Software Libre in La Laguna

This week I've been at the Jornadas de Software Libre conference in Tenerife. One thing that struck me was that the Spanish don't have a word for 'Open Source', which would be something like 'Codigo abierto'; they always use the term 'Software Libre'. The conference program even had the four freedoms of Free Software written on the back, along with an explanation.

I personally think that we should try and stop using the term Open Source to describe KDE, as it just sounds like it is a slightly tweaked business model, and completely leaves out the community aspects of the project.

What is the difference between Microsoft's 'Shared Source' and 'Open Source'? I don't know and I don't care. What is the difference between 'Shared Source' and 'Software Libre'? Well, that one is obvious because Software Libre is a social movement, and Shared Source is only about letting you read the software source code. Just reading the source code doesn't mean a lot without those four freedoms, because they form the foundations of communities like KDE by providing a common ethic to allow people to work together.

Normally I find Wade Olson's blogs a very good read, and he often writes insightful and interesting comments about the KDE community, but this one where he shows a design for a book, Marketing Open Source Software for Dummies, hit a bum note with me. I wish we had re-branded 'Free Software' as 'Software Libre' as it removes the ambiguity between 'free as in beer' and 'free as in freedom' that we have in english, and also emphasizes the international nature of the Free Software community.

In my opinion the Open Source Initiative has been a bit of a disaster because they have encouraged an unnecessary proliferation of incompatible 'Open Source' licences, while at the same time making it harder to explain to people that Free Software is about freedom and building communties, and not just 'cheapest is best'.

In contrast to Spain, the UK is falling further and further behind because the very right wing neoliberal New Labour government completely and utterly fails to get the point. This recent article in the Guardian was pretty depressing:

You would have thought that a Labour government, struggling to marry the success of market forces with the socialist endowment of its founding fathers, would have latched on to this new cooperativism which brings people together for a common purpose with a burning zeal. In fact, its wanton neglect could damage our economic prospects.

The depth of its neglect was made plain by speakers at a seminar last week hosted by Westminster eForum, which tries to make parliament aware of IT issues. It turns out, in contrast to what other governments are doing, that most departments - including Health, Work and the Foreign Office - are so risk-averse they have virtually no open source in their IT infrastructures...


-- Senor Dale Cervesa


How wonderful it could have been. Combining market forces with consumer interests while propagating Free Software. That would have been a true "third way" for Tony Blair.

By Jos van den Oever at Fri, 09/21/2007 - 21:25

When the labour party were elected in 1997 I was expecting a Social Democratic government - 'the third way' whatever that might mean.

What we actually got was a kind of 'turbo Thatcherite' direction, with more of the same policies on steroids. More privatisation of hospitals and schools via Private Finance Initiatives. More rail privatisations, like the London tube, and in spite of total opposition by the popular mayor Ken Livingstone. In fact, Livingstone had to actually leave the Labour party in order to get elected because they wanted to ban him from being a candidate. More regressive authoritarian policies like 'Anti Social Banning Orders (ASBOs), and other attacks on civil liberties.

It was a tax policy called IR35 which made me spend several years and a lot of my own money, writing Free Software. That tax change banned freelance contractors from investing in their own companies by forcing them to spend 95% of turnover on their personal salaries, and not allowing the companies to retain a profit. I viewed it as attack on my personal freedom to fund software development via contracting, which seems a perfectly reasonable thing to want to do to me.

Because of these issues I have a real deep dislike for NuLab, and don't see them embracing Free Software, and the associated hacker ethic any time soon. The third way was just Blair's marketing twaddle, and a dead end.

By Richard Dale at Sat, 09/22/2007 - 11:39

The injustice with KDE is that there are so many people bringing something to the software and none of them are mentioned, Maybe that's why it's better to make an application by yourself and get all the credit.
Mary-Anne Davis, offshore programming affiliate.

By maryadavis at Fri, 06/06/2008 - 10:49