Posted by: Anonymous Coward
on April 27, 2003 06:30 AM
Looking at technical quality among current offerings, and the motivations of participants, I think you are basically right (though expressing it in strong language).
I _originally_ decided to write free software for a very simple reason: in order to join a community based on friendship, mutual support, and shared intellectual development, dedicated to improving it's larger environment through hacking (in the sense of "playful, forthright, responsible, and creative development and application of technical and engineering skill, insight, and ideas").
In high school, and then later in college, there were all the regular faces you'd see around the computer labs. There was a culture there, for a time, now largely gone, based on sharing ideas and resources, and being friendly. We learned from one another, we egged each other on to better and better achievements, and we made our campuses better even for people who were outside of the clique. We'd go out for Chinese food, order pizzas, and then drop by the basement of the guy who had a discarded rack-mount pdp-11 in his basement to see if we could still boot the thing. We'd show off our hacks to one another. We traded copies of papers and books. We weren't competing in a scarce job market. We weren't competing for "who gets the best press on<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/.". We weren't saddled with the impossible task of reconciling the supposed "business realities" of our non-hacker bosses with the essentially mathematical truths that under-pin the craft we were learning.
Around that time, software was becoming a big, mass-market commercial product for the first time. There was visicalc and scriptsit, for example. There were warnings from faculty members that pirating software was against the rules. And a little while after that, there were the early writings of and about RMS, and against that: the example of unipress emacs.
In those writings, hacker cultures were pretty well described. The fundamental contradiction between such human communities and proprietary licensing were clearly spelled out. Free software was a no brainer. It was simply the only civilized alternative.
Resume fodder. Fame. Power of volunteers. A few million bucks to line the pockets of RHAT execs. A general mean-spiritedness and intellectual dishonesty when projects compete. A shockingly naive and dangerous popular outlook on what good programming consists of. A commoditization of programmers to the point where they are formed into a worse-than-peasant-class. A stunningly uninformed and uncritical view of technology dominating<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/. and kerneltrap and 100 project mailing lists. An FSF whose mission is a jet-setting RMS and a completely unfunded, bottom of the page, also-ran "build a GNU-system" task....
The free software "community" these days is decadence. It has become divorced from human values. It's in a shameful state.
The free software movement originated out of the mourning of a single individual for a lost community. How ironic that it has evolved into a culture that actively resists the formation of community.