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The Singapore Linux Meetup Group Message Board › Freedom versus Open Source, Stallman versus Linus

Freedom versus Open Source, Stallman versus Linus

Singapore, SG
Post #: 17
I brought up the issue of philosophy, Stallman versus Linus because I think we need to be clear about which philosophy we are supporting. I think this will have practical consequences, affecting how we approach things. It's not argument for the sake of argument, empty theorising.

"Software Freedom Day" sounds more Stallman, whom many in last night's meetup claim to oppose, with at least one exception. I would expect that in a Linux group, but then why support a Stallman sounding "Software Freedom Day"?

No need for consensus on our philosophy, but at least be aware of, and understand, the disagreement.­

People use terms like "free software" and "open source" as if they were the same thing. Is that right?

Stallman: In terms of ideas, free software and open source are as different as could be. Free software is a political movement; open source is a development model.

The free software movement is concerned with ethical and social values. Our goal is to win, for computer users, the freedom to cooperate and control your own computing. Therefore, you should have these four essential freedoms for each program you use:

0. To run the program as you wish. 1. To study the source code and change it so the program does what you wish. 2. To redistribute exact copies when you wish, either giving them away or selling them. 3. To distribute copies of your modified versions when you wish.

The term "open source" was promoted in 1998 by people that did not want to say "free" or "freedom." They associated their term with a philosophy that cites only values of practical convenience.

Supporters of open source (which I am not) promote a "development model" in which users participate in development, claiming that this typically makes software "better" -- and when they say "better", they mean that only in a technical sense. By using the term that way, implicitly, they say that only practical convenience matters -- not your freedom.

I don't say they are wrong, but they are missing the point. If you neglect the values of freedom and social solidarity, and appreciate only powerful reliable software, you are making a terrible mistake.
Darren T.
user 8411768
Singapore, SG
Post #: 1
I do not think the two form of ideas are contradictory. Besides, compelling Members to support only one of the two camps( the GNU programmers or the Linux Programmers)

Maybe a split into two separate groups: Singapore Linux Meet up Group and Singapore GNU/Linux meet up group will resolve this issue but it would be really confusing and chaotic. We do not need to back either Richard Stallman or Linus Torvalds.

Why must the open source community be divided into two camps? Clearly enough, Stallman is a die-hard supporter of his GNU project and some suspect that he thinks Eric s. Raymond and Linus Torvalds hijacked his free software revolution.

Politics is largely relevant even in the open source/ free software world and therefore we should not participate in such power plays.
Tom G.
Group Organizer
Singapore, SG
Post #: 67
My personal opinion is this.

Both camps can appreciate, to at least some level, that the Free or Open Source model is better than proprietary and to some extent we are all working towards a similar goal which is to rid ourselves of proprietary model. In my personal opinion I can see the value of both camps and its uses for both personal and corporate users. In the end, for me, it is about practicality and people should be "free" to make their own decision how they implement their software development projects. So if a business decides to use the open source model and use a badgeware license to develop a product for commercial profits, then so be it. I have all the freedoms listed above except that I got to stick a stupid logo on it. So if your values are freedom and social solidarity then you can choose not to use it, you can even campaign against it.

With that said there is no way we are going to please all camps by making a concrete statement on SLMG that we are "Free" or "Open Source"; it would further divide an already divided community. Our goal for SLMG is to build as big a base as we can to promote free and open source software. We want to be all inclusive as the singapore community is not that big.

If you would like to do a presentation of Freedom vs Open Source please let me know. I am currently looking for a speaker for January ;).
Singapore, SG
Post #: 18
Sorry, don't know enough to do a presentation, yet.

My purpose was not to start an argument or to split the group, only to make sure that the people here knew about the debate. Some seem totally unaware of the two sides of the issue. Organising a Software Freedom Day instead of a Open Source Day is already taking Stallman's side, whether anyone realises or likes it or not.

That's the problem with not having the issue openly discussed, you can end up on one side or another by default, and not realise it. Or have different people think that they are working in the same direction, only to realise later that they are not.

The point is that the terms "open source" and "freedom" are already politically loaded. Choosing which term to use is already taking sides, whether anyone likes it or not. Pretending that the difference does not exist will not make it go away. Every time one or the other term is used, a choice is made.

Again, my aim was not to divide the group, just to clarify things. Especially with the setting up of the new open source organisation.
Jeff D.
user 5952307
Singapore, SG
Post #: 1
I agree about the philosophical overtones of SFD. After close to 15 years in the software-as-political-statement camp, my sentiments - if pushed to choose one or the other - now rest pretty firmly on the open source side of things.

Why? It works better for me as a user and as a developer. As a user, I have the benefit of access to the source code without quite the level of Pottery Barn Rule mentality. There seem to be far fewer systems and applications that fork a hundred different ways just to stroke a hundred different developers' egos. I can concentrate on finding a tool to address my need, rather than (too often) going in and fixing something that started off on the right track, but got abandoned by the original developer when something went into the mud.

As a developer, I feel I have more control over my development and business model when developing open source rather than Free Software. It also is becoming clear that the systems and applications I use most heavily now, and derive the greatest utility and satisfaction from, are not (solely) GPL-licensed works.

I have great respect for "both sides" of the "argument"; I believe that neither could exist in its present form without the other. That being said, we live in a world where the last 30 years or so have been spent (overzealously, IMO) pounding idealism and liberty out of the social consciousness. It is much easier to get people interested in software that they can learn as much about as they wish, without making them feel either that they have to become uber-geeks to do anything at all, or that they must make a (possibly locally dangerous) political statement to do so.

Philosophy is fine; we need guiding principles to be able to communicate and progress. But when it veers off into the type of zealotry more commonly seen in religious fanaticism or political revolutionism, I start hearing The Beatles' "Revolution" in my head. And I seriously doubt that the sympathies expressed by the song are what RMS had in mine.
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