Subject: Re: help! absolute beginner
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1998/12/15
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Joachim Achtzehnter <>
| This argument against proprietary software is not new, don't know why you
| think "_something_ has changed"?

  well, it certainly appears that you aren't paying much attention to
  what's going on, only reiterating old rhetoric.  all this is wasted on
  me, Joachim.  I've been working from _inside_ the FSF for many years,
  supporting GNU Emacs development with many thousands of hours.  now, what
  would make somebody (you) believe that somebody else (I) would do that
  without understanding and appreciation of the stated goals?  my guess is
  that _you_ don't actually understand the implications of "free software".

| Perhaps, one aspect has changed: It is now possible to build a practical
| general-purpose system without using any proprietary software.  This
| wasn't feasable until recently.

  precisely, and hence a dangerous arrogance results that non-free software
  is no longer "necessary", and people no longer have any "excuse" to use
  it.  I take exception to this arrogance, and so does many others, it
  seems, so it may well be the downfall of the entire movement.

| Don't think the FSF claims that users of proprietary software are "evil".

  RMS has referred to programmers who write non-free software as "evil" at
  a conference.  shortly thereafter, I removed my entry from the SERVICES
  file.  writing free software is a luxury, as all freedom is luxury, which
  is not to say it should be denied, but it doesn't _come_ for free.
  writing non-free software for a lot of money could very well be a means
  to an end, just as most people have paying jobs for the sole reason of
  supporting their real interests.  RMS has denied the entire world of
  programmers this option.

| Agree with you about "open source".  IMHO, the open source initiative
| (OSI) is an attempt by certain quarters to advance personal ambitions.
| It totally misses the point about free software and has caused a lot of
| confusion.

  I don't care about your opinions when they take this shape.  I also see
  no evidence that you have got _the_ point with free software right.

  my concern, hope, and goal with working to further what I have come to
  call "unrestricted source availability" was (1) to educate programmers by
  showing them good coding practice and effectively provide a "canon" of
  code, and (2) to weed out the bad code that inevitably creeps into large
  projects where lots and lots of people participate.

  well, have my hopes come to fruition?  (1) is not a goal shared by
  people, anymore.  all they want is for some fast computer to do stupid
  software tricks.  that means fewer very good people to learn from, and
  fewer new good people grow up in this environment.  I was into free
  software because I have a passion for competence and I saw it as a
  vehicle for collective betterment and a platform for the truly great
  potential to reach higher.  and, let's be honest, (2) never happens.
  people don't fix other people's code except when it stops "working",
  whatever the hell _that_ means these days.  e.g., GNU Emacs itself became
  infested with the worst crap I have ever seen when the MULE shit drowned
  out the good.  instead of being very good at what it does and improving
  in interesting ways, Emacs is heading for popularity, such as
  WYSIWYGitude and that kind of crap, which I find to be manifestly
  uninspiring, and which cannot be done really well without seriously
  rethinking what we want to _get_ before we start _seeing_ it -- WYSIWYG
  reinforces an "I do not want what I cannot see" attitude, which is
  _incredibly_ stifling.  the whole GUI business is forcing this on all of
  us: if you can't select it from a menu, you shouldn't _want_ it.

  in a nutshell, the free software movement has attracted people who want
  something for free and who don't give a damn about the purported freedom
  that comes with it.  I don't see any need to work to give people freedom
  they don't actively want.  the programmers in the free software movement
  have become _less_ skilled over time because the really good people get
  soaked up by commercial operations as soon as a smart manager realizes
  what a fantastic recruitment gold-mine they've discovered, and the
  movement itself is no longer capable of generating goals with sufficient
  "emotional gravity" to keep people hanging around.

  when _my_ goals are better served by working with "closed source", I'd
  say the Free Software Foundation has a serious problem.

  incidentally, I don't think we will discuss software in terms of openness
  or closedness in a decade or so.  software is gradually becoming so big
  and complex that "open source" may well become a necessity to survival,
  whereas "free software" was a protest movement.  like women's liberation
  is becoming a necessity to maintain our economies, it loses some of its
  force as a protest movement.  the biggest problem with protest is that it
  sometimes succeeds, and then you get to discover if you had any _real_
  goals with what you were doing.  when the free software movement turns to
  arrogance towards their much reduced "enemy" of the past, I get a very
  bad feeling that the people behind it weren't _constructive_ in their
  desire for changes.  furthermore, I believe that really competent people
  want to build things that last, they don't want to change things for no
  good reason -- that's what we have politicians for.  the lithmus test,
  then, should be whether the best people hang around when the protest is
  waning or whether they loyalties start to change.

  as you can see, I once felt strongly for free software.  I wouldn't just
  change my mind without something motivating it.  I know it isn't getting
  kids and accumulating debts and all that crap that turns many a protester
  into a salary slave with a difficult past, so I think it's something in
  the free software foundation that is changing.  no amount of regurgitated
  rhetoric is going to chance that impression.

  man who cooks while hacking eats food that has died twice.