Erlang forums (was Re: PING TEST)

Richard O'Keefe raoknz@REDACTED
Fri Dec 17 11:19:37 CET 2021

"many of us would not want things like that appearing all over the web"

The only way, in practice, to prevent that happening is to not
post it in the first place.  Let me offer a pre-internet anecdote.
<a book publisher> was thinking of getting into software publishing.
One product they were thinking of distributing was
<an AI programming language> from <a company>.
<a university> said "wait a minute, we gave <the company> a
non-commercial licence for <our implementation> and this
sounds a lot like our IP".
I was very familiar with the internals of <the university's
implementation>, so <the publisher> paid me to scrutinise the
source code of <the company's product> at <the company>'s
I rather liked the people I met there,
but while the kernel of the nut was their work,
the shell and surrounding flesh definitely belonged to
<the university>.  I recognised dozens of bugs that were
unique to <the university>'s product, because I had personally
fixed them, and they were not present in other implementations
of <the AI programming language>.
So I wrote a report, confidential to the parties, stating
my findings, expressing my view that the programmers at
<the company> were quite capable of replacing the copied bits
with original code of their own, but until they did, they
were definitely in violation of the agreement.  And because
I am a nice person, I slipped in praise for their debugger.

So <the publisher> decided not to publish, <the company>
withdrew their lawsuit (!) against <the university>, and
the next thing I knew, the advertising material for
<the company>'s product quoted the debugger praise from
the confidential report, with my name on it!

So this is a textbook case of something appearing in public
that should not have, giving a seriously misleading
impression of what I thought of the product as a whole.
What did I do?

Nothing except explain what really happened on a mailing
list dedicated to <the AI programming language>.

I didn't have the time or the money to sue.

I've always taken it, as a practical matter, that anything
I send to any public e-venue, such as a mailing list, is as
public as if I had painted it on a wall.

People with questions about code, both here and in several
other mailing lists I am on, take it for granted that they
must not post proprietary code, and go to the trouble of
constructing similar but distinct examples to ask about.

So there is what the laws say (in various different countries,
posting in NZ on a list held in SV information that might be
displayed in USA or UZB creates some interesting conflict of
laws questions) and there is what custom says.

If joining the Erlang mailing list (or forum) required you
to say "anything I post may be quoted or used for any legal
purpose provided it is properly acknowledged", would anyone
actually refuse?  We are supposed to be helping each other
use an open source project, so what's wrong with open source

On Fri, 17 Dec 2021 at 06:06, Mark Carroll <mtbc@REDACTED> wrote:

> On 16 Dec 2021, Fred Youhanaie wrote:
> > I think keeping the mailing list for the rest of the community would be
> > worthwhile.
> Absolutely, then I can choose my own interface, read offline more
> easily, etc. - forums-by-mail does tend to be very much a second-class
> experience.
> -- Mark
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