DOKK Library

Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic

Authors Free Media Alliance

License CC0-1.0

                 Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic

                  A publication from the Free Media Alliance
                          Version 1.7, August 2019


Originally this was written to assist FSF members in bolstering the
success of the Free Software Foundation. Now it is written to assist
other free software advocates in continuing the success of the FSF
Fewer assumptions were made in the previous approach to this
writing-- now we assume some things:
1. The FSF isn't just threatened, it will hit a large iceberg in the future
that changes it permanently.
2. It will not change course on its own, nor will it carry enough
lifeboats for such a tragedy.
3. It likely will continue in its mission, in an increasingly diminished
Of the greatest concern is not what capacity the FSF will have in terms
of money and numbers. Whatever happens in the future, the FSF will
likely manage to pull through in terms of funding and having some
purpose. The most important things the FSF still does and will likely
focus on in the future, include:
1. The RYF campaign will continue to promote hardware that meets
the requirements of the FSF.
2. The FSF will continue to collect funds to help pay for various
programmes, organisations, and software development.
3. They will continue to host the FSF website, maintain licences and
the Free Software Definition.
Presumably they will continue to lobby against any legal challenges to
these activities, which is also valuable.
Other key accomplishments of the FSF include establishing the free
software movement, creating the GNU operating system and creating
free software licences such as the GPL.
These include some of the most important contributions to free
software of all time, and no effort is being made to make small of
these things.
So what could go wrong? Some things have actually been going wrong
for several years.
One of the worst things that will happen to the FSF will be the
eventual loss of its founder. Stallman is not going to be with the FSF
forever, and has said before that he has no replacement.
For those who feel the FSF has already spent years ignoring some
important new threats to software freedom, and given that he has
already said he has no replacement-- it is reasonable to speculate
what sorts of problems the FSF will experience without Stallman as its
president or on its board of directors.
The greatest failure of the FSF already, is its failure to produce more
Richard Stallmans. Not that you have to be Richard Stallman to run
the FSF or promote free software, but it would certainly help. We have
few complaints about him that wouldn't apply just as readily to
anybody else in the FSF.
And let's be realistic-- even if it were part of the mission of the FSF to
replicate its founder, that's a taller order than the one the FSF actually
exists to serve; nobody but nobody is RMS.
Not to single out the FSF on this matter-- Microsoft continues to be run
by Gates with a lapdog at the helm, as it did with Ballmer at the
wheel. Apple is just not the same at all without Steve Jobs. These
corporations may outlast their founders, but few will survive intact.
The future of the FSF is mostly likely not the FSF-- or it is, we suspect,
the FSF with other organisations to pick up the slack.
We keep a list of people most likely to fill Stallman's shoes-- hopefully
it will not be John Sullivan, as he already fills the role he is best suited
to. Sullivan would be, at best, the Tim Cook to Stallman's Jobs.
Compared to RMS, he is uncharismatic, unimaginative and
businesslike. That doesn't mean he isn't useful to the FSF, but without
RMS it's hard to imagine the FSF becoming anything under Sullivan
except increasingly boring and middle-of-the-road. In fact it may have
already become that, not to pin it unfairly on a single person.
Better candidates would include, as always-- Ben Mako Hill, who is shy
compared to Stallman though not too shy to do a good job, Alexandre
Oliva who is probably more like RMS than any other person alive-- too
bad (in a way) that he's already an asset to FSF-LA or perhaps he
could naturalise and work for the FSF in Boston.
Denis Roio works for and lives in Europe, or he would
otherwise make an interesting replacement. And Kat Walsh could
make a good President, if she cares enough about free software (she
probably does) and her ties to "Open source" aren't strong enough to
conflict. (Ben Mako Hill has them too, but has spoken openly against
the threat they present.)
Eminem, if he cared about free software issues, would make a great
stand-in for Richard Stallman. He is great at arguing his points, he
knows the people he criticises intimately, and he never backs down
from an argument regardless of how powerful his opponent is.
Stallman is a little more honest, and finding someone as honest as
RMS is unlikely but preferable.
     Now this looks like a job for me
     So everyone, press lots of keys
     Cause we need to liber-- ate our PCs
     They would be so non-free without me

Open source has made great effort in twisting every reasonable
critique free software has made of monopolies, into something deeply
controversial or overzealous. They have simply rolled over for a
corporation that not only refers to their actions against all competitors
(including free software and open source) as war-- but one that was
founded on referring to hobbyists as thieves for sharing software, at a
time when the industry was just transitioning away from software that
was (by default and common practice) in the public domain.
Let's be really clear about this-- around the time Microsoft was
founded, most computer enthusiasts already shared software, which
was generally legal to share. Copyright and industry practice then
changed dramatically, Bill Gates started calling people thieves for
sharing, and Stallman started working to preserve a non-corporate
(non-monopolistic) way of developing and distributing software.
Ever since, free software was painted (by corporations and by Open
source) as overzealous and unreasonable-- simply for not wanting
monopolies to take over what was once the right of every computer
enthusiast on earth.
When companies who literally own the media corporations want to
destroy your occupation, your hobby and your rights, and paint you as
a zealot for simply arguing for those rights-- it does you no good to be
an overly agreeable person.
Apart from being good at arguing for liberty, you also need to be able
to bring people together. Stallman has proven himself to be wildly
successful in this regard, without the false compromises and
weakened goals (artificial victory) of Open source.
In addition, some of the things that needed to be solved-- like the
creation of a free operating system and large-scale software support--
are already solved, and only need to be defended. The FSF's defense
of this resource is both minimal and insufficient, there are several
other threats to the FSF that could do harm to all they've done so far,
and they need someone running the ship that is going to be able to
protect its existence and advance its mission in the 21st century.
They aren't ever going to find someone as qualified as Stallman, so we
really should be talking about what's needed and how we can find (or
produce) enough people that can do those things.
While we are at it, we should be talking about other ways in which the
FSF has failed and what we can do about those problems as well.
Free as in Speech

The FSF used to say "Free as in Speech", and now you hear a lot of
"Free as in Freedom". This is subjective, and perhaps they say plenty
of both. But "Free as in Speech" made more sense in the earlier days
of free software.
Free speech isn't just the basis for free software, it's the basis for all
expression technical, political, philosophical and artistic. So many
people are bent on creating new exceptions to free speech and free
expression, and this is already bleeding into censorship of art and
even code repositories. The threat to free software is real, but the
people who want such a threat of course do not think it is a problem.
While a new breed of so-called anarchists campaign against
expression that even the state allows, people are also foolishly
overplaying the relevance of the state to free speech issues-- as if it's
not a freedom issue when a project is increasingly thought-policed,
because the thought-policing isn't on a state level. This is pedantic
and misguided for so many reasons.
First of all, it is technically true in some ways-- that's where the
ignorance starts. From a purely technical point of view, the
Constitution protects against laws that abridge the freedom of speech.
That's all.
So the First Amendment has very little relevance, technically
speaking, if someone comes into your house and insults you, and you
tell them to get out. You don't really have to explain this to people
every time this conversation comes up, but it's understandable why
people do that. It's because they don't care about the issue enough to
be honest.
When people talk about free speech outside of this narrow but
primarily correct definition, they are talking about the absence of
censorship. This is not a usage that comes out of ignorance or lack of
education, as the minimalists and pedants imply. Rather the
Constitution protects natural rights from laws, liberty is a natural
right, and free speech is a subset of liberty. (Free software in turn, is a
subset of free speech.)
You can certainly look at this in various other ways, but to constantly
insult and negate what people are saying based on ignoring the
validity of this perspective, merely insults the intelligence of everyone
you bother about it. It's a deeply condescending, stupidly narrow
definition of free speech to limit it exclusively to "whatever the state
does not infringe is (sufficiently) free."
That sort of pedantry only demands that we throw away the words
"free speech" as being as limited as they insist it is, and focus
exclusively on matters of "censorship." This is pointless, when
Wikipedia begins its article on "Freedom of Speech" with the words:

     Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an
     individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas
     without fear of retaliation, censorship, or sanction.

