Subject: Re: Is LISP dying?
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1999/07/23
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Greg <>
| How is this different from closed source "proprietary" stuff?

  that's the point.  any company will want to protect its assets, and if
  you can only sell support, you will only protect different assets than if
  you could sell licenses, although in both cases, internal cultures would
  grow that would protect and sustain themselves.

| It's of potential value to have all the warts exposed- at least you know
| what you're getting (or at least its possible to know).

  no, sorry, you won't.  immersing yourself in free software takes much
  more time than immersing yourself in the published interfaces of some
  commercial system, and if you immerse yourself too deeply and start to
  use stuff that was never intended to be used from the outside, which
  happens all the time in Emacs, for instance, you can't upgrade when new
  versions come out and you can't necessarily install packages.  that's
  what one would call adding _new_ warts to your use of the system, if not
  to the system itself.  I used to think that I needed to walk through the
  sources of stuff that I put on my machine, but it became impossible after
  only a few years: it's too much work, and it has no direct rewards.  I
  also used to modify my Emacs quite a bit, and since I excised MULE from
  20.3, it took too much effort to keep track of changes (it turns out that
  semantic collisions are much more important than syntactic collisions,
  which CVS could take care of -- code you haven't changed could be changed
  incompatibly with other changes you have made, wreaking serious havoc),
  so now I haven't been able to upgrade to 20.4-sans-MULE, even though 20.4
  has been released.

| >   remember, if people are going to get paid to offer commercial support
| >   instead of for the product or the license to the product, they'll
| >   make sure you need the support and that the authors are the only
| >   people who can make any useful contributions.
| Only if they can control the source.

  really?  do you argue that others who want to offer commercial support
  should rewrite the whole system in a better way or language, only to
  splinter the development teams and make it wholly impossible to keep
  track of each other's developments?  that's, uh, brilliant.

| If the source is open, a wrecked architecture can more easily be reborn
| because none of the clean-room reverse engineering foolishness is
| required.

  if it's reborn, you get feature wars between the two architectures, and
  both waste a lot of time and effort, meaning: a lose-lose competition.
  (remember: people get their money from implementing features and
  providing support, not from selling licenses, but nobody will pay two
  different providers for the same feature, meaning that whoever don't get
  paid need to replicate the efforts of others for free, or if they have
  enough loyal users: may be paid to replicate _some_ of the features.)

| But again, if the software architecture is open its more likely the
| Emperor's new clothes will be detected or not.

  sure, but what happens?  you get a splinter group every time someone
  thinks he's spotting some Emperor skin.  look what happened when MULE hit
  the fan: a whole bunch of people stayed put at 19.34, many developers and
  testers left because they couldn't get it to work, and didn't have time
  to deal with the incompetents who broke everything that used to work
  outside of Japan, and RedHat included my "MultiByte Survival Kit" in
  their distribution of Emacs 20.2.  and while 20.2 MBSK .elc files could
  be loaded into 20.2 pure, a change was made so that 20.2 MBSK .elc files
  could not be loaded into 20.3, but 20.2 pure .elc files could, obviously
  only to discourage further branching.

| We should be careful of talking too much about the lack of progress/
| creativity-

  huh?  I'm talking about the consequences of _unbridled_ creativity.  most
  creative people discover that they need to channel their creativity into
  areas where it can bear fruit.  or put it another way: anyone can be both
  creative and "creative" if there is no demand to be productive, too.
  some would argue that the problem most cities have with some of their
  youth stems from the utter lack of useful avenues to express youthful

| I remember in the 1980s some columnist or other said all the applications
| had been written; we had word processors, spreadsheets and database apps-
| what else was there?

  I'm sure it's helpful for your own position to pretend that this is what
  you are up against, but it isn't.  please stop being stupid and listen to
  the criticism instead of dismissing it out of hand, OK?

| I believe the significance of the open source stuff is in the mass
| opening of apps to public scrutiny and input.

  I fully agree that public scrutiny of software is a good thing, but I
  don't think "input from the public" will ever work any better than it has
  for all the "features" that Microsoft keep adding under pretense of
  "customer demand".

| I hope Bill tastes ashes seeing the industry slip from his unbridled
| control- drawing away just out of reach ever further the harder he tries
| to grab it again.

  this will happen if software is seen as works of art, visible out in the
  open, but not for random people to "modify" or "improve" at will.  art is
  copyrighted for a multitude of reasons: I want software to be similarly
  protected from the onslaught of the unschooled masses, but I also want
  them to appreciate it and learn from it so as to be better prepared to
  create their own works of art.  in other words, I think this open source
  stuff will work provided that people can still charge money for licensing
  use and can still protect their works, _and_ we also get a realistic
  means to pay for the benefits we receive from using other people's works,
  because it will be harder to steal large amounts of source code when it
  is open than when it is closed, and if people can't get paid and they
  still can see that their source was stolen or used, they will simply stop
  making source available as a means of self-preservation.

  now, to reiterate my positive position: I think source access is good,
  but it has to be seen as an investment on the part of whoever gets it,
  and it appears beneficial that it be given out on a personal basis, not
  to the public in general.  on the other hand, there is a use for some
  sort of "public library" model of source code, too, or perhaps "museums
  of modern code" or whatever it would be cool to call it.  letting people
  in general at source for the express purpose of letting them modify it
  and redistribute their modifications seems like a genuinely bad idea to
  me, but it took me many years to realize that the benefits do not need to
  be thrown out with the bathwater just because some aspects of open source
  are clearly counter-productive.  I suspect it will take others some time
  to figure out why free software isn't the solution, but was an argument
  that had to be made, why open source isn't the answer, but exposed the
  question that needed to be asked, and why the computing society still
  need to work on ways to accomplish its goals, especially as they get
  clearer as goals and not only political mission statements for particular
  suppose we blasted all politicians into space.
  would the SETI project find even one of them?