12.04.20

What’s GNEW? GNEW’s Nice Efforts Welcomed! (The GNEW Manifesto)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 1:09 pm by Guest Editorial Team

“A last-ditch effort to save the Free Software movement.” Guest article by figosdev, author of: GNEW Seedlings vs. Free Software Deforestation

A new year

Summary: “Dyne.org could be useful,” figosdev says. “Denis Roio would be useful. Devuan would not. Dyne.org, it should be noted, was one of the very few organisations that publicly and explicitly defended Stallman when others (like FSFE) attacked.”

GNEW, which stands for GNEW’s Nice Efforts Welcomed, is the name for the first official grand collaborative project to usher in Free Software 2.0. Contributions of code, time and dedication are greatly needed.

A New AdditionSo far we have a decaying but instructive Free Software movement, the remnants of a Free-as-in-freedom operating system, several partially-implemented plans to reboot a copylefted OS with a forkable kernel, and hundreds of utilities, most of which need to be liberated further.

Freedom is not a destination, but a process that calls for eternal vigilance. Free Software is no longer vigilant, and no longer free. “Nice Efforts” would renew such vigilance.


Much like the words “Apple”, “Open”, “Windows” and “Free”, the meaning of the word “Nice” depends on its usage. Our meaning of “Free Software” depends on the Free Software Definition. Our meaning of “Free Software 2.0″ is “Free Software PLUS whatever Free Software was missing that allowed it to be taken over by Open Source”.

Here is what was NOT missing:

* Too many corporate sponsors systematically co-opting non-profit organisations.

* Shill-driven whataboutism and superficial nitpicking of Free Software’s imperfections, as an excuse to “upgrade” to the much more cynical and freedom-neutral Open Source.

* A centralised repository owned by a for-profit corporation.

* Various zero-tolerance policies worded to sound like community building, with the reliable, predictable and proven effect of censoring key developers and absolutely vital critics.

In order to survive, Free Software 2.0 must be built on deeds, not words. It must seek and defend freedom for all users, not just the trappings of freedom (or just the license). A free license is all that is needed to make software free — but once that freedom is attacked, we know from years of experience that it takes more than just a license to defend it. A license can (at best) define the rights you have; it will not — without further action from people — defend them.

“In order to survive, Free Software 2.0 must be built on deeds, not words.”GNU was a technical project with technical goals. GNEW is also a technical project, with a renewed focus on philosophy and freedom.

GNEW is a project that recognises the value of copyleft. While you can technically help GNEW by creating permissively licensed software (GNU relies very heavily on Perl and Python, both of which are available under a permissive license) we encourage forks under copyleft licenses, and specifically licenses that are compatible with GPL3 or later or AGPL3 or later.

The GNU Project itself is meant to rely on GPL3, but copyleft drift is one-way — there are many projects to create permissive equivalents of copylefted programs, but GNU’s philosophy has not encouraged or has even discouraged copylefted forks of permissively-licensed programs.

While permissively-licensed projects are not forbidden as contributions, they are strongly discouraged. We will still accept software in the Public Domain, and we also encourage copylefted forks of such software.


Why Developers Might Want to Join Us

Free Software has been infiltrated by corporate monopolies, who have attacked the founder of Free Software and the GNU Project. This attack was justified primarily in response to events of late 2019, but it began in earnest in 2018. This attack came from traitors to the GNU Project and well-established shills for monopolies that have plagued us and our movement for decades. But absolutely nothing is being done to resolve this, except a small amount of exposure from trusted sources and 3rd party watchdog organisations.

It’s time to recognise that the Free Software Foundation has abandoned its mission and been compromised. Its founder has not abandoned his mission, though he has also been compromised — after countless years of sustained attacks and assassination plans partially implemented and partially successful, Richard Stallman no longer speaks up about things that are necessary to speak up about to defend this movement — even matters we know he is aware of. He understandably continues to try to salvage the FSF — but the FSF is not Free Software.

Free Software 2.0 is a movement with greater focus on user rights in practice, not only in theory — if a program is under a free license and still erodes user freedom, we won’t hesitate to criticise it (as Free Software now does) because of sponsors or because it has a license that lets you (in theory) change it so that it doesn’t for example, report an excessive, unwanted amount of information about your computing to Mozilla or Intel.

Saying that a malicious program is under a free license is like saying a disease has a cure — we essentially cured polio years ago, but if you have polio and lack access to the cure personally, then the fact that “a cure exists” isn’t actually doing anything for you at all. If organisations are heaping malicious features into our software and nobody is actually fixing them, then those projects are “Free In License Only” — and those features are actually bugs which need be treated as such — or the software avoided.

