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

William R Ward bill at wards.net
Fri Apr 22 21:28:26 PDT 2005

Christian Einfeldt writes:
>> >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.
>Wow, I didn't realize that there were newbies on this list.  I 
>thought that this list (except for me) was mostly ultra hackers.

I got one word for you - Lurker.  In most mailing lists only a small
percentage of the subscribers actually post.

>> 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.

I used GNU utilities on BSD Unix in the late 80's.

>> Even "OSS" is somewhat divisive, as people may have heard of
>> "open source" but not seen that acronym.
>So let me just ask this question out of total ignorance, then, as I 
>have not been paying all that much attention to the customs on this 
>list.  Do most people write open source or OS or OSS, or what term 
>do most people use.  

I think "open source" is the usual term.

>Same question for GNU/Linux or Linux.  What term do most people on 
>this list use?

Linux, mostly.  There are a few around who insist on the GNU/Linux
moniker (generally hardcore Debian people) but it's pretty unusual.

>Also, is this list archived?  Is it possible to browse the archives 

I think so, yes.  Rick?

>> Richard Stallman is a genius in a lot of ways, but marketing was
>> never one of them. 
>+1  He probably wasn't really thinking about marketing at all.  He 
>probably had no idea how huge software libre was going to get.  In 
>Linus' first posting about Linux, he also said that it was just a 
>hobby, and never thought it would take off like it did.  

Back then, it was just a hobby for all of us.

>> 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.
>Heh.  I love that.  I will remember that.  Great analogy. 

I think Eric Raymond had a much bigger role in the current open source
situation.  The phrase "Standing on the shoulders of giants" also
comes to mind (RMS being a giant in this case).

>> >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.
>Also a good way of putting it.  


>> >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.
>Actually, I personally am thinking of trying to avoid the question 
>and just touch on it briefly, since Rev OS and The Code did such a 
>good job of discussing those things.  But the Digital Tipping Point 
>film is being worked on by lots of people on many levels, and so it 
>will reflect lots of different people's inputs.  Discussions on 
>this list will also shape the final product.  

OK.  I don't really know much about your project, but you're right
that it would be good to differentiate your film from the others.

>> >> [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."
>Heh.  That's for sure.  Although I was anticipating that this list 
>was primarily just high level hackers who were familiar with the 
>term.  So I will be interested to hear what people have to say 
>about the conventions for language usage here on this list. 
>Oh, one other question while I'm at it.  Do we have an idea how many 
>people are subscribed to this list? 

I'll leave that one up to Rick to answer.

>> >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.
>That depends on who you mean by "we".  If this list is mostly 
>English speaking "open source" types as opposed to English speaking 
>FSFers or Spanish speaking penguinistas, then you are correct.  
>Which is why this conversation is useful for me.  It will be 
>interesting to for me to learn a bit more about the demographics 
>and conventions of this list.  

I was speaking specifically of English.

>Up until now, I thought that this was a relatively small group of 
>very sophisticated kernel hacker types, based on my limited 

I got the impression it was more sysadmins, but I'm kinda new around
here too.

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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