everything wrong with free software
"obedience breeds foolishness"
*originally posted:* jan 2022
the title is a bit of a farce, but what would be a better choice of words? this is less about what i did with techrights for a couple of years, and more about what (very few) connections i have with it now.
the point of writing this article is simple; if i dont explain it, roy will ultimately make it up. ive had an entire year to "research" this article, simply by observing my own habits with regards to techrights and what i do as a result of those habits.
here of course, is what i wanted to do-- as of august 2020 and december 2020, respectively: i simply wanted to leave. thats the intention i stated, the intention that roy did not accept, and the thing i was ultimately punished for trying to do. despite the fact that in december, my "blogxit" was painted as a non-event by roy who implied that i was never really part of techrights in the first place, his personal claim on me is so boundless and ambitious that he actually invented (fabricated) my return months later. go figure that one.
my intent to leave was very sincere. i felt used and lied to, and wanted nothing to do with the website. it really is the best course of action IN GENERAL to leave such things behind. that really was the idea.
roy had his own ideas, and tried to cut me off from parts of the community that he holds NO CLAIM TO-- in other words, he set out to smear me and become more of a wedge regarding other people who are NOT just techrights people, including stallman himself. which is to say that roy made himself a dishonest intermediary between myself and people he did not bring into my acquaintance in the first place. this was a very dirty campaign and simply leaving techrights was not enough to avoid it.
i tried to get him to stop, i tried to tell him it was unnecessary and to leave me alone and let me be-- i offered no less than the same in return. he didnt care, he went right ahead and tried to ruin my life online, making me sorry for leaving. i had no intention of having a passive response to an endless campaign of this shit-- i stood up to it, and i did it (as events demanded) with everything i had.
it showed me another side of roy and another side of techrights, one i didnt know he had in him. roy didnt start techrights, but for most of its existence hes been the main event, the main contributor, the defacto person running the website. i dont think shane has any interest in it, i used to think maybe tr-sec was shane but i have another theory now. its not all that important.
ewwfs was my act of self defence, and when i was able to get back to doing more non-techrights related material i forked it into a second offering. you can find all of that via ewwfs though, so its not like the second offering is somewhere forgotten or by itself. though 2022 may find more work on things that are more tangential to roy and techrights.
i say tangential, but techrights really is a monopoly posing as something collaborative and egalitarian. it tries to own free software, just like open source "always" does. for this, i need to take a moment to distinguish between the two-or-fewer types of "open source" that exist:
### two (or fewer) types of open source
even though the age of the internet (web?) has led founders to come clean on this (or clarify at least) the official narrative about "open source" is that it was coined in 1998 by christine peterson-- the same year the open source initiative (osi) was founded.
this particular open source is a fundamentally bad thing-- it has co-opted and dealt in dirty tactics for so long, co-founder and open source definition author bruce perens left osi in 1999, protesting that it had overshadowed free software and that this was "never fair". osi was (your best michael caine impression, please) only one year old. (sorry, mr. caine).
the funny thing is, open source (the idea, the phrase) existed prior to this. any forms of "open source" existing PRIOR to the founding of osi (unless you include debian...) may have a completely different or (relatively) benevolent agenda. most open source exists after the founding of osi, so this is mostly moot anyway-- that is, mostly.
you may think im trying to make a special exception for pre-osi open source, or give something like openbsd some kind of "pass" here. its the other way around, actually-- i was extremely hard on and dismissive of openbsd for years, until a (very) free software project helped show me another side of openbsd. i went in as a sceptic and had to talk myself down from my judgement of de raadt and openbsd, but since doing so ive found they act like an exception in nearly every possible way. of course there is some overlap with "modern" open source but once again, the two behave very differently.
its only out of fairness and truth that i say that SOME open source projects existing before 1998 may not behave according to the damning description i make of open source in general. judge them for yourself, but do it fairly and above all, accurately.
