How should success be measured for the free software movement?

@liw When most people feel less of a need to use non-free software.

@JordiGH @liw Taking that further, when nobody has to use proprietary software. By this criterion, the free software measurement is a huge failure because nobody can do this.

@JordiGH @liw Even Richard Stallman asks people to email him web pages that require proprietary JavaScript. Stallman doesn't actually live without proprietary software (page 8 of this PDF He just asks other people to use it on his behalf. That's not helping anything; that's just some purity bullshit so he can feel smug.

@JordiGH @liw And when people stop assuming that moving to a free alternative will be a compromise. Granted, it may be... but these days it's just as likely to give greater value (aside from the inherent value of not using non-free software).

@liw when users are able to use software that suits their needs, and if they find it doesn't fit their needs they can always either modify it via their own labor or have someone else modify it by paying them for their labor

@liw the number of people empowered by it, the ways in which they are empowered, the degree to which they are able to bring that empowerment to bear on solving problems for others, the plasticity with which the body of free software can be adapted to address new use cases encountered by its users, the breadth of non-members who learn accurate things about it, the acceptance by non-members of the tools and people who use them, and the number of new joiners who then stay?

@Lars Wirzenius If people can use software without being held hostage, if software is primarily good for humanity and not for a handful of CEOs.

@liw If people are afraid to participate in bug reports and/or mailing list, that's a failed FOSS project, even if a successful source-available one.

@cadadr @liw My definition of ultimate success is that I want to participate fully in society while using Free Software.

@liw Answering by way of further questions Just Because:

Inversion: How should failure be measured for the Free Software movement?
Alternative: How should success be measured by any alternative movement?
Intent: What are/were the stated goals of the Free Software movement?

That last would probably point to re-reading the #GNUManifesto.

@liw One possible key line:

So that I can continue to use computers without dishonor, I have decided to put together a sufficient body of free software so that I will be able to get along without any software that is not free.

@liw And I'd certainly accept that goals may have since been amended. But that seems to be the initial one.

@dredmorbius @liw So it was about *his honor*, not liberating society.

@be The sentiments are expressed in the first person, but are general. The reason for preserving honour is given in the previous paragraph, and is emphatically altruistic and empathic to the needs of others:

[T]he Golden Rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it. Software sellers want to divide the users and conquer them, making each user agree not to share with others. I refuse to break solidarity with other users in this way.

I'm aware that there's much current criticism of the author. In the context of the question posed here, his specific views are germane, and should be read charitably and accurately.


@dredmorbius @liw It is still self centered. He mentions solidarity, but the focus is still on him, not creating a world in which nobody has to use proprietary software.

@be 1) I don't see it that way.

2) This isn't the question under discussion.


@dredmorbius @liw Failure is capitalists using free software as an instrument of oppression.

@be @dredmorbius @liw one failure case that comes to mind: i've got one specific user who i cannot get to use something else, who is locked into a proprietary program that leads to a chain of lock-ins that leave us using a ridiculous computing setup that i won't even describe here but is basically completely unmaintainable.

i've spent enough time and effort trying to find an agreeable alternative that had the software been free i could've gotten it to work on a modern machine by now

@carcinopithecus @dredmorbius @liw That is the case with lots of specialized old software.

@liw when the problems that free software is supposed to solve are ordinarily solved for the vast majority of the general public

@liw So, people are complex and shitty people do good things, and good people do shitty things, and acts accomplished can be viewed independently of the person who achieved them, even as we might consider said person's motivation while discussing the person, separate from the act accomplished?

@liw When you could ask a random group of high schoolers what the 4 essential freedoms of free software are and they could get them right. That would insure that the seed had at least been planted. Success for free software to me is a philosophical/awareness goal, not a technical one. Technical concerns are becoming less and less visible to more and more people and will probably continue to trend that way. Good philosophies tend to stick around since they make it through the furnace of history.

@liw I suppose the measure of success would be to what extent is it possible to do ordinary things without using proprietary software. Such as writing an email, shopping, driving, paying bills/taxes, socializing.

Also for cases where there is free software available, how straightforward it is to use. Sometimes there may be free software available but it may be impractically time consuming to set up or manage, or it might lack accessibility features.

@liw There is no single measure, and I'd distinguish between "success" (end) and "successful" (ongoing). The goal posts are always moving.

What good are freedoms that most cannot enjoy? Many of us, including myself, are able to perform their day-to-day computing using entirely free software, but it's a position of privilege on many levels: technical, financial, societal, and much more. It's almost like freedom for the fringe. And it's a terrible feedback loop, as we cannot relate to others.

@liw good question!

I think the free software movement is successful when for every task a free software is the first choice.

Existing examples are Open Broadcaster Software and @krita.

Proprietary software is allowed to exist (i'm liberal here), but no one should have to use it!

The most needed improvements are in funding, quality and UX. I focus on that.

Probably also management and community building. I'm not an expert with social things.

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