Subject: Re: Fwd: Wall Street article on a new Cooperative
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 21 Apr 2004 11:49:53 -0400

"Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org> writes:

> This is one of the fundamental problems in our community.  There is no
> consensus about what we're trying to promote.  That means that we
> often talk at cross-purposes about what a "FSB" should or shouldn't
> do, what government interventions are desirable, etc.  I think some of
> the differences are too fundamental to achieve consensus across the
> entire FLOSS community, but with better understanding of what we agree
> on and disagree on, we can form factions to promote controversial
> agenda, and broader alliances where there are common understanding of
> the public interest.

In my experience, this is true of any quasi-political quasi-moral
movement like the free software/open source movement.  For example, I
think there is exactly one idea that is shared by all people in the
animal rights (AR) community: "non-human animals have some right to
moral consideration."  Unfortunately, since many people who would
define themselves as being outside the AR community also believe that,
what we are left with is that the AR community is composed of those
people who declare themselves to be members.

From my perspective what you describe as a fundamental problem is
simply the reality to be accepted, not a problem to be solved.  I
think most members of the FLOSS community do have some understanding
of what they believe, and thus some understanding of how they agree
and disagree with other members of the FLOSS community.  I certainly
agree that we should all try to help everybody understand what they
want, and understand what other people want.  But once we've all
sorted out what we want, I don't think we should expect that there is
any useful common understanding across the community.  I think we
should expect, as you say, the ability to make specific alliances for
specific agendas.

I don't see any prospect for a broad-based FLOSS political movement,
any more than there is any prospect for a broad-based AR political
movement.  Temporary alliances for specific goals, yes; long term
joining together for broad goals, no.

(Actually, now I like the analogy between FLOSS and AR.  The FSF is
PETA.  The OSI is the HSUS.  I guess the hackers who released the
Windows source code are the ALF.  Alas, there probably aren't too many
people who are in both communities and able to appreciate the
parallels.)

Ian