the other, the most common and best known open source-- i was an advocate of this a long time ago. it was actually through a quote (of me) by roy from more than a decade ago that gives me the best timeframe of when i left open source behind: it means that i was expressing doubts and remorse no later than 2010 (and yes, ive known roy for that long-- but he doesnt know that, nonetheless we collaborated as far back as that; it was less common and much more casual at the time).
the broadest, most common (osi) faction of open source from 1998 onwards, this is a complete farce and its the reason i left it. i realised that to advocate for open source was indeed to lie. finding the resignation letter from perens was the icing on the cake; imagine a co-founder saying after just one year that his organisation had sold out an entire movement and that he was disappointed. i too was disappointed, and ive fought open source ever since.
roy and i obviously clashed over this, but he let me think otherwise. he lies to his readers and says that techrights isnt about open source-- roy does open source professionally and fails to properly disclose his ties to various companies that have co-opted and attacked not only free software, but stallman and gnu itself.
do you know i only found this out AFTER leaving techrights? its an incredible thing that roy would exploit contributors under such false pretenses, use them to drive up (maintain) traffic to his website, use them for reputation washing and image management (pretending to tolerate free software sympathies is a great disguise for allegiance to open source) but AFTER ALL THIS, roy still DOWNPLAYS the coup of open source against free software-- he has routinely painted it as a coup against open source, as if thats a legitimate thing? i mean roy actually did a post about "darvo" once, but open source is NOT under attack-- it is COLLABORATING with free softwares biggest enemies and lacks any moral or ethical compass whatsoever in its objectives or its tactics-- the three words that best sum up open source are "lie, cheat, steal." no wonder the redmond cult is keenly interested.
open source too has provided a cover story for the corporate takeover of free software since the late 1990s, by downplaying a takeover as some giant love-in. what makes techrights unique is that no other open source outlet (roy denies this, but in light of all the other things he lies about this too is meaningless on his part-- its not supported by either facts or his actions, only words) edges closer to the fray. like open source, roy will always "pull back" and reel suckers in to the other side of the fence he rides, but this is nothing more than classic open source tactics: lets see how much we can look like we give a shit about freedom while winning people over to a wishy-washy corporate bullshit version of whatever, posing as free software.
open source has always done that, techrights just ups the ante. most people are too honest to appreciate (or believe, because they cant relate) that someone might lie more than a little extra, just for the thrill of getting away with more and more-- even at (or because of) the heightened risk of losing. its the compulsive liars equivalent of a bungee jump or skydive-- you live to see another day, you can tell all your friends about it (or just gloat in the mirror, i guess).
anyway, hopefully this makes clear my entire position on open source. roy, you NEED to DISCLOSE your TIES to RED HAT and CANONICAL and others. its bullshit that you downplay things done to benefit the PARTNERS of the company you work for, even while giving the naive and uninformed an impression that you actually give a shit. (i make clear that i dont expect roy to disclose the name of his company-- only his professional ties to companies he reports on).
this is a very simple and straightforward matter of INTEGRITY. but it would also make roy look like an arse for his sometimes one-sided portrayal of COUP-RELATED events at the hands of companies roy (once again) is paid to work with.
JUST AS IMPORTANTLY if not moreso: roys TACTICS are pure open source. you can claim affiliation with this cause or that cause, and do everything to benefit something that is entirely the opposite. its a politicians trick. funnily enough, i dont think roy is doing it for the benefit of anyone-- not for free software, not for open source. its all for roy. every last bit of it, is all for roy. its not for you, but youll do it if you think it has anything to do with you (or the cause you care about). go ahead and think that-- its the conceit behind the whole arrangement. good luck!
