source access vs dynamism

Francois-Rene Rideau
30 Aug 1999 03:35:12 +0200

Dear Erik,

Erik Naggum <> writes on comp.lang.lisp:
> * Francois-Rene Rideau
>   do you seriously believe that I didn't see it as a metaphor?
Well you did accuse me of accusing you of wanting something,
whereas I only compared what you wanted to something else.
I did hope you didn't see things incorrectly,
but I've responded to what you wrote, not to what I thought you saw;
I _try_ not to see in what people write any additional non-obvious intention,
although I've been known to too often fail at that.
Indeed, the notion of of "obvious" varies from culture to culture,
and from person to person, hence a lot of misunderstanding on USENET.

>   perhaps you don't understand what a metaphor is.  it is [...]
Thanks for your explanations. I think I do understand the concept,
since I agree with them.

>   all methaphors break down at some point, [...]
Which makes it important to see where this point is,
and whether or not the argument used is within the domain of validity
of the metaphor.

I still think the metaphor I used was appropriate
as characterizing your system of customer classes as a feudal cast system
where the freedom of action of people, the quality of the software they use,
and perenniality of their investments are completely subject to the whims
and interests of whoever will happen to claim the intellectual property
at the current day. This metaphor accounts for the human relationships
between IP owners and other people, customers, developers, etc.
Sometimes, the liege lord is noble and wise, he knights worthy people,
and his subjects are happy to live in his domain. More often, the liege lord
is just a brute, he attracts a court of evil or inefficient ministers,
and his subjects feel like they live in hell.
And the problem is that the situation is unstable for the subjects,
who have no means of retroaction to ensure that their lord will stay
a just one, and who live in fear of the lord becoming bad with time,
or being conquered by a brutal neighbour.
They have no warranty, no means of action, no responsibility.
They can but wait and see and suffer in silence.
Oh, when they are a new family of migrants,
they can still choose the kingdom in which to build their house;
but once they settled, it will have to stay for a long time
and bear with the real nature (as opposed to the advertised qualities)
of the sovereign, and with his evolution, least they have to leave
their house behind when leaving for another kingdom.
All in all, feudality is not a stable regime,
and on the long run, the kingdoms that adopt freeer institutions
will be more successful; nature hence selects freeer and freeer institutions,
until you end up with things like (classical) liberal democracy.
In case this is not obvious, the metaphor maps developments on
some software basis as building a house in a kingdom; it maps
owners into liege lords, internal and external developers
as courtsmen and liege men, and general customers as subjects.

I may be deeply misled in my metaphor; but then maybe a small part
of the time you spend throwing random harsh words
might be used to give me a slight hint as to how and why I am misled.
If you don't have time to develop an argument, which I understand,
an example might be useful;
I promise I will try not to confuse the example with an argument,
and to understand that its not being conclusive
doesn't mean that you don't have a conclusive argument.

> [...] Hitler [...]
Congratulations! You win one half (1/2) Godwin point.
Not a full one since you only indirectly mentionned the name.
As an attempt to win one point, too, I'll say "Stalin"
(although it'll refer to Qobi's compiler rather than any particular person).

>   I'm reminded of the kind of people who are clearly inept at communication
>   but who claim to be have been _ironic_ as soon as someone tries to take
>   them seriously and struggle to understand what they try to say.
I don't claim to have been ironic. Actually, I understand _you_ claim
to have been somehow ironic by stating that you did understand
my statement as being a metaphor (albeit a lousy one in your book),
while still accusing me of accusing you of wanting a dictatorial government.
If you think the flaw in my arguments is that my metaphors are
completely inadequate, it is quite ok to state your opinion, and you
might enlighten your readers by pinpointing the nature of the inadequacy.
But it is misleading at best to pretend I said something I didn't say
and that you know I didn't mean.

>   there is no doubt that you consider vendors an evil force
Certainly not. I consider _intellectual property_ as evil,
and I consider that vendors behave in an evil way
in as much as they use it, and only in as much as they use it.
However, vendors also sell useful services, which is a most good thing;
actually, only by parasiting the good aspects can the evil aspect survive:
people will accept to comply to IP claims and to buy the services
related to claimed software from a monopoly, only if they believe that
these indisputable detriments are compensated by useful services,
and/or that they won't escape such detriments anyway, since
every vendor behaves similarly. Now, customers do not usually
take into account second and third order evil effects of IP while doing so,
because these effects only build up on the long run,
and customers are hardpressed by the short term as far as technology goes.
There is thus a need to educate the customers about their interest,
until it becomes a cultural reflex to enforce it by demanding free software.
Note that I am also convinced that the interest of authors and developers
is in free software, and that only a class of IP accumulators
benefits from the IP system.

vendor, n : someone who exchanges goods or services for money.
In as much as I don't consider software licenses as a good,
I consider vendors of software as crooks and racketeers;
in as much as I appreciate software services,
I consider vendors of software services as honorable businessmen.
In as much as some people do both things at the same time,
I consider them as lousy people who resort to dirty immoral tricks
to increase their revenues, instead of working honestly;
and I regret that law gives an encouragement to such practices
by making legal what is reproved by God and Nature.

>   that cannot be
>   controlled except by the means required to oust "almighty rulers": guns.
I don't see that arguing on the internet is anything of a physical harm
or threat. On the other hand, sending lawyers to people IS use of force.
I don't expect to convince anyone with my arguments in favor of free software;
but I am disappointed that you don't manage to even recognize what these
arguments are, non-conclusive as they might be.

Again and again, I do _not_ pretend that I have undisputable arguments,
and that only fools would disagree. From rational people, I only expect
that they correctly understand what my opinions are and what they are not,
in as much as these opinions are those of many free software proponents.
I also hope that rational people will acknowledge
some level of internal consistency to these opinions,
just like I acknowledge internal consistency in theirs;
or else, I expect them to pinpoint possible inconsistencies.
The rest of opinion-making is a matter of commitment,
and no more of rationality;
only one's personal history may decide of commitment it,
which mostly excludes influence by further discussion.

PS: since you and other people have questioned my financial investment
in free software, let me state that my vocation is to work
at developing free software, like many of my friends,
and only the completion of my academic studies is pushing back
my doing it in a commercial setting. Oh, and the (private) lab I currently
work at does write and publish free software that we use in-house.
And even if I am far from perfect, I wish these people acknowledge
that a lot of developers and investors follow the free software model,
and build successful companies like Cygnus, RedHat, AdaCore, and many,
many more, including large departments of IBM, SGI, and more.
All this to say that any personal attack upon me, justified or not,
shouldn't as such invalidate my arguments, just like any personal reproach
made to Erik doesn't as such invalidate any of his arguments.

PPS: to answer my own question "what is the computational equivalent
of a metaphor", I think that a metaphor corresponds to the logical concept
of a partial isomorphism between structures; computationally, it seems to me
this corresponds to partially valid implementation tactic
of a structure with another, in some contexts;
to be useful, such implementation must either be fully valid in
considered context, or trigger a trap before it exits the validity domain.

Best regards,

[ "Faré" | VN: Уng-Vû Bân | Join the TUNES project!  ]
[ FR: François-René Rideau | TUNES is a Useful, Nevertheless Expedient System ]
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