Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Evaluating the harm from closed source

Filed under
OSS

Some people are obsessive about never using closed-source software under any circumstances. Some other people think that because I’m the person who wrote the foundational theory of open source I ought to be one of those obsessives myself, and become puzzled and hostile when I demur that I’m not a fanatic. Sometimes such people will continue by trying to trap me in nutty false dichotomies (like this guy) and become confused when I refuse to play.

A common failure mode in human reasoning is to become too attached to theory, to the point where we begin ignoring the reality it was intended to describe. The way this manifests in ethical and moral reasoning is that we tend to forget why we make rules – to avoid harmful consequences. Instead, we tend to become fixated on the rules and the language of the rules, and end up fulfilling Santayana’s definition of a fanatic: one who redoubles his efforts after he has forgotten his aim.

When asking the question “When is it wrong (or right) to use closed-source software?”, we should treat it the same way we treat every other ethical question. First, by being very clear about what harmful consequences we wish to avoid; second, by reasoning from the avoidance of harm to a rule that is minimal and restricts peoples’ choices as little as possible.

Rest here




More in Tux Machines

Android Leftovers

GNOME 3.28 Linux Desktop Environment Development Kicks Off with First Snapshot

GNOME developer Javier Jardón is kicking off the development of the GNOME 3.28 desktop environment with the first snapshot, GNOME 3.27.1, which is now available for public testing. Read more

How to manage casual contributors to open source projects

Increasingly, people want to contribute to projects casually—when they want to, rather than adhering to a schedule. This is part of a broader trend of "episodic volunteering" noted by a wide range of volunteer organizations and governments. This has been attributed not only to changes in the workforce, which leave fewer people able to volunteer with less spare time to share, but also to changes in how people perceive the act of volunteering. It is no longer seen as a communal obligation, rather as a conditional activity in which the volunteer also receives benefits. Moreover, distributed revision-control systems and the network effects of GitHub, which standardize the process of making a contribution, make it easier for people to contribute casually to free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) projects. Read more

5 ways to invigorate education with Raspberry Pi

A couple of years ago, I was talking to PayPal senior director of software development Harper Reed at All Things Open in Raleigh, N.C., when he suggested that the best way to invigorate education would be to purchase Raspberry Pis en masse and put them in public libraries. Although many schools have made sizeable investments in classroom technology, those investments have done little to advance students' understanding of how the technology works. That's where the Raspberry Pi comes in, as it's the ideal vehicle to demonstrate the educational efficacy of open source software and open hardware in the classroom. Read more