[sf-lug] mastering CDs in bulk for Software Freedom Day

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Aug 31 02:04:13 PDT 2009

Quoting Grant Bowman (grantbow at gmail.com):

> I respectfully disagree with your conclusion.

Everyone should have a few opinions.  (In fact, it might be worthwhile to
collect the whole set.  ;->  )

> Assumptions about various "users" can bring one to different
> conclusions.  

I read that entire set of paragraphs pretty carefully.  I note that none
of it had anything particularly to do with the preceding discussion.

(Honest, I really am trying to read with proper context and attention.)

> While I respect your gut about many topics (as you might already
> know), I trust that 50 years of research might also be helpful in some
> ways if it is directly applicable.  Are you saying you don't believe
> that Open Source software can be categorized as a technical innovation
> from a societal perspective?

Not at all.  That question suggests that you didn't follow what I said.

I said that the incredibly diverse fields of endeavour have entirely
different fundamental problems, and therefore I tend to have extreme
starting skepticism towards any purported common thread among them, and
instead expect handwaving bullshit.

Sameer didn't mention "free culture" in the cited paragraph, so I cannot
fairly complain that he lumped that among the others.  (I'm pretty sure
he did throw it in, further down in his rather hand-wavey posting,
however.)  But let's use it as an example of how this
compare-things-with-different-fundamental-problems habit tends to go
wrong.  I hear people say "Oh, free culture is an extension of free
software" -- but the problems are entirely different.  With free
culture, the problem addressed is ability to remix and republish.  With
free software, the problem addressed is ability to fork and reuse for
any purpose.  That is why, to the perennial surprise of free-software
people, 4 out of the 6 Creative Commons licences are _proprietary_ --
because the right to fork and reuse for any purpose is not the
fundamental problem addressed.

Anyhow, all I was saying, in what you responded to, was that when I see
people trying to draw a common thread across a half-dozen fields of
endeavour with vastly different fundamental problems, my initial gut
reaction -- my expectation -- is that all I'm going to end up seeing is 
handwaving bullshit.

> Users care about their data.

Not so much.  They _should_, but they don't _act_ as if they care about
their data.

Kindly ask the next ten people who bring MS-Windows machines to Linux
installfests, who nervously ask to be set up for dual-boot, what 
backups they have.  Collect the answers, and then, kindly tell me
again with a straight face that they care about their data.

> If users use software that is Open Source and can read legacy formats,
> don't you think this is progress?

First of all, experience suggests that MS-Windows users who are given
free-of-charge CD-ROMs of open source[1] MS-Windows software will
overwhelmingly have absolutely no appreciation whatsoever for the fact
that it is open source, but rather only for it being free of charge.

Second, as noted upthread already, you are not asking the relevant
question.  The relevant question is not whether you're creating
progress, but rather whether considerably _more_ progress cannot be
brought about by applying the same money and time elsewhere.  I think on
the basis of my own long experience that it's abundantly clear that
handing out OpenDisc copies to MS-Windows users is a really poor and
ineffective use of that time and money.

> Whether people realize the value in the short term or long term
> varies, however taking this step absolutely removes a huge factor when
> considering switching from Windows to Linux.  If they can switch their
> OS and use the same applications (i.e. Open Office, Firefox, Gimp,
> etc.) they are far more likely to consider switching, don't you think?

Seventeen years of exposure to this line of advocacy concerning handing
out free-of-charge MS-Windows software at one's own expense in time and
money, suggests that it's bullshit:  Overwhelmingly they simply don't.
And, more to the immediate point, the time and money are far more
effectively spent elsewhere.

> > And, by the way, you have no hope whatsoever of getting across the
> > concept ...
> No hope?  Seems a little bit of a stretch, though it would be more
> difficult.

I think my meaning should have been abundantly clear.  A deliberate
choice of incompetent marketing terminology shoots in the foot one's own
ability to communicate to the target audience at all.

[1] I'm sorry, but why are you treating "open source" as a proper noun
in this context?  It isn't one.

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