Subject: Re: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia From: Erik Naggum <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Sun, 04 Nov 2001 23:55:27 GMT Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp Message-ID: <email@example.com> * Kaz Kylheku | As far as ``free'' goes, the GNU advocates go through great pains to | tell everyone what they mean when they use the word, to the point | of being irritating to some. But this alone should tell you that they are not being entirely honest. Their use of "free" is deliberately misleading, _because_ they throw the whole dictionary at you if you think it means what it normally means of things: A free thing is obtainable at no cost and without restricting conditions on how it can be acted upon, while a free person is without restrictions on his movements and actions. "Free" as used by the FSF is _neither_, it is instead a very specific set of restrictions, so harsh they can threaten to take what you have created if you fail to keep some part of a copyright license -- a threat that is _probably_ not honorable by any court in the world. This use of "free" is Orwellian newspeak. | If you read any document and it uses a word like ``free'' that has many | meanings, and you substitute your own interpretation rather than look up | the intended meaning in the document's glossary, then it's not the case | that the document is dishonest and misleading, but rather than you are an | idiot who doesn't know how to read a document correctly. The funny thing with "free" is that some people consider their needs so important that other people's freedom or lack thereof become irrelevant. No "glossary" is going to remove that aspect of _misuse_ of "free", and if a glossary attempts to do so, there is ample reason to suspect that the authors of said document are trying to trick someone. That is, the usual way to deal with glossaries is to ensure that _technical_ terms are properly narrowly defined and if they are technical terms, the author is free to invent new terms and define their meaning, but it is suspicious when a non-technical term is completell redefined compared to standard meanings, like when a country decides to put "democratic" in its name to ensure the world that the people _really_ wanted that kind of government. I used to believe it was a good idea to call it "Free Software" because the freedom of the users was so important. That was as long as I was a user. When I had given away a couple thousand hours of work on various "Free Software" projects (time flies when you're having fun and no reason to prioritize), I came to conclude that all this freedom did not apply to creators of significant portions of anything, only to consumers who did a _little_ tinkering, and I lost interest fast. Not only because of the lack of actual freedom to do what I wanted with what I had created, but because te whole idea of "Free Software" emanated from a desire not to lock people into a designer's decisions. Applications that allow users to tinker should not provide source code to everything, but should be written in a language that allows the user to patch things in a way that does not require complete recompilation, nor use a complete replacement of the patched functions. It is important that the "user language" is a complete programming language. In short, I concluded that writing "Free Software" in C and similar languages in order to give programmers more freedom was _nuts_ -- the right solution is to use Lisp, and preferably something based on the best industry practice, Common Lisp, and give users the ability to load patches and do useful things in the programming framework that the application provides. This is why I think it makes sense to let Common Lisp applications be deployed very differently from the usual compiled binary, but it has to be followed up, and designers of such applications need to think in the proper user programming terms. Some of the possibly best examples of this kind of application is the spreadsheet and the database system. So if "cat" is a useful program to enhance, it should simply be regarded as a function in a larger system and that system should support user modifications on a much higher level than replacing the whole program. Not only will a new version of the core program force the user to keep modifying the program's source over and over for no good reason, mixing several people's changes will be so tough that there is good reason not to make "deviant" versions at all, and _then_ what is the point of this whole exercise? Presumably, all such modifications would have to be reported back to the maintainer, but it would be impossible to accept all kinds of modifications. This again means that only those patches that some maintainer accepts will be made to the program. What kind of _freedom_ is this? After a long process of not being to happy about the sitution, I had to conclude that "Free Software" was all wrong and that getting lots of people to contribute to something like this and _profit_ from it in the _long_ run would require a whole different model. Which one I could not tell and have not figured out, yet, but I am quite certain it cannot be the very _coercive_ model used by the "Free Software" movement. I am far from thrilled with the other "Open Source" movements, either, but that is probably because I have spent some time studying copyright, software, and internet law. The whole idea of sharing stuff for free is unsustainable and can only work for a short time, because something else is keeping it afloat. I have repeatedly argued and maintain that the reason people are willing to give away their work to their community is that they are like soldiers fighting the evil empire, Microsoft. Once that objective has been achieved or it appears to be, the will to give away (let us call it a (small) sacrifice) evaporates and we will have so many "veterans" who will feel that the community they gave up (part of) their youth for, or at least a shot at selling their skills for real money, is not rewarding or even remembering them -- just like in the rest of real life, far from everybody who made a difference will be remembered and those who tried but did not make a difference will be forgotten and will have received nothing lasting in return for it. As for the case where some company charges real money only to create and give something away, it will most probably be ruled anti-competitive if this all somehow gets out of hand and anyone wants to challenge those who have given things away in court because they have actively blocked any and all competitors that could afford to give their stuff away. This is particularly bad when making improvements would require giving away those improvements to what should have been a bone-fide competitor. Since a major momentum for the "free software" movement is precisely to copy the inventiveness of companies who had to pay for their developers and there is solid evidence to show that even while not copying a non-free competitor, other competition has been a major source of improvements. When the competition is thus ruled out of the picture by the _success_ of the "free software" plan, what looked like paranoid rantings and ravings from Steve Ballmer some time ago, may actually turn out to be a likely future, and it _will_ be anti- competitive and anti-inventive. On the one hand, somebody will always want something for free, and someone will always want to make it for free as long as there is an "enemy" to fight, but what happens when somebody wants something and the _only_ source of that new feature would be the "free" version? How many people can you fool into giving their work away for how long when they could have made money selling it? Watching people find ways to make money on "free software" will be interesting, as it will be interesting to watch people who compete with the "free software" offerings try to continue to make money. I personally fear that there will be free product categories and non-free product categories, and that a product category that gets taken overy the "free software" people will wither and die, being monopolized by a "free software" product. I do not see this as a good thing. /// -- Norway is now run by a priest from the fundamentalist Christian People's Party, the fifth largest party representing one eighth of the electorate. -- Carrying a Swiss Army pocket knife in Oslo, Norway, is a criminal offense.