Re: openbkweb-0.0

From: Jamie Lokier (
Date: Fri Feb 14 2003 - 19:39:51 EST

Thomas Molina wrote:
> In my view a great number of things are legal which I consider unethical.
> I believe Larry has made his position fairly clear and has attempted to
> construct his license language to implement that plain-spoken intent.
> Whether or not people agree with the stated position, I doubt there is
> anyone who doesn't understand it. Why not just do the clearly right thing
> and abide by that?

Larry's touched an open source nerve by creating what is in effect a
closed protocol, and getting it into the heart of the kernel
development process.

Blame has nothing to do with it. We _greatly_ respect Larry's
accomplishments in this area (and others), and as for the kernel
development process we might just as well say it's Linus fault for
choosing to use featureful Word 7 when unusable Abiword 0.01 was
available :)

Quite a lot of kernel trees are maintained using Bitkeeper now, btw,
which is testament to how well that vision is implemented.

It would be very *impolite* to ignore Larry's license and use the
software he developed against his express wishes. (It does _not_ give
me a good feeling even to talk about it).

On the other hand, it's widely accepted that making a program which
_interoperates_ with someone elses closed source program is socially
acceptable, and often desirable. This is so widely understood that
it's expressly written into copyright law in virtually every country
which has copyright law.

Thats how important interoperation is considered to be - it's not just
a geek thing, it's a _principle_ - something which is widely held to
be the right thing to do for the sake of the big picture.

That's why Larry gets so much flak. He is generous with a caveat
which touches a nerve. Conditional love. (Slippery slope... the GPL
is like this too :)

He gets flak precisely _because_ his software is so good that so many
people choose to use it, and accept the attached strings. (It's a
compliment, see?)

Imagine if all your friends started talking a different language,
called Binglish say. You'd want to talk to them in that language so
you could socialise and work with them. Now if they told you you must
sign a contract and join a private society, or pay significant cash,
otherwise you couldn't talk the language? If it were a few people
you'd ignore them, but if it seemed like all the really powerful
people who affect your life would just ignore you unless you talked
it, you'd be pissed off. You'd feel the playing field had become
unlevel and needed correction. You'd be tempted to either (1) cave in
and pay or join the private society, (2) learn the language and
use it anyway.

In other words, we see shades of glass ceiling for non-Bitkeeper
users. Not intentionally, it is simply an effect that occurs when
something good is limited to a subset of people - whether by choice or not.

And nobody thinks glass ceilings should be sustained, do they? Do they?

Now, if you accept that writing a program to communicate with users
who do their daily work using the BitKeeper product - in their choice
of language - is a good idea. How are you going to do that? Larry's
created a situation where the only way to do that is to analyse his
software against his express wishes.

Which is more important? Being polite to Larry, or being able to
write programs that communicate with important people in their
preferred language - levelling the playing field somewhat?

It's harsh reality, but if you create something that benefits many
people and attach conditions to your generosity, you'll get a lot of
complaints. It's true of the GPL, it's true of the BKL, it's true of
the World Bank etc.

Sometimes those complaints are based on sound principles. Sometimes
they're not.

You decide.

-- Jamie
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sat Feb 15 2003 - 22:00:59 EST