Comment on "Nine Attitude Problems in Free and Open Source Software"

P.B. pb at
Thu Oct 23 15:56:50 UTC 2008

Matthias Kirschner wrote:
> Hi all,
> I just read "Nine Attitude Problems in Free and Open Source Software"
> I don't have much time at the moment, but I want to know your opinion. 
> I also inserted my first thoughts about things I am sceptical:
>     1) Not knowing allies from enemies
> I doubt that. I often have the impression I have more in common with
> people engaged in political and social issues than people who "just want
> to write good code". And I also have the impression that it is easier to
> e.g. explain Free Software to political science students than to
> students of computer science.
I'm totally on the same page with Matthias here. I've had harder and
less productive discussions with IT people than with socially aware
people. Furthermore, I think that embracing "open source" could lead to
a diffuse, confusing image for users (including me).
It's become incredibly difficult to reveal bad guys dressed in "Open
Source", and super-confusing for friends of mine who, again, ended up
with proprietary software, and me, still complaining about it - because
it wasn't FS, it simply was OS.

> Especially as he wrotes under 2):
>     In the same way, instead of talking about software or its licenses,
>     the FOSS community needs to talk more about issues such as
>     consumers' rights and privacy and free speech -- matters that extend
>     far beyond the keyboard and terminal.
I must say, I agree with the author about that one (#2). My experience
has often shown that you can't go into licensing and developing topics
before the person in front of you hasn't found his/her personal
connection to the subject.
I'm sorry, but very often they're *not* techies - and thus don't really
care about developer-freedoms, or "theoretically-additional" freedoms,
because so far, they didn't require them. It's important that they *do*
care, but it really scares people away if you just babble about 4
freedoms, using examples and words intended for a different audience.
Adapt to your dialog partner.

4) hostility to newcomers:
hm. difficult. I think that the right balance is necessary:
Often, people are really rude when you ask a question - even if you
*did* google first. If it's obvious for them, they assume you're stupid
and not worth talking to. That's bad.
On the other hand, I can't spend hours and days on,
holding someone's hand while he's just copying my info, instead of
trying to understand it.

However, I think there's a big difference between "being rude" and
"telling someone to read up on some basics". If people are encouraged to
learn, it makes life easier for all of us on the long run.

6) Focusing on hating Microsoft:
It's true. so many people I know already distrust Microsoft that they
*do* think that any non-microsoft thing is good (example: Apple, Skype,
...). Furthermore, it often leaves an impression of FS developers/users
being jealous, because the world embraces MS.

The time spent on ranting against MS is *definitely* spent better in
contributing to FS projects:
- Tell people good things about FS instead of complaining about their stuff.
- Help people on ubuntuforums
- Write HowTos
- etc...

>     7) Taking commercial development as a model for growth
> I think it is not good to differ between a commercial and "open source"
> development model. Yes, there are different development models, but I
> think that is not inevitably connected with the fact that it is non-free
> or Free Software. 
Additionally, I think that it distorts the reader's view on FS even a
bit more:
In years of developing proprietary software, and seeing how things are
done behind the curtains, I've rather seen a demand for the opposite of
#7's topic.
Very often, "commercial developers should take FS as a model for growth".

Due to its nature, development of FS is mainly distributed and thus
requires discipline, schedules, good communication skills - and
documentation (super-small projects like <5 people are an exception).
Commercial software often lacks proper documentation for "inside" - How
many times did I have to black-box debug in-house made apps?

8) Making market share the top priority:
Might be true. I *do* have the feeling of a slight sellout happening
(e.g. Firefox), which causes loss of the actual vision - and a drift
away from the "good cause".

9) Stopping short of a completely free operating system:
True. I've even caught myself catching a short breath after recently
opening a brand-new computer system with GNU/Linux pre-installed without
me asking for it.
We're on the right track...

...but there's still some stuff to do!

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