Why are we always fighting against?

Why do we constantly see news articles that we must fight against (latest example, the FCC is considering a proposal to require manufacturers to lock down computing devices (routers, PCs, phones) to prevent modification if they have a “modular wireless radio” and there’s never any pressure from our side? Why are they, the enemy, not constantly fighting against proposals from us saying " all devices must have open source firmware " or “all public devices must have open hardware documentation”? We’re constantly on the back foot – they propose ridiculous rules to stomp on the very idea of freedom and we fight against them (see SOPA, PIPA) but why aren’t they forced to fight against the All Software Must Be Open Source Act? Why don’t we propose things like they do?

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I imagine “we” do propose things, but since we don’t have a few bazillion dollars to lobby for our proposal we just don’t get heard. Eg look at the Open Voting Consortium, who have been pushing for open-source voting machines in the US since 2003… Why is that even a discussion? Isn’t it a given that the code for our vote tracking should be open and audit-able?

If we are to agree with Lessig, the problem is the way current campaign finance models work and how they don’t lead to the right incentives.

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Simple: Money. Money is power, and we don’t have any (relatively speaking), whilst the Them do.

I’m sure you’ve written to your MP from time to time with a well-reasoned argument about something — I know I have — but it doesn’t actually help. Having the money to amplify the beating of your own particular drum is something that the Free Software community generally lacks.

Some of us do. Red Hat have money, for example. Would they be better to spend some of it on having government agencies create bills that require all software be open source or something? So the Them have to fight back against us?

It feels like we don’t want to do that because it’s bad behaviour – it’s immoral or wrong to try to do that sort of thing. But the Them are doing it. All the time. I’m constantly asked to write to my MP (or lobby a congressperson, etc) about the latest oppress-the-internet law. Maybe we should try fighting fire with fire?

@sil I remember you saying this on more than one occassion.

I think your take on it is that the F\LOSS community is at best a REACTIONARY FORCE.

Your right, it gets tiring always bashing your head against a brick-wall.

But there is a big change happening in our society at the moment.
Those of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ . I’m sure you’ve noticed a move towards the undercurrent, of late in the UK/US.

It really just comes down to the numbers .

The more we have = the more crowdfunding we can have to get into China, and open up manufacturing so that ‘we’ in the enlightened West can support Open Hardware.

It takes a bit of a push, but crowdfunding has come on a_long way in the past half a decade or so.
Personally I’d prefer just to see the item/s on amazon, but I do like a good campaign, or two.

I just wish they’d carry on with the social side.
@jonobacon 's a good socialite on G+ etc. Why can’t Mycroft have a weekly get together on hangouts ?

I’m not sure I agree that we don’t do it because it feels morally wrong — at least not all the time or for all of the people.

I think it’s more that it feels like we’re onto a loser from the beginning. The Free Software community is largely made up of people who are used to being in the minority, albeit a vocal one. They’re used to being ignored (either by the rest of the software-using community or by other people within the Free Software community, etc.) or vilified (“Linux is a cancer,” etc.) or ridiculed. From that position it’s hard to build a platform of strength.

And if you’re RedHat and you were to, say, put money into lobbying for open standards, wouldn’t you have at least a bit of trepidation about the idea that government might say “actually, if you keep doing that, we’ll look elsewhere when giving out contracts.”?

It’s early and I haven’t finished my coffee, but my general feeling is that it’s not apathy or the need to be on our best behaviour — you and I both know how to be loud and vocal and get our point across to parties who might disagree with us without being impolite, and many others do too. I think it’s because by and large the Free Software Community and its ilk don’t think that they’ll be able to win.

And to some extent we don’t know how to behave when we do win, because it’s rare and we’re not used to it. The accusation from users of other platforms is that all we know how to do is chase tail-lights by copying better programs on other platforms, and certainly there’s quite a lot of truth in that accusation. And this isn’t just about Gimp working like Photoshop: Matthew Garrett wrote (“On x86 we know that systems are tested against Windows, and so we simply implement that behaviour. On ARM, we don’t have that convenient reference. We are the reference.”) about how the Linux kernel’s ACPI implementation uses WIndows as a reference to know what to do, and in the ARM world we’re the reference, and we don’t know how to handle that.


I should probably further note that when we do try something new, our own community tend to hate it, but when someone else proprietary tries something new, we piss all over our own shoes attempting to explain that it’s just basically a rip-off of something that Slackware did in 1998.

I do wonder why that is? Is it a general dislike in the community? Or just some loudly spoken few that is motivated by things like perfectionism or envy?

It almost always feels like envy, with the exception of a few considered dissections by a small set of luminaries — whose words will then be used by those who didn’t bother to come to a well thought-out conclusion as evidence that their initial gut reaction of “we hates it, my precious” was the correct one to have.

I remember this from my Canonical days quite well — many people would be all ready to lay the hate on some new thing from Microsoft or Apple, until a Voice From Above (i.e. Mark S.) said “actually, that’s quite cool,” whereafter the chorus would change rapidly for all but the most considered critics.


For some reason, your description reminds me of my mother-in-law, (whom I loved as my own), just without the angst. When I was to ask her something I would say “Mama, say ‘No’”. And she would look at me like ‘what now?’ I would have to repeat myself and then tell her “You always say No to any question I ask, then you think about it and give a real answer. So, let’s get the ‘No’ over with.” That always made her laugh.

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