Subject: Re: source access vs dynamism
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1999/08/28
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Francois-Rene Rideau
| It looks like to me the "make people responsible and trust them" attitude
| is the winning one. You said it many times about the CL vs C++ attitude:
| CL trusts the programmer, whereas C++ distrusts them, and the result is
| trustworthy CL programmers, and untrustworthy C++ programmers.  The same
| argument applies to free software vs proprietary software.

  although I have not made the point specifically here, my preferred way to
  get one's hands on an exportable subset of the source code is to sign a
  prewritten (i.e., non-negotiable) license agreement and go from there.
  at issue here is two things: (1) you need to establish sufficient need
  and desire to at least read and sign a license agreement, and (2) the
  owners of the source code knows who you are and what you have obtained.

  on earlier occasions I have briefly discussed how I want things to work
  out, in a few classes of users: class A users receive the product and
  direct support, only.  class B users obtain some source for their own
  education and use, persuant to executing a license agreement.  class C
  users obtain more source and are encouraged to submit fixes, which they
  continue to own separate rights to.  class D users join the developer
  team as volunteers, and still retain their rights.  class E users get
  paid to fix problems they find and may even get paid to fix problems in
  their fields of expertise on demand from the vendor, but as soon as they
  get paid, they agree to relinquish the rights to whoever paid them.  all
  through this scheme, exchange of actual values is an essential ingredient.

| But what if their marketing department decides that this software is no
| more profitable and will no more be supported?

  then you either have a breech of contract situation or you go talk to
  them and make it profitable.  this happens all the time in the world of
  actual businesses.  part of the deal with bankruptcy and reorganization
  is to let creditors recover their money, and only a few creditors will
  consciously and purposefully deny themselves the opportunity to recover
  more rather than less money.  you'd be surprised how much of a company's
  assets you can get your hands on if you make like a vulture and pick the
  guts of dead companies.  (yes, that's intentionally gross.)

| With free software, you just move to another service provider (who may
| perhaps hire the employees of the former company).

  why is the parenthetical comment restricted to free software?

| With proprietary software, you just bite the dust; no possible long-term
| warranty.

  just because you don't see any options doesn't mean someone else doesn't
  see options that you are ideologically prevented from seeing.  people
  have been known to buy up parts of companies or their assets in the past.
  it will happen again, I promise you.

  and let me just ask you a simple question: what exactly do you need from
  a company after you bought the software (or licence to same)?  you keep
  arguing on the one hand that you buy broken crap from fraudulent shops
  that you subsequently fear will screw you even more, and on the other
  hand you want long-term relationships with them?  I don't get it.  just
  how desperately in need of this broken crapware do you believe you are?
  and why don't you go talk to a shrink about this rather than believe that
  this is due to something wrong with the entire world?

  it appears to me that you want source so you don't get screwed, but it
  seems to me that you're better off buying quality products to begin with,
  stuff that actually continues to work for years and years because the
  bugs you found and they fixed are not going to bite you again, and the
  old software that needs the long-term warranty isn't likely to be in
  active development and thus isn't likely to hit upon new bugs.

| Former ILOG LISP users and developers unhappily know _perfectly_ well
| what I'm talking about...

  for any dire strait people _might_ get into, there's always someone it
  actually happened to, and which you can blame on your favorite factor.
  to people who know some statistics and propaganda, this is _supremely_
  unconvincing.  _nothing_ is less convincing in a debate than throwing
  examples at eachother.  it's what politicians do when they want votes
  from people who don't know any statistics and don't grasp propaganda at
  all, but why the hell should anyone except politicians care about such
  driftwood in society?  it's not like they are going to have any _say_ in
  anything of importance, is it?  if you want to argue effectively, aim for
  the people who take increased insight away with them -- they will quietly
  spread the word.  if you want to argue to win _points_, however, I'd say
  go for the examples, and the more emotional they are, the better, but at
  least be _aware_ that they are competely ineffectual: whoever beats you
  with another better example nullifies your point completely.  that's what
  _doesn't_ happen with insight: people don't un-see an old issues because
  you bring up a new issue, you'll just have to keep adding to the insight.

  so, how about the fate of Symbolics' Genera?  as far as I hear from
  people, somebody actually bought up the rights to the product and
  continued to support and sell it, and they are constantly arguing that
  it's the _best_ software environment in existence still.  maybe ILOG was
  a weak product with good marketing and management which could nonetheless
  not sustain it, and Symbolics' Genera was an excellent product with weak
  marketing and management that wiped out its financial foundation?

  the interesting question with ILOG TALK is: would you, personally, have
  started, or invested your own money in, a company that would do support
  on it, if the software were freed now that it is defunct, anyway?  if
  not, who's to say the exact same fate would not have happened to a free
  software project?  just because it's free software doesn't mean it's free
  of all the well-known consequences of human behavior.

| Oh, and if what the company sells that has so much value is their great
| service, then it has nothing to fear from "competitors" who'd just sell
| unsupported copies of the software...

  I'll believe this when it comes from the owner of a business, not from
  someone who very explicitly wants to loot businesses.  in other words:
  again, feel free to risk your own money, and shut up about others until
  you have proven that you put your own money where your mouth is.

| Yes, we do fear the vendor.

  thank you for stating this up front.  now I know you're actually insane,
  more specifically a raving paranoid.

| Think of it as meme stability: the meme of dissing users is co-stable
| with the meme of proprietary software, but not quite so with the meme of
| free software.  We DO organise in unions to fight vendors who diss us,
| and the result is called (surprise!) free software.

  and this ranting proves you've _really_ lost touch with reality.

| I can't imagine one's favorite C compiler vendor providing developer
| contact to all its customers, there are too many of them.

  I'm sure that's how a lot of people think when they buy anything at all,
  but you gotta understand that if you don't even try, and are so deranged
  as to _fear_ your vendor, then you _will_ be treated harshly by the real
  world, not because people want to, but because you set yourself up for it.

  I actually think that fear of authorities of any kind should be listed as
  a serious mental disorder that causes people to become dysfunctional in a
  modern society.  people who suffer from it should seek psychiatric care.

| Dynamic software WILL win; it will win WITH free software, not against it.

  well, I have the exact opposite opinion, but at least I make an argument
  for my case, I don't just repeat a mantra.

| Proprietary software has brought upon us the domination of FORTRAN,
| COBOL, PL/1, C, C++. Static languages.  Free software has always
| developed its dynamic tools: LISP (pre-Common; elisp; Scheme), shells,
| Perl, Python, etc.  Dynamic languages (of various quality).

  this is downright ridiculous in its lack of adherence to fact.

  save the children: just say NO to sex with pro-lifers