RMS interview

Xavi Drudis Ferran xdrudis at tinet.org
Thu Jun 27 06:13:27 UTC 2002

El Tue, Jun 25, 2002 at 09:38:00PM +0200, Rainer Trusch deia:
> I read this argument quite often and think it's pretty useless in
> a broader few. The vast majority of users can't programm and is still
> depending on someone else. On a business level you are more likely to
> have someone being capable to give you this control or you can hire
> someone. On a private level that doesn't work and you are one or
> another way "controlled" by someone else.

Not quite exact. Truely enough most people don't program. But then 
most people can't install an OS (be it free or restricted). Or can't 
configure their internet access, or can't do some specific tasks with
a program they can do other tasks with. At the office they will hopefully
turn to their IT department. At home they usually resort to some friend 
or other, who happens to have played enough with their computer to 
feel able to do it. Private users won't pay a programmer to work for 
them but will anyway get someone to help them anyway. If that someone 
is able to program a little, then they'll soon see benefits of free 

For example, my girlfriend understood free software when she tried
GNU/Linux and didn't quite like the card game AisleRiot. She was used
to another solitaire with slightly different rules. It turned out to
have the games as small scheme programs. And her favourite was easy to
modify to her taste (something equivalent to tweaking a couple of
#defines or little more, I didn't submit the change because the code
already seemed prepared for that reconfiguration).

When she saw she got what she wanted in a few minutes by just asking a
friend, and I told her you can't do that with non-free software, she
understood people is surrendering too much freedom.
> If I tell many of the ordinary users about this they are most likely
> rolling their eyes or burst into laughter. It is a very
> programmercentric view with an elitest touch. I know this is not the
> intention, but it is easiely misunterstood. I'm picking on that,
> because we are talking about a greater idea and such an argument isn't
> really approachable for the majority of users.

I agree with Alex Hudson than programmer / user is an artificial
distinction which might be useful in a concrete situation (when
apllied to a particular program, person and time, for instance) but
not as a general category for people.  After all, all programmers are
users of development tools, many users script or record macros, write
mail filtering rules or schedule tasks, etc.

And programming is not that different from system integration,
debugging and maintenance is not so different to system
administration. The fact that a system administration is regarded as a
("power") user and a programmer as a different role is mostly due to
artificial restrictions on what one is allowed to do with programs. 

After all programmers use code in libraries and users code in 
/usr/bin but they all  end up considering all possible cases, 
discovering the interfaces for the function they need, etc. 

Distinguishing between users and programmers is like distinguishing 
between writers and readers of the press. It is not absolutely pointless
since some people get their income from writing and some don't. 
But it is not very helpful in advocating readers do not need to 
be able to write. Literacy is optional but is very useful, and we
generally agree one of the advantages of compulsory scholarisation 
is to get everybody to learn the rudiments of writing. Even those
who don't become professional writers. Some day everybody will 
learn basic programming concepts at school as just another skill
people may find handy sometime. 

Xavi Drudis Ferran
xdrudis at tinet.org

More information about the Discussion mailing list