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Free/Libre/Open Source Software: Survey and Study

The Stallman-Ghosh-Glott mail exchange on the FLOSS survey:
Two communities or two movements in one community?

Richard Stallman, head of the Free Software Foundation, Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, FLOSS lead author, and Ruediger Glott, sociologist and FLOSS-team member, have exchanged following mails on the Free Software - Open Source questions. We recommend their reading, because they may clarify the goals, motivations and way of work of the FLOSS survey.

We would like to thank Richard Stallman for his time, interest and suggestions (and, of course, for giving permission to make this public).

 

From: Richard Stallman <rms(AT)gnu.org>
To: Rishab Aiyer Ghosh <rishab.ghosh(AT)infonomics.nl>, Gregorio Robles <grex(AT)scouts-es.org>
Subject: Two communities, or two movements?
Date: 26 Aug 2002 15:51:52 -0600
[text in red are original quotes from the FLOSS final report]

I just saw the FLOSS study, and here are some comments.

Although members of both communities collaborate intensively on practical projects, they claim that, on the level of the underlying ideas and philosophies, both communities have to be considered as entirely separate movements. [5]

That is somewhat misleading, because it seems to imply that the idea of two separate communities comes from us. On the contrary, we always say that these are two movements within one community. The evidence you've found, showing that people with different political views work together, confirms something that is apparent within our community.

Could you possibly correct this so as not to suggest we believe there are two separate communities?

According to this ongoing discussion, one would expect a sharp polarization of the whole community of developers of non-proprietary software into two very different parties,

This unlikely expectation may have come from the idea of "two communities", since that implies two separate groups with little interaction. However, the understanding that there are two movements in one community leads to completely different expectations. It is very rare for any political disagreement to polarize society entirely into two firm camps with no neutrals; the usual situation is to find a range of views, including both intermediate views and "don't care". Finding that here is normal, not surprising.

Members of the open source software community define "Open Source Software" as software that allows everybody to have a look at its source code

Actually this is not true: the definition of open source software includes criteria for the rights that users must have. (See www.opensource.org.) What you've stated is a common misunderstanding of the term "open source". Could you please add a note to indicate that this is a misunderstanding? Although I don't support the open source movement, I think it is unfortunate to spread misinformation about their criteria.

The first type consists of those developers who assign themselves to the Free Software community and who see fundamental differences between the two communities (18%).

Did your question suggest use of the term "communities" to for Free Software and Open Source? If so, people who identify specifically with one movement or the other, but do not think there are two communities, would have faced a quandary about how to answer. None of the answers provided fits that picture. They could have given this answer, saying there are two different communities, or they could have said there is just one community and no difference between Free Software and Open Source. Either one would be misleading.

Nevertheless, it is evident that the world of Open Source/Free Software is not strictly separated from capitalistic principles, and that a lot of money can be earned by the development or application of OS/FS, like it is illustrated by the example of LINUX.

Do you really mean Linux, the kernel, or are you thinking of the GNU/Linux operating system? It is hard to tell, since many people call the latter "Linux". I suspect you mean the whole GNU/Linux system, since people make more money from that than from Linux, the kernel, on its own.

If so, would you please call it "GNU/Linux", and give its principal developers a share of the credit? For more explanation, see http://www.gnu.org/gnu/linux-and-gnu.html.

