional individuals, do _only_
  normal stuff the rest of the time.  these are fundamentally _dangerous_
  psychological issues and make individual success into a serious hazard
  for people who _aren't_ able to take the expectations well.  (you need
  look no further than to the many musical artists who turn to drugs to
  deal with the pressure.)

| And if there's any reason to worry about LISP being more widely used
| (which you seem to do, since you're affirming gladly that the Lisp market
| is growing), we need understand the phenomena at work, and not just blame
| people for not being virtuous enough.

  that didn't quite parse, but I don't blame people for not being virtuous
  enough.  nobody does that as far as I can see.  I'm saying that you need
  to mature to appreciate the value of Common Lisp.  being immature is just
  another fact of life, but maturing doesn't happen to people who expect to
  have reached their goals and set no further goals for themselves.  add to
  this that reaching your goals sometimes means abandoning what cannot be
  reached -- going on and on forever is also immature.

| To prosper does not only mean survive, but also grow.

  survival is easy to measure.  so is decline.  growth, however, is hard to
  measure, since in order to do so, you need to know the goal and see the
  small steps on the way (and why certain setbacks are _not_ decline), and
  absent such often secret information, you can't see growth because you
  don't know what to look for.  this is why whiners will point to the
  decline of Lisp (which they think they can measure by any form of failure
  to live up to _their_ expectations) and ignore the growth because they
  have some pretty bizarre ideas about what growth means in the first place.

| I can very well imagine Perl 7 having just every semantic feature from
| LISP ...

  I'm sorry, I can't.  people said the same about GUILE a few years ago,
  and what we have today is a hopeless mess that's only getting worse.

| If LISP is to prosper, it must drop proprietary software barriers; it
| must enter the free software model.

  yeah, if Lisp is to grow in _your_ mind-set, it has to do that.

  however, your mind-set is a recipe for economy-wide disaster, as the free
  software world will find out the very hard way when they have succeeded
  in defeating Microsoft, which is the _real_ purpose and driving factor
  behind Open Source.  Free Software has a higher goal, but it appears that
  the success of Open Source projects are jeopardizing the goals of Free
  Software, which I think is quite clear if you watch what RMS is saying
  and doing lately.  if you _understood_ his reaction to Linux a few years
  ago (instead of just ridiculing it), you will appreciate that his concept
  of Free Software is in jeopardy.  Open Source is much _more_ in jeopardy
  than Free Software is, because its success is defined in terms that do
  not stand up against a maturing public.

  another interesting legal issue that proponents tend to ignore completely
  is that the licenses that people have to agree to to get "free" access to
  software are binding in ways that people are willing to accept in the
  short term, but whose long-term consequences are extremely unlikely to be
  honored.  no _commercial_ license would be valid if it were to place
  similar demands on people.  California has laws that make any license or
  contract that excludes people from entering reasonable livelihoods
  unenforceable.  what you can agree to for perpetuity is very strictly
  limited in commercial contracts and licenses.  it is not when no money is
  being exchanged.  people will eventually wake up in panic and angst when
  they fully realize what they have agreed to.

| Harlequin (and maybe Franz) already earns most money from services;
| maintaining their LISP implementations is part of their cost structure,
| not of their benefit structure.

  this looks like a statement of fact, but it is mere opinion.  stuff like
  that is not something a company would tell anyone without also swearing
  them to keep it secret.  therefore, there is no way you could make an
  informed opinion about this.  therefore, since you present it as fact,
  you are lying.  this is completely orthogonal to whether it is true or
  not: it is pretending to know what you _cannot_ know that is the lie.

| By publishing their core software under a free software license, they
| would gain a lot by outsourcing part of this maintenance, yet they could
| make BIG BUCKS by selling branding, support, ports, development,
| applications, etc.

  again, this is mere opinion, and if they don't do it the way you think
  they should do it, it is not because they want to lose money, but because
  you are wrong, at least as far as they see things.  if you can't make
  them see things your way, buy them up with your own money and make them
  do what you think they should.   perhaps you look at things differently
  when you own the companies you want to kill, perhaps not, but at least it
  won't be anyone else's money you lose.

