Subject: Re: I think I'm beginning to understand.
From: ghost@ALADDIN.COM (L. Peter Deutsch)
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 93 12:35:29 PDT

> What is the big problem with free software development?  Keeping the
> private cost below the private gain.  One way to do that is to get
> the software into people's hands as soon as possible, EVEN if it is
> buggy, incomplete, poorly documented, etc.  Yes, Peter, I realize
> that this is offensive to your sense of what constitutes good
> software.

Actually, that's exactly how I handled Ghostscript in its first 4 years,
before it got close to commercial quality, but now people's expectations
are higher (I realize, of course, that I had a hand in creating those
expectations!), and so are my own quality standards, since Ghostscript is
now competing with high-quality, mature interpreters like the Phoenix
interpreter and Freedom of the Press.

> However, getting software (whether free or proprietary) out to people
> very quickly accomplishes two goals: You hear about bugs early, and
> of course early bug reports are cheaper to fix than late ones, and
> you also get product feedback.  The free software advantage is that
> you can get bug fixes, not just bug reports, and users can improve
> the product themselves.

I agree.  And my commercial business has been helped immensely by bug
fixes and other contributions from users of the free distribution.  I do
always explain to contributors that they are making a free gift of their
work to a commercial enterprise, but almost everyone is willing to do
this, because they know they will continue to have access to the
copylefted distribution, and because they know that the existence of the
commercial enterprise has a great deal to do with the continued
development of Ghostscript.  (In one case, the contributor insisted on
copyleft-only distribution, so I don't include that code in the commercial
version.)  And of course I'm happy to let people know about others' free
products built on top of Ghostscript, like the 3 previewers (ghostview and
GSpreview for X Windows, and the forthcoming gsview for MS Windows).

L. Peter Deutsch :: Aladdin Enterprises :: P.O. box 60264, Palo Alto, CA 94306
ghost@aladdin.com, ...decwrl!aladdin!ghost ; voice 415-322-0103 ; fax 322-1734
	    "Implementation is the sincerest form of flattery."