A man walks into a local restaurant in Canada and orders a meal, along with some wine.
At the end of the meal the man receives a pamphlet from the waitress that states "support your local open source restaurants".
The pamphlet contains information about restaurants that have moved to an open source initiative (some with a GNU philosophy behind them and some with a OSI/Mozilla style philosophy).
While reading the pamphlet, the man finds out that
"People should not be restricting the food, or holding recipes and restaurant business plans as secrets. Growing the food, replicating the food, and producing the food should be open source. Food is easily replicative.".
He also reads in the pamphlet that
"Software requires long hours of work, and so does growing food. Food should not be any different than software. Software requires highly paid programmers in order to be maintained.. but some programmers work for free.
Some farmers enjoy their work like software programmers enjoy theirs. Food requires farmers to be paid in our current world. And so does software. If some programmers in open source software work for free in their spare or valuable time, then so can farmers. Some will work for free, some will get paid like Mozilla/Netscape programmers. But this still does not change our philosophy: software should be free (open) and food should be free (open) too.
All farming methods, crop tricks, etc. should be shared among farmers. Food should not be something we restrict, and neither should wood, or the alcohol that powers our new cars that run on it. Alcohol can be replicated easily through tree growth, beet/sugar cane, and yeast fermentation. There is no excuse for Oil being a raw material needed to ship food, causing it to be different than software."
The man quietly thinks to himself: '..but what are farmers going to do for a living? How are they going to continue to pay their bills if there are always helpful open source farmers working on free (as in speech and open source) food crops?'
The man realizes that his restaurant bill is going to pay the farmers for the work, some how. But really, the man continues to wonder, 'why do people make the distinction between software and material goods? Is it really all that different? And wait a minute, if the food and the source code is open, why can't the service in this restaurant be open? Why should I be restricted to certain service in the restaurant? What about the people who enjoy developing and working on restaurants for free in their spare time?"
The man continues to question why it is so easy for a software programmer to work 400 hours on a small software project and offer it free to the world (in speech), but that there is no such thing in the food crop industry? And the wood industry? The paper industry (trees that are easily replicative)? The wine industry (yeast that are easily replicative)? The man knows that food will require some shipping costs, but why not use tree alcohol from an open source tree farm or tree plant? The man knows that Brazil seems to have the majority of their cars running off of sugar cane alcohol.
The man truly continues and continues to question the magical difference between trees, food, yeast, and software. He continues to question the difference between working 400 hours on a software project versus working 400 hours on the farm. He sees no magical difference between the two. Yet, 99 percent of the software industry does. Software, is different, 'they' say. 'They' are stinted. 'They' don't currently have the sideways thinking that it takes to think beyond software.
The point of this article is to question the stubborn and stinted view that open source software advocates continue to carry on with them. What is it, that makes software so magical versus food? One always comes up with a silly excuse such as the fuel and price it costs for shipping raw materials. Or that raw materials are hard to replicate (if that were true, rice wouldn't cost us 10 cents per 100 grams). Read the article above again, if you still hold that view. If you think fuel stops raw materials from being open, or if you think that raw materials can not be copied easily, think again.
Are you telling me 400 hours of software work is easily replicative? How about the 400 hours of administration work on top of the programming? How about the fact that food requires no maintenance with regards to system administration? There are advantages with other materials over software, making it easier to make them free. Rice, for example, does not require system administration.. you just throw it in your mouth. A desk does not need to be maintained daily.. it only needs paint once every 20 years.
Just because software can be copied easily, does not mean it can be maintained easily. Yet, a wood desk rarely needs to be maintained. So what's the difference? With software you have easily copy-able code, but with a table you have almost no maintenance! Both have advantages. But a table can not be free, and software can? Even though both contain possibly equal advantages?
