October 10, 2009

Selling vs. Shaming

Article Source Dissociated Press
October 10, 2009, 10:12 am

Having a conversation today with Bradley Kuhn on Identi.ca. (In as much as one can in 140 characters…) Bradley takes issue with several FOSS folks talking about the release of Hulu Desktop for Linux. He says, “some denouncing’s needed when otherwise pro-FLOSS ppl jump excitedly to new proprietary stuff.” I disagree — denouncing is never needed in this context. You can’t shame people into embracing your ethics, Bradley — what you can do is lead, teach, and encourage people to embrace your ethics, but people (at least the vast majority) are going to turn a deaf ear to people denouncing them.

Me? I think Hulu Desktop for Linux is a Good Thing(TM). It means that people who like Hulu can use Linux and have a more rich experience on a free OS — even if Hulu Desktop isn’t free software.

Most people aren’t willing to embrace a “monastic” lifestyle on their computer. The RMS style philosophy of “if it’s not Free, I won’t do it,” isn’t going to get it done folks — try to have the conversation with the average user of how they should reject anything that’s non-free and hold out for a free equivalent. They might do you the kindness of not laughing in your face, but you’re not going to score many points.

We’re not going to convert the world to free software in one fell swoop. It will be done in dribs and drabs over a period of time. We may never get rid of proprietary software completely, though I do believe we will get to a state where people can do everything they need and want to do on a computer using FOSS. But we’re not there. We’re close to the point where people can do all of the basics, but we haven’t met all the demands of “regular” users yet.

Hulu is one piece of software that at least lets “average” users experience a desktop that is mostly free. This is better than a desktop that’s mostly non-free. It may not meet the FSF purity test, but it is better than stranding users on a non-free desktop because we’re too pure to accept the fact that users (even high-profile FOSS folks) want to see their favorite TV shows on the computer.

If you’re a Free Software advocate that feels threatened of offended by proprietary software like Hulu, then promote a viable alternative. If there isn’t one, it’s on you to create one. But don’t come empty handed and ask users to wait for a better day when a free alternative might be available, or suggest some half-assed alternative that requires twice the time or hassle to use. That does nothing to encourage users to use Free Software, it just encourages them to ignore you.

Click Here!