Far be it to suggest that quoting one line of a Wikipedia article proves
anything at all, but can anyone honestly insist that it's ridiculous to
treat free speech as the opposite of censorship? Or is it the pedants
who are being deeply dishonest? Either way this goes, what good are
If the FSF lent more credence to the relationship between modern
copyright and censorship, and the relationship they themselves
established between Free software and free speech, they wouldn't
likely be looking for exceptions like whether we should be able to
freely adapt "works of opinion" or whether you should be able to make
unlimited paper copies of a manual under an allegedly free licence.
Alas, the FSF has painted too many exceptions to free speech (or for
you pedantic idiots-- the lack of censorship) and is likely already
having key figures (including Stallman and Torvalds) stifled over those
exceptions. This is self-defeating, but it also harms other movements
that promote works that are "Free as in Speech."
The (more honest) truth is that free speech is a more complex and
nuanced issue than Randall Munroe has painted it in the most
ignorant XKCD ever shared online.
There are people who want to add to the censorship in the world, they
are successful in actively doing so, and they are eager to get away
with it using flimsy justifications and dishonesty. You are free to lie,
until the fraud does enough harm to the freedom of others, but when
you twist reality to limit a quest for freedom you make an enemy of
yourself. At that point you are no better than a politician, and you
have earned the disdain reserved for the worst among them.
In the past, the FSF has found it necessary (and rightfully so) to turn
to philosophy while Open source relies on sophistry. These days, when
you argue against censorship you find the internet is overrun with
sophists and trolls and armchair authoritarians. If that truly represents
what free software has become in this century, then you can keep it.
But that is not how free software began, what made it viable, nor what
it needs to be in order to fight against censorship.
There is no free software, without free speech. And if that's not
true, then free software ought to be dropped as a movement, and
replaced with free culture, which is a superset of free software and still
a subset of free speech.

Natural right begets Liberty,
     Liberty begets free speech,
          Free speech begets free culture and free software,
               Free culture (by definition, if not common practice)
               includes free software.

Free software advocates ought to be able to understand this. If they
cannot, it is one more area where the free software movement has
failed and become sterile.
Of course even if free software were dropped for free culture, the
specific areas where free culture pertains to software would be no less
important. All that would really change is the sacrifice of greater
idiocy for greater honesty.
As it happens, free culture (broadly speaking) cannot seem to wrap
itself around the importance of using free software, either. So both
movements are hampered without the other. And too few can
appreciate this, or bother to promote it-- both movements cost
themselves key allies and success in the process.
If they were really at odds, like free software and open source, such
alliance would be a false compromise. Since they are ultimately
working for the same freedom, free software and free culture should
acknowledge their similarities and help each other. But neither side
wants to admit the truth about their existence and philosophical
Just as open source does not want to admit that it co-opted free
software (even when OSI co-founder Bruce Perens said they had when
OSI was no more than a year or two old) Free software does not
acknowledge the importance of a broader copyright reform
movement, when free software was only necessary due to regressive
expansion of copyright itself.
Free software is far more honest than Open source, but on this matter
it too rewrites history to make itself out to be (a little) more
authoritative and central regarding a subject than it is in reality-- that
of copyright reform.
The FSF has-- and should have-- no monopoly on copyright reform. Its
lack of willingness to find its true context in matters of liberty leads it
to overplay its hand regarding non-software matters ("Why this
license?") and to misrepresent arguments about copyright reform in
other areas. It should not be allowed to perpetuate such dishonesty,
even if dishonesty is rarer indeed for the FSF than most organisations.
Either the FSF is a secular non-profit with a mission to promote what it
says, subject to the same scrutiny as all other institutions-- or it is a
cult with a leader and devotees that cannot err. Sadly, on matters of
broader liberty barely outside of software, it behaves less like a
secular institution and more like a cult. Some of its largest competitors
are cults as well, but they are cults to corporation and control, rather
than to software freedom.
On matters related to free software directly, the FSF deserves its
recognition as the authoritative voice of the free software movement.
For purposes of (among others) the unfettered and scientific
expression of ideas, we will challenge their authority-- but not deny or
negate it as Open source has unjustly done for decades at a time.
As for the Code of Conduct, it is a trojan horse that in practice lets
corporations limit free software along lines that the government will
not. It is a shot in the foot, and all for a false promise. "Love thy
neighbour" it was once said, is the whole of the law. There's nothing
wrong with that, but you should remain free to speak against your
neighbour as long as you speak the truth.
With no culture of free speech, there will be no protection against laws
that limit it either. For a government claimed to be of the people, for
the people, by the people-- it is delusional to assume or rely on the
government to protect and preserve anything that people are not
willing to stand for themselves.
You cannot reduce "free speech" to the Constitution, without dooming
it to lose further ground to censorship. The FSF may continue their
mission, though their followers, bylaws and customs are increasingly
eroding the Free Software Foundation's foundation.
The tools free software produces to liberate the user, are promoted
and run primarily by people dedicated to using them to control
speech, not make it more free. Freedom 0 is the freedom to use the
software for any purpose, but what we are inching towards is a future
where software repos will be divided along political lines. The recently-
adopted GNU Kind guidelines include a welcome glimpse of free
software's past, when words like this rang true:

     The GNU Project encourages contributions from anyone who
     wishes to advance the development of the GNU system,
     regardless of gender, race, ethnic group, physical appearance,
     religion, cultural background, and any other demographic
     characteristics, as well as personal political views.
Those words do not reflect the politics of free software today, nor do
they reflect the reality of the culture of the Free Software Foundation.
It is an ideal we should strive for, to have diversity of contributors as
well as diversity of opinion, but just try having your own political
Free software should be looking for more ways to enable free speech.
At the moment, all communication platforms related to the free
software movement are focused on controlling it, which is endemic to
the so-called Fediverse.
Free Software in Education

