FOSS 

Does anyone know if there's conversations ongoing in the free software community around *why* software isn't free?

Like stallman is all "closed source is bad ethics m'kay", but makes it seem like a choice which is where a lot of people seem to be. Ignoring how market competition makes closed source not only appealing, but an actual advantage to competition.

Like yeah you can make your shit open source and it's still possible to make a profit. But you can make way more if you monopolize platforms/code.

FOSS 

So that's obvious enough, seems simple. But if you're starting from a place where you ignore the market itself as the problem then you're also ignoring the way production of code is coordinated by that same mechanism.

It means most people, if they want to live and make code are forced to write code that can direct the purpose of, because it has to be written with profitability in mind. Otherwise they wouldn't get paid to write it.

Sure that doesn't preclude open source yet, companies contribute...

Show thread

FOSS 

But often times that's less painful for companies where coordination is actually beneficial.

i.e: Linux dominates server software because it's not the actual code running the server where companies get their profits, it's the data collected and tech support. So it doesn't matter if the code is closed, because it doesn't provide much benefit, and infact the development you get from it being an open source project outweigh the need for gaurd secrets.

But that's just for infrastructure. It's like roads.

Show thread
Follow

FOSS 

So then that leaves actual user software in a different boat, because the very function of the software is the useful thing. If that was given away for free capitalists don't benefit.

There's a bunch of software that gets written which is important to keep closed for "competitive advantage" or whatever.

This is where free software is often the least polished, because capitalists don't benefit in the same openness, but users do which is why people often share tools they've already written. Or volutneer

FOSS 

That was kind of long and ramble-y, but my point is that a lot of the software that gets written then is written by people who make money off of coding for a living. People who will be subject to those work conditions through market forces.

That means in order to fight back against those pressures, it takes a concious coordination of *developers* to counter act it, because while the code may be open or not, they do not get to direct it's purpose if they work for a company employing them.

Show thread

FOSS 

So that means we can't just ignore the market and the impact it has on how the development of code is done.

Some very lucky developers due to the nature of programming, with it's potentially low barrier to entry in terms of capital/resources, can get away with starting their own unique project and supporting that through communities and volunteers.

But the ever expansive wealth that companies capture outpaces this vastly because it's so goddamn productive and they have a need for growth.

Show thread

FOSS 

So they can absorb much more resources which will be able to outperform tiny teams of independent devs on lots of projects that most people will probably end up using because the vast amount of command over code that a company has is huge.

Show thread

FOSS 

All of that is to say, for better or worse company boards drive software development. That means the battleground isn't in the ever receding pockets of what tiny alternative, decentralized project will save us.

But harnessing the actual time in energy we already put into code collectively to be a public good, recognized as such. Only tech workers have the power to turn that tide, because it is workers employed by tech capital who produce the code that we continually have to reinvent to reclaim.

Show thread

FOSS 

Not to say people shouldn't work on those projects, because they should. But if we want a world where it's not just the most tech savvy who are using these projects then we need a much broader reaching project than I think the FOSS community sees itself as.

But that's only because right now I think we don't have an actual base inside of the war against tech capital, i.e: unions and an independent political party. Once we have those things, maybe this won't seem so abstract.

Show thread

FOSS 

@nergalur I mean, the Pirate Parties in Europe advocate for free software. I think it's just hard because most people A) don't know how any of this stuff works B) don't care how it works as long as it "works".

FOSS 

@dvn That's another good point, most people don't appreciate the real significance of what capabilities tech has or how it actually works.

That's another reason I think organizing for FOSS is going to have to focus on tech workers, because they actually are at the pinpoint between understanding the power of tech and actually making it.

We don't need to convince grandma or consumer friends.

We need to win tech workers to that vision because they have the power to implement it and change the landscape

FOSS 

@nergalur I personally think that we need to work towards publicly funded software, and have strong regulations on closed software.