 

From: Rishab Aiyer Ghosh <rishab (AT) dxm.org>
To: Richard Stallman <rms (AT) gnu.org>
Cc: Gregorio Robles <grex (AT) scouts-es.org>
Subject: Re: Two communities, or two movements?
Date: 26 Aug 2002 23:11:24 +0000

dear richard,

the current version of the report is subject to changes made after receiving comments, as well as feedback from the FLOSS workshop (www.infonomics.nl/FLOSS/workshop/)

thanks for your comments. you can find the precise wording of the questionnaire at http://www.infonomics.nl/FLOSS/floss1/stats.html

On Mon, Aug 26, 2002 at 03:51:52PM -0600, Richard Stallman wrote:
< Although members of both
< communities collaborate intensively on practical projects, they claim that, on
< the level of the underlying ideas and philosophies, both communities have to be
< considered as entirely separate movements. [5]
<
< That is somewhat misleading, because it seems to imply that the idea
< of two separate communities comes from us. On the contrary, we always

if by "us" you mean the FSF that is certainly not the intended implication. we refer (footnote [5]) to an FSF document that differentiates open source and free software as different things (the latter being better) as an example of the divergence at the level of "underlying ideas and philosophies", but would be happy to refer to a statement emphasising the commonality of approach as well (e.g. an excerpt of your comments in this email).

< say that these are two movements within one community. The evidence
< you've found, showing that people with different political views work
< together, confirms something that is apparent within our community.

yes, this is what we state in the later paragraphs along with figure 40, 41.

< Could you possibly correct this so as not to suggest we believe
< there are two separate communities?

we can refer to a statement from the FSF. however, we actually asked the question 2. Do you think that Free Software and Open Source communities are different communities?

for simplicity, in both the questions we unified "no" with "i don't care" to bring out different versions of "yes" which statistically was more significant.

as you can see from the later graphs and text, we see that the vast majority of respondents believe either that any difference is unimportant or that the difference in communities is only in principles not in how they work.

<According to this ongoing discussion, one would expect a
< sharp polarization of the whole community of developers of
< non-proprietary software into two very different parties,
<
< This unlikely expectation may have come from the idea of "two
< communities", since that implies two separate groups with little

that was a rhetorical statement, i.e. 'one might, given some background, expect sharp polarization' - however, as we go on to show with the analysis of the data, such polarisation doesn't exist.

< Members of the
< open source software community define "Open Source Software" as
< software that allows everybody to have a look at its source code
<
< Actually this is not true: the definition of open source software
< includes criteria for the rights that users must have. (See

thanks for pointing that out. we referred to the FSF and OSI definitions in so many places i mustn't have noticed it was missing there.

< The
< first type consists of those developers who assign themselves to the Free
< Software community and who see fundamental differences between the two
< communities (18%).
<
< Did your question suggest use of the term "communities" to for Free
< Software and Open Source? If so, people who identify specifically
< with one movement or the other, but do not think there are two
< communities, would have faced a quandary about how to answer. None of
< the answers provided fits that picture. They could have given this
< answer, saying there are two different communities, or they could have
< said there is just one community and no difference between Free
< Software and Open Source. Either one would be misleading.

well... it depends on how you want to define "community" and " movement" (we only used the first term). the quandary you suggest is resolved by answering that they identify with one community or another, but believe that the difference between the two is only in ideas and principles rather than a way of working. see the yellow andorange areas in figure 41, or the questionnaire.

< Nevertheless, it is evident that the world of Open
< Source/Free Software is not strictly separated from capitalistic principles, and
< that a lot of money can be earned by the development or application of OS/FS,
< like it is illustrated by the example of LINUX.
<
< Do you really mean Linux, the kernel, or are you thinking of the
< GNU/Linux operating system? It is hard to tell, since many people

sorry. we meant GNU/Linux. that should be fixed in most places, and we'll correct that elsewhere.

best,
-rishab

 

 

From: Richard Stallman <rms(AT)gnu.org>
To: Rishab Aiyer Ghosh <rishab(AT)dxm.org>
Cc: Gregorio Robles <grex(AT)scouts-es.org>
Subject: Re: Two communities, or two movements?
Date: 28 Aug 2002 00:51:37 -0600


< however, we actually
< asked the question 2. Do you think that Free Software and Open
< Source communities are different communities?

Alas, that question tends to confuse people, since it presumes Free Software and Open Source are two communities.

