Explaining Free Software - good examples

Matthias Kirschner mk at fsfe.org
Thu Jul 20 19:53:53 UTC 2006

Hi all,

I am looking for a good way to explain Free Software to
*non-programmers* during a moderated show. It should be short (about 6
minutes), not to technically (I do not want to scare them off), and

To start I thought about using the recipe analogy because I have good
experiences with this example which others also share.

But now there should be an example for the audience, which shows the
advantage of the freedom to modify the software to your own needs. There
should be some pictures so not only someone is visible who is just
talking or explaining without really showing something.

First I thought of a /translation example/: Think about the case your
mother want to use a program, but she is not able to read English. And
than show someone who is translating a program into another language
(there is the possibility to show things on a screen). 
But I do not know if that is something people are really concerned with.
So someone had the idea to adept a /Mozilla Firefox extension/ (Firefox,
because it is available on different platforms and a lot of people
already know it and perhaps use it). For example, adapt a library search
to a local library. But I do not know how difficult it is to do
something like this and I am unsure if the audience will understand it.

It should be easy to modify it. It does not matter if the result is
funny, or useful.

A friend argued OpenOffice.org, FireFox and embedded devices (which also
was an idea) are bad examples for showing practical work on the source
code and it would be better to use a language and application that does
not need a /building step/, like a python application.

Another friend said he thinks you cannot explain Free Software to a
non-programmer by showing someone modifying software, because the
audience does not know what a program is, so there is no point in
showing them a program and pretend to tell them that 'it is easy to
modify it'.

After thinking about this I am playing with the idea to just use the
recipe example and show someone cooking. But I am not sure if it is good
not showing software at all.

Now, what do you think? Do you have good approaches which might help me? Or
have experiences that a certain approach did not work with a
non-programmer audience?

I am looking forward to your replies.

With best wishes,

Join the Fellowship and protect your freedom!      (http://www.fsfe.org)

More information about the Discussion mailing list