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    This first year we’ll also have a full day of Zig talks.

    What? How’s does this align with the comments about microservices and C manuals? It’s ok to focus on the tech itself if it’s one the author passionately supports? I was in agreement that the talks should focus on the user and the product, and then they threw this huge dedication to zig at the end.

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      The two sentences immediately after explain why that’s the case.

      I can be even more explicit: conferences are expensive to run and launching a new one out of nowhere makes it really hard to get people to show up in the beginning. I’m part of a pre-existing community (Zig) that is willing to give me a chance, buy a ticket and go through the trouble required to show up at the event. These are also the same people that came to the Zig meetup in April and that were interested in having a follow up.

      It’s ok to focus on the tech itself if it’s one the author passionately supports?

      As I said in the post, we must talk about tech because we must make sure that creating good software is an enjoyable activity. This is the second big question that I want to tackle with the conference. This is also why the second day of the conference is dedicated to socialization (ie no scheduled talks).

      The third day of the conference is the one where big-picture talks happen and it can only have meaning if the room is not empty.

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        Ok, so this is really a zig conference with some big picture stuff happening at it. I’m not sure I necessarily agree with alignment between zig and what users actually need, but I hope it works well for you.

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          This year it’s also going to be a Zig conference, I don’t know in the future. At the very least I will try to open it up to more communities (Roc comes to mind).

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      Weird snipe at free software in the middle of the advertisement of the conference. The argument: Free software is “appalling” because Stallman is a bad leader. The description of a talk by Stallman is fun (although it sounds like it describes a talk from cherry-picked quotes of secondary sources, so probably not so truthful; but fun), but so what? I don’t find this very convincing: there are many other voices on Free Software, and not having strong leadership from one single person is probably a healthy way to grow a diffuse community.

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        I wouldn’t call the leadership weak. I would say it’s ineffective. When it comes to strength, they can make a good show when they want, like when they re-elected Stallman even though a lot of people got angry after he publicly defended Epstein (another example of great advocacy work for Free software, if you ask me).

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          I think that you are confusing “free software” and the Free Software Foundation (one entity within that group). For very clear evidence that there are other groups with different opinions, related to the fiasco that you are mentioning, see the open letter asking (RMS and) FSF board members to resign.

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            i’m sympathetic to this line of reasoning but i think to the broader world it’s splitting hairs. like it or not, the fsf is the standards bearer for the free software movement, and it’s what everyone thinks of when they hear the term.

            the fsf’s insistence on doubling-down on things like “telling other users that non-free firmware can make their wifi work is evil” while specifically refusing to adopt an anti-capitalist stance to me means that the movement itself has run its course and we need a new approach with fresh blood to face the challenges of today and protect users against the harms of our tech company overlords.

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              i’m sympathetic to this line of reasoning but i think to the broader world it’s splitting hairs. like it or not, the fsf is the standards bearer for the free software movement, and it’s what everyone thinks of when they hear the term.

              I doubt that very much based on personal experience. I suspect that:

              • 99% of the world think of software that doesn’t cost money when they hear the term.
              • 90% of the remainder bracket Free and Open Source together and think of Linus and companies like Red Hat / IBM and Canonical, and groups such as Debian as the leaders.
              • The remainder think as you believe.

              Even in tech circles, unless people are embedded in the F/OSS ecosystem the FSF doesn’t impinge on their awareness. I would be willing to bet that vastly more people have heard of Linux than the FSF and quite a few more have heard about Red Hat, Ubuntu, GNOME, KDE, or even GCC than have heard of the FSF.

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                Even in tech circles, unless people are embedded in the F/OSS ecosystem the FSF doesn’t impinge on their awareness

                that’s fair; when i said ‘broader world’ i really just meant among people who understand the difference between oss and the free software movement but aren’t aware of the factions within the free software movement mentioned by the parent post.

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          I don’t know that I’d say that the FSF is appalling, but I would say that they’ve trimmed their sails on the definitions of freedom and user to the point that they are entirely irrelevant.

