Friday, 30 January 2015

Lucee: "Open Source" doesn't mean "free"

There was some irksome feedback re the Lucee release last night. This mostly centred around feigned (if not "feigned" then just "pig ignorant") horror that Lucee Association Switzerland has the gall to charge a membership fee. And somehow conflating that with the concept of "Open Source" and positioning Lucee as some sort of Bilderberg Group-esque evil cabal.

Well... settle the f*** down, will you?

Let's have a look at a coupla concepts shall we?

Open source software

As per Wikipedia's Open Source Software page:

Open-source software (OSS) is computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose.

(It has a lot more to say on the topic than that, obviously)

Nowhere does it say anything about it being free. That'd be something different. That'd either be "free software" or perhaps "free open source software". There's a difference there. See how the words are different?

Interestingly... if you look at the Lucee website, there's no emphasis on "free", and there's not even any real emphasis on "open source". But it is. Free. And open source.

Here's a test: go and download and install Lucee. Write some code. Push it public. Did you pay anything? No. Here's another test. Find a bug. Look at the source code. Fix the bug. Submit a pull request. Watch the pull request be merged. Did that cost you anything? No. Was the source openly available to you? Yes. Free. Open Source.

Membership associations

There's no direct mapping in Wikipedia, but they have a "Membership organization" page, the first sentence of which says this:

Membership organization is a term which refers to any organization that allows people to subscribe, and often requires them to pay a membership fee or "subscription".

(my emphasis).

If you join an association... you pay for it. This is because associations have costs. One of the costs that Lucee Association Switzerland will have is to pay Micha and Igal et al a salary to write your bloody software for you to use! They also have to market Lucee, organise conference presences, print t-shirts etc. And cost-recover for their membership when the members incur costs in the course of keeping the association running.

There's no surprise here. And I think you'll find that most other projects of any significance also operate on the basis of either financial or time sponsorship. None of this stuff is completely free to manage.

The "Lucee software platform" and "Lucee Association Switzerland" are two different things. One is free. The other is not.


There will be Lucee technical advisory committee which will make decisions on the direction the language (and other ancillary considerations) will take. This will be a democratic process, I should think. Who gets on the committee? People who are useful to Lucee. Who is useful to Lucee? The people who undertook to create the Lucee Association. The people who work on the Lucee product. Other significant people in the community who get selected for membership. And people and organisations who value Lucee as a going-concern enough to stump-up some readies. What is wrong with this?

Keeping it free

If you don't want to pay anything: don't. You can help out - as I do now with Lucee, and before with Railo, and also with ColdFusion. I promote CFML. I find issues, test them, raise them, help test them again when they're fixed. I update the docs. I answer questions in the community. I vote on issues in the bug tracker. This is a kind of "paying", and it won't go unnoticed. Help the project, and the project is more likely to listen to you.

Or you could do none of those things, but then you don't get to whine about not getting input into the direction of the product.


If you're not a corporate, you can still sponsor Lucee for a few bucks a month (it's US$9.00 currently... I would not be surprised if this reduces soon though). That really isn't much. That will give you access to the inner communications channel within the Association, which, in turn, means your voice is automatically louder.

If you consider Lucee to be important to your career, and consider yourself a professional developer, you shouldn't really balk at paying membership fees to your association.

Bottom line

By all means use Lucee for free. No-one is suggesting otherwise. But if you want to have a say in the direction Lucee takes, I don't think it's unreasonable to ante-up and demonstrate you're serious about your support for it.