Advocacy doesn’t work if you tell someone they’re wrong

Jelle Hermsen jelle at
Tue Nov 2 19:29:27 UTC 2010

On Tue, 2010-11-02 at 18:28 +0000, David Gerard wrote:
> On 2 November 2010 17:12, Matthias Kirschner <mk at> wrote:
> > I think you can explain such
> > things, but than you have to be careful about the tone.
> Anecdotes and war stories help. Any sysadmin who's ever been screwed
> over by a proprietary software company will be a BIG FAN of free
> software, simply to defend their company. I've found (as a sysadmin)
> that these also help sway management opinion, at least slightly.

Thanks for all the replies. Quite a lot of food for thought, to say the
I really love the different approaches and view points you all have. It
shows me there's no groupthink in the FSFE and I like that very much.
Groupthink is another term used in psychology which I often recognize in
free software / open source communities. It can lead to a great amount
of people adopting a quite extreme opinion in a short time.  Anyway,
that's a totally different story :)

Because of the multitude and variety of ideas I don't think it's a good
idea to change the advocacy FAQ. At least not at this point. I do
however believe it's a very good thing to keep thinking about how to
advocate free software.

One thing I learn from all your responses is that there's really no
single approach which can act as a panacea for free software advocacy.
Different people need different approaches and that's just one of the
things which add to the already multi-faceted free software movement,
which in my opinion makes it very exciting.

I'm very glad I decided to join the fellowship. I'll read all the ideas
and urls you sent, it's a great source of inspiration.

> Basically, people don't take advice.
@david: I think you have a point there. That's why it's a good idea to
not make it sound too much like an advice. It might actually be much
better for people to do the math themselves and just give them enough
information to do it. I'm quite aware that this approach really depends
on the amount of involvement of your advocatee (I don't think that's
really a word, the person you're advocating to?) The link you send
( reminds me of politeness

> Hi, I think you're right. We're facing the same issue while trying to
> convince people to stop meat consumption.
@stephane: I believe reactance is a universal problem which applies to
many situations in which you're trying to convince someone. Meat
consumption, animal testing, climate change, you name it, they all have
much in common and reactance is a great part of that.

> So my view is offer to add to the good people have; acknowledge how
> their choice helped them, and offer them more help
> ...
> The safe thing to do is to add to the good they have.
@sam: I really like your TZ analogy and I totally agree with you context
is very important. It can serve as a building block for your message.

> Yes, this is a good aproach. But sometimes it is also difficult not to
> mention the problems of non-free software. 
@matthias: True. But there's a time and place for everything, and at the
same time trying to convince people and addressing problems might not
work well.

Best regards,

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