[License-discuss] objective criteria for license evaluation

Luis Villa luis at tieguy.org
Sun Dec 9 18:46:48 UTC 2012

I'm a little surprised at how quiet this thread has been, especially
since I know some members of this list have been calling for objective
criteria for a while.

So let me restate the question to broaden it a bit. If you had a
*blue-sky dream* what subjective information would you look at?

For example, if you had the resources to scan huge numbers of code
repositories, what numbers would you look for?

* ranking by LoC under each license
* ranking by "projects" under each license
* ... ?

Similarly, if you could declare objective criteria for textual license
analysis and had the time/resources to read all of them, what would
those criteria be? e.g.,

* has/has not been retired by the author
* has/has not been obsoleted by a new license published by the same author
* has/doesn't have an explicit patent grant
* ... ?

These examples assume quantitative measures of adoption, the text, and
the explicit actions of the author are the only things about a license
that can actually be measured, but I am probably thinking small- other
examples welcome.

[As a reminder, this is not a purely theoretical exercise- I agree
with many on this list that a license process based on more objective
criteria would be a good thing, and this thread is an effort to
explore that issue and start thinking about what such a list might
look like.]


On Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 3:35 PM, Karl Fogel <kfogel at red-bean.com> wrote:
> Matthew Flaschen <matthew.flaschen at gatech.edu> writes:
>>On 12/05/2012 10:23 AM, Karl Fogel wrote:
>>> Luis Villa <luis at tieguy.org> writes:
>>>> Anyone else have other suggestions for objective criteria we could
>>>> use? I know some folks here have been thinking about this issue for
>>>> some time.
>>> Number of "forks" of software under a given license on GitHub, adjusted
>>> for license popularity across GitHub?  (And the equivalent calculation
>>> for other sites, where possible.)
>>That could be misleading, depending on what we want to measure.  There
>>are a lot of forks doing real work (either true forks, or those that do
>>ongoing pull requests to keep synced).
>>However, there are also people that fork and make one or two changes, or
>>none at all.  There's nothing wrong with that, it just might not be a
>>meaningful metric for this purpose.
> Of course.  I meant that as a direction to look in, not as a literal
> suggestion of methodology.  By number of forks at GitHub, I meant "look
> at the forks, using some kind of intelligent criteria, statistical
> methods, etc".
> This is non-trivial work, of course.  Which is why it is so hard to get
> good stats on license popularity and why the notion is rife with
> fundamental definitional questions.
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