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

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Apr 19 10:25:52 PDT 2005

Quoting Christian Einfeldt (einfeldt at earthlink.net):

> 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.

No, no!  The freedom part is very important.  I was just pointing out
(in part) that you get that concept across much more effectively through
the term "free software" than "FLOSS".  "FLOSS" is acronym-ese, which you
can understand only by understanding two _other_ bits of jargon first.
Thus, it is a poor vehicle for communication.  Thus, my point.

(Besides, you don't have to change your vocabulary to become popular on
this mailing list -- and shouldn't.  We're all friends, here.  I was
just airing my opinion.)

> To me, the code teaches freedom.

Well, if only it did.  

There are a tremendous number of people who see open source as strictly
a utilitarian measure to reduce costs.  That's fine for them, I guess,
but for the longer term it's a pity they're missing the basic point, 
which is to vest ultimate control in the programmers and users, rather
than perpetuate a monopoly relationship in which the programmers and
users don't control their own tools.

> Geez, Richard and the FSFers deserve attribution, at the very least.  


> 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.

I've heard the arguments.  But what settles it for me is that FSF
created -- laboriously over many years of work in obscurity and with
little thanks -- the fundamental software _toolchains_ that were used to
design, code, and debug most other significant pieces of free software
used in Linux, the BSDs, and other OSes.

Not all lines of code have historically been equally important:  FSF's
contributions were keystones for (nearly) all the other pieces.


> It's mostly about saving keystrokes.

Nobody's going to beat you up for the term, honest.  ;->

I was just flabbergasted that an organisation devoted to _public outreach_ 
(the Penguin Day people) were deliberately using a term that's
completely inscrutible to the public, in place of two others (free
software and open source) that were, respectively, troublingly ambiguous
but at least easily explainable, and demonstrably clear/effective.

If I were writing the promotional material for Penguin Day -- and I
realise that nobody asked my opinion -- I would have that material speak
of "open source".  I would try to make sure that, further down, after
the introductory sentences, the term "free software" also gets used,
with an explanation that it's an alternate term for the same concept.

And, if some FSF type complained about not getting equal billing, I'd 
suggest they run their own damned conference.  As Bill Ward said, FSF's 
notion of public outreach was a decade-plus debacle.

> I think that we need someone like Richard continually talking about 
> freedom.

That is fine, but the question was not what Richard should say, but
rather what Penguin Day should say.

> Actually, there are lots and lots of "foreign" words that have crept 
> into English, German, French, Thai, etc.

Well, bien sur, sirrah.  

    "Not only does the English language borrow from other languages, 
    it sometimes chases them through dark alleys, hits them over the
    head, and goes through their pockets."  -- Eddy Peter


> I'm thinking that eventually, software libre might make it in.  Who
> knows.  

That's nice, but that day is not today.

> I think that I actually might have said Gesundheit. 

In which case, Richard was being a jerk for objecting to you blessing
him, since the only thing worse than a surly pedant is a surly pedant
who's _wrong_.  ;-> 

"Gesundheit", of course, means good health, which as you pointed out
elsewhere is cognate to "salut", etc.  There's nothing necessarily
"superstitious" about the phrase:  Historically, wishing good health on
people who sneeze was (and still is) a quite reasonable expression of
concern and empathy, in a world full of ailments.

But really -- even had you said "Bless you", if the other person then
complains for no better reason than being non-religious, he/she is just
plain being rude.  Heck, I've had people tell me that they were
_praying_ for me -- which can be a tiny bit startling when one is
non-religious, but even though I was a bit off-balance, the only
reasonable and polite reply is "Thank you."

You know, *I* could easily have said "Bless you" -- and there would have
been nothing of religion or superstition about it.

> Is Richard Jewish?  Maybe I should have thought of sei gesunt.

Richard is of Jewish ancestry, but wishes no part of that religion or
any other.

Which is fine, but one would normally expect people to be a bit more
gracious about ordinary conversational figures of speech, just because
they have faint (or less so) religious overtones.  But of course, to a
large extent, one must just accept people the way one finds them.

Believe me, having Richard as a house-guest is occasionally a strain on
one's hospitality (but not often -- he's a nice guy).

That having been said, personally, I'd have told him he was out of line.

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