In the decade that the FSF was founded, computer education was not
yet based on applications. By the 1990s, education was moving
towards application training, which meant two things: computer
training became a lot more superficial, and it better served the market
for proprietary software.
Computers are multi-purpose machines, and applications focus on
specific tasks. This means that if your education shifts from teaching
about computing to training to use applications, you also move from
teaching something multi-purpose to teaching something application-
This is fine of course, if all you intend to do with the computer is use
those specific applications.
This point should bother every free software advocate. We are trying
to give people control of their multi-purpose machines back,
and they aren't even taught what they can do with that control.
The essence of computing is not applications, but code. Although it is
reasonable to assume that most people will not become skilled
application developers, the fundamental understanding of
computing is still missing for anyone that hasn't learned how to
Coding in one language to some degree teaches much of what
someone would have to learn to code in other languages. When
Silicon Valley initiates their teach-everyone-to-code schemes, they are
gambling with the compromise that was made to education in the
If everyone learns to code, then everyone gains some understanding
of how to code in other languages. To a small degree, they get back a
part of their understanding of what power they really have.
Nonetheless, education is still focused on teaching a lot of proprietary
software. If free software advocates make it a goal, there is no reason
we can't create "free software coding schools" (they will be
cheaper if they're virtual. Consider something less like DeVry and
more like Khan Academy, for starters) and stand up to the non-free-
laden schooling that teaches people to compromise their
freedom long before they're halfway through university.
We have such classes online-- we don't have our own schools, and one
should be built. If someone can build PeerTube, we can make Free
Software Academy and send all of our friends there.
Silicon Valley is doing this, and we should be doing this for free
If we do not reach at least high-school-level students with an
education in free software, then we have squandered an opportunity
to teach about freedom at an optimal stage.
If the idea is to reach people as early as possible, then a practical
language that is easy-to-learn as possible should be considered.
A single implementation is probably not the answer. It's a nice goal,
but if we had a team of 20 people to work on such a thing we could
split them up into 3 or 4 teams to come up with 3 or 4 different
Then we could go to each member and ask them which solution they
thought was best, and second-best (this means they must vote on at
least one solution that is not their own) and ask them to explain their
choices. Perhaps the team could then work on the top two choices.
It would be ideal for developers to try teaming up with
educators (or vice versa) to develop teaching environments that
are closer to what educators really need. This is a great opportunity
for volunteers. Teaching this sort of computing to educators would
also be a great idea.
Of course the FSF isn't likely to do this. It only has so much money and
so many volunteers, and it is not making good use of its
volunteers-- if the FSF were making good use of its volunteers, it
could do this. Instead the volunteers are focused on promoting the
organisation and its message, much more than they are invited to
help develop solutions.
The FSF should be training people to become coders, or trying to
encourage people to create an organisation for that purpose and then
supporting that organisation (with money or at least advice and
promotion) but they are not. What the FSF cannot do, someone else
ought to. Of course this chapter would not be here if we were not
inviting all free software advocates to help with this.
This is a specific area where additional free software organisations
would be useful-- whether the unincorporated, no-dues no-budget
volunteer-only sort, or the more traditional 501c-type organisations (or
But along with Free Software, Free Culture, Free Hardware and OER (Or
better yet, "LER" for "Libre Educational Resources") society and free
software alike would benefit deeply from an organisation dedicated to
free software (coding) and free culture in education.
Lightweight applications for education are also recommended,
because even if your school has plenty of money, countless others
don't. As long as we are creating our own software, we should be
standing against Wirth's law.
Simple languages aimed at teaching these basics:

1. Variables    2. Input   3. Output
4. Basic math   5. Loops 6. Conditionals      7. Functions

can make it easier to learn the fundamentals of coding and help
transition those interested to more complex languages. Earlier
languages can be more forgiving of syntax errors if there are fewer
places to get the syntax wrong. Simplifying some of the interfaces
needed to build distros and applications would also help immensely.
Narcissism in The Community

This is focused mostly on Cluster B personality disorders and their
effects, and mostly on Narcissistic personality disorder, but most of all
on its presence online.
It is intended as practical advice and not the result of a formal study
of online behaviour. Such a formal study could help, if not
compromised by a preferred outcome such as looking for an excuse to
further regulate the Internet. Some formal studies are compromised
by their sponsors.
People throw around a lot of Ad hom in online debates. A common
example is accusing Stallman of being autistic. Stallman has said
himself that he could be on the autism spectrum, and there's nothing
wrong with that-- it is typically brought up to imply he is incapable of
making decisions that fall in line with the real world.
It's a circular argument; if your goal is to change the world, you're not
going to be talking about things that begin by ceding that the world
will not change. Some changes are more realistic than others, but the
FSF has met most of its goals, except for the largest. Nothing written
here is really about the FSF failing to meet their goals, only
abandoning goals partially and not adopting ones that could be
necessary. In terms of meeting goals, the FSF has a great track record.
Being clinically diagnosed as a narcissist is also irrelevant. If someone
is diagnosed as having NPD and they are not lying and trolling and
trying to destroy free software, then the matter of NPD doesn't need
to be discussed. But when there are many people who are lying and
trolling and trying to destroy free software, then it is still useful to talk
about NPD. If more people understood it, a better handle of online
communication could probably be obtained by most people. This is
highly relevant to the free software community.
Narcissists are drawn to intelligent people. They take great pleasure in
attacking, controlling and defeating intelligent people because it
makes them feel smarter and more important. Some narcissists are
very intelligent people, but the word "clever" would apply more
universally, and narcissism is more about control and dominance than
intelligence. Not everyone who is a jerk is a Narcissist, but some of the
worst jerks could well be.
Not all trolls are narcissists either-- a lot of trolling is just a harmless
prank that never gets out of hand. At first it is difficult to say whether
the trolling is harmful or not, and if it puts you on alert that's alright,
but it could be nothing.
Misunderstandings happen all the time. As many misunderstandings
are harmless (and they really are, they're worth resolving whenever
possible) a narcissist will try to make everything seem like a
misunderstanding. Don't let this sour you on trying to resolve honest
The worst trolls are the better-known, evil awful person, who tries to
suck the soul out of you one jerk-move at a time.
Most people probably still think of narcissism as just an inflated sense
of self. That definition may have validity but is not too good, when
every idealist is trying to find some way to save the world. Oh, you
don't want to use software that doesn't include source code? Boom,
you're a narcissist. Beyond just trying to do "big things," a narcissist
1. pretend to care about you or other people
2. misquote you and speak for you and gaslight you
3. use smear tactics and try to intimidate you, even as a response for
anything they dislike about you at all
4. constantly accuse you of things they are doing themselves-- then
say they were "just kidding, lighten up"
5. play a hero, pretend to care, but have actions that never match
their words
6. play people and groups against each other, often over incredibly
insignificant faults
7. routinely miss the point of what you're saying and demand you
consider their points (exclusively)-- all conversations with narcissists
are one-sided
8. have consistently different standards for what they will tolerate vs.
what they will dump on you
Narcissists do not respond (initially, later on, after repeated attempts,
or under any circumstances whatsoever) to logic or honesty with logic
or honesty. They only ever double down with fallacy and lies.
Although people say "don't feed the troll," what they don't tell you is
that the thing you're feeding them is your happiness and well-being.
This   is not just about trolls-- Narcissism explains most of the ills
that   society has. People think that narcissism is rare, but it is not as
rare   as many assume and we are creating more of them with a society
that   is perfect for narcissists.
Selfies are not so bad. Prior to camera-phones, they were known as
self-portraits, and some of those are amazing. The real problem with
Narcissism is just how many people out there are lying by default,
how good they are at lying, and how great they are at weaseling out
of any effort to pin them for it. You aren't just wasting your time going
after narcissists-- you're wasting your life.
When feminists talk about "Patriarchy" they are describing male
narcissism and narcissistic success. When MGTOWs talk about women,
they are describing female narcissism.
Any gender domination in society is a cultural habit reinforced by
differences in physical strength. It's not because "men are just like
that." But narcissists of all genders are "just like that."
Though they may not always appear to act in groups, narcissists do
swarm together. If there's one nearby that you can discern, there are
often others lurking around. They feed off your emotions and off the
imaginary things they attribute to your feelings-- whether good or
But narcissism helps explain a lot of things-- from non-profits that care
more about a fancy, decked-out top office floor than the cause in their
mission statement, to the cloying but empty promises in any major
political party, to one-sided friendships that seem to always go
nowhere (or go crazy) no matter how you work to nurture them from
your side, to arguments that start out frustrating and become surreal
over time and iteration.
The only protection from trolls is to starve them, and trolls are
constantly trying to make good people look like trolls. No matter how
many anti-bullying campaigns you run, how many people you ban,
how many misguided zero-tolerance policies you write, trolls will
thrive if there's food around.
That will continue to happen until the day when everyone educates
themselves better about clinical narcissism-- and gives up the
argument that a particular troll has it.
If you go too far, and take down everyone who displays one or two
narcissistic traits, you will also stop their victims.
You want three things for a victim of narcissistic abuse: You want to
give them an opportunity to heal, You want to give them room to
speak that the narcissist tried to troll them out of-- and you definitely,
definitely want them to fully understand why it is self-destructive to
try to go after the troll either directly or publicly.
Turnabout is not fair play-- not just because of karma or some perfect
morality-- but because chasing after the troll is just another
opportunity for the victim to be abused further.
Many people think this is just about protecting emotionally fragile
people's feelings-- or creating a "perfect" code of conduct, or that this
is just an opportunity to squash more free speech.
Unfortunately, it can be all those things-- even if those things won't
work. That's a very substantial reason why a global understanding of
narcissism would result in a better world, better environments and
communication online and offline, less perceived need for zero-
tolerance policy and censorship and controlled speech, and greater
harmony and success.
If you critically examine the news and advertising, we are constantly
being played against each other as a society. Corporations do this
because it makes us "better consumers" by their definition of "better."
(Malleable.) So don't think for a moment that trolls are just some
obnoxious kids on an internet forum.
Trolls create and sustain monopolies, they use marketing to
psychologically manipulate the public, and they create a society in
which we cannot work together to do anything meaningful against
them. Understand that power, and you can learn to feed it less.
Will using a fully free operating system help? By no means was all of
this said just to sum it up as "use GNU," but yes-- a free operating
system would help substantially because it starves corporations that
are bent on controlling not just your computing via their software and
social media platforms and ridiculous "Smart" devices-- but your entire
life, via your computing.
Using free software, unlike using "open source" is a political and
ethical act. Using free software promotes freedom (and choice as well)
and it teaches that sometimes, "the shiny" is actually just poison.
That said, there is a lot more to freedom than just software. So many
things run on digital platforms now, that the relevance of free software
to other (more conventionally thought of) freedoms is understated.
This is not just about free software-- it is about free society and a
better mankind.
Above all, it is most certainly not a call for more censorship-- but
instead, an idea that may help people realise why more censorship is
not needed, and wouldn't help much anyway.
When you increase the number of tools and features for controlling
people and groups, narcissists tend to find better uses for those tools
than the rest of us. This is true whether you're talking about
technology or politics.
Narcissism is not just male or female, left or right, rich or poor,
eastern or western. It is a fundamental evil that has plagued humanity
for millennia. But between overpopulation, extremely scientific
marketing and global communication, it is very likely that the problem
is worse than ever in history.
A thorough understanding of the problem is the best first step towards
ideal solutions; while a misunderstanding, uncorrected, is a small step
towards chaos. The internet is full of misunderstandings, and this is
one it really can't afford. If you are tired of being trolled, or have
friends that are tired of the same, a good understanding of narcissism
is the best medicine you could have. It won't help you fix the
narcissists, but properly applied it will save you a boatload of trouble.
The Simplest Ways that AI will Change Computing

