Activism and Promotion


Something that is really counterproductive in many Open Source communities are people who are so rabidly fanatical about one line of thinking that they try to pressure everyone into their line of thinking. One long standing example of this is the whole FLOSS vs. FOSS concept. Some outspoken individuals try to lash out at all people who don’t take their view on Free and Libre Open Source Software…that is, software that is Open Source, Free, and Libre (aka without proprietary parts included). It’s really sad because this shouldn’t be an issue in Open Source and Linux communities but it often is.

There are two labels that can be applied to these stances…promotion or activism. A majority of the people who love and support Open Source software are promoters. They’re the ones that always put in a plug for their distro during tech conversations or tell their co-workers excitedly why they don’t have viruses. The others are activists who lobby congress (like lobby4linux.com), sue for GPL violations, and take an active role in the proliferation of Open Source. Both of these stances and labels are needed in Open Source and to proliferate Open Source. But just like the old saying, “too much of a good thing can kill you” so can too much activism or promotion inside Open Source.

It’s my experience that there are more of the promotionists than the activists. Of course, activists are needed with Open Source as well. They’re the informed individuals that debate the GPLv2 and v3 until they’re blue in the face…they’re the ones that force GPL compliance on those not observing that license. They ARE needed. It’s the extreme fringes of both promotionists and activists that we don’t need. When someone goes over the top and over-promotes something…their promotion becomes counterproductive because of over saturation. The same is true for activism…no one wants to hear about how wrong they are for using X or not installing X.

So which group would be worse? It’s really up in the air. Over saturation means that (when people hear about Linux after a promotionist has filled their ears to the brim with how great it is) a person will more than likely ignore something with Linux or not consider it when it would be worthwhile to them. On the contrary, activists may distract new advocates and new users by focusing them not on promotion of using Open Source but rather, debating on Libre vs. Non-Libre or whatever their argument might be (as Libre vs. Non-Libre is not the only area that has activists vs. promotionists). Remember, we’re speaking of the rabidly fanatical end aka fringes of the spectrum…not generalizing here. People can be rabid on the promotion side of things too…it’s important to note that when you’re on the extreme side of either, you’re counterproductive to the proliferation of open source software.

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Cipherfunk.org, the GPL, and Ubuntu Contributors


Why oh why do people jump to conclusions without properly investigating things? I haven’t ranted in a while because, well, there’s really nothing to rant about as of late. However, this morning, I read this news article on violation of the GPL by a site called Cipherfunk.org. If you take a look at the article, it goes on to explain that Cipherfunk was offering patches to various bug reports in Ubuntu because Ubuntu hadn’t fixed the bugs (bugs listed: #36596, #38802…possible fixes for: #16873, #38181, #47775) quick enough for the likes of Cipherfunk. Interestingly enough, this is the beauty of Open Source right? If you don’t like how something works, you have the right to get the source code and fix it yourself! In this case, that is just what Cipherfunk.org did. So what’s the big stink about? Source Code and $$$.

The problem is that two Ubuntu contributors asked for Cipherfunk.org to comply with the GPL by removing cost associated with distribution of source code. This is harmless in itself and applauded by many in the community. However, it’s not the why they did it that is wrong…it’s the HOW they did it. How they did it is by first informing the Cipherfunk.org that it was wrong to charge $$ for the source, and second by touting various sections of the GPL where they believed Cipherfunk was in violation. Why is this wrong? Let’s examine things a bit.

The big stink everyone brought up is not that Cipherfunk WASN’T distributing the source code…but that Cipherfunk WAS CHARGING for the source code which they believed was in violation. However, having seen this same case (where Warren Woodford and MEPIS distribute their sourced code for a cost) I know for a fact that the GPL allows one to do this. But let’s take a look at the GPL shall we?


Does the GPL allow me to charge a fee for downloading the program from my site?
Yes. You can charge any fee you wish for distributing a copy of the program. If you distribute binaries by download, you must provide equivalent access to download the source–therefore, the fee to download source may not be greater than the fee to download the binary.

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Perspective is as Perspective Does

Perspective. It’s what separates one opinion from another. A person who looks at a glass that is half empty may be despondent but a person who looks at a glass half full may be full of joy. I like to think “Hey! Who the hell put that glass on this table anyway?”. We all have different ideas that shape who we are, what we do, and why we do it. Often, these ideas blend into our interests and hobbies. With free and open source software (namely Linux) we see this frequently…especially when debating on the subject of libre and free.

Often, it’s attitudes, egos, and intelligence that make this gap between users’ perspective even wider. What’s interesting about all of this philosophy and debate is that it is more prolific now than it was 10 years ago. Why? Well, more users of course! Linux and open source are enjoying a very large following currently. Add more users to the fray and you’re bound to get more perspective…for the good things and the bad.

