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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

Hey man, read the article.

Hey man, read the article. Eye I said I was a supporter of Free Software. So who I am criticizing are some of the people in my own "camp" so to speak.

ESR is far from being a friend. I vehemently disagree with his whole philosophy and some of the things I just read in his latest rant don't help me form any better view of him. In fact I wish I could just block him from my view as well, but indeed, that wouldn't make him go away, nor would it change the fact that media outlets still tend to quote what he says a bit too much.

So instead of just blocking him from my view I'd rather know what he's saying than be ignorant. This way, I know better how to argue against him. Anyone gets my drift on that?

> But honestly, I

> But honestly, I continually read about how GNU folk are _fill in the blank_ and it is always coming from people either outside of FOSS entirely, or Open Source folk.

Well, as you probably know, my article is not really an attack. It is more akin to a friendly advice for the community I consider myself proud to be part of and associate with. The advice is simply a sort of a "warning" against closing down a bit more than we ought to for the sake of our own continued success in persuading other people to consider what we're saying.

> "This cultism that sometimes develops among the Free Software supporters is not a good thing. It is not helping the cause." what is a concrete example (in quotes) of this "cultism"?

What I consider to be a sign of cultism developing is when a certain group of people deliberately closes itself from the outside influence because it can't agree with it. This can be akin to admitting that they can't deal with opposing arguments and hence they're better off not hearing them in the first place, which is a bad way to continue advocating your beliefs. Not listening to the opponent doesn't really hurt the opponent nor his arguments as much as it hurts us and our cause.

Again, you can't have a healthy debate without listening to the one you're debating with, and like it or not, as long as we care for changing people's minds about Free Software, "Open Source vs. Free Software" will be a debate. We can't just close down and run away from it.

> Is it an unyielding position that anything other than Free Software is immoral?

Although it is obvious from above, for the record, no it is not. The unyielding position is one of the biggest strenghts of the Free Software community. However, listening to the arguments of others doesn't necessarily mandate us to change our unyielding position.

About the rest of your post, excellent points. You've briefly and clearly outlined the differences. Smiling

> **please delete previos post as site quality is worth registering and having this "go on my permanent record" Eye

Deleted. Thank you for joining and welcome aboard! Smiling

Danijel

possible pointless post...

 

>>But honestly, I continually read about how GNU folk are _fill in the blank_ and it is always coming from people either outside of FOSS entirely, or Open Source folk.

>Well, as you probably know, my article is not really an attack. It is more akin to a friendly advice for the community I consider myself proud to be part of and associate with. The advice is simply a sort of a "warning" against closing down a bit more than we ought to for the sake of our own continued success in persuading other people to consider what we're saying.

Yea, I wasn't really referring to you in that paragraph. I took what you were saying as *constructive* advice. The point of my post was more so to open a discussion that I haven't really seen much.

A discussion that I think illuminates *why* their is less openness on the part of GNU folk.

To use a perhaps poor analogy, I used to try and engage with "Christians" about spiritual maters, primarily with the aim of getting them to see that some of their beliefs were hurting people and think critically for themselves if that is what Jesus (who I think,real or not, embodies an ideal representation to which we can all aspire) would teach them.

Comming from a Zen Buhdist perspective one of the cardinal rules is "do no harm".

Zen has a great tradition in that it doesn't say what is right so much as say there is a right, and that spiritual development is about comming to know it.

What Zen doesn't have is an an intelectual modality that it believes is this "right”, and it was this intellectual modality that I encountered in my conversations. They didn't believe that "right" could exist outside of their framework and so my framework was what had to go.

Whereas I honestly believe their framework *does* contain some of this right and they just need to wake up and seperate chaff from grain.

And here is where the parallel comes in, though I listened, to what I had heard many times before, in an effort to have a discussion *within* their own framework, almost universally the only outcome they sought was for me to abandon any of my beliefs that conflicted and adopt theirs in total.

There was no room for an alternate path. The problem wasn't that I wouldn't listen, it was that they were unwilling to see value in something different.

One of my favorite Zen quotes is:

"The Great Road has no gates, thousands of roads enter in to it.
When one passes through this gateless gate, they walk freely between heaven and
earth."

Both Free Software and Open Source are but two of those paths, unfortunately it seems so many folks will only accept an outcome where the Free Software path ceases to exist.

ESR's recent “open letter” about Fedora is a classic case in point. Rather than simply saying a distro that follows the path of enabling the fullest functional usage of my computer out of the box works best for me, he launched into an attack on the path Fedora had *chosen for itself*. Basically the same malice and lack of respect that Linus has held for the organization that crafted the license he chose to use. Rather than simply saying the GPL3 is following a path I don't wish to follow, he said *that path should not exist at all*.

>> "This cultism that sometimes develops among the Free Software supporters is not a good thing. It is not helping the cause." what is a concrete example (in quotes) of this "cultism"?

