FAQ for giving lectures to students

Ciaran O'Riordan ciaran at fsfe.org
Wed Apr 19 20:18:34 UTC 2006

Stefano wrote
> On Wed, 2006-04-12 at 12:12 +0100, Shane M. Coughlan wrote:
> This is fine, we might also provide links to existing presentations
> given by FSFE members over time to different audience, so that
> interested people can use them directly or draw inspiration.

I maintain a list of the presentations that I remember doing:

There are some recordings there, slides, transcripts, or whatever
other materials I have.

Public speaking is not one of my strong points, and I currently make
loads of mistakes each time I give a talk, but I always wish that
others would put recordings of their presentations online so that I
could get ideas, so I put mine online for others to get ideas.

> A: quality of software depends on many factors, including peer review.

I think it's important to say at the start that free software is not
always higher quality.  Some is high quality, some is not, but
everyone has the right to see the quality, and make improvements if

Proprietary software is a black box that you use with one hand tied
behind your back and you have to trust the marketing campaign that
told you the box is full of magic dust.

> > 7) How should I characterise software companies like Microsoft?

Microsoft is a natural product of a wrong approach.  They are the
worst freedom-restricter, but that's only because they've been the
most successful.  Others are trying very hard to restrict the freedom
of as many people as MS currently does.

We need to fix the general approach.

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

Point out that your handouts were unnecessarily printed on dead trees
when you could have just posted them online :)

I don't like pointing at large company support as a proof that our
cause is a reasonable one.

I prefer to say that we are trying to ensure that all software users have a
certain standard of rights.  Much like the free labour movement did when
bonded labour existed.  Much like the movement for mandatory food labelling
did when it was not required that food sold publicly display the list of

Software development and usage is stilla a new activity, and it's history
and philosophical thinking is still relatively shallow.  People using
software don't have many rights and those people are being exploited.

You can point out that when mandatory labelling of ingredients was
suggested, the food companies were fiercly against it, but today we
see it as a basic right that you should be able to read the
ingredients of food which is sold publicly.

We hope one day these rights will be as standard as food labelling,
but today we can have those rights for ourselves by choosing free
software.  So it's not about avoiding MS, it's about setting a
standard for how you should be treated.

If you're talking to a business audience, you can describe this as a
procurement policy.  Procurement policies usually spell out minimum
requirements and we hope companies (and people) will start setting the

 "Software providers must not prevent the company from seeing what the
 software does"

 "Software providers must not prevent the company from making
 improvements, customising, fixing bugs - or commissioning others to
 do these things for the company"

 "Software providers will not prevent the publication of any
 improvements which the collective users of the software make or
> > 6) What about questions about the difference between Open Source and
> > Free Software?

They're the same thing.  There are a small number of cases where software is
free software but not open source, and there are a small number of cases
where software is open source but not free software, but these are almost
insignificant.  GNU/Linux, OpenOffice, Firefox, GNOME, KDE, Emacs, Vim are
all free software and open source software.

The term "free software" is ambiguous, it has to be explained.

The term "open source" also has to be explained, but people think they
understand it: software that is open (which would include MS's Shared
Source, etc.).  So not only does it have to be explained, but it also

It's also good to point out that "open source" is a term created to
"relabel" (in the words of ESR) free software, and the the Open Source
Iniative was set up as "a marketing program for free software", and
that "free software" has been used since 1983, which "open source"
only appeared in 1998.

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

For information:


To participate:

and this mailing list.

CiarĂ¡n O'Riordan __________________ \ http://fsfeurope.org/projects/gplv3
http://ciaran.compsoc.com/ _________ \  GPLv3 and other work supported by
http://fsfe.org/fellows/ciaran/weblog \   Fellowship: http://www.fsfe.org

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