Video: Why Free Software Matters

This is my response to some very good comments on my last video entry which I felt should be addressed with another vlog entry.

I’ve attempted to explain why Free Software is politically important, as much as open source is important to creators; we must be supportive of Free Software for user reasons and not just consider our own hacker culture issues.

Video Problems: Go directly to the video on here and download the source mp4 here.

Personal: The reason for begging your indulgence with the video blogs is that I’m inspired to practice my speaking skills in order to further eliminate my stammer. From a young age I was bullied and called names and I have gotten much better since, but seeing The Kings Speech really brought it all back for me.

14 thoughts on “Video: Why Free Software Matters

  1. The King’s Speech was a really good movie. Can you imagine how much speech training Furth went through in order to act that stammer? I thought it was pretty convincing. If only it had been in 3-D!

    And with the movie in mind…shouldn’t you be cursing more in these videos :->

    As for your commentary in the video. I agree with your statements about ownership and what the FSF is trying to do in pushback against the proprietarization of digital technology.

    What I will say is that the best strategy I can think of to support the spreading of those political and social ideals is to find a parallel outside of digital technology that people can relate to. If people can’t easily relate to the social-political issues around digital tech because they don’t understand how it works, then we come at them obliquely and make a connection to the social-political issues for tech they do understand.

    With that in mind I think we still do better to spread the political ideas inherent in FSF if we find a way to connect the principles as applied to software to principles of sharing and ownership in more long standing traditional technologies.

    Home crafters, knitters, bakers, farmers… very traditional culturally foundational technologies have at their core the same social-political issues. People share recipes…. people share farming techniques..people share knitting patterns. People share the knowledge to keep the information and the technology in use. As a consumer I benefit from what is created with that shared knowledge. When I buy food from an organic farm, when I buy a possum fur knitted hat, when I enjoy a nice home cooked meal at a friends house. All of this I enjoy as a consumer because a crafter/a maker was able to share information with another crafter/another maker. And more importantly I can at any time decide to join their ranks and stop being just a user, even though the hats I make, the food I farm, the meals I could would be charmingly horrid.

    Other people will publish these things in books and will attempt to make a profit from them, but for the most part the knowledge they have collated was passed to them from other sources. And we as a society of consumers sort of get that. We know recipes are handed down and passed around and then adapted. We know organic farming techniques are shared amongst peers and improved on. We know hat knitting isn’t a jealously guarded technology or skill in our modern society. We value the information sharing inherent in the crafting sub-culture even though we don’t necessarily participate in it. As a consumer I benefit from the casual information sharing amongst the people who make these brick and mortar things.

    It’s this undercurrent of understanding that we need to tap into to gain more support from consumers even when they do not directly benefit from the FSF freedoms.


  2. I wholeheartedly agree with Jef. I have found that it isn’t so much that potential users haven’t heard of Linux or Ubuntu specifically. It is that they don’t understand the ideas behind either one. Ubuntu has reached a point where any user can take advantage of it and install it themselves, but I’ve noticed many of those potential users don’t see the reason to do so. Jef’s idea above is the most logical solution I have seen anywhere on how to resolve this issue.

  3. Damned good video. My take…I have been in business for years, worked with business professionals for years. AND consumers. And they are far more intelligent than the tech community keeps giving them credit for being. I have had to say over and over that YES businesses, professionals and consumers ABSOLUTELY care about freedom.

    Any business that has been hit with the theft of their data, data about their customers, sales, orders, patients, and more, because a program that they were using locked them out, has well come to know the benefits of FREE SOFTWARE. I can speak to a professional for about 2 minutes and have them seeing how the issue hits them.

    So when I hear people saying the opposite of what you say in your video, and saying that freedom doesn’t matter, or that it doesn’t matter to businesses (or others) I HAVE to raise my voice. And that’s why I am so adamant about it. Because frankly people who are not techs can understand this stuff when explanation is given.

    Martin, I insist you mimic an Irish accent though. Or at least fight with me about SOMETHING. I mean it! 😀

    Kind Regards,

  4. Love your work and the videos. I watched some of your early videos a few years back and had I not seen them, I would not know now that your speech was in any way impaired.

    I’m sorry that part your childhood was not pleasant. People generically suck.

  5. Hi Martin,

    This is in response mostly to your first video about inspiration, but it I just watched both videos and will put all my thoughts here.

    I was drawn to FOSS and Ubuntu by idealism and romantic notions of selflessness rather than more coherent political thought. I find myself going through ups and downs in terms of my enthusiasm and the utility it brings to me.

    When I first learned of Open Source software, it inspired me because FOSS was like a panacea brimming with all the best virtues: altruism; community; independence; rebellion; and love. That last part was particularly powerful, and often overlooked in FOSS, but one thing that impressed me most was the sheer love I saw projected by the likes of Linus, Mathias Etrich, Miguel di Icaza, Frederico Mena, and all the other selfless contributors to FOSS. What else but a tremendous love of mankind would inspire people to devote so much energy to an effort that would never yield any profit?

