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Permanent link to archive for Tuesday, August 29, 2000. Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Today: Mind Bombs for Y2K. 7PM, Room 102, Moscone, 747 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA.

Drinks and tapas at the Thirsty Bear following.

Moving forward, anyway 

I had a dream about Cameron Barrett last night. He followed me everywhere I went, insulted by everything I did. I bend down to tie my shoelaces. He whines. I call a cab. He whines. I make a cup of coffee. He whines.

Here's the deal, whenever you move, whenever there's a change, someone wants you to stay right where you are. It annoys me because a part of me agrees with him. "See I told you!" my subconscious says. Another inner voice sighs. "We're going to move anyway."

To Cam and others who don't want me to change, sorry, control your own space. We're going forward.

Rock and roll 

Things are really rockin over on the discussion group.

Something shifted yesterday, I have a hard time putting my finger on why. I think it's that people are listening to each other. Finally. I said yesterday "I don't think we've been doing a lot of listening for the last few years."

Brett Glass keeps bringing the discussion back to the evils of Richard Stallman and the GPL. I think it's more complicated. I couldn't support the GPL for MacBird because it's a poison pill for a person such as myself who makes a mixture of commercial and open source software. When I give away code, I want to give it away with no strings attached, for me or for anyone else. And when I put a price on software that's because I want to be paid for it. I've always done both open source and commercial software. To me it's an honor to get paid for something I create. I'm like a musical artist that way.

Then the subject swung around to why the open source "movement" gained traction. For some reason this discussion happened off the DG in email. I'd like to give my thoughts some public air.

Stallman's popularity is a result of what Microsoft did when the Web became a juggernaut. They attacked. Everything was a threat to Microsoft. They attacked relentlessly. They forced a choice. Become a captive Microsoft developer, or.. or what?

Developers legitimately wanted WORA. Microsoft thwarted them. This was their mistake, focusing on Sun, and blowing off the developers. I expected Gates to get this, but he didn't. They call him a "developer's developer." Bullshit. Now MS is left with developers who are such pussies they could overlook MS's "company town" attitude about developers. The ones with balls went to Java, or open source, or are drifting around aimlessly waiting for the industry to restart.

So don't say Stallman created this mess. No one would have cared if Microsoft hadn't forced a decision. If they had been more relaxed about the Web, let Netscape drift, and stay on the side of developers, Microsoft would have cleaned up and we wouldn't be talking about Stallman or open source now. My opinion of course. (And this isn't just good hindsight, it's what I begged Microsoft to do, publicly, starting in 1995.)

Talking with Paul Everitt yesterday, the Zope guy, I said "We've acknowledged open source, now it's time to have balance." Let's have the open source developers acknowledge that it's a multi-colored world, that there are Macs and Windows and Linux, and open source and commercial software, and all levels of quality therein.

Now, a lot of open source developers wonder what the big deal is. "We already acknowledge you," they say. They are our friends, and they tell us that most open source developers agree. That's cool! But the PR noise about open source is not in agreement with this message, and the users, press, and investors hear the PR message, and you wouldn't believe the kind of pressure it puts on us. When the initial rush of hype about open source came a couple of years ago, while all the PR leaders were basking in the glory, we were getting decimated. For us it was esp bitter, it came just as we were turning Frontier into a commercial product after having given it away for years, we were trying to get onto solid ground. Had we not been able to do this, there would be no Manila, no XML-RPC, probably no SOAP or RSS either. Or Radio UserLand, or the World Outline, or whatever else we come up with next. The open source hype made it much harder than it had to be.

BTW, to the open source developers, all our innovations are without patents. We've been blazing new trails on a regular basis for the last few years, esp in the last few weeks, and documenting our work. Anyone who files patents in these areas, and you can be sure that's happening now, will find a trail of prior art blocking their greed.

During the heat of the open source hype, every day our users would tell us Eric Raymond's bullshit about our intentions. They would demand that we release our source code, as if that had anything to do with getting them what they wanted. We were undermined. At the same time Bill Gates was fueling the fire by picking on Java developers, undermining them as we were being undermined by the open source PR. The opportunists on the open source side continued to hurl bricks at all commercial developers, as if we were all self-centered bastards like Gates. I'm sure they knew better, but it worked for them. Meanwhile open source developers, people much like ourselves, ignored the hype, but we couldn't. It was so in our face it couldn't be ignored.

Now, I've tried to be an official open source developer. I gave away a beautiful program that would help the Linux guys compete with the Mac. It's gone nowhere. The leaders want to take the shortcut, instead of linking up with the Mac, they want to erase it. These are not our friends. They do unfriendly Bill Gates-like things. Well fuck that shit. Let's create a programmer's club, and let's help each other.

And to Bill Gates, I'm totally happy to meet to talk with you too. Let's get the software industry going again. It'll be good for all of us. I'm willing to do my part, but you have to do yours. You hurt all of us by attacking the Web so viciously. The right thing to do is to repair the damage you caused.

End of rant, for now.

On O'Reilly 

I've been very hard on O'Reilly. I didn't realize how hard.

Re-reading my message to Brian Behlendorf, I see it differently from how I saw it then.

A statement of friendship must not have any bitterness in it.

I also understand that O'Reilly is a high-quality company. And they have their own point of view, which is certainly a valid one.

I had similar trouble with Apple, and eventually came to understand their point of view. (They hated the Web because it undermined everything they stood for. I didn't understand this, while I was saying publicly that they didn't get the Web, they did get the Web, they just didn't like it!)

Apple also controlled the Macintosh developer community. This was a choice of Apple's and the Macintosh developer community. So when I say O'Reilly is running a captive developer community, the same applies. You have to be a friend of O'Reilly's to speak at their developer conference. I am not a friend of O'Reilly's. And the developers who attend the conference must know that, even if not at a conscious level. Their conference works, and will continue to work, whether or not dissenting views are embraced.

I have wanted to be a friend of O'Reilly's, because we stand for many of the same things. First and foremost is technical excellence. That's also, by the way, the bond we have with Microsoft. Even though they play a piggish game with the rest of the industry, underneath it, there's a twinkle in the eye of Microsoft's technical culture. O'Reilly has that twinkle too.

Tim has also personally come out against software patents, but the follow-through has been unsatisfying, given the urgent and escalating threat to intellectual freedom for software developers. Open source does not trump patents. The freeze in MP3-related technology is not just coming from music industry, it's also coming from a patent held by a German company who is ruthlessly enforcing it.

Like Apple, O'Reilly plays a pretty nasty game, on a personal level. However I'm sure some of this is a response to the criticism of O'Reilly that I've posted here and elsewhere. Tim has told me as much. Even so, had they included our work in their show, they would have found that I give a professional presentation, and am open to other points of view, and don't force mine on others. I think Tim even knows this, he was delighted at the Web Apps presentation we did at Esther's. It's a shame we didn't do a repeat performance at the Open Source Convention, and also talk about how XML-RPC, SOAP and RSS can benefit open source developers. A missed, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, imho. Y2K is the year that these technologies make it or don't. How much more powerful we'd all be if we could present all ideas, without fear. But we're not ready for that yet, clearly.

And that's a great note to end my writing for the day. Today I'm going to lead two discussions. The first is on Napster. If you think the heat between open source and commercial developers is strong, it's nothing compared to the fire between Napster users and people who hate Napster. I'm walking right into the middle of this today. I have a very nervous feeling in my stomach!

Somehow I'll probably survive. I'm going to remember to breathe. And remember that nothing is as serious as we sometimes think it is.

"It's even worse than it appears."


Last update: Tuesday, August 29, 2000 at 8:52 AM Eastern.

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