[Numpy-discussion] Re: Purchasing Documentation

Tim Churches tchur at optusnet.com.au
Mon Oct 3 21:29:57 CDT 2005

Travis Oliphant wrote:
> Tim Churches wrote:
>> Travis Oliphant wrote:
>>> Tim Churches wrote:
>> Travis, are you saying that this agreement only allows a single person
>> to read the single printed copy? If so, I think you need a formally
>> worded legal license to make that stick - certainly Australian copyright
>> law (nor copyright law in other countries, I suspect) does not provide
>> any support for such severe restrictions in the use of a printed
>> document. Under copyright law, you may not make unauthorised copies of a
>> printed document, but you can certainly lend that copy to others, or
>> sell or give it to them, or share it as a bench manual.
> I'm just stating what I think is fair.  I'm not going to try and use the
> power of the Australian state or any other to try and enforce it. 

My point was that you won't get any help from the State if what you
think is fair extends to restricting who can read a single printed copy
of your documentation. You will need to resort to tort law to enforce
such restrictions, and thus you really need a formal documentation
license, if that is your aim.

>> Many of those downloads are for "t[y|i]re-kicking" - potential users
>> determining whether it meets their needs. If those potential users have
>> to pay for documentation up-front, then a large proportion will go
>> elsewhere. The rest are probably existing NumPy users upgrading (or
>> testing the upgrade waters). The latter group may well pay for
>> documentation, but how large is that group? For example, how many people
>> are subscribed to the numpy-discussion mailing list?
> Don't know.  But, there is enough free documentation to get started, I
> think.    Lack of documentation has hampered more people than cost of
> existing documentation, I think.

I have to disagree on this point. Granted the existing documentation for
NumPy is not fantastic - some aspects of it are positively obscure - but
overall it is better than good-enough, we have found, and was not a
barrier to our decision to use NumPy. Having to cough up $50 to even
peek at the documentation would be a far, far greater barrier to uptake
than the occasional obscure wording of some of the function
descriptions, IMHO.

>> Travis, although many of us are grateful for your efforts on SciPy Core,
>> no-one made you do it. If you wanted to earn (more) money by doing other
>> things, you should have done them.
> I'm really thinking about the future here.  If I can succesfully raise
> money to support work on this using a simple time-delay documentation
> encouragement, then perhaps others will do the same, and we can all have
> more.    Waiting for people to "donate" their time to develop scientific
> python is rather slow....  I've been freely donating time for a long
> time, and there are few who help.   So, we'll try a slightly different
> route and see where that goes.

Yes, fair enough. My point was that 7 years is far too long a time
delay. Given that SciPy Core will probably take another year to become
rock-solid, I would happily buy several copies of your documentation at
$50 per copy if I knew that in a year the documentation could be freely
distributed to all God's children. But in 7 years? Nope, too long to
wait, not interested in supporting that.

>> I think there needs to be some community debate about this. Is there
>> sufficient interest for people other than Travis to start with the
>> Numeric documentation and update it as necessary to become a free SciPy
>> Core documentation? The NumPy documentation is available in HTML format
>> as the basis of this - perhaps the original source (LaTeX?) for the
>> Numeric docs is also available?
> I don't know why you would want to undermine my efforts in this way by
> duplicating effort. 

Travis, I don't want to undermine your efforts, but you must understand
that one of the attractions of NumPy and thus Scipy Core is that they
are free, open source software, which implies that there exists adequate
free, open source documentation for them, or if such free, open source
documentation does not exist, then taht users are collectively at
liberty to create it. That's a basic FOSS tenet. What you are are
proposing is the creation of proprietary documentation for SciPy Core.
No-one objects to this, but only if it is supplementary to free, open
source "core" documentation, not instead of it.

>  Perhaps, instead you could have people donate $$
> instead of time to releasing the documentation.    I give away copies of
> the documentation to people who participate in the development process
> all the time (and that comes off the total price --- though I haven't
> advertised this as of yet).   So, why don't you encourage people who
> don't have the money to contribute to the project instead.

I understand that open source software and its documentation don't just
appear out of thin air, and I fully support the idea of funded or
collectively-commissioned open source development. But only if the
results of that funded or commissioned development is, in fact, free and
open sourced. By preventing free distribution of the documentation you
are creating for 7 years, the end product cannot even remotely be
described as open source, thus personally I am disinterested in funding
it. If the delay until open sourcing was just one year, then that's a
different matter, but you do not seem to be proposing that.

Hence I think the NumPy/SciPy Core user community should establish a
SciPy Core documentation project, with the aim of updating and enhancing
the existing NumPy documentation so that it covers the new and changed
features of SciPy Core, and making that documentation available on teh
same free, open source basis as NumPy/SciPy Core itself.

To that end, are the original LaTeX or whatever sources for the currenet
NumPy documenattion available somewhere (apart from the HTML and PDF
versions, that is).

Tim C

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