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tptacek 1359 days ago | link | parent

Here is someone who really, really needs to read Saul Alinsky:

15. MendaSpain: Hi Richard. I love all GPL software, but I have a dilemma:

I'm writing a program which needs a lot of time to be coded but at the same time it's really easy to be used. I could license it as GPL and wait for donations, but from other people's experience just almost nobody make donations to free software projects. Support is not necessary because as I've said before, it's a really easy to use software and nobody would pay for a 3 page manual.

For "big" software it's easy to get money using any GNU license, but for "little" software the only option I see is selling it using the Apple App Store approach.

What can I do in this case?

RMS: You have a choice between deserving a reward and not getting a material reward, and getting one but not deserving it.

RMS: I faced the same question at the beginning of the GNU Project. I decided that I would rather do something good with no monetary reward than profit by mistreating people. I hope you will do the same, because that way your program will be a contribution to society instead of a social problem.

Yikes.



angusgr 1359 days ago | link

I'm not sure I follow. Any chance you could elaborate at all?

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jseliger 1359 days ago | link

Saul Alinsky wrote a number of books about community organizing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rules_for_Radicals , including Rules for Radicals and Reveille for Radicals. Community organizing is about bringing people in communities together and helping them achieve some kind of goal; in the case of Alinsky, he was envisioning physical communities that needed things like coops, particular kinds of government services, and the like.

One of his major principles is that the community organizer has to help people see why it's in their best interest to organize or make change. According to Alinsky, arguing that people should agitate and work for change because of the common good or because the change is the right thing simply doesn't work.

I believe the OP is saying that Stallman isn't doing a great job of incorporating that aspect of Alinsky's principles and in doing so is setting back the free software movement.

EDIT: I just read a little further down in the thread and saw this: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1559283 : "The problem with Free Software is a marketing problem." That's similar to an Alinsky comment, although in different language: if you can't "market" the change you're trying to encourage by making people realize why it benefits them, you're not going to make that change happen.

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chanakya 1358 days ago | link

RMS is advocating that using free software is in people's interest. As he says in the answer to one of the questions, he rates freedom as the most important self-interest.

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dasil003 1358 days ago | link

Right, but so is any community change "for the better". The job is to convince people it's in their self-interest.

Meanwhile, only the tiny population of people who are programmers really even have a basic understanding of what Stallman's freedom is all about, and even they do not value it very high.

On a micro level I don't care about software freedom that much, because mostly I just want to get something done, and if 0.5% of my yearly income is going to commercial software that I find useful and have no desire to modify, then the freedom issues just don't even enter my conscience.

However on a macro level Stallman's slippery slope argument is correct. If the balance of software shifts to proprietary, then I feel the goodness of software in general is greatly reduced. If GNU/Linux didn't exist for instance, the technological landscape would be a shadow of what it is today.

But I digress... for free software to ever gain any mindshare in the non-developer community would require a stroke of marketing genius the likes of which I've never seen. It's just not reasonable to rank freedom with such a high priority for the average person who has no ability or desire to modify any software. There might be a redistribution angle, but again, it would have to be sheer marketing brilliance to convince anyone of that.

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tptacek 1358 days ago | link

A guy telling you that he's a struggling small-time app developer is not going to be receptive to an argument that says it's immoral for him to support himself by selling his software. The choice Stallman offered, between being a good human being and eating, was an exceptionally tone-deaf and counterproductive response to his question.

Alinsky's ideas --- which are extremely relevant to marketing --- mostly involve adapting your message to the realities of your audience. That means listening to them, understanding their problems, and being prepared to spell out how their lives would work out after you've changed them.

Here Stallman stipulates that it's self-evident that unfree software is bad, and that your personal well-being is less important that the principle of freedom. It's not even a 'wrong' point; it's an overtly hostile and stupid one. Free software has answers to that problem ("design your application differently, run your business differently"), but Stallman's idealism keeps him from understanding those answers, and so all he can do is bloviate.

Rules for Radicals isn't just a good book, it's also a fun one. As the Tea Party people are showing, it's also not inherently left- or right-. It's short and cheap, and if any part of your life involves wanting people to change anything they're doing (from how they vote to what flavor of ice cream they buy), you should get it.

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