the future of LispWorks

Francois-Rene Rideau
Fri, 9 Jul 1999 12:50:08 +0200

On Thu, Jul 08, 1999 at 07:59:13PM +0100, Pekka P. Pirinen wrote:
> I'm copying this to Martin Simmons, who is the lead developer of
> LispWorks.

Hum. Since we're debating general things,
I'm crossposting the discussion to
I invite you to continue general discussion on the list,
but you can send private comments directly,
if you fear to disclose company confidential information.

>>   Also, just in case, I wanted to know if you had considered
>> making your LISP products open source, to enhance the value of
>> your internal proficiencies in an expanding open source market for LISP,
>> rather than keep them secret in an confidential closed source LISP market
>> that cannot stand as such in front of the Java and C++ hype...
> Such ideas have been mentioned, although more often with reference to
> Harlequin Dylan.
Too bad. LISP forever! Dylan may have good aspects,
and its bugfix syntax may be pleasing to some,
but its abandoning the possibility of SEXP syntax
and associated metaprogramming capabilities is just a shame!

> As you may have gathered, we're waiting to see how things turn out
> (and I can't really be more specific than that).  It's an option to
> keep in mind.  Great customer service has always been one of the
> stregths of LW.  However, I think the objections mentioned on
> comp.lang.lisp are worth thinking about.
Hum. Is that something you posted during my months-old flamewar
involving flamewarlike Erik Naggum, and wise Kent Pitman?
Can you resend me a copy?

>> Eric S. Raymond has written quite a few convincing papers
>> about the Open Source model:
> I'm familiar with the Bazaar and the Cathedral, and find them quite
> convincing as well.  I have my doubts, though, whether the analysis
> works as well, if the program or the market is small.
Raymond recently issued part 3 of his tetralogy, "The Magic Cauldron".
I hope it may convince you completely. Also, Raymond tries to use
a business-some language that won't hurt anyone,
whereas I do not hesitate to speak freely and frankly
and call a racket a racket.
Don't read what I write below (or elsewhere) if you're faint of heart.

>> I have also a page in french on Free Software:
> I don't quite agree with some things you say about not giving an
> advantage to competition.
If you publish code and the competition uses it,
then YOU are at the advantage, because YOU lead the technology,
and the other people follow you.
So the MORE people use your code, the MORE you gain leadership,
and the HIGHER the value of your honest services on the market.
Opening your sources is pure PROFIT! It's free marketing!
You just have to require proper credits. And so that the credits
be best given, you'd better put your code under GNU GPL,
so that it will always be obvious how much of the code was yours,
and how much was "added" by third parties,
and will otherwise prevent "stealth" from people
making your software their competing proprietary "product".
Besides, I agree with that part of french laws that make acknowledgement
to authorship an inalienable right of any author,
so you don't even have to require credits:
credits are already required by law, and justly so.

> Although a technological advance is by
> nature a short-term advantage, it can be turned into a long-term one
> through path dependence (not that that's necessarily a good thing).
Which is akin to hooking people on drugs, and should be accordingly
banned by law. I deeply regret that evil businessmen have corrupted
the mind of computer scientists (and the public at large) to the point
where they consider such dishonesties as "normal business practice".
Earn honest money by working hard to keep your technological advance;
don't steal it by locking people into path dependence.
Of course, particularly when legal and not subject to direct punishment,
dishonest practices are attractice.
But any business founded on such practice is doomed,
and what you obtain is competition on the basis of
the most efficient legal dishonesty,
which gives you monopolies like Microsoft,
to the detriment of honest hard workers and good technology,
as well as of customers and the public in general
(mind you, LISP has been the victim of that race).

> System software is particularly like that.

> Also, it's not true that
> exclusivity never benefits anybody else: rewarding the builders with a
> limited exclusivity can encourage them to attempt larger tasks and
> thereby benefit the public;
Excuse me to be harsh, but I call that bullshit.
It is the same argument that has always been given to justify protectionism:
Give the Company of India monopoly on tea, and we'll bring you quality tea!
Give it monopoly on salt, and we'll sell salt throughout all India!
Give the Publishers monopoly, and we'll bring you quality books!
Give the Broadcast companies monopoly, and we'll give you quality television!
Give the MovieMakers monopoly, and we'll give you quality pictures!
Give the [phone|rail|water|*] company monopoly on its activity,
and it will provide with cheap quality service!
Forbid foreign drapes, and we'll give you cheap quality english clothes!
Forbid foreign drugs, and we'll give you cheap quality english opium!
Forbid french wine, and we'll give you quality english wine!
Forbid dutch cheese, and we'll give you quality english cheese!
Forbid scandinavian telecommunications, and we'll give you
quality english telecommunications!
B U L L S H I T!

