Subject: Understanding RMS
From: Ben_Tilly@trepp.com
Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 18:05:12 -0500


Russell Nelson wrote:
> Zimran Ahmed writes:
>  > I don't see the need for this antagonism.
>
> I don't either.  I have repeatedly requested of RMS that he stop
> saying that the Open Source Initiative is any less interested in
> freedom than RMS or his organization.  Obviously, he refuses to
> cooperate, and that's sad.

Why should he cooperate?  You are not telling people that freedom as he
understands it is important, and the tendancy of people to confuse
open source with free software means that he constantly has to make
people unlearn their belief that the free software movement is in any
way connected to the open source movement.

Therefore he is drawing a correct conclusion from his beliefs.

However the opinion of the OSI is that their message is one which can be
used to convince people who are not inclined towards agreeing with RMS
to engage in activities which RMS would approve of.  This is an opinion
that I happen to share, and as a tactical measure I think that RMS
would get more mileage from focussing on the value he derives from the
OSI's tactics than he does from trying to focus on how much he disagrees
with the OSI.  (He apparently disagrees.)

>  > > I mean to make the point that you are not opposed, in principle,
>  > > to using non-free software when it advances the goals of the free
>  > > software movement.
>  >
>  > No--he *is* opposed to violating any of the four
>  > freedoms on principle alone.
>
> <shrug>.  Then why didn't he start the GNU project on bare metal?
> Obviously because he decided it would advance the goals of the free
> software movement to use non-free software.  He compromised his
> principles once; he can do it again if he has sufficient reason.

He did not compromise his principles then.  Similarly his vocal support
for the Ogg project moving to a BSD license followed from the same
beliefs and desires.  If you don't understand that, then you don't
understand his message.

His aim is to make a free software-only world as usable as possible as
soon as plausible.  If bootstrapping off of an existing proprietary
development platform helps, then do it.  If pushing the world to accept
a standard which legally can be implemented in free software will cost
helping proprietary companies implement said standard, then the ends
justify the means.  If it takes offending people by being a PITA by
refusing to accept a working proprietary solution when you think a free
alternative is plausible, well you can't make an omelette without
breaking eggs.  (And many people have been so offended...)

If you want to convince RMS to accept a piece of proprietary software -
any piece of proprietary software, you need to convince him that doing
so will lead to his dream coming true sooner.  Convincing him that it is
expedient for getting things done *now* is useless.  If he cared about
that, then he would have never done most of the things that he has done.

>  > There are people who claim to be free software movement who are,
>  > infact, really part of open source movement.  RMS will argue it's
>  > because the four freedoms should be inalienable, a point that open
>  > source disagrees on.
>
> I'm not sure you can reconcile the concepts of "freedom" and
> "inalienable", but that's just me.

People can reconcile anything, see rationalization. :-)

As for the real point you make, well that would get into an ethics
discussion that is rather far off topic.

> In this venue, I really don't care which community someone considers
> themselves to be a member of.  What matters to me is: are they willing
> to buy my products and/or services.  If not, then they're not a member
> of the most important community of all: my customers.

I mostly agree.

My nit of disagreement is that simply because the division is likely to
come up at some point, it is worthwhile for people involved with FSBs
to understand the issues well-enough to avoid the major pitfalls.
(Which is why I posted this explanation of where one of the major
parties is coming from.)

Cheers,
Ben