Re: Til / squeaky wheels

From: Alfie Costa (
Date: Mon Oct 07 2002 - 00:51:39 CEST

On 5 Oct 2002, at 19:18, Michele Andreoli <> wrote:

> Free-Software is *not* a service

On the contrary, it most certainly is; in the Webster (gdict) sense:

   2. The deed of one who serves; labor performed for another;
      duty done or required; office.

And the free software programmer serves who? Humanity, mankind, the summum
bonum, whatever gods of software there be...

Suppose the free software critic serves humanity too. If both programmer and
critic are servants of the same "master", then they'd stand on relatively equal
terms. Neither one is a leader to the other.

> It [free software] is cooperation.

Cooperation is a common trait free software shares with many things; for
example, commercial software. It's not a distinctive trait.

> The bug-report itself is only a basic form of the cooperation; the better is
> to join in the improvement. I know, this is utopia sometimes, but
> politeness, kindness is a requirement *minimal*.

I like movies, but most movies are pretty stupid, and so I read various movie
guides by various critics. Some movie guides are bad -- the critics just
paraphrase the reviews of other movie guides because they haven't time to
review 20,000 movies. Other guides are valuable... a critic performs a
necessary service in separating the turkeys from the gems. The critics can be
cruel, Leonard Maltin puts "BOMB" next to movies he doesn't like, but the
experience of sitting through an awful film can be more cruel for the poor
viewer, and the more viewers the more their suffering is multiplied.

I can't imagine how a movie guide like Maltin's or Halliwell's or Scheuer's
etc. could be useful if the critics were obliged act like gentlemen. Their
task is incompatible with that. Politeness and kindness are personal virtues,
but civic vices. A politician is not a good one who is politically kind to his
friends and family and pampers them with unjust favors. A movie critic who is
habitually kind to filmakers is useless.

While free software is a hobbyist activity which we do "just for fun", our
critics should be courteous and humane, but if we're trying to write code
that's useful to the public in general, (and succeeding), then our programs
become a kind of civic object, and private manners should not apply.

(All of which is a roundabout way of defending some guy who complains about
mailing lists and has his genders mixed up, but "CH" has a point that this
mailing list is spammy and infected, and if he's annoying enough to get anybody
to improve it, then he's done well. A proverb in the USA goes: "the squeaky
wheel gets the grease.")

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