### what i do now
i was USED for two straight years (plus some change, most likely). i have warned other people-- with some degree of success (enough that i can feel ive done some good).
my (typical) approach is to let people do their thing-- i generally dont ask someone to take sides (though im unlikely to forgive someone taking my side and then turning on me again, with all they know has happened-- thats a kind of instability and unreliability its best to stay the hell away from, i want nothing to do with people like that). i left techrights at my own pace and its best to let others do the same.
i also came to the realisation (some of this is speculation and some of it is facts, depending on who we are talking about-- dont worry, if youre reading this. first, its not just you. second, im not going to name names) that some people already realise whats going on over there-- they are simply making an opportunity out of it just like roy is, they dont necessarily buy his regular line of bullshit. note that their approach has caveats-- even if you know someone is a bullshitter, listening to them on a regular basis DOES have an effect. but as fair as it is to warn them, that goes for ANYONE paying attention, myself included.
i havent written for techrights since i left. i havent sent roy new things to publish either. roy tried to publicly humiliate me for leaving, based on lies and (barely) half-truths and fabrications. and yet he also has the nerve to say i wanted to come back, but was too proud to APOLOGISE.
thats not true, roy! im VERY SORRY that youre a lying fucking arsehole!
whew, i do feel better. never be too proud to apologise for getting shit on by a compulsive (career?) liar.
what i do now is the same thing i did BEFORE and DURING my time at techrights: i try to keep abreast of events, and i try to provide information for people who want to further the cause of free software (and other things like free culture and free hardware-- that isnt new though, i was already working for those other causes too before i was writing for techrights).
whats different, whats changed is that i dont write it for techrights.
### how techrights factors in
i still keep watch of course. the first few months, watching roy stab me in the back repeatedly in my absence was frustrating. id be lying if i said it wasnt annoying. ive been VERY honest about whats happened, its really not my fault that roy has lied so much or been so incredibly sloppy. its like he doesnt even care if people know hes a liar. he will just say "no im not, i care" and then keep doing it. what are you gonna do about it?
i dont suffer any illusion that proving i was lied to is going to stop this from happening. what i HAVE accomplished though is getting some people to be more careful and go in armed with the truth and foreknowledge of future betrayal. of course people are going to be singled out, which means most people are "safe". not from being lied to, or being used-- everyone will be used. but most people wont participate (or be used) in a way they care about, so it doesnt matter to them personally, only from an ethical standpoint.
of course this is one of the worse ways that a toxic relationship can go-- to where someone uses a platform to smear former contributors spitefully when they leave, and said former contributor sticks around to watch the bullshit happen. im not saying this is the best way to do anything. ive left toxic relationships before, and "getting out" means actually getting OUT.
if i had simply stood my ground a few months, i think the situation would have quieted down for a few months more. instead, i promised to do something about something else that happened and since that was also unjust and other people were involved... i mean i probably would have mentioned it anyway. im not going to take the blame for roy punishing me for leaving though, or for his campaign lasting months. all i did was stop being a doormat and a naive pawn of his. thats a crime, if youre mental. (granted ive never met a single person who isnt, but its all relative).
to understand how else i make use of techrights, its important to note the change in how i see it:
### techrights image vs techrights reality
techrights, like open source and hollywood, is image-based. yes those lips are huge, theyre full of collagen. based on the staggering number things our "doctor" roy claims unfamiliarity with, im hoping hes heard of collagen. there are legitimate uses of plastic surgery, to be certain. hollywood just overdoes it in a cult-like fashion, even to the devastation of ones own image (jennifer grey went and messed with something that was already perfect). people that are overly obsessed with image tend to encourage this sort of thing, and sometimes the quest for image above all else becomes image over honesty. thats a fucking shame.
its also recursive. prove someone is a compulsive liar, and theyll just lie about that too. theyll lie about the conclusion, theyll lie about the proof, theyll tell a hundred more lies to prove theyre not a liar. compulsive liars use lies like the proverbial hammer that makes everything look like a nail-- lies are the route to success, theyre a means of survival, theyre even entertainment. they might even know theyre a compulsive liar-- doesnt mean they wont lie about it!
but its really important to understand that I WAS FOOLED, TOO. i guess the thing about lying all the time is he gets lots of practice. there absolutely were moments of doubt, such as when i was ready to leave in august, and sure enough lies did smooth those out a bit-- for a while.
