Being not subscribed to GNOME’s foundation-list mailing list (and having no intention to subscribe to it), I tried to catch up a bit with the controversy of the last days. I might have missed stuff of course.
Trying to summarize:
Initially, Lucas brought up complaints received about content posted on Planet GNOME which triggered a discussion whether there should be rules on appropriate content, whether an annual reminder should be sent to blog authors aggregated to Planet GNOME (telling them that they can remove themselves if they don’t feel fine with it anymore), and whether GNOME has “lost” people because of reasons that could have been avoided.
RMS joined the discussion and Philip disagreed with him. RMS then wrote that people should not post about closed source on Planet GNOME and defined his “most minimal support for the free software movement” . Because of the obvious disagreement, Philip consequently proposed “to have a vote on GNOME’s membership to the GNU project”. Dave warned that such a vote “could cause a lot of harm & discord for the GNOME community” which was answered by Philip.
So far my summary.
Other folks may find other postings more important than the ones I’ve picked – feel free to read the entire thread yourself to get your own opinion.
Now some questions come up here:
- How is “membership to the GNU project” defined? Was “FSF membership” meant here maybe? Is there a public document?
- Is KDE nowadays such a “member to the GNU project” too? If not, why not? Did KDE try or consider applying for it? Links to potential past KDE discussions appreciated.
- Wikipedia states that “the Linux kernel is not part of the GNU project” which leads to the question: How important is it for the GNOME community to have GNOME being a member to the GNU project? (As a sidenote, the term “GNOME” being an acronym is obsolete, just to avoid a useless discussion about potential project name changes).
- I wonder if members of the FSF’s board of directors agree with Richard Stallman’s opinion that Planet GNOME “should not invite people to talk about their proprietary software projects just because they are also GNOME contributors”. As clearly written, “Planet GNOME is a window into the world, work and lives of GNOME hackers and contributors” which also covers activities outside of GNOME, may it be philosophy, hunting, music, non-free software or anything else, as long as blog authors have some relation to GNOME. For technical news there is always GNOME News.
- Which influence do FSF members have on FSF decisions? For example the Windows7 campaign got some bad feedback within parts of free software communities. How transparently are decisions made in the FSF, e.g. deciding about such campaigns? Who is involved? Are there public archives (URLs)?
Sorry if answers exist out there and I have been too lazy to search or have not found them yet.
With regard to my current personal opinion (which may of course change as I’m willing to learn), having read Richard M. Stallman’s recent posts on the foundation mailinglist, he remains a fascistic extremist to me, painting black & white, ignoring reality (with a bad impact on free software user experience if you cannot interact properly with closed source products that obviously do exist out there) and trying to exclude folks from the GNOME community (because they also work on VMWare stuff) because he knows better what’s good for the GNOME community.
RMS has done great work in the 80es and 90es that I really appreciate, but I prefer to forget about his last years (a bit similar to Michael Jackson actually), especially his GCDS keynote in 2009 (yes, I have to come up with this again, because it’s part of the picture). RMS was a non-funny comedian with jokes that can easily be interpreted as sexistic (to me they definitely were, though that most probably was not his intention), trying desperately to auction a GNU puppet by behaving like on a children’s birthday. Okay, one can probably discuss humor here. At least it was not my type of humor. If GNOME ever invites RMS again to a conference, I prefer to stay away and not go there. It’s simply not the community that I want to be part of and proud of.
I always tell myself that RMS does not speak on behalf of the entire FSF, as the FSF has good intentions. But good intentions don’t count if the actual acting and outcome is bad. Plus organizations normally are reflected quite well by the leaders that were elected to represent them.
So yes, the discussion might be definitely less heated if the request to not post about closed source on Planet GNOME had been posted by a different person than RMS, as he himself is controversial enough already. Plus for many people, FSF = RMS.
A general note at the end: “Freedom” to me is also the personal freedom to tolerate and even to use non-free software from time to time, without having a big issue if it fits my needs way better. (For potential “Then help the free software to become better!” comments: I talk about the present here, not about the future.)
And I have enough friends working on closed software. They are awesome people. They just have a different concept that I totally accept because I’m not in a position to say “My concept is the only right one and superior to any other concept”. I prefer to let history decide on that instead.