[opam-devel] [Caml-list] GODI is shutting down

Vincent Bernardoff vb at luminar.eu.org
Wed Jul 31 15:19:11 BST 2013

On 25/07/2013 02:21, Pierre-Etienne Meunier wrote:
> Hi Amir, Hi Opam developers,
> Before starting to clarify what I meant, I would like to state that I
> did not mean any harm to anyone. The least thing I want is to start
> trolls. I feel sorry if my initial email sounded aggressive to you,
> this was not my intention at all! I realize that I wrote it in a
> rush, like almost everything I do, and I should have taken my time to
> explain what I meant more clearly.

You did not sound aggressive to me at least.

> You gave me the opportunity to clearly state what I meant with this
> "dictator" jargon, so let me take it and try to be as clear as
> possible. This is one of my favorite topics of discussion, by the
> way, so I am interested in continuing this conversation, if you
> want.
>> I don't really understand what you mean about dictators.  What
>> would dictatorship look like to you?  I'm always free to remove
>> software from my machine (assuming that it was sensibly installed)
>> so I find it difficult to understand your viewpoint.  If it's a
>> case of contributions I've made to software, then I guess I can't
>> revoke my actual commits but I can stop contributing more.
> Without saying anything general about startups being all dictators (I
> was trying to be careful in my first email to avoid abusive
> generalizations, sorry if I missed this ;-), I would identify several
> dictatorial behaviors in the following current software adventures:
> - Steve wants to sell phones. Rather, he wants to sell phones running
> software he likes. Since he does not want to write all the code
> himself, he found it cheaper to create a "hype" around his phone, and
> have armies of people working for him for free. Why not? But he
> becomes a dictator when he decides to choose who has the right to run
> software on the phones he sells, and who hasn't. His stage of
> dictatorship is so advanced, that he even discards people's work
> after its completion!
> [...]

I enjoyed reading this passage. I too think that any kind of power on 
any thing should be framed from the start, to prevent abuses. I also 
believe that power corrupts and absolute power corrupt absolutely and 
that kind of stuff.

So basically you're concern is "If I put energy on OPAM I don't want my 
work to fall into the hands of OcamlPro". If OCaml was to become really 
big and OPAM was to become the main source to discover new packages, 
then indeed the maintainers of OPAM repository (currently jointly 
OCamlPro/Ocamllabs) would have a big power. It can happen, I personally 
discovered many libraries/programs written in OCaml by watching the 
opam-repository on github.

To counter that, it is necessary that OPAM would be managed like Debian, 
by a consortium of stakeholders of the OCaml ecosystem (what GODI never 
was). Is is already the case, Anil being a commiter of 
OCamlPro/opam-repository on Github. And would OcamlPro becoming 
dictatorial, nothing would prevent a fork anyway (of the repository, of 
the program).

I doubt OCamlPro wants to cling to OPAM that much anyway. It is so much 
work to maintain this kind of thing that it can only be done by many 
contributors in the same time. Now, could you please tell us what kind 
of guarantees would you like to have in order to feel confident you can 
contribute to OPAM ? What does Debian has that guarantees that no one 
can take control of it that OPAM would not have ?

Currently I see only one: The fact that Debian is bigger, thus have more 
contributors, diluting the amount of power every contributor 
individually has. And the fact that Debian is not a for-profit company. 
That's what I ask you, imagine you were in charge of OPAM, in those 
conditions (owning OCamlPro or sth like that). What would you do ?

>> Side note: I think your characterisation of 'startups = dictators'
>> is overly broad and not particularly useful.  By that reasoning
>> *any and every* new project is trying to be a dictator.  Do you
>> really believe that?  I notice that Patoline's site doesn't
>> explicitly state that you're not trying to be dictators (but of
>> course, I wouldn't have assumed that you were).  I don't really
>> want to get into a debate about free vs open vs closed software,
>> I'm just trying to understand what 'dictators' means to you.
> I am really sorry if my characterization seemed too general. I said
> something more moderate, like "there is a trend" and "repeating so
> often that you admire a dictatorial company such as github". This
> does not mean at all that I do not admire people who start ambitious
> projects, this is even one of the main ways the world improves!
> It just means that, given some of the current patterns in the
> software business, that I listed above, this is a reasonable concern.

Yes, I agree completely. Organisations that hold any kind of power of 
all sort should have a structural scheme to prevent any abuse. This is 
precisely what, as you said, most companies do not do and this is 
personnally what I require also. But in the case of OPAM, I don't see 
OCamlPro having enough power over it to make it a problem.

> If opam were completely closed, on the model of cabal, for instance,
> I would really find it less interesting: after all, if I am
> considering writing packages on my free time, I don't mind if someone
> makes profit out of it, but I do if they can control its
> distribution, based on their own standards of quality or whatever: I
> consider it a restriction of my freedom of expression.

You can use any repository you like with OPAM. Would it make you feel 
comfortable if, for example, "opam init" would ask for what default 
repository to use (maybe already the case actually, I don't remember).


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