Mark P. Line
markline at henson.cc.wwu.edu
Thu Nov 25 16:57:41 EST 1993
I was hoping to avoid this kind of discussion on the list -- several
threads of this tenor have been going on behind the scenes, but maybe my
response to this post can help tie things together and finally get the
ball rolling again.
On Thu, 25 Nov 1993, Raymond Venneker wrote:
> 1. are the lists contents part of (the documentation on) GRASS?
> 2. do the lists/documentation fall under the same distribution/
> reselling restrictions as the GRASS code?
> If yes, then the material may be used in a commercial action provided
> the profit comes entirely from the part added by the selling party.
> (See Marji Larsons *interpretation* on legalities of 23 Nov, it is
> similar to what I understand on this matter.)
These questions are moot to my Digest project or two reasons: (a) the list
archive messages are copyrighted on behalf of their authors -- by default
-- since there has been no transfer or waiver of copyright by them; (b) I
have never proposed to publish the text of these list messages, only to
create summary articles containing the useful information therefrom in a
readable form. If you look at any major scientific journal you'll find,
from time to time, so-called review articles which summarize research
going on in a particular line of endeavor. No original research is
reported on for the first time in such articles; the contribution of the
author is that of summarizing the current state of the art. Credit is
still given, however, to those who *did* the original research --
generally by way of references to the literature.
This is the analogy I've tried to convey for the GRASSHopper Digest. Most
responders have understood that I never intended to copy freely available
text into Postscript, print it up, and sell it. This is something a
not-for-profit organization can do without getting flamed; a private
company generally cannot. Case in point: OGF committed the GRASS 4.1
manual pages to hardcopy, perfect-bound them, and sold the product for
US$70.00. The copy I bought was slipshod to boot: the signatures were
folded but not separated, so I had to go through all 500+ pages with a
letter opener. As everyone knows, the GRASS 4.1 manual pages are included
in the release on the moon ftp site. Presumably, they're also to be
included in OGF's GRASS 4.1 CD-ROM which the participants at the last
Users' Meeting paid for but so far have not received (at least I haven't).
If this is the service that can be provided by a non-profit organization,
perhaps you should give the matter some more thought before accusing me of
illegitimate profit-taking. This is especially true if you don't happen to
know if any profit is involved (see below).
> I think digesting/editing/summarizing is not much of an addition
> process so all charges should equal expenditures. Or am I wrong?
My view, and that of a strong majority of responders, is that (a)
summarizing and editing can be *lots* of work, and (b) this work is a
valuable addition to existing resources, especially if things such as a
cumulative index are added. If this were such a breeze, why hasn't
somebody's pet cat already done it? To me, the reason is obvious: nobody
has time to, even those who would *really* like to have paper summaries
and have told me so. The whole idea behind selling subscriptions to a
monthly digest is to create time on the part of digesters, editors and
typesetters. In short, the fact that our company is in the publishing
business (among other things) made it obvious to me how to get the ball
rolling -- hence my proposal.
I suppose I should add that, according to my current business plan for
this project, no profit is involved, in fact. Profit exists as an
incentive -- and hopefully a reward -- against the risk of being in
business (as opposed to being salaried or receiving an unemployment
benefit). In working out the nuts and bolts of publishing the Digest, I
reasoned that our risk is very small, since we'd be shipping on a
subscription basis (not like printing up a batch of books and
hoping they'll sell). However, we're unfortunately not in a position to
donate the kind of time that will be involved in producing the Digest each
month. This is known as labor cost, not profit. I try to be as generous
with my time as I can -- readers of this list and those of quite a few
UseNet groups know that -- but I also have to pay the rent. I would like
to be able to arrange publication of the Digest such that my editing time
and my typesetter's time does not have to be donated. If I really wanted
to be tacky, I'd use my regular per diem (I have a day job as a
consultant) as the editing labor cost in the Digest business plan. As it
is, I've gone with a labor rate that at least keeps me out of hot water
with my priorities. I don't want to start the Digest and then have to bow
out as editor because some other project with *real* money comes up. I can
only say that this is how things work in the real world. If you don't
believe me, I don't know what else to say.
Readers of my original proposal of 10/10/93 will recall that I plan to
sell yearly subscriptions to a monthly, 60-page periodical for US$60.00 a
year. That's US$5.00 a copy. You have to figure royalties to the
article authors, editing, typesetting, printing, shipping and probably a
bit of advertising (my current business plan says US$80.00/quarter for one
column inch in GRASSClippings -- the least possible for that mag). If
there's anybody out there who works for nothing, writes good prose, has
typesetting equipment and a print shop in their basement, then you could
publish the Digest for shipping costs only. If not, my plan's the only one
we've got for now.
Of course, if we wind up having 5000 subscriptions, then I would be taking
profit at this price. If that happens, I'll be more than happy to let the
GRASSHopper Ethics Squad have at me again and tell me what to do with the
money. If we have less than 750 subscriptions, I and my typesetter will be
donating more time. Go figure.
