FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby PeterX » 09 Oct 2020, 18:23

Hi folks!

Programmers generally understand what open source/free software is and what its benefits are.
But I have problems explaining what the benefit of open source/free software is, when I explain it to non-programmers.

Any help, maybe just some internet URLs for me? Or maybe you know some arguments/points which appeal to non-programmers?

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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby ffaf » 09 Oct 2020, 22:35

Some ideas:
• when Google decided to update its Youtube API from version 2 to version 3 Smart TVs stopped working. All because of a change of format from XML to JSON. This new dimension of obsolescence, immensely wasteful, would be instantly fixed if only the appliance software were free.
• These «planned obsolescence» stories are ubiquitous and getting more worrying by the day. If a simple tool — say, a hammer — stopped working despite being phisically intact, would we say we own the tool? Or that the company who sold us the tool own us? We are in a similar situation, despite paying good money for our brand-new tools.

I find this is a tangible and easy to convey benefit of free software.
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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby Julius » 09 Oct 2020, 22:43

Anything related to vendor lock-in is probably understandable for most non-technical people.

As for more public policy related arguments, the FSFE has a nice and apparently quite successful campaign: https://publiccode.eu/
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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby katp32 » 25 Nov 2020, 02:51

I wrote a little article about this a couple days ago, trying to relate to non-programmers. I have no idea how good it is, I don't write often, but I may as well link it here if anyone's interested: https://leagueh.xyz/u/katherine.peeters ... etary.html
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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby PeterX » 25 Nov 2020, 03:03

Interesting article, I personally find it a bit hard to read. But the content is correct in my opinion. The car example is true, nowadays you can't repair your "own" car because of the electronics.
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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby drummyfish » 03 Jan 2021, 15:47

Interesting question!

If you have some time and are talking to a more interested person, I think the point of free software is NOT that actually you, as a programmer, are personally able to study and modify your tools (you are actually very able to do this with proprietary software). Even as a programmer, you are using many FOSS tools that you don't and can't understand, haven't studied their security attributes, the math behind them etc. The point is that, unlike with proprietary SW, a lot of independent people on Earth, many times the users of the software, can relatively easily check the tools, modify them and share them for you, thanks to which you can trust that these tools follow the interest of you, the users. You may have very good trust that these tools won't spy on you, that they won't be artificially killed or infected by features malicious in any way, simply because thanks to their transparency and legal modifiability if there is an issue of any kind (not just bugs), there is a very high probability of someone fixing it, and that the goal of the development is to benefit the users, i.e. you. So, whether you are a programmer or not is very irrelevant, the point is that the SW is fixable by many of the programmers in the world, not you personally.

If you only need a few quick points to throw at someone, or the person just needs quick selling points, there are many:

- It's gratis (not the goal but as a side effect).
- No spyware, safer, respecting privacy.
- No ads (typicially).
- No forced updates, restarts etc.
- Extremely modifiable, everything can be turned off if you don't want it/need it.
- Very often more efficient and optimized.
- Usually multiplatform, runs on anything it can run on.
- You physically own the copy, no need for cracks, it is on your computer and you can freely copy it to any other computer.
- Typically more lightweight.
- No bullshit (e.g. forced internet connection, ...).
- Not controlled by a corporation (likely won't be forcefully killed, intentionally incompatible etc.).
- More trusted, used and supported by professionals (scientists, hackers, programmers, ...), for a good reason.
- Made by users for the users.

Now when talking about these points, I'd rather use the term free SW, as "open-source" as a business-first concept often doesn't follow these.

If the person is interested, don't forget to also mention the extension of these principles to HW and culture.
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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby PeterX » 03 Jan 2021, 16:28

drummyfish {l Wrote}:If you only need a few quick points to throw at someone, or the person just needs quick selling points, there are many:

- It's gratis (not the goal but as a side effect).
- No spyware, safer, respecting privacy.
- No ads (typicially).
- No forced updates, restarts etc.
- Extremely modifiable, everything can be turned off if you don't want it/need it.
- Very often more efficient and optimized.
- Usually multiplatform, runs on anything it can run on.
- You physically own the copy, no need for cracks, it is on your computer and you can freely copy it to any other computer.
- Typically more lightweight.
- No bullshit (e.g. forced internet connection, ...).
- Not controlled by a corporation (likely won't be forcefully killed, intentionally incompatible etc.).
- More trusted, used and supported by professionals (scientists, hackers, programmers, ...), for a good reason.
- Made by users for the users.

