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

Daniel Pocock daniel at
Fri Sep 1 07:32:13 UTC 2017

On 26/07/17 01:28, Guido Arnold wrote:
> 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.
> +1
> 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? 

Metcalfe's law is a helpful way to measure that.

I could also use your own example: maybe there is no harm measured 2
weeks, 6 months or a year after somebody sees FSFE on facebook, but at
some point it will bite us.

> 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. 
> Best,
> Guido
> [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
>     timeline?
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