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

MJ Ray mjr at phonecoop.coop
Wed Sep 9 18:26:43 UTC 2009

Greg DeKoenigsberg <gdk at redhat.com> wrote:
> On Sun, 6 Sep 2009, Matthew Jadud wrote:
> > Should there be an appendix on "holy wars" and zealotry in the world
> > of open-source projects? This is something that students coming into
> > open projects may not be ready for: the fact that someone, at the
> > start of a process, might be willing (or even eager) to walk away from
> > the group's work over definitions and terminology, the choice of
> > programming language, and so on. [...]

This does not seem unique to FOSS projects.  All sorts of actors, both
academic and commercial, make decisions on what, whether and how much
to invest in particular projects, both internal and external.  Maybe
the difference is that open projects allow this to be more visible
than in some others.  Transparency shouldn't be regarded as a bad
thing IMO.

So, I'd only cover the overt/visibility aspect of it, if at all.

> > What strategies do you use to placate/include/encourage/support
> > differing points of view over what are typically considered the topics
> > of holy wars?

We develop consensus (often over years) then we try to stick to them.
That's how FOSS came about, isn't it?

I don't think talking about these things as "holy wars" and "religion"
is helpful in forming consensus.  It carries a lot of baggage which we
don't actually need to carry in this discussion.  It may also be
offensive to many religious believers, who would simply never behave
like many on the extremes of these types of discussions.

> > (I'm over-simplifying; please don't take this as a point
> > to mince words...) For example, MJ has just suggested that if his POV
> > is not honored, he'll walk away from this particular project, and
> > perhaps fork it later to suit his own needs.

It's not so much "not honored" as excluded and belittled which is what
that section in the book does by asserting the ambiguity of free while
ignoring the ambiguity of open and claiming that the difference
between freedom and openness shouldn't be important to practitioners.

Maybe the differenced isn't important to the detached academic or the
hard-headed private-sector business, but it is important to social
enterprises like mine.  (I know some other tech worker co-ops like
alcacoop may take a different view, but that's how autonomy works.)

My 100%-practitioner co-op has ruled that I can't work on TOS on
company time because of TOS's divisive open-source-only approach in
spite of the claims made on the wiki and on this mailing list back in
March.  It's not enough to claim the project doesn't care what name is
used and then consistently stick steadfastly to "open source" and
insult all alternatives - if you really don't care about the name,
show it by deeds - use an inclusive name in this new book project!

Personally, I'd prefer you to call it simply "free software" or
"cooperatively-developed software", but FOSS or FLOSS is OK.

> > [...] Does the text address it anywhere (it
> > shouldn't be in the introduction), and would this be a welcome
> > contribution that may, or may not, find its way into an appendix of
> > sorts?
> Yes, this is precisely the angle I hope to take.  This is material for the 
> end of the book, not the beginning of the book.

Trouble is, that bit at the beginning of the book suggests that the
freedom-doesn't-matter view will run through the whole book.  It's
fine to set it once and deal with the intricacies later, but it
still should be an inclusive decision.  Tacking a bit on the end to
mention "oh some people think it's about freedom" is poor form.

> If there's a preponderance of the *authors of the book* who agree with 
> MJ's opinion, I'm willing to reconsider.  But until I hear that 
> preponderance, the policy as defined in the foreword remains as is.

So you call something "OSS" and then are interested only in the views
of people who contribute to that OSS-named thing.  Isn't that

As Frank Hecker and Karsten Wade have pointed out, there is a rough
consensus of most pragmatists accepting inclusive terms like FOSS and
FLOSS, even if they're the first choice of few people.

If the book's authorship has a preponderance of
call-it-open-source-and-nothing-else zealots who are willing to resort
to naughty stunts like that careful trimming of a Richard Stallman
quote to justify their position, then I feel that's a big shame and
it may result in a rather incomplete view of the subject.

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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