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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] libreplanet-discuss Digest, Vol 67, Issue 19

From: Terry
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] libreplanet-discuss Digest, Vol 67, Issue 19
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 2015 15:53:03 -0600
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux i686; rv:38.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/38.2.0

The FSF has incredible geniuses who understand code, technologies,
future directions and social implications. Their philosophies are
incredible, however some lack of people skills contributes to remaining
exclusionary through alienating many by not understanding and embracing
people, varying intellects, marketing and rates of comprehensive shifts
to new philosophical adoptions.
I'm not clear on precisely what you're referring to and I don't see
examples of your point. If you don't like what the FSF says, it would be
fine to say that you don't agree with it. But you should point to what
specifically you disagree with and explain why. I don't know how many
people you are speaking for when you say "many" and I don't see any
examples of what your criticizing. What did the FSF say when you tried
telling them specifically what messages you didn't like and how you thought
they should pose those issues instead? They're hiring a Deputy Director,
and I think that job would include plenty of chances to explain software
freedom better.

I've found the FSF to be forthright and to not suffer fools gladly (which
requires a clarity I appreciate). They rightly speak up about their cause,
write very clearly, and when people use language that frames an issue in a
way they don't agree with their representatives point it out. Richard
Stallman's recent Slashdot interview has an example of this in the first Q&A -- a response from Stallman where
he pointed out what was wrong with framing an issue in terms of
"monetization". Stallman's response struck me as a well-stated and entirely
fair rebuttal to an attempt to justify bad behavior because it might make
more money than earning money ethically. Eben Moglen's talks are
consistently excellent. They're packed with detail and they really earn a
re-read/re-listen, but they're eminently understandable even for
non-technical people I've played them for over the air on community radio
(or so the listeners who call me tell me). I went to an FSF gathering some
years ago and Moglen's talk alone made the trip worthwhile for my travel

I think most people haven't begun to contemplate software freedom not
because the message of software freedom was put to them somehow
indelicately, but because the message of software freedom hasn't been put
to them at all. It's hard to repeat a message as frequently as the
billionaire proprietors repeat their ads, or even as frequently as open
source supporters say some proprietary software is okay.

We're constantly told that our proper role in society is to buy something.
This immediately circumscribes us as consumers rather than citizens. This
means reducing people to accepting choices set out for them (if they can
afford it) and never discussing doing what's just, ethical, and beneficial
for society such as pointing out systemic corruption (what if all the
choices are bad?), inequity (what if some people are too poor to
participate even as consumers?). Consumerism is designed to exclude ethical
discussion. When I try to behave ethically by purchasing the most ethical
option available, I usually face greenwashing or I find I'm outspent by the
wealthy who want unethical results. The narrow terms of debate are set up
this way on purpose, not by accident, and this makes for a very one-sided
way to live.

For example, in popular computing my choices come down to two nonfree
software distributors and a "choice" of which proprietor's interest to
cater to. When viewed from a perspective of software freedom, that's no
choice at all. Any differences between the proprietors are overwhelmed by
the similarities that one is basically picking who gets to keep me from
having software freedom. All of the important questions about software
freedom are immediately outside the allowable range of debate when the ends
are staked out by proprietors. There's simply no room left for a serious
discussion of ethics; other related issues (such as computer security) are
off-limits too as one can't have computer security without software freedom.

But I know better things are possible because I can look at history.
Apparently through hard work and political insistence free software hackers
built a better system: there was a time when GNU was not a complete
operating system and I had to run GNU programs on a nonfree OS. Now
GNU/Linux is a complete self-hosting OS, thanks in part to Linus Torvalds
distributing the Linux kernel under a free software license, and the
Linux-libre team for distributing a free version of the Linux kernel. I
didn't have hardware on which I could run a completely free OS. Now I can
buy hardware which runs a free BIOS thanks to all the reverse engineering
and work I'm probably not fully aware of. Sure, I have to accept that
things take time to develop and I can't use the latest hardware in freedom,
but things are demonstrably better now than they were just 20 years ago. I
don't want those gains to be lost for me or anyone else who uses a computer.

There are, quite literally, life and death issues one can resolve with
software freedom (the recent VW emissions fraud discovery, and keeping
people safe from spying while they're telling us important details about
what's really happening like Snowden did, to name a couple recent
examples). Saving lives, preserving privacy & civil liberties, and
introducing ethics into people's use of computers strikes me as far too
important to grant anyone social permission to dismiss a message because
they don't like how it was delivered instead of objecting to what the
message said. If the discussion raises questions, by all means, ask! And
feel free to state your mind, but expect to justify your statements too.

I actually thought my post was clear that I absolutely do like what the FSF says. I also think they (as well as myself and others) sometimes have trouble clearly getting the messages across to the average person. Also I can be a giant idiot and write "FSF" when I really meant to type Free Software advocates which is not exclusive to the Free Software Foundation. You say they don't suffer fools lightly and I admit I am a fool, but I am a fool who understands there is power in numbers and a battle for computing freedom going on. I wish to grow our membership large enough that there is a viable market for inexpensive Gnu/Linux laptops and Free (as in freedom) phones and tablets. To do that we need to be able to engage not lose the average person. While it is true the billionaires have massive marketing machines we need to present our message in a marketable way if it is to be heard and rebroadcast by those trained throughout their lifetimes to hear and respond to marketing propaganda.

Example One:
The choice of the term "Free Software", every newbie seems to interpret it as no charge. And it's no wonder, if I go to the grocery store the word free will be visible at least a dozen times in a context related to price. The cost association to that word has happened my whole life with hundreds of visits to stores. The same is true for most people living in the developed English speaking world. The chosen term could instead be something unique and memorable like "4Freedoms Software", that more accurately describe the subject. Open source could also be called "1Freedom Software" because thats all you get, likewise proprietary software could be accurately called "0Freedom Software" (Zero Freedom Software).

Example Two:
Gnu/Linux System, I know several Free Software users and advocates who will never use the terminology because of the awkwardness of it. We need something simpler, more marketable if we actually want widespread use adoption of the terminology. A quick off the cuff suggestion GLOS (Gnu Linux Operating System).

Example Three:
I tried to play one of the videos of Richard Stallman for someone, he started by explaining the four software freedoms. When the list started with zero, The whole focus and message was lost on a mundane unnecessary detail. As a computer guy I think it's cool that the list starts with zero especially since it reflects the latter addition of the rule. The reality though is trying to introduce someone to important concepts, the divide by zero error in the brain when the list begins can (and did) abruptly exit and end everything.

Example Four:
Once before I gave feedback in this list related to one of the four freedoms, specifically open source. that post received negative feedback because open source alone isn't Free Software. The comment I provided was never meant as an all encompassing answer. I omitted the other freedoms not because they are unimportant, I just couldn't articulate the specific relevance well enough so I gave the best feedback I could, relying on others to make the other relevant points. My point here is someone who doesn't understand us might have taken personal offense.

Example Zero:  ;)
My previous message was a reply regarding effective pedagogical techniques vs counterproductive ones, specifically related to handling students who aren't immediately all in on our ideals. Which will be a significant number. Forcing them to choose a side will usually end with a choice based on rebelliousness. It is human nature and more so for youth.

My suggested new terms above are only suggestions to get the discussion rolling about effective terminology that is more prone to public embracement and adoption, almost certainly someone else out there has ideas that are much better. Finally maybe this isn't the appropriate forum.


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