We all know that protectionism is EVIL. It has caused ruin.
It has caused wars. It causes bad quality. It makes the worker despised.
It makes the consumer irresponsible. It takes away technical decisions
from the technicians, and hands them to "marketing" crooks instead.
It does greatly benefit a few monopolists, indeed.
Among the artists, a few "stars" will shine, indeed.
But any benefit made by the monopolist is doubly paid by the public.
But the public is large and every pays a small bit that you don't see,
whereas the monopolists are few, and you can see their huge fortune;
so you believe that monopoly brings wealth.
But it only brings wealth to the monopolist.
When you sum up the effects on society at large,
you realize that every penny earnt by the monopolist
is two pennies lost to society.
Any superficial star that is born hides in its shadow
talented artists who starve.
Certainly, a plunderers might make a lot of money;
but this money will have been taken from the public;
and the public will have to pay secondary losses due to being plundered, too.
Even for most legal plunderers, legal plunder at large isn't a blessing,
for unless they hold more than half of the world's plunder industry
in their own market (as MICROS~1 does),
they'll have to pay to other plunderers more
than they gain themselves from plunder.
So even current plunderers, if having individual benefit
at continuing plunder while it's legal,
would greatly benefit from plunder becoming illegal
or otherwise made obsolete by market pressure.

> however, giving them full and indefinite
> control seems a little excessive.
There is *no justification* in giving people control
on anything else but their own actions.
And *no justification* to deprive them from control on their own actions.
If you worked hard, and acquired unequalled proficiencies,
then you have full control on your use of these proficiencies,
and can sell this use for what it's worth. That's honest.
You have *no right* to prevent people from acquiring and selling
their own proficiencies around the same software that you developed.
Of course, you do NOT have any particular DUTY to actively HELP them
at acquiring and selling proficiencies. And it is also HONEST
to make money out of helping people to acquire them.

But is it an attempt to their liberties to prevent them
from making themselves better and more useful workers,
and that the brakes put by hoarders on other technicians
be done with the help of Governmental Force only makes the crime WORSE,
rather than less terrible. It makes a civil offense into a political crime.
Intellectual property is sheer evil. It's downright racket.
If you don't want to publish your source, fair enough; just keep it secret
until the market demands your code and is somehow ready to pay you back.
However, you have no right to prevent people from freely copying information,
trying to understand or decompile it, to modify and enhance it,
or somehow to do useful things about their own lives,
with their own time, and their own resources.
You've written something great? Fine!
You've demonstrated your value. Now sell it!
But don't you prevent other people from developing and selling theirs!
Laws should favorize activity, that is new and renewed work;
it should not favorize laziness, that is living by rent of old work.

Stephen King had talent. He wasted it by living on rent,
and now write only two-pence underworked stories
that immediately earn him millions.
Had he had rather to fight and constantly show his talent,
he would not have been so rich; neither would have been his publishers.
But he would still live correctly, and he would write good literature.
He would live honestly, and his public would read good literature.
Instead, the public pays a lot to be dissatisfied with bad literature.
Other writers have talent; but they cannot be published because
intellectual property focuses media attention on Stephen King.
What do you prefer? A world where a few get indecently rich at not
working honestly, while most people stay poor whatever they do?
Or a world where most people work honestly
and get paid decently, no more, no less?
Do you prefer a few insanely rich Java/C/C++ programmers
(and mostly, fewer insanely richer Java/C/C++ software hoarders),
or a world with a lot of no-more-than-comfortable LISP programmers?

The technical advance is its own reward,
that automatically benefits the author.
No need for artificial exclusivity:
everyone is already exclusive owner of one's own inequalled proficiencies.

ANY benefit that will be earned due to artificial exclusivity is
lost twice by the consumer. Since you can read french :),
I invite you to re-read what Frédéric Bastiat
has to say about protectionism in general,
that perfectly applies to software protectionism in particular.
There is a Bastiat page in english, but not as rich in e-texts:

> Pekka P. Pirinen
> Lisp hacker
I'm only a meta-lisp meta-hacker, and believe me,
it's a different thing, not quite as gratifying :( :(

Sorry to make this mail too long and too impassionate.
I have no time to make it shorter and more reasonable.
[Unless of course, I'm getting paid for such service :-]

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