[License-discuss] Language, appropriateness, and ideas

VanL van.lindberg at gmail.com
Wed Feb 26 19:23:40 UTC 2020

 Having recently borne the brunt of a number of very pointed comments, both
on- and off-lis, I wanted to share a few thoughts about language and how we
react to people with different ideas.

1. We should start out from a stance where people should be free to express
their ideas. Absent evidence of bad faith, we should be accommodating of
people with different takes on open source licensing.

In particular, I want to highlight the calls for Eric Schultz (@wwahammy)
to "go away" as inappropriate. This is not debate; this is de-platforming.
For people who value ideas, and speech, we should not be the ones trying to
shut down conversation.

Eric Schultz has been open about his motivations, and he has come here to
discuss his ideas in open source licensing - an appropriate topic for this
forum. He has not bombarded the list with lots of messages, he has
responded to criticism, and he has accepted that it is unlikely that his
ideas will ever be incorporated into a license.

On the merits, I have no problem with people trying to see if they can
create a licensing regime that is consistent with $ETHICAL_PRINCIPLE as
well as with the OSD. I think that it would be very difficult to do, but I
see no harm in people trying, so long as such tries are in good faith.

2. Even when we adopt a pro-ideas and pro-discussion stance, we should
endeavor to be kind in how we engage with others. This is not a duty
imposed by the forum, but it should be a duty we impose on ourselves. If we
value ideas, we should try to act in such a way as to help us get as broad
a slate of ideas for us to consider as possible. Strong language and ad
hominem attacks are unlikely to serve the cause of better and more
productive discussion.

To be specific, I don't think that ESR's comments regarding his view
regarding ethical licensing are appropriate either. I don't dispute the
right of ESR to share them - this isn't "appropriateness as censorship."
But in my experience, such strong language is usually not effective in
changing opinions, and it can lead to a situation where we only hear from
people who agree with us, to all of our detriment.

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