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R: Consortium Caml
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Date: 2001-02-12 (12:36)
From: Markus Mottl <mottl@m...>
Subject: Re: R: Consortium Caml
On Sat, 10 Feb 2001, Daniel de Rauglaudre wrote:
> On Fri, Feb 09, 2001 at 05:22:25PM +0100, Markus Mottl wrote:
> > This is a legal question rather than an economic one. Still, I fear that
> > it will be difficult to gain many (= enough) members unless they see a
> > certain benefit from it without having too much risk.
> I don't agree with that. The idea of the Consortium is not for companies
> to get their money back: they pay for the warranty that OCaml continues.
> If you decide that OCaml has to be used in your company, you may take
> some advantages on paying. It is sponsoring, nothing else.

There are several problems with this argument:

  * There is still not enough incentive for companies (or financially
    capable individuals) to donate/sponsor/invest. Most will probably
    take the position "Let's look and see how things develop". Why should
    they pay for the warranty that OCaml continues if other companies
    could do this?

  * In practice "sponsors" (be it in arts, sports, etc.) do have
    advantages in sponsoring: they get a (most likely cheap) way of
    marketing. I don't see in this concept how companies can get the
    publicity effect they might want (need). Maybe one could do something
    about this, but it is questionable whether you need the construct
    of a Consortium when companies are more interested in the marketing
    effect (needless to say that this market is boringly small anyway).

  * ... (see below)

> Yes you loose: you loose all the applications that you wrote in OCaml!
> Of course, if your idea is not to use OCaml, may I recommend you this:
> don't pay.

  * So you really think that there are already enough commercial companies
    using OCaml to such an extent that their future only marginally
    depends on it? And even if: then it would currently (without
    any further incentives) be more rational for them to invest into
    diversification rather than donating money for a technology that is
    not yet guaranteed to make it into mainstream.

  * It is realistic to assume that companies already using OCaml want to
    continue doing so - but they don't want to continue bearing the risk.
    Making them (in addition to the technological risk) take financial
    burdens is not very attractive: who has said that they *want* to
    vote in a Consortium? Maybe they are satisfied with the technological
    decisions? So what else do they get in exchange for their donation?

    You'll hardly raise enough money without investors who only want to
    take the risk - in exchange for a potential future profit.

> The Consortium is for companies: for people who make strategic decisions
> like using the language.

Guess what most strategic decisions concerning languages look like -
and no, these decisions are not really irrational...

> It is not for individuals: as an individual, of course, you don't care
> that OCaml stops.

I *do* care whether OCaml stops or not. Therefore, I'd like to see a way
which gives OCaml the financial support it needs. At least in my opinion
it seems rather doubtful that the Consortium will achieve its goals. I
just don't think that this scheme allows you to raise enough money.

> But if you are the boss of a big company and decide
> to use it, it can be terrible if it no more supported.

Right! Therefore bosses do not decide to use OCaml. Does reality teach
you otherwise?

It is not uncommon among technically oriented people to think that
managers are incompetent, because managers don't see the potential of
new technologies. But maybe it's just that managers also consider the
risk when evaluating this potential...

> If you are a company, the most you decide using OCaml, the most you
> have interest to finance the Consortium.

No, this is an all too common mistake! Investment decisions in the
economic sense of actually buying (using) equipment or technologies are
decoupled from "financial" investment decisions!

If you use OCaml for some project, your opportunity costs are that you
cannot use Java (or else) as substitute at the same time. Most people
here will probably agree that OCaml is generally the technically better
choice (your opportunity costs are lower). Thus, it can be a rational
decision to use OCaml (not necessarily from a long term point of view
if OCaml does not have a future!).

But *at the same time* it can be a perfectly rational decision to buy
shares from Sun rather than donate to OCaml if you think that Java will
offer Sun an advantage over competitors and that this is not yet fully
reflected in the price. There is (currently) no financial advantage in
becoming a member of the OCaml-consortium!

If you want to make OCaml successful, you need to also make it a
potentially profitable investment from a financial point of view. Money
always goes the way where it has the best chance of high return, which
does not mean that you (or I) like this way - so we better build one:
to OCaml...

Markus Mottl

Markus Mottl,,