[TOS] First draft of textbook: introductory chapter (foreword?)

MJ Ray mjr at phonecoop.coop
Sun Sep 6 17:15:55 UTC 2009


Greg DeKoenigsberg <gdk at redhat.com> wrote: [...]
> A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY: "FREE" VERSUS "OPEN SOURCE"

I'm going to concentrate on this one aspect because my time is limited
and if the current exclusive approach prevails, the book will have to
be forked to be useful to my groups anyway.

> This is, first and foremost, a textbook about how to create software 
> collaboratively, using a community development model.

Does this mean that fairness, responsibility and transparency in
development will not be covered?  That this book is about
crowdsourcing more than sustainability?

> Some people call the result of such work by the name "free software". 
> Some people call it "open source software".  Some folks call it both: 
> "free and open source software".  Some people throw in "libre" for good 
> measure, and call it "free/libre open source software".  Frequently one 
> will see these abbreviated into the terms "FOSS" or "FLOSS".
> 
> There are valid reasons for the usage of these different terms in 
> different contexts, but for the sake of simplicity, we will use the term 
> "open source" exclusively in this book, with the following rationale:

I'm really disappointed by this attitude.  This project sometimes
makes claims of inclusion, but whenever something has to be named,
it's not inclusive.

Here's why the rationale looks like a posterior justification of an
ideological decision:-

> 1. The meaning of "free" can be ambiguous in English; it can be read as 
> either "gratis" (free of charge) or "libre" (liberated).  "Free software" 
> refers to the latter, but is often confused with the former.

This is at least as true of "open".  "Open" has as many meanings in
English as "free" (15 each in the Collins English Dictionary -
dict.org says open has more meanings than free in WordNet and less in
Webster's 1913) and many of the other senses of open like
"unconcealed" and "accessible to all" are applied to software without
it necessarily being "open source".

> 2. Acronyms are bad.

I'd say that depends whether acronyms are used for their own sake,
rather than to make some general point.

> 3. The difference between the terms, while important from a philosophical 
> point of view, are negligible from the point of view of the practitioner. 
> The "why" of participation may vary among the various communities, but the 
> "how" does not.

I disagree with that: if you participate in free software from a
typical open-because-it-has-benefits approach, then you'll often
practise it in a different way to someone participating from a
open-because-freedom-is-fairer approach.

> In closing, let us offer the wisdom of Richard Stallman:
> 
> The term “open source” software is used by some people to mean more or 
> less the same category as free software. It is not exactly the same class 
> of software: they accept some licenses that we consider too restrictive, 
> and there are free software licenses they have not accepted. However, the 
> differences in extension of the category are small: nearly all free 
> software is open source, and nearly all open source software is free.

That quote continues: "We prefer the term "free software" because it
refers to freedom — something that the term "open source" does not do."
It appears on http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/categories.html

Please at least include the whole quote and cite the source.


Thanks,
-- 
MJ Ray (slef)  LMS developer and webmaster at     | software
www.software.coop http://mjr.towers.org.uk        |  .... co
IMO only: see http://mjr.towers.org.uk/email.html |  .... op



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