Metaphors of Free Software

Alessandro Rubini rubini at
Thu Oct 2 21:14:10 UTC 2014

>>> Any "metaphor" with physical goods is weak;

Thomas Doczkal:
> Guido mentioned in his mail[1] a recipe (for cooking I imagine).

Yes. And, in some environments, it is good. I use it myself (as I said
in the other thread, side B of my business card is a bugged recipe).
But a recipe is information, it is not a physical good. It is *used*
to produce a service and a benefit, but it pure information.  Like
musical scores.

> Even though a metaphor is never perfect it gives a picture of what you
> want to say and most often even non-technical people can get an idea of
> your message behind that.

Yes. But sometimes they are *only* good for non-technical people.

Recipes and music scores (i.e. recipes for food and recipes for music)
are usually not good examples to bring to the attention of people who
use software daily, because they know the respective complexity
differs by several magnitudes.  They usually agree recipes and scores
might be free -- which they more or less are, because no policeman
will break into your home if you play your favorite hit on your own
piano). But they usually get reinforced in the idea that software
should not, because it costs man-years. I here them saying: "If you
claim it's *only* like recipes, then I know it's different and it's
exactly the difference that voids your own argument".

Actually, people skilled in the art can "easily" (for some meaning
of the word) replicate a recipe or a song.  That's because the work of
art is completely perceived at each individual run, and thus it is
quickly replicated: you can build on that knowledge and go
further.  The same happens with novels and most other copyrighted

> I think this is a good example as you have nearly as small costs for a
> data medium (USB, CD or alike) as you have for a recipe book.

Recipes don't travel on books -- not only on books. Most of mine
follow peer-to-peer: friends and relatives, and I'm sure this applies
to most people.  Thus your problem with storage and the cloud doesn't

> For some people a screw driver is closer related to there daily work

Yes. Then talk about interoperable file formats using screwdrivers as
your example. Explain how "pdf" files can be read by many tools, not
only the one our public sector advertizes (btw, I usually acknowledge
that the company who designed the format explicitly allowed competing
implementation of readers and writers).

The problem of access to information is wider than free software; we
can spread awareness without bringing in the obscure "software" world.

> You might interfere here and say in times of cloud storage [...]
> But I think that's a different topic.

It is. And a very important one. I'm sometimes disappointed at how we
are still discussing about dynamic linking of GPL code, and the C API
and inline functions in headers ("we" is not this list, it's FS people
at large). The world has changed, those paradigms cover a very little
fraction of today's reality. I know the same issues about freedom
apply (and even more), but to explain them we need new arguments
(which I can't offer, I'm sorry: this is a cry for help).

(Yes, I'm aware this list is public and I'm all for sensitive
topics to be discussed in private circles, gpg-encrypted if possible).

> That are just my two cents.
> Best Regards,
> Thomas

Thanks Thomas.

/alessandro, a little too verbose these days

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