everything wrong with free software
"obedience breeds foolishness"
### herding "teams" and shovelling crap
other pages: [[toms-herding-teams]] | [[the-fake-stallman-foundation]] | [[oliva-ousted]]
*originally posted:* jan 2021
*updated:* aug 2021
you might think the 35th anniversary is a great time for the fsf to focus on its history. i often mention that history is key to understanding where things like the fsf are going.
the problem is that the people in charge of reviewing, or "retelling" this history are also reframing it. every time you tell a story, you can focus on one set of aspects and downplay another. if this was just to explore different angles, it would be great. but when its in the context of ousting richard stallman in 2019 and alexandre oliva roughly a week ago, the new fsf hype machine can play notes that sound pretty horribly off key.
but before we can talk about whats wrong with their newfound emphasis on "teams" (not "microsoft teams", fsf teams) its important to give some examples from social marketing:
[lit] From the fall/winter FSF Bulletin (https://u.fsf.org/37z): a report from the hard-working FSF tech team: https://u.fsf.org/389[lit]
ive decided to refer to social media as "social marketing" due to the fact that roy still says quite a few things i agree with, one of which is that social media is optimised for marketing. at least i think he said that, it could be someone else. i doubt i invented the term "social marketing" though i like it. heres another example:
"As part of our 35th anniversary celebration, we’re revisiting important moments in the history of each FSF team. In today’s blog, read some great stories about our licensing team, *the guardians of the #GPL!*"
oh, boy. watch the fsf pivot from advocacy to marketing. it wouldnt be so insidious if the shift didnt include shifting core values that made the movement, which it needs in order to function.
the fsf is at odds with some of its most important guardians, which makes this a farce. not to say the licensing isnt a very key part of what the fsf does-- but the broader "campaign" itself is farcical.
i believe the fsf is shifting towards the idea of “teams” to downplay the importance (and the legitimacy) of individuals.
when people INSIDE the fsf have attacked some of their most important individuals, what makes this propaganda is the idea that youre part of a *team*, you have to /behave/, and do you what youre told.
this is a shift towards corporatisation-- it is in line with what open source has said about free software for years (that it should be more like this) and it is precisely what they did (and laud gkh for) to torvalds as well.
gkh is a notorious team player-- he was a team player for oracle, when oracle was being infiltrated by microsoft– what they mean by team player is that he doesnt stand up to corporate bullying. he is agreeable– thats why TEAMS are so important-- they work together, with corporate sponsors.
*of course there is a place for teams-- teams can do more than an individual.* nobody is saying that teams are a bad thing, only that the real motivation of stressing teams is dishonest.
really good lies are based on otherwise good ideas and kernels of truth. so teams arent bad, but you can still use the idea to downplay the notion that an individual should even be taken seriously. this really isnt a stretch when the fsf is picking off its most valuable *players*.
it is a hallmark of propaganda to conflate something people like and want to defend (like teamwork) with something they want people to support, such as witchhunts or co-opting. when people disagree, the first thing they do is look for a way to get people to to treat anybody that doesnt support the new "initiative" as troublemakers, whiners, or unreasonable. but you can do one better and just play up positive things like "teamwork" which is even one extra step removed from saying "this person just isnt a team player".
its not teams that are bad-- its the dishonesty of this approach in context of what theyre actually doing.
but open source has for decades kind of slyly insinuated that they made teamwork possible, when really what they made possible was to make it easier for corporate sponsors to take over.
and this theme kicked off when knauth came on board. i thought this was a ridiculous statement: [lit]https://www.fsf.org/blogs/community/statement-from-fsfs-new-president-geoffrey-knauth[lit]
"To be honest, at the time my first thought was, 'What a noble idea, *but one person cannot do all this*.'"
as far as i know, gnu was never intended to be a "one person" job-- free software is collaborative *by design*. so nearly from the day knauth started, history was being subtly rewritten on this theme.
gnu was always an invitation to join, and this bizarre idea that corporations (sponsors) invented (and are the stewards of) true collaboration, which was already built into stallmans work-- is both a staple of open source pr and exactly the sort of thing that happens when you let pr/marketing firms take over a grassroots movement.