A movement is not the same thing as a community. Movements occur within communities. Two different communities are typically disjoint and there is nothing in between. It is different for movements; they normally come with intermediate views.

Since you can still correct your report, how about correcting it to describe Free Software and Open Source as "movements" rather than as "communities".

Of course, you should report question 2 as you actually asked it. You can explain that the term "communities" in question 2 was based on a misconception that the resulting data helped to correct.


< that was a rhetorical statement, i.e. 'one might, given some background,
< expect sharp polarization'

With all due respect, the contrary is true--given correct background, understanding that Free Software and Open Source are two movements, one would expect exactly what you found: a presence of intermediate views in the community, and people from different movements working together in the same practical fashion. Only the erroneous background picture, that Free Software and Open Source are two communities, would perhaps have led to this mistaken expectation.


<< Members of the
<< open source software community define "Open Source Software" as
<< software that allows everybody to have a look at its source code
<<
<< Actually this is not true: the definition of open source software
<< includes criteria for the rights that users must have. (See


< thanks for pointing that out. we referred to the FSF and OSI definitions
< in so many places i mustn't have noticed it was missing there.

Adding a reference is useful, but it is important also to correct the inaccurate statement. Knowledgeable open source supporters do not the term "open source" that way.

This is also one of the many places that speaks of "the open source software community". All those should be changed. Here perhaps you should say "supporters of the open source software movement."


< the quandary you suggest is resolved by
< answering that they identify with one community or another, but believe that
< the difference between the two is only in ideas and principles rather than
< a way of working.

People that live or work together are a community.
People with common ideas and principles are a movement.

A person who understands there is only one community with two movements might perhaps have decided that the closest answer, among those you offered, was that one. Not necessarily, though. He might have said there was no difference between the supposed two communities.

Each of these answers is accurate in part and wrong in part. The answer that there are two communities but they differ only in ideas and principles shows the difference between Free Software and Open Source, but erroneously calls them two communities. The answer that they are one community is accurate in regard to the number of communities, but misleading in suggesting that Free Software and Open Source are the same.

It would be ideal if you could redo this question in a followup, asking it about movements rather than communities. However, that would be a lot of work, and may be impossible. If you can't redo it, you have to work with the data that you have, but you can still clarify these points in the report.

 

From: Rishab Aiyer Ghosh <rishab(AT)dxm.org>
To: Richard Stallman <rms(AT)gnu.org>
Cc: Gregorio Robles <grex(AT)scouts-es.org>, Ruediger Glott <ruediger.Glott(AT)infonomics.unimaas.nl<
Subject: Re: Two communities, or two movements?
Date: 02 Sep 2002 19:25:24 +0200

At 12:51 AM 28/08/2002 -0600, you wrote:
< Since you can still correct your report, how about correcting it
< to describe Free Software and Open Source as "movements" rather than
< as "communities".

we can't do that, since we have to be consistent with respondent's explicit expressions and they identified themselves with the word "community". people who did not think there were two communities would have answered appropriately.

on the broader question of what is a community and what is a movement, i should point out that although i am originally a programmer, we had sociologists and social anthropologists on the survey team with considerable experience not only in the concepts of community but also in carrying out surveys. i've enclosed a response at the end of this message from Ruediger Glott, my sociologist colleague, on this topic.

< People that live or work together are a community.
< People with common ideas and principles are a movement.

unfortunately the definitions are not as narrow as that. religious communities are examples of people common ideas and principles not living or working together. nor are communities or movements disjoint; different communities can combine together in a movement (as in catholics and protestants in the anti-slavery movement) or a larger community (as in the christian community). to most people (and i imagine, our respondents) the term "movement" would have overtones of a political nature (and possibly an implied set of specific goals) which may not be what they want to express. in this sense perhaps Free Software (as defined by the FSF) is more of a movement.

however, we had many other questions intended to draw out the degree of political, social, economic and other motives people ascribed to their activity. we did find a difference there, as you