5 comments on “Yet Another Reason NOT to Support the FSF

  1. I think the FSF is going the way of other groups that, ostensibly, started for good reasons, and as time goes on, keeps getting farther and farther away from the mainstream.

    Really, them bombarding the Apple store with nonlegit issues isn’t much different than PETA parading outside of KFC, or MADD saying that no one should ever drink. They’re trying to keep themselves relevant in the world by yelling louder than everyone else.

    And if there’s any FSF people reading this, A) I have contributed financially to the FSF in the past, but it won’t be happening in the future, and not just because of this. Also, B) I have never, and will never, refer to it as gnu/Linux. It’s too unwieldy, ugly sounding, and dumb.

    I do respect the work of the people who have recreated all the Unix utilities, though (and having used both BSD ‘date’ and gnu ‘date’, EVERYTHING should behave as smartly as gnu’s ‘date’).

  2. I’m Matt Lee, campaigns manager at the Free Software Foundation.

    To have a presence at the Apple Store over the weekend, when people are buying iPhones, and asking questions of the geniuses.

    1. To see if the geniuses will offer genuine advice, or just give you Apple’s versions of things.
    2. To create greater awareness of the alternatives.

    Yes, it is unfortunate that some people will miss appointments because of this, but any time you contact a company, you are using a finite resource that could be spent with someone else. Should nobody ever complain to Apple because of this?

    Matt — I’m sorry you feel you can no longer contribute to the FSF, but we feel that DRM is a legitimate issue for user freedom.

    We have asked people to go to Apple stores and show Apple’s staff their opposition to Apple’s DRM. Describing this with terms such as “denial of service” and “disruption” is untrue.

    When people go one by one to a store and tell the staff what they think, that’s not an attack. When Apple implements DRM, when Apple deactivates unlocked iPhones, that’s an attack.

    “Voting with your feet” means individually rejecting DRM. Of course
    you should do that, but acting collectively is stronger than acting
    individually. The movie companies organize, the record companies
    organize, and a large company such as Apple is lots of people who are
    organized to achieve an aim which in this case is unjust.

    To overcome them, we must organize too. It would be a shame if DRM
    prevails because we artificially limited ourselves to individual
    action in response to a well-planned attack on our freedom.

    So if you recognize DRM as a threat to your freedom, please
    participate in this and other protests. If even 5 protestors visit a
    store in a day, the protest will be a success there, but we cannot
    take that much participation for granted.

  3. Matt, thanks for the comment.

    I believe that your efforts are being made in the best interest of removing DRM, but I have a problem with the approach.

    As a person who provides support to users of Ubuntu, I feel for those who are behind the bars at Apple stores looking to help users of their products. In stating that some will miss appointments, then you admit that the FSF’s approach is indeed a DoS attack. Through your efforts, you are making sure that only some users who actually need help get it. That’s just — sad, and wrong.

    Instead of complaining, why don’t you spend your valuable efforts marketing better alternatives, such as the Amazon MP3 store, which is free of DRM? It’s not fully open since it uses mp3, but that is a great step in the right direction. It does not take much to market such a service.

    Apple “Geniuses” are really nothing more than basic employees that have had training with a Mac. They are not there to discuss policies, or change them for that matter. They do not care about the FSF, or may not even know what it is. So, why focus on the basic employee, and instead focus on the consumer by marketing the alternatives and not protesting those that are perceived by your organization as bad. Take it from me who works in the field with actual users and gets results. You can too, but it takes time. If your product is superior, then the consumers will come.

    Let me be as kind as I can be when I say this: you are not helping free software through your efforts. Protests like this one are embarrassing! How am I supposed to face my Apple friends or any customers who hear of such an event that I would try to introduce to Ubuntu?

    Noble as your efforts may be, the end result are reactions like Matt’s (the other Matt) and my own. I almost have to fight a PR battle with Ubuntu and separate it from the FSF because of the antics that are pulled on potential users.