FOSS 

@nergalur Publicly funded _free_ software, to be clear.

re: FOSS 

@nergalur Unions would help a little but they would mostly benefit existing tech workers rather than the broader population. Political parties I'm doubtful would be of assistance. The Pirate Party perhaps, if it still exists.

The way to bring Free Software to the masses is via education. It should be used in schools and universities. People should not be being indoctrinated into using Windows and other proprietary SaaS as soon as they go to school. Familiarity with Free Software from school onwards then leads to it becoming the default in the whole society.

re: FOSS 

@bob por qué no los dos? Public education too!

To be clear I think it's a multi-faceted issue that plays into the broader struggle against capitalism at large and should very much be something socialists groups are talking about at their meetings as a working group, etc in our quest to create a world where working people have power.

re: FOSS 

@bob After all, the reason schools are forced to teach proprietary garbage is because in industry that's what dominates. We have to change the industry at the same time or kids are going to be learning software they'll never use.

re: FOSS 

@nergalur Long ago Bill Gates realized that it was the other way around. If you can get software into schools via "donated" computers and software coming from "philanthropists" then cash deprived schools have little option but to accept. Once children and students are trained in proprietary tools then once they leave industry does not have any option but to make use of the skills that the young people have. This is how Microsoft originally became entrenched.

re: FOSS 

@bob I mean it's dialectical so yeah that makes sense too. Before there's an established industry that can have a major impact too.

I also think it really helped to have an OEM deal with every computer coming pre-installed with windows.

re: FOSS 

@nergalur That was crucial. It was the biggest factor in Microsoft's rise in the 1980s and 90s.

re: FOSS 

@bob Yeah, it's pretty much the same situation on mobile for Google today, except they're more integrated beyond even just your OS.

They have a service for everything imaginable that runs anywhere.

re: FOSS 

@bob Which is why the fact that tech workers are finally starting to feel that power and organize against stuff like Project MAVEN or walking out against sexual assault could spell a new era for FOSS if we play our cards right and support those developments.

re: FOSS 

@bob @nergalur Actually Apple did this extremely successfully before M$ copied the strategy. Apple ]['s used to be everywhere in schools at one time.

re: FOSS 

@bamfic
Guess it's a systemic sort of thing then huh. That makes sense
@bob

re: FOSS 

@nergalur I think organizing customers would have more of an impact.

When it comes to office software, most paying customers are companies and states nowadays. If those would require open source code and open formats (for interoperability and to make sure they don't get spied on by other states/companies), that would have a tremendous effect at least in the office space.

Games aren't so much software but rather art strapped to a game engine and game engines are essentially infrastructure. So the later will probably be open source in the future anyway.

Adobe is the hard target. I have no idea how that could work. Their customer base consists of small businesses who don't care about open/closed source and keeping the code closed is directly beneficial to Adobe.

That leaves the mobile space, which consists of a lot of small companies, most of which directly profit from their closed sourced code. No ideas here either.

re: FOSS 

@ctrlaltchaos
I can't help but feeling that organizing customers only works with workers in said industry leading the call because consumers are too divergent in their interests to usually coordinate enough of an impact.

Some customers don't even have an issue with closed source software morally or see it as bad anyway. Governments require forming a political party/current to influence anyway, which still leaves that on the agenda.

re: FOSS 

@ctrlaltchaos
The same could be said of workers who don't see the point, but often they don't directly benefit from closed source exploitation and would actually be able to coordinate development much more easily if open code was the standard. Less need to deal with the hassles of not understanding how a program works

re: FOSS 

@ctrlaltchaos
Or of course, fixing it if it's broke.

@nergalur I can't help think that this would be better as all one article, instead of split up into lots of small ones.

@cabalamat It was a stream of thought. I'll see if I can cohere it into an article though, it helped me straighten out some ideas I was having though and some of the feedback was actually helpful in points to address.

Good call though, I'll share if I do write something up!

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Mastodon for Tech Folks

This Mastodon instance is for people interested in technology. Discussions aren't limited to technology, because tech folks shouldn't be limited to technology either!