Thursday, May 24, 2007

With Advocacy Like This...

Casey Adams, It's Not About Free Software, It's About Control and TCO:

Often times when discussing open source software, you hear the term FOSS, which stands for Free Open Source Software. To me personally, FOSS is very idealistic and somewhat unrealistic. In case most people have forgotten, we live in a capitalistic society that rewards those who create wealth. Ultimately, we must provide necessities for ourselves such as food, clothing and shelter. Writing free software and then giving it away does not lend itself to a supportable model. Even considering the power of community and collaboration, it is likely that those two factors are not enough to sustain a long term model producing FOSS.

So where does that leave us? Paying customers of course that enable a philanthropic software model to exist over time with sustainable results. That is not a bad thing and the reality is that is the way successful open source software works now. In my lowly opinion, OSS is really about control and total cost of ownership, not free software. Let's look at these two items separately.

This is abjectly wrong on so many levels. It is either vastly ignorant or an intentional misrepresentation.

By stating that FOSS stands for "free open source software," in contrast to just OSS or "open source software," Casey implies that "free" open source is a non-commercial, and therefore un-sustainable sub-set of open source. This is a distortion of the standard definitions of both FOSS (or FLOSS) and free software. The acronym FOSS stands for "free and open source software," meaning software which is both free and open source was created to avoid having to choose between the terms "free software" and "open source software." In FOSS, "Free" modifies "software," not "open source software."

This acronym is meant to recognize that free and open source software are functionally the same thing. Their definitions (free, open source) are not substantively different. Or to the extent they are, those technical differences aren't what is being discussed here. That is, free software is not inherently less commercial than open source software. The "free" in "free software" refers to freedom, not cost.

I cannot understand why Casey would question whether or not the free software paradigm is sustainable. It has been sustained since 1983 and is growing stronger every year.

I am further baffled by the explanation that selling software is a "philanthropic" model. There is nothing wrong with selling free software, but that's a commercial endeavor, not philanthropic.

Given that Casey's larger post is in favor of something dear to my heart, providing free and open source administrative software to schools, I'm quite frustrated that he chooses to lard his argument in a thick coat of pointless bullshit.

Now, I recommend you cleanse your palate with some outstanding advocacy from Italy (with subtitles).


Casey said...

I cleansed my palate in the YouTube video about the Bolanzo schools as you suggested. In the video, they state that they are paying about 27,000 Euros for maintenance. Sounds very familiar to my post that you blasted. -- Casey

Tom Hoffman said...

I'm not blasting the model, I'm blasting your misrepresentation of free software.

Casey said...

Why didn't you post my first comment? Casey

Tom Hoffman said...

Um... I did?