[conspire] What's wrong with "FLOSS" (was: Penguin Day - Demysitify FLOSS for Nonprofits)

William R Ward bill at wards.net
Mon Apr 18 22:09:21 PDT 2005

Christian Einfeldt writes:
>On Sunday 17 April 2005 16:39, Rick Moen wrote:
>> Christian was replying to Bill Ward:
>> > I only use the term FLOSS on lists like this, where the readers
>> > will understand it.
>> >
>> > I try to use the freedom part of open source as much as
>> > possible, for a couple of reasons.
>> Christian, the problem is that you _aren't_ doing that, when you
>> say "FLOSS".  You're not talking about freedom at all; you're
>> just using an opaque and rather silly-sounding acronym.  You
>> _think_ you're talking about freedom because of an abstract and
>> essentially symbolic association with the concept.  Which, IMVAO,
>> tends to shoot your intention in the foot.
>So it is starting to be my impression that using the F in FOSS is 
>not popular on this list.  I'm easy.  I can drop it on this list.

It's not that - it's that we should try to avoid using divisive
language.  Any term that you have to be "in the know" to understand
will alienate novices.  Not everyone receiving mail on this list, or
any other one you might post on, is an experienced user.  Newbies who
may be on the list won't know what the heck you're talking about.

Heck, until recently I didn't know what FLOSS was, and I've been using
open source software since before Linux was a twinkle in Linus's eye.

Even "OSS" is somewhat divisive, as people may have heard of "open
source" but not seen that acronym.

>> You said, in a separate message, "When we talk to [new users]
>> whose primary language is English, let's call it open source."  I
>> concur ;-> -- except that I tend to include references to free
>> software as soon as they're "getting" the concept.
>+1   This actually is a very good point, and it is one of the 
>reasons that I am not very religious about using the F in FOSS.  To 
>me, the code teaches freedom.  And people who use OSS get the 
>importance of freedom.  It was for that reason that I wasn't 
>particularly sold on the notion of using the F in FOSS until that 
>wake up call with the guy on the OOo list who called Richard 
>Stallman a "little GNU-phile."  I really found it shocking that he 
>didn't even know Richard's name.  Geez, Richard and the FSFers 
>deserve attribution, at the very least.  

Richard Stallman is a genius in a lot of ways, but marketing was never
one of them.  Which is exactly why "free software" languished in the
obscurity of academia for at least a decade before "open source" came
along and started being understood by the mainstream.

>When our camera was not running, Ted T'so said that he felt that 
>Richard was claiming more credit than he deserved.  So I know that 
>there are lots of tribal elders who don't agree on this issue.

Thomas Jefferson (Richard Stallman) wrote the Declaration of
Independence (GNU Manifesto); but he wasn't the only Founding Father.

>However, for someone like me, who has contributed absolutely no code 
>at all, I think that it is proper to show some respect for someone 
>like Richard.  IMHO, it's a far different thing for Ted T'so to say 
>something like that than for me to say it.  

Sure, give him credit for GNU, which was a necessary but not
sufficient condition for open source's popularity.

>In jury trials, jurors are constantly having to decide which of two 
>opposing experts are correct.  I feel as if I am somewhat in the 
>same position.  Fortunately, I don't have a binary choice here, and 
>so I like being able to be something of a very minor ambassador 
>between various different camps.  IMHO, if we can share code, we 
>can share credit, too.  

As I understand it, you are creating a documentary film.  So I would
suggest you view it not like a juror who must choose, but rather as a
reporter who must present different sides of a story, and let the
viewer make up their own mind.

>> [Stallman story snipped]
>> > So ever thereafter, I began to increase my use of the "F" part
>> > of "FOSS" or "FLOSS" as appropriate.
>> See, I see the point of talking about freedom.  But I don't see
>> the point of "FLOSS".  (Among other things, it doesn't talk about
>> freedom.)
>It's mostly about saving keystrokes.

It may save keystrokes in the short run, but not if you keep having to
explain it to people!  You've spent many orders of magnitude more
keystrokes in this thread than you ever would have by typing "open
source" in the first place, instead of "FLOSS."

>> > If it becomes apparent to me that folks on this list really
>> > REALLY get bummed on hearing FLOSS, then I will probably end up
>> > typing OSS.
>> (Afterthought:  Why _would_ "OSS" placate FSF types, anyway?  Are
>> they supposed to be happy that you didn't say "open source" and
>> ignore what the acronym stands for?  I confess I don't get it.)
>Richard Stallman has actually made a compromise, although people 
>don't recognize it as a compromise, probably because they are not 
>accustomed to Richard making a compromise.  He has said that he 
>doesn't mind FLOSS.  

Compromise is important, and I think Richard needs to do it more.  For
example there are plenty of licenses other than GPL that are "open
source" but which Richard may not consider "free."

