[TOS] Guidelines on launching an open source project?

Mark Hoemmen mark.hoemmen at gmail.com
Tue Jun 26 19:16:46 UTC 2012

On Tue, Jun 26, 2012 at 1:56 AM, Kevin Mark <kevin.mark at verizon.net> wrote:
> Another distinctions is the type of freeness:
> BSD-types vs GPL-types are 2 general catagories that are popular. The BSD-types
> want folks to be able to open or close the code at will and not have the same
> type of 'community support' as the GPL-type. The GPL-type want to always have a
> community able to access the code and dont want it closed.

I would dispute this characterization of BSD.  For our software
project (a collection of mathematical solvers), BSD allows cooperative
vendors to "add value" (i.e., make a derivative work) and sell the
result as a closed-source product.  This lets us focus on our area of
expertise (algorithms) and leave some of the low-level performance
tuning to system vendors, who in turn have a commercial incentive to
do so.  BSD works for us for the following reasons:

1. The kinds of organizations who would want to sell our software
don't typically have enough algorithmic expertise to keep the project
alive.  They need us to continue algorithmic innovation, which is a
huge part of the performance gains that mathematical software has seen
over the last few decades.
2. We have sufficient public reputation that it's too late for others
to steal and profit from our work.
3. Our market is small and probably not profitable for commercial vendors.

It's possible to change from, say, LGPL to BSD.  I can see the
advantages of starting with LGPL and moving to BSD only if it makes
sense.  (We did this, in fact.)

Regardless of what one thinks of this approach (I don't mean to start
a debate here), we certainly have no intention of ever closing the
code.  In fact, one of our goals in opening the source code (which
came at considerable bureaucratic cost) was to insure ourselves
against loss of project funding by recruiting external collaborators.
We have many external collaborators who make significant contributions
to the code, and they provide quite a bit of "community support."

> On Tue, Jun 26, 2012 at 08:51:40AM +0200, adam hyde wrote:
>> The value and consequently the interesting and challenging
>> opportunities that 'openness' presents lie elsewhere. They reside in
>> the need to determine what "openness" means to your organisation.

This is the reason why I felt compelled to say something.  While the
license does influence the community model, building a community takes
real work which is completely separate from choosing a license.
Having an LGPL or GPL license vs. BSD doesn't automatically make the
developers friendly to external contributions: see e.g., the GCC saga
about plugins: http://lwn.net/Articles/301135/


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