What is free sftware really? Was: RE: Article: "Fixing linux" - opinions?

Sam Liddicott sam at liddicott.com
Sat Dec 13 21:33:05 UTC 2008


I can't believe that you didn't see the message that I was trying to convey, so I'll be brief this time:

How shall we invite people to use free software when we can't agree on how to apply the principles of free software to decide if software is free?

That's the question I'm raising, not whether or not we can do anything else, or whether or not I framed it well. 

I hope we can answer the question, not just talk about the question.


-----Original Message-----
From: Noah Slater <nslater at tumbolia.org>
Sent: 13 December 2008 20:45
To: Sam Liddicott <sam at liddicott.com>
Cc: discussion at fsfeurope.org
Subject: Re: What is free sftware really? Was: RE: Article: "Fixing linux" - opinions?

On Sat, Dec 13, 2008 at 08:01:40PM -0000, Sam Liddicott wrote:
> This discussion is why open source wins over free software.

This is a terrible way to frame the issue.

> Free software is in reality too complicated.

Free software is a political movement, open source is a pragmatic method.

Comparing the two is quite absurd, and yet so very common.

> The definition is simple-ish but not at all useful; because...

The definition has, and continues to be hugely useful for all manner of purposes!

> Even it's devotees can't agree on whether or not common "free" software is
> really free, and (from time to time) seem to suggest that they are each a
> bunch of unprincipled compromisers ruining the whole campaign.

Freedom means different things to different people. This is natural. What you're
essentially saying is that because freedom, morals, ethics, and value judgements
are necessarily subjective we should abandon the whole lot. Unless we can
quantify something objectively it has no value. Which is absurd.

> If we can't tell (or agree) what free software means practically then we
> should not be surprised at the mix of software masquerading as "free" -
> whatever that means, and practically speaking this is /obviously/ not clear to
> ANYONE though we each might think it is clear to ourself.

Sure, there is confusion. That is no reason to abandon ship. We need to work
better as a community to promote the issues and ideologies around free software
instead of "giving up" and talking about the "open source linux os" or whatever.

Noah Slater, http://tumbolia.org/nslater

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