Subject: Re: Open Content woes
From: "Andrew C. Greenberg" <>
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 09:05:19 -0400

At 12:36 AM -0600 9/25/99, Richard Stallman wrote:
>This week, when giving a speech, I asked the audience whether they
>considered "viral" a term of praise or condemnation.  Only a handful
>raised their hands for praise; most of the room considered it
>Since the word remains a term of insult, describing the GPL that way
>remains a kind of hostile name-calling.  (It is also, in my
>experience, usually based on a misunderstanding of what the GPL does.
>I think that is the case here.)
>You have a right to call the GPL nasty names if you wish,
>but are you sure that is what you wish to do?

I think reasonable people may disagree whether someone is calling GPL 
"nasty names" by referring to GPL's properties as "viral."  To that 
extent, Richard has overreached in this discussion.  I must confess 
that I find the "audience poll," and can imagine that depending upon 
the audience and precisely how the question was put, could be 
meaningful or meaningless.

Still further, I have never heard critics of open source use the 
term.  To the contrary, to the extent I have ever heard it used, I 
heard it from open source's supporters.  As a question of THEIR 
intent, I do not believe that they meant nasty connotations by the 
use of the word.

On the other hand, RMS is right in noting that the word has 
denotations that are pejorative.  Look at any dictionary: poisonous, 
diseased, and so forth.

On the other other hand, how best to characterize this property in a 
concise manner?  "Viral" captured the notion beautifully -- EVERYONE 
to whom I would bother discussing the issue understands what I mean 
when I say it.  The term "memetic" seems too obscure.  "Replicative" 
doesn't seem to capture the notion.  Although some definitions of 
"genetic" are like the idea, the term seems to "teach against" an 
acquired trait.

So I would ask this.  Notwithstanding my disagreement on the point, I 
believe that we should respect RMS' wishes, owing to the fact his 
objections are not on their face unreasonable.  But, I think we need 
a substitute.  Any ideas?