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            I think that there is quite a large difference between the “free software movement” that is being discussed here (which I understand, in the context of the post, as “open source, but more ideological”), and the FSF as one specific institution within that movement. Many people consider themselves in the “free software” community without necessarily agreeing with everything the FSF says or does. (Other entities in that community include the Debian project, for example.)

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              The problem here is that the FSF owns a lot of critical IP, both its own original work in the form of licenses and such, and code written by others which underwent copyright assignment to the FSF as a mandatory step of contributing to projects they manage. Which means that the FSF has the power to do immense damage when it inevitably falls apart one day.

              In that sense, unfortunately, we have no choice but to pay attention to what’s happening at and to the FSF.

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                That’s an interesting perspective, thanks! But what are actually the risks coming from this centralized copyright policy? We say that open source licences protect users (~ contributors) from the software provider turning bad, doesn’t the same reasoning apply to the FSF as well? What damage could the FSF actually do using all that copyright? If they made a really bad decision for, say, Emacs or Gcc, wouldn’t the community quickly fork to avoid much of the damage?

                (In some cases the ability to fork is not enough, as we have seen with the considerable leverage of the naming of OpenOffice against LibreOffice, but Emacs/Gcc typically are software for expert users, where I think the inertia of using the old name rather than the fork would be much less of an issue.)

                I haven’t thought much about your angle, but I can only see two potential issues:

                1. If later people have reasons to relicense, the FSF could easily oppose that – but this sounds like a minor issue, Linux is basically impossible to relicense and we are fine with that
                2. Instead of one big bad decision that would force a fork, we could see a slow stream of small bad decisions that are never enough to convince people to fork, but discourage contribution and hurt the projects in the long run. I think some people would say that this is already happening, already hurting some FSF-owned projects.

                (2) sounds to me like the more problematic issue here, but it’s also not really what you were talking about.

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                  If you want to know what damage could be done, think about the FSF collapsing as a legal entity. Some other entity would end up owning the IP rights the FSF currently owns, and so the question is not just “what’s the worst the FSF could do”, it’s “what’s the worst the FSF’s creditors and/or heirs could do”.

                  Imagine writing a new version of the GPL that’s repugnant to every good freedom-loving Free Software partisan, and it being automatically applicable because people followed the advice of putting the “or any later version” clause in their GPL software.

                  Imagine someone building a commercial Unix software business around the things the FSF owns copyright to (thanks to the copyright-assignment policy) and writing and relicensing under an AGPL-like license built to prevent forks and competing distros, rather than to prevent competing SaaS like the current AGPL.

                  Or imagine just consciously going into the business of selling proprietary licenses. If you own the copyright you can do that!

                  There are lots of bad things that could happen. Some of them have potential remedies in the form of forking, but forking at the necessary scale would be immensely damaging to the ecosystem just in itself.

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                    Most of the things you mention don’t really sound like issues to me. For example, if someone finds a way to relicense Emacs under some bad license (through a side-channel of rogue GPL versions or by just owning the copyright), users still have the choice to use the open version instead, and (assuming the current maintainers of the Emacs project, who control the usual release/distribution pipeline, are not part of the evil scheme) the rogue-licensed version will be distributed through obscure channels and hardly fool anyone.

                    Forking has worked relatively well in the case of LibreOffice. Some pain remained for a while with many users still using the obsolete OpenOffice binaries, but this was an issue of visibility among non-expert users. I don’t see most FSF-owned projects suffering from the same audience issue – the typical user base is closer to the Freenode users who migrated in a few weeks than to the OpenOffice users who needed years to notice something was off.

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              The FSF has basically given up. In any sort of healthy organization, there’s a focus on long-term sustainability — recruiting new people, training them up for future leadership, having the previous generation of leaders offer opportunities to new people and step aside when the time is right — which simply does not exist in the FSF. In other words: healthy organizations outlive their founders. But the FSF seems absolutely determined not to do so. The FSF today exists solely to preach to the dwindling choir, and to chain itself to the idea that Richard Stallman, only Richard Stallman, and nobody but Richard Stallman can ever lead the Free Software movement. Stallman isn’t getting any younger, so the FSF’s days are numbered.

