17 votes

The falsehoods of anti-AGPL propaganda

17 comments

  1. [12]
    Deimos
    (edited )
    Link
    Drew is speaking definitively about something he's not qualified to speak definitively about, and ignoring a lot of the nuance and reality of a complex situation to frame it as a simple,...

    Drew is speaking definitively about something he's not qualified to speak definitively about, and ignoring a lot of the nuance and reality of a complex situation to frame it as a simple, outrage-worthy one.

    I'm not going to spend any effort on it personally, but I think the HN comments on the article have ended up covering it well, including a good comment by DannyBee, who wrote the policy Drew is complaining about. Drew's own comments are downvoted and flagged for being aggressive and/or wrong.

    26 votes
    1. [11]
      arp242
      Link Parent
      Drew does one of these things every few months or so. It gets attention because people roughly agree with the underlying message ("Google is bad!", "Copyleft is good!") and somehow ignore the...

      Drew is speaking definitively about something he's not qualified to speak definitively about, and ignoring a lot of the nuance and reality of a complex situation to frame it as a simple, outrage-worthy one.

      Drew does one of these things every few months or so. It gets attention because people roughly agree with the underlying message ("Google is bad!", "Copyleft is good!") and somehow ignore the extremely bad arguments and lack of understanding or context, probably in part because many don't actually read the article.

      I was already not a fan of Drew's ... style, but I really lost all respect for him after his "reckless, infinite scope of web browsers" article which is simply flat-out wrong (also), but defended it anyway with some pretty flabbergasting arguments ("if you agree that the conclusions are correct even if the data isn’t, then what the heck are you complaining about" lolwut? that's not how that works), which really crossed the line from merely "being wrong" to "wilful deceit" IMHO.

      The confirmation bias is strong with this one.

      15 votes
      1. [10]
        acdw
        Link Parent
        Yeah, I want to like Drew Devault, but sometimes his takes are a little ... spicy for me. I like sr.ht though.

        Yeah, I want to like Drew Devault, but sometimes his takes are a little ... spicy for me. I like sr.ht though.

        8 votes
        1. [9]
          ohyran
          Link Parent
          I don't know. Ok so full disclosure one of the things I love more than anything being a part in a FLOSS project and the wider FLOSS community is the freaks and castaways, as I call them. The...

          I don't know. Ok so full disclosure one of the things I love more than anything being a part in a FLOSS project and the wider FLOSS community is the freaks and castaways, as I call them. The people who probably wouldn't fare well in a company, the people who have a hard time understanding the bitter economic realities of the world (this includes me btw, no judgement), who make amazing things that are then sold by others without seeing a dime, and the people who are just a tad too passionate about stuff.
          I remember having beers with Lennart Poettering (who's often labelled problematic in social contexts) and it was wonderful. I've met people who change their name to their fursona and explain why they "as a fox" disagree during conversations with hardware company CEO's, people who wear their hearts not just on their sleeves but clipped ON to the sleeves like a kindergarteners mittens.

          SO my acceptance and calmness for outbursts like Drews are way up there.

          But I can see where he's coming from.

          [sidenote: the fact that my preamble for saying "I can see where hes coming from" was several paragraphs is probably marking me down as one of the Freaks and Castaways :D ]

          9 votes
          1. [7]
            arp242
            Link Parent
            There's a reason these people don't fare well in companies: because they're completely impossible to work with. I've worked with a few people like this: they demoralize everyone, cause endless...

            There's a reason these people don't fare well in companies: because they're completely impossible to work with. I've worked with a few people like this: they demoralize everyone, cause endless needless arguments (often rehashing the same old tired things that we settled 3 times already but no, it was not settled how I wanted so we need to have another fucking discussion about the same fucking thing with the same damn arguments), people will work around them, people will literally quit the company because of them, and so forth. In the end no matter how smart or talented they are, they tend to be a liability rather than an asset. That is, they're a a net-negative contributor.

            I've met Poettering as well (over 10 years ago); he seemed friendly enough. That still doesn't mean people aren't running in to real problems with systemd because he's too stubborn to make a few simple changes.