>I think that we need someone like Richard continually talking about 
>freedom.  I do believe that it we are only practical, we will end 
>up seeing the freedom of open source get chipped away at little bit 
>by little bit.  Having corporate support of open source is good, 
>but you need to pick your friends wisely, and keep them on good 
>behavior.  Jack Messman is in our film, as are Miguel de Icaza and 
>Nat Friedman, and I am really grateful to those guys and SuSE and 
>Novell for all of the things that they have done for OSS.  However, 
>it is soooo easy for corporations to overreach, due to the pressure 
>that is on the execs to maximize the shareholder value in the 
>company.  Wall Street really is brutal in its evaluation of 
>companies, and that can sometimes cause execs to exercise bad 
>judgment, at least as seen from the perspective of the OSS 
>conglomeration we call the community. 

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.  But what does that have to
do with what we call it?

>> > As a side note, I've gotta tell ya that people in Latin America
>> > LOVE Richard Stallman.  Almost no one down there calls it "open
>> > source."
>> As noted, luckily they don't have the linguistic free vs. free
>> problem we gringos suffer.  If _visiting_, I'd no doubt call it
>> "software libre", too.
>> But, at home, short of us all switching to a Romance tongue, we
>> have to deal with Anglo-Saxon imprecision.  ;->
>Actually, there are lots and lots of "foreign" words that have crept 
>into English, German, French, Thai, etc.  I'm thinking that 
>eventually, software libre might make it in.  Who knows.  

Borrowing words only happens when we have a need for a new word for
something.  We don't have a new need for a new word for open source.

>> > He later sneezed again, and once again, I habitually said,
>> > "Bless you, oops, I forgot, sorry" and he said, okay, you don't
>> > need to say anything when someone sneezed.  So the next time he
>> > sneezed, I just sat there and watched him wipe his hand on his
>> > pant leg after catching his sneeze.
>> Heh.  One could do as the Israelis do, and say "La breyut" = "to
>> your health" -- which of course is close cognate to English's old
>> borrowing from German, "Gesundheit."  (I believe the Yiddish
>> variant is "sei gesunt", "be healthy".)
>I think that I actually might have said Gesundheit.  Is Richard 
>Jewish?  Maybe I should have thought of sei gesunt.  He actually 
>said, though, I don't need to say anything.  He said it was a 
>superstition.  All of this is on film.  

"Gesundheit" doesn't mean "God bless you," so the story wouldn't make
sense.  I usually say either "Gesundheit" or "salud" (Spanish for
"health") when people sneeze, for the same reason as Richard's
comment.  Though I'd never be so rude as to correct someone who did
bless me for a sneeze.

>> But that brings me to a point I wanted to make:  Sure, it's good
>> to acknowledge that choice of words is very important -- but,
>> beyond a certain point, one must master the words rather than
>> letting them (or, worse, someone else's fixations about them)
>> master _you_.  
>Yeah, but I don't feel as if I am in peril of going to that extreme.  

Maybe not, but if you focus too much on the words you can lose the
message.  It's that old thing with the forest and trees.

>> Anyhow, if Richard objected to my saying "Bless you" on grounds
>> that "nobody needed to bless him", I'd say it was just a polite
>> expression of concern and that the notion of a big guy on a cloud
>> hadn't really crossed my mind.  If he replied that he thought I
>> should purge religious-tinged phrases from my vocabulary, I'd
>> rejoin, as politely as I could manage,  1. That's a rude request,
>> and none of your business, and 2. Good luck with a
>> language-reform project that's ultimately hopeless, for reasons
>> cited above.
>Well, I felt that there are lots of demands on Richard's time, and I 
>thought that it was genuinely generous of him to give us time.  
>Again, I don't mind being a bit deferential to Richard.  I believe 
>that I could live my life 10 times and never make the kind of grand 
>contributions to humanity that Richard has.  I do truly believe 
>that Richard is a bit like Darwin, except with bad manners.  Heh.  
>He will be remembered for a hundred years, at least, long after I 
>and everyone in my family have been forgotten.  That, in itself, is 
>no reason for being deferential to someone.  I can think of a few 
>very unsavory people who will also be remembered that long.  
>However, I believe that history will be kind to Richard, and so I 
>don't mind showing him the respect that he really does richly 
>deserve WHILE HE IS ALIVE, rather than merely after he is dead, 
>like Van Gogh.  

Richard is truly responsible for a lot of important stuff.  But he
isn't Mohammed - you can't take everything he ever said or wrote as
absolute.  Other people had good ideas too.  I'd argue that "The
Cathedral & The Bazaar" had more of a direct impact on the current
scene than the GNU Manifesto.


William R Ward               bill at wards.net             http://bill.wards.net
   Help save the San Jose Earthquakes - http://www.soccersiliconvalley.com/

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