Why I said that you had trouble making payroll
Posted Jan 27, 2003 21:27 UTC (Mon) by BrucePerens
In reply to: It's only going to get worse
Parent article: The BitKeeper non-compete clause
You are correct that I know nothing about your business internals...
except what you tell me. I based my feeling about how hard it was for
you to make payroll, and how you felt about Open Sourcing his product,
on the following email, which appeared on at least one public list,
in which you very clearly wrote that it was a pull making payroll.
Regarding your propensity to threaten lawsuits, I only remember our
last two phone conversations, which I think both ended unpleasantly.
I have no wish to goad you, but I don't want to seem as if I'm making
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Date: Sat, 10 Aug 2002 17:57:26 -0700
From: Larry McVoy 〈email@example.com&rang
To: Tom Lord 〈firstname.lastname@example.org&rang
Cc: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,
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Subject: Re: what proofs look like
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In-Reply-To: 〈200208101923.MAA09649@morrowfield.regexps.com〉 from firstname.lastname@example.org on Sat, Aug 10, 2002 at 12:23:10PM -0700
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On Sat, Aug 10, 2002 at 12:23:10PM -0700, Tom Lord wrote:
&rang I had hoped to reply to your earlier note in as positive and
&rang constructive a mode as possible, to get past the difficult
&rang garbage, and into the space of making improvements of mutual
&rang Do you think that's possible?
No. Please take me off the CC list of this thread. As gently as
possible, with no ill will intended, I want you to hear that I can't
help you. I don't have the extra money that you need and I doubt
that anyone else does.
[ Delete now if you don't want to know why we didn't take Tom's path ]
It's perhaps worth pointing out that I've been running a company doing
SCM type stuff for 5 years. We own our IP and we use legal means
to force people to pay us for it. And we have a good product, many
people think it is better than clearcase.
Even with all that, the last 5 years have been a non-stop struggle to
scrap together payroll every 2 weeks. It's a constant source of stress,
there are houses, families, kids, all of whom depend on me finding the
money to keep things going. It's incredibly hard. My health sucks
as a result of doing this, you have no idea of the toll it has taken.
And the part that you just can't seem to hear is that there is ABSOLUTELY
NO CHANCE that we would have made 1/100th of the money we have made if
we gave away our software for free. And there is ABSOLUTELY NO CHANCE
that we would have made 1/100th of the money we have made even if we had
all the good parts of arch, BK, subversion, and clearcase put together
in a GPLed package. The market simply will not pay for obscure products
unless they have to do so.
You may have a different opinion but what you are finding out is that
your opinion is wrong and that's a painful process. I'm sorry for you,
I tried to warn you but it's understandable that you didn't listen,
we don't produce anything remotely approximating free software so we're
automatically in the "evil corporate" camp. What you didn't get is that
I'm you. I have the same ideals, the same goals, the same dedication,
the same drive to help the world. I can just hear you saying "if that's
true then BitKeeper would be GPLed, you self serving bastard". Not so.
My goal was, is, and will remain a goal of providing support for Linus
and Linux. The difference between me and you is that I have realized
what it really costs to produce a decent SCM system and then continue
to support and evolve it. It's a HUGE cost. Given that my goal was to
help Linus and that I believed that he needed a production quality system,
my choices were to get on the dot com wagon and get VC and/or make it
commercial. Otherwise it was never going to get finished. GPL was not
I choose not to go the VC route because the VC guys don't share my goals.
Their only goal is to make more money. Which means as soon as they
thought that giving BK away to the open source crowd didn't help them
make more money, they'd put a stop to that. So I passed on that, turned
down $6M from a top 3 VC firm, just wasn't worth the risk.
We went it alone, but we had to make it a for profit concern or we'd
never have gotten to where we are. And we're nowhere near done.
Yeah, yeah, I can hear you saying "thanks for the BK advertisement"
but that's not the point. The point is that the goal of helping out the
portion of free software community with difficult SCM problems FORCED us
into a corporate model. You can whine all you like about how evil that
is, how I've sold out, whatever, but the reality is that you are begging
for money so you can get to a 1.0 release and we are shipping a tool that
2000+ Linux kernel developers use world wide. For free. And it has met
the goal of helping Linus. BK still sucks, it has tons of problems, but
those problems will get solved precisely because we have a business model.
You don't. Your business model is charity. That's not going to work.
I'd be far more impressed with you if you were demonstrating that I
was wrong by showing me how to develop a system that works, in all the
corner cases, and is self supporting through a business model that
somehow works with an open source product. I'd LOVE to see that.
I hate the idea of not shipping source, it pisses me off to no end.
But it is a fact of life that if we ship it, people abuse it. And then
we go out of business. And then the product doesn't get finished.
At any rate, I don't think you are listening to any of this, so just
listen to this one thing: please stop mailing me about this. Feel
free to flame me a few more times if that makes you feel good but
don't expect a response, I've procmailed you into /dev/null. Sorry,
but I have work to do and this is too much additional stress. Good
luck, I'd love nothing more than to have you show me a business model
which proves me completely wrong, but until you do, I don't want to
hear about your problems.
Larry McVoy lm at bitmover.com http://www.bitmover.com/lm
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