everything wrong with free software
"obedience breeds foolishness"
=> mo-money-mo-problems.html mo-money-mo-problems
*originally posted:* dec 2021
a collective sigh of relief went out yesterday, after the fsf decided to solve ten years of stifling bureaucratic excuse-making with still more bureaucracy.
"speaking as an incumbent party member", some nameless representative or new intern (or whatever, who cares) stated, "i know stallman is still silent, but the fsf is not! now that ten years have passed and our image is completely unsalvageable, we are serious about change. this is nothing like in early 2021, when we pretended to bring back stallman, its totally different. we really mean it this time."
no one from the fsf mentioned if this also implied the troops were pulling out of the middle east, or commented on the similar probability, timespan and challenges.
"what weve done is created a bunch of rules for board members, so that people cant infiltrate our board and then use their positions to completely dismantle the organisation and indeed the free software movement in general. then we are going to send these rules to the then-existing board in the 1980s using a time machine, so that it will actually stop the coup that destroyed our organisation from ever happening".
when asked why they dont just offer a serious response to the coup in the present, the representative said "dont be ridiculous, a serious response in the present time would be impossible". when asked if it was impossible because the tax-free software foundation has sold out and simply needs to save face without any meaningful, real changes other than on paper, the somewhat official-looking person in a suit began explaining the "wibbly wobbly" nature of space and time.
for those who believe the one thing the fsf was lacking is more rules, they can hope that these rules are applied more than the guidelines that would have actually prevented the gnu project from becoming sort of, technically but not-really "owned" or "controlled" by microsoft, who merely have root access to gnu project infrastructure. but they wont abuse it, so thats okay. just saying, the fsf had rules for repos too. but those rules were never really rules, and these rules really are, so its completely apples and oranges.
when searching for loopholes, the first thing you find is that the rules only apply to board members. if youre a backstabbing liar in charge of part of the gnu project who has effectively overthown swaths of it along with a bunch of similar bastards, none of these rules (or ethics) apply. the fsf simply takes it on faith that everyone in the gnu project (including ibm, of course) has the interests of gnu and free software at heart. we dont really need rules for ibm, do we? and how would we enforce them? ibm is like, totally huge and powerful and stuff.
still, board members were at least part of the issue and this COMPLETELY EFFECTIVE solution at least offers a glimmer of hope (or promises to offer at least a glimmer of hope, in writing no less) for that one aspect of everything that has gone completely wrong with the organisation: https://www.fsf.org/about/board-of-directors-code-of-ethics
> Members of the board of directors shall abide by and conform to the following code of ethics in their capacity as board members. All members of the board of directors must strive to speak and act with the mission and effectiveness of the organization in mind.
i think its very its nice to know that an organisation which strives to "speak and act with the mission and effectiveness of the organization in mind" is only using stallmans presence to goad people into funding the fsf again, rather than letting him speak or act at all. this is for the mission of the organisation of course, which apparently has nothing to do with the free software movement that stallman founded (along with the organisation itself).
so already this is bearing fruit, because what the fsf did in that regard was COMPLETELY ETHICAL, and NOT more akin to fraud. and everyone who convinced stallman to hide for a year or two was actually on his side, and therefore on ours, and the fact that hes still sort of hiding is... somewhat inexplicable, since the bad board people are out and our allies are in... and... if youre confused by this, youre not alone.
but everything looks good on paper, so it must just be us then.
> Each member of the board of directors will abide by all the regulations of the organization, including but not limited to the certificate of incorporation, the bylaws, and this Code of Ethics.
i did warn you that there was recursion. the code of ethics for board members says that board members will follow the code of ethics! no word in the code of ethics about the turing machine halting problem, the gnu debugger or "reflections on trusting trust".
also, just to let you know they mean business, the code of ethics also makes very clear that the bylaws are not just suggestions, theyre bylaws. all those things board members were already bound to according to existing rules are DOUBLE-DOG-DARE-bound by this "code of ethics" too! but if they really meant it, they would have said "...and no crossing your fingers behind your back!" although it was probably removed for sounding ableist.
> Members of the board of directors will conduct the business affairs of the organization in good faith and with honesty...
this one has a race condition: the code of ethics starts out with recursion, but if liars figure out recursion too, they can simply lie about everything, INCLUDING the agreement to conduct affairs with honesty. but i doubt they really expected this one to be more foolproof than feelgood.
> In addition to the organization's policies on confidentiality, members of FSF's board of directors are obligated to uphold the privacy and confidentiality of internal proceedings.
those who are frustrated about the corruption that festered and no one was able to say anything: too bad folks, MOAR SECRECY! maybe thats why stallman remains silent about anything of importance: its not that hes being SILENCED, its just that everything they tell him is TOP SEKRIT.
want to know what the fuck is going on with the money you donated? the board sure wont tell you, maybe check wikileaks! (i would say check techrights, but theyve simply fabricated things stallman never said and never admitted this, so...)
> Members of the FSF's board of directors will not make use (beyond incidental use) of information, staff, property, or resources provided by the organization, or acquired as a consequence of the board member's service, in any manner other than in furtherance of the organization's activities, and especially not for personal gain.
REALLY makes you wonder what the fuck happened that made this one necessary. i mean we can guess, but its sort of like they made a rule that said:
> Members of the FSF's board of directors will not make use of barnyard animals, in any manner other than in furtherance of the organization's activities.
also, given the open-ended scope this one was obviously written by a very noobish c coder. i mean, "furtherance of the organization's activities, and especially not for personal gain" is self-contradicting to the point of being meaningless:
* if it furthers the organisation's activities, then the board members gain personally. this sort of personal gain at least, has to be acceptable.
* the board is part of the organisation, so anything good for the board could be argued is good for the organisation, and at any rate what the board or board member does falls under the description of "the organizations's activities" and this constitutes a blank cheque basically...
* similarly, the board member is part of the board and thus their activities...
> Furthermore, no member of the board of directors shall persuade or attempt to persuade any member, director, associate member, funder, donor, advertiser, sponsor, subscriber, supplier, contractor, or any other person or entity with an actual or potential relationship to or with the organization to terminate, curtail, or not enter into its relationship to or with the organization, or in any way reduce the monetary or other benefits to the organization of such relationship.
this requirement isnt even ethical, but it completely describes what oliva did (and what i would have done in the same situation). basically it mislabels as "ethics" a forbidding of board members to call for a boycott of funds or membership of any kind.
and going back to the montgomery bus boycott of the 1950s, this would have basically conflated as "ethics" a forbidding of people on the board of the bus company to participate in said famous boycott.
from an organisational standpoint, this RULE makes PERFECT sense. but this is not the first time since the coup started that the fsf laughably stole pages from scripts of "the office".
theyre simply making rules that work for the organisation (as is, as was or otherwise) and referring to that as "ethics", even where it has nothing to do with ethical concerns at all.
its completely dishonest to assume that any call for a boycott would be "unethical", and i intensely dislike and critique the list based on not only this, but this list is a farce.
many of these things are already required, and they are requirements (with real consequences for the organisation, including in the most extreme example, losing their status) and a code of "ethics" saying "dont get us in trouble in a way that threatens our organisational status" is redundant to the point of being ORGANISATIONAL THEATRE.
this code of "ethics" is to organisational "reform" what the pat-riot act is to national security: a lot of bullshit that goes above and beyond the call of covering your stupid, treacherous arse.
i might as well have said that the fsf is going to solve the problem of bullshitting their members with recursion.
oh and by the way, i hadnt even read these items before starting to write this. if youre reading these for the first time, we are learning these together.
so thats (some examples of) the "ethics" we can expect from the board, how about the agreement?
first and foremost and above all the other items: https://www.fsf.org/about/board-member-agreement
> I understand that I have a fiduciary duty to give reasonable care and attention to my responsibility in providing organizational oversight.
SO IT REALLY IS just about the fucking money. this is a complete giveaway, isnt it? this is not about ethics or fighting for your freedom-- MAKE THE FSF FUNDED!
this is a cork shoved in a leaky titanic, a desperate and obvious move. (once again, i have not read this before).
THATS THE FIRST ITEM? watch out for anything that fucks us in the wallet? REALLY? hmm...
these (really) are a lot worse than i expected.
> I will help develop and oversee the strategy, goals and good governance of the Free Software Foundation's efforts.
i mean, this too is fucking meaningless. might as well say "ill do a good job". theres actually several places in these where the language all but promises not to fuck up too much or just be generally shit at this. sounds good, right? no, its like if you wrote an actual law that said "ill be a good citizen". the fuck does it even mean in real life, in practice? this is theatre again, but worse, its a giant loophole for MORE organisational fuckery of the first order, NOT less.
THESE RULES ARE MEANINGLESS -EXCEPT- for WHOM they are enforced by, NOT -WHY- or -HOW- they are enforced.
basically this just ensures greater stratification between various parts of the governance. greater ARBITRARY and self-reinforcing stratification.
(but probably, in practice this will all work out to SWEET, FUCK, ALL. the other gloom and doom would only apply IF anybody ACTUALLY GAVE A SHIT about ANY of what this bullshit says). so take heart, this is what we can typically expect from the "new" fsf: a fucking whole lot of nothing!
FULL DISCLOSURE: the real entry differs a bit from what i quote in the line below:
> I will attend FSF activities to engage with the staff and gain understanding of the FSF's programs and activities, if I can even understand anything that's fucking going on amidst all this new secrecy and pompous formalisation of complete and utter bullshit.
i think this speaks for itself though.
> I understand that my time commitment to the organization will change according to the needs of the organization...
TRANSLATION: you are the fsfs BITCH! (no matter the actual motivation for demanding the right to unionise or whatever, the fsf is clearly a not-for-profit corporation whose unpaid volunteers need an actual right to unionise. of course, per the code of ethics, any one on the board cant ETHICALLY as part of said union call for a BOYCOTT, or probably do anything ELSE that costs the fsf anything in measurable value).
does the board have a union person? because as far as i can tell, this new stuff forbids the union person from doing anything "uniony". which again, i strongly object to conflating with "ethics" but i doubt it will work the (stupid) way it APPEARS to in PRACTICE. (bonus points for the freedom-free software foundation though, if they can actually follow up the creation of a union position with an agreement to never USE that position IN THE SAME YEAR it was created!)
again, my main objection to all this is that its fucking stupid and bullshit. the rest is... i mean, all of it is pretty fucking stupid and bullshit. anything thats not, still is for being part of this.
i said recursion and i meant recursion, and i meant it!
> I will participate actively and visibly in encouraging people to become associate members of the FSF, and in membership drives
i think this is obviously reactionary and completely misguided. this is what membership (or something lower than the board, TO BE REASONABLE about the organisational structure at least, which the fsf has clearly abandoned with gusto) is for... granted it WAS deb icaza in charge of... oh, whatever.
the board has to sing and dance for the new members. even you, union seat person. your job might be to complain about the unjust treatment of volunteers, just TRY YOUR BEST not to say it in a way that MIGHT make people think the best thing they could do isnt "JOIN US, JOIN US, JOIN US! ITS SO GREAT! JOIN TODAY!" all board members MAY get asked to wear barbershop quartet hats and at least strut around a bit in an occasional video promoting the fsf.
no longer can the board simply look out for whats BEST for the fsf. they also have to LIKE IT!
(points subtracted for failing to use "doubleplus good" anywhere in the new agreement).
> As a board member, speaking to the media on the FSF's behalf is not part of my responsibility.
this one i like. according to #11 you should be able to get out of the requirements of #8 by simply having enough journalists around. and if your day job involves being with the media, as a journalist thats technically all the time...
> In my capacity as a board member, I will act in the best interests of the organization and excuse myself from discussions and votes where I have a conflict of interest.
i like this one too. the new requirements of board members are so demanding and self-contradicting, theres bound to be a conflict of interest in anything you could possibly do. its better to just excuse yourself from the whole thing.
speaking of excusing yourself, watching them lay down all these new rules for the arrangement of deck chairs really makes me want to go to take a crap.
lesson learned: dont let unpaid interns write out obligations and rules for the board! though fuck knows how anyone on the board is still allowed to ever express this!
and i know this is going to sound TERRIBLY cynical-- but MAYBE, just MAYBE, thats the entire fucking point!
ndas werent enough! we need organisational silence INTERNALLY as well as with the outside!
unless youre just going to say: GIVE US MONEY AND HELP US FIGHT FOR YOUR FREEDOM! JOIN TODAY!
bonus points for stylish new handcuff$ getting rolled out MID-FUNDRAISER, people! thatll show the board whos boss!
"the beatings will continue until morale improves!"
"everything we are asking of you is completely within reason, and was already required anyway."
"whats the problem? dont answer that!"
theres nothing like coding further institutional failure directly into their formal, "ethical" obligations. except throwing in "i agree to not suck at this" just to prove failure is not an option.
whats extra clever: reading these pages the same week they were posted (i will cite the url, not link) brings up a very conspicuous css-based "window" that encourages you to join (that is, give money to) the fsf. so at least this crap serves SOME practical purpose: fundraising!
join the free-as-in-friedman software foundation today, and help them fight for their funding!