08.09.20

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UserLibre: What I Want You to Get From This Book

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 9:05 pm by Guest Editorial Team

2020 figosdev

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Chapter 19: What I Want You to Get From This Book

Summary: “Corporate-backed lies run the world, and the FSF used to get in the way.”

I could add another five chapters, trying to make this book more comprehensive — though I think even fewer people would read it if I did that.

“Today, I am watching the FSF (along with the GNU Project) become Open-Source-like; co-opted, corrupted and less free.”The Free Software Foundation (FSF) until recently had two half-presidents, Alex Oliva and founder Richard M. Stallman (rms). Technically, the other half-president was John Sullivan — WHATEVER…

The New FSF is illegitimate and based on lies and corruption. Free software still matters. Open Source is corporate propaganda. Any claims worth making these days will sound outrageous — that’s why I’ve started you on a path with this book, a bit like the one I started on when I started to question the pretty lies of Open Source and discover the true meaning of Free software.

“Now, the FSF can finally find out just how much it can achieve when it sacrifices the more meaningful parts of its own mission for soundbites and bigger sponsorship.”I was an Open Source advocate originally, and the more I learned about it, the more disgusted I grew. Today, I am watching the FSF (along with the GNU Project) become Open-Source-like; co-opted, corrupted and less free.

People are paying VERY good money to have people lie to you. Corporate-backed lies run the world, and the FSF used to get in the way. Now, the FSF can finally find out just how much it can achieve when it sacrifices the more meaningful parts of its own mission for soundbites and bigger sponsorship. That’s a cynical form of success, but a wildly popular one. It’s the essence of the Open Source scam too.

“Researching history to look for the truth, I discovered just how much we were lied to by likes of Torvalds and O’Reilly.”Learning about Free software helped me realise the importance of history and timelines. Researching history to look for the truth, I discovered just how much we were lied to by likes of Torvalds and O’Reilly. What these people tell you is bunk, it is just marketing. For more about marketing, I refer you to the works of comedian Bill Hicks — he was far more outspoken than rms, and like rms he got paid for traveling around and telling people the truth about the world around us.

You cant trust the FSF these days — not in my opinion. I wrote extensively about the tactics used to smear, co-opt, infiltrate and thwart Free software and its organisations, and I also wrote an appeal to the Free software community called Church of Emacs 2.0. It was just okay.

When Techrights and I saw the writings on the wall, I revamped my writing into the “Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic” series — some of the chapters (I think there were 9 or 10 in that one) are more or less included in this book.

“Free Software was always about the freedom of users — which developers were not to deny.”There is no saving the FSF Titanic now. When I wrote it, the idea of rms being ousted was a prediction, not a fact. I didn’t give up the moment he was ousted, but I’ve learned a LOT since then. For one, I didn’t know how thoroughly compromised the GNU Project (and many of its authors) are.

SOME of this stuff can and should be salvaged. I could have called it “Salvaging the wreck of the FSF Titanic” but Alessandro (if indirectly) gave me a better idea for a title. Besides, any salvage that happens is going to result in something drastically different than the FSF today or the FSF 3 years ago.

Free Software was always about the freedom of users — which developers were not to deny. To deny the user freedom is unethical, according to rms and according to Free software. Today, we have free and “open” developers skirting tradition and ethics, and finding loopholes to please their corporate masters. We have well-established Free software figures emulating and quoting the rhetoric and tactics of Open Source. These are sellouts.

“We have well-established Free software figures emulating and quoting the rhetoric and tactics of Open Source. These are sellouts.”When you sell out users, this isn’t just some crime against image, or falling short of a perfect ideal. You’re deliberately working against them — you’re working to thwart user-controlled computing. That’s what I refer to when say these are sellouts. They’re doing sleazy things because they think nobody who really matters is smart enough to figure it out.