            Drew can do what he wants; but I don't consider him an asset to the Open Source (or Free Software, whatever) community but a liability. He's not helping anyone – and certainly not the community or the state of software openness/freedom – with uninformed stupid rants like this.

            This kind of stuff goes back a long way; I think I've mentioned this in another thread as well, but Keith Packard explained that the reason X isn't released under the GPL is that they had interacted with Richard Stallman at MIT and found him compeltely impossible to work with; he would just rail at them about stuff and they were so turned off by that they had no interest in using the GPL.

            8 votes
            1. [4]
              ohyran
              Link Parent
              (kinda drunk reply - please take as if you and me are at a bar and you are laughing at/with what I say. I am also an artsy-fartsy moron so keep that in mind <3 ) See ok I come from this from the...

              (kinda drunk reply - please take as if you and me are at a bar and you are laughing at/with what I say. I am also an artsy-fartsy moron so keep that in mind <3 )

              See ok I come from this from the absolute opposite opinion. The people that cause the most issues are the product-oriented. The one's who are best at surviving in large companies.
              They are often the death knell of any actual project because their focus is dictated by what is previously plausible, acceptable work in comparison with what they assume is the payment, and with an eye for sales.

              Which is why I think the Drews and the Lennarts and the Richards are way more interesting.

              But in the real world being able to produce a product is critical from a company stand point. Without that mindset, in this world, nothing is produced at all. If there is no cash at the end of the rainbow, there is no rainbow. On the other side of this rather ridiculously poetic analogy are the people who make rainbows without even noticing the gold pot in one end.
              SystemD, like any product can be corrected and modded, fixed and patched. The core project is fixable. But a product is not. Without it, without the (granted rather absurd and lets be honest, sexist etc) Stallmans and Poetterings (EDIT: Poettering isn't sexist, Stallman is... ooof, sry) - all you have is sales-speak and rehashing of old ideas.

              The freaks and castaways are not viable in this world. That doesn't mean their better or more relevant or something - but they have their place. Being able to handle them is part of it.

              Now Drew is, in my eye, something else entirely. Which is why I am so fascinated by him. At no point does he demand that others adopt his opinion. He disagrees but he knows his position. He doesn't inject himself in other projects or products (again, note my distinction between the two) and demand their agreement, hes been involved in hundreds of FOSS/FLOSS projects - but he does have demands on his own projects.
              Poettering is different in that regard because his project started life as a product. Systemd always existed within the framework of redhat.

              This whole thing reads as if I am defending the "artistic genius" which I don't want to do - the myth of the genius is problematic enough - but there is value in what these people do.

              My problem is more with how people can be so impossible when they try to deal with them. Poettering and Drew aren't foaming at the mouth, punching kittens. They are reasonable and creative people. Their finnicky and they have clear opinions, but the innability of others to easily deal with them is something I find more troubling. Redhat could easily make Poetterings project in to a product because they are not incompetent at that very thing.

              The core part that I find troubling in your post is this "but I don't consider him an asset to the Open Source (or Free Software, whatever) community but a liability. He's not helping anyone – and certainly not the community or the state of software openness/freedom – with uninformed stupid rants like this."
              I mean unless I am completely out of the loop I've not only read your posts in the past but have heard similar statements about them, and you. Which isn't ment to put you down - rather the opposite.
              If someone is looking for heroes and idols they are looking in the wrong place. Should note that this is a pet peeve of mine in a larger scale so wont try to bog this and you down with this (you don't deserve having me going on and on about "murder all heroes" etc :D ) - my main point is that heroes and idols are part of the sales department. Freaks and castaway is part of ours.

              There is no prophet in the modern sense that can serve as anything beyond a liability to 50% of the listeners. Half of the people reading your statements, Drew's statements, (hopefully not my statements), will hate them - and a slim group of those will blame FLOSS for our respective shortcomings and wonder why we "promote these ranting idiots" because they expect the heroes of the sales department to have pushed their way to the front and relegate the people like you, Drew, Poettering and all the other disgusting freaks down in to the mines again.

