Freedom is an enabler, not a feature

Freedom is an enabler, not a feature


In my opinion, choosing between proprietary and free licensing is actually choosing between short term and long term goals. If one needs something that works in a business meeting in an hour and if her/his expertise with free licensed products is slim then one is likely to choose what s/he knows "it works" and that includes proprietary software.

For someone to truly switch to "free as in freedom" software they need to set long term goals for it. Let me expand this idea a little bit.

Again, from my slim experience and professional life, I can tell that freedom is not a feature in itself, it rather a meta-feature or an abstract/virtual feature. Freedom is the guarantee that, in the future, you or someone else will be able to improve on the current system, to add new features. In this sense freedom is actually a promise to a better software. Freedom is thus bound to long term goals.

But most people think first about short term goals and some never get to think long term. It applies to most human enterprises, not just using software. This kind of social disease is actually quite common in our society and is especially seen in most shops. Most company managers are happy if they can just get along another year. Look at the IPv4 vs IPv6 issue, it's the same thing! We knew we are running out of IPv4 addresses, we made a solution (IPv6), but we are still using IPv4 and we are bumping into the wall head on, full speed ahead.

Time will solve this problem for free software, as I hope most free software projects will develop features that simply make it compelling and self evident that free software X is better than it's proprietary counterpart Y. But should we not research for other ways to promote freedom?

Freedom is simply missing from the feature matrix used to buy software. Currently they can only see on that chart features that were added because of the freedom they have. So why can't we just advocate to put freedom in that comparison chart? Well, freedom is such a new concept that people don't know what to do with it. It's unknown, so it gets discarded.

We need people to understand their freedom and that means to help them share with peers their own works. We need to accept their contribution in a way that makes sense to them too. Some will submit bugs, some will write documentation, some will submit themes, but what about the others? What about the office assistants that have a large pool of document templates that they maintain on their own, individually? That is a huge amount of work that could be done collaboratively. Oh, yes there is an office template library project, but how many office assistants have you seen using it? How many office assistants contribute to that project? Only when we can answer this question with a decent number, then we will be able to promote freedom in itself. Until then, we are hard to get geeks, that “do not know what we are talking about” and “we are fools to share our work for free”.

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Licensed under CC-BY-SA, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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Comments

Ryan Cartwright's picture

This is a good post with some well made points. In my experience people are inherently lazy and will take the path of least resistance (or more correctly perceived least resistance) to what they want to achieve.

Those with less technical acumen will neatly hide behind "not knowing what they are doing" rather than make a considered decision. Those with it will often plumb for what they are familiar with -- regardless of whether it is the best fit to the problem. The thing is that if you decide upon a proprietary solution, it's often harder to reverse that later.

As you say in the end time will bring freedom more into the fore -- particularly if those with monopolies continue to abuse them (as is the nature of monopolists). That it will take time is fine by me, it's taken some years to get this far but it's been worth it and we're in no hurry really.

cheers
Ryan

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bogdanbiv's picture