Immolation through rabid anti-commercialism

Immolation through rabid anti-commercialism


The ideals of free software may have freedom have its center, but for many the concept of ‘free’ relates to its price. Even with RMS’s jingoistic “free as in freedom, not free as in beer” people don’t get it. Even though RMS has repeatedly said he has no problem with commercial software, the message is not getting through. Instead, the merest hint that someone in the community might be making money from something open source related sends large factions into spasms of rabid anti-commercialism.

I know stuff. A lot of stuff. Enough to write 50 something articles, andtwo major books. I like knowledge, and I like sharing it. But parts of the web are working against me on this for the simple reason I am able to make money from my work.

Consider this: I find a forum that contains a thread discussinga specific topic or interest of mine, and I have something new to add.Can I add to the discussion? No! The forum requires registration. ShouldI have to go through a "painless" 5 minute subscription process to helpsomeone else?

Probably not.

But let's assume I do.

I have now given my email to another stranger, I have another set oflog-in cookies on my machine, another entry in the ever-growing Firefoxpassword list, and something else to remember to "check back later"about, should anyone require further assistance.

Who trusts a poster who subscribes to the board,just to post one message?

Naturally, my first post is going to be of the "here's how to solve theproblem" affair. This means I'll either be flamed for notposting an introduction, or contributing anything else. Alternatively no one willconsider it worthwhile since (like most technological methodologies)it's just an opinion. And who trusts a poster who subscribes to the board,just to post one message?

Aha - you might say - I thought you said you'd written a book. Yes, Ihave. This normally gives me leverage, as they have been peerreviewed and critical commended. In the real world, therefore, my wordsand opinions would have extra weight, as they've been tested and proven tosolve the problem at hand. In fact, they’ve been proven enough to warrant people spending real-world money on it. However, experience and posts on the specific forum are valuedmore highly than equivalent experience in the real world, itseems.

So I therefore need to demonstrate why my one-post thoughts are worth reading. The typical approach is to explain the problem fully, and back it up with references to the case studies from a book, for those wishing to read further.

I'm only suggesting we add a reference, mind you. We’re not talking about adverts here; or affiliate Amazon links, or HTML promotional material. Just a one-line title, possibly with an ISBN. I’ll let Google take the strain from here on in. They get a solid answer, and I save myself from re-writing something I’ve already spent more time when doing the book.

But there’s the problem.

If I’m on-line, subscribe to a forum, make a single post, and then reference any product from which I gain financially it istantamount to heresy. "An advert? On the web? Never!" Even if the solutionyou're imparting is correct, any link to a suitable book (if your own)whether in your signature or not, will get slated, harassed, deleted, orbanned.

So why help people? Why post?

I'm also intrigued why no one else references materials and ideas in books they've read, or know about? Or why they never quotefrom them? Is it because the same people that frequent these forums are soblinkered they don't look (or know to look) to pay-for material in order to solve their problems? If they’d read the table of contents, or bookdescription, they would know the solution was contained within it. Amazon even lets you look inside some books, which might give you the solution for free. Do they consider material if there’s no free eBook version? Do they even buybooks?

Information should be free – meaning available

It’s not long before someone quotes the mantra “information should be free.” That’s fine, but this is “free as freedom, not free as in beer.” Information should be free – meaning available. It need not be cost free. Naturally, there are frameworks that support both literary freedoms and financial remunerations; the most obvious being the Creative Commons Non-Commercial license. This would have the dual benefit of keeping the zealots quiet, wile simultaneously avoiding the unwanted attentions from most traditional dead-tree publishers.

Or are people referencing books and I'm just not seeing it? Perhapsforum and thread owners are removing such posts lest they're seen asadvertising and accused of taking bribes, or being impartial. Or perhaps forum contributors know their post was a hacked version of someone elses Chapter 6, and they wanted tokeep the source secret and garner the credit for themselves.

Who knows? It's late, I'm bitter, and just looking for a littleacknowledgement of the many years I've spent doing this...

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Comments

Crosbie Fitch's picture

The principle of free software and free culture is not that all such art must be made available, but that people should be free to do whatever they want with the art that they are given or that they purchase.

The principle is LIBERTY.

There is no requirement that you must make your work available, nor that you must price it at $0.

The only obligation of liberty is that if you convey a copy your work to someone, that you don't attempt to prevent or prosecute them for making their own copies or derivatives.

Some people get confused by the GPL - which is unfortunate. The GPL says if you do convey a work to someone, then attempting to prevent someone making derivatives also includes obscuring or obfuscating the work, i.e. delivering it in binary or otherwise unintelligible form.

The GPL does not say you must make all your work available. It only says that when you do deliver a derivative, this must include the plaintext/source code version - or at least it must be made available to the recipient of the derivative. It's only if the source code is provided separately that it's meant to be free of charge (or cost of media+postage).

As for "Information wants to be free". As you know, this is not the libertarian principle (or even the gift economist one), but an epiphenomenon of our instantaneous diffusion infrastructure that we call the Internet.

It just means that it's difficult to sell valuable information to one person at a time - and the more people the information is valuable to, the quicker it spreads, consequently saturating and eliminating the potential market. You need something like the www.digitalartauction.com to sell digital art to many people all at once.

Author information

Steven Goodwin's picture

Biography

When builders go down to the pub they talk about football. Presumably therefore, when footballers go down to the pub they talk about builders! When Steven Goodwin goes down the pub he doesn’t talk about football. Or builders. He talks about computers. Constantly...

He is also known as the angry man of open source.

Steven Goodwin a blog that no one reads that, and a beer podcast that no one listens to :)