This article was originally posted on Boycott Boycott Novel. Since the site is now gone, I reposted it here.
You might know I’m an hybrid kind of guy: I run Free Software as much as I can, but if I have to run proprietary software to have something that works, and that pays the bills, I will. Lately, I’m getting more and more irked by the “Free Software Fundamentalists” that preach that no proprietary software has the right to exist any longer.
Now, as I said I’m running Free Software as much as I can, and whenever I have the chance I contribute to other Free Software projects to improve the situation and make it feasible to have better implementations for the
stuff I care about. Unfortunately, a lot of the people who preach, don’t even try to do that, and only despise any proprietary software, whether that’s really worse than the Free alternative or not.
I don’t like this kind of people, they are detrimental to Free Software as a whole: to accept that software that is, objectively, mediocre has to be preferred just because it’s Free, means condemning users to mediocre software. Developers should keep open-minded, and look at the proprietary alternatives as well; not to be discouraged, but rather to learn and adapt, and improve upon that.
So when I hear that “Ogg is perfect”, my mind quickly moves to Matroska, a format that, in my opinion, is definitely superior to any other, but has little support out there because “Ogg is enough”. The same goes to FLAC and WavPack.
You know, if you really care about the users, and not just about your ego, you’d be looking forward for the challenge, and build up upon any new technology, whomever is offering it to you, as long as it satisfies the strict requirements.
And of course, RMS is at the centre of this kind of fundamentalism… I’m pretty sure that when he started, he really cared about the users, this can be seen in the sheer amount of work he’s done, and I am (as many others are) glad he did that, we owe him respect for that; but with time passing, he probably took his part as a “priest” way too seriously, and seems like many people now insist on a RMS-ego-stroke tax on any Free Software user.
But it’s not just Stallman who tends to have ego-stroke moments, mind you. Miguel (de Icaza) also had his moments (funnily enough, a slashdot article is linking to a post of mine trying to label Miguel as a troll… I was just saying that he should try to mind his irony, he’s not alone); and so does Theo de Raadt of OpenBSD fame, and even more.
Let’s face it: I know of no developer who’s doing free software development exclusively for the users; some do it for the money, others for the fame, a lot for the ego stroke… I fall partly in all these categories (although I’m not really paid for so much work), since I like the feeling of “having the power” to make something. It’s a good plus that I also help others, but it’s not really my only motivation.
To quote Bill Maher “We’ve got to worship principles, not people.”