Subject: Re: Is LISP dying?
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1999/07/24
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Craig Brozefsky <>
| My understanding is that duplication of effort was one of several
| reasons for making software Free.  Being able to share, modify it for
| your own needs, and peer review being some of the others.  Is this not 
| an accurate understanding of the motivations of Stallman and others
| with regards to the origin of the GNU system?  

  yes, it was.  has it worked?

| Do you agree that the other benefits outweight the costs of duplicated
| effort?

  invalid question.  (1) there are benefits and costs of both free software
  and regular licensing.  (2) there is duplicated effort in both free
  software and with regular licensing.  my first observation is that there
  are different parameters for when effort will be duplicated in these two
  different models, and free software doesn't look like it can stem the
  desire to split into several groups any better than regular licensing, on
  the contrary: it looks like it's doing much worse.  my second observation
  is that the benefits of free software can be easily obtained within the
  framework of regular licensing.  in other words, the whole free software
  package doesn't have enough weight to outweigh the alternative which it
  was set up to be an alternative to.  that doesn't mean software should
  not be available to those who seek to learn and who seek to understand
  issues that are not available to be understood without actual hands-on
  experience in maintaining or building large systems, only that accepting
  the free software package deal is counter-productive to this goal in the
  long run.

| I'm not sure I understand why you see the duplication of effort having
| a worse effect on Free Software than proprietary software.

  because the free software projects that have had a strong leader or voice
  of authority have succeeded, but those where people have been free to add
  whatever they like, have failed.  since strong leaders tend to cause
  strong disagreements with other potential strong leaders, splits will
  occur, and have occurred, over issues that could have been resolved more
  rationally in a commercial setting, having a much worse effect on the
  free software "markets" than in commercial markets, because the cost of
  entry for a competitor is miniscule.  splits will therefore linger on and
  be a drain on everybody's ability to fight for their own and their
  collective survival.  my favorites in this regard are: the Linux package
  systems, the Linux distributions, and the many forms of BSD systems.

| My understanding of your position so far, and please correct any
| misunderstandings, is that the duplication of effort leads to a loss of
| efficiency in the software production process.  Free Software is prone to
| even more inefficiency when there are forks and duplicated effort.  This
| inefficiency outweighs the benefits to the software production process
| that Free Software brings.  Presently Free Software  may be what is
| needed to unseat the present operating system monopolies, but it is not a
| sustainable production mode in the long term because of it's overall
| ineffeciency.

  pretty good summary.  I'll only add that these are not absolute terms,
  but relative to other production processes.  also, I do not consider the
  prime directive to be "produce software", but "produce good software",
  and quality suffers much more from competition from splinter groups than
  mere quantity.  e.g., MULE would not have been as braindamaged had it not
  been for XEmacs.  RedHat would not have released their new versions so
  early had it not been for their competitors.  competition in general is a
  really bad way to deal with diversity and conflict, since it means that
  people will fight over issues that are deemed important for each brief
  battle, but wholly irrelevant in the long run, and that decisions made in
  a state of paranoid delusion are rarely possible to reverse without also
  hurting yourself in the face of your customers.  therefore, competition
  needs to have a high cost of entry to have its bad effects curtailed, in
  particular that one does not begin to compete over entirely frivolous
  matters.  normal business costs so much to start and build up that this
  is not really a problem, but free software operations cost very little to
  start up, and so the bad effects of competition tend to outweigh the good

  suppose we blasted all politicians into space.
  would the SETI project find even one of them?