AI enhances automation; one way to think of AI is "A lot more
computing-- both good and bad." For art? Great. For surveillance?
Sometimes bad. Apply it to everything-- people will. And it will be a
great multiplier of things; of all computing tasks, more or less.
Not all at once. And this is not to hype it, but to describe the effect it
will have-- as a multiplier:
Another way to think of AI is "enhanced computing." Because in many
ways, it is fundamentally "just computer processing." Anything a
computer does is "just computing." But with AI, this becomes
something more; the scope of what can be touched with computing
becomes richer-- for good and for bad.
Computing is very flexible, by design. We can actually say something
about AI while being this vague-- it is essentially like computer
processing, except that it can do a little more, it can do more with
more modest requirements-- it may take a while-- but with home
computing equipment you can suddenly do things that you would
expect of companies like Pixar.
Certainly not at the resolution for a (feature-length) film like Pixar
makes. They will still use large computing farms to get the job done in
a reasonable amount of time, at least for now.
AI can possibly seem to violate Moore's law, but it won't violate the
laws of physics. If we are doing 1/3 of what our CPUs can do, then AI
will make it so we can do the other 2/3 as well. And we can be really
amazed at the results.
Also with "enhanced computing", things that once seemed incredibly
difficult to program are now at least possible. Not necessarily "easy,"
but what once would take a team of 25-50 people (at least) can now
be done sometimes with a team of 3. That's not a general rule, just
that some things that once took many people can now be done with
few, and faster than when it took more people.
Wizard-like stuff that once took a team can now be done by
individuals. So the term "enhanced computing" is both telling and
probably accurate.
If you want, you can say that what computers could do already 10, 20
years ago is almost like magic. We know better, but it still feels a little
bit like magic.
If you think of Harry Potter-- Ollivander said of Harry's nemesis: "He
too did great things. Terrible, yes-- but great." It wasn't a compliment,
it was an accurate measure. Of course for a young boy who just
learned he was a wizard, it's creepy enough.
AI will do great things. Some of them will be terrible-- but great. And
hopefully more of them will be Harry-like than Voldemort-like.
But really, it will be both. AI is already used to help kill people. We
should be cautious, and know that the best rules we come up with
(like no doing magic outside the school grounds) won't be followed all
the time.
No "Ministry of Artificial Intelligence" is going to be free of corruption
or poor decisions-- nor would it be enough to stop all bad things that
are done with or without approval. Either way, AI is here.
Perhaps the biggest difference between AI and human thought is the
superficiality and bias. Humans have that sometimes, in very stupid
ways, but we are more flexible. AI can magnify our stupidity-- think of
the old adage about "knowing just enough to be dangerous." That's AI,
and its potential to try to make computers do what we think we want--
and getting far worse versions on average.
That's going to be very common; even humans have done this now
and again throughout history. AI will lead us to a greater capacity for
such mistakes. Just as AI can solve things that would take 100 people
to solve, it can make mistakes that would take 1000 people to create.
At least with laws, there's a judge and jury as long as it's not artificial.
We are certainly building corporations that have more power than a
judge and jury do. But AI could do that too.
Politically, AI lends itself to many things, but may lend itself best (or at
least most easily) to fascism. Or that could be post hoc-- it's
corporations and governments that are the most interested in it, so
this could be describing what it lends itself to most easily by
extrapolating it from the product of governments and corporations
working on it. Still-- what we are developing now is like that.
People are trying to think of whether AI will be more good or more
bad, and this is no argument for a neutral stance. If you look at all that
computers have done both for our lives, and also to our lives,
computing that is suddenly enhanced in ways that at least seem to go
beyond the reach of Moore's law is exciting, but also justifiably scary.
What AI does is pattern recognition, and it can also impose patterns.
This is said broadly because that's the broadness of the application--
you can find patterns similar to the way a person would, you can
impose patterns similar to the way an artist would. Computers can do
that without AI, but not at the same level as a person.
Today, we are designing software that can do those things faster and
more tirelessly than people-- with similar (or sometimes superior) skill.
Manipulating video, audio, tactile environments-- targeting,
surveillance-- these are being expanded and developed all the time,
not just in the future.
AI may have future applications in sabotaging free software:
Strips is a framework for creating project plans with AI. If given the
outline of a project and a desired outcome, AI can be used to drive the
project towards success.
If given the "desired" outcome of making a project untenable or fail,
plans could be created (with or without Strips, it is just an example of
a real AI planning framework and may have no direct relevance to this
argument) to undermine or distrupt the viability of a business,
organisation or free software effort.
Computers have already been used for years to simulate and project
outcomes of real life processes-- the FSF has never done this, but it
shouldn't surprise us if software monopolies do run such simulated
There is an opportunity to do more testing of whether certain plans
will help or hinder future efforts, with the very big warning that the
previously mentioned examples of bias are still likely relevant, and
engineering circular arguments that reinforce or negate the merits of
a plan of action is not only possible, but could be difficult to avoid.
A positive of AI and AI-based planning could be to streamline and
automate the creation of GNU/Linux distributions. This is about how
the distro is put together, and may prove more relevant to building
distros than say, package management.
The more that is done to reduce the work of building a distro, the
more freedom the user will ultimately have. None of this is intended to
paint AI as solely a threat, or solely a benefit. Computing has always
had good points and bad points-- it is very arguably not neutral, but it
is nuanced. The future is interesting, and not everything is hype.
There is More Than One Iceberg Ahead

