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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] What would be your response to these Free Soft

From: Robinson Tryon
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] What would be your response to these Free Software concerns?
Date: Sun, 19 Apr 2015 11:18:42 -0400

On Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 4:22 PM, Advrk Aplmrkt <> wrote:
> Not all of the content we've shipped on the computers is free data, we
> sometimes partner with other organizations to get it. We've talked
> about shipping the software freely available without the assets, but
> it's not really viable from a legal perspective.

There are a number of different strategies one can employ here. Having
everything available under free/open licenses that allow
redistribution can make things *much* easier, but isn't always
possible. If they really feel like they can't get rid of the non-free
bits, one possible approach here would be to take a cue from debian
and keep a "non-free" repo around. It's a compromise, but it's perhaps
a reasonable stepping stone between the current closed environment and
a more open future.

> Finally, any successful free software project needs a thriving
> community: our developers come from that world, and we really don't
> want to do over-the-wall code dumps like Android does. When we open up
> our software, we want to do it right.

There is a benefit to the big reveal and not having one's code judged
before it's ready. But if they're distributing it already -- or will
be soon, hopefully the release of the project will correspond with the
release of code.

> We're currently focused on our target market and users, and that means
> we change fast. We'd likely never accept any pull requests or patches
> submitted to us. People could inspect and modify and redistribute the
> code, indeed, but without the ability to contribute back upstream, it
> seems like an empty promise.

I'm totally fine with this situation. We probably all know some
programmers who can write code faster than most can read code, so it's
possible (in theory) for some project to go soaring off into unknown
territory, blazing their own trail and creating and refactoring
everything in their codebase on what seems like a weekly basis. So the
theoretical community might go one way and they go another. No harm,
no foul, right?

> As for business reasons, making more of our code free software can be
> a business risk. We're a small startup with limited funding trying to
> take on big players.

Banking on free software has benefits and risks, just like any other
decision in business. It's not something that one should take lightly,
but it does offer something powerful to both the creators and users of
the software that proprietary software can't ever provide.

> Even big companies sometimes get in trouble with
> free software. See the recent news about Cyanogenmod being funded by
> Microsoft to take down Google's Android.

Speaking about proprietary software, AFAIK this story isn't about free
software (per se), it's about Google leveraging their own proprietary
bits (Google Play Store and other apps) to prevent fragmentation and
encourage consistency in the Android ecosystem and Cyanogenmod
challenging Google's dominant position as The One Android App Store to
Rule Them All.

I think it's great to have multiple providers of software. I encourage
people to install F-Droid alongside the Google Play Store.

> We're currently not willing to take on such risks right now.
> I hope you'll understand that our goals might be different from yours,
> and we have gave the question a lot of thought. As we grow and become
> more successful, we'll be able to make more of our software free
> software over time.

It sounds like a lot of their software is already Free Software --
they're based on the GNOME 3 stack, and I spotted what looked like a
LibreOffice icon in one of the screenshots. Their materials
acknowledge the use of FOSS, so I'm hopeful for the future.

I'm especially curious as to what in the system *isn't* free/open. Just data?


Robinson Tryon
QA Engineer - The Document Foundation
LibreOffice Community Outreach Herald

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