Working with users at work who don’t even know how to place clipart in their MS Word docs (I sub in for helpdesk since we’re a smaller state agency) got me thinking the other day. Where does the new user fit in with this philosophy and debate? How are we to get their perspective across to programmers, developers, application hackers, and designers? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Linux has arrived at a point unprecedented in history…when a Linux desktop is usable and productive. As Uncle Ben said in Spiderman 2, “with great power comes great responsibility”. I feel the community is being irresponsible on this…and yes, it is all about perspective. So please read on…let’s see if we can change your perspective a bit and close the gap between new users and advanced users.

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The Dirt on Suspicious Digging at Digg.com…

It seems that being one of the top 500 visited websites in the world has gone to Digg.com’s head. Users are reporting that some articles that are submitted are being dugg by the same users in the same exact order to up their digg rating to get them on the front page.

When these users posted articles about this phenomenon, those articles are either deleted, the users are banned (Submitted & Banned Pics), or the story is buried (despite having 164 diggs at the time of this writing…not on the front page). There is even reports of users submitting an article who haven’t submitted before only to have another user who is ‘popular’ get the story posted despite posting it later. Digg.com is supposed to have a duplicate url system in place preventing this…

Now digg.com can do whatever they want with their website. In fact, they can bully all the other websites they want to. However, they can’t build their community on a Democratic, Users-vote-for-the-story-and-our-editors-don’t model and then just drop it. They need to follow their own TOS (terms of service) to maintain their credibility or recant that part of the TOS and release an updated TOS. As of this writing, Digg insists that its content is driven by the users. With the information collected in this article, it seems that something is rank in the state of Diggmark. You decide.

For your perusal, I’ve collected all the links I can find with information on this issue. Please comment if you’ve found alternative links and I will update these as the comments come in. Please note that I belive Forevergeek.com was the first to post on this…they are listed at #1. Also please note many of the comments in these articles…users are pretty livid about this…and there is no response from digg.com yet.

  1. Digg Corrupted: Editor’s Playground, not User-Driven Website
  2. The Story that Got Deleted – The digg story that went pewf!
  3. Kevin Rose abusing Digg – links to google group tracking this story
  4. Suspicious Digging
  5. Google Blogoscoped – more on the google group
  6. Digg Corrupted – a digg.com user attempts to hold digg accountable
  7. Digg Abused? – Newsvine article on this
  8. Digg Army – Binary Bonsai
  9. Digg, not democracy after all – Yugatech Blog Post
  10. The J Spot
  11. Corruption. The House of the Digg Elite
  12. The Trouble with DIGG
  13. Growing Censorship Concerns at Digg – Just got slashdotted!
  14. Digg Army: Right in Line – More from Forevergeek
  15. 146 diggs, 57 comments, 6 hours and no frontpage at digg
  16. Non Response from Digg.com – Forevergeek
  17. Digg.com Explanation? – Kevin Responds? Sort of…
  18. BoingBoing’s Take On This
  19. The Guardian Picks Up the Story…
  20. The Inquirer Hops On
  21. Sitepoint Diggs in their Claws
  22. Boyhazard.net Blog
  23. Splasho’s Blog…Update on Digg
  24. Three Reasons Why Digg is a Crock! – Zdnet Blogs
  25. MonkeyBites Blog
  26. BlogCritics – A Must Read
  27. Thomas Hawkes Digital Connection – He has the most dugg story of all time…
  28. Odeo Podcast on the Subject
  29. ForeverGeek Comments Further
  30. Zippity Doo Dah – A Statistical Analysis of Digging Corruption? You Decide…
  31. CEO of Weblogs.inc – The Digg Backlash
  32. More from Techno Pinoy
  33. DuncanRiley.com chimes in
  34. Is Digg Rigging its Diggs? – a Tech Writer from Toronto adds two cents
  35. Businesspundit
  36. Kellegous.com Speaks of Digg
  37. ProBlogger – Digg Deception
  38. Newsome Blog
  39. RealTechNews
  40. Silicon Valley Sleuth – Social Websites have a Social Responsibility
  41. Basement.org
  42. Search Engine Guide – is digg working with their own shovel?
  43. Publishing 2.0
  44. SuperGeekBlog – The Social Corruption of Digg
  45. Student-Rant Blog – Interesting Statistics on Editor Posting
  46. Virtual Thought
  47. CNET Podcast on the subject
  48. FG-DIGG Issue on TWiT @ Forever Geek

Disagreements + Groklaw = Deletion?