The Free Software Foundation knows that a licence can have
vulnerabilities, just like computer code. Tivo found such a vulnerability
in GPL2, created an exploit, and the FSF patched it in GPLv3.
If a licence can have vulnerabilities, then any argument that relies on
"it's free software, so..." is an oversimplification. Software is free
because it gives you the four freedoms in the Free Software
Definition, the definition is implemented via the GPL and similar
licences, and a vulnerability works around (despite) that
implementation. It may even work around the definition itself.
The most tiring hubris from the FSF is that free software is by
nature, immune to the sort of attacks that Microsoft outlined years
ago in the Halloween Documents. It is not immune, it is resistant. The
Four Freedoms create substantial resistance to lock-in, bloat, bad
security, and monopoly.
It shouldn't take half a decade to explain to the FSF why a great
strategy for reducing software freedom is to take a bunch of
projects that are well-designed, stable, reliable and vital to free
software-- glue them together into a single project from a single
maintainer, and then make it more work to separate them again.
This strategy is not far from when Microsoft talked about "de-
commoditizing protocols" in the late 90s, as part of their plans to
control, dominate, and end Open Source and Free Software. When
faced with this prospect and threat, the FSF and its fans tend to
compartmentalise. To oversimplify, at great risk of a straw man:
Things are good or they're bad,
Free software is good,
So everything under a free software licence is good.
Of course the FSF knows better than that, they aren't stupid. But when
presented with arguments why systemd (as the primary example) are
designed to reduce freedom and have reduced freedom, the FSF falls
back on defensive apathy and indifference:
     Using indifference towards a better viewpoint is a normal and
     common example of this. It can be caused by someone having
     used multiple compartment ideals and having been
     uncomfortable with modifying them, at risk of being found
     incorrect. This often causes double-standards, and bias.

Although it is not the inspiration for the title, given that the
overarching metaphor chosen is the Titanic, it is hard not to compare
the indifference and denial towards this threat to the insistence that
the Titanic did not need lifeboats.
Do we need to preserve choice for free software? The FSF has always
suggested otherwise, even if this seems (and ought to seem) very
backwards from a perspective of freedom.
Choice and freedom are certainly not the same thing-- freedom is
broader than choice, and while freedom seems to imply choice exists,
choice can exist (as it does in most any proprietary software) without
something that even resembles freedom. Preserving choice-- the
modularity that made UNIX so easy to rebuild with free software-- is
not and never was a priority for the FSF.
Trying to find a quote about Stallman saying that other desktops are
fine, but not needed because the FSF already has GNOME, may turn
this old quote instead:
     Since we already have GTK support, there's no reason we could
     not have equivalent Qt support, if it someone wants to maintain
     However, GNOME is the main GNU desktop, and GNU packages
     are supposed to support each other. It would not be right
     for Emacs to have more support for KDE than for GNOME.
Giving priority to a GNU project makes plenty of sense for GNU, but
this is just one more quote that suggests that the FSF has never
considered choice to be important. This comes up again in a
conversation with Alexandre Oliva of FSF-LA, who goes so far as to
imply that preserving choice might go beyond the FSF's mission and
that perhaps another organisation could tackle something like that.
Is that really what it would take? Granted, that's very nearly the
premise of this writing-- but can the FSF really not do anything in this
regard? It seems bizarre, but either way we will attempt to help people
understand why choice is vital to software freedom.
We live in a society where monopolies are considered "too big to fail,"
and the Titanic was also considered too big to fail-- we also
communicate with a global network, the concept of which was
presented to then-monopoly AT&T as an alternative to their
vulnerable, overly top-down system with a single point of failure.
Without the preservation of choice, both GNU and the FSF itself have a
single point of failure. "Choice" does not mean, just to state the
obvious, that "all combinations of anything are possible." It means
that freedom has redundancy (and better caters to diversity), and that
things must fail multiple times on several levels before the failure is
Although the "lifeboats" metaphor is primarily intended to refer to a
safe escape if the Free Software Foundation itself fails, (the global
chapters do not really operate in practice like redundant or
autonomous nodes, they are more like foreign bases of operation
coordinated by a primary node and will likely fail if the main office
does) if a large project like GNOME is no longer suitable, additional
desktop environments (preferably smaller ones that are simpler and
less likely to fail) could also act as lifeboats.
If this concept is too foreign (it shouldn't be) for the FSF to
acknowledge the obvious importance of, they can certainly recognise
that users strongly feel a need to have alternatives for just this
reason. The denial and rhetoric from free software supporters (with
some very notable exceptions) on this matter is pathological, but
The FSF has made its decision on the matter, and the 5 years of
development time stolen, along with the power consolidation of too
many projects by a single commercial monopoly-- which was recently
purchased by an even larger commercial monopoly-- and is hosted on
servers owned and controlled by their largest sworn enemy (of
freedom itself) you might really ask yourself what the hell they're
thinking. We have an answer: they're not, denial is something
So the FSF doesn't need lifeboats, yadda yadda yadda. We've heard
that one before. Even if the FSF doesn't need them, We as
"passengers" on this thing do, so we will provide them if we want to
stay afloat. And as long as we are engineering safety where the FSF
courts disaster for their mission, we might as well try to provide their
safety along with our own. They may ignore our warnings, but we still
care deeply about what they're doing.
Lifeboats for us then, and lifeboats for them. And like the resistance of
a licence to a monopoly dedicated to free software's destruction, this
metaphor can only go so far, so to construct "lifeboats" it is really
necessary to talk about what will "sink" without them-- namely the
threats and possible disasters that free software may encounter or
have already encountered, now, recently, and in the near future.
If we understand and don't deny the threats, it should (with luck) help
us work on ways to address them. With a visit to the Librethreat
We find a "malware-threat-like database of threats to libre software".
The first threat is "Tivoisation" and the field "Also recognised by
FSF:" is filled out with "Yes". The summary is: "GPL2 not strong
enough to prevent DRM/TPM from allowing device owners to change
operating system in devices" and the mitigation is: "Migrate to GPL3."
Interestingly enough, that migration to GPL3 was supposed to include
the Linux kernel. What went wrong there was a multipronged attack to
a singleprong (licence-based) solution. The GPL3 is a good licence-- in
many ways it is a clear upgrade. But the attack was followed up by
lobbying from the Association for Competitive Technology (covered in
a story by Infoworld in 2007) which according to Techrights in 2019,
worked to get Linus Torvalds against it and prevent its adoption for
Linux development.
GPL2: [ fail ]
GPL3: [ ok ]
ACT Lobbying: [ fail ] WARNING: This will cause Linux to remain GPL2
Both licences and organisations can fail to protect free software
from interference from monopolies like Microsoft. Just implying that
free software is immune to their tactics "because it's free software" is
a falsehood and a way of pooh-poohing a threat.
Historically, the FSF has a very good track record (indeed, the best
record) of recognising these threats and responding to them. The
point is simply that they too can fail-- the FSF is fallible, human,
imperfect. Regarding some of the things they have spent the past 5
years or more in denial about, systemd is the largest example.
Security researchers, professional bloggers and journalists, higher-ups
from other free software organisations such as and users
and administrators have all spoken out against systemd, and the FSF
has done nothing to help them or give them a real voice. If the FSF
has any members paying for the privilege of being ignored and
dismissed with the rest of us, we don't know much about them.
The FSF fails as a megaphone for free software advocates, it does not
always listen very well to advocates, but perhaps it should do more of
that. As to what response its critics should have made, perhaps a
formal petition to the FSF should have started to get them to drop
their support of the systemd takeover, similar to the petitions the FSF
made regarding DRM and UEFI.
One of the undeniable failures of those against systemd is that no
such petition was ever presented to the FSF-- instead, our actions
always fell short of one. (If you think it's not too late, let us know or
perhaps go ahead and start one.) In the future we would recommend
formal petitions to make the FSF take threats like this more seriously.
It's one thing to say "we can't do anything." Saying there is nothing
that needs to be done is probably false, and there's no excuse.
We maintain that systemd could be a weapon against software
freedom. We can't say that on the Debian mailing-list, but we know
that one or more companies remain out to do harm to free software,
we know their tactics have never changed with their marketing
rhetoric, we know that systemd does things that are strikingly similar
to the tactics outlined in corporate documents designed to wage war
against free software. So why wouldn't it be a weapon against
software freedom? It looks like, walks, and quacks like a duck. How is
it actually different? Oh, the licence?
Even when the same people who talked about the problems systemd
would cause, look back on 5 years of cleanup that could have really
been better spent improving software rather than salvaging it from
wreckage, the FSF remains silent. If it only hurt the FSF then perhaps
we could let them live with it, but what about the rest of us? The FSF
ignores and denies the problem, ignores what we say, and ignores the
damage done to all of us. Thankfully, some of us have worked on
alternatives. Unfortunately, there is a threat (or category of threat)
similar to systemd that is even bigger:
     Threat type: Broad category
     Affects: Free software development, stability and reliability,
     autonomy, organisational structure
     Summary: Disruption of POSIX, EEE of free software projects,
     Infiltration of organisations that offer free software
     Recognised by: Free Media Alliance, some critics of Systemd
     Also recognised by FSF: No
     Mitigation: Avoid / fork / replace / document examples of Redix in
     software, use Systemd-free distros, assist Hyperbola developers
     Examples: Pycon, Systemd

