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Time for a Free Software Business Initiative

It is not enough to have Richard Stallman travel around the world endlessly giving standard Free Software speeches among other things repeating how Open Source is not the same thing as Free Software and how the operating system widely known as "Linux" is actually "GNU/Linux" (because GNU project in fact started that OS). It is not even enough to have Free Software supporters constantly keep pointing these things out and arguing why they believe so.

In my previous article I argued that the Open Source Initiative, founded as a reaction to the perceived unwillingness or ineffectiveness of the FSF to attract businesses to Free Software, was a bad solution because it was based on hiding of the most important part of what makes Free Software what it is, the user freedom. It emphasized business friendly aspects of Free Software at the expense of rather than in addition to its underlying political aspect - one largely based on bringing social and economic justice back to the software world.

This is the reason why FSF decided not to support the Open Source Initiative nor its apparently apolitical philosophy to this day. Their prime goal was promoting exactly what Open Source was essentially demoting.

However, neither FSF nor any of their supporters mounted an alternative campaign to Open Source. Noone offered to create a better solution to the problem that Open Source reacted to. In the meantime Open Source caught incredible traction as a buzzword applied to anything that was previously known as "Free Software", and today to even some software which is not actually Free Software. The latter is a problem that was expected exactly because of Open Source's incomplete, rather shallow, way of promoting Free Software.

And this is the basic point of this article. Why didn't anyone in the Free Software movement find it worthy to respond to Open Source with more than alienation of the "we are not with those guys" type? And why is Free Software Foundation still not doing much about it?

Open Source is losing its meaning, as I've mentioned numerous times previously, and because of that even suggested them to therefore drop the term and phase back to "Free Software". However, Free Software movement has the power to do something about it right now, no matter where Open Source Initiative decides to go. If it doesn't want to accept Open Source Initiative as its representer to the business world, why not create a representation of its own?

In my previous article I suggested (what is probably quite an outlandish idea), a renaming of "Open Source Initiative" to "Free Software Business Initiative", but considering the likelihood of that happening it might make more sense of the Free Software movement to found this kind of organization by itself.

What would its purpose be? It will do things that Free Software Foundation isn't exactly very good at doing: actually marketing Free Software, pushing its own labels and slogans and emphasizing the reasons why Free Software, not because it is technically better, but because of freedom it provides, is business friendly and can help the software market evolve. This kind of initiative would help the cause of spreading users freedom by encouraging business makers to pay more attention to that aspect of what they today mostly know as merely "Open Source".

Until this is done, businesses will still largely be attracted to Open Source and their initiative, while, because of lack of focus on what really matters, further diluting what it actually represents. SugarCRM already argues that it has the right to call its software Open Source even though it fits neither the Open Source definition nor the Free Software definition.

So, what are we as a Free Software movement (including the FSF) going to do about it? Are we to simply ignore what's happening to Open Source pretending that it somehow doesn't have anything to do with us, as if we aren't too often branded as "Open Source people" despite not being that? Or are we going to start a business related campaign of our own that will actually add a meaningful and strict representation of what it means to be a Free Software business? Open Source is failing to be meaningful and strict in that sense. Free Software movement can do better because it actually keeps to the original complete vision of what Free Software world should be.

It is time for "Free Software" to face the suits, and show them that there is more to what they now know as "Open Source" than Open Source!

Addendum: I mentioned Free Software marketing and slogans. Just to give you a taste of what a Free Software marketing could look like, here are some of the slogans that we could use, and you feel free to add yours:

  • "Free as in Customer Satisfaction"
  • "Take control. Use Free Software"
  • "Don't let software tell you what to do. Use Free Software."
  • "Freedom is not a privilege with Free Software."
  • "Free Software. You deserve it."
  • "Save Capitalism! Buy Free Software! (the argument behind this one is simple, Free Software actually restores what used to be a Free Market Capitalism - which makes Free Software movement essentially a true capitalist movement).

Cheers

Danijel Orsolic

Comments

 
libervisco wrote:

Welcome aboard fellow Croatian! Dobro došli! Smiling

And I've tought that I'm the only person in Croatia contemplating about software freedom. Smiling

libervisco wrote:

And for what confusion is left, we can work towards tilting the balance towards our side instead of just accepting "Open Source". We can work on making "Free Software" more often associated with "free as in freedom" than "free as in cost".

I agree. I've only wanted to point out that term "Free Software" is more often abused then "Open Source". Attempts of abuse of any term are unavoidable. Problem of term "Open Source" is that OSI, until few weeks ago, didn't fight against that abuse.

Agreed. For those of us who

 

Agreed. For those of us who believe in the co-operative/friendly society business model over the shareholder company, life is full of compromising the principal in practice. It's possible in the software world to go 100% free, not so in business. Credit Unions, Charities, the Public Service and the self-employed are usually the only ones we can happily transact with, most of the time there's no practical alternative to dealing with unsustainable wealth concentrators.