Techrights continues to draw people in who know better, and I’ve written somewhere close to 100 articles for them. I went through them to find the best material to cover. The first 7 chapters are new, many of the articles I reused have small tweaks or new material; at least one or two are largely rewritten.

I want you, as a Free software advocate — also as a user, potential coder or potential advocate, to know what your options are.

“I want you, as a Free software advocate — also as a user, potential coder or potential advocate, to know what your options are.”You don’t have to kowtow to an organisation that (like the “listener-supported” but actually heavily corporate-funded NPR) pretends to care about its members while continuing to hand the reins over to the “real” sponsors, the big-ticket donors. THANK-GNUs are empty, all you’re doing by donating to the FSF is voting to be co-opted further. The FSF is deaf and working hard to silence everyone that wants to talk about what freedom really means — including its own founder. If they won’t fight for rms, you can be sure they won’t fight for you either.

I want you to know that just a few people can get together and make their own Free Software club. Start a “lab” online or in your community, where you can research Free software (the history, or some other aspect of it — how to promote it more effectively, or make it more fun, or what it lacks, or what YOU need) and then make your work on the subject freely-licensed. Please don’t use the GNU Free Documentation License, it’s crap — use CC-BY or CC-BY-SA, or use the license Wikipedia uses. Wikipedia once used the FDL, but they switched. You won’t get that luxury, so just learn the lesson from them instead of the hard way.

“Although people will debate with you if you get Free software wrong, you’ll have the chance to speak for yourselves in a way that the FSF is structured to stand in the way of.”We can create a network of these small Free software groups, and they can work with the other groups they want to work with — in mutual and voluntary collaboration. You can create and share Free software works and free cultural works — both will give you all Four Freedoms (ND-clause and NC-clause licenses will not). Although people will debate with you if you get Free software wrong, you’ll have the chance to speak for yourselves in a way that the FSF is structured to stand in the way of.

Of course with freedom comes danger — like the danger of being co-opted further. When OSI made their organisation more democratic, all it did was swing the doors wide open for a corporate takeover. If you want to speak for yourself, you’ll have to be wary of that happening to Free software too. But then again, it already has — it was corporations and the corporate tech press responsible for the coup at the FSF. That coup isn’t over and like NPR, the FSF isn’t coming back. No matter how much you donate, they’re never going to put users over corporate sponsors again. They’re the “F$F” now. Just like good old Micro$oft.

“When OSI made their organisation more democratic, all it did was swing the doors wide open for a corporate takeover.”FSFE is even worse. SFC is terrible. FSF-LA… I don’t know, but they probably depend too much on FSFE and FSF. Out of those options, I think FSF-LA is the least corrupt. At the moment I like FACIL though I don’t think a single organisation is the answer — we want a grassroots movement, the organisations should simply help that (not the other way around, which leads to corporate corruption and overthrow like happened to the FSF).

I don’t like what’s happening to the Internet Archive either. They’re acting less and less like librarians over there. That’s the opposite of what they should be doing. What the hell is going on, Mr. Kahle? Sir Tim has already sold out the Web to DRM (after needlessly stabbing the poor Gopher protocol to death) and I love the efforts to create a saner web-like standard (somewhere between Gopher and WWW) but I think it’s already on Microsoft GitHub, so I’m not likely to assume the best for that going forward.

“Things are bad, and not getting better.”We need to get farther from Open Source co-opting, not closer to it. Every time we “win” by their standards, users lose something in return. Marketing tells them the opposite, and GNU maintainers parrot the marketers.

I focus on the negative because the positive doesn’t need fixing; but I also talk about ways to improve the positive. I know there are some good people (no quote marks on that) in the movement, though I don’t trust the direction the movement is headed in. Things are bad, and not getting better.

But they can. And when they do, it will be because enough individuals decided to not settle for the crap they’re being offered, and they decide that either they can do better, or their best will do — better than giving up everything to Microsoft GitHub and Mozilla Telemetry spying.