“Saying that a malicious program is under a free license is like saying a disease has a cure…”Adoption and reluctant tolerance of software with malicious, unwanted features likely proves two things: one, that we will never all agree on what constitutes a malicious feature, as most people will weigh the pros and cons of being spied on and treated like cattle when they “sort of” want control of their computing. And two, that no Free Software organisation has taken a hard line against such features — it may not even be possible to take a hard line, when we cannot all agree where the line is. But this is a sorry excuse to simply let freedom continue to erode.

Our movement encourages both collaboration and disagreement, because that is the only way to be sure the user is represented. This also creates a new situation where users and developers have an inherent right to dispute how “free” a project really is. We encourage forking malicious projects, creating alternatives so that it is easier for people to move away from malicious projects (and vote with their feet) and we also support broader education so that users can more easily learn to enjoy more of the freedom that comes from having the basic skills of a coder.

This is true freedom, where we stand up for good people who have been wrongly attacked by shills, corporate PR assassins, and those too uninformed to know better.

We welcome Nice Efforts — NOT “nice people”. We have no way of knowing if you’re a nice person — sometimes the worst people in the world seem very nice and fool you for years, until they stab you in the back. Other times there are very nice people who seem vaguely unpleasant, “unreasonable” or “argumentative” — they might be the only person who really has your back when the chips are down, but there is no reliable test for a nice person — Codes of Conduct (or as some of us call them, Codes of Censorship) are to community what polygraphs are to interrogation — a flawed means of doing what they claim to do, used as tool to get something else (fear, obedience, false confession, blackmail or cheap labour) from the people they are used on.

Note we said “blackmail” — a word that has absolutely nothing to do with race. Free Software never cared what contributors look like, or what race or country or religion they do or don’t come from. To make Free Software into something bigoted, you need to find a very extreme and very dubious filter for reality itself.

“Nice” is a word that means pleasant, friendly, respectable — it also means precise.

Some of our work (really not all of it) requires great precision and care — both in what we design and what we tolerate from our software. We want software that is nice, we want philosophy that is accurate — the best way to have accuracy is with careful and thoughtful review.

We want the freedom to criticise when things have become very, very wrong — both for developers who absolutely need this freedom to fix problems in software, and for users who are directly affected by the chicanery of malicious or compromised developers.

We need to bring back “Free as in Speech”, and Richard Stallman won’t even reserve that right for himself anymore.

“We need to bring back “Free as in Speech”, and Richard Stallman won’t even reserve that right for himself anymore.”Nonetheless, Richard Stallman is a cornerstone of our movement and will always be welcome, at the very least until a day when he is found guilty of rape or murder. Stallman was unfairly treated, and enough of us will do whatever we can to carry on the bulk of his legacy — while maintaining his welcome among us. This is not hero worship, it is simple fairness and full credit (often denied) where credit is due.

If you want to be free-as-in-freedom, as well as have software that is, if you miss the “real” Free Software movement, we invite you to be part of that again.


Why Users Might Want to Join Us

For years, users have been courted by liars and scammers to participate in a fake counter-movement to Free Software. It promised to be easier, but “easier” really just meant “has different rules and lax principles”. It was marketing — it was dishonest. Today, more people know this counter-movement is corporate, astroturfed and fake.

We can’t put our trust in the same monopolies Free Software tried to liberate us from, to dictate how our software and our communities work. They have not changed.

We can’t put our trust in the same monopolies Free Software tried to liberate us from to host our code, decide who to ban or what projects can stay.

We can’t even put our trust in a single non-profit organisation, because several non-profits have already been co-opted — including organisations that were supported by Richard Stallman.

We create free licenses, they subvert those licenses and the organsations that maintain them. We create free software, they donate thousands of dollars — which practically forces small projects to incorporate under rules where independent projects now must have a board of directors or some other committee that can be manipulated to work against your freedom.

The point is that there is no specific process (only recommendations we can make) that will absolutely ensure our freedom remains secure. No license can do that — no single organisation has managed to do that. Only a true social movement can keep pushing for such a thing when the old fortresses we built in the last century have fallen.

“Obviously, we will have to deal with shills and infiltrators. They exist, there is no reliable loyalty test or oath that cannot be taken under false pretenses.”The mission is not actually hopeless. Apathy is a weapon they hope we will use on ourselves — but the only real and sincere fight for freedom is the one that we commit to ourselves.

There is nobody who can’t help — people inside the beast can be whistleblowers and explain our enemy. Developers can help us sort out new solutions to new problems. Users can self-advocate — please! And we can lend a hand (and an ear).

