Free software on wikipedia

Ciaran O'Riordan ciaran at
Tue Jan 16 21:02:07 UTC 2007

Max Moritz Sievers <mms at> writes:
> There is no need to say GNU OS

Sometimes I find it useful because if you don't explicitly tell people
you're talking about an OS, they will think you're talking about "tools and
libraries" or "GNU userland".

> it is absurd to say Torvalds started "Linux"

Wikipedia will continue to say some absurd things for almost as long as
society says them :-/  If Wikipedia existed two millenia ago, there would
have been an "Is flat vs. is round" flame war on Talk:Earth for at least a

Even if you "win" the Wikipedia argument this month, the argument would
probably start again in the near future.  For a long term solution, we have
to continue educating free software users.  Here're a few paragraphs that
RMS posted recently on this topic:

And he talks about it in the transcript I recently posted:

> But I don't know what to say to them after all these discussions.

I'm no expert, but from similar discussions here are some principals I find

1. Be as concise as possible.  Try to sum the argument up in two or three
   sentences.  If you use twenty sentences, they will pick the weakest one
   and ignore your good points.

2. Try to keep the discussion short.  If you are responding to someone who
   made twenty points, pick the one or two most important ones and ignore
   the others (for now at least).  If the discussion becomes long, no new
   people will join in because they won't have enough time to read the
   existing discussion - or people will join in but will repeat things that
   have already been said, so the discussion will just go in circles.

3. If there are multiple issues, separate them.  If you try to explain to
   someone the two points of why the name of the OS should be changed, and
   why the description should be changed at the same time, they will reply
   about the one that they feel strongest about or the one that they have
   the best arguments about.  If you take them one at a time, the discussion
   will be more focussed and there will be fewer opportunities for the other
   person to change the topic if they realise their contradictions are being

I find that RMS has become quite good at rebutting logically flawed
arguments.  He has decades of experience.  Here are transcripts of 14 of his
talks, plus some other transcripts where you might find good arguments or

CiarĂ¡n O'Riordan __________________ \ _________ \  GPLv3 and other work supported by \   Fellowship:

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