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                Not to mention that the FSF hasn’t really taken a meaningful action of any kind in a decade. The bulk of the movement left them behind ages ago at this point.

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            Software that serves the end user… isn’t that Free and Open Source Software? I wish. Maybe it used to be, but I don’t see modern FOSS as embodying these values anymore.

            At a direct level FOSS serves developers, not end users. If I can’t program and I don’t understand how to configure and build software, I don’t get a direct benefit from free software other than paying less for it. (There may be indirect benefits like bugs getting fixed more quickly or a lack of dark UX patterns.)

            In the old days, FOSS also had serious usability problems because developers prioritized functionality over UI design or UX. This has gotten better, but not fully — for example the last time I saw Audacity its UX and polish were still way below commercial audio software like Ableton or Logic.

            So I’m a little bit skeptical about a conference on this topic that starts from an assumption that open source software is ipso facto more lovable than closed source.

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              ISTM that the “software freedom” folks have achieved their goals – you can absolutely get a fully-functioning OS for an 11/750 and not pay a dime – without really making software better in any perceptible way.

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                “not pay a dime” is not only not part of the goals of software freedom, but sometimes runs counter to the goals (which are about giving end users the ability to have their software adapted to meet their needs)

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                  My point above was that giving end users the source code doesn’t benefit them directly in any way. It’s completely opaque to them.

                  Having the software adapted for them by a consultant is less of a stretch, but software contractors make a lot of money, and software projects are notorious for going over budget, so I don’t imagine individual end users do this much. “I needed some new features in Inkscape for my art, so I hired two coders to implement them for me. Six months later they’re not done and I’m out $200,000…”

                  Instead, adapting and extending free software is something businesses do. Only, some free-software folks complain about this too. My impression is some free software advocates, including the FSF, don’t believe any software should be kept private, even if it’s something that’s a business’s livelihood.

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                    Right, and we live in a world where most of the software that people interact with is nominally “free” but actually serves absolutely not the needs of the users. Maybe there’s a counterfactual where freeing Unix users from proprietary C compilers lead to a future of true freedom, however that’s defined, I don’t know. But in the world we inhabit, we are slaves to software that serves no one’s interests more than those who underwrote it.

                    I’m not saying that the FSF and the goals of software freedom are bad, but that they are irrelevant.

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                      I’m not sure how we can both live in a world where you admit software is not serving end users and claim that the goal of making it serve end users better is irellevant?

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                        The FSF is irrelevant. If we want software freedom, hiding behind increasingly Scholastic parsing of IP law might not be the best tool in the drawer, given their signal failure to push back in any meaningful way against the world as it is. I admit to being at something of a loss as to what will replace them, thought, that’s certainly true.

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                          I’m not the only one who thinks that most tech jobs are bullshit jobs, and I think that a critical mass of people feel very unhappy with that. Maybe this energy can be put to good use.

                          The Zig project exists in part because of that energy: all the people working full time (Andrew Kelley, Jakub Konka, me) could get more money working at $bigco, but instead we all decided that working on something meaningful was the better choice for us (Jakub even left Microsoft to join us). I can’t speak for the others, but in my case I’m not doing it out of love for humanity. I just feel really fucking bad when my job is shit and this job is the first ever I had where nothing that we do is designed to support a creative business model (ie a dastardly ploy to suck way too much value out of society).

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                            I don’t know, I feel pretty powerless. What am I? Just a line manager at a big(ish) software platform company. I think we’re pretty harmless, as far as big software platform companies go, but.

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                            Oh, sure, the FSF hasn’t really done anything in years. Other organizations are much more important to the software freedom / freedomware movement these days. Tying to one org would never have lasted even if FSF was still active.

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                    So I’m a little bit skeptical about a conference on this topic that starts from an assumption that open source software is ipso facto more lovable than closed source.

