On philosophy, hierarchy of orgs, definitions, and the logo

David dbFSF at pigstick.freeserve.co.uk
Tue Jan 2 19:13:27 UTC 2001


The creation of a Free Software Foundation Europe is an excellent 
opportunity to clarify the distinctions between the FSF(E) and 
GNU.  This first requires that their foci be slightly shifted.

My interests are in the epistemic development of humanity through 
the principal tenet of sharing informationally valuable software.  
Software is any representation of information that loses no inherent 
worth upon transmission between media (i.e., necessarily digital), 
and currently includes software programs, software music, software 
books, software art and perhaps eventually software brains and 
who knows what else.  This is a grand and vague concern, and one 
I believe should also be that of the FSF(E).  

Of those software types, GNU is concerned with improving the 
epistemelogical value of software programs, specifically system 
software, by ensuring the source code can form a mutable model in 
the user's mind, enrich and be enriched by whatever else is in 
there, and then be freely transmitted to other users.  

However the need for Unix-type system software is transient.  The 
GPL is already faced with painful contortions.  I would cheerfully 
allow the death of GNU and the GPL if they began choking on, 
respectively, irrelevance and complexity.  They could then be 
replaced by more appropriate, though equally transient, tools, and 
joined by sister organisations devoted to improving the value of the 
other software types.  It's the many small tanks principle (with 
apologies to Alessandro).

Jumping back to definitions of words -- the ebb and flow of a 
language is notoriously unpredicatble: either 'software' will come to 
be accepted using roughly the definition above due to its 
increasingly similar mode of transport and need for interpretation or 
else the term will die.  My best recomendation resulting from this is 
that, pending the whims of fate, you adopt RMS-style exactness 
over the word, always qualifying it as one of the aformentioned 
subtypes, or preferably the infinitely better terms you will duly 

In summary: 

o  The firm philosophical stance Georg wishes from FSFE 
members ought to be concerned with high, broad and long aims for 
humanity, and encompass more than software programs.

o  Encourage the creation of GNU sisters, under that broad 
philosophical umbrella of FSF(E), for music, books, video, and 
whatever else is webbable.

o  Keep implementation details like the GPL out of FSF(E).

o  For reasons I hope I've made clear, don't have a gnu on the 
FSFE logo.

(Abstraction, modularisation, encapsulation.  Whaddya know, 
those software engineering classes did come in handy :-)


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