Following up after a day in the shop
Posted Sep 27, 2004 23:48 UTC (Mon) by lm
In reply to: Following up after a day in the shop
Parent article: An Interview with Tom Lord of Arch (O'ReillyNet)
It's a pleasure to actually have a conversation rather than a flamefest, thanks for doing so, I mean it.
On the topic of excluding people, this is just FUD raised by people who want everything in the world to be GPLed. Other than Zenaan, in our entire history I am aware of exactly one other person who we excluded, Ben Collins, and we later worked out an agreement with him and he's off using BK.
It's true that we could use the license as a baseball bat but it's also true that we don't do that. Lots of people at Red Hat use BK and have for years, in spite of the fact that in theory they are not allowed to do so. If one of them started working on arch and we saw arch getting BK features one by one then we might do something about it. But they haven't and so we don't bother them.
Bottom line: all the fuss that has been made about the non-compete clause excluding people is just FUD by the GPL police. All sorts of people use BK, we've counted more than 10,000 active branches of the Linux kernel in BK and even if each developer had 10 branches that's still 1,000 developers. I'm sure you could make a case that we could exclude lots of those developers but that's missing the point. The point is that we don't. Not unless one of them tells us that they are going off to copy BK. I wasn't involved with Zenaan but I got the impression he didn't leave us any choice.
As for pulling the license, again, we could but we haven't. What the license says has to do with support, not beating people up. We have more than 50,000 free users - that's a lot of support and as others have pointed out, we take support very seriously. The deal we want is that you stay current so that we don't have to handle the same old bug 50,000 times. The license says you have to upgrade when we issue a new release that has regression tests that wouldn't pass on the older release[s] (which is pretty much true every release, we have a very extensive regression test suite). While we have the legal right to force you to upgrade, we have never done so. People are aware of our reasons for wanting you to stay current and by and large they respect that.
It's worth noting that all the FUD spread about our license is just that, FUD. While we believe we can make our license stick if need be the truth is that if the license is genuinely unreasonable you can take us to court and win, the courts will side with you if we are being jerks. That doesn't mean you get to win because you think I'm a jerk, it means you get to win if we are not allowing you fair use or reasonable enjoyment or whatever the legal mumbo jumbo is.
Finally, your last comment is the one I'd really like to address. It's most unfortunate that you feel that way because BK exists simply to help the Linux effort, specifically Linus. Joe Buck suggested that I did that as a marketing move. There are two flaws with that theory: it doesn't account for the 5 or 6 years that I worked with Linus on Linux before writing a line of code on BitKeeper and it doesn't account for the fact that I couldn't market my way out of a wet paper bag. Look at me, I can show up with a free $100 bill and manage to piss you off in the process of giving it to you. And I'm the guy that came up with this brilliant marketing plan? If I'm a marketing genius my goal must be to piss off the world because I do a great job of it. Face it, the "BK + Linux == marketing" theory doesn't hold water and anyone who has been around for the last ten years knows that. The idea of me in marketing is a joke, a bad joke.
BK was created to help you. I'm not looking for your thanks or gratitude but I am looking for you to realize that what I'm telling you is the truth. I picked the path where I could make the most positive difference to the open source world. I'm a good engineer, maybe a great engineer, but there is no way that I'm as good as Linus+Alan+Dave+Greg+Andrew+.... If I can help 1000 engineers be 5% more productive that's a 50x more good than I could have done by writing kernel code. You don't like that BK isn't GPLed. What you don't get is that a GPLed answer wouldn't have helped. It costs way too much money to do something like BK, there is more than 100 man years of top quality, full time, 60-80 hours/week, engineering in BK. You can wait for an open source replacement but you will wait for a long, long time. On the other hand, BK is here right now, helping, and has been for years. And there is no replacement for it in sight.
I've been saying the same things for years, this stuff is hard, it costs a lot of money to get it right, and there is a big payoff for the end users. Look at http://www.bitkeeper.com/press/2004-03-17.html and you can see the payoff, nobody disputes that. So *you* are benefitting right now by the use of BK on the Linux kernel, on MySQL, etc. Maybe some day there will be a suitable GPLed replacement but right now there isn't. And BK is helping the development of lots and lots of open source.
Can you see how perhaps I might not agree with your view that we're not part of the FLOSS community? Maybe you still disagree with me but that's not going to help you, it's going to hurt you. You are rejecting people who are trying to help because they don't want to help in your narrow definition of help. That's unfortunate.
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