[Haskell-cafe] Re: Why Not Haskell?

Reilly Hayes rfh at reillyhayes.com
Wed Aug 9 01:38:46 EDT 2006

On Aug 8, 2006, at 1:42 AM, Immanuel Litzroth wrote:

> "Reilly Hayes" <rfh at reillyhayes.com> writes:
> I don't understand your argument. How exactly does the GPL get in the
> way of selling software as an instantiation of business expertise?
> Are you saying that you have the business expertise but customers
> still prefer not to buy your software? Doesn't that just mean that
> your expertise isn't worth much (economic evaluation :-). Or that your
> idea that they were buying expertise was not correct, they were just
> buying the software after all, and now they have an alternative?

I failed to communicate my case clearly.  The software *is* what is  
being sold.  The *reason* it is valuable is the business expertise  
required to build it.  There are markets with very small populations  
of people who both understand the business thoroughly and can  
implement solutions.  It makes software valuable and makes licensing  
the most effective way to monetize that value.

> Yes I know the business model. Sell them some overpriced software
> charge them through the nose for support, features, training,
> installation, updates ....
> Your resentment against the GPL stems from the fact that it makes
> squeezing the last buck out of your clients somewhat harder (in some
> markets). It probably annoys you that you are not dealing with a
> competitor who is making shitloads of money, making some price fixing
> or secret agreements not feasable. Your problem is that just as your
> business practice is not illegal, neither is the GPL.

This paragraph is way out of line.  You have taken a discussion of  
the merits of using GPL software and turned it into a personal  
attack.  Attack the argument, not the arguer.  It would be both  
polite and reasonable to tone down the hostility if you actually want  
a discussion.

Certainly, some firms use restrictive software licensing to maximize  
short term revenue from their clients in the way you describe.  But I  
was referring to the marketing value of having the IP.  It's easier  
to sell services when you have some unique core IP, even to clients  
that aren't going to buy your product.  It gives your credibility a  

I don't have a problem with the GPL.  In my professional life,  I am  
careful to avoid GPL software in those cases where the GPL would  
interfere with the firm's commercial interests.  I certainly don't  
resent the GPL or those who choose to release software under the  
GPL.  In fact, I can imagine wanting to release some kinds of  
software under the GPL.

The point I was making was that the GPL *does* get in the way of  
*some* optimal mechanisms of making money.  Which is *fine*.  That is  
one of the *intents* of the GPL.  The argument that I am trying to  
counter is the one that says open source is *always* better for  
everybody.  Sometimes, the best thing for the owner of the  
intellectual property is to keep it closed.  There *are* markets  
where monetization of IP is a zero sum game, or worse (if the IP is  
public, nobody makes any money).

>> I'm not making (or getting involved in) the moral argument about  
>> free or open
>> software.  I will point out that the current good health of  
>> Haskell owes a
>> great deal to Microsoft through the computer scientists they  
>> employ.  I'm sure
>> Haskell has benefitted from the largesse of other companies as well.
> That is definitely wrong. Haskell would be in even greater shape if
> some people who shall remain unnamed had not gone over to Microsoft. I
> foresee an interesting discussion here.

I don't see how you can say Haskell would be better OR worse off if  
people hadn't gone to work for Microsoft.  It's an entirely  
hypothetical case and it's just not knowable.  My point is much  
simpler.  Haskell & GHC do benefit from the efforts of people being  
paid by Microsoft.  Microsoft is planning to hire a full-time  
contractor to work on GHC.

The snarky comment about "people who shall remain unnamed" is rude.

-R Hayes

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