                    I personally don’t, I’ve added that point because I feel like that there are bubbles in tech where this is considered true though. A quote from “Playing the Open Source Game”:

                    There’s a limit to how much you can love software with terrible UX, just as much as there’s a limit to how much you can love software that has good UX, but that keeps nagging you about enabling notifications because it really needs more engagement, or software that is bloated, janky and that has short shelf life because of bad engineering choices. It also captures the fact that having the source code available is nice for learning and “right to repair” purposes, but that there is more to software you can love and that sometimes a reasonably priced, rocksolid, proprietary tool can be preferable to a janky OSS project connected to a murky business model.

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                      I don’t think FOSS in general has worse UX than non-FOSS. For example, I’ve found Jitsi much less frustrating to use than all the proprietary options I’ve tried: Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, …

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                        Jitsi is an exeception, with a UI which iirc gets updated over time. Look at something like GNUnet for what people think of when they hear “Free Software UI”.

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                        for example the last time I saw Audacity its UX and polish were still way below commercial audio software like Ableton or Logic

                        It’s way below Goldwave, which is from the early nineties.

                        I bought a copy of Amadeus II, despite the price, just to have something less atrocious.

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                        In the beginning Open Source was just a thing people did in their free time, so big tech didn’t really care about it

                        This is incorrect. The author was incorrect about this last time, too. In the beginning, Open Source was a term used to commercialize Free Software and make it usable for corporations. Free Software philosophy, licenses, and designs were watered down so that businesses would not have to fundamentally change how they manage laborers and integrate code.

                        I don’t quite think that this post rises to the level of an advertisement, but it’s close.

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                          I don’t quite think that this post rises to the level of an advertisement, but it’s close.

                          This post is an advertisement, what are you talking about. I’m paying for the conference to happen and now I need to get people to show up. That said I’m not organizing this conference to make a quick buck, I want it to become a recurring event with high quality speakers and a good audience. For this to happen I have to:

                          1. Tell people that the conference exists.
                          2. Explain why I want to make it.

                          This is what a (reasonably good) advertisement is, and it’s naive to think that a post that is an advertisement is inherently bad.

                          This is incorrect. The author was incorrect about this last time, too. In the beginning, Open Source was a term used to commercialize Free Software and make it usable for corporations. Free Software philosophy, licenses, and designs were watered down so that businesses would not have to fundamentally change how they manage laborers and integrate code.

                          There was a time when people wrote code and just posted it online for others to use, without absolutely any concern about licensing or “contributing code back”, or dynamic linking vs static linking. That way of doing things was most definitely not “free software” and IMO is best described as “early” Open Source. The fact that then the term became a way for big tech to keep free software ideas digestible, is something that I pointed out in plenty of my writing.

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                            The FSF was founded in 1985. The OSI was founded in 1998. The open-source movement was born in the 1990s as a response to the term “Free Software”. You are conflating a time in the 1990s with a time in the 1960s; the FSF was founded specifically in response to the decline in source-code availability in the 1980s.

                            As usual, you have zero citations; meanwhile, there is an entire section on Wikipedia contradicting your opinion. You are free to imagine history in a certain way, but you should not be surprised that I’m not letting you ignore evidence.

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                              There was a time when people wrote code and just posted it online for others to use, without absolutely any concern about licensing or “contributing code back”, or dynamic linking vs static linking.

                              This is my recollection as well. I moderated one of the comp.sources Usenet groups (granted, a relatively low-volume one) from 1988 to 1994 and I don’t recall licenses ever coming up as a point of discussion. People would write code and post it to the group without, as far as I could tell, any agenda other than wanting to share it. Sometimes there would be followup discussions or patches, but mostly not.

                              Was that naive on the part of everyone involved, me included? Yeah, probably. But the ecosystem and the industry were very different back then.

                              That said, I don’t specifically remember the term “open source” being used to describe the content of that newsgroup. There was source being shared, but that name may have come later.