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st: Re:open source


From   Christopher F Baum <baum@bc.edu>
To   statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu
Subject   st: Re:open source
Date   Tue, 7 Sep 2004 17:15:26 +0100

On Sep 7, 2004, at 7:33 AM, David wrote:

R gets a lot of attention from potential users by being on the open
source bandwagon. Why does the Stata Web site not include this phrase,
"open source", prominently, or make the comparison with what Stata is
and is not in terms of open source more explicit? I did not do an
exhaustive search. In many ways, much of Stata is open source, or
provides the same utility/flexibility.

For the record, I try to learn both Stata and R. I don't know other
packages, and I barely have enough time for a little more than a
superficial grasp of either.
I think that you would call down the wrath of many if you used "Stata" and "open source" in the same phrase, and I'm sure that StataCorp publicists would know better than to do so. A commercial package is, by definition, not open source; we don't have access to the code for the Stata kernel. By analogy, Apple Computer was castigated for claiming that there was an open source element, in that they make Darwin (the underlying Unix technology) freely available, but jealously guard the code that makes Mac OS X what it is. As the maintainer of the most prominent open-source-like element of the Stata user community, the SSC archive, I will certainly agree with the statement that members of that community who freely share their valuable efforts are behaving in the same manner as those who help develop Linux, or Apache, or GNU tools. But we who do so are (with full understanding) creating tools which are only useful to those colleagues with licensed copies of Stata. I have no problem with that, but I would caution the use of 'Open Source' to describe more than the generous spirit of those who do so. There _are_ true "Open Source" alternatives: e.g. R vs S-Plus, Octave vs MATLAB, etc. -- but Stata is not one of them. StataCorp's efforts to make all of their internal development tools freely available to outside developers is indeed a rather unique stance, but that does not make Stata "Open Source" to a purist (or zealot).

Kit

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