              Which is why, if you are who I guess - I read your blog. And not Apples official blog or Linux Foundation etc etc etc. If I wanted to be a customer I'd go buy a carton of eggs.

              3 votes
              1. [3]
                arp242
                Link Parent
                People can be as quirky and opinionated as they want; I just wish they weren't spreading misinformation. I have no problems in particular with Poettering for example. I don't especially care much...

                People can be as quirky and opinionated as they want; I just wish they weren't spreading misinformation. I have no problems in particular with Poettering for example. I don't especially care much for systemd and the amount of times I've had to do "pulseaudio -k" is somewhat ridiculous (although it's been a few years that I've had to do it, it's a lot better now), which is why I don't use systemd. Problem solved.

                The problem here is that Drew is spreading a lot of misinformation with stuff like this. For better or worse, he has an audience with his weblog and spreading misinformation with uninformed (or even deceitful) rants just isn't helping anything.

                The world is complex. Software is complex. People are complex. Everything is complex. Hard-line "this is the right way and everything else is wrong" is rarely the correct answer and usually stands in the way of actual progress being made. It's not moving the debate forward, it's regressing it.

                5 votes
                1. [2]
                  ohyran
                  Link Parent
                  Again, I know what you mean .... buuuuuut ... I think it IS moving the debate forward. The upside with libre software, and other niche subjects is that stances like these are not as breaking...

                  Again, I know what you mean .... buuuuuut ... I think it IS moving the debate forward. The upside with libre software, and other niche subjects is that stances like these are not as breaking conversations wise as in other subjects. The complexities exist, but being able to go "screw that, THIS is my opinion!" isn't as dangerous as in say, humanities and medicine. Its annoying when you're of a different opinion or have better information - but its not damaging. It can even be beneficial to those of the differing opinion. "Well I like to say libre but I'm not a total Stallman" is a phrase I've used for example which not just works as shorthand for my stance, but is an understandable one that also makes my position more attractive even if the other person don't agree.

                  "The world is complex. Software is complex. People are complex. Everything is complex."

                  Is something I can get behind but I want to use it to describe this as well. In FLOSS and in other technical subjects there can be a tendency towards being technically correct and a vagueness becomes the norm. This is brilliant for debate of technical subjects where all participants are in fact participants of that debate and not just spectators or dragged along in to it or people in the fringes of the topic affected by it. This can make communication of ideals, motivations and solutions hopelessly muddled and why the phrase "But I did write about the change, its here in my blog!" [with three readers, not linked anywhere and hidden in paragraph 12] has become a bit of a cliche when talking to programmers.
                  Academical vagueness and care for details is awesome for "internal" debates - but its also really bad as a communication device. Which is why that sometimes having these "Screw that! THIS is my opinion!" by someone in a position to be challenged (like Drew is) can be helpful to drag a complex and often hidden topic in to the light.

                  That said, had you said the opposite, I would probably have argued for the opposite stance :D

                  [edit: also I am going on a trip in an hour - which I dislike intensely - so I am needlessly hyper right now and all this may in fact be total nonsense when read. If so, sorry]

                  1 vote
                  1. arp242
                    Link Parent
                    I don't think "Screw that! THIS is my opinion!" is incompatible with having a decent understanding of things, or needs to stand in the way of improving the current situation in pragmatical ways. I...

                    I don't think "Screw that! THIS is my opinion!" is incompatible with having a decent understanding of things, or needs to stand in the way of improving the current situation in pragmatical ways.

                    Academical vagueness and care for details is awesome for "internal" debates - but its also really bad as a communication device. Which is why that sometimes having these "Screw that! THIS is my opinion!" by someone in a position to be challenged (like Drew is) can be helpful to drag a complex and often hidden topic in to the light.

                    I have seen variations of this argument before, and I couldn't disagree more. As I mentioned before, the first issue with this post in particular is that it's just misinformed. If you're not fully aware of why the situation is as it is, then how can you possible arrive at a correct solution? It is, for example, vitally important to have a good in-depth understanding of why crimes such as fraud, murder, pedophelia happen in order to actually prevent them. Just "oh, they're just criminals" or "no mercy for kiddie fuckers" or whatnot is not just unhelpful, but counter-productive at getting a better understanding. This post does the same: "Oh, Google is just a money-grabbing evil corporation". Okay...

