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Re: [Bug-gnupedia] Content Format

From: Mike Warren
Subject: Re: [Bug-gnupedia] Content Format
Date: 26 Jan 2001 15:01:04 -0700
User-agent: Gnus/5.0807 (Gnus v5.8.7) XEmacs/21.1 (20 Minutes to Nikko)

Bob Dodd <address@hidden> writes:
> Mike Warren <address@hidden> wrote:

> > [MS file formats] are proprietary and in many cases the very file
> > format falls under copyright or patent law, making a free
> > implementation impossible. Supporting proprietary formats -- even
> > ones which aren't yet patented or copyrighted -- encourages such
> > behavior, IMO.

> Is that also true of RTF?

Yes, RTF is a proprietary format.

> (which is the format I had in mind more than one of M$ more 'loopy'
> internal formats) I thought the whole point of RTF (and its
> licensing) was specifically geared at sharing content. I would
> imagine the licencing may say we can't modify the format, but then
> we wouldn't want to: we just want to parse the content for
> conversion/display.

It doesn't say that it can't be revoked at the whim of Microsoft, so
no, it's not ``free'' at all. Microsoft has tried and succeeded in
forcing free-software authors to remove support for reading and
writing their file-formats before, so I don't feel this is an
unwarranted concern.

> > So? Just because lots of people use Windows doesn't mean that
> > using GNU/Linux is a bad idea. Nor does many people using
> > proprietary formats mean that *they* are a good idea, either.

> That's completely missing the point. Formats like TEI and Latex, and
> the tools to support them, are at best "minority" formats in terms
> of general usage.

So? GNU/Linux is a ``minority'' operating system in terms of usage;
this doesn't destroy the reasons for its existence: freedom.

> It's that they aren't supported source formats for the input tools
> (of which Word is the most common) that the vast majority of the
> world uses today.

The vast majority is wrong, then.

> If we are going to insist on particlar content formats, we had better
> be sure that the general public (who will hopefully write the majority
> of the entries, not just those on this mailing list) have access to
> tools to generate them. And that they are comfortable about using those
> tools.

Everyone can produce ASCII text; specifying a few guidelines which
will make such text easy to automatically parse into TEI will not put
undue hardship on authors.

> > > Word also has the possibility of style-sheets and
> > > macros/forms/templates

> > So too with SGML and XML.

> Yes, but why do you expect my dad to write "programs" in XML?

I don't. The people displaying the content define the style, and
that's not your dad or any other (potential) author.

> > > It strikes me that well known, well supported formats should be
> > > accepted. There is after all, no difference between a well
> > > known, well supported proprietory format, and one developed by
> > > FSF: [..]

> > Then there is no difference between Windows and GNU/Linux.

> There is after all, no difference between a well known, well
> supported proprietory format that is free to parse (not generate,
> just parse), and one developed by FSF: they can both be parsed.

> Btw why are you comparing file formats with executable code and a GUI?

The analog is good: you're arguing that the non-freeness of a file
format should be ignored simply because it's in common usage. By the
same logic, the non-freeness of Windows should be ignored because *it*
is in common usage.

> Are you saying that Wine should never be shipped with Linux because
> it allows the viewing of Word generated documents on Linux?

WINE itself is free software. While I don't think it's a good idea to
encourage people to run non-free software on a free operating, at
least WINE is not non-free.

> > We are not building a free-as-in-cost encyclopedia; we are
> > building a free-as-in-speech repository of articles.

> Entries must be free to read, free to store and redistribute, and
> the content free to parse in any tool that can. Beyond that, who are
> we to tell people what the best content format for their entry is?

If you would like to add support for RTF, then feel free. I will not,
and think it's a bad idea to encourage (or even allow) people to
submit content in Word since it merely legitimizes their choice of a
non-free format.

Will we also allow submission of GIF images? How about MPEG videos?

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