[Imc-communication] Uruguay and the PoU / Principios de Unidad
chekov at indymedia.ie
Mon Jun 13 11:44:51 PDT 2005
My 2 cents on POU 8 and 'free source code'.
Firstly, the wording is not great - there is much debate and many
different definitions of 'open source', 'free software' and so on. I
don't think that 'free source code' is particularly meaningful. It
would definitely be better to update the wording of this pou to make it
Peter van Heusden wrote:
>english only, sorry
>One issue with 'open source' software - big multinationals like IBM
>support the development of open source, for some capitalists (those not
>in the business of selling software) 'open source' means a free source
>of value. Also, the 'free software' movement has been critiqued (rightly
>in my opinion) for focussing on simply software, source code and
>'intellectual property' while not critiqueing wider property relations.
>In this regard, the movement has been called 'free as in America', i.e.
>it in some ways puts forward a very United State centric notion of
>freedom (like in the US Bill of Rights). I fear that some of that comes
>across in the clause in the PoU.
First off, the reason that big multinationals like IBM have taken to
open source is that they realise that otherwise they will remain
strategically dependant to Microsoft's monopoly of certain key software
components and that they have realised over decades of trying and
failing that they can't create viable alternatives themselves. While
this may underline the limited 'revolutionary' potential of open source
in itself, it is hardly a good argument against using it. If IBM are so
worried about becoming dependant on other companies that they are
willing to embrace open source despite finding the concept of it deeply
hateful - then we certainly should be embracing it too! It's more of an
argument _for_ using OS software - even IBM realise that the alternative
is to become dependant on MS, and they have a hell of a lot less reason
to worry than we do.
Secondly, while the nebulous OS movement may be far from a revolutionary
movement, it is a wonderful example of production according to communist
models and some of the best projects come close enough to being real
examples of anarchism in action - on a huge scale. If many of the
protaganists are blissfully unaware of the political implications of the
movement, as they undoubtedly are, the best approach is to get involved
and make the connections rather than criticising it from without. After
all, if we were to remain aloof from the greatest mass experiment in
communist production that the world has probably ever seen for reasons
of purity, we would be constrained to activity within a vanishingly
small number of projects in the real world.
Having said that, I do think it's obvious that the OS movement in
general is dominated by individualistic concepts of freedom and large
collective projects are the exception. This reflects both the strenght
of individualism in US culture - which still provides the bulk of the
ideological influence in the movement - and its general stength among
workers in the technology industry. However, this individualistic
failing and the lack of deeper economic analysis are small problems
compared to the alternative of becoming dependant on private
tyrannies. I also think that it is a failing that indymedia shares to
some extent - after all if you basically adopt the position that you
will never allow decisions that you do not personally approve,
regardless of how many other people support them, you will always get
your way in our decision making model - the tyranny of the tantrum.
>What's the practical advantage of 'open source' versus 'closed source'
>software I didn't pay for? There are many practical disadvantages - I
>have yet to find an 'open source' equivalent of Adobe InDesign, for
>instance. I am someone with 10 years of professional experience in the
>IT industry and access to a computer since 1983. And even I find many
>'open source' tools less polished than their 'closed source' counterparts.
This is a very easy question to answer and its the same answer for us as
it is for IBM. If we develop a workflow that is dependant on a
particular piece of software, then we are absolutely at the mercy of the
licence holders, who very consciously extract every cent possible out of
any such dependancies. There would be nothing stopping them from
turning around to us and saying that the license fee has increased by
1000%, or that the new licence conditions mean that they own the
copyright on the data processed by their software, etc, etc... As a
practical example of this, MS do not have fixed prices for corporate
clients. Roughly speaking, they look at the client's business, assess
how dependant they are on MS software (normally a lot), look at the
company's balance sheet and do a sum which is roughly dependency rate *
amount that won't cause the company to collapse.
It is not the ease of use or user-level advantages that we should be
concerned with, it is long term strategic planning that makes this POU
important. We are developping a technical infrastrcture for our network
and if one of key components was reliant on propietary software we would
be in a hopelessly vulnerable position. I'd say that the chance of, for
example, the copyright holder banning the non-retention of IP addresses
would be close to 100%. That is why we should and must use only free
software within our core software - which includes the web engines,
OS'es on servers and anything else that would be costly to replace or
that we might become dependant on in the future.
For now this does not include any real desktop software. None of this
is integrated into the network's infrastructure and there would be
little cost involved in changing to non-proprietary solutions. This
might change in the future, for example, if somebody built a photoshop
plugin that allowed you to directly publish to an IMC, we would have to
assess the risks of becoming dependant on it before allowing its use.
In the meantime, since it doesn't have much strategic importance, the
interpretation of 'wherever possible' should mean that we use free
desktop software if it is possible given the limited time and resources
we have available to us and given the infinite number of other things
that we would also like to do to change the world. Considering the
relative immaturity of desktop free software in many areas and
particularly the lack of user familiarity with free desktop software,
the 'wherever possible' rule will often fail at the moment. For
example, when we have run media centres in Ireland, we _could_ have
installed only free software, but that would have meant abandoning a
whole host of other things that we wanted to do, so we weren't dogmatic
about it. On the other hand, if we had loads of techies who were
willing to do it and had the time we certainly would have done it.
>The only argument for mandating 'open source' is if it is seen as a step
>towards freedom - either for Indymedia or for the world in general. I
>can understand that in certain circumstances, standardising on 'open
>source' allows us to interoperate easier (because everyone is guaranteed
>to have access to the same software), but as to making in an official
>principle of Indymedia - I feel that that places trust in the 'open
>source' movement that I personally cannot give.
As I point out above, the strategic 'non-dependancy' reason is easily
strong enough on its own so that we should mandate OS use, regardless of
the freedom argument. However, it is still clear that the freedom of
OS, however limited it might be, is vastly superior to the freedom of
the corporate dictatorship.
1 of indymedia.ie
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