it’s not only about “me”

According to David Murphy, there’s probably no reason to care about Free and Open Source software. He defends this apathy by noting that you’re probably not an IT decision maker or computer programmer. While that’s true, it’s as odd as saying that there’s no reason to care about free speech because chances are you’re not a public speaker or journalist.

Here, David neglects the value Free software creates through the interplay between individual and society. One may not know how to secure a system against back-doors or viruses, but the community does. And while no community is perfect, that transparency is more effective than the Symantecs and Nortons who simply throw spackle at the cracks. Users may not know how to defend themselves against spyware, but communities can’t conspire to keep whistle-blowers quiet. One might not derive any personal income from using software, but it’s plain to see that simply using software generates value via the network effect. One may not care if one’s documents suffer from vendor lock-in, but one can see the implicit pressure put on others when those files are circulated.

It’s not that David’s arguments are false per se, but that they’re voiced entirely within a “me” bubble.

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One Response to “it’s not only about “me””

  1. Tracy Rosen Says:

    The community is what convinced me to release windows and install ubuntu about 3 or 4 years ago. I have never had an unfixable (save the itouch issue but apparently that will be fixed via 10.04) (and one can argue that is an itouch issue, not an ubunbtu issue :)) issue because of the strong community support. What a fabulous model for citizenship. I am trying to figure out a way to teach citizenship through opensource. I may need to secretly install a linux os on my classroom’s computers to do it. Don’t tell IT.

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