DRAFT FAQ: Free vs. Open

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Jan 10 21:57:01 UTC 2008

Quoting Tzeng, Nigel H. (Nigel.Tzeng at jhuapl.edu):

> Fine, if you don't like neutral, how about not "openly hostile" to the point 
> where closed source software is described as "unethical".

I would say, rather, "not inclined towards poorly conceived frontal-assault 
polemics that are known to simply not work".  "History of the OSI",
http://www.opensource.org/history, makes this point quite explicit:

   The conferees decided it was time to dump the moralizing and
   confrontational attitude that had been associated with "free software"
   in the past and sell the idea strictly on the same pragmatic,
   business-case grounds that had motivated Netscape. They brainstormed
   about tactics and a new label. "Open source", contributed by Chris
   Peterson, was the best thing they came up with.

In other words, the attendees at OSI's February 3rd, 1998 founding
gathering in Palo Alto grasped the principles of Rhetoric 101:  Stick to
arguments that your target audience, at any given time, are likely to
find persuasive.

> You can promote your own advantages without the need to demonize 
> the opposition.

Clearly -- and OSI long ago grasped this fundamental, too.  Your point?

> You can advocate open source while maintaining a neutral (or even
> positive) position on the value of closed cource.

OSI does -not- take either a neutral or laudatory position on the value
of proprietary software.  To the contrary, OSI specifically and
fundamentally claims that open source has decisive advantages.  
So, wrong, try again.

> Are you trying to pick a fight?

Cultivating sense sometimes necessitates weeding of nonsense.  If you
are interpreting this as a personal dispute, then you have missed the

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