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Discussion on: Working in Public: how can we solve the problems of open source?

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sramkrishna profile image
Sriram Ramkrishna

Being part of a free software project for 20+ years and close to that enthusiast crowd who use Linux on their desktop - the challenges are interesting and take on another dimension when working at the consumer level.

Great post - thanks for sharing.

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emma profile image
Emma Goto 🍙 Author

Thank you! To be honest I wasn't really aware of that distinction between free software vs open source - something I need to read up on.

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sramkrishna profile image
Sriram Ramkrishna

The difference is open source is a software development model that has a social contract with the community to socialize the cost of development by being more open through an open source license.

Free Software is a social movement that believes that the source code should be available to all - based on the 4 freedoms:

I used to ask this as an interview question :D

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brandelune profile image
Jean-Christophe Helary

Sriram, I'm pretty sure the OSI does not defines open source the way you do.

opensource.org/osd

Open source originates in free software and can't be "more open" than free software (I know that's not what mean, though).

There is no social contract with any community since open source exists only as a way to have businesses use free software without focusing on the freedom.

The OSD is based on the "Debian Free Software Guidelines" which are part of the Debian Social Contract. But you don't find any reference to a social contract in the OSD or anywhere else on the OSI pages.

debian.org/social_contract#guidelines

Also the free software movement does not "believe" that the source code should be available to all. It makes the source code available to all because that is the precondition for bringing freedom to software users. That's not a belief, that a practice, and the FSF actually commits itself to fighting for user freedom, which is a social contract that the OSI will never endorse.

The same Microsoft that used to want to eradicate free software (and open source, at the time), now owns Github, one of the biggest free software development hub in the world.

When the company bought Github the move sent a chill through the whole FOSS world. It's like the fox buys the henhouse and promises to play nice with the chicken. As Emma correctly assesses, development processes are tending to standardize on what Github does, and honestly I find this utterly scary.

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sramkrishna profile image
Sriram Ramkrishna

When I am using social contract - I'm not referring to any guidelines or anything - just the use of an OSI approved license is the social contract that's why I added the license. By using the license, you're saying I'm going to open up my code so that you all can participate. I'm not using a formality as defined by Debian Social contract.

But your comment does not invalidate the difference between Free Software and Open Source - Free Software is a social and political movement - Open Source is not - it is a method of collaborative engineering that involves the programming and non-programming public.

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brandelune profile image
Jean-Christophe Helary

Free software too involves the programming and non-programming public. And that's the whole point. Users are defined as actors in the free software movement, not in the open source development model. As for user licenses they are not "social contracts," they are, well, user licenses, which is an individual contract between a licensor and a licensee.

All that I am saying seems like, and probably is, pointless bickering. I'm honestly happy that people who endorse and participate in "open source" (and name what they do that way, instead of "free software") feel like they participate in something that is bigger than them and is used to better society.

Just back to the original point developed by Emma, I think that a lot of issues encountered by the "open source" movement stem from the fact that it is something that started without a clear value set.

It is good to see that when you reach a critical mass, you need to add values, but "being nice" and "being inclusive" are not "values," they are "protocols." The sooner open source people realize that, the better.

Did you know that emacs development is always concerned about how new code impacts performance on low spec machines ? Fighting for user freedom means that you must ensure that your software runs on very low spec machines, and by doing that you ensure that the machine does not waste too much energy and that is also good for the environment, which is an extension of user freedom.

Having a nice and inclusive open source development process does not automatically lead to produce such outcomes, and, of course, all free software does not go that far, for practical reasons (human resources first, access to test platforms second, etc.) but I hope you understand what I mean.

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sramkrishna profile image
Sriram Ramkrishna

I'm familiar since I am part of a Free Software project - GNOME and have been for 20+ years. So being able to use a machine from use older machines and still make them useful is a great thing and actually reduces our carbon footprint - feel free to check out what my employer is doing in this regard (see the blog series I'm writing)