Also I agree the free software community shouldn't spread themselves too thinly. As I posted on the climate change thread it's apt to focus on free software and feel good about it, other people are focussed on other issues and any joint initiatives should not be to the detriment of the specialised efforts. The extreme metaphor: I want to make water, but if everyone joined in there'd be no-one producing hydrogen or oxygen.

Most people would like to look forward to a future of world peace and optimal freedom through sustainable political, economic, and social agreements. To get to that greater system we've got to produce the constituent elements in todays adverse conditions. Try it all at once and we'll get nowhere. All of it hangs on the ability of specialists to win success in their chosen areas.

Free software is the most advanced in all areas, and it enables the other initiatives to accelerate their work. I think future historians tracing the roots of change may note that 1984 was not as Orwell warned, but the birth of a new dawn thanks to the GPL.

Yes. That's quite right,

Yes. That's quite right, although I haven't been specifically aiming at convincing people that software is different than physical things, but that does fall in line quite well. Understanding that really is a precondition to understanding four freedoms.

And ability to make profit existed for all this time. It's just that businesses have been skeptical about it. Through Open Source they've realized that it can work. Now it's time to see why exactly has anyone even tried to come up with such a model, because it is not just about producing better code. So they should learn the goals behind FSF and realize that respecting certain ethical principles isn't automatically anti-business. Even if it reduces your earnings a bit, you gain more respect and what's most important long term credibility because bad business practices get discovered and frowned upon by the public sooner or later, but when you have a history of respecting your customers and their rights, this credibility lasts as long as you continue with that policy.

GNU Herds

 

https://gnuherds.org

It is just a proposal under development.

Clearly a lot of intellect

 

Clearly a lot of intellect and energy has gone in there, very admirable, including the GNU Business network dating back to 2000 (is GNU Herds a replacement?), but I wonder are these initiatives bound to remain marginal fledglings for a good while, being too far ahead of their time like pieces of a future puzzle that can't easily connect well with todays reality.

If it was offering a 'better' solution to a problem for the IBM's of this world they'd be there in droves supporting it. I think the only surefire way big outfits can be coaxed in is by having top grade job seekers offering their CV's exclusively on GNU Herds when such individuals are in short supply.

With full regard to the fact that big players have changed their tune on free software and may adopt this new set of terms and conditions sooner than I think, I keep coming back to startups as being the big opportunity here, they don't have to change their ways this would be the default mode from day 0.

My inclination would be to make innovation and entrepreneurship a core focus on GNU Herds. Link to or reproduce the FSF/UNESCO list of business free software for starters. Provide a forum for collaboration, target free software entrepreneurs and programmers, University/community business incubator units, co-operatives and their associations assigining site update roles as you go. Build an event planning facility for members to arrange meetings such as those where angels and innovators shoot the breeze, specialised groupware for enterprise clubs.

As always think through the steps the target has to take and see how to make that easier. The ideal is to have some willing guniea-pigs to give feedback. My pilot customer is indispensable, their insights changed the code.

"Build it and they will come" won't work though (he said bitterly), but it doesn't need to. Once a facility is in place it's time to network the old fashioned way, one to one, and get those prospects on board. Six degrees of separation, it's perfectly do-able. This doesn't mean programmers have to leave the comfort zone and embark on a scary adventure in meatspace, the advocate/sales type can do that.

The site could then be ad-supported. Accountants, tax advisors, solicitors etc. all want to get new business on board.

If this business network portal is to prosper it's got to be strong on meeting business needs, as it stands it's only market differentiation seems to be a set of ethical preconditions. Looking at the current work team it seems the team-building exercise needs another iteration. I'd try and get the likes of Mr. Cygnus involved, I think it badly needs that kind of been there and done that entrepreneurial input, and later the advocacy/networking types.

You said it well. The basic

You said it well. The basic idea behind GNU Herds may be good, but here is my honest impression of it. Outright, coming to their site I'm not really attracted to it. I simply doubt a common businessman would waste much time on a site which has an actual photo of gnu herd as its logo. Eye Perhaps appearances shouldn't matter, but in this day and age they very much do, and this can't be ignored.

Also, I don't really get the wholeness of what they are doing from looking at the site. I see a bunch of somewhat related links to some other "resources" and that's it. The presentation just isn't there yet.

The way I imagine a Free Software Business association, initiative or whatever is something with an attractive modern web site with an engaging logo, an easy to grasp introductory text that will entice the business person to read more about it and actually find easy pointer to where to read more and should they decide to get involved somehow provide exactly ways in which they can do so, and where to contact people for help.

I just don't think it will be taken seriously otherwise by more than few existing Free Software affiliates.

Tasks to do

 
libervisco wrote:

You said it well. The basic idea behind GNU Herds may be good, but here is my honest impression of it. Outright, coming to their site I'm not really attracted to it. I simply doubt a common businessman would waste much time on a site which has an actual photo of gnu herd as its logo. Eye Perhaps appearances shouldn't matter, but in this day and age they very much do, and this can't be ignored.

