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Freedom in Theory and Practice

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User offline. Last seen 7 years 26 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2007-02-26

It's oft written in the free software community that we should promote freedom rather than simply practical benefits. but I'm stumped.

End users have looked at me like I've three heads when I explained that free software allows them to inspect and modify the code, obviously because they have no intention of doing so, ever. Also for them the idea of not using proprietary formats sounds awfully like less freedom. So I stopped saying that.

Now I say that if code is kept free, the people who like to share can keep posting software with improvements and innovations for ordinary Joes to download, and that free software is in the innovation fast lane with some examples. People then accept it's a good thing, there's something in it for them.

Next I add that their kids or grandkids could turn out to like programming, and with free software they'll be able to do more faster and cheaper. If they're still interested I point out the legal/financial danger to their gifted coding kids in software patents, easy win.

Then I blast proprietary formats and drm for their inconvenience, costs, and lock-in to proprietary software, which they've already accepted as a bad thing. It's only if they're still interested that I'll add that these are all reasons we should value freedom, but so far I haven't found the words to put this in a compelling way, people tend to zone out at that point. Now I wonder if I've that's too theoretical.

The Crux:
On practical benefits fine, the arguments work, but I find it useless to argue for freedom as a theory, very few people are into theory. I keep coming back to practical benefits since I'm actually arguing for freedom in practice. Rather than accepting the line "promote freedom rather than simply practical benefits", is it better to say "promote the practical benefits of freedom in general, not just of free software and file formats"?


User offline. Last seen 11 years 31 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-08-23
I think "promote freedom

I think "promote freedom rather than simply practical benefits" means one should promote the things you mentioned rather than just a "cheap development methodology that happens to work rather well for unclear reasons".

Yes, free software can have a high quality and an unbeatable price, but one might just as well promote good quality proprietary freeware with the same arguments. What matters are the direct practical effects of the four freedoms.

memenode's picture
User offline. Last seen 10 weeks 2 days ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-07-12
I don't see anything wrong

I don't see anything wrong in promoting practical benefits of freedom and I would even encourage people to demonstrate the benefits of freedom through practical examples.

What I see as a problem is when the priority is put on the benefits, the result of freedom, rather than freedom itself. It shouldn't be too hard for one to understand that these benefits are most safely kept when there is freedom, because they are a result of freedom.

So focus on freedom as a base to value and keep, but demonstrate why it is important through practice.


Daniel Memenode signature

User offline. Last seen 11 years 27 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2007-02-09
If freedom had no benefits

If freedom had no benefits aside from being free, who would care about freedom?

What Richard and the Free Software Foundation has been saying the WHOLE time is that "Open Source" couldn't happen without Freedom.

Quality code is a result of a user's freedom to INSPECT the code.

Increased privacy is a result of freedom to REVIEW code.

Efficiency is a result of user's freedom to MODIFY code.

The GNU/Linux community is a result of a users freedom to SHARE code.

There's NOTHING wrong whatsoever with "selling" the benefits of Freedom, the problem comes in when people don't know that it's good BECAUSE it's Free. When they respect the freedoms, they'll defend them.

memenode's picture
User offline. Last seen 10 weeks 2 days ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-07-12
Exactly, very well said.

Exactly, very well said.


Daniel Memenode signature

User offline. Last seen 10 years 29 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2009-07-31
Companies usually just have

Companies usually just have one Exchange server.
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