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On keeping an open mind

This is not an FSF publication and even if it were associated with FSF in some official way, it wouldn't be an FSF propaganda site, contrary to what some might be thinking. This is a discussion site and keeping an open mind is one of the top priorities here. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be such an important principle to some in the GNU community. For quite a few times now I have encountered what I believe to be a dangerous trend among some people in the GNU community.

It usually comes down to the animosity some of them seem to feel towards the Open Source initiative and anyone who has anything to do with it, especially "ESR" or Eric Steven Raymond. Of course, the likely source of this animosity can be traced back to philosophical and ideological disagreements, but can these disagreements justify this animosity?

It has happened that at the very mention of ESR among some GNU supporters, they basically "cover their ears", refusing to hear anything about him or anything that he may have to say. Linking them with the World Domination 201 essay co-authored by ESR resulted in refusal to read it simply because it was written by ESR. Now, while it is not impossible to talk about Eric Raymond and Open Source in a Free Software oriented group and while a good deal of GNU supporters are open minded enough to such discussions, what I have experienced still merits a concern.

Is Eric Raymond truly such a raving lunatic that he shouldn't be heard? Is he really someone that doesn't deserve even little bit of consideration? Can disagreements and disliking of someone really be a reason enough to completely censor that someone from your view? I don't think so.

This cultism that sometimes developes among the Free Software supporters is not a good thing. It is not helping the cause. It is doing just the opposite. What can we expect someone considering the Free Software philosophy should think about it if the moment he mentiones "Open Source" or "ESR" he faces a blockade and an exercise of intolerance towards these people or their views? What kind of message does this send?

I consider myself a Free Software supporter all the way. Since recently I formalized my support in form of an FSF membership. I believe in software freedom as a paramount goal; I believe in everything that was a reason for the GNU Project to exist. Yet however I am not unwilling to listen to what those with opposing views have to say. I am not closing my mind towards articles written by the members of the Open Source Initiative, ESR, Linus Torvalds or anyone else.

Instead of just completely ignoring the "World Domination 201" document just because it was co-authored by someone who is an ardent opponent of the Free Software Foundation and its idealism, I have read it and analyzed it, considered the strategy it proposes, identified problems with its implementation in a couple of articles, initiated a discussion and even talked with Richard Stallman about it. Now, was this really a waste of time? Was it maybe better for me to just click the "close" button as soon as I saw that "World Domination 201" was authored by Eric Raymond?

I certainly don't think so. By giving it some consideration I am better equipped to effectively advocate what I in the end really believe in. Those who just refuse to listen to their opponents are defeating themselves. How can you effectively beat your opponents in a debate if you don't even know what they're saying?

Consider that even Richard Stallman, to whom even these I have to say "closed minded" GNU supporters bow, didn't refuse to read ESRs article as soon as he saw it was authored by ESR. He said that he "could fetch a copy" to read it and only in response to my explaining that this article advised a compromise did he change his mind about reading the article. There was nothing in his attitude that would suggest that he wouldn't consider what ESR is saying just because he is in stark disagreement with ESR in general.

So why am I writing this? The point is quite simple, and it is not about making the GNU community look bad. As a supporter of the GNU Project and Free Software for which it stands for, I wouldn't do that. I just think it is worth reminding that it is easy to fall into the boxed way of thinking, into "cultism" closed to outside opinion and that this failure is not in the interest of the Free Software movement.

We should always listen to those we don't agree with and always be ready to learn, rather than trap ourselves in the already learned "dogma" as something unworthy of questioning even by our opponents. Don't be open to that and you've already lost the debate.

Thank you
Danijel Orsolic

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Comments

IIRC Montserrat once tried

 

IIRC Montserrat once tried to show a libervis cooperative to ESR, who refused to read it because one of the many references included the name "Marx" in its title. Perhaps this attitude problem is something geeks of all opinions tend to suffer from.

Anyway, it's always best to listen/read something that is presented to you, even if you already know you're probably going to reject it. Then at least you can always look rational.

A problem of ego

 

Daniel, you will remember that we disagreed on the question to know wether the GNU/Linux or Linux was a problem of ego between RMS and Linus.

I probably forgot to include ESR as well ;-) FOSS community is a wonderful place but I noticed that it's also a place where ego plays a greater role than anywherelse. Sigh....

I agree with you that one

 

I agree with you that one shouldn't refuse to read something just because it's been written by someone you don't like. Except when you're afraid that the arguments might be too compelling. ;-)

With Eric Raymond, the thing is that the views he expresses in his blog don't make him an especially likeable person. (I like the firearms section. After a few minutes, my stomach refuses to read any further.)

When I started reading World Domination 201 and I knew that it was by ESR, I had a feeling that I might not agree. When I read it, I almost did agree. But after thinking about it some more, I knew why the arguments were flawed, much like in your own experience with it.

So, you're absolutely right. Reading something you don't agree to is something useful to do.