Obviously, we will have to deal with shills and infiltrators. They exist, there is no reliable loyalty test or oath that cannot be taken under false pretenses. We can only judge the works (the advocacy, the software) that people create. Wonderful people making malicious software (that is, malicious software we are all expected to use as though it respects our freedom or helps the user) are simply of no use to this movement.

There are no perfect advocates. You do not HAVE TO learn how to code. But we encourage you to learn, and if you hate coding (or hated what you were taught was coding) then we encourage you to help us make it less hateful — promote beginner-friendly coding and games and other fun activities related to coding. Learn Logo, if you can. Not everyone is going to become a developer, but we can still create greater literacy among users on average. That would certainly lead to more developers — and if the education is based on Free Software, that will lead to more developers who are helpful to Free Software.

We can also use artwork under Free (preferably GPL3-compatible) licenses, we can use written works, music and videos under licenses that respect the Four freedoms — it probably doesn’t matter if these works are even copylefted, as long as the licenses aren’t incompatible with our software projects. Be thoughtful, be creative, learn about the history of our movement (at this moment, it’s the most vital part) and help support us by contributing to what we do.

What will we all have if we do this? More freedom. Real community — not corporate-run internment camps for users and developers. More alternatives — some of the communities and software we create will ultimately suck! Which is why a global network of countless alternatives is the best way to rebuild our movement. More hope.

“We need our Four freedoms back. We need our movement back.”If that doesn’t sound good… Wonderful! We are not elitist, we are not all perfectionists (we will need some of those as well) — but we just don’t need people who don’t truly care about our freedom. We’ve got as many of those we could ever need.

If it sounds good, perhaps by now it’s clear that we can’t write anything or build anything that will guarantee success. We can talk about how to make it work — we’ve spent lots of time doing that. The THRIVE Guidelines (never mandatory, just another tool you can adopt or throw away, as an individual) are a place you can start. Maybe you’ll write your own — maybe you’ll just start making something.

We need our Four freedoms back. We need our movement back. Here’s your invitation — create something, say something, dedicate something to this — and let us know about it so that more people can share it and begin to rebuild.


Q&A

“Is this a non-commercial movement?”

Definitely not. Free Software (and Free Cultural works) — the sort of works we promote, allow commercial use and commercial contributions. However, this did not always entail sponsors “taking over” our projects. You gave to Free Software hopefully to encourage people to continue to do what they’re doing — not to “buy” the developers for yourself and poach the community — the latter is a dirty Open Source trick which was mentioned explicitly in the Halloween documents as a way to undermine Free Software.

-

“Is there a forum where people can discuss a GNEW Project?”

There are many. For the moment you can try using the Fediverse to discuss this, but ultimately it isn’t recommended that you rely on GitHub-based platforms or platforms with Codes of Censorship, like most Fediverse instances are or have. You can create a forum or mailing list, though be advised that most forums are themselves developed on Microsoft GitHub — shame, isn’t it?

“For the moment you can try using the Fediverse to discuss this, but ultimately it isn’t recommended that you rely on GitHub-based platforms or platforms with Codes of Censorship, like most Fediverse instances are or have.”One highly recommended community (one that actually gets the point of this movement) is Techrights, where the GNEW Manifesto was first published. Someday, maybe Techrights too will fall victim to takeover, bribery or worse. You have to start somewhere. But networks are redundant because they are created by nodes, and we recommend you start one and also participate in others. Network effects can kickstart a community in the short run, but stifle a community in the long run — don’t forget to spread out, remember the importance of alternatives.

One of the most common ways to interact with the Techrights community is via IRC. It is logged, so if you ask a question you can read the reply later if one is given.

-

“Does Techrights officially endorse the GNEW Project?”

Not yet. That would be a huge step forward for both this movement and for Techrights.

-

“Who is the head of the GNEW Project?”

Like a server farm, the GNEW Project is headless. So is the GNU Project, but officially (and sadly not to very much effect) Richard Stallman is still the head of the GNU Project as of this writing. The coup is still going on as well, and seems relentless. GNU is absolutely falling apart, just as the FSF was in 2018.

-

“Can GNU be saved?”

It’s not strictly impossible.

-

“Should I join the FSF?”

Only if you believe that throwing money at corruption is helpful.

-

“Would you welcome Alexandre Oliva to join the GNEW Project?”

Alexandre Oliva should have been the second FSF president. He seems sincere, and may well be — he is well-respected, well-known, and has shown great dedication to the movement. He is probably the closest thing in the world to Stallman himself, he has shown more integrity than other people at the FSF, and would likely be a valuable asset to a new Free Software movement. He is not quite the strong leader that Stallman was — but at least he caused more Stallman-like trouble (where trouble is due) than anybody else at what’s left of the FSF. At this point, Stallman himself is also not the strong leader that Stallman was. He is still fighting and still valuable to the movement. The same is most likely true of Alexandre Oliva. This small nudge is unlikely to have any effect, of course.