Open source software. When one builds their site upon open source and with supportive intentions toward open source, they are declaring that this site will have its innards laid bare and have an open policy toward all walks of life, all opinions for good or bad. For instance, if anyone wants any content from this website, they are able to take it at their leisure provided they give credit where credit is due. These aren’t at all a very hard concepts to grasp and use. Or are they?

In our last article on Groklaw.net, we went over one person’s experience as a groklaw user and content provider of that site. Of the points discussed, no one could argue that Mr. Petrofsky was unreasonable at any time, nor could one argue that he was at all unprofessional in his requests and his behavior. By examining the evidence presented in that article, one can infer that he was indeed deceived. Today, we’ll look into more possible examples of deception and censorship from the site where “open source principles are applied.” We’ll be chatting with an ex-moderator from Groklaw named Brenda Banks aka br3n who was removed as a moderator after expressing her opinion about certain matters at groklaw. After having her moderator status stripped from her, she then asked to be removed from the userlist based on her own moral compass. Read on for more on br3n.

Q: Please give the readers some background on yourself (any you feel is necessary)

br3n: I am a grandmother of 5 grandchildren, married 35+ years, nontechie type.

Q: Where did you get your start with technology?

br3n: I bought a computer in 98 with win 95 on it and it had the win 98 upgrade. I had a commodore 64 and commodore 128 many years ago, but never did anything other than print a few things like cards and banners. I started with linux in november 2001.

Q: Do you use GPL software? If so, what do you use?

br3n: Yes. I use mandrake 10.2

Q: What does the GPL mean to you?

br3n: it means that I can try to fix and control my own software to suit myself. I am not allowing any information out without my knowledge.

Q: What was your specific role at groklaw and how did you get your start there?


br3n: I was moderator. I gave PJ news links and helped with quote data base. I was so frightened when I first learned about the SCO vs IBM suit. I did constant news searches on SCO and found mettler’s site by a link from on slashdot. Mettler had a link to groklaw. I lurked for a while because I didnt feel I had anything to contribute to her [Pamela Jones from Groklaw aka PJ]. In fact then very few people posted at all. That was in either late May or early June. Then I got my nerve up to write her an email about one of her articles and we started corresponding. I would email news links to her with short summaries from the article that were the most important.

Q: What was the ultimate goal you hoped to achieve by being a contributor at groklaw?

br3n: I dont think I ever set out to do anything. I found something I could handle such as sending her the links for news articles and it helped her with her time since she was working. I also helped with the quote data base.

Q: How would you classify your time spent at groklaw? Fun? Informative? Horrible? Please explain.

br3n: I had a lot of fun but most from reading others comments.sometimes I feel sad that I was so blind to be willing to trust someone like that. I was horribly disappointed in the treatment dealt from PJ at groklaw for things that happened off site.

Q: When (if at all) did you notice things starting to go awry at groklaw?

br3n: My first alarms/questions arose when the announcement came out that PJ was working at OSRM, then came the 283 patent infringement possibilities announced around the same time. Then when jgabriel [another Groklaw user] had his account deleted there was no way to ignore things anymore. This was when I tested PJ by email asking about his deletion and posting mild criticism of her on yahoo [The Yahoo SCO finance boards]. She never answered the email about him and she then removed moderation powers from me without correspondance. I felt that was the answer I would have to accept and that she would keep ignoring what she doesnt want to answer. Deleting his [jgabriel’s] account and making all his posts anon, was just the most terrible/disrespectful thing I thought I had ever heard of.

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The Great Schism Continues and the Rift Grows Wider

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still. ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 18591

It has happened again. Just like water seeps into cracks in rocks and freezes in the cold, splitting them apart…so has an ideal begun to chip away at Linux. In my previous post on this subject I talked about how Linux was beginning to be categorized. Not in the normal categories you would think…but in demographic and social categories. Linux is beginning to become associated with political ideas and social idealism. Political Correctness and concepts of sexism have flexed their muscle from within Debian.

The Debian Women’s Group (link broken at the time of this article) have spoke yet again against something considered sexist. Instead of being sexist language in a file…we have something a bit different. Newsforge reported on a small program that had been submitted for packaging called Hotbabe, which is a graphical representation of CPU activity. It depicts a cartoon woman who strips off clothing with higher CPU activity and is based on the artwork of Bruno Bellamy, a French cartoonist. The synopsis of what happened is this: Someone didn’t like the fact that this could be considered sexist or erotica…so they submitted a bug to the list and started a thread on the Debian Women’s Mailing list. A BUG!?!?? Since when did content become a “bug”? For that matter, where in Debian Policy does it say that a package must contain content that is unoffensive to all groups?? Wouldn’t that defeat the concept of free software and uncensored free software?

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