The FSF does not talk much about infiltration of FLOSS organisations
by employees of monopolies like Microsoft, even when such
monopolies and related lobbing organisations did so much to thwart
GPL3, which patched critical vulnerabilities in their primary defensive
weapon (the GPL.) Neglecting threats of this nature continues to
weaken the FSF's defenses in the 21st century, and the evidence is
everywhere. Monopoly forces continue to move farther and farther
into our territory. Why is the FSF so quiet?
Again, we recommend petitions. They may not be enough, but they
are a good place to start. They can even be informal, provided that
they are well-documented enough (we don't need to use,
for example.) The point is fighting to be heard, something that
shouldn't be necessary but clearly is. (We have fought hard for a year,
other organisations have fought for years longer, to no avail.)
If the FSF is not a megaphone for its members, we continue to build
one that you can use for the purpose. We should build a network of
megaphones, so that when free software is headed for yet another
iceberg, the FSF cannot dismiss the noise so easily.
But the larger threat is to POSIX itself. Stallman coined the term, and
we insist it is the glue that holds free software together. Perhaps you
can destroy POSIX altogether, and systemd along with zircon (the
kernel of Google's Fuchsia operating system) are two projects that
may aim to do just that. Microsoft themselves said decades ago:
     Systematically attacking UNIX in general helps attack Linux in
In modern terms, there is not a better description of "UNIX in general"
than POSIX. At this point, it is far more relevant than UNIX.
Once again, if we move past systemd and look at the threats to POSIX,
we do not come up wanting. We can show that POSIX itself is in the
crosshairs, we can give this strategy a name: "Redix." We can show
that systemd is the Redix flagship, but someday it could be retired,
and replaced with a new flagship. We would rather point out the trend,
the strategy, than just a single example or implementation.
If the FSF has any contingencies against this, they are silent and are
certainly fooling us. Do you have reasons to ignore this threat as well?
Is there something we left out? The Free Media Alliance talks about
more details related to this all the time; you can ignore one example,
how about five? Ten? How many examples would it take to make this
credible in your opinion? As long as free software is threatened, it the
job of those who care to do something, to at least admit the threat
exists. Why wouldn't we?
Unfortunately, systemd proponents have spent the past 5 years
beating us down and shutting us up. Even as new organisations form,
the struggle to be taken seriously continues. The FSF went through
that for many years (arguably they still do) and there's no reason we
won't have to do the same. But it's a terrible shame, when the same
rhetorical tactics used to fight free software itself, are used by free
software advocates to silence those sounding the alarm.
We recommend the Librethreat database as a primary radar for new
threats to free software, and no one can make you take each threat
equally seriously (we don't. Some of it is pure speculation.) It includes
threats that even the FSF recognises, but why stop there? The FSF has
proven itself unable to respond fully to Tivoisation. GPL3 was an
effective licence measure against it, we can't fault that. Only the sale
to Torvalds failed, due to lobbyists that may claim to " ♥ Linux."
Companies who wish to "Tivoise" can simply get the same GPL2 kernel
as before, Tivoise it all they wish, and then-- they can't use newer
GPL3 applications, can they? No, like Apple they will simply dump
those and use non-GPL applications. Perhaps there are threats bigger
than Tivoisation out there. And if there weren't, perhaps the FSF's plan
to patch free software against it would have worked.
Are we ready to acknowledge the severity of these threats yet, or will
it take another 5 years?
Let us know.
Distro-libre and feature-schema

