Subject: Re: "On Virus" -- get real
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Tue, 5 Oct 1999 20:42:45 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Andrew" == Andrew C Greenberg <> writes:

    (requote) Andrew> This one, your words, not mine:

    >> It is _you_ that suffers the burden of showing that the

    Andrew> Not my words.

I don't understand.

In my citation style, if I know the author, his/her words are tagged
with a name, usually abbreviated.  In this particular case I was lazy
about tagging my own words, which you quoted, but I though the usage
was clear.

    >> You implied this is a bad standard; I still see nothing wrong
    >> with it, as a _partial_ standard.  I did not intend that it be
    >> the sole criterion.

    Andrew> I don't see much point in discussing such "burdens of
    Andrew> proof," regardless of the suitability of any standard.  To
    Andrew> me, I ask the question whether I am successfully conveying
    Andrew> meaning to the audience to whom I am speaking

But we're not discussing what _you_ are going to say, except for the
incidental fact that you would apparently like to continue to use
"virus," and many in this thread disagree with that usage.  We're
discussing what we would like to be common terminology that conveys
meaning accurately.  Of course we hope you'll adopt it too, but the
(IMHO) most important component of what we're talking about here is
common usage in more or less non-interactive situations.

Therefore I think it quite relevant that different people present
their various opinions on what various metaphors will connote to
different audiences.

Also, there is definitely a difference between use in private
conversation and small groups, and use in a public forum.  Although
evidently Richard would prefer that the "virus" analogy not be used at
all, ever, I make a clear distinction between the two cases.[1] I
think that the present discussion is not directly relevant to one's
private choice, where knowledge of the audience permits one much
greater flexibility in choice of metaphor.  One important issue is
whether the analogy is likely to "leak" out of the small circle
without the caveats you would attach.

An example of the distinction (again, one which surely Richard will
oppose) would be the (optional) use of "virus" as analogy, but "clause
6" as the (habitual) verbal shorthand once the notion has been made
clear.  But people like to be marketed, or at least to use catchy
phrases.  Once you use the virus analogy, someone in your audience
will surely reinvent the term "viral clause," and it will catch on.
So it's likely that no such distinction can be made in practice.

    Andrew> -- not whether I am selling to them.  The rest is sophistry.

Come now; you are a lawyer, your job includes advocacy, does it not?
Do you really never change your line of argument when you recognize
that the audience isn't buying :) your current one?

    Andrew> I think we need to use words that communicate meaning.
    Andrew> Period.

    >> Sore de wa, nihongo de mo yoroshii deshou ka.  [In that case, I
    >> suppose we can just as well continue in Japanese?]

    Andrew> Except that it didn't convey meaning.

I know.  But it does to me, and to other Japanese speakers.  And it is
_necessary_ to speak in Japanese to accurately convey meaning to
almost all Japanese.  The point being that your use of the word
"period" was meaningless in context.

You used it only to deprecate my earlier argument.  Ie, it was nothing
more nor less than "marketing."

    >> A given phrase may "adequately convey meaning" in your daily
    >> professional life; it certainly does not in mine.  Even
    >> mathematics does not communicate unambiguously, without
    >> context.

    Andrew> Please define "context."

Speaker, audience, their respective histories and common experiences,
including any definitions and semantics temporarily stipulated in the
course of discussion.

    Andrew> Doubtful.  In my experience, they appear to catch the idea
    Andrew> that GPL has properties which are passed (in this case by
    Andrew> force of law), either knowingly or unknowingly, to
    Andrew> derivative works of the GPL'd work, ***together with the
    Andrew> capacity to pass on that property to subsequent derivative
    Andrew> works*** [from the use of the "virus" analogy].

"In your experience" means when _you_ use that analogy?  Does that
context include either your direct explanations of the clause, the
legal language itself, or the membership of the audience in the class
of people who already have a pretty good idea how the different forms
of IP rights work?

The non-lawyer, mostly non-developer, types I hang out with definitely
have a very fuzzy notion of how "clause 6" works, and those who use
"viral" to describe the clause are definitely less sympathetic to it
than those who don't, although I cannot assess cause and effect.

    >> You may not be intentionally "doing marketing" (although some
    >> in this thread certainly are), but you are subject to the same
    >> considerations whenever you use a metaphor.

    Andrew> Perhaps you didn't adequately convey meaning when you used
    Andrew> the term "marketing," which to me denotes "selling" and
    Andrew> connotes "willfully shading a meaning so that it will sell
    Andrew> better."

I mentioned this possibility.  To me, "salesmanship" means "selling."

"Selling" is only a very small part of marketing.  Most of marketing
is marketing research, the process of discovering what kinds of people 
are out there, how their needs can be satisfied by your product, how
your product can be adapted to better serve their needs, how to
communicate your belief that your product serves their needs to them,
and how to communicate directly to them and not waste effort (yours
and the listeners) trying to communicate to those who aren't relevant.

In other words, "be a good listener."

Of course, marketing techniques can be used to change people's minds
about what they need, which is of debatable ethicality depending on
context, and to conceal lies long enough to execute a swindle.  But
every field has ethical problems like that.

If people are using "marketing techniques" to conceal aspects of the
GNU GPL that are deservedly controversial, I would consider that
unethical.  But I don't think that is the core argument.

    Andrew> With all due respect, I refuse to accept newspeak, whether
    Andrew> enforced by fiat or by consensus.  I am sensitive to the
    Andrew> fact that some consider the term offensive, but will not
    Andrew> adopt some new phrase on "marketing considerations." 

But there _are_ flaws in the virus analogy.

In principle, I don't object at all to use of that analogy when
restricted to persistence and contagion (although even here is it
flawed), where the user of the analogy is in a position to provide a
gloss to the audience.  However, it is sufficiently flawed that having
"viral clause" as the common name for "clause 6" risks creating more
misunderstanding than understanding.

But to decide whether the value as an analogy is greater than the
misunderstanding created is going to require market research, more
than simply your anecdotes countered by mine.

    Andrew> Nor, by the way, will the public at large.

That is not a recommendation for any term; in fact, one who is leery
of marketing should rather consider any term favored by the public at
large as suspect, the possible product of a successful spin control

I think it highly likely that a moderately accurate term advocated by
Richard Stallman and consistently used on the GNU site and by the site, and fairly commonly used by a substantial
minority of people who discuss licenses seriously, would fairly
quickly become the most common term, except for those who _do_ have a
different axe to grind.

You may not like that conclusion; it definitely does have the flavor
of marketing as selling.  But I think it is correct, and thus I think
this arcane terminological discussion is important.

[1]  In principle.  For private reasons I have decided not to use the
"virus" analogy at all.

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