Wednesday, March 29, 2006

win32 socket commits [194.5]

My IRC icon was bouncing in the dock this morning when I got into work, which means someone referred to my nick. I assumed it must have been from conversations the night before, but upon scrolling back realized it was actually rudi talking about committing my win32 socket patch into the repository. Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy. How many thousands of lines of code have I committed to Paragent's repository that are in a shipping product? Hell, I'm the boss, it has to be accepted. There is a certain warm-and-fuzzy feeling when you are able to contribute something that others find of value.

I didn't get into open-source because of all the free-as-in-speech fist-pounding. I enjoy it because I get the chance to interact with some very smart people. I hate to say it, but when I see that a piece of open source code has a GPL license it turns me off. Not because I think "gee, we can't rip this off like BSD or MIT licensed code," but because I assume that the original creator has some anti-corporate axe to grind. The only real argument that I see for a GPL style license is that it allows the powers-that-be to force companies to provide their enhancements to the code base to everyone else--when they get caught. While there have been a few cases of companies being called out on their GPL violations, I would like to know how many of those have resulted in some stunning contribution back to the source tree when they finally complied. My bet is that it has never happened.

An open source software project is not like some Wikipedia that can be edited by anyone at will. Any software project worth stealing is going to be complex. This requires the coordination of some smart people to organize, filter and commit changes. Programmers that want to contribute have to minimally participate in the community. You have to want to do this. Forcing companies to make source code available for applications that anyone can get the code for off of source-forge is just petty.

This reminds me of a parable:

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. "He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?' 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered. He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard. When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.' The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'

The parable is actually about the last being first/first being last/everyone is equal, but that is not what I am interested in. It is also a telling commentary on how people can convince themselves that they have been "wronged" because someone got a better deal. The people who contribute to open-source projects do so because they want to, expecting no monetary reward. I certainly don't expect to be rewarded because I contributed some small bit of socket code to a Lisp project. So now some corporation comes along and uses said software. Have I lost anything? Have they taken away that warm-fuzzy-feeling, or the sense of camaraderie that I feel for everyone trying to make a better free Lisp? I contributed the code without any expectation of compensation. Why should I be jealous of the fact that someone else has found a way to make a buck off of it. There is already a perfectly viable method for making sure that individuals are rewarded "fairly" for their work - it is known as "closed-source."

Less politics, more coding.

Sheesh - how did this turn into a GPL rant? ... sorry about that.


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