The fact that you can copy software does not make it superior to a wood desk with regards to freedom. The wood table is virtually free from maintenance (you only have to maintain that paint on the table once every ten years), while the software needs to be maintained at least every day or month! If you have to maintain software (constantly) but you don't have to maintain a wood table (rarely do), then both of those objects have their advantages! Software has the freedom to be copied, while the wood table has the freedom to be maintenance free for several years. The table should be free some way, since it has the advantage of being rarely maintained. The software should be free because it has the advantage of rarely needing costs to replicate (easily copy-able). What's the difference between the wood table and the software then? Nothing. Software, being easily replicative, but with high maintenance, is not magically superior to a table which that does not require maintenance! Many free software and open source programmers think from a blinded, one-eyed viewpoint when it comes to comparing software with other real world materials. But many commercial non-open vendors are equally as naive. And software has so many disadvantages, that we cannot possibly hold to the notion that only software can be free, since it has this one advantage of being easily replicative. Other objects in life have so many advantages that software does not have, such as a wood table not requiring hefty maintenance. But software programmers think differently. Free software advocates make a distinction between the wood table and software.
Free software programmers still hold this distinction between software and other materials in our world. They are stinted, stubborn, and mislead. Or, maybe they are just following the leader, and not thinking deep enough. Maybe it isn't entirely their fault.
The major reason for the stinted view that open source programmers carry along with them, is that they must get paid money some how. They feel, that the software can be free, but something just can't. Otherwise, they couldn't buy their Oreo cookies or feed their children. Look deeper into the situation. Walking around with a free speech sticker on your t-shirt means you must offer and demonstrate your freedom in other areas of life. Or, at least consider what you are doing to yourself before blindingly focusing on just free software.
Understand that the author of this article participates in open software, and is not recommending you abandon open software just if you can't offer "free food" and "Free fruit" to people. This article is just to bring about a point. Something needs to be changed, or we might as well just work on commercial closed source software.
You do buy commercial non-open food from closed source farmers and stores, do you not? So don't you dare run GNU or Linux, because you just abandoned the terms and conditions of the free life license. If you feel food and raw materials are some how magically different than software, consider that you may be thinking too much on the surface. You need to look and think deeper. Yes, Richard Stallman and Eric S Raymond, that includes you, too.
The above article does not only hold true with food, wine, or restaurants. It also holds true with many other services, materials, and goods in our life.
There may be five general view points or positions that you may consider, after reading the above article. You will have to decide which one is more appropriate for your needs in life:
Number 5 is a common view, although many programmers will not admit it. And it is sad. Very sad. It is terrible that some programmers will believe their own bull shit. In fact, some programmers will see absolutely nothing wrong with number 5. Some programmers will see nothing at all in this entire article.
- Open source/free software is not worth spending any time on until people hold a more realistic view toward other materials, services, and goods in life.
- Open source/free software is a complete joke, because if open source software is free, everything else has to be: Services, goods, materials. Everything must end up free.
But sorry, the world won't tick if we aim for everything to be free.
- Open source/free software is unbelievable but real, and if open source software is free, many other materials, services, and goods can become more free with time, if we work at it. It will take work and effort, but it will happen.
It won't happen overnight, but we can work on it and gain progress like Linux did, like Mozilla did, like GNU did.
- Open source/free software is worth spending time on, because it's a good start. People will have to stop thinking so single minded though, and move the ideas of open source software into other areas of life.
- I make my living off non-software goods. The article just has to be B.S., because I have to make a living somehow. I use free software all the time, but I would never give away open source items unless it was software. My plans will be ruined, and I will be poor if other items in the world become free and unrestricted. I mean come on! I have all my eggs in one basket: free software.
Nothing else could possibly be free in speech or cost. It just couldn't. That's my whole basis of making a living! Sell service or hardware, and always offer software free. Why are you trying to ruin my plans? Software is the only thing that can be free!
Number 4 and Number 3 is a viewpoint held from some free software developer or supporter who sees the point of the article. It's a nice view to have, but when is he going to do something about the situation? Write an article about it? Develop the next best 3D printer that makes hardware virtually free as long as you have some plastic pellets? Discover a Tesla free electricity energy generating device? Invent safer nuclear power that's virtually free (National Ignition Facility, California)? Break the second law of thermodynamics (Daniel Sheehan, San Diego). Does he have the will power, or will he turn into a Number 1, Number 2, or Number 5? Will his career and income from free software, which feeds him and his kids, force him to believe in his own bull shit?