> Could the digests besides paper publication be placed on the moon
> for anon ftp? After all, that's where the material came from in the
> first place.
If you accept my previous argument about selling subscriptions to pay for
the work involved (and the printing and shipping costs, of course), then I
shouldn't have to spell out my answer to this question. If we uploaded the
digests for free access, we'd have fewer subscriptions -- perhaps so few,
in fact, that the digesters, editors and typesetters would be, in fact,
donating their time (which would be fine if they had the time to donate,
but they don't or they'd already be doing it). Everybody who responds to
questions on the lists donates their time -- that is to be commended, and
that's how the system works, and neither I nor anybody else wants to
change that. As I said before: if there are experts out there whom the
list cannot do without and who would cease using the lists if their work
is *referenced* in digest articles, then that might be call for me to
rethink our plans. The only expert to have raised this objection before now
rescinded after I got him to reread my proposal.
> Nota Bene: I'm not against profit and certainly not accusing Mark of
> trying to make a living. However, imho GRASS is a typical product of the
> Internet/PD phenomenon and that is from where it should be proliferated.
> If this excludes a certain part of the world population from joining,
> bad luck. (Vendors etc. can still provide GRASS et. al. under
> the restrictions.)
Maybe some old-timers can help me out with this, but I never considered
GRASS to be an *Internet* phenomenon, nor is the Internet in collusion
with the PD phenomenon -- each exists of its own accord with its own
agenda. GRASS happens to be one of the products that overlaps both. I
would venture to say that *most* GRASS users do not use the Internet. I
would also venture to say that GRASS is available first and foremost by
ftp because that's easiest for CERL, not because GRASS is an Internet
phenomenon. When most CERL employees start answering my e-mail -- that's
when GRASS might become more of an Internet phenomenon.
> Finally: I don't think multiplying the amount of documentation makes it
Nor do I. My proposal reduces the amount of documentation that a user
needs to peruse in order to answer a question -- that's the point. Quality
is in question here, not quantity: numerous responders have told me that
they just don't have the time (or the wherewithal) to use grep or perl or
whatever to scan many megabytes of text for answers to their question.
They would welcome a well-written, indexed digest which puts the available
answers at their fingertips. Then there are all those GRASS users who
don't have access to the Internet in the first place, and those who for
various logistic or technical reasons cannot download the GRASShopper
archives from moon, even if they wanted to use them in their raw form.
> A number of documents on the moon could be updated or merged
> (by the authors or people having permission) into improved quality
> documents on both beginners' and advanced level.
A better way is to start from scratch and write good material in book
form. This is currently being done by two people that I know of: Martijn
van L. in the Netherlands wants to upload a beginners' manual to a CERL
ftp site soon, and I'm writing a 400-page tutorial book for GRASS users,
database designers and system administrators, to be published in the first
quarter of 1994 by Open Pathways.
> I think the best place
> to start editing are the online g.manual pages -- with the list archives
> at hand.
Neither the online articles ("tutorials" and such) from moon nor the
manual pages nor the g.help nodes even remotely scratch the surface of the
depth of coverage that is typical on the GRASSHopper lists. Sure, there
are the occasional questions like "How to I change my location's default
region?" and such (which is most easily answered by looking in the
programmer's manual -- not the first choice, or even last choice, of most
users -- and is not, to my knowledge, answered anywhere else except in
GRASSHopper). But there was also a discussion about how color gets handled
by raster layers, the GRASS libes, XDRIVER, the X11 server and the video
hardware. As nearly as I can recall, that never got entirely settled on
the list, but the material included there might be hard to come by
otherwise for most users.
If the GRASSHopper archives contain corrections to the g.manual pages,
then they can be included in the next update. But what you're really
proposing here (and above, re: refurbishing the tutorial articles from
moon), in disguised terms, is *work*. The thing about work is that, when
you're working on one thing, you can't always work on another thing at the
same time. This leads to the setting of priorities. Now, if you're willing
to foot the bill (or know of somebody who is) for the personnel costs
involved in rewriting the manual pages and/or other documentation, then
I'm sure you can at least find some grad students whose priorities you can
get to change in favor of the work you propose. Since purchasers of the
GRASS 4.1 Users' Manual hardcopy paid US$70.00 a copy, you'd think that
that would have been enough for OGF to pay someone to correct and
otherwise improve the manual pages before publishing and selling them.
This was apparently not the case.
Obviously, a private company can hardly produce an improved Users' Manual.
They'd have to sell it, and they'd be able to sell only their added value.
Since many hundreds of hours would be involved, no company would be able
to do it. Only donated or subsidized time would get the work done, and
only then in a legal context where the copyright/copyleft restrictions on
the original manual pages are not infringed upon (in clear text: OGF or
> Flames welcome, Raymond
An alternative to *welcoming* flames might be to try to emit flame-proof
prose. Saves bandwidth.
Mark P. Line Phone: +1-206-733-6040
Open Pathways Fax: +1-206-733-6040
P.O. Box F Email: markline at henson.cc.wwu.edu
Bellingham, WA 98227-0296
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