That was noted previously. I think you are right. So, I have raised the priority of the 'logo' task https://savannah.nongnu.org/task/index.php?6775

libervisco wrote:

Also, I don't really get the wholeness of what they are doing from looking at the site. I see a bunch of somewhat related links to some other "resources" and that's it. The presentation just isn't there yet.

You are right, the presentation is too much 'hacker' oriented. It could be great if someone offers a text which be both business and hacker oriented. I have added the task https://savannah.nongnu.org/task/index.php?7216

libervisco wrote:

The way I imagine a Free Software Business association, initiative or whatever is something with an attractive modern web site with an engaging logo, an easy to grasp introductory text that will entice the business person to read more about it and actually find easy pointer to where to read more and should they decide to get involved somehow provide exactly ways in which they can do so, and where to contact people for help.

What about the FAQ section? Is it enough to the business person? How could it be improved?

About contact, you can see: For more information:

libervisco wrote:

I just don't think it will be taken seriously otherwise by more than few existing Free Software affiliates.

Business networks

 

No, GNU Herds is not a GNU Business Network replacement. Instead, GNU Herds could be used by any number of individuals, business, business networks, etc. at the same time. "GNU Business Network (GBN)" could be just one of the available _tags_.

P.S.: Now we are working to remove the JavaScript requirement. It is almost ready to be uploaded to the server. After finishing it we will try to move the project to the FSF hosts. The project lacks in active developers, and of course any kind of help. Your feedback has already helped. Thanks!

About the FAQ section it

About the FAQ section it seems as if it was written by someone who doesn't have english as his/her first language, so it doesn't tend to flow very nicely and understandably.

Also I don't think this big diagram is really helping much. I don't think business people are interested in diving into it to see what it represents and they want things to be simple and more obvious, and that diagram seems rather complex.

I seem to be full of criticism and I'm sorry for that. Perhaps I'm not understanding the exact purpose of GNU Herds project. The FAQ says the association's aim is to "encourage the professional development of Free Software contributors."

I suppose what this means is training and/or finding contributors which would contribute to Free Software as part of their job and profession. Hence the job site.

That is then a rather specific purpose and not really what I was describing in the article as the Free Software Business Initiative. The initiative would do something else, provide businesses with general information about the Free Software business model and the importance and benefits of incorporating ethical values (caring for freedom) into their business. And then it would further publish or link to articles which fit and contribute to that particular theme. It would also link to other projects which work on certain specific aspects of Free Software business - and GNU Herds is just one of such projects - an association of Free Software professionals, from employers to employees.

But of course it would still benefit the project if it clearly explains itself as such on its website and also make the web site more attractive to these employers and employees, and any other target group.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts. I am glad if they are helpful.

Thank you

feedback to GNU Herds

 
libervisco wrote:

About the FAQ section it seems as if it was written by someone who doesn't have english as his/her first language, so it doesn't tend to flow very nicely and understandably.

You are right. I wrote it. I am Spanish. Any fix would be great. Just an email with the fixes; gnuherds-app-dev AT nongnu.org

libervisco wrote:

Also I don't think this big diagram is really helping much. I don't think business people are interested in diving into it to see what it represents and they want things to be simple and more obvious, and that diagram seems rather complex.

Fixed. Thanks! I hope it is right now.

libervisco wrote:

I seem to be full of criticism and I'm sorry for that. Perhaps I'm not understanding the exact purpose of GNU Herds project. The FAQ says the association's aim is to "encourage the professional development of Free Software contributors."

I suppose what this means is training and/or finding contributors which would contribute to Free Software as part of their job and profession. Hence the job site.

No, the project does not try to find contributors who would contribute to FS as part of their job. It tries to make it easier to people and business, who follow the FS rules, to find a FS-job or FS-business-model.

libervisco wrote:

That is then a rather specific purpose and not really what I was describing in the article as the Free Software Business Initiative. The initiative would do something else, provide businesses with general information about the Free Software business model and the importance and benefits of incorporating ethical values (caring for freedom) into their business. And then it would further publish or link to articles which fit and contribute to that particular theme. It would also link to other projects which work on certain specific aspects of Free Software business - and GNU Herds is just one of such projects - an association of Free Software professionals, from employers to employees.

Inside the Association any 'module' can be developed, so as the job site module has been developed.

GNU Herds list some ways to set up business 'networks' at the FS Business Networks section. GNU Herds exposes it just as examples that FS-contributors could use to set up its own business, but GNU Herds do not try to register every FS business model.

If somebody want to contribute new sections she/he is welcome. However it is not the main priority now.

libervisco wrote:

But of course it would still benefit the project if it clearly explains itself as such on its website and also make the web site more attractive to these employers and employees, and any other target group.

I have already added a task to write a presentation to both business and hacker oriented, but I do not know yet how to realize it.

First, the site must just work. We could do it more attractive later. The project will follow needing new members, theirs contributions and ideas, for ever and ever!

libervisco wrote:

Anyway, those are just my thoughts. I am glad if they are helpful.

Your thoughts are already helping.

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