[Numpy-discussion] Re: Purchasing Documentation

Tim Churches tchur at optusnet.com.au
Mon Oct 3 17:59:25 EDT 2005

Travis Oliphant wrote:
> Tim Churches wrote:
>> Eric Firing wrote:
>>>> OK, thanks. In the absence of documentation, I just looked for an MA
>>>> subdirectory, couldn't find one and assumed that it wasn't (yet)
>>>> supported.
>>> Tim,
>>> Documentation is coming along, but being made available in an unusual
>>> way: http://www.tramy.us/
>> copy of the documentation. Most likely, one copy of the documentation
>> will be purchased to be shared between several (or many) users in a
>> workgroup within an institution.
> Note that it is expressly against the agreement for one copy to be
> shared between multiple users at the same institution.  I hope this is
> clear....  Of course you can let somebody else look at it a couple of
> times, but if they will use it regularly, they need to get their own copy. 
> Prices are always a matter of supply and demand.   The whole point of
> the system is to allow the price system to help coordinate what people
> think is valuable and what developers spend time doing.    What you see
> currently is the maximum price (and time) I could possibly set as per
> the agreement with Trelgol.   These things can always come down,
> however, as time proceeds, and the market responds.

The only agreement I can find is these words on the above site:

"When you receive a copy of content under an MBTDR, you implicitly agree
to make only back-up copies of the content and to not make a copy for
others during the restriction period.  If additional copies of the
content are needed (for multiple users at a company, for example) you
must purchase them. You may make exactly one "printed" or hard-copy for
each copy of the content you purchase.   For books, Trelgol may make
available volume printing options at cost for those who have purchased a
copy of the electronic content."

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.

> Now, obviously the cost of the documentation includes something of the
> cost of producing the actual code.  Of course, you may disagree, but I
> did choose the numbers based on a little bit of market research.   I
> don't think that 7000 copies of the documentation or 7 years is all that
> ridiculous given that there have been over 12000 downloads of the
> Numeric 24.0b2 source code since April and Numeric has been in stable
> use for nearly 10 years.

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?

> If scipy does it's job correctly,  then a user-base needing
> documentation of 7000 is rather low-balling it I would say.   I want
> scipy to surpass the number of users of Numeric.     I'm trying to make
> scipy core so that everybody can convert to it, eventually.  The old
> Numeric manual still provides documentation, and the source is still
> available.  I think you are still getting a great deal.   Unless there
> is another majore re-write, the documentation will be updated as it goes
> (and you get the updates). 

Yes, maybe all that is needed is a (free) SciPy Core update of the
existing (free) NumPy documentation. The (non-free) SciPy Core book
which Travis is writing can complement that, just as the dozens of
commercial Python books complement the free Python documentation. But
imagine if everyone had to pay $50 to access the basic Python
documentation - the number of Python users worldwide would be very much
smaller than it is is now, I dare say.

>> I would say that perhaps $30k or one year (after completion of the
>> documentation) would be more reasonable criteria for making the
>> documentation freely available (but then I am not writing it).
> Well, given the time I had to spend on this, that is quite a bit less
> than the market will bear for my services elsewhere.  I suppose if I
> were rich, I could donate more of my time.  But, I'm not....

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 not trying to make people upset.  I'm really a huge fan of
> open information, and would love to see the documentation completely
> free.  It's just that I cannot afford to create it for nothing.   I have
> lots of demands on my time.  Spending it doing scientific python has to
> be justified, somehow.   I did not start the creation of a hybrid
> Numeric / numarray with the hope of making any money.  I started it
> because there was a need. I thought I would get more help with its
> implementation.  But, given the reality of people's scarce time (they
> need to make money...), nobody was able to help me.  Out of this, the
> documentation idea was born to try and help fund development of scipy core.
> I hope people can understand that the reality of scarcity dictates that
> we coordinate efforts through some mechanism.  The price mechanism has
> been the most succesful large-scale mechanism yet developed.
> I am interested in feedback.  If  you don't buy the book because you
> think I'm asking too much money, then let me know, as Tim has done.  You
> can email me directly, as well.

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?

Tim C

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