Subject: Re: What Lisp needs to beat Java, etc.
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 27 Nov 2000 00:11:54 +0000
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* "Aaron K . Johnson" <>
| I guess my reply is simply that I'm curious as to why there is such
| good software out there for free if the economic model of Open Source
| Free Software is so wrong?  Why are Linux and FreeBSD so much better
| than windows, and cost the price of a CD?

  The Open Source/Free Software model is not _economic_ in the first
  place.  Money does not even enter the picture.  Understanding this is
  crucial to why people are whining like a presidential candidate about
  not getting all the stuff they want for free and why people make stuff
  available for others for free, as well.

  There _is_ no compensation model for Open Source and Free Software.
  That is the trick.  That is why it _cannot_ succeed economically and
  financially.  To make this fundamentally flawed model succeed requires
  that Open Source and Free Software be instruments of something else
  that generates money enough both to fund its own operation as well as
  supporting the massively loss-making software creation process.

  Let's put it another way: Money will _not_ get you any Open Source or
  Free Software.  People create software like this because they want to,
  _not_ because they get paid.  Money is a basically a _detractor_ for
  creative people who want others to use their software and through that
  become personally visible.  It is pretty sad, but money does not offer
  visibility to someone who is begging for others to notice him.  Open
  Source and Free Software are proofs that computers are alienating in
  the old Marxist sense and the Open Source and Free Software projects
  are reactions to this sense of alienation, in order to make the person
  stand out from the computerized nothingness.

  Yet another way: If _all_ you have to offer a programmer is money,
  what he will create for you is not going to be Open Source or Free
  Software.  There has to be personal pride, wide usage, some of that
  good feeling of having contributed to a community with one's name on
  the contribution.  Money can't buy that feeling.  Neither can the
  feeling be sold.

  People who need Free Software and Open Source _have_ no money, either.
  If you have lots of money, it may not be economically feasible to use
  Free Software or Open Source because of the numerous strings attached
  to such software, and it may in fact be economically _infeasible_ to
  use software for which you assume _all_ risks.  The question "who you
  gonna call?" may be _very_ hard to answer in a pinch.  Nobody is fully
  responsible for the product in ways that owned software is.  To get a
  commitment from someone to support you on Open Source or Free Software
  may well be much _more_ expensive than some regular software product
  designed to be supported.  Very few people are actually aware of these
  costs until they have to get their business back on track after a
  disaster of some kind.  Free Software and Open Source are _very_ good
  for hobbyists and in an educational setting where the purpose is to
  improve your own ability to write better software.  I support both for
  this reason alone.  However, production quality code is harder to come
  by in these communities because there is no incentive to bring the
  code from functional to excellent.  What we get is very high quality
  "laboratory code", not highly polished systems software that costs at
  least twice as much to produce and maintain as the former.

  Some of these things _are_ changing, but we are still years away from
  a financial model for Open Source and Free Software that rewards
  people in a way that fits the normal models for return on investment.
  Wall Street was incredible harsh on the first few attempts, if you
  recall, and the "business model" of the Internet (dot-com) companies
  is not exactly being rewarded, either.  (Nor should it be.)

| Secondly, for what my limited experience and time are worth, I'd be
| very open to picking up a shovel and coding in the trenches.  Any one
| else care to set up a project?  Perhaps a web page that agressively
| touts Lisp as the strong language of the past, and most importantly
| the FUTURE.

  Why do fail to understand what it means that you need someone else to
  set up the project for you?  This tells everybody with at least half a
  brain that you need somebody else to provide you with the rationale
  for using Common Lisp, too, and that you are _not_ a self-starter.
  Why a _follower_ would whine and complain about not finding relevant
  _leaders_ is truly beyond me.  Usually they just follow whatever they
  feel like being their leaders.

| Yes, I do still think that Lispers need more PR, and the successes
| need to be hyped, and momentum needs to be built.  I certainly don't
| mean to deflate any of you who have devoted so much effort.  So thanks.

  Why do you worry so much about marketing?  Is it because marketing is
  what you are influenced by?  Popularity figures count more to people
  who want to be popular than to people who are quite happy just being
  good at what they do.  Morover, excellence does not _need_ popularity.
  Popularity is what you crave when you are _not_ excellent.  Popularity
  also _destroys_ excellence.

  I have this notion that if somebody _wants_ me to like them before I
  get a chance to know what to like them for, they must be _really_ bad
  people.  Con artists, prostitutes, sleazy sales people, etc, go for
  that warm, fuzzy feeling where I'm supposed to feel happy about them
  _instead_ of what they have done and are likely to do.  Others harbor
  the notion that liking other people and being liked is the first and
  most important property of life on earth.  These are likely to rub me
  the wrong way and go from "don't-care" to "active dislike" in a very
  short amount of time if they try to force their personal needs on me.
  I mention this because I actively loath people who seek popularity and
  judge both things and people by how popular they are.  That's not even
  a second-hand kind of ethics, it's a _statistical_ second-hand ethics.

  Hyping is lying, basically, and you only engage in that if you have no
  other way to reach people -- like marketing something people are not
  very likely to want.  Hype and lies and such marketing insult people's
  intelligence and you only reach people who don't mind it.  Why anyone
  would want to reach such people with an excellent software system is
  beyond me, but if you see a software product advertised on TV or on
  big billboards, just don't buy it -- it's some overpriced crap suited
  for the ignorant mass market that is actually affected by advertising.

  For Common Lisp to succeed, people only need to use it.  That's it,
  there is no need for somebody else to use it for you to use it.  Just
  do it, yourself.  Quit whining, start programming.  Write what you
  miss, contribute.  Get paid if you can, write software for free if you
  can't, but _program_.  You improve your chances of getting paid the
  more you have actually written.  Likewise, you improve the chances of
  Common Lisp being more widely used if you contribute mainly by using
  it.  In the end, working code matters, hype and marketing does not.
  Solution to U.S. Presidential Election Crisis 2000:
    Let Texas secede from the Union and elect George W. Bush their
    very first President.  All parties, states would rejoice.