On the other hand, if reading someone's writings turns out to be a waste of time every single time for a long time, then I'd consider spending my time with something more useful and stay clear of such a person's writings. (This is a general comment, I don't refer to ESR specifically.) It's much like not feeding the trolls on a mailing list. There, you don't keep an open mind either and alyways hope the flamewar will suddenly turn into a useful discussion...

World Domination 201 is an interesting read, and it explains a lot of other thing that are happening around the inclusion of proprietary drivers and software. It's something that influences many people, so anyone with an interest in free software benefits from knowing what's going on. Your articles did a great job in that.

tbuitenh wrote:IIRC

tbuitenh wrote:

IIRC Montserrat once tried to show a libervis cooperative to ESR, who refused to read it because one of the many references included the name "Marx" in its title. Perhaps this attitude problem is something geeks of all opinions tend to suffer from.

Yeah I remember that now that you mention it. Of course, if ESR acts in the same closed minded way then the advice applies as much to him as to anyone in the Free Software community. Whether all geeks suffer from it, I'm not sure. Maybe I'm just not a geek enough yet. Smiling

charles wrote:

Daniel, you will remember that we disagreed on the question to know wether the GNU/Linux or Linux was a problem of ego between RMS and Linus.

Yes, and I still don't agree. Smiling

charles wrote:

I probably forgot to include ESR as well Eye FOSS community is a wonderful place but I noticed that it's also a place where ego plays a greater role than anywherelse. Sigh....

My disagreement wasn't actually that Linus or RMS or anyone else doesn't have egos. It was about those egos being the main reason behind the "GNU/Linux" vs "Linux" terminology debate. I just think there's still more to it than mere egoism, that's all.

anonymous wrote:

On the other hand, if reading someone's writings turns out to be a waste of time every single time for a long time, then I'd consider spending my time with something more useful and stay clear of such a person's writings. (This is a general comment, I don't refer to ESR specifically.) It's much like not feeding the trolls on a mailing list. There, you don't keep an open mind either and alyways hope the flamewar will suddenly turn into a useful discussion...

Well, that's a good point, but in a situation where, for example, someone asks you for opinion about a new article written by that person with bad history saying that this article is a bit different, that it actually does make some sense, and you still cover your ears, that might be pushing it a bit too far. When someone else vouches for you that this particular article is not worth dismissing for various reasons and you still keep your blockade up, that I wouldn't consider to be very open minded and isn't really so comparable with the troll situation.

But in general I can understand what you're talking about. All I'm saying is that even for those you have had very bad experiences with, you can *sometimes* be willing to make exceptions. That would be much better than completely write that person off as if it doesn't exist at all anymore, especially if that person is someone many people are still potentially influenced by and you care for your cause to reach those same people as well.

Thanks

 
libervisco wrote:

Whether all geeks suffer from it, I'm not sure. Maybe I'm just not a geek enough yet. Smiling

Many, not all.

OTOH, one learns which sources are worthwhile

 

why waste time reading something from a source you've already decided, from years of reading his writings and observing his antics, is not worth bothering with?

you forgot something

 

You forget that some people like ESR are such hardheads and not willing to collaborate or get to middle ground that when you been reading their
articles for 4-6 years like I have.. I basically just over read the article.. not looking for a new idea.. but looking if he finally have decided to
reach out, in the other hand we got Bruce Peren's there is an example of someone I will read his articles not because I agree but I know he really does reach out and is fair, sometimes he does make good points, and he still believes that the real term for open source is still free software..
ESR in the other hand is always the same opinion with different words.. nothing new.. I always read the same end... that to use non-free justify the means..
and I can't agree to that, not matter what are those means.. so is not that I refuse to read him, thing that I do.. but I just never see anything from his part to reach to the Free Software community....

Cheers
just my personal opinion regarding ESR.

both ends against the middle

 
Quote:

You forget that some people like ESR are such hardheads and not willing to collaborate or get to middle ground that when you been reading their articles for 4-6 years like I have.. I basically just over read the article.. not looking for a new idea.. but looking if he finally have decided to reach out,

Yep, i feel that way about 'both' RMS and ESR. Hardheads don't seem to want to make peace, no matter which side they're on. It's the classic 'both ends against the middle'.

Committing seppuku is not keeping an open mind

 

No, reading about committing seppuku, which is what ESR has been advocating that we do for years, is not "keeping an open mind." Sticking a knife into one's self does not open my mind any further, just my aorta, which I don't want. In this case, the knife is the proprietary codec/driver/whatever.

I gave ESR one last chance with that "World Domination 201" essay that he co-authored. That was his last chance with me. *Now* I will not bother to read anything else that he writes. "Just roll over to Microsoft/Adobe/Apple and let them stick that knife in your belly," he repeatedly says. No, thanks. I don't see the need to volunteer comment on him, but I see no reason to listen to that garbage any further.

(-) + (-) = (+) Only in mathematics :-)

 

The point was not whether ESR, or anybody else in high places, was closed against new or differing arguments, but, rather that WE should not act in this manner.

i.e. Two wrongs DO NOT make a right.

Regards, Robert

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