How to promote free software

Xavi Drudis Ferran xdrudis at
Tue Dec 3 02:45:17 UTC 2002

It's 3:00 AM. Maybe I shouldn't answer. Please excuse me if
I'm not perfectly pòlite or clear.

El Tue, Dec 03, 2002 at 01:59:25AM +0100, Niall Douglas deia:
> On 1 Dec 2002 at 22:46, Xavi Drudis Ferran wrote:
> Your page is nice, but it's too wordy. I'd suggest the four top items 
> I previously said, followed by forceful stuff like:
> "If you enact software patents, you will send X million euro out of 
> the European economy every year"
> "If you enact software patents, you will put X thousand software 
> engineers out of work"
> "If you enact software patents, European software will be directly 
> controlled from the US"
> etc. You'll need cold hard figures for the above. I suggest the FSF 
> finds a university and has some research done. Again, the pro-
> cannabis lobby use all these techniques and one by one European 
> countries are loosening their laws, despite heavy resistence from 
> Sweden.

There are a lot of economic studies, but you simply can't quote any
such numbers without what I would consider plainly lying. These things
can't be quantified. And in my experience some politicians are more or
less clueless, but none are so simple as to buy that. YMMV. But from
my limited experience, going that way will simply qualify you as a
zealot not worth listening to.  Even when we quote there are more than
30000 software patents it is just an estimation, let alone counting
its economic impact.

> Well you can see what I've done above. If you read any first year 
> psychology textbook, you'll quickly see what works best in getting a 
> message across. The main rules are (i) keep it simple and attention 
> grabbing (ii) repeat it as often as you can and (iii) be ready for 
> more detail if more in-depth questions are asked.
(iv) keep it true, accurate, sound.
(v) try that it looks true too, not only that it is.
> I'd also get someone around Brussels to make an appointment with each 
> senior MEP to talk about the danger of software patents (pointless 
> seeing them all, they tend to follow a few senior figures). I'd write 
> a letter to each European software house getting them to write 
> letters to a list of select government officials. I'd also write 
> letters to the broadsheets in each country most read by politicians 
> trying to get articles published about the dangers.
> All of this stuff is bread and butter lobbying. You can be guaranteed 
> Microsoft and IBM both pay people to do all this - indeed I think MS 
> sinks several million a year into it.

That may be a good strategy for IBM, but not for us, of course. 
We have arguments, they have money. Different resources call for different 
strategies. But I wouldn't mind you trying, of course.

> Really? Well that's fantastic then. The UK needs hitting and hitting 
> hard since it has like 50% of the EU's IT industry. I think Germany 
> and France are anti, not sure about Italy.

The UK needs hitting hard because it apparently has the most beligerant
Patent Office, although Denmark seems to be taking lead now. I don't 
really know. We are not generals sending troops around. Let everybody 
do what he can where he is.
> Not wanting to dishearten you, but web pages preach to the already 
> converted. They don't affect MEP's - only letters, faxes, meetings 
> and general old-fashioned lobbying do that.

Maybe, it depends a little. But preaching is useful. There are not so
many converted people as you might think. At least not so many really 
caring to study and understand the issues, and work hard. Even if 
they were many, we need a lot of them. We don't have much money, we need 
many people giving a little time each.
> If you look at something like you'll see plenty 
> of resources including lists of MP's and their contact details and 
> constituent surgery times. Also there's fill in forms, templates for 
> letters to newspapers, a "primer" so you can teach someone all they 
> need to know quickly etc.

I'm a little sick of people thinking they can understand everything in
just an hour and then making so much noise that politicians can't hear
the signal. I agree there must be introductory texts, etc. but just as
a first step. You can't hope to go talk to a politician just after a
couple of hours reading something. How are you going to ask her to
spend time on what you care about if you haven't spent it yourself?.
What I deduce from the cannabis site is that they have more people 
spending more time on the site that we have. I haven't found so terribly 
useful info, btw. But possibly because I'm tired now.

> > You are free to elaborate such a panphlet, or modify ours, but if you
> > want a list of other helpful tasks to do, see
> > or
> > if you can read Catalan (if you
> > can read a couple of Romance language you can probably read them all)
> I live in Spain so I have some Spanish, but I found myself struggling 
> with the above. Since everyone here can read English well enough to 
> translate into their own languages, I'd suggest starting with an 
> English version and once it's perfect translating from there.

Translations are always wellcome. We can't start in English. We can't
start in anything. We already started just before March.
> I'll get to it eventually. I may be unemployed, but I'm also 
> extremely busy. I've drawn up my idea of an improved proprietary 
> model which I'll publish within the next hour so I'll get to software 
> patents eventually.

I'm sorry if anything I said implied you couldn't be busy or anything.
I never meant that. Any time you can spend on this is wellcome, and I
know time is dear for everybody. Just, when you have time (if you do,
since after publishing you'll proposal you'll be hopefully busy
discussing it with people interested), try to pick some task and go
abut it instead of just telling what everybody should be doing. Sorry
if that sounded rude. Ideas are OK, I'm just trying to tell you how
you could be read.

> > And of course anybody helping agaisnt swpats, will find good
> > background in
> Yep, already know that. It's too technical for MEP's though.

For some. Others possibly read it. And anyway, it's the kind of place
one should study before starting to teach politicians. You can't just
go to one politician and throw him a panphlet you hardly understand
yourself. You have to be ready to back your arguments and provide
constructive alternatives.

Xavi Drudis Ferran
xdrudis at

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