                    The second – and probably more important – issue is that this kind of stuff is essentially intended as advocacy. That's great, but do you think it will convince anyone who is not already convinced that the AGPL is good thing? I bet it won't. Angry rants rarely convinces anyone.

                    What we need is "this is the current situation, this is what we want the situation to be, and here are some achievable steps we can take to get there". Free Software, as a community, in general, has consistently and stubbornly refused to consider the "achievable steps we can take to get there"-phase and instead focuses on nonsense such as "don't use Ubuntu because they recommend non-free software, use this 100% free system instead where your WiFi and videocard won't work correctly, but it's worth it because freedom". It's just misguided.

                    There are plenty of people doing that, of course, but they're not people like Drew or the FSF. For example in my experience the Free Software Foundation Europe – which is independent from the FSF – is considerably more pragmatical and effective than the FSF. The FSFE is not perfect, but they've certainly got the right end of the stick when it comes in being effective at actually making meaningful changes.

                    Results such as Netherlands commits to Free Software by default are, in part, the result of not being a bunch of angry ranting "this is the truth, take it or leave it" community espousing all sorts of conspiracy-esque stuff and insisting on "100% my way or the highway", as well as, you know ... not having their most prominent figurehead eating pieces of their foot during presentations...

                    I remember this on incident where an independent game dev asked Stallman how to make his video games more free, because he couldn't really see a way to do so and still earn an income. This was an excellent opportunity for Stallman to engage with the video game dev community in trying to find ways to improve. Instead, he just answered "this is non-ethical software, you should be making it". Unhelpful. Massive turn-off for anyone. Super counter-productive. Complete waste of a great opportunity.

                    The entire messaging from FSF is just counter-productive and always has been. The current campaign on their home page calls Google, Microsoft, and Zoom "malicious", claims that it's an "injustice" for students to "sacrifice their freedom". The entire message also focuses on abstracts like "Freedom" without really explaining anything; it's just assumed you already agree with the message (because who wouldn't?!) and that "freedom" is enough of an advantage for you to sign the damn thing. Imagine reading that campaign as someone not familiar with Free Software, you won't be convinced (this is actually a mild example, I've seen much worse from the FSF; it's just what's on the homepage right now).

                    Now compare this with the campaign on the FSFE homepage. It uses mostly neutral language, it focuses on real tangible benefits instead of abstracts. It's helpful, it's explicitly aimed at trying to inform (and hopefully persuade) people. The brochure aimed at policy makers is great work. Note how it calls "Open Source" a "marketing campaign for Free Software" instead of going off on unimportant pedantic tangents about it. It helpfully and usefully explains that "Free Software can be complementary to proprietary software". Can you see the FSF or Drew do that?

                    Okay, I've gotten a little side-tracked here, but Drew's post fits exactly in this pattern. It's just preaching to the choir or, less flatteringly, virtue signalling, and mostly just a turn-off for laypeople wanting to learn more about Free Software. I'd guess those kind of people don't really read Drew's blog, so I guess it's mostly harmless in that sense, but the overall pattern isn't (although I suppose many Google engineers also read that and are also turned off by it, so it's not completely harmless).

                    Drew could be using his audience to make a difference. And he's not. Quite the opposite. Like Stallman and the game dev it's just a wasted opportunity at best.


                    If I sound frustrated and angry in any of the above, then understand that little is more frustrating in people making poor points in "favour" of an argument or cause you support.

                    1 vote
            2. acdw
              Link Parent
              I see this stuff with local politics too -- there's a group of people who wanted their neighborhood split from the city I live in because of, basically, racism, and they just kept bringing it up...

              (often rehashing the same old tired things that we settled 3 times already but no, it was not settled how I wanted so we need to have another fucking discussion about the same fucking thing with the same damn arguments)

              I see this stuff with local politics too -- there's a group of people who wanted their neighborhood split from the city I live in because of, basically, racism, and they just kept bringing it up to a vote. They failed three times and finally got it through this last time ... so frustrating.