    When Ubuntu came along, I had been reading about Linux for years and finally took the plunge with Fiesty Fawn. Never mind the fact that it was not usable on my computer and I had to do a complete reinstall back to XP — I was hooked all the same. What impressed me so much was my then perception that Ubuntu’s founder was “giving” so much of his own finances to the cause of free software, without much apparent concern for gain. He was, in my mind, literally putting his money where his mouth was. The quality of the software didn’t matter; it was terrible in retrospect, and to be blunt it was beyond me to make it work as a functioning machine (I am not a tinkerer, or at least not a good one). But that didn’t matter, because I was in love with the idea and the ideals of it all — usability was irrelevant.

    Then came my first case of a broken heart. Even as quality in FOSS has met and in some cases exceeded what many proprietary solutions offer, my initial passion was fading. There was a gradual dawning that a significant majority of influence in FLOSS (not just Ubuntu) was wielded by for-profit companies, even within the bureaucracies of non-profit organizations such as GNOME. This diminished my initial zeal even though intellectually I knew it to be necessary for growth. The increasingly public nature of profitability as a driving factor in FOSS, the growing role of corporate development, and the corollary diminishing role of community-based development, all combined to chill my enthusiasm on an instinctive level.

    On top of that there was the growing divergence of GNOME and Ubuntu. Variety is the spice of life, but it sometimes feels more like two parents on the verge of an ugly divorce — the pillars are no longer cooperating to hold up the roof. Even as some would say a better analogy is the baby leaving the nest…

    But then my rational side kicks in again, and I recall the very earliest speeches Mark Shuttleworth gave about his vision for Ubuntu, and how he saw upstreams like Debian, and I think: “well, he was talking the same way then as Ubuntu is acting now, so nothing has really changed.” Ubuntu has always been about going its own way, and has always stated that its end goal should be to become profitable, even while delivering free-as-in-beer software to the world. It first diverged from Debian, and now is branching off more and more from Gnome. So nothing much has changed at all — including the ideals, which have always been to do good while being profitable.

    To conclude, I find myself frequently, even increasingly, vacillating between loyalty to Ubuntu and the greater FOSS community for what they stand for, and being indifferent to it because of frustration and some reservations about the motivations for some decisions. I sometimes change my mind about whether to be more supportive of GNOME in general, or Ubuntu, or Fedora, or to even just sell the farm and go use an Apple or buy an HP TouchPad, just because they work and work well. I am increasingly agnostic, and skeptical.

  6. @Brian – No matter how sceptical you become, buying an apple is tantamount to philosophical suicide. I could never do it.

  7. Hi,

    A comment on your personal note: I haven’t seem the King’s Speech yet, but I need to. I suspect it will have a similar effect on me. Watching your video blog post, I think your stammer is similar in nature to mine, though you’re a far braver man than I for getting out there and facing the challenge head-on.

    I know this is off topic, but I just wanted to comment in order to give you the appropriate kudos. 🙂

  8. Hey Mo … I watched 3 times the video last night at 3 am in the morning 😀 and it is really interesting, for sure more interesting then the unity updates on other blogs, but i was quite tired and unfortunately i couldn’t comment :).

    Now about the disagreeing … I don’t see you disagree with me or Jeff. I didn’t say that free software ain’t important for users or that i think we should ignore consumers , at least i didn’t meant that. I just wanted to say that the hackers have to work more closely with users , and make software better, and they have the knowledge to bring the free software to the users.

    If by “a political issue” you mean that you would like to change the laws of the state .. i really doubt they will give up a really profitable way of doing business for our way which isn’t really profitable (money wise) . In terms of profitability i don’t think we can compete with proprietary and this will make it difficult. But i’m pretty sure we can compete in terms of consistency and integration , not just software but hardware also.

    I would like to ask you a question MO: What exactly would you like free and open source software/hardware to be and what would your strategy be to get it there?

  9. @valentin – The problem with profitable business is that sometimes it’s called into question by sanity. Racketeering, theft, upselling, product service locks; they’ve all been considered illegal in the normal way of doing business, even though they were highly profitable businesses.

    Sometimes in politics, you just have to say ‘No, this isn’t good enough and I refuse to give any moral support for such an unscrupulous business’. For me, you previous comment lent far too much support for proprietary software by what you didn’t say than what you did.

  10. Sometimes! But your main interest should be PROSPERITY and STRENGTH.

  11. So would you vote for a politician that wouldn’t actually want your country to be PROSPEROUS and STRONG?

    And what exactly means PROGRESS?

  12. @valentin – No, because the Nazi party made their country prosperous and strong; but they also killed a few million people in gas chambers because of their anti-Semitic and nationalist arrogance. Neither is progress or humble and that’s why humility is such a core component to my interest.

  13. @doctormo,

    I didnt’t expect Godwin’s Law to be invoked so early in this conversation.


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