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Today, I’m going to take a minute out of my working day and rant at you about software development.

I work for a company that does Cool Things With Data. That’s all you know, that’s all I’ll tell you. When we are looking for testers, I shall mention what it is, and you can all go “oooh”.

One of the things I’ve done in this is created the method by which RSS data is put into the program (Our automated statistics are generated into RSS, because I was fairly sure it would be easy to get it out again). Now I want to get it out again, so I’m going to have to write an RSS-Reading Thingy.

This is not my desire. The last thing I want to spend x amount of my life doing is writing RSS parsers. Far better minds than mine have spent ages on the problem of parsing the amount of really, truely horrible things that people do with RSS, and they have released these things.

The best and most respected that has been released in PHP, which is the environment I’m doing this in, is Magpie RSS, which you give a URL and it gives you an object containing data. So far, so hoopy. I installed it, integrated it, loved it and forgot about it.

Now we come to Second Stage stuff, and I’m looking at the licences of the bits we’re using. The sections we grabbed from Epistula are fine, because they’re BSD licenced. Magpie isn’t, because it’s GPL, and the GPL specifically states that I can’t include a GPL library if my code isn’t going to be GPL’d.

It isn’t. Not because of any “We want to trap our users” stuff, but simply because out continued existance of a company involves people paying us for our services. With this money, they can pay me. With this payment, I can write more software. And eat. And buy broadband. And spend my weekends making free software. And I realise that in the ivory tower of the Free Software Movement it doesn’t matter, because All Non-Free Software Is Evil.

Out of interest, any Free Software Zealots in the audience know how we programmers are supposed to earn our food?

This shouldn’t matter. This is Politics, and I don’t care that ESR supports Baring Arms, nor which direction Linus voted last election, nor what RMS thinks of his country’s economic prospects.

What I care about, as a user and a developer, is that I am currently unable to use the best tool for the job because of the politics of making something free.

So, the next time you decide you want to release under a free licence, remember there are other licences than the GPL that even Debian likes.

And now, Back to XML parsing. Yay.

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