@bob Sigh. First The Guardian painting us with a broad brush, then these guys (though not quite as bad).

I'm tempted to respond, but I'll stick with saying: if you have trust issues on "the cloud", good! And perhaps surprisingly to some, Stallman never complained about GitHub being proprietary, just about their JavaScript being so (and I'd say I've seen much worse). At least that's what was at the top of his mind here: lists.gnu.org/archive/html/dis


@bob @alcinnz The FSF is so out of touch on anything to do with the cloud.

They give sites an F because of Javascript nitpicking, but the fundamental issue: "All data contributed by the project owner and contributors is exportable in a machine-readable format" is an optional "extra credit" listing.

This betrays the fact that they don't even understand the fundamentals of their own philosophy.

Being able to run the same code on your own hardware doesn't help if your data is held hostage.

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@HerraBRE @bob Yeah, I don't really expect them to. As they're correct in acknowledging that it's a whole separate issue.

And you're right, while the JS issue is important it's much more important to have that data available to us.

@alcinnz @bob It's only a separate issue because of narrow minded - and incorrect - thinking about the fundamentals.

Freedom zero, freedom to use the software without restrictions, necessarily requires access to your own data.

In the vast majority of cases, software without user data serves no purpose and the user is effectively denied the ability to make use of it.

This is why I say they don't even grok their own philosophy. They've been bamboozled by the cloud hype machine.

@HerraBRE @bob I see.

Isn't there that old quote "show me your flow charts and I will be confused. Show me your data structures and I won't need your flow charts", or something like that? That sort of thinking does seem to be missing from the FSF's philosophy.

But it's the very thing that drives the SQLite devs.

@HerraBRE @alcinnz @bob Long rant incoming.

Disclosure: I'm a volunteer webmaster for the GNU project, but I'm speaking in a personal capacity here.

Respectfully, you seem to be misunderstanding the issue here, and projecting that onto the FSF, saying "they" don't understand the fundamentals of their philosophy.

Let me explain (I also quote parts of your next reply).

> They give sites an F because of Javascript nitpicking

That's no nitpicking. JavaScript is a programming language, and code written in it is software, and so the notions of software freedom directly apply to it. The criteria emphasizes that upfront, because running proprietary software in the browser doesn't make it any less proprietary.

> Being able to run the same code on your own hardware doesn't help if your data is held hostage.

I think this is where you're getting confused. Your data isn't "your data" when you accept the terms of a proprietary service. It's theirs, and they can do whatever they want with it. If that's a concern for you, you shouldn't have used the proprietary service to begin with.

> Freedom zero, freedom to use the software without restrictions, necessarily requires access to your own data.

No it doesn't, although it is a nice side-effect of it: when you run the software on a machine that you own, you obviously have access to your data.

> In the vast majority of cases, software without user data serves no purpose and the user is effectively denied the ability to make use of it.

You have a good point here. In the context of proprietary software, the point I made above extends to here. However, in the case of free software, the situation is vastly different: Let's say you're using a free software hosted by someone else (e.g. using a hosted Gogs/Gitea or Mastodon/Pleroma service). If this software doesn't provide a way to export your data, you have at least some course of action (that you don't with proprietary software)! Namely, you can use the freedoms that free software grants you to get the source code, modify it to add support for data export, and send a patch back upstream, where the original maintainer will hopefully be grateful for your contribution and apply the patch. Then you can proceed to export your data.

> They've been bamboozled by the cloud hype machine.

Personal opinion here: on the contrary, I believe the vast majority of people using proprietary cloud services have been bamboozled. I refer you to these articles:

- https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.en.html#CloudComputing
- https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/who-does-that-server-really-serve.en.html

Lastly, RMS did not take issue *only* with the GitHub's proprietary JS, in the mailing list link above:

> GitHub does a number of things that are wrong. [...]
> Those are the flaws I remember, and they are grave. There may be more
> I don't recall now.

@aminb @alcinnz @bob Your rant only serves to illustrate my point. You think the FSF is doing fine and RMS has all the answers.

Neither is true, haven't been for years.

It's no coincidence that the FSF didn't author the AGPL - it took outsiders to recognize the need and create the license. More work in that direction is desperately needed, and I don't expect it to come from the FSF.

Just my opinion, of course. But it's based on over 2 decades of work in this space.

@HerraBRE @bob @alcinnz I don't know where you got that from, but I don't think RMS has all the answers. Obviously not. But from what I've seen he really makes an effort to stay relevant with respect to keeping up with new developments in different areas related to GNU and FSF's mission. For instance, when proposing changes to the articles on gnu.org or adding new ones, he always checks with at the very least one other person to confirm the factuality and validity of the change or new piece. Granted, it might be that a new change might contain inaccuracies, and people (from inside and out) catch them and report them, and we're more than happy to fix them.

