FAQ for giving lectures to students

Shane M. Coughlan shane at shaneland.co.uk
Wed Apr 12 11:12:01 UTC 2006

Hash: SHA256

Today in the FSFE chat room we started talking about giving
speeches/lectures to students about Free Software.  Maffulli suggested
we work on a FAQ for this purpose.  Here are some initial ideas.  Please
add sections, and help revise material and give comments :)

1) How can I give a speech to students about Free Software?

A: Know your audience!  If you are talking about Free Software, talk
about it in a way that will genuinely engage the target audience.
Taylor your delivery to suit the people, and that way you will get a
positive result.  If you are speaking to media students, don't go into
details regarding engineering methodology.  If you are speaking to
computer science students, don't do a statistical analysis to show a
good TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).

2) What important aspects of Free Software should I highlight?

A: There are many things you can talk about to show the benefits of Free
Software.  The four freedoms (free use, free modification, free sharing,
free improving) are important, but are not the only things you can bring
into a speech.  If you are talking to political students, you might want
to highlight the empowerment aspects of Free Software for developing
nations.  If you are talking to computer science students, you might
want to highlight the advantages of an open development and testing
model in engineering terms.

3) What about questions regarding the legality of Free Software?

A: You can point out that Free Software has attracted virtually no
lawsuits.  In the case of SCO the lawsuit is falling apart because SCO
actually have no evidence.  Free Software is not illegal.

4) What about questions regarding quality control in Free Software?

A: You can point out that the openness of the Free Software development
model means that more people can help to find bugs.  If a project is
well run, it should have a very high standard of quality.

5) What about questions regarding sabotage of Free Software?

A: I came across this question when talking about encryption technology.
 You can point out that Free Software fosters open development.  Someone
may try to introduce something bad, but the open review process means
this damage will be spotted and removed.  It is far more likely that a
hostile force could slip something into a closed system.

6) What about questions about the difference between Open Source and
Free Software?

A: "The fundamental difference between the two movements is in their
values, their ways of looking at the world. For the Open Source
movement, the issue of whether software should be open source is a
practical question, not an ethical one. As one person put it, "Open
source is a development methodology; free software is a social
movement." For the Open Source movement, non-free software is a
suboptimal solution. For the Free Software movement, non-free software
is a social problem and free software is the solution."
(From http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-for-freedom.html)

You can discuss this is several ways.  If you want to be philosophical,
you can talk about the freedoms as a solution to larger human problems
like social empowerment.  If you want to be result orientated, you can
talk about how Free Software allows sustainable technology freedom that
enables companies to save huge amounts on R&D, while improving the
market as a whole by giving everyone access to non-differentiating

7) How should I characterise software companies like Microsoft?

A: This is very much a matter of personal preference.  One suggestion is
that being too hostile might alienate your audience.  Point out the
flaws and inherent unfairness in the business models adopted by
companies like Microsoft, and suggest that Free Software simply offers a
better model both for business and for society.

8) What should I say if people suggest Free Software is for tree-hugging

A: Point out that IBM is not a tree-hugging hippy camp, and that IBM and
Novell back Free Software for economic and engineering reasons.  Free
Software is not about abstract thought, it is about better development,
distribution and evolutionary models.  These models benefit companies,
consumers and society as a whole.

9) Where should I point people to find out more?

A: The Free Software Foundation Europe website (www.fsfeurope.org), the
Free Software Foundation North America website (www.fsf.org).  Perhaps
you could point people to Mozilla, Openoffice.org, Ubuntu, Groklaw,

These are my suggestions for the FAQ so far.  Please join in!



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Shane Martin Coughlan
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