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Re: [DotGNU]"Open source" is not what we do here

From: Barry Fitzgerald
Subject: Re: [DotGNU]"Open source" is not what we do here
Date: Sat, 30 Mar 2002 03:54:08 +0000 (UTC)

On Fri, 29 Mar 2002, Matthew C. Tedder wrote:

> > Linus has the right to express his opinions.  We have the right to say
> > they are foolish and harmful and that he is doing a disservice to the
> > free software community.
> Yes... I had previously ignored and was thus unaware of the BitKeeper
> application.
> By being maintainer of the Linux kernel, he carries some social
> responsibility that he
> is not appropriately managing.  Perhaps someone could make a Free client
> application
> at least, for the BitKeeper.  I don't know anything about that application
> so I don't know.
> But I do know that our own integrity depends on us, not anyone else.  And
> we'll
> disagree on many things as we always have so these are things that we can
> and should protest against.  But I personally will not slam him as a person,
> just as a
> person who needs some more enlightenment.
> Perhaps we should attack what he is doing but be careful not to attack him,
> personally.
> When you attack a person, the only natural tendency is to become defensive.
> Therefore
> a better approach is often not the most obvious.  You don't want to increase
> their
> want them to open their minds in order to change their
> thinking.
> That's just my own opinion, as we are all alloud to have one.  Please don't
> ever mistake
> my opinions for anything counter to the basic principles of the Free
> Software Movement.
> I am perfectly and stubbornly loyal to those principles and have studied
> them a great deal
> in coming to such convictions.  However, I might likely differ greatly in
> terms of approaches
> toward promoting such social change.  I believe that putting a great deal of
> thought into
> how one implements social change is also crucial.  It's crucial in terms of
> both
> accomplishment and a moral mandate to be one eligible for doing so.  For
> example,
> Marxism had some great points against capitolist wrongs.  But even if their
> solution was
> technically and morally better, the bloody and anti-freedom methods in which
> it was
> claimed to be applied robbed any sense of morality from it.  Frankly, I
> think Marx was  a
> genius in terms of seeing and criticizing the wrongs of capitolism, but he
> was not
> creative in either engineering a solution nor its implementation.
> The RMS "genius" (perhaps just an obvious thing twenty years ago), was in
> seeing the
> wrongs as they took shape, but also in the creativity of developing a
> solution.  In terms
> of its implementation, however... I feel it could be better..  But with
> freedom and
> diversity, I am confident the answer will find itself.


I think that you're absolutely right on all counts.  And on the point of
implementation - I've never seen anything perfect, so it's not really
shame nor unconstructive criticism against the movement.  But I think that
it's quite astute to notice that the freedom provided for by the movement
allows explicitly for multiple attempts at implementation.

Great allusion to Marxism as well.  As a sociologist, I really do see what
you're saying with it (although others might have political misgivings of
the use of the term).  The implementation of Marxism was more of a
perversion of Marxism than anything else.  Arguably, most 'Communist'
nations (there actually has never been a communist nation - just nations
that strove to achieve communism, but fell far short) became the exact
opposite of Marxist Communism.

A great example of Marx' lack of implementation insight would be the lack
(intentional lack, even) of definition of a political structure for a
Marxist state.  His reasoning was generally logical: in a system without
stratification and with egalitarian equal opportunity implicit within it
based on the enlightenment of the masses, there would be no need for a
government - in fact, it would stand in the way.

The problem that was that it created a vacuum for implementation.  Many
arguably well-meaning people (like V.I. Lenin) tried to fill that void
with political structures that were supposed to free the system of known
corruptions.  For instance, Lenin's single party system was quite
interesting in and of itself.  Politically speaking, for about the first 5
years of the Soviet Union - it sort of worked to meet it's goals.
However, with the passing of Lenin in 1922 (?) holes within the system
designed to allow for defense of the system became it's worst enemy --
creating a totalitarian state (The utter antithesis of a Communist state
since stratification is an implicit part of totalitarianism).

How does this apply to Free Software?  The GNU GPL itself answers the
power vacuum question -- never allowing there to be any question as to the
goals and the path.  Details of implementation remain open, but the
availability of the software to all for redistribution and modification
make it impossible for any one implementation to take hold over the entire
community.  It's a powerful solution -- one that probably could only have
been done with software in precisely the way that it is (largely because
of the ability to cheaply make copies).  However, many lessons could be
taken from it.

This is only the very tip of the iceberg when analysis of the GNU GPL and
it's related philosophy are considered.  I personally think, speaking as a
sociologist, that the body of research that has to be done on the Free
Software community could bring insight into other movements and the way
that they work.  Then, apply that to political ideologies, economic dogma,
and social interaction and you've got the makings for some ground-breaking

I have digressed a bit, but I think that this is all the more reason to
spread the ideology and be wary of problematic political implications
(such as use of the term open where free applies).


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