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Re: [Fsfe-uk] Just a Minute or two ;-)

From: Richard Smedley
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Just a Minute or two ;-)
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 18:39:46 +0100

WARNING long reply to several e-mails - I thought
it would be easier for people to ignore this, than
several separate e-mails ;-)

Hello all,

Thanks to the people who made the trek to London for
the meeting. It was good to put some faces to names.
I hope that Ramin still has a job after the security
mix-up ;o)

Just back at my desk to find a quarter of the awaiting
500 e-mails are from this list :-/

I think that the debate has moved towards some sort of 
understanding of the different sides, though possibly 
not as far, unfortunately, as had we been able to run
through the agenda'd items.

Martin Keegan wrote:
> > Of course, but what specifically would you expect a national
> > free software organisation to focus on?
> This is the whole reason there's a fight. Some people think that an
> organisation for Free Software (per se) is a distraction.
> I persistently tried to have Saturday's meeting address the issue of
> whether people like Martin Coxall and co were actually at the wrong
> meeting, to no avail. Thus Saturday's meeting was very frustrating for me.

No avail? I do remember agreeing with you, however there were 
often many people talking at once :(

The AFFS's position [at least, so I had supposed] is that there are
many groups "out there" campaigning on issues _related_ to Free
Software, and when we have an interest in those issues we will 
work with those groups.


> For me this discussion is about how AFFS will fit into the wider scheme of
> organisations in this area. I have been asking for people's view on this
> since first I appeared on the mailing list (which was occasioned by
> finding about about AFFS appointing some sort of liaison to a group I help
> run). I still haven't got an answer, and we appear further away than ever
> from a resolution of this matter.

Well let's keep on at it, then, shall we?

Martin Keegan also wrote:

> There seemed to be three positions. I apologise if I misrepresent people
> - this was just my interpretations:

Apology accepted =o)

> Richard Smedley:
>         Free Software is most important
> Martin Coxall/Martin Keegan:
>         the wider issues (IP law, etc) are most important
> Phil Hands/Brian Gough:
>         mentioning free software when fighting wider
>         issues such as sw patents is counterproductive
> The final two positions can probably be reconciled, but maybe not within
> an organisation supposedly about free software.

I'm not quite sure what I said in favour of Free Software
that left the impression of having an irrecocilable position.

As has been mentioned somewhere else in this debate, we are 
the Association For *Free Software*. "We speak about Free
Software." We aim to
1)promote the use of Free Software and (therefore)
2)prevent that which will harm Free Software
   (into this category comes sw patents, restrictive copyright
    legislation, outlawing of devices which can circumvent
    copy controls- e.g. Free OS's).

The AFFS aims to run a number of campaigns, all dependent
upon people joining in and helping with said efforts. Thus
the campaigns will, to a certain extent, reflect what the
(active) membership sees as priority areas in Free Software.

Martin Coxall wrote:
> > Of course, but what specifically would you expect a national
> > free software organisation to focus on?
> As I have said, Free Software flourishes in a free environment. By
> fighting for freedom, we ensure the long term viability of free
> software.

This is far too abstract for a _Free Software_ association. Also
freedom, as a concept, is open to much debate regarding its nature.

Freedom also includes the freedom to choose proprietary software.
Many American coders also believe that the GNU/GPL is a threat to
freedom, and only permissive, BSD-style licences are truly free.

> > I've suggested we aim specifically to persuade the UK Government
> > to making it's own software developments Free Software.
> I would have thought that most government systems would be bespoke
> in-house stuff developed by companies like EDS and logica, not
> particularly useful free software.

Most well-designed code, in *most* projects, can be reused -
even if only to learn from the way that the problem was tackled.

More specifically many government systems around the world
(or just around the UK) aim to solve similar problems.

Use of Free Software would encourage a more modular approach to
more projects, with better code reuse :)

> > Patents/ cryptography/ other intrusive or badly thought out
> > legislation is a fair target.
> I absolutely agree with you.

Here, at least we have a broad concensus.  8-)))

> > Infrastructure protection issues are important, but other than
> > where free software can assist this, I'm not sure the AFFS
> > should campaign. So it is fine to say "Apache is easier to
> > secure than certain commercial products" and lobby the
> > government to review it's use of less secure products where free
> > alternative are available.
> I consider this to be something of a secondary issue for us. This sort
> of campaigning is more appropriate for the security guys, the apache
> software foundation, the big Linux boys, IBM, etc...

The government spends a massive amount of _our_ money on
(proprietary) software licences. Promoting the use of our
money to support Free Software, instead, is well within the
remit of the AFFS - and a good place for working in coalition
with other groups and companies - and where the governmet 
leads by example, businesses may follow.


> > Issues such as the various wiretap bills are also important to
> > me, but I'm not clear whether the AFFS is the appropriate place
> > to oppose them, although it might be the appropriate place to
> > encourage cryptographic methods to defeat privacy invasion.

Hmm, I think as the majority of members are (or seem to be) in 
favour of "digital rights", linking to such related campaigns
from our news pages (soon to go live?) is in principle a good
idea, though it may fall fowl occasionally of ideas that we
may develop about "presentation" - unfortunately the meeting
didn't get all that far on this latter issue, although I did
raise this (and membership recriutment/constituency) on "table 2"

> > Are these the issues you mean? If not what are they?
> Yes, these are the issues I mean. And yes, they are "pro free software",
> yet they are not "advancing free software", and this, I think, is the
> important distinction.

In terms of what we support I am not sure that there is
such a distinction. Only (maybe) in terms of where we choose
to concentrate our energies. I think this topic may have
reached this conlusion in another message, I just don't have 
time to read through them all again ;-/

Nick Mailer wrote:
> I have seen far too often in protozoic volunteer-based organisations a
> kind of onanistic lust for self-serving beaurocracy that takes over as
> an organisation's raison d'etre. This is happening
> with the AFFS before it has even completed its gestation. One might
> argue that this beaurocracy *is* its gestation and, once born, the
> infant will be pragmatic and productive. The sounds of paper-shuffling
> and list-taking surrounding its birth pangs, however, are not
> consistent with such an optimistic prediction.
[big snip]

For some time various people have wanted to do
things to promote Free Software in this country that
they could not do alone, or within the (occasionally
anti-Free Software) Linux community. For this reason
the AFFS has been formed - to Get Things Done (TM).

[I've also, for brevity, snipped the rest of my reply ;-]

Let's move on to dealing with how we are going to
"promote" Free Software, and our campaigns...

- Richard

btw I have to publically take back my earlier (pre-meeting)
objection to going to Pizza Express as it was not as bad as
I thought it was going to be :->
(this in no way constitutes an endorsement of this, or any 
similar restaurant ;-)


Richard Smedley
Production Editor, Linux Format

Telephone +44 (0) 1225 442244 ext 5038

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