Also, I don't see what's wrong with an external entity realizing the need for e.g. AGPL and create it. I never claimed FSF was an all-knowing organization. Of course they have shortcomings/faults but so does ever other org / human. But I do think they're doing a good job with the cause they're pursuing. But I'm not saying there isn't room for improvement; that's just false.

I think we're both on the same side of this, and care about software freedom issues. If you have a blog, where you write about these issues, and perhaps what GNU or FSF could do better, I'd like to read it.

If you have suggestions for improving specific parts of gnu.org, or more generally any ideas of how to improve GNU or FSF, please write to webmasters@gnu.org and we'll make sure your suggestion is heard and directed to the relevant people at FSF.

Or if you wish to get involved more directly,
- https://www.gnu.org/help/
- https://www.gnu.org/server/standards/webmaster-quiz.html
@aminb @HerraBRE @bob @alcinnz

I think that the goals of the FSF are laudable, and we need many more organizations like the FSF out there.

RMS is sometimes out of touch with reality, and at times I do find myself frustrated with his positions, but I will say that he has never compromised on the fundamental positions that free software activism requires, and overall, I have to respect that.

I also find myself frustrated with the FSF and GNU project (for example the handling of GNU social/GNU.io initiative in general and then previous handling of DotGNU were serious opportunity misses in my opinion), but that does not mean that they aren't important pillars in the software freedom movement. I think those failures were largely because they tried to take on technical initiatives that were outside of what they specialized in doing.

Proprietary SaaS is a major threat to software freedom, and the FSF is right to be vocal about this. I am not sure the ways they are vocal are effective, but the fact that they are being vocal about it is a good thing. Again, this is because it is a type of issue that the FSF isn't specialized in.

And before anyone says "but the BSDs," it should be noted that Stallman was one of the people who pressured UC Berkeley to free the BSD sources back in the 80s, because doing so allowed them to accelerate the GNU project.

What is needed, in my opinion, is for the FSF to concentrate on the things it does best, and for them to leverage the GNU project to technically innovate on those things, their support of things like coreboot for example is critical. They need to do this work in concert with other foundations that agree to the same pillars of software freedom that have specialization in other areas: for example, if DotGNU were an independent project with independent governance I think we would have been able to crush Mono before it became a problem. I also think that if gnu.io were an independent initiative, with independent governance, it would likely be doing better today (this is one of the reasons why Pleroma is not developed under the gnu.io umbrella, incidentally).

But at the same time, I think it is foolish to not acknowledge the mountains of technical contribution that the FSF and GNU project have given us to start with. It is time for us to build on that foundation with many new projects and foundations to move as quickly and be as hard hitting as possible...

@kaniini @aminb @bob @alcinnz The FSF is unique in that they (Richard) pioneered thinking about the ethics behind software development and the relationship and power dynamics between developers and users.

This was ground-breaking.

So it's a constant disappointment that the FSF follows up with what amounts to a strict "abstinence based" regime.

This works about as well in computing as it does in sex ed: the people who are at risk are not helped, the faithful few are isolated and out of touch.

@kaniini @aminb @bob @alcinnz We can of course just let the FSF off the hook, accept that they only represent the needs of computer users from the 1980s, look elsewhere for guidance on modern issues.

But the thing is, I don't think that is the role the FSF itself wants. I think the FSF wants to be relevant today and wants to inform developers on the ethics of their trade.

For that to succeed, the organization needs to engage with modernity, at least enough to understand what the issues are.

@kaniini @aminb @bob @alcinnz That means give all the "leaders" at the FSF - including RMS - modern smartphones, laptops, Facebook accounts: make them engage, understand what computing has become.

They don't have to like it and don't have to approve, but if they don't do their research and keep up with the times, they cannot hope to say anything relevant to the rest of us.

Leading by example, being a beacon of purity is mostly self-indulgent elitism. It doesn't help anyone.

IMO, obviously.

@HerraBRE @kaniini @aminb @bob I'd argue that it wouldn't be a bad thing to accept that. They've done great foundational work they've done and they continue to do as it's still needed because anything modern would build on it.

That said it's all a question of what they want to be.

@aminb @HerraBRE @bob I didn't mean to imply that was the only issue he had with GitHub, and yes I won't deny it's importance.

I just think not having machine-readable data does much more harm. And that as those philosophy pieces point out (which *are* excellent) points out, it doesn't matter much to those of us using a site whether or not we have the code. Different criteria must apply to the same ends.

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