How to promote free software

Niall Douglas s_fsfeurope at
Tue Dec 3 19:04:41 UTC 2002

On 3 Dec 2002 at 3:45, Xavi Drudis Ferran wrote:

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

It's alright. I'm suffering from chronic sleep deprivation because 
Carrefour just won't deliver my urgently needed new CD burner :(

> > 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.

The solution here is to produce some very conservative numbers ie; 
the lowest cost it could be. Obviously, if a politician should ask 
what's the basis for these numbers you should pull out a sheet of A4 
illustrating the basis. Most importantly of all, the numbers have to 
be so conservative the proprietary lobby groups can't dispute them.

> > 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.

Accuracy is relative and subjective. Most people accept presented 
evidence until proven otherwise.

> (v) try that it looks true too, not only that it is.

I'm not saying we lie, but I would argue for simplicity. I'd want 
someone to look at our case and in ten seconds have a good idea. I 
don't think reading through any quantity of text will help this.

In the end, these guys are busy. If you leave them with just an 
impression it could be a vote-loser, you're 50% there.

> 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.

Writing letters costs little and can make a huge difference eg; 
getting star trek put back on air. Writing letters to Euro software 
CEO's also I think is an excellent use of time.

> > 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?.

I wasn't proposing you send such people - the primers are for those 
who know something vaguely about it (eg; anyone reading slashdot or 
the register) who wants to know enough they feel safe in writing a 

> > 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.

If I came across as telling people what to do, then that was not my 
intention and I apologise for any offense caused. I've been 
campaigning against software patents long before joining this list 
with articles written on the matter and letters sent to the UK patent 
office. I was merely applying what had worked well for other popular 
protest movements, and hoping it to be a source of good ideas.

> > > 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.

There aren't many constructive arguments for alternatives to software 
patents except "just don't have them". It's a pity, because that can 
make us look closed minded.


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