-

“Is the GNEW Project hierarchical?”

“Headless does not mean non-hierarchical, though decentralised would imply that there is no single leader.”The reality is that some people will contribute more than others, and some contributors will get more support than others. Headless does not mean non-hierarchical, it means we need more people to step up as leaders — our older leaders were forces of nature, and to have a similar effect we will need more than one leader. But we also want to leave leadership open to those who support our cause, and who are supported by our cause. No particular structure seems to be impervious to overthrow from outside interests, so we can only rely on education, experience and vigilance. Headless does not mean non-hierarchical, though decentralised would imply that there is no single leader. A node at least, can have one or more local leaders — or the deliberate absence of one. It’s not something we dictate either way — nor would you want us to.

-

“Can the FSF be saved?”

There is absolutely no chance of this happening. Cold-fusion-powered flying pigs on a mission of peace from Proxima Centauri come first; they will even forgive us for all the bacon.

-

“What GitHub alternative should I use?”

You should develop and host your software on a Free Software platform run by an individual, by Free Software peer-to-peer technology that is not controlled by a for-profit corporation, or on a Free Software platform run by a non-profit corporation. Non-profits can be compromised, but for-profit software hosting is compromised by default.

People make lists of alternatives all the time, the point is to choose with care — and also to watch the effects of the choice.

-

“Make me!”

Nope! The only leverage we have against GitHub or non-free software (or malicious quasi-free software) is to avoid feeding it as much as we possibly can. If we tried to make a one-size-fits-all plan for everybody, it would ask the impossible for some and ask too little for others — we recommend you do it yourself. Ask us if you want advice.

-

“I don’t like the name GNEW — can I support your cause without the name?”

Can you support what we do without naming what we do? Probably to some degree. We don’t have the GNU trademark, so we can’t offer you that.

The GNEW name is probably as good as any other name, though. Only the acronym is silly, if you supported “GNU” already. Without people talking about the GNEW Project and the GNEW Manifesto however, there won’t likely be a GNEW Project. And, it is extremely and deliberately close to the original name — given the formal legal action taken by SFLC against SFC, we probably don’t want get any closer to something like “NEW GNU” or “GNU II”. Also: “In order to survive, Free Software 2.0 must be built on deeds, not words.” Philosophy is still as necessary as before, of course; but without action, it simply won’t count.

-

“Can this movement support X, Y, Z causes?”

The THRIVE Guidelines (particularly 7 through 9) cover this question.

-

“Is this a coup?”

Given the state of everything else? Yes, this is absolutely a coup. But then it is a coup that welcomes the old guard to have more than they really do right now — when the last coup stole for corporations what already belonged to the world. This coup will never take place without popular support — it is for both users and developers, and still bows to those who truly created the original movement.

But they cannot ask us not to fight, while they are losing the battle themselves. So yes, this is a public coup, against those who stole a movement from its roots.


It’s not possible or practical to fully define a decentralised movement from step 1, except with a broad overview and a humble beginning.

“It’s time for Free Software to start rebuilding now, or perish as a movement.”Our movement is humbled, though its resolve must be awakened.

If this is important to you, you can join us today — help us reboot the Free Software movement, and help guard our freedoms for tomorrow.

Although anybody can join us, it will help us gain traction and recognition if we can gain one or two high-profile developers and organisations.

Techrights would be ideal, as they already fight for your freedom and more or less understand what this is about. A name as well-known and widely respected as Alexandre Oliva would also help, though this is just an example — but please, nobody who isn’t willing to denounce Open Source for what it really is. One thing we certainly don’t need is Open Source 2.0. It’s done more than enough destruction for a lifetime. It would be better to have nobody at all, than to gain many who would treat your freedom like a commodity.

“If you don’t want Free Software to die, now is the time to pick it up and be certain the legacy continues…”This is a last-ditch effort — we’ve talked about how and why for years now. It’s time for Free Software to start rebuilding now, or perish as a movement.

If you don’t want Free Software to die, now is the time to pick it up and be certain the legacy continues — not some facsimile we’ve had shoved in our faces since half a decade ago.

The credit to those who came before must go to those who came before — the credit to those who fight today will go to those who fight today. If there is no fight now, there will be little more to show for it later. Join GNEW, take credit for your part in it, and help us save Free Software. It may never happen without you.

Long live rms, and Happy Hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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