Narrowing your definition of a word... -
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Author Topic: Narrowing your definition of a word...  (Read 1117 times)
Paul Keith
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« on: June 12, 2010, 03:47:35 PM »

Narrowing your definition of a word that is ambiguous by definition to a single meaning is tantamount to starting a religious war.

Source: Comment under: http://linuxlock.blogspot...icting-linux-desktop.html

"Non-free is relatively unambiguous: it means you can't modify it and you can't fix it when it breaks."

What an odd statement...perhaps as a specific label, you may be correct; when you are surrounded by people involved with FOSS, you are correct, by the grace of context and predisposition towards a specific meaning. Even Stallman, however, recognized that there is considerable ambiguity in the term "free" vs. "Non-free". Where do you think "Think free as in free speech, not free beer" came from? In fact, much of his influence comes specifically from his quest to differentiate between the two meanings of "free".

I read this and wonder how "non-free" with no context may be interpreted; I have paid for shareware to whose source I was granted access. That was "non-free", because I paid. I have not paid to use drivers distributed and developed by ATI whose source was a constant mystery. The ATI drivers are "freeware" that is not "Free Software (or open source)", while the other program was "Shareware" that was "Free (or open source)".

Of course, your definition of "Free" may also change depending on what organization you are following. After all, each of GPL, BSD, MPL, and FOSS, just to name a few, have slightly different viewpoints. Some give you source, but don't allow you to fork the source, or distribute the code you tweak. Some allow you to everything.

Narrowing your definition of a word that is ambiguous by definition to a single meaning is tantamount to starting a religious war. You may want to be careful with those kinds of statements. Context will define many aspects of "Free".

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« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2010, 07:12:20 PM »

Interesting article.

Narrowing definitions in my own experience is the religious war in and of itself when they occur. Nothing past that actually matters when war breaks out, as everything thereafter is nothing but buckets of red herring.

I'm sure everyone's been in one of those conversations where you disagree with someone, but on further inspection, it turns out that what you both believe to be one thing, is actually two (or more). You then proceed to see things from the other perspective, and the conversation progresses from there, often with general agreement.

When it comes to "free", sigh... while I honestly believe that the world is a much better place for having Richard Stallman and FOSS and GPL and all that jazz, I am vehement in my opposition to their attempts to hijack the word free and restrict its meaning to suit their own purpose and nothing else. It's their unwillingness to admit any other sense of the word that I have a problem with.

As you've pointed out, there are so many different versions of "free" and "open" that it is tantamount to insanity to restrict ( Wink ) the words.

From the BSD perspective, the GPL isn't a "free" license, and vice-versa. The question is "what sense of free do we mean?"

Your choice of quote there nicely sums up the general position of far too many people in the GNU / FOSS / FSF world, and their unwillingness to compromise. As with you, Paul, I have software that I've purchased with source code, and I am "free" to modify the source however I want; I am not free to sell that unless it is merely a part of a larger product of which it constitutes only a part. (Typical component source code licensing.) So I'm free and I'm not free... Huh? WTF? Well, it seems pretty clear to me that "free is relatively ambiguous" unless we actually qualify what is being "freed" or what the object of it is. The typical radical FOSS interpretation is internally contradictory, so it's no wonder that we end up with so many wars over the thing in itself.


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Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker
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