Hundreds of distros exist, many of them with very similar features. We
know there is duplication of work, but everyone needs to understand
why so many distros exist.
Every time a distro does not suit a user's purposes, and it is less work
to adapt the distro on one's own than to affect the distro in any other
way, a distro is born. Ego is a factor too, but rarely mentioned is the
educational aspect.
If more people created distros, then more people would have
experience or interest in maintaining (contributing) to existing distros.
The real trick is facilitating that.
Stallman has said that we don't need more distros. "We" also don't
need more text editors, or "hello world" programs. Other people say
we don't need more programming languages.
Each of these arguments are subjective (who is "We?") and can be
refuted by pointing to a single need that no distro caters to. But in
recent years, many more (once-reliable) distros are lacking than
before. Are people really saying they don't need to be fixed?
Because they are more likely to be repaired by forking. Control over
distros and of software by monopolies is increasing, and if the
Halloween documents mean anything then this is a problem the FSF
and OSI once acknowledged (hosting the documents on their own
servers, though OSI has removed them since) though now that it is
a more critical and everyday problem, they are saying nothing
about it.
If we need more freedom, then we need more distros. In fact Stallman
said "We don't need more distros" before the FSF gained Hyperbola,
one of the very few (and arguably most dedicated) distros to work to
remove the monopolistic tentacles of systemd, which GuixSD should
also be suitable for, but Hyperbola should be a lot more friendly and
We would say that Trisquel probably does not need more distros, but
also that Trisquel probably needs a swift kick in the ass.
Incidentally, we have a script that automatically removes systemd
from the Trisquel live ISO and spits out a fixed one, but it relies on
upstart which is being abandoned by Ubuntu. So while Debian still has
some people working to keep "not systemd" an option (if it were really
optional, they would be done by now...) Trisquel and Ubuntu are most
likely slated to have nothing in that regard. What a shame.
We honestly think that every user should make a machine-readable
list of features they want in distros, and that this would be extremely
valuable data.
On the drawing board is a feature-schema prototype, which in the
friendliest machine-readable way possible outlines the desired and
optional features of a distro such as distro-libre.
The key to this schema is indentation, a simulation of XML that
requires zero syntax but must develop some kind of standard
keywords. If everyone (we mean everyone) made a list of features
they want included, this non-industry standard would be easier to
Distro-libre is a growing script that can automatically remaster various
live ISOs, ensuring that people can have bootable CDs and DVDs with
a receipt (the script) of every possible change. It is written in fig, one
of the lowest-syntax, most consistent and minimal (friendly)
languages in use today. You could also do distro-libre in python, but
then fig translates to python.
Unlike systemd, distro-libre is intended to be easily forkable. We hope
that the future of remastering (and building) distros is the
application, not the distribution. Instead of maintaining a
distribution, what we would like is if you could download a program
and either use it to customise a distro (with help from automation, not
just by duplication of manual work) or even build one.
We expect mockery and ridicule, but instead of just talking about
these things, the Free Media Alliance offers working prototypes. The
prototypes increase in sophistication over time, and would increase
further with more people forking them. We encourage collaboration
between forks, rather than worrying about setting up a large
organisation (but you are welcome to do that as well.)
As a remaster tool, the way distro-libre works is not entirely new, but
it works like this:
Download ISO -> run automated remaster script -> New ISO
The remaster script can even download the ISO for you.
The automation serves two purposes-- by default, the script IS /
defines the "distro" itself. Instead of downloading "fig os," you
download a script that produces fig os. Instead of changing fig os, you
change the script.
The automation that produces the default ISO can also assist you in
making changes. This is very basic automation, and it can be made
even friendlier by moving more distro-libre logic to our indented
feature-schema. That way you can still change the code and use the
custom "language" (or functions) within distro-libre, but most people
will use the more abstract and user friendly schema to do many of the
same tasks.
In every step of the process, we encourage the use of languages and
tools that are modeled after successful educational languages like
Logo and BASIC. We say "modeled after" because these aren't 1:1
duplicates, with artifacts like line numbers or type sigils-- Logo has
evolved and remains very low on punctuation, people use it to code
without realising they are coding. That's the sort of computer
language we want people to have at their fingertips.
But because these are remastering and build applications, there is
no monopoly. If you want to fork a distro, change it entirely, you can
just fork the application-- written in a language that high-schoolers
and perhaps junior high-schoolers can learn to use easily enough.
We need more distros because we need more distro maintainers.
Obviously, the way distros are currently made lends itself to all kinds
of political and organisational issues.
We do want distros to be more generic-- installers that work
across more than one distro (family) like Calamares and Refracta
installer, remaster tools that work across more than one distro (family)
such as Refracta tools, we even want build tools (applications) that
help inexperienced users build their own distro as an educational
experience (the FSF does not get education!) in the same way that
using SBCs are an educational experience, and so on.
We need more distros-- an entire new generation of distros-- because
the current distros are gas-guzzlers, both in terms of what they
take to run and especially in terms of what they take to build. And it
is terribly sad that the primary and original free software organisation
in the world lacks the imagination or ambition for such a scheme.
We do encourage Guix and Hyperbola OS to keep up the good work,
because they are probably the most innovative distro builders that the
FSF already recognises, but the old way of building distros limits
freedom and limits opportunities for education (possibly even to
fewer people than we need to keep them going, and that's a very
serious problem if it's true-- do we need more evidence than
GnewSense folding? If done the way we suggest, you could carry on
GnewSense yourself!) And (per the charter) our job is:
     the free media alliance is happy to promote free software, but
     also welcomes thoughtful critiques of the fsfs methods and
     "extraneous requirements" (other than the 4 freedoms and gpl
to create strategies for bolstering the FSF if possible, and salvaging
the FSF otherwise.
We are not a monopoly:
we are the seed of a free software federation. And the gas-guzzling
distros (mostly in terms of what it takes to maintain one, and the
political costs and limited freedom that comes with those methods)
can be phased out-- voluntarily-- with better ideas.
We are not suggesting (indeed we regularly criticise) top-down
solutions like systemd, which consolidate power in the hands of even
larger communities, and we are looking to make distros easier to fork,
not harder.
The reason is simple-- when you take enough projects, packages,
standards, even people-- and you put a single corporation in charge
of them, you are building a monopoly. Systemd is made from projects
that were easier for smaller communities or fewer developers to
By consolidating those projects first under Red Hat, then into systemd
itself, they were lumped together (yes, we've read the nonsense that
claims to refute this, it is bunk-- pure denial of something they seem
most clearly aware of themselves) into something that takes a large
corporation to maintain.
Don't believe it? How long has it taken to "separate" back into smaller
projects? If it were really modular, it wouldn't take dozens of people to
work systemd back into modules. How much more obvious can that
point become?
This is also, in a less sinister way, how distros themselves are created.
And unlike systemd, those were created of necessity-- it was, once
upon a time, far too much work for people to just make a "GNU/Linux
Boot Disk" and throw on whatever programs people wanted.
Today that is increasingly possible, and the best direction for distros to
go in. Alas, it is not like egos and monopolistic attitudes do not exist in
the free software community.
On the contrary-- distros want to remain distinct and are often
opaque. It is the opacity, not the distinctions that are the real
Everyone is free to create their own free software, we are not
suggesting that everyone give that up and "do it our way." All we are
saying is-- if freedom is the real goal, let's put that freedom in the
hands of the user, not just the distro maintainer. Let's make distros
that (like free software) are as forkable as possible, so that no user
feels they are "locked-in" to theirs.
Lock-in is a monopoly tactic, and has no place in free software
distributions. If it is created inadvertently and there is a practical way
to reduce it, then reducing it is also a good thing.
All the same, distro-libre is a simple prototype for liberating even the
distros that do not participate! It is not about putting control of all
distros in the hands of a large monopolistic corporation-- It is, like free
software itself, about putting control of all computing in the
hands the user. The old distros don't do that as well as they could,
and it's time for an overhaul (you do you, but consider these words) of
the concept itself.
A Free (as in Freedom) Library, and Federation of Advocates