              (A little off topic but it reminded me)

              2 votes
            3. j3n
              Link Parent
              Yeah. I first met/encountered Drew many years ago on freenode. He was shockingly disruptive and impossible to hold a conversation with back then. He has actually gotten a lot better in the...

              Yeah. I first met/encountered Drew many years ago on freenode. He was shockingly disruptive and impossible to hold a conversation with back then. He has actually gotten a lot better in the intervening years, but the underlying refusal to give a single millimeter of ground on any topic for any reason is still there and it's just not productive.

              2 votes
          2. acdw
            Link Parent
            I guess I am to then, lol. Not for this specifically, but I write a lot of stuff where I don't get to the lede until a few paragraphs in. It's just me chatting though, so nbd.

            [sidenote: the fact that my preamble for saying "I can see where hes coming from" was several paragraphs is probably marking me down as one of the Freaks and Castaways :D ]

            I guess I am to then, lol. Not for this specifically, but I write a lot of stuff where I don't get to the lede until a few paragraphs in. It's just me chatting though, so nbd.

  2. [2]
    tindall
    Link
    Drew is wrong in many ways here, but he overlooks the biggest benefit of the AGPL: if you license your software AGPL, any major tech company (Google, Microsoft, etc) will almost certainly never...

    Drew is wrong in many ways here, but he overlooks the biggest benefit of the AGPL: if you license your software AGPL, any major tech company (Google, Microsoft, etc) will almost certainly never use it. This is a great way to prevent your software being used to support the kind of unethical (and sometimes downright evil) agendas that these big companies get up to.

    20 votes
    1. acdw
      Link Parent
      This is a really good point, and actually might convince me to relicense my software as AGPL. I don't make anything worth anything monetarily, anyway.

      This is a really good point, and actually might convince me to relicense my software as AGPL. I don't make anything worth anything monetarily, anyway.

      6 votes
  3. [3]
    Kuromantis
    (edited )
    Link
    To make this clear, I do not engage in the tech industry very often in any way more specific than following their revenue models and complaining about regulatory capture and monopolistic stuff not...

    To make this clear, I do not engage in the tech industry very often in any way more specific than following their revenue models and complaining about regulatory capture and monopolistic stuff not exclusive to tech.

    Very often, it seems when an article is made by this guy, people come to call it out as wrong or misleading. If that's happening so often, shouldn't we dismiss him like we do Fox news hosts? Why does this guy keep being posted here if he is so widely critiqued?

    7 votes
    1. Crespyl
      Link Parent
      Because, despite his flaws, he is generally a very intelligent person and an excellent programmer who has been a part of the community for a long time and produced a lot of good and interesting...

      Because, despite his flaws, he is generally a very intelligent person and an excellent programmer who has been a part of the community for a long time and produced a lot of good and interesting things. The Sway window manager for the Wayland protocol, and the associated wlroots project are two recent things he's either started or been heavily involved in, but there's a large pile of other interesting projects he's contributed to.

      Even though his blogs/communication may have flaws, he writes passionately about interesting topics and people often want to hear what he has to say, even with the expectation that it should be read with a grain of salt.

      If the ratio of passion/vitriol to interesting software ever becomes too far out of balance I'm sure people will stop paying attention to what he says, but IMO that hasn't really happened yet and isn't likely to.

      8 votes
    2. tindall
      Link Parent
      He's the head of some aesthetically popular software projects, like sr.ht and sway. I say "aesthetically popular" because these projects aren't actually that popular - people (including me) want...

      He's the head of some aesthetically popular software projects, like sr.ht and sway. I say "aesthetically popular" because these projects aren't actually that popular - people (including me) want to be able to use them, but sway for instance isn't full-featured enough for me to use day to day, even though I love the paradigm and the concept. Those whose use-case these projects fit tend to absolutely love them; for instance, I use and love Tarsnap, and ultra-minimalist backup solution with a similar philosophy and aesthetic.

      In other words, people respect him and envy his users, and so are willing to promote his words, even though he's usually wrong and sometimes lying.

      8 votes