Free Software UK (Was: On the structure of the FSF Europe)

Alex Hudson home at
Sun May 13 15:26:26 UTC 2001

On Sun, May 13, 2001 at 01:28:40PM +0100, MJ Ray wrote:
> > Although I don't know where this misinformation came from, some people
> > seem to think the FSF Europe was non-democratic.
> Now why would that be?  Let's look at the evidence...

.. and then you go on to agree that it is democratic.. hmm :)

I think one point that I haven't see raised (at least directly) is that
this isn't just [X] Free Software Organisation, this is the sister
organisation to the FSF. That basically means the FSF control how the
organisation is to be formed, because the FSF 'brand' has a particular
meaning, and however the core set-up the FSFE, it has to be obviously FSF. 

Now, the FSFE at the moment looks very autononmous, and is intended (AFAIK)
to be autonomous, but it is also the sister organisation of the FSF. This
isn't an organisation for open sourcers, or for those who GPL things but
don't necessarily agree with RMS. It's for people who believe in the FSF
vision. It is being setup in consultation with the FSF, who (I would
imagine) would have the power to veto any aspect of the way it was being
setup if they felt strongly it was in any way contrary to the FSF. We have
to respect the people setting up the FSFE, but also we have to respect the
wishes of the FSF.

(I may perhaps have overstated a little the part the FSF actually does play
to reinforce the point, but I think it's still valid :)

> Also, members without a national associate organisation (nb spelling)
> are unable to participate fully.  This "two-speed" system is divisive.

I do partly agree with this. In the UK, there is _no_ Free Software
organisation, full stop. There is the UKUUG (which includes propreitry
Unixes), the LUGs (which include open source and/or BSD software), and
that's about it. This means we have no UK chapter of the FSFE currently, and
no associate organisation. There is no (AFAIK) uk discussion list, and the one list that has been setup has had two posts
(again, AFAIK) in total.

The way I would like to see this resolved, in the UK at least, is firstly
the setting up of what can be viewed as an associate organisation. Something
like the Free Software Users' Group UK, a broad church incorporating (for
example) the GNU/Linuxers, the Hurders (I know there are at least a few in
the UK), writers of Free Software, users of Free Software, etc. While I have
said that I would like it to be viewed as an associate organisation, that
wouldn't be the point of it - we badly need a Free Software org in the UK
anyway - but that ought to be an aim. I would also not want it to be
considered the FSFE Uk Chapter - that should be a separate organisation,
since that is/would be much more of a politcal organisation - but as I have
indicated, I would see it as important that it be part of the FSFE family.

I think it's important to get away from all this wrangling over the FSFE. I
understand some of the points people have made, but it's also important to
realise what role the FSFE is to play. Overridingly, I see it as a means of
communication, collaboration and organisation - a way of coordinating to get
things done. It's not going to dicate rules on Free Software, on the users
of Free Software, or on the existing or future orgnaisations dedicated to
Free Software. The power of the FSFE will be the increased ability of Free
Software orgnisations and people to co-ordinate and come together, it
depends on cooperation. The FSFE itself has no power at all, as I see it,
it's only a conduit.

I hope some of this makes sense :-)


Alex Hudson.

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