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The book Coders at work by Peter Seibel contains interviews of several high-profile programmers, including Donald Knuth (whose interview I warmly recommend to anyone interested in TeX's history). One recurring question Seibel asked the interviewees had to do with collaboration between coders on a team:

When folks are working in a group, is it better for coders to each own a piece of a system? Where "this is my code and no one touches it" vs. the team owns the code and anybody can touch anything.

(The question can be found in this very form on p404 of the book.)

This made me wonder about how collaboration among members of the LaTeX3 team works...

  • Where, between the two extreme approaches described by Seibel, does the LaTeX3 team's approach lie?
  • Has the approach evolved over time or has it remained the same since work started on LaTeX3?
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I suspect this might go down as 'Opinion Based'! I'd say we tend to the latter approach with the caveat that most of the time it's much easier if one person takes care of each thing. For example, I tend to handle drivers, keys, ... while Bruno deals with regexes, the FPU, ... –  Joseph Wright Dec 21 '13 at 17:28
@JosephWright Thanks for your comment. My question may not have to be closed as opinion-based if there is a clear general trend in the team's approach to collaboration. –  Jubobs Dec 21 '13 at 17:32
To continue: we've all I think made an impact on core stuff, with for example several people chipping in during the refactor about the time I joined the team. –  Joseph Wright Dec 21 '13 at 17:33
@JosephWright I guess your answer would lean towards "the team owns the code", then. –  Jubobs Dec 21 '13 at 17:34
Hopefully there are clear statements of ownership (or at least copyright) on all the files the latex3 project distributes, and a clear statement of the licence under which they may be used or modified, so it shouldn't be an opinion based answer other than the fact that no licence is completely clear unless tested in court and the opinion of a judge is what matters. –  David Carlisle Dec 21 '13 at 17:37
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2 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

'Better' is a matter of opinion, but what we can do is look at what has actually happened over time.

The current LaTeX3 code base consists of a number of different parts, some of which are more 'free-standing' than others. Looking over the time I have been involved in the team, the newer modules have mainly been tackled by one main author. For example, I wrote l3keys (which is how I joined the team), and tend to have the main responsibility for modifying it. In the same way, Bruno wrote and 'looks after' things like the expandable FPU and the regex parser. On the other hand, the 'core' code, much of which has been in the code base since the early days, is today fixed or updated by whoever has time.

All of that said, there is no 'hard' line. Depending on time, ideas and interest, any of the team can modify any of the code. That's the point of having a team, of course! Particularity when it comes down to typos or clear bugs it's more important that stuff gets done than who does it.

As David says, all of the code is owned by the team and licensed under the LPPL.

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You can see the notice on the LaTeX2e system in any LaTeX distribution which says:

This distribution is
Copyright 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2002 2003 2004 2005
The LaTeX3 Project and the individual authors:

We've used that wording since LaTeX2e was released.

The L3 files actually are only copyright to the project not the individual authors, eg

% File: expl3.dtx Copyright (C) 1990-2013 The LaTeX3 Project

The difference is actually rather slight especially since the LPPL means that anyone can fork the code and use/modify it in anyway they like anyway.

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David, my question isn't about copyright aspects, but rather about "who does what" on the team. If my question misled you, let me know and I'll reformulate it. –  Jubobs Dec 21 '13 at 17:36
@Jubobs well "own the code" means ownership/copyright not who does what, and "the team" can (and does) "own the code" but clearly the team as such can't produce anything, one of the individuals within the team has to produce and/or change it. –  David Carlisle Dec 21 '13 at 17:44
I guess the phrase "own the code" can be misleading. In his book, Seibel uses it in the sense of collaboration, not in the legal sense of ownership, though. At least, that's how I understand it. –  Jubobs Dec 21 '13 at 17:47
@DavidCarlisle The LaTeX3 copyright statements vary: the newer stuff tends to be just 'the team', the older ones tend to say who wrote (most?) of it. –  Joseph Wright Dec 21 '13 at 17:48
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