>What I consider to be a sign of cultism developing is when a certain group of people deliberately closes itself from the outside influence because it can't agree with it. This can be akin to admitting that they can't deal with opposing arguments and hence they're better off not hearing them in the first place, which is a bad way to continue advocating your beliefs. Not listening to the opponent doesn't really hurt the opponent nor his arguments as much as it hurts us and our cause.
Again, you can't have a healthy debate without listening to the one you're debating with, and like it or not, as long as we care for changing people's minds about Free Software, "Open Source vs. Free Software" will be a debate. We can't just close down and run away from it.

Here is where I missed the point of your article. I asked for *concrete examples*, sure generally somewhere there are GNU folk that won't even listen to other viewpoints, that's a given with any large body of folk.

[Ed. having just given your articles and your comments in those articles another read, I may be wasting bits and have given the wrong weight to this article. You have a writing style that reflects you ability to stand in different parts of a issue and had left me unclear where you stood. I think I understand better now. So sorry, will finish with the abridged version for posterity.]

You are absolutely right, we have to keep listening and engaging. But we also have to discriminate on who is able to have a discussion, and “leave the dead to the dying and the dying to dead” and focus on the living.

I guess I am just a little weary of hearing what's "wrong" with GNU, instead of the praise it deserves (not refering to you).

Why you should care.

 

> Apparently I wasn't clear. In the introduction, they outline what they
> will discuss in the essay, and answering that question is not on the list.

Yeah, it's scattered throughout. Eric was at one point working on a "what happens if we fail" chapter (notice how the intro says "we close with a sober consideration of the costs of failure") but it was way too depressing and we wanted the general tone of the paper to be "hey look, an opportunity" rather than "doom and gloom, the sky is falling if we don't do X".

There's a never-ending stream of crud like Palladium, Passport, DeCSS, Red Hat yanking _existing_ MP3 playback support due to submarine patents, the 802.11g FCC weirdness, explorer-only websites requiring ActiveX plugins to talk to your _bank_ (the whole of Korea is an example of this, mandated by their government), and so on. We've been playing whack-a-mole with this crap for a couple decades now (remember crypto export regulations and the clipper chip?), and despite retiring huge chunks of it there's more now than there ever was. When we started, the DMCA wasn't law. There's a patent minefield looming. The whole "net neutrality" thing is new. And issues we thought solved keep cropping bak up: I've been to _three_ local computer stores in the past week and none of them will sell me a 64-bit laptop without Vista. The broadcast flag keeps cropping up. You think the "Homeland security" people don't want very much to restrict cryptography again?

The challenges we face aren't technical. They're legal. Bad laws, contractual exclusive market-lock in, weird FCC regulations, large entrenched interests (AT&T, Microsoft, Sony's Rootkit division, Homeland Security) have lots of money for lobbyists. We will _never_ have more money than entrenched proprietary interests like Microsoft, so we need to have more people.

We need to recruit lots and lots of warm bodies to use Linux so that somebody trying to restrict Linux usage isn't inconveniencing 2 million geeks (an easily ignorable voting block) but 100 million doctors and lawyers and dentists and schoolteachers. And historically it's been way easier to teach people about "that OS you use is open source, here's how to improve it by making it MORE open" than "that OS you don't use is open source, here's why you might want to care someday."

And that's not even counting convincing every hardware manufacturer out there that getting a fully open source GPLv2 driver merged into the kernel is good for sales.

> I guess you're telling me that you've read it,

Actually, I wrote about 2/3 of it. Smiling

> As long as I'm typing, I'll make another point. You deplore people
> choosing not to read this essay because it was written by ESR.

About 1/3 of it was.

> But it should be noted that the only reason anybody is reading it is
> because it was written by ESR.

I recruited him as a co-author in part because he could help publicize it, but also because there only seem to be a half-dozen computer geeks on the planet with even a passing understanding of economics, and he and I are two of them.

Also, he and I tend to do well co-authoring things because we disagree about so much. The main reason it took us six months from start to finish on this paper was we spent the entire time arguing.

> I mean really, do you read everything that everybody has to say about
> FOSS? It is not humanly possible. Confess, you and everybody else who
> read this essay did so because ESR is one of the authors. If a couple
> people you never heard of wrote it, you wouldn't read it until you'd
> heard some good reason to spend the time from somebody who did read it.

I think you should read it because there's a big change coming in 2008 and Win-32 is going away. (That part happens no matter who does what, because x86 is getting replaced by x86_64 and it will inevitably do to Win-32 what the 386 did to DOS.) If you don't care how, and why, and what cocmes next, feel free to ignore it. But 90% of the article isn't about how to influence the outcome, it's just description of the current state of play.

Rob

Like the proverb

 

Keep friends close, keep enemies closer.

