Subject: Re: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Sun, 04 Nov 2001 23:55:27 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* 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.