Saturday, April 6, 2013

Linux Advocates and Freedom Advocates

by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Some Linux advocates have had the bitter experience of being labelled "faux" advocates and dismissed as being invalid advocates who must be ostracised. People who are Linux advocates arrive from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, either political, philosophical, or whatever. Some Linux advocates engage in parallel activism in the areas of feminism, government transparency, censorship/free speech, and science, to name just a few. Those do not interfere with the goal of advancing Linux, or GNU/Linux.

It is disheartening to see and I regret to say that some Linux advocates get muzzled because to them, GNU/Linux advocacy needs to accompany a broader agenda, which may or may not convey some of the same principles adhered to by GNU/Linux luminaries.

It is fair to say that Linux is apolitical because the project's founder rarely mixes his technical work with political burden. But if by "Linux" one refers to a broader system, for instance GNU/Linux with some vast desktop environment like KDE, then it is fair to say that freedom advocacy deserves plenty of room. KDE and GNU both market themselves as being pro-freedom, more so than Linux.

When Linux advocates argue that freedom takes precedence over power (as in the power of a program), they should not be dismissed as "radical", "extremist", etc. It is most likely that these people actually represent the views of many Linux developers, where by "Linux" they refer to a system far bigger than a kernel. Whether immersion of politics in software contributes to infighting, division and alienation of corporate participation is a subject which merits debate. But open discussion is definitely compatible with the underlying strengths of Free and Open Source software.

-- Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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  1. Sometimes it is also possible to take some flak as a Linux advocate because you're "not free enough".

    I have.

    I study UI/UX workflow, how to make your technology work for you, not against you.

    Sometimes we can't choose the tools we need to do this (e.g supplied by the employer or required by a particular industry or client), sometimes we do.

    So I use everything, study everything, try to help improve Linux UI and spread the word, figure out how to do things with free software and do it better than the alternatives.

    Yet, because I am not shy about telling people that I also use OS X and Windows 8 willingly, I catch heat from time to time.

    Hey, freedom is a word that means something different to each person.

    To me, personally, it means not locking myself into a particular ideology over a silly operating system :-)

  2. I do not think that those who focus on Freedom over Power should not be seen as "true" Linux advocates. The people I have a problem with are the ones who really are focusing on Power but claim to be focusing on Freedom - the ones who want to not only have the GPL and other similar licenses as a *choice* (Freedom) but have as a goal the pushing to limit others' choices as to what licenses they can use (Power).

    I do not write software (at least nothing of any great depth - I am not a programmer but have tinkered a bit). I do, however, make videos - and with some of these videos I offer them with an open license where people can use them as they wish. With others I sell them with a license where they are not to be shared. This is my choice. To take this choice away from me would require restricting my Freedom by the use of force (or Power). The same applies to software: I am very supportive of Freedom but am against the idea of forcing anyone to use the GPL or similar license. Many of those who follow Stallman have told me they think such Power should be forced by law, and even Stallman has said that this would be what he would want as an ideal (though he is not pushing for it now). This is the exact opposite of Freedom - it is the desire to push force or Power.

    I am not saying such people cannot be good Linux / open source advocates in some areas, but I think they are being disingenuous - perhaps even with themselves. If you truly believe in Freedom you need to allow for others having different needs and desires and tastes than you - including the use of licenses you do not like and which do not fit with your ideals.

    I will not go into details here, but I also think there are a class of "advocates" who do active harm to open source advocacy by attacking others they disagree with - we see this in COLA often. I have little respect for that form of "advocacy" and consider it false "advocacy".

  3. It is clearly a surprise to some that "linux advocates" are actually people.As such they will be as diverse in approach, interests, and needs as people on this planet. Just as I happen to be a Linux Advocate and a feminist, and pacifist at the same time, I see no reason to separate my various ideologies. While some will oppose tainting of discussions on Linux (or indeed any topic in any discussion) by any other unrelated opinion, it s inevitable that this will happen. That is because these discussions involve not fixed focus robots but those of us encumbered by human nature...While admittedly a distraction, it is not all bad...

  4. Well stated. I am an advocate of what I call "informed computing" - this means I advocate Linux and other open source solutions when i believe those are the best options but also advocate other solutions if I believe that is the best for the user.

    There is no one-size-fits all piece of software nor development model nor Linux advocate. We are all individuals.

  5. I'll believe you guys care about freedom of speech when you publicly apologize to Maureen O'Garra for getting her fired.

  6. Some people are more free than others, obviously.