“Never wanting to be sold out (also, not selling out users) isn’t about “purity” or piety, its about integrity.”Fewer false compromises please, and more getting back to the quest for freedom.

People make this stuff out to be purity arguments. “How many ways can your freedom be compromised?” isn’t putting aside a purity argument for purity, its making a petty argument for compromise at your expense. Never wanting to be sold out (also, not selling out users) isn’t about “purity” or piety, its about integrity.

When people get money to conflate basic integrity with “purity” (and for Torvalds he actually compares it to “hate”) then something is deeply wrong. And Torvalds is a shill. He always was, though he did help somewhat. You really don’t need Sherlock Holmes to trace the strings attached to the help that Linus gave us. He will be replaced with someone worse than he is, so I can’t say that will be progress.

You can’t trust monopolies to not put bad things in the code that runs on your computer. This isn’t just because you can’t study the code; you can study Mozilla’s code, and it won’t (anytime soon) change the fact that Mozilla is spying on its users — and like the FSF, they don’t care what you think.

“Lots of people are aware of this stuff, lots of people are becoming aware, lots of people pretend nothing is wrong too — that really isn’t helping.”You can’t trust the corporate shill press not to put lies in what they say to you either — we’ve been complaining about how their lies helped destroy the FSF. They’ve been trying to do harm to Free software for decades. We have plenty of examples — if you don’t care, you don’t care.

Lots of people are aware of this stuff, lots of people are becoming aware, lots of people pretend nothing is wrong too — that really isn’t helping.

You get to choose pretty lies or the ugly truth about this. The truth is more lovely in the long run, the pretty lies get real ugly if you keep them around. Do you want an ugly ducking and a beautiful swan, or a smiling face that turns against you years later? Maybe there are other choices, but these seem to be the main options we get again and again. Don’t be fooled by Open Sources smiling face — it considers itself your master, and cloaks its intentions with a familiar license.

“Don’t be fooled by Open Sources smiling face — it considers itself your master, and cloaks its intentions with a familiar license.”The best way for there to be a next chapter is for YOU to write it. YOU can help make education work for Free software. Your club can teach coding and remixing other freely-licensed works. You can learn to create more convenient programming languages and tools the easy way. You can create a world where more advocates can code and teach (and have fun).

We don’t just make “useful software” — we also create silly and pointless toys, and that also helps people learn (and appreciate) more about computers (and freedom). Don’t underestimate the relationship between freedom and coding; Microsoft will always work to separate the two, but it was using DOS and QBasic that made me want to share my own code originally. Today it is GNU/Linux and PyPy, but you will probably be better off with a fully-free version of BSD.

“You may not be able to save the FSF, but you can help figure out how to build something more resilient.”If you aren’t content with your creation, share it and invite people to improve it. Most projects will NOT get a lot of collaborators. If you make something it may take a long time to find someone who wants to collaborate. Keep trying, and make other things too. A lot of free projects have one or two authors. But adding to the Free software / free culture in the world is a good thing and sets a good example. Helping people discover existing Free software / free cultural works helps as well.

These are things you can do. You may not be able to save the FSF, but you can help figure out how to build something more resilient. You can focus primarily on your small group, and other groups can help groups find each other. This is a way to rebuild the movement. If there’s something you think you can improve — any aspect of Free software, make your solution VOLUNTARY (don’t try to force people to have a single answer to a problem, offer them your option and advocate) and put it under a free license and share it with others.

“…under monolithic organisations, too much is being dictated by people with money.”This can be a little more like science. But abandoning ideas that compromise freedom is not just okay, it’s a good idea. And how do we decide which ideas compromise freedom? The same way we do now. By looking for people who can explain what ideas are bad — and waiting for people to figure out if that’s true. But under monolithic organisations, too much is being dictated by people with money. That’s not Free software. It’s other people giving up on freedom, on your behalf.

Long live rms, and Happy Hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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