Thanks!!! These are very good points, even for average users.
On the smartphones the situation is even more difficult: People don't think much about software freedom, monopolies, data security etc.

drummyfish {l Wrote}:Now when talking about these points, I'd rather use the term free SW, as "open-source" as a business-first concept often doesn't follow these.

I like the free software movement and Richard Stallman, but at the same time I'm a bit p***ed off by them. For example they refuse to manage projects on Savannah which dare to use the term "open source" or "Linux" (instead of "GNU/Linux").

drummyfish {l Wrote}:If the person is interested, don't forget to also mention the extension of these principles to HW and culture.

Yeah, good idea.

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Peter
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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby drummyfish » 03 Jan 2021, 17:29

PeterX {l Wrote}:I like the free software movement and Richard Stallman, but at the same time I'm a bit p***ed off by them.


I stopped supporting the FSF for my own reasons. Anyway, free software is a term that's not exclusively tied to FSF, GNU, copyleft software or Stallman himself, even if he invented it.

Open-source has become some kind of a brand that doesn't stand for much more than certain business, marketing and development practices. It's the Microsoft and Google term and to think any of these work for user freedom or privacy is completely laughable, so to talk about open-source and freedom at the same time may even create confusion as they will e.g. read that Android is open-source but at the same time see it's a Google spy machine loaded with ads, bloatware, with non-rooted user accounts etc.
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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby PeterX » 03 Jan 2021, 18:46

drummyfish {l Wrote}:... read that Android is open-source but at the same time see it's a Google spy machine loaded with ads, bloatware, with non-rooted user accounts etc.

Yeah, good point! I personally am used to saying "open source", but I will try in future to rather say "free software".

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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby Jastiv » 15 Jan 2021, 06:05

Sometimes I use the term free software with people who know what that means, but often I think for the general public the term "freedom respecting software" is better, so then they don't get it confused with the ever common "gratis" software, that may not have any source you can modify.
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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby PeterX » 15 Jan 2021, 12:19

Jastiv {l Wrote}:Sometimes I use the term free software with people who know what that means, but often I think for the general public the term "freedom respecting software" is better, so then they don't get it confused with the ever common "gratis" software, that may not have any source you can modify.

In my native tongue (German) we don't have the association free = gratis. But some of my acquaintances can't make much sense of "open source" or "free software". "Freedom respecting software" seems better to understand for those people, unfortunately it's a little bit long.

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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby drummyfish » 15 Jan 2021, 19:16

In my lang we also have a special word for free-as-in-freedom, we call it svobodný software. In English I will use either libre or free-as-in-freedom when talking to a common folk who has no idea about this.

This is a minor issue though, the big one for me is giving a quick one sentence sum-up of what that term actually means. A non-tech person will understand it's a different kind of software if I call it "svobodný", but they're completely lost about what that means and I have hard time pointing out the difference to not make it seem like some kind of crazy cult or even something I made up -- they don't know it's a legitimate, maybe even prevailing kind of SW that's used by the whole world. I usually say it's an ethical SW written by people for the people, mostly volunteers, but that only vaguely captures the nature, they probably think this means some hippie Android apps or something. I need some good, short summary that I can give to people in the middle of a conversation without derailing that conversation.
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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby PeterX » 15 Jan 2021, 20:36

drummyfish {l Wrote}:I need some good, short summary that I can give to people in the middle of a conversation without derailing that conversation.

Yeah, such a short summary would be very helpful. Unfortunately I don't know one. I guess marketing experts would come up with some buzz word(s) immediately.
I am convinced that Android/iPhone have lowered the standards for software freedom, monopoly, privacy and more. Some people I know (and they are not stupid) completely fail to appreciate or understand the mentioned issues. They find it perfectly ok that Facebook, Google and many more are sniffing in our lives and do many more bad things.

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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby drummyfish » 15 Jan 2021, 21:20

Maybe an analogy would be good, something like "free software is like Wikipedia, created and shared by everyone and owned by no one", and you can right away add that Wikipedia's software is free software.
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Re: FLOSS benefits for non-programmers

Postby PeterX » 16 Jan 2021, 10:27

That seems like a good idea, too.

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