this is what techrights looked like when i was fooled:
sources -> [ a reasonable and refreshing free software agenda ] -> articles
sources? mostly roys incredible rss feed. roy is, to be certain, a MACHINE when it comes to digesting rss. that obviously hasnt changed, unless (even im not this cynical) hes hired a bunch of amazon gig economy (wage slave) labourers to digest rss for him. i dont think thats his style (not hands-on enough) but ive been wrong before. i think roy has people in irc for that anyway. (dont look at me like that, i was just like you for a couple of years).
im PRETTY SURE the other leaks are real. you have to know that one of the best foundations for bullshit is other peoples facts-- i refer to the facts techrights relies on to construct bullshit as "anchors". politicians need facts, facts are the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.
whats changed then?
sources -> [ a completely personal agenda ] -> articles
when i say "completely personal" i dont mean roys personal take on open source, or his personal take on free software. i really mean COMPLETELY personal. yes, his ties to the same companies that he downplays the fuckery of are unfortunate and reek of irresponsibility, but i dont think this is his motivation EVEN IF he should disclose those ties ANYWAY because THATS WHAT YOURE SUPPOSED TO DO and because it would allow his readers the opportunity to QUESTION such bullshit (which is why youre supposed to disclose such things).
i think his motivation is COMPLETELY personal. if you look for free software related motivation (which is the motivation that techrights CLAIMS to have) then youre going to find lots of open source tactics and LOTS of waffling and if-by-whiskey (playing both sides of the fence) which is there for completely self-serving reasons: lies to pander, lies to maximise the size of the audience, lies to cover for other lies.
the inconsistency of techrights is so rampant, its practically consistent. i mean if you lie CONSTANTLY, doing it ALL THE TIME, youre going to fool some people into thinking its just a weird way of being honest.
i mean you can tell both sides of the story without being full of shit. you can play devils advocate (sometimes) without being the devil. and then theres what techrights does, which maximises engagement. thats the idea-- faux news does it too. so does cnn. sure theres a slant, its not perfectly down the middle-- doesnt mean theyre being honest.
sources: email and irc and rss, but looking back irc is used more frequently than i realised. i mean, techrights acts more like a gossip rag than i thought. thats not all bad-- its still different than i thought.
really a lot of difference is wrapped up in the process in the middle. i assumed if roy heard something it would go through SOME kind of scrutiny. it does, just NOT THE WAY I THOUGHT.
its a real game changer when you think someone is honest about anything, then realise the opposite. compare these instead, for the sake of argument:
sources -> [ a reasonable and refreshing free software agenda ] -> articles
sources -> [ a completely arbitrary agenda ] -> articles
this one isnt techrights, but it helps explain what if-by-whiskey does to everything else when its done to maximise the number of readers roy can engage. basically, its a formula for clickbait (but more sophisticated-- i dont even know if it would trip a clickbait detector, if there was one).
to make a clickbait detector that worked on techrights, youd have to make it capable of seeing what things techrights "stood" for and watch it waffle back and forth, then determine it was past a reasonable threshold of benefit of the doubt, devils advocate and the rainbow unicorn wikipedia refers to as "npov". i mean, i would sooner defend wikipedia npov than techrights.
as much as roy has already digested (and then passed) a mountain of rss, there are some (ahem) useful things in there, theres no question. those are the anchors. roy has also insinuated himself into relationships (every one of them as fake as his intentions and promises) with countless people throughout free software, including stallman himself. he has created a pipeline of information (useful, accurate, misleading or otherwise) to add to his plethora of sources from rss and irc.
ask yourself if this is possible to achieve:
sources -> [ a completely arbitrary agenda ] ->
-> [ an actual free software agenda ] -> articles
by adding a no-bullshit filter after a filter that turns things into bullshit, the goal is to extract the anchors and then repurpose them for something good.
why bother? because all this stuff is already being talked about in various places, techrights simply acts as a funnel for it.
i did the same when i wrote for techrights, and it was a collaboration based on what SEEMED TO BE (but wasnt) a mutual understanding as well as a free license.
debian turns gnu into bullshit (with help from ibm) and devuan TRIES to turn that into gnu again. free licenses are revolutionary.
