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Date: -- (:)
From: Markus Mottl <markus.mottl@g...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] Re: The OCaml Community (aka back from the Developer Days)
Dear Gerd,

On Jan 29, 2008 8:45 AM, Gerd Stolpmann <info@gerd-stolpmann.de> wrote:
> 1. GODI is meant as an effort to bundle the activities of the community.
> It is not a commercial offer, and there is no customer support
> complaints can be directed at. If you want to improve it, the only way
> is to spend time and energy, and to enter a constructive discussion on
> godi-list. It is a pity that nobody at Jane Street wants to do this.

It seems to me that the OCaml mailing list is an appropriate place to
discuss the future of package management systems for OCaml.  We would
certainly gladly contribute to the development of Godi, since we, too,
think that a good package management system is essential for the
success of OCaml.  It's just that we feel that the basic design of
Godi, especially it's reliance on NetBSD-like package management,
would not play out well in the long haul, because we came to the
conclusion that it is not sufficiently developer-friendly.

We don't see that as a failure on your side, because finding the right
solution to notoriously complex problems of this sort is, to a large
degree, a matter of trial and error.  It seems that the major problems
that people faced back then as package users were addressed well.
Experience taught us that better support for other roles, especially
developers, is needed, and this may require a substantially different
approach.

> 2. As I'm the guy who mainly developed the core of GODI I can tell you
> that every hour I work on GODI is an hour I cannot work for one of my
> customers. So GODI produces opportunity costs for me. From that point of
> view I cannot understand a (probably) rich company that profited from
> this project for free, and is unwilling to share some of the costs.
> There is an economy behind free software, and Jane Street seems not to
> have understood it.

I think you have to admit that you are not being fair here.  Our
company has spent a fairly significant amount of time and money on
contributing to OCaml.  Organizing the OCaml Summer Project alone has
easily cost us many tens of thousands of dollars. And that's not
counting lost developer time.

> 3. Jane Street announced several times that they wanted to release
> software into the OSS world. Nothing happened.

This, too, is not true.  We certainly haven't released as much as we
would like to, since, as you might guess, we are extremely busy making
a living of our work, too. But I think you are doing us a big disfavor
with such false remarks by disregarding contributions we have made,
newly developed libraries like Sexplib, substantially rewritten ones
(Sqlite3-bindings), feature extensions (e.g. to Lacaml), compiler
patches (e.g. function call backtraces; tons of bug reports and
fixes), etc., and there is much more, very well-tested code in the
final stage of our release process.  Note that not all our
contributions are published on our website.  We are not into
marketing.

> From that experience I think your "new approach" is also nothing but vaporware.

I haven't said anywhere that we already have a "new approach".  In
fact, I said the exact opposite, namely that we are not sure yet what
exactly a better alternative would look like.  This is the reason why
we want to contribute to the discussion, and pointing out the
downsides of existing software, too, is important to make progress.

Lets face it: the vast majority of people just want to install a few
libraries they need for their work on their research or pet projects.
Godi is perfectly fine for maintaining such environments.  But if
sharing code and collaborative work is high on your list of priorities
(as it is for large teams like ours and surely also open source
development teams), Godi seems more like an obstacle.  A more
integrated and sufficiently standardized approach that combines
version control, build systems, automated compilation and test suites,
and packaging seems necessary to really give a boost to our
productivity.

> Sorry for the direct language, but you provoked it. It is a pity to lose
> Jane Street as supporter of GODI. If you still want to enter into a
> constructive dialog, I'm open to it.

Constructive dialogs cannot only consist of positive remarks, and I'm
sure you understand that.  You have pioneered an area that nobody else
in the OCaml community had tried before, because it's hard and a lot
of work.  As much as pioneers discover fruitful areas, they also
discover parts that are not worthwhile going.  I appreciate this
effort, and I can understand your defensive and natural reaction to
our criticism.  But note that this is not a criticism of you but of
the potential of Godi as the foundation for a standardized package
management system for OCaml.

Best regards,
Markus

-- 
Markus Mottl        http://www.ocaml.info        markus.mottl@gmail.com