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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

Davi wrote: You are right.

Davi wrote:

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

Oh, understandable. Unless anyone else wants to, I could send some fixes, but I first have to make sure I correctly understand all that the FAQ is saying so that I don't misrepresent something.

Davi wrote:

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.

Ah I see now.

Well, that's where I see the difference between FSBI (Free Software Business Initiative) idea and your project. My idea was an organization which would actively promote Free Software to all businesses including those who wouldn't otherwise be involved with Free Software. It is basically an equivalent of Open Source. The difference between FSBI and Open Source Initiative is simply in that FSBI would incorporate the issue of social justice and freedom into the "pitch" to the business world as something that is desirable for those businesses to care about.

GNU Herds on the other hand apparently aims to just provide a resource to those who already are involved or would like to be involved. So it basically does only the subset of what would be necessary under FSBI. It leads people to specific models and Free Software companies after the fact - after they've already been introduced and convinced to take part in it.

So a hypothetical (since it doesn't really exist yet) FSBI would definitely collaborate with GNU Herds, but GNU Herds association is still not that.

Could it become that? Perhaps.. One way I see this happening could be to develop a module - a project - under a separate domain name, which would be introducing businesses to Free Software and its social and ethical aspects the way I described above and then referring them to other modules of your association, related to specific business models (case studies and model blueprints etc.). The job site is actually not such a priority in that picture though, because the primary goal would be to involve existing and new businesses (entrepreneurs) rather than to employ individual programmers and other experts. That's even further down the road.

I'm just trying to point out the differences between what I was thinking about when I described the Free Software Business Initiative and what I see GNU Herds site at this point in time. I don't think they're the same.

That said, improvements which you've now already initiated are all going to benefit your project nevertheless. Better and friendlier presentation and clearer understandability is a must for every project of that kind.

Cheers

Danijel.

FSF vs FSBI

 
libervisco wrote:

I could send some fixes

Great.

libervisco wrote:

Well, that's where I see the difference between FSBI (Free Software Business Initiative) idea and your project. My idea was an organization which would actively promote Free Software to all businesses including those who wouldn't otherwise be involved with Free Software. It is basically an equivalent of Open Source. The difference between FSBI and Open Source Initiative is simply in that FSBI would incorporate the issue of social justice and freedom into the "pitch" to the business world as something that is desirable for those businesses to care about.

The FSF marketing campaings have improved a lot lastly. Obviously any additional help on such tasks will be good. However, it would be very hard to do it better than the FSF is realizing it. Note that the FSF has not only clever people but economic resources. If somebody would like to contribute proposing a new campaign the best to do should be contact RMS.

Note: I am working a lot on GNU Herds, but it is is not my project. It is the members' project.

libervisco wrote:

So, what are we as a Free Software movement (including the FSF) going to do about it?

To do something you will have to spend a lot of time. If something is done the FSF should know about it. I advice you to contact RMS via email and expose your proposal. Maybe the FSF will just do it.

libervisco wrote:

FSBI would definitely collaborate with GNU Herds, but GNU Herds association is still not that.

Could it become that? Perhaps.. One way I see this happening could be to develop a module - a project - under a separate domain name, which would be introducing businesses to Free Software and its social and ethical aspects the way I described above and then referring them to other modules of your association, related to specific business models (case studies and model blueprints etc.).

If that must be done, the best is do it under the umbrella of the FSF. GNU Herds has already planned to try to move the project to the FSF hosts. We have already contacted with RMS.

libervisco wrote:

I'm just trying to point out the differences between what I was thinking about when I described the Free Software Business Initiative and what I see GNU Herds site at this point in time. I don't think they're the same.

Yes, you are right. GNU Herds just tries to encourage the professional development of FS contributors via FS job offers and FS business models.

libervisco wrote:

Better and friendlier presentation and clearer understandability is a must for every project of that kind.

Sure. I will follow contributing.

I think that your suggestion

I think that your suggestion to contact FSF about this is a good idea. There is actually a pending Libre Planet project which will help coordinate various campaigns and there is also a special email address for campaigns: campaigns[at]fsf.org

FSBI might be a bit more than a campaign though so I'm not sure where would it end up, but at least contacting FSF about it is a very good start.

I'm just not sure if it is normally required for those who propose a project to also lead it, because I'm not sure I'd be a good person for that right now.

Cheers

Danijel

Late to the party, as usual

Hey, Danijel --

Excellent essay, although I'm not completely convinced that free software is necessarily a "capitalist" movement and/or will prop up the capitalist system (a discussion for another time and another forum).

I read somewhere -- did you write it? -- that OSI is having a hard time "defining" open source and is trying to implement a stronger definition, as a lot of people are using the term to incorrectly and, worse (as you mention), a lot of so-called "open source."

Your essay has caused me, and the editorial board of my publication (Open Source Reporter), to rethink our magazine's name, probably to incorporate "Free Software" into the title. So when we publish in January, it might very well be "Open Source and Free Software Reporter" or something that de-emphasizes open source.

Great work, as usual, Danijel. Keep it up.

Larry Cafiero
Editor/Publisher
Open Source Reporter
http://www.opensourcereporter.net

Larry Cafiero

Larry Cafiero wrote:

Excellent essay, although I'm not completely convinced that free software is necessarily a "capitalist" movement and/or will prop up the capitalist system

Thanks. I suppose it depends on ones view on what capitalism is. Perhaps I should have more specifically emphasized "Free Market" rather than capitalism in whole, but the purpose of associating Free Software with either is to simply erase all suspicion in minds of business people that Free Software is about something profoundly anti-business and against making money, that it may in fact be the opposite - it restores opportunities necessary for new business to flourish and competition to thrive.

Larry Cafiero wrote:

I read somewhere -- did you write it? -- that OSI is having a hard time "defining" open source and is trying to implement a stronger definition

Maybe you are referring to this: "After 10 years: What is Open Source?".

Larry Cafiero wrote:

Your essay has caused me, and the editorial board of my publication (Open Source Reporter), to rethink our magazine's name, probably to incorporate "Free Software" into the title. So when we publish in January, it might very well be "Open Source and Free Software Reporter" or something that de-emphasizes open source.

I'm very glad to hear that. From my point of view that would be a great step in the right direction. Maybe some day you end up deciding to go for "Free Software Reporter" only. Smiling

Thank you.

Danijel

leaders

 
libervisco wrote:

I'm just not sure if it is normally required for those who propose a project to also lead it, because I'm not sure I'd be a good person for that right now.

A leader have to be enthusiastic, tenacious and have experience and tact. Apart from that, it is just working a lot and discussing proposals. This campaign would need to spend a lot of time for several years.

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