FAQ for giving lectures to students

Sam Liddicott sam at liddicott.com
Thu Apr 20 10:12:18 UTC 2006

Some of you may have seen this:

raising points on why patents are bad for open source.
The frank admission is that patents are an effective protection racket 
and companies don't want to offer information which could be used in a 
legal threat against them.

This example involving commercial organisations may be of use if the 
topic of patents arises in durin presentations.

Contrast with this recent case of patent-harrassment:

The kid has been "invited" to submit his prior art to the lawers but 
he's had a lot of hassle -

Both cases a real demonstration the threat of patents to shutdown 
innovation instead of promote it.
Teh fact that these cases can show that patents are inneffective in 
their proclaimed aim and also cause harm should reduce the relevance of 
open source software in the patent discussion.


Shane M. Coughlan wrote:

>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!
>- --
>Shane Martin Coughlan
>e: shane at shaneland.co.uk
>m: +447773180107
>w: www.shaneland.co.uk
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