Is it acceptable to use proprietary software (platforms) to promote software freedom?

Guido Arnold guido at
Tue Jul 25 23:28:12 UTC 2017

On Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 03:10:59PM +0200, Daniel Pocock wrote:
> On 25/07/17 14:56, Max Mehl wrote:
> > # Daniel Pocock [2017-07-25 14:37 +0200]:
> >> What is the value of 1000 new followers though?
> >>
> >> Are people actually switching to free software, or are the followers,
> >> shares and likes more like monopoly money which is never converted into
> >> anything tangible?
> > And yes, just because a user is following us on Twitter this doesn't
> > mean that she'll instantly start using Free Software. But thanks to us,
> > now she may know that FS exists. It's a first step in educating the
> > public which we otherwise couldn't make.


Years passed between the moment I heard about FS until I purchased my
first GNU/Linux distribution. If that person I spoke to did surveys
two weeks, six months and a year after we spoke for 3 minutes, he
could have concluded that talking to strangers about FS at parties is
not worth the effort even though he had 100% success at last.

> I remain concerned about defining the reason we want or need these
> followers and then measuring whether that objective is being met.

We don't need these followers per se, we need to raise awareness. If
we have a few among these followers who can reach a broad audience,
we'll gain. Bear in mind that we feed GNUSocial _anyway_ which is then
mirrored to Diaspora [1] and Twitter (and possibly others). So the
feeding alone comes at no cost.

I share your desire for measurable outcomes, but getting just halfway
usable data (take my example above) would exceed the effort FSFE
staffers currently spend to maintain the Twitter account. 

If the little time that is spent leads to one or two journalists
interested in the topic and getting aware of FSFE's existence per
year, I'd see it already as a benefit. 

Now on the con side: how do we measure the harm our presence on
Twitter and Facebook causes? How many (potential) supporters turn
their back/stop their donation when they learn that FSFE maintains
these accounts? 

I acknowledge that there is a harm and know that these people exist. I
know one personally.

Though I guess metrics are even harder to get [2] than in the case 
mentioned above.

But even if we had resilient numbers, how would we insert them into
the equation? 

Those turning their back to FSFE because of its presence on Twitter
will remain FS advocates regardless, won't they?

FSFE is a vehicle to promote Free Software. Somewhat like a legal
hack to collect money/resources for the cause of Software Freedom.  

FSFE as an organisation may lose, but the community of Free Software
advocates won't get smaller. 



[1] BTW: I don't see GNUSocial and Diaspora as "mass surveillance",
    but I'd call them social media.
[2] Let's try. To those who spoke against FSFE's presence on Twitter
    in this thread who own a Twitter account: How likely is it that
    you compose a tweet on your own versus the likelihood of
    retweeting a post from FSFE's account when you see it in your

Guido Arnold                       Free Software Foundation Europe    []          Edu team & German team
OpenPGP Key-ID:  0x51628D75   [][][]                   Get active!
XMPP: guido at     ||      
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