[Rd] GPL and R Community Policies (Rcpp)

Gabor Grothendieck ggrothendieck at gmail.com
Thu Dec 2 18:29:41 CET 2010

On Thu, Dec 2, 2010 at 11:24 AM, Claudia Beleites <cbeleites at units.it> wrote:
> On 12/02/2010 10:32 AM, Liviu Andronic wrote:
>> Dear all
>> On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 7:21 PM, Dominick Samperi<djsamperi at gmail.com>
>>  wrote:
>>> The author line of the latest release of the R package
>>> Rcpp (0.8.9) was revised as follows:
>>> From: "based on code written during 2005 and 2006 by Dominick Samperi"
>>> To: "a small portion of the code is based on code written during 2005 and
>>> 2006 by Dominick Samperi"
>>> From the info given in the thread, personally I'm sympathetic to
>> Dominick's complaint: the latter message is no proper way to
>> acknowledge the original author of the package. As I see it, the
>> project either:
>> - explicitly mentions the original author and the active (current)
>> contributors (and perhaps previous ones), or
>> - lines up all previous contributors in a line and singles out the
>> active contributors
> - or in this case say that it was forked (when) from (Author)'s (package)
> (version)

I think the danger in all this is that future developers might see
this discussion and then conclude that they would be better off
redeveloping existing packages encouraging a wasteful Not Invented
Here attitude rather than stand on the shoulders of others. That would
divert resources into nonproductive duplicative activities and slow
the growth of R.

Perhaps the takeaway is (1) to be particularly careful about forking a
project and (2) also for package developers to try as hard as they can
to write their packages in a such a way that they can be added onto
externally rather than requiring modification of the package itself.
For example, DBI allows external database drivers and Rcmdr allows
external plugins.  zoo can accommodate new classes of index without
modifying zoo itself.  And of course R itself has specific facilities
for encouraging user contributed packages which do not require any
change at all to R itself.

In fact, I wonder if its still not too late for the package in
question.  Perhaps it would be possible to divide it into two packages
-- one would be the new code and the other would be the original base
package with just sufficient modifications to allow the new package to
consist of add-ons to it.  (I haven't actually used the package in
question so I am not sure if this is realistic but thought I would
throw it out as a potential resolution.)

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email: ggrothendieck at gmail.com

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