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Re: [DotGNU]DotGNU Manifesto - first draft

From: Barry Fitzgerald
Subject: Re: [DotGNU]DotGNU Manifesto - first draft
Date: Sat, 13 Apr 2002 15:59:31 -0400

S11001001 wrote:
> Barry Fitzgerald wrote:
> >>The GNU project has taken a stand for the freedom of computer
> >>users, by making a complete operating system available where
> >>every component is Free Software, so that its users can freely
> >>modify and share it.
> >>
> >>To many people this goal has seemed impossibly ambitious, and
> >>yet it has been reached.  In combination with the operating
> >>system kernel called Linux, the GNU system now has millions
> >>of users.  An alternative kernel named Hurd is still under
> >>development.
> >>
> >>The GNU project has achieved its goal, but with this the work
> >>of GNU is not finished.  It is often said that the price of
> >>freedom is eternal vigilance.  This truth was popularized by
> >>Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826).  The original source seems to be
> >>a speech by John Philpot Curran, who said:
> >>
> >>   "It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights
> >>   become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God
> >>   hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which
> >>   condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence
> >>   of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."
> >>
> >>   -- John Philpot Curran: Speech upon the Right of Election, 1790.
> >>      (Speeches. Dublin, 1808.)
> >>
> >
> >
> > I would reliable this "A short history of the GNU project - and why
> > DotGNU has chosen to be a GNU project."
> And also put it at the end. Let me explain...

I agree - it should be at the end... However, we should state that
DotGNU is part of the GNU project and follows Free Software ideals.  If
this document is distributed in HTML or another format with links, there
should be a link to the #GNU "anchor" at the beginning.  This creates a
symbolic unity with the project, because the project itself is wrapped
in GNU philosophy.

> The thing that was so great about the GNU Manifesto was that it was so, well,
> *original*. It was the first of its kind. It assumed no context, as this does
> when it basically says #include <gnu>.
> I realise that the freedom ideals do in no way "belong" to DotGNU, as they did
> to GNU. However, unlike certain other projects that would forget GNU, the
> Freedom principles are still there, and clearly strong at that.
> More importantly, when RMS wrote the original Manifesto, he was correctly
> assuming that the whole Free Software philosophy would have to be introduced
> from scratch. That makes it a very compelling document.

I agree.  The GNU Manifesto is a work unto itself, relegated exclusively
to it's own context.  In that way, it is a work that has immeasurable

> In my experience, this situation is still largely true. Evidence:
> Before jumping off the TIGCC diving board into the mainstream Free Software
> community, I wrote this <> in 
> 2000.
> At the time, I had heard of the term `open source', but knew nothing about the
> actual definitions floating around, be it FSF or Debian or OSI. I extrapolated
> that page from the term itself. Hmm, I actually think that MS `shared source'
> and the annoying BSD advertising clause would be acceptable under the
> philosophy on that page....I give you warning right now, if you read that 
> page,
> you will be frightened. And this was in 2000! A good page for anyone who 
> thinks
> the term `open source' is clearer than `free software'.

I think that there are few people who come upon Free Software and
immediately understand it.  I know that I didn't completely understand
it at first - and I frequently shared code prior to learning of Free
Software.  However, I didn't condemn it either.  I think that the sad
thing is that people often don't seek to understand something - and
often condemn or ignore that thing that they don't understand.  Ignoring
something is a 'sin of omission' so to speak.  It's bad, but not so bad
as condemning something without understanding it.

Some people call the GNU GPL/LGPL 'antibusiness'.  They say 'It's not
conducive to profit-making enterprise.'  I say that these people are
condemning what they don't understand.  To even say this indicates a
mental lock-in that ties profit with software sales.  This is a flawed
way of thinking, IMO, propagated largely by two things: 1. the public
nature of software 'sales' companies (even though the term 'sell' and
'own' do not at all apply to software in the first place - 'license' is
the correct term in both relationships and the implications of that are
not known by 99% of the people around the world - even many of our Open
Source brethren) and 2. People are used to buying and selling items of
which the company is kept afloat based on an exchange of goods.

This mental lock-in produces a situation where people either can't or
won't think outside of what they think they understand (but really
don't) and causes them to unduly condemn the GNU GPL and the FSF.  By
allowing the redistribution and modification of system, some people
think that there's some sacred covenant being violated in which the only
way to keep a system flourishing is via some contrived artificial
scarcity.  This is supported in many ways through current economic
context.  With an economic ecosystem that makes the same (unfounded)
assumptions, Free Software companies are forced to work against public
perception in some ways.  

Again, this all stems down to a fundamental misunderstanding.  The first
stage there is realizing that one does not understand and that learning
is key to finding that understanding.  Those who seek the knowledge,
grow.  Those who don't simply propagate lies.


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