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Date: Tue, 02 Feb 1999 04:14:29 -0800
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From: Roger Harrison <rh@vixen.com>
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To: adler at bnl.gov
Subject: Interesting article on Stallman & the conf.
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Status: ORS

At the very early part, you mention that Stallman makes clear that
he isn't trying to make computers easier to use. This is the hallmark,
unfortunately, of the free software movement right now. It's all about
back-end technologies, and not at all about the end-user.

While this is great for us hackers, the truth is that to write (for
example) a free 'ICQ', it needs to be as easy to use. ICQ can be used
by my grandmother without her batting an eyelash. I cannot say that of
a single piece of GPLed software that I can think of presently.

Without that focus on ease of use, there is a built-in limitation to
the growth of open software. There may be moral high ground in
providing the freedom, but fundamentally the end-user cares about ease
of use MORE. (You can find very equivalents of this throughout our

This isn't to say that anyone should give up on the movement towards
freeing software, but rather that there NEEDS to be a focus at some
point on more than just improving the internals, and building an
interface that non-technical users can not only use, but enjoy using.

If you don't think ease of use is important, you are automatically
ghettoizing your software to those who agree with you on that. As
software becomes a broader market (in the user-count sense) even than it
is today, this ghetto will become a smaller and smaller percentage.

I've seen in person the level of passion that goes behind pushing
GNU/Linux instead of Linux as a name, and I think it would be downright
fascinating if instead of trying to argue about attribution, if that
energy were put to encouraging the contributors to the projects to make
their products usable by mom and pop. But mom and pop don't seem to
matter much to the political side of the free software movement, since
they'll never use the 'freedom' granted, and they aren't the technical
'elite' like the people writing the software.

From this point I tend to get angry, so I'll leave off there.

I definitely enjoyed the article, though, along with the
post-article /.-effect demonstration...


Roger Harrison