What a…bizarre…read. The problem with current free software dogma is that it is too isolationist and unrealistic–so apparently what we really need to do is abandon capitalism!
I upvoted this because it was an informative read, but I don’t agree with it very much. One of the themes brought up a bit is that staunch free software folks are near elitist (in my own experience, to the point of smugness). Further, this elitism means that they view users who use proprietary software as having voluntarily failed.
And yeah, maybe I’m showing my prejudices here a bit, but maybe the FSF is right. Maybe users that voluntarily jettison their freedoms for some convenience deserve neither. Why is that so hard to understand?
Engaging in politics is tricky: We talk about right and wrong, but sometimes we should be talking about what is effective and ineffective.
You and I, perhaps, understood Stallman’s essays, were moved by them, and now value our software freedoms. We do both appreciate that those freedoms are threatened, and if more people valued software freedoms, that those freedoms would be easier to protect.
However because we understood Stallman’s essays, we are tempted to say if other people understood Stallman’s essays…. However most people do not understand much of anything, and in fact use the word “understand” to mean something completely the opposite of understanding. They say “I understand Stallman’s essays” but they get to the part about their freedoms being threatened and they think to themselves I don’t feel threatened so they reject the entire premise: They conclude they understand Stallman’s stated position but simply don’t agree with it. This is wrong, of course, and the author appreciates that, but maybe there is a way to preserve our software freedoms without people understanding Stallman’s essays.
Realpolitik isn’t the same thing as compromise, but it definitely can look like it. We take the position that we want to preserve software freedoms even if people are going to “voluntarily jettison” them, and so we do so by reframing our position until we find a good way to get what we want. Here’s an example:
In the 1990s, consultancy was property threatened by “Real Software Vendors” like Microsoft, who just sold software, but was shit; IBM could make a huge project, but Windows would still crash. The solution was that the consultancies could invest in the software they wanted to exist, that would allow them to sell their actual product (consulting/projects). This economic solution is not one that Stallman would have chosen or advanced, and yet Linux (and other projects) have improved immeasurably because of the consultancies. To that end, it can become clear we do not need to abandon capitalism so long as the invisible hand will serve our goals.
Now we have a new generation, of “open source friendly” companies, that are still threatening software freedom. We can argue about Stallman’s position all day, but if we want to protect and preserve these freedoms, maybe we can realpolitik another solution: Who could benefit from “software as a service” being harder? How can we make it in their best interests to preserve software freedoms?
I don’t perhaps agree with the author’s suggestions, but I agree with (a weak form of) his position: Stallman’s messaging might not be itself effective.
To that end, it can become clear we do not need to abandon capitalism so long as the invisible hand will serve our goals.
This is exclusively relative, and while it’s very easy to argue that capitalism serves our best interests (with different software professions well exceeding average western, let alone worldwide, income), it definitely hasn’t served the working class’s best interests, including through the lens of software. Even our Free software mostly serves the digital bourgeois; designed for the technologically proficient, those with enough free time to be able to read long-winded manual pages, and with the savvy and money to run and/or rent their own servers. Accessibility and empowerment always sits behind the gate of paid proprietary services, and those proprietary services that comprise most of the internet the world uses definitely aren’t run in service of the public, and they don’t act in the service of the public.
I don’t know exactly what you’re arguing.
Do you think having a government that gives out jobs to people who can’t figure out what value they have, and how to provide value for food (for whatever reason, accent, education, technology replacing them, imagination, the colour of their skin, or general chaviness); that this government dole should also be giving out jobs to people who have figured out how to tell computers what to do?
Or are you suggesting something else?
I’m personally not interested in state-based-alternatives or transitional states to alternatives, I’m simply enumerating how and why the invisible hand of capitalism has failed the public in the realm of software.
Okay, but isn’t that like saying cancer research hasn’t done enough to improve the flavour of a cup of coffee? Or am I still missing things?
Not every solution needs to be a solution to every problem.
If you’re not saying an alternative could exist that does what Free Software does, but solves this other problem as well, then I don’t understand what you’d expect.
There’s a lot of figures of speech in here so I’m not completely sure what you’re trying to say. Is what you’re trying to say is that a class-focused analysis of the effectiveness and usefulness of software for the public isn’t useful? Or are you trying to say that the politics used for analysis in the essay implies a state?
I’m saying that I don’t understand what you’re saying :)
I don’t know how to evaluate a X-focused analysis on the usefulness of software for the public without considering the (not X)-focused analysis or a Y-focused analysis, or perhaps an (X+P)-focused analysis.
so apparently what we really need to do is abandon capitalism!
Well… Maybe we should. If the goal is access to all code and companies refuse because of competition, we need to eliminate the competition. At least at the level of imaginary property.
Maybe users that voluntarily jettison their freedoms for some convenience deserve neither. Why is that so hard to understand?
Because it doesn’t help anything. Same as with any obsolete policies, one needs to get into a position of power and change them.
Why is that so hard to understand?
I hope you aren’t mistaking “doesn’t understand your position” with “understands your position but disagrees about its efficacy”
That’s a totally fair critique of my wording there–I chose phrasing that showed my annoyance more than anything.
For what it’s worth, I have very seldom seen anybody advocate the “Well, if they chose this path voluntarily we might as well find some use for them and profit” position that I somewhat prefer. I may just spend too much time in polite company away from adtech.