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Re: [Fsuk-manchester] Free Software as a brand

From: Michael Dorrington
Subject: Re: [Fsuk-manchester] Free Software as a brand
Date: Sun, 14 Jun 2009 19:52:11 +0100
User-agent: Mozilla-Thunderbird (X11/20090103)

This is an interesting discussion about Open Source but you have to
understand two things:

1) Open Source is not a synonym for Free Software, see

2) This is Manchester Free Software not Manchester Open Source, its not
even Manchester FOSS.

A real world example of how 'Open Source' is a confused term is from the
 last MFS talk about 'Pling'
The talk showed some tools to use with Pling including "plingput - open
source plings input tool" <https://launchpad.net/plingput>, who's
license is "Other/Open Source (Code is open for use and modification by
anyone who wishes to use it not for profit.)". Now, this license isn't
'Open Source' (nor Free Software) but I think the programmer thought it
was because the code is available for download so its 'open'.

Matthew Larsen wrote:
> Indeed, I think Open-Source also is a successful brand idea, however the
> following issues raise in my mind

Depends how you measure successful. In getting the name in people's
heads then its successful. In keeping the idea, as it was defined, in
people's heads correctly then I'd say it has failed.

> 1) People 'in the know' (i.e CIO's, FOSS users/devs etc) are aware of open
> source, the pro's/con's  and how FOSS can fit in with their existing
> software systems. However, when the second level of 'depth' of FOSS is
> reached even (and I admit myself) can get confused with all the different
> types of FOSS ... for example to differentiate between GNU, BSD etc
> licenses, Shared-source, corporate-sponsored, microsoft-style open source
> etc. IMO this is where the definition of FOSS gets a bit odd. It seems to go
> from the straightforward umbrella of Free Software into highly granulated
> areas of licenses, models, types, management etc etc.

The GNU website has a list of commonly encountered licenses and whether
they are free software licences, whether they are copyleft, and whether
they are compatible with the GNU GPL.
Part of the problem arises from software being released under a custom
license rather than a standard license. This means you have to
understand the implications of yet another license.
But licensing issues are not limited to Free Software, they are involved
in proprietary software too. You don't escape licenses, models, types,
management, etc etc by using proprietary software.

> 2) The idea of having some sort of FOSS badge or 'This product is
> open-source' sort of certification could be a good forward driver. There
> allready exists these systems (for example we could just say its open
> source, whack on the GNU symbol etc) but it doesn't really have the same
> appeal as say a Freeview sticker does. Some sort of badge and associated
> website / branding effort on this front could be quite instrumental in
> educating Joe Public and could provide another layer of viability to the
> movement. Speculativly it could also help with validating the movement and
> ideas in law and politics.

I think FSF would get a bit upset if you whacked on a GNU symbol to a
system and called it open source!

As mentioned before, there's the GNU License List
<http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html> which you could use to
see if a product was Free Software. The OSI has a similar list of
licenses which they deem to be 'Open Source'. So product manufactures
could link one or more of these.
For larger systems such as an OS you can have a Social Contract as
Debian has <http://debian.org/social_contract>.

> 3) A strong definition of open-source software and identifiablity - kind of
> like point 2. If we pop into PC world and see a FOSS sticker slapped on
> something, or a piece of corporate software with it shoved on I feel it
> would provide a nice & easy way to identify the movement. This I feel would
> be excellent for groups like us trying to promote FOSS - if we turn up
> somewhere with a bunch of commonly branded software, description and website
> we can point people to, it would present a much more professional and
> coherent view of FOSS software. In personal experience it seems at the
> moment we turn up with a bunch of GNU stickers, Ubuntu banners and a big
> penguin - none of these to Joe Public really have any connection and looks a
> bit random. It doesn't really have the same impact as Microsoft setting up a
> stall and having their name and the windows logo slapped on everything.

Microsoft don't turn up with a big banner saying "Proprietary Software".
They are a company and promote their products. We are trying to promote
a philosophical idea and not a company's products. We want people to
understand (and agree with!:) the idea not a particular product. We need
to explain how all these, perhaps seemingly random, bits come from that
philosophical idea. I want us to get a big poster explaining Free
Software and the 4 freedoms which should help make things more clear to
The closest we have to an overarching organistion is the Free Software
Foundation but we are not a branch of them so we shouldn't promote under
that umbrella.

> 4) Philosophically it may help shift the balance of power of FOSS from
> highly technical areas to more soft-based ones, like marketing, managing
> etc. For instance it may change the idea of Free / Open Source Software to
> Free / Open Source Systems. Mozilla I know have pioneered open-source
> management methods etc, we could say websites like Digg & Reddit are 'Open
> Source community-driven news' etc. It seems to me one of the primary
> proponents of FOSS is the community (developers and the users) which is also
> it's greatest strength; the whole idea is that software and systems are
> community moderated and validated as opposed to just trusting whatever
> Company X say about their system, and the freedom of the individual to
> choose what they run and use. Bringing these core axioms and presenting them
> as a brand could be a great idea (imagine picking an OS: Someone could go
> 'OK, this software (or management style or picture or whatever) was
> developed by MS and I have no idea what is going on, and this one has been
> created and validated by millions of people like me and gives me choice')

There is a philosophical idea called 'Freedom', which is an extension of
the Free Software idea into other areas.


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