Subject: Re: "On Virus" -- get real
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Sat, 2 Oct 1999 17:05:00 +0900 (JST)

CC list not trimmed so that I can correct the mistaken attribution.

    Andrew> At 2:29 PM -0600 10/1/99, Richard Stallman wrote:
    >> Nope.  Remember, we're doing marketing here.

I, Stephen Turnbull, wrote that.  Not Richard Stallman.

I apologize for my poor marketing skills.  I didn't imagine that
"marketing" could in such bad odor on the Free Software _Business_
mailing list (and most, perhaps all, the CC list are subscribers

    Andrew> That's a shame.  I thought we were seeking the truth.

You, Andrew, can write that, after what you wrote in this forum about
there being no right answer to legal questions, without the full

On _this_ list, terms like "viral" and "partnership" when used with
respect to the GNU GPL are nothing more than polemic; we know what the 
GPL is.  We don't know how it will play in court, but we know what it
is intended to do.  Opinions differ strongly as to the net benefits,
but I think there is little disagreement about what it does.  We don't 
need code words and analogies; those who don't know yet are motivated
to get a broader and deeper understanding than all of the analogies
proposed in this thread can give.

But in the broader audience where terms like "mitochondrial" are
actually analogies, truth is partially embedded in what the audience
brings to the forum.  I have argued that "mitochondrial" is the most
logically accurate of the three terms I have mentioned in this post,
but from the point of view of marketing, it's a non-starter.  I don't
think most of the denizens of slashdot, nor the relevant Senators and
Congressman, will have any idea what it means.  It is certainly not a
useful metaphor for that kind of communication.

    Andrew> In view of this remark and the standard of proof proffered
    Andrew> here, 

What "proffered standard of proof"?  Are you stereotyping the whole
marketing community?

I see nothing incompatible between marketing and truth, any more than
I see anything incompatible between legal behavior (such as advice to
plead "not guilty" to accused parties that did knowingly commit
illegal acts) and truth.  Hm?

Or do you think that it is unnecessary that we consider the
interpretations our audience may assign?

We _can_ hold ourselves to a high standard of truth, all the while
recognizing that the actual effect of our words depends on context.
The best liars never tell lies; they restrict themselves to irrelevant
or misleading truths.  But you can also characterize poor truthtellers
that way.

Good truthtellers not only do not lie; they use words that provide
context and appropriate connotation to the audience, thus conveying
the "whole truth."

    Andrew> we must consider carefully whether we are truly concerned
    Andrew> that the term "virus" is "nasty," per se, or
    Andrew> whether we are concerned that the term is revelatory of
    Andrew> potentially controversial issues that might lead a fully
    Andrew> informed adopter to pass on using the GPL.

    Andrew> Or maybe a different standard is appropriate: we should
    Andrew> use terms that accurately and adequately characterize
    Andrew> those things about which we are advocating.

All I advocate is that we consider how the audience will react to the
analogies and abbreviated terms we will inevitably end up using in
public discussion.

Accuracy and adequacy in expression are meaningless IMO, if the
audience falls asleep or takes a coffee break[1] in the second paragraph.
Although the "relevant Senators and Congressmen" will have lawyers and
research staff to interpret long boring tracts for them, most of the
public will not.

That is what I mean by "marketing."  Such "marketing" is precisely why 
Stallman's explanation of free software leads off with the contrast
between "free speech" and "free beer".  Is that so wrong or untrue?

    Andrew> One thing the community doesn't need is to have its
    Andrew> leading lights engaging in FUD tactics.

Thank you; but I must decline the nomination.  That would be a lie.  ;-)

And I don't consider what I advocate "FUD tactics," but I'm willing to
hear counterargument.

[1]  And of course there is no hope that they will take a dictionary
break to look up "mitochondrial".

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