Denys DUTYKH's Blog of an applied mathematician

Open source problems

I would like to share with you a pretty interesting talk given by William Stein, who is the creator and the main developer in the SageMath open source project. You can watch the video here:

The slides can be downloaded separately here.

Personally, I am not a user of SageMath, however, I find that the speaker rises the right questions about open source development and he points out difficulties that the speaker (and his colleagues) encountered on this way.

Just to give some idea about the content, I give here a couple of quotations from this talk:

  • “Every great open source math library is built on the ashes of someone’s academic career.”
  • “I can’t figure out how to create Sage in academia. The money isn’t there. The mathematical community doesn’t care enough. The only option left is for me to build a company.”

I can only endorse the speaker on these points. The software development effort is clearly undervalued in Academia. The general opinion is that if you are a really good mathematician you build a theory. And implicitly, if you are mediocre, you just code. This inadmissible attitude has to change.