Tal G in his excellent blog piece talks of “Why R Developers should not be paid” http://www.r-statistics.com/2010/09/open-source-and-money-why-r-developers-shouldnt-be-paid/
His argument of love is not very original though it was first made by these four guys
I am going to argue that “some” R developers should be paid, while the main focus should be volunteers code. These R developers should be paid as per usage of their packages.
Let me expand.
Imagine the following conversation between Ross Ihaka, Norman Nie and Peter Dalgaard.
Norman- Hey Guys, Can you give me some code- I got this new startup.
Ross Ihaka and Peter Dalgaard- Sure dude. Here is 100,000 lines of code, 2000 packages and 2 decades of effort.
Norman- Thanks guys.
Ross Ihaka- Hey, What you gonna do with this code.
Norman- I will better it. Sell it. Finally beat Jim Goodnight and his **** Proc GLM and **** Proc Reg.
Ross- Okay, but what will you give us? Will you give us some code back of what you improve?
Norman – Uh, let me explain this open core …
Peter D- Well how about some royalty?
Norman- Sure, we will throw parties at all conferences, snacks you know at user groups.
Ross – Hmm. That does not sound fair. (walks away in a huff muttering)-He takes our code, sells it and wont share the code
Peter D- Doesnt sound fair. I am back to reading Hamlet, the great Dane, and writing the next edition of my book. I am glad I wrote a book- Ross didnt even write that.
Norman-Uh Oh. (picks his phone)- Hey David Smith, We need to write some blog articles pronto – these open source guys ,man…
———–I think that sums what has been going on in the dynamics of R recently. If Ross Ihaka and R Gentleman had adopted an open core strategy- meaning you can create packages to R but not share the original where would we all be?
At this point if he is reading this, David Smith , long suffering veteran of open source flameouts is rolling his eyes while Tal G is wondering if he will publish this on R Bloggers and if so when or something.
Lets bring in another R veteran- Hadley Wickham who wrote a book on R and also created ggplot. Thats the best quality, most often used graphics package.
In terms of economic utilty to end user- the ggplot package may be as useful if not more as the foreach package developed by Revolution Computing/Analytics.
Now http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/foreach/index.html says that foreach is licensed under http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0
However lets come to open core licensing ( read it here http://alampitt.typepad.com/lampitt_or_leave_it/2008/08/open-core-licen.html ) which is where the debate is- Revolution takes code- enhances it (in my opinion) substantially with new formats XDF for better efficieny, web services API, and soon coming next year a GUI (thanks in advance , Dr Nie and guys)
and sells this advanced R code to businesses happy to pay ( they are currently paying much more to DR Goodnight and HIS guys)
Why would any sane customer buy it from Revolution- if he could download exactly the same thing from http://r-project.org
Hence the business need for Revolution Analytics to have an enhanced R- as they are using a product based software model not software as a service model.
If Revolution gives away source code of these new enhanced codes to R core team- how will R core team protect the above mentioned intelectual property- given they have 2 decades experience of giving away free code , and back and forth on just code.
Now Revolution also has a marketing budget- and thats how they sponsor some R Core events, conferences, after conference snacks.
How would people decide if they are being too generous or too stingy in their contribution (compared to the formidable generosity of SAS Institute to its employees, stakeholders and even third party analysts).
Would it not be better- IF Revolution can shift that aspect of relationship to its Research and Development budget than it’s marketing budget- come with some sort of incentive for “SOME” developers – even researchers need grants and assistantships, scholarships, make a transparent royalty formula say 17.5 % of the NEW R sales goes to R PACKAGE Developers pool, which in turn examines usage rate of packages and need/merit before allocation- that would require Revolution to evolve from a startup to a more sophisticated corporate and R Core can use this the same way as John M Chambers software award/scholarship
Dont pay all developers- it would be an insult to many of them – say Prof Harrell creator of HMisc to accept – but can Revolution expand its dev base (and prospect for future employees) by even sponsoring some R Scholarships.
And I am sure that if Revolution opens up some more code to the community- they would the rest of the world and it’s help useful. If it cant trust people like R Gentleman with some source code – well he is a board member.
Now to sum up some technical discussions on NeW R
1) An accepted way of benchmarking efficiencies.
2) Code review and incorporation of efficiencies.
3) Multi threading- Multi core usage are trends to be incorporated.
4) GUIs like R Commander E Plugins for other packages, and Rattle for Data Mining to have focussed (or Deducer). This may involve hiring User Interface Designers (like from Apple who will work for love AND money ( Even the Beatles charge royalty for that song)
5) More support to cloud computing initiatives like Biocep and Elastic R – or Amazon AMI for using cloud computers- note efficiency arguements dont matter if you just use a Chrome Browser and pay 2 cents a hour for an Amazon Instance. Probably R core needs more direct involvement of Google (Cloud OS makers) and Amazon as well as even Salesforce.com (for creating Force.com Apps). Note even more corporates here need to be involved as cloud computing doesnot have any free and open source infrastructure (YET)
Debates will come and go. This is an interesting intellectual debate and someday the liitle guys will win the Revolution-
From Hugh M of Gaping Void-
HOW DOES A SOFTWARE COMPANY MAKE MONEY, IF ALL
SOFTWARE IS FREE?
“If something goes wrong with Microsoft, I can phone Microsoft up and have it fixed. With Open Source, I have to rely on the community.”
And the community, as much as we may love it, is unpredictable. It might care about your problem and want to fix it, then again, it may not. Anyone who has ever witnessed something online go “viral”, good or bad, will know what I’m talking about.
Kind of sums up why the open core licensing is all about.