Closed Minded

 

Danijel,

I can't stand Eric Raymond. I am a strong believer in the ideals of Free Software, but that really doesn't play into why I dislike the man.

Linus Torvalds is very clearly and "Open Source" developer, but he writes Free Software. So does Eric Raymond. I like Linus, I despise Eric.

Why? Have you ever looked at his blog? ESR is very clearly a racist and an extremely ignorant man. It is for this reason that I think that whatever spews from his mouth is less than worthy of my time.

Questions of license don't matter much to me when you're casting hate upon people.

-Kevin Dean

Thank you Rob for proving my

Thank you Rob for proving my point about being open minded! By saying that you have actually authored the majority of the paper and not ESR, you have given an extremely important hint to those who would refuse to read the article just becase ESR was in some way involved.

The truth, apparently, is that ESR was not the only one involved and that his words did not make up the majority of the thing, so refusing to read this particular article just because he was involved in writing *some* of it, indeed can be considered closed minded.

This really demonstrates how easily can people blind themselves. People would basically completely forget about the name "Rob Landley" ever appearing among the authors of the paper the moment they read "Eric S. Raymond". That's the extreme I wanted to point to as something that we should be careful about.

About the legal threats you explained, yes, this is quite scary and is one of the reasons I gave your paper so much consideration. I thought "what if this was the only choice for us to get through before we are made irrelevant by legal threats alone". Maybe a little bit of compromising, but only *temporary*, we can endure in order to simply survive as something relevant enough to change the world to better.

The reason why I am lately doubting the strategy probably has more to do about whether we are really capable of seeing the plan through *exactly* instead of allowing too much leeway for too much compromise which may in the end undo what we're trying to do. I mean, we should avoid getting one with the proprietary industry which we are threatened by, right?

But if you, ESR and others can really strictly enforce the following rules, then it'd be easier to accept your strategy:

1.) Every proprietary piece that will be adopted will be only for what we don't have *any* other alternative right now.
2.) This adoption will be *temporary* and work will be ongoing to get rid of it as soon as possible by replacing it with free equivalents.

Can we be strict enough with this?

The reason why I attacked CNR is because they obviously wont be strict enough (considering that they'll sell more than what there is no alternative for and if they have selling proprietary software as their business, they wont be working on replacing it any time soon). CNR doesn't fit well with WD201 at all. The question is, does ESR even care (since he seems to have most influence on them)? I have my doubts.

Thanks

Is it an unyielding position

 

Is it an unyielding position that anything other than Free Software is immoral?

Most people don't believe that proprietary software is immoral. In the eyes of most, that makes you an extremist. Not making a value judgement here, just stating a fact.

In my opinion, closed standards are what is evil, not proprietary software. I think people should be free to enter into whatever contract they want. But the standards themselves should not be locked up, so that people can implement them if they want.

Let me go further, that it seems to me in many ways the OSI did try to highjack the FSF, and continue to do so. Linus and the kernel teams handling of GPL3 are I think a good example. They didn't really engage the process, they had desires in conflict with the FSF but expected that their desires were more correct, more correct than the FSF's, for the FSF's own license.

I'm sorry, but this is pure historical revisionism.

Linux was never a GNU project; there is even a quote somewhere in the archives to the effect that Linus Torvalds wanted to create a hobby project, "not going to be big and professional like HURD."

Later on, after Linux became a big success, RMS wanted to associate his organization with it by renaming it to GNU/Linux. Of course you can use Linux without the GNU bits; some people do who want a smaller libc and userland. As if that wasn't enough, RMS is now demanding that Linus switch to his new favorite license.

Linus isn't "hijacking" anything. It's his project now, and it always has been. I respect the man and what he stands for-- open standards, a level playing field, and technical excellence. Linus has clashed with a lot of people over the years, starting with his old professor Andrew Tannenbaum, who believed that academic concerns should override practical ones.

To me, RMS stands for a "holier-than-thou" attitude and a lot of rants about why this or that law is evil. News flash: political power in the U.S. doesn't come from posting rants on your blog. There are plenty of minority viewpoints that will never be heard on capital hill: neo-communism and neo-fascism come to mind, but I'm sure you can think of others if you try. Power comes from working within the system to effect change. It comes from showing people the power of open standards and open minds. It comes from having mindshare among developers and users. It comes from having a healthy sense of your own limitations, and the positive things that you have to offer others. That's something I haven't seen from RMS in a long while, and it saddens me.

> Why? Have you ever looked

 

> Why? Have you ever looked at his blog? ESR is very clearly a racist
> and an extremely ignorant man. It is for this reason that I think
> that whatever spews from his mouth is less than worthy of my time.

Actually, I did look at his blog, and I don't see any mention of racism.
There are a whole lot of things that some would find offensive, but no
mention of race at all.

I think it's very cowardly of you to label someone a racist without
providing any proof.

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