Amazon ebooks are an existential threat to libraries, and modern
copyright is an existential threat to culture. For such an ominous
global attack on all human culture, very little is being done about it.
The Free Software foundation says to boycott such ebooks and DRM,
and that's a great place to start.
To promote free culture would be an obvious next step, since (legally
and historically speaking) the threat that free culture mitigates comes
from the same late-20th-century changes in law and industry that
made the free software movement necessary. But the FSF sidesteps
this connection, and their take on free culture is fairly condescending
and surprisingly dismissive.
The sad thing is that the free culture movement has gotten off to
many false starts, and while it continues to grow it does so at a glacial
pace. At the same time, freedom within the absurd confines of modern
European copyright is breaking down at what you might consider (in
this age of climate change) to be a "glacial pace." If only there was a
movement that stood against this... Oh, there is.
Whether the free software movement impresses you already or not,
we strongly recommend making a more important issue of it. The FSF
absolutely will not do so, but they have contributed their videos from
LibrePlanet, so that is valuable. Stallman's essays might work just as
well if delivered as presentations at LibrePlanet, but those
presentations bear Free Culture licences, and his essays do not.
Copyright is the wrong tool to protect the integrity of expression, not
only because it does not do so. The public domain is not a licence to
misrepresent people, there are separate rules about that regardless of
copyright, and fair use allows some people a way around the
copyright but fair use is also a terrible (inadequate) tool for this
purpose-- free culture licences are a better one.
Considering all this, someone who believes that modern copyright is
problematic has no sane reason to think CC BY-ND is a useful licence.
It basically says "You can't do anything at all with this, but we won't
sue you just for having it." And the FSF actually promotes this licence.
We don't expect to change the FSF's position about this, we will simply
let them have their weird, magical thinking about how despite
LibrePlanet presentations being reasonably licensed, the FSF's
webpages do not need the same benefit because of Stallman's "Works
of opinion" shtick.
Obviously he is entitled to his opinion, even if it limits the benefit
people get from the FSF website, and even if "Works of opinion" is
blatant special pleading, and even if it misses the point of free culture.
(We recommend Nina Paley's "Rantifesto" on this topic.) Stallman and
the FSF are free to do that, it's simply a shame.
You could easily and most likely legally reconstruct the videos from
LibrePlanet into a better free software website than the FSF's,
although it would certainly be missing a fair amount of useful
The nice thing about such a website would be that it had a licence
that allowed people to share the information on it with the same four
freedoms that they enjoy with software. The FSF does not consider
that important, but LibrePlanet videos mysteriously (and thankfully)
give you those freedoms anyway. Perhaps a future tagline for their
events could be "We have no opinion!"
Whinging about what the FSF won't do can only accomplish so much,
and while we would recommend a petition for the FSF to stop
misrepresenting free culture (with the straw man arguments and
special pleading they tend to use to dismiss and argue against free
culture-- not completely unlike, incredibly, the ones Open source uses
against free software) we also have our own solution to this:
Let's do what the FSF won't.
Let's create our own free software and free culture library, as we have
started doing with the Free Media Alliance:
This is intended as a node of such a library, not the library itself. We
hope it will continue to grow, which is why the "donations" we ask for
are not monetary-- the way you "donate" to the Free Media Alliance is
to create free works (four freedom works) or give us links to free
works. As was policy for Debian for some time, we do not accept
works under the GNU FDL. If you think the FDL is a good licence, or a
Free licence, answer these two questions:
1. Why is it "more free" to restrict paper copies of a free cultural work?
2. If it is "more free" then why did Wikipedia abandon the FDL as its
license for articles, and why did the FSF help them do so?

Works licensed under the FDL exist against a backdrop of a better-
licensed Wikipedia and better-licensed OER works. OER is one of the
greatest success stories of free culture, and we proudly support it.
There is no licensing standard for OER, and we would suggest a "Libre
Educational Resources" (LER) standard based on our recommended
licences page:
Essentially, we would recommend (and are not the first to
recommend) a standard for LER based on the four freedoms, of
There are at least three ways to add works to our library:
1. Create a useful or enjoyable work under a free licence. We may find
it and add it ourselves.
2. Give us a link to a useful or enjoyable work under a free licence. We
may add it to our library.
3. Create a free library similar to ours.
We strongly recommend the CC0 copyright waiver for your listings.
This allows your library to grow without you even tending to it, as
people can incorporate your listings into their own libraries. It also
makes it easier for our library nodes to grow-- easier than just sending
links to individual works (which you are also extremely welcome to do
and we appreciate it!)
This library is not just for cultural works, but also for software. And
there are many ways for these libraries to link up-- for example, if you
choose to licence your listings under CC BY-SA, which we do not
recommend (BY-SA is needlessly restrictive for a card catalog) we
cannot simply fold your listing into ours, which is CC0, but we can
select a few items from your list and add it to our collection. We can
also (because it is at least a free culture licence) link to your library as
a node.
Although it is not a requirement at all, we also recommend creating an
account on (and supporting, by various means) the Internet Archive:
It is a non-profit we are proud to promote, and a great resource if you
are looking for freely-licensed works. Some of what we do is merely an
extension of what they have already done for years-- our informal
advocacy and promotion of the Internet Archive has already resulted
in more contributed works and awareness.
But if you have a blog, forum, website, social media account or any
other place online to talk about free software and free culture, these
can be used to help expand our library and donate links to us. They
can also be used to advocate for free software and free culture,
whether you quote our words or use your own. Let us know about this
and help us expand our grassroots network across the world.
The work we are doing is not just the work of a free software
organisation, but the work of librarians. Librarians are the global
champions of free speech and the preservation of culture. The FSF is
not-- they could certainly do more in that regard. What they do for
software, to be fair, is exactly what we recommend for all cultural
works-- and no other movement is doing as much for free software.
If libraries alone did enough for free software, that would be
wonderful. Sadly, there continues to be a divide between the culture
and freedom that libraries promote (regarding most of humanity's
works over the entirety of written history) and the freedom that the
FSF promotes-- we invite you to work with us to unite free software
with libraries and libraries with free software. As with many libraries,
you do not need to pay us to become a member. You only need to care
and count yourself among us.
But we also invite you to help us advocate, not only by parroting our
words and essays, but by contributing your own and helping us to
find solutions to the many crises that culture faces in the 21st
century. Doing that on behalf of the FSF is very difficult-- some of us
have tried for years! You can participate in what we do directly or
indirectly, you can follow our advice or split off from us like forking an
We even have a way for you to create your own unofficial
"department" under our umbrella:
The freedom lab movement was devised after the Alliance was
founded, and is a way to create your own miniature organisation
without the bother and commitment of creating your own
organisation. If you find our freedom lab concept inadequate, you
could even create a freedom lab to devise better freedom labs.
Ideas and vision are what led to the founding of the free software
movement. Free expression is what enriches the physical and virtual
libraries of the 20th and 21st centuries. Without it, those libraries
would all be diminished.
It is the absolute antithesis of libraries-- and the largest library ever
built in human history-- the internet-- to try to crush free expression.
For all the thoughtfulness and politeness and cooperation that serve a
good purpose, humanity is a great mix of emotions and conflict and
struggle. Painting a "nice picture" over all interaction, and reducing
the internet to such a picture, does damage to our ability to speak
honestly about science, history and the problems facing the world
Rather than destroy our libraries, we want to expand them and
preserve them in the 21st century. As interest in physical libraries
wanes, we hope you will help us find new purpose for them-- as well
as preserve the rights needed online to bring the same freedom that
librarians have always fought for, back to the internet as it is quickly
becoming a place that is anything but "Free as in Speech."
The history of Art and the history of human existence is full of
rudeness, horror, ugliness, hatred, violence, exploitation and slavery.
While we do not endorse these things, we do acknowledge our
humanity. Our libraries do not benefit from authoritarianism and
sanitisation, they would only be diminished. The same is true of the
internet, and we do not recommend the growing trend of sanitising all
human interaction, conflating everyday speech with violence, and
treating modern journalism as a hate crime or other criminal act.
The FSF says "Free Software, Free Society."
We say: Liberate software, Liberate culture, Liberate society.
It is not just about software anymore. It is about the survival of
human culture and the right to communicate with the rest of the
world. These are more important things than the FSF is now capable of
making them out to be. The future of free software however, is not its
foundation-- but a federation. It is not just our federation, any more
than it is just our freedom-- it is yours.
And the future of free culture is just getting started. Please, protect
our libraries. Keep the internet alive, not sterile. We can do all of these
things, if there are enough of us working together in our own way--
finding common ground and accepting that it is not possible to have
every opinion in common, in a free society. That is no reason to not
work to preserve human culture, and it helps in no small way if our
computing is free.
Let's keep working to make software and culture more free (as in
speech, as in freedom) than ever before.

* license: creative commons cc0 1.0 (public domain)