| Their IP barriers only protect them from each other, leaving them on a
| small market.  Dropping these barriers will allow them to attack the real
| enemy, and grow a mass market.

  so "growth" coincides with "mass market" in your view.  my view is that
  it is the mass market that has destroyed the field of programming, as it
  destroys almost everything else that has any form of creativity to it.

  here's a scenario that you should consider: remove intellectual property
  from broadcast sports shows.  explain how it does not kill the sports

  there are no _enemies_ in the market.  you gotta lose the paranoia.
  (well, Microsoft _is_ an enemy, but they are an enemy of everything and
  will be destroyed through or by their own tactics.  ignore them and focus
  on what a company that intends to hang around for a while needs to do,
  not what a company that intends to defraud the most people before they
  are caught would do.)

| It's a war.

  no, it isn't.  this is just paranoid delusions.

| The high-level LISPers against the low-level C-ish world.

  no.  this is also a paranoid delusion.

| The latter has a quasi-monopoly on people's minds.

  this is not just a paranoid delusion, anymore.  this is _insane_.

| You can't fight a monopoly with protection barriers.
| You can only succeed by being more open than it is.

  you support my conclusion that Open Source is only a means of fighting
  Microsoft.  I'm interested in what happens _after_ Microsoft.  you can
  succeed in defeating Microsoft by undermining their market with free
  stuff so they can't sell anything, anymore, but what do you do _after_
  you defeated them?  how do _you_ intend to make money?

  Common Lisp is _not_ a mass-marketable commodity.  Java has yet to make
  any form of profit anywhere.  in fact, the whole Internet has yet to make
  a global profit.  the stuff that makes loads of money on the Net is sex
  and trading in Internet company stocks.  if you are hell-bent on the fast
  buck, start another pornographic site.  if you want a little less dirty
  money, hype your company on the Internet so people will buy your stock
  like crazy (which they are).  if you want to make long-term money, sit
  tight, do good work, and don't for a minute believe the short-sighted
  morons who want only fast bucks and regard financial robustness as stupid.

  Java was created to fight Microsoft, and since Microsoft "made" the C++
  market, it was necessary both to attack C++ and the desktop through the
  browser.  Open Source was created to fight Microsoft.  when Microsoft
  falls, these things will also go away, like used weapons.  I think Linux
  will prevail and that other _sincere_ Free Software will prevail.  I
  don't think wapons of mass market destruction will survive what they were
  instrumented to destroy.

| Well, before someone may become mature, they are kids.  If you don't
| breed them as kids, don't expect them to be gentlemen when grown up.

  I think something got lost in some translation, here.

| If you prevent the kids from using LISP until they're already grown up,
| it's too late afterwards.

  so not making something free is "preventing" people?  this is paranoid.

| Maybe I'm plain wrong.

  you have argued that people who make money on Common Lisp should stop
  doing it and instead give all their values and investments and work away
  so "Lisp" can prosper.  how could anyone argue against this?  it's insane.
  "Lisp" is not some abstraction devoid of materialization.  it's not like
  you can make any form of _idea_ win without actual implementations and
  solid vendors.

  you can't make anything prosper by removing every incentive for people to
  _make_ it prosper, i.e., you can't make something prosper by making some
  people _pay_ to make it prosper.  _all_ parties involved must profit.  if
  you don't understand this, you will succeed only in making it fail.

  incidentally, you appear not to know that when you purchase an Allegro CL
  license, you get a whole bunch of source code with it.  you can't share
  it with others, but you can obviously do everything you otherwise would
  do with free source code, like fixing bugs, changing system behavior,
  etc.  hell, that's what I have done.  you're under no obligation to ship
  code back to Franz, either, and you get to keep your own modifications
  and include them in your products.  this is _better_ than Open Source for
  people who do _business_ and not just hobbyist projects.