Hacker Newsnew | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

Sometimes I find the cognitive dissonance in the software community to be as entertaining to watch as that in various religious sects...

Software types are famously inclined toward libertarian views. An oft repeated mantra on HN is "let the market decide". Yet, here we have myriad complaints about a decision the market has made.

What I particularly love about the Open Source/Free Software world is that it is a market in the truest sense. Barriers to entry are extremely low and, while there aren't necessarily dollars to throw around, consumers vote with their time and attention, both quantities arguably more valuable than currency. It is interesting to watch this market choose benevolent dictatorship models of governance over more democratic rule. It is intriguing to see reinvented wheels succeed for seemingly inconsequential reasons.

And, in this case, it is rather informative to observe how expediency wins out, even to the potential detriment of the very consumers who have made this choice. Reimplementing the code in question would require work. Clarifying or requesting a change of licensing terms would require work. Instead, the "market" (many, many OSS projects in this case) has chosen the preexisting solution that contains a potential time bomb.

If I didn't know any better, I'd almost say that this article is a veiled call for regulation. It's almost as if the market, left to its own devices, doesn't always make the best long-term decisions when short-term benefit weighs in opposition.

The world of Open Source/Free Software really is fascinating to watch...

>It's almost as if the market, left to its own devices, doesn't always make the best long-term decisions when short-term benefit weighs in opposition.

It's almost as if people look for any example, no matter how flimsy an analogy it is, to confirm their worldview.

So, the vast majority of people are very happy to use this software with this vague license because it doesn't fucking matter to 95% of all software developers. You could think of this as a market failure, if you like, because the license pisses this one person off. But you could also see it as a complete market triumph because this guy is completely free to write his own json parser! He's not compelled to use Crockford's or Google's or anyone else's.

Software types, particularly open source software types, are also known to have massive egos. This is just a childish rant (In conclusion: thank you so VERY much Doug Crockford for making the world of Free Software measurably worse.) from a guy who's getting worked up that GASP not everyone cares as much as he does about software licensing.


It's not a market failure because it pisses off one person. It's a market failure in that the long-term sustainability of a fundamental component of the ecosystem is in question. Potentially, Douglas Crockford could hire a team of lawyers and go after every single software engineer or company that he disagrees with by claiming they are "evil" (never mind the ontological questions and somewhat inherent contradiction such behavior would represent).

Yes, the license terms don't matter to 95% of all software developers. So what? Care to guess at the percentage of brokers that made out like bandits trading CDOs? My point is exactly that an ecosystem where the bulk of players can benefit by optimizing for the short-term at the potential expense of the long-term will fail to find the long-term optimal solution (at least, not without significant upheaval).

But then, I suppose I am completely free to till my own back yard, grow some vegetables, and raise chickens so...yeah, complete market triumph!


If you see it as a market, this is a typical market failure (externality and / or information assymmetry).

Since the author has chosen a non-standard license, I doubt government regulation would help (unless that regulation outlawed non-standard FLOSS licenses).

Probably would be better to reduce the information assymmetry. Maybe Github could have warning notifications for custom licenses, for example?


Do I understand correctly that you think that outlawing creation of custom licenses besides the chosen and already existing few will solve the perceived problem?

What's the next step, outlawing forks, since there are already enough projects?

And why do you see the very existence of the library with "no evil" clause as a market failure? Is that some people think that it's basic human right to be allowed to do evil? Doing evil, if we define evil as illegal, is already outlawed, so this one phrase is clearly redundant.

I said you, but it's not addressed to you, but to people that got so offended and turned up by this small "do no evil" purpose.

The market already decided, and that clause is there for a purpose. The author clearly didn't want people unsure if this piece of software will be used for good or evil to use it.

It's funny that people are ready to sign all kind of nonsense in commercial licenses, and this small clause makes so much pain to some "open source" developers.


Do you have a start up? Do you hope that you will some day be able to make an exit with that start up? Are you willing to entertain a buy-out by a larger corporation as a possible exit?

If yes, then as much as you (the hacker/startup founder) might not care or have a second thought about licenses like this, you should keep in mind that your potential purchaser almost definitely will.

Also, just for the record, I'm actually a big fan of Crockford's "Do no evil" license. What bothers me is the number of people who don't pay any more attention to the licenses of the software on which they build entire companies than they do to the EULAs of the software they install. Casually agreeing to a EULA is not the same as disregarding an Open Source license.


I completely agree with you here. People should take care about licenses of the software they use, especially in a commercial setup, for all the reasons you stated.

But, you read the license, you decide if you are going to use it or not. That's it. If you are not sure, just don't use it. Use something else if available. Or build your own.

What I don't understand is the basis on which some people complain about the authors choice of the license, and feel offended by his license choice.

edit: s/started/stated/


Indeed. Regarding the article itself, my view would be that the blame lies squarely at the feet of the Mono team for using Crockford's code, license and all, knowing that their target audience (finicky Linux distros) might later object. But then, properly assigning blame is a talent few, if any, possess.


No, I'm saying that will not solve the perceived problem.

I suggest more information, such as "Be aware that this software is licensed under a custom license. Click here to view the license."

I don't think the author of the article suggests that evil should be allowed, but that it is very hard to define evil, and that this clause makes the license non-free software.


It honestly would not be that difficult to implement something like this. Both the OSI and FSF maintain lists of "approved" licenses along with standard license text. In fact, Pivotal Labs has created a tool along these lines for Ruby: https://github.com/pivotal/LicenseFinder , and the Leiningen project tool from Clojure allows for licenses to be specified in a machine parseable format: https://github.com/technomancy/leiningen/blob/master/sample.... .


I agree with you here. But the software is $free, just now for available to everyone, and "non-free" in the FSF definition of "free".


I've always considered the one thing that Google Code has over Github is the mandatory selection of a standard license when creating a publicly visible project.

Also, to the point of regulation, the government is by no means the only vector by which it can be delivered. I think if you look through history, some of the most successful regulatory regimes have been separated from the traditional civil government.


Is there even actually a default license for public projects? I couldn't find anything except that if you have a public project you permit people to fork it.

Mandating a license (any license) but perhaps offering a selection to be automatically included would be a really good idea.

I wonder if you could actually put a license that gave permission to fork/clone but not actually to run/distribute outside github or otherwise use the code or derivatives thereof. I've not tried and wouldn't try to go against the spirit of Github in that way but it seems as if it might be permissible.


>It's almost as if the market, left to its own devices, doesn't always make the best long-term decisions when short-term benefit weighs in opposition.

It does not.

To say it does is an extraordinary claim with deserves extraordinary proof --and, no, ideological ramblings from economists is not proof.

Furthermore, this opinion regarding the market, ie. the "free market" concept, is a very isolated in acceptance Anglo-Saxon idea.

Far from being a scientific conclusion, like gravity or evolution, even though it's touted as such from it's proponents.


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact