Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 23rd Feb 2007 17:38 UTC, submitted by anonymous
Debian and its clones Last September, some of the Debian Linux distribution's leadership wanted to make sure that Etch, the next version of Debian, arrived on its December 4th due date. Almost two months later, though, according to the February 17th Release Critical Bug Report memo to the Debian Developers Announcement list, there are still 541 release critical bugs.
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I think you're missing the big picture here. Free software is a manifestation of the fact that users share many of the same requirements for what their computer should be able to do, and that nobody understands their needs better than the users themselves. I intend to show that users have yet to fully understand the role of software in their everyday lives, and that as they begin to realize its importance, they will in turn realize the importance of free software.

Computing has become less about providing an exclusive advantage--a leg up on the competition--than about bringing people and businesses together in a way that makes solving complicated problems easier. Computers began by solving problems we already knew how to solve, but faster. Today, computers solve problems that we had no way of solving before, providing insight into the nature of our world and the way we interact with one another.

Software is about people--what makes us the same, what makes us different, and how we can interact in a mutually beneficial way. It's time that the way we develop software more closely reflects the problems it is meant to solve. The first step is to conquer the problems solved by the preexisting paradigm. Honestly, these are not the kinds of problems that free software solves remarkably well. But without this as a starting point, we cannot leverage the power of our collective insight to solve problems that are beyond the capabilities or ambitions of conventional proprietary software development.

Make no mistake: the free software community doesn't relish the opportunity to create replacements for existing software. People rely on these products to create, manipulate, and consume information, yet their creators don't allow us to fully understand, improve, and extend these capabilities. They pretend to know everything we want to be able to do, and they pretend to offer to bring our vision to reality. But they only care about what we want, and they only offer to make it happen, so long as there's something in it for them.

Proprietary software only succeeds in an environment where people don't understand what they want out of it. When the desktop market began to blossom, people knew they wanted to be able to create documents and play games--not much else. Proprietary software vendors made it happen, and people were happy for a while. Then came the Internet and email. The proprietary software vendors made it happen, and people were happy. The same with multimedia a bit later.

But once people's most basic needs were addressed, we were faced with the question of where did we want to go from here? We began to realize that we didn't just want to create, manipulate, and consume information. We wanted to discover, explore, and share information. We wanted to work together on information, and we wanted to experience life as the pursuit of relationships amongst information.

Proprietary vendors are in the business of dominating the connection between the software that creates information and that which consumes it. So our natural desire to understand information--to become enlightened--is not of any particular business interest to them. The proprietary model of funding software has broken down, because software is no longer about their producer/consumer relationship, it's about participation. People ultimately want to participate in social and information networks that cultivate relationships amongst people and ideas. The want to feel like part of a community, and they want to realize personal empowerment through participation.

These are heady concepts that I believe will come to people in time as they work through their frustrations at the ways in which software limits their ability to satisfy their insatiable desire for personal growth. People are already starting to become furious at the rigid connections between the creation and consumption of media. The process of extrapolating this sentiment to all aspects of their ability to participate in our information-based society is only natural. Our initial attempts to right wrongs might not always address the root of the problem (e.g. piracy), but a true understanding of what it takes to protect our right to participate in information is inevitable and will lead the masses to free software.

Free software is not just a development model. It is a reflection of the way social networks have spontaneously assembled throughout the history of mankind. Freedom is what happens when we stop making excuses for our own ignorance and strive for the fulfillment we so desperately crave. Freedom is what happens when people are allowed to connect and participate. It is a path to progress, understanding, empowerment, and ultimately happiness.

Freedom is a notion that doesn't just exist in Richard Stallman's mind, it exists in all of our minds. Proprietary software will continue to provide a model for production and consumption, but only free software can fulfill our fundamental desire to participate in information.

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