but even when i was with techrights and this was done based on a (fake, but perceived real) mutual understanding, i did plenty of work to add something besides just rehashing shit from roy-- it was a conversation. note that not all conversations are friendly, not all conversations are happy, though a conversation that is dishonest is shit.
techrights saves me time with one hand and wastes time with the other. which funnily enough describes the relationship between debian and devuan, to the point where i started looking for other systemd-free sources on which to base fig os.
its possible that at some point ill build a network that is more prolific (or useful) than the shit coming out of the techrights mill, though note i was already working on such a network BEFORE i started writing there.
and i brought people in for roy too, i was very dedicated. i wish i hadnt, but it was an honest mistake and ive made considerable efforts to repent of it.
very recently i determined that techrights is a treadmill; a cycle of if-by-whiskey is very good for lulling people into apathy and its a hallmark of open source. it goes like this:
> oh, theres a problem-- no, its fine
if you watch techrights youll notice it doing this. the first part grabs your attention, then the second part is a bit like "made you look!"
except that its far more soothing than someone laughing at you being gullible-- its almost like "hey, we did it. we fixed the problem".
and it keeps coming back. of course this very thing can actually happen, the difference is that techrights conflates "it will be alright someday" with "its alright now" and spurs inaction.
graphing this cycle would produce a wave of negative and positive "vibes" which is a stimulous audiences respond readily to-- just like the mainstream news. you show a bunch of disasters and then LOOK, KITTENS!
wait, was that a terroris-- TOO LATE, everythings fluffy and cute now! i guess things arent so bad.
i know, both stories were probably bullshit. but the cycle still works.
theres nothing wrong with citing both the good and the bad, the positive and the negative. only theres a way to do so thats honest, and another way thats completely and deliberately manipulative.
throw in the way that techrights conflates coverage with-- youd think that if a fireman saved a hundred people and techrights covers the story, that techrights saved a hundred people. thats just how it works.
so first, theres a problem-- and then TECHRIGHTS FIXED IT! hooray! everything is wonderful!
filtering a cycle like that is as easy as building a rectifier bridge with a few diodes.
actually you dont need all that, a single diode will prevent the hypnotic cycle of self-serving bullshit that is techrights.
then what you have is:
* somethings wrong
* somethings still wrong
* somethings still wrong and its the same thing as before-- why isnt this getting fixed and what are the real options?
while techrights has people going in circles, the other method at least gives us enough direction to make our own map.
and people will eventually "switch off" from constant negativity too, but theres still a difference between saying whats wrong and talking about what to do, and saying whats wrong and why eh, it doesnt really matter though.
this week: techrights covers a silicon valley pedo ring connected to i dunno, a certain corporate repo that has taken over most of free software or something.
next week (or the day after, or the very story right after it): why a WEB BROWSER from the same repo we just talked about is the BEST GEMINI CLIENT which is like saying "my default bicycle is a car with a bike rack".
so lets spend a month lining up fifty great reasons to boycott something-- boycott novell, it used to be called.
then for a change of pace, lets not boycott it, but promote it instead! seriously, not only did they just do this the other day, they did the same shit with audacity. OH NO, DONT FORK IT-- just the IDEA of forking will make a completely predatory company change its ways a little!
3. bullshit instead of #2.
nope, its pretty much "#2" no matter what.
but thats good fertiliser. we can use it if we put gloves on.
is there a better solution? sure-- lets do like i did with devuan after a year or two, and keep looking for something better.
until then, i hope this gives you some idea of what i use techrights for-- just pointers, minus the spin-- not a useful product in and of itself, but there are some spare parts that can still be used. you take those as a starting point, wait until you have enough of them and put them through the filter.
whats the difference between a mostly-bullshit filter and a no-bullshit filter? the no-bullshit filter TRIES to account for past mistakes and LEARN from those, adding to its relevant knowledge over time.
the mostly-bullshit filter is ruled by the treadmill, and simply spins things. like i said (or tried to imply), it should have a similar effect as a completely arbitrary filter. except that it has an odd tendency to downplay the coup-- CITE YOUR PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS, ROY! if theres a major conflict of interest he certainly doesnt want his readers to know.