    Something you must understand is that mainstream users don’t care about free software. DRM is something that people can get excited about, but they must be brought over by a superior technology, rather than the cause. In other words, they need content before they make the move. Firefox is a good example. More and more people use it, but use it because it is better, not because it is open source. As soon as you grasp this, then you might see it my way and consider marketing over protesting. It’s just more professional and looks better to potential users.

  4. The way that the world has long worked is to follow the path of “the middle road”, as opposed to following what either end of a spectrum has to say.

    Now, that having been said, the Free Software Foundation provides one end of the spectrum, and, in this case, DRM is the other extreme. The true goal is to find a way somewhere down the middle: not everyone is going to use DRM-free Ogg Vorbis for playing audio. However, that’s fine: As long as DRM goes away at all, in some capacity, then the efforts will yield their intended benefits.

    Do I have a problem with the approach that is being taken? A little. Do I have a better way to do it that would be likely to raise as many eyebrows and can involve the average person? No, I don’t. I cannot propose anything better, because I don’t know of anything that would likely be as effective. It makes me wonder, though, what are they doing to raise awareness in the field of Windows users? They don’t have a SPOC like Apple users do for support at their local Microsoft shop. Microsoft shops sell computers, and defer software support to Microsoft and hardware support to the system manufacturer, usually. So, I don’t see how they can achieve anywhere close to the same numbers trying to get to people that are using Microsoft’s DRM.

    Given any topic, there will always be at least one large extremist voice. Ideally, there will be two large extremist voices. They more-or-less provide awareness of both ends of a spectrum to the general public. By raising awareness this way, you’ll have the vast majority “siding” somewhere in the middle, and a few going along the ends of the spectrum with the people that are already there. Those are perhaps the most volatile of people, but they do serve a necessary function in many “spectrums”, including the use of DRM, the use of free software, and the merits of peer-reviewable software.

    Ideally, people would be able to function and think rationally without prompting and without the existence of extremists. However, without extremists, we wouldn’t be where we are today (those extremists are who we have to thank for the base of the operating systems that both you and I use today). Without extremists within and around the Free Software Foundation, there would be no contrast provided (assuming some other group didn’t take up the opposite end of the spectrum, anyway) to Microsoft and Apple and other companies that seem to think that they can take advantage of users through the small miracle that is software. There would be little left to raise awareness. After all, the people that sit in the middle are often people that do not have a huge agenda to push, and they are relatively happy with the status quo, whatever that may happen to be, if not on one side or the other by a small margin. These are most people; sometimes they’re referred to as “sheep”. Continuing with that analogy, shepards are often closer to the extremists on a given spectrum, and then you have fanatics (which aren’t a bad thing!) that are on the absolute edges. WIthout the fanatics, things wouldn’t happen by and large. Some fanatics are out to serve a good cause, and others are obviously not. Think about the way Roman Catholicism was very forcefully imposed in areas that were pagan, back near the beginning of the founding of the Christian religion. The job of early Popes was to “spread Christianity” and effectively the way it was done was through a DDoS against pagans, to put it into modern technical terminology. These types of extremists have been around for centuries.

    A bit of clarification on that last point: I don’t claim to draw a line to connect Christianity and the Free Software Foundation. All that I am stating is that extremists are the instruments of change at a societal and global level, and much else tends to go unnoticed, and thus not provoke any sort of change. Some changes are for the better, and others are for the worse. Typically, though, a balance is only struck when there are extremists at both ends of a particular spectrum.

    That having been said, I would not call for a retreat of the FSF extremists without calling for an equal retreat of those on the other end of the spectrum. That won’t happen, and so many of the war-like properties of extremist clashes will continue until there is some sort of more balanced environment. Currently, the environment is absolutely biased towards Microsoft and Apple and proprietary software in general. Balance won’t be reached until laypeople in general realize that there is even a choice, let alone what the choices are. Not every layperson may make the choice to move systems, and that’s fine. The larger point isn’t world domination, it’s simply balance—even though world domination of one form or another is what both sets of extremists picture.

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