downplaying someone like stallman is the subtlest form of discrediting them. when the fsf says it started in 1985, my initial reaction is the one i think theyre looking to create: "good, for too long open source has implied this started in the late 90s." linux is a kernel, and doesnt do much without the gnu operating system that had already been in development for years.
but linus was subtle, too. he was originally modest about what he was doing vs. the gnu project, from the time when he first annouced his kernel. rebranding gnu as "linux" gave open source something they could steer in whatever direction they wanted-- just as rebranding "free software" as "open source" did.
so people should perhaps be more concerned about cartoon stallman. since being cancelled, stallman (the founder of the movement, not to mention the gnu project and the fsf itself) has not been able to say much about a number of important free software topics-- one of the reasons i wanted him to step down before the coup i predicted was that i assumed everyone in the organisation was loyal to him, and that the organisation was failing to listen to members.
since the coup, two things have become abundantly clear: people in the organisation were not loyal, and the organisation has upset its long term supporters even more (and listens less than ever). this isnt surprising to me anymore, since the biggest gripe i have with the fsf is the way they have ultimately compromised the mission on behalf of sponsors.
this "team" meme is like a loaded question phrased as a statement-- free software was ALWAYS collaborative, but theyre implying dissent or disagreement is a lack of cooperation.
*"It is you who are important, it is you who joined the effort to help the world see the virtues of free software, the dedication of its thousands of contributors and volunteers*, the high quality of free software used every day around the world, and its sheer endurance and ability to find itself in widespread use even by those who were once fierce opponents to free software." -- knauth again
to me, this is just spin. the fsf is stressing that they care about YOU, but they will not hear you. they stress that it started with richard stallman, but theyre really saying "and where it goes next is up to us".
but the truth is that you dont matter to the fsf, we dont matter to the fsf, stallman no longer matters to the fsf (or they would let him speak for himself instead of creating a 2d puppet they can lean on for "agreement" with their changes in the future) but you know who does matter? their sponsors. this is what happens when a non-profit pivots from advocacy to marketing, and its been happening at the fsf for a few years. with advocacy, you talk about problems as well as solutions. with marketing, you play up hype-- and downplay serious issues.
as to why social marketing is full of fsf merchandise, note that this is the second year in a row that the fsf had to extend their fundraiser to meet their goal. i figure next year they will just start with a longer fundraising drive. you have to make up for that with overpriced backpacks and other material goods, because a membership in the fsf is getting to be like confederate currency-- its not worth the paper its printed on.
its not that open source is better, open source is still a scam. its more the fact that free software is still being taken over by that scam, and they infiltrated the fsf and changed the way it works.
what the fsf is doing now is *not* advocacy. its hype, marketing, and rewriting history. those are all hallmarks of open source-- not of free software.
i also liked their original videos, but theyre getting to be harder to take seriously, and more superficial. the one about non-free video conferencing was alright, but it made arguments against non-free video chat that apply in a pretty 1:1 fashion against code hosts like github, which the gnu project uses for some projects now. they neglect to mention that. its a message that needs to be said, but it conflicts with the fact that theyve abandoned talking about a very similar problem.
since then, the videos have gotten so cheesy that its almost like theyre trying to straw man the free software movement itself. but marketers dont care about that-- they get engagement, they push a product. whether that product is membership in an organisation that is less and less about real advocacy and grassroots activism each year, or whether its about useless junk advertised on television, marketing works the same way.
products are generally speaking, not "advocated" for-- they are SOLD. and if youre sold on integrity, on frankness about problems rather than spin, on real solutions, great. but hype is flashier and gets more attention-- while the new fsf continues to grow hollow, along with its message and actions. if you want the real stallman, he is three-dimensional and remains in exile. thats not what the end of a coup looks like. coups make leaders disappear. stallman is still here with us...
[lit]*knock knock*[lit] nope, just cardboard.
stallman wrote a song for the movement years ago, which literally starts with the words "join us now". how do you even get to the idea that "one person cannot do all this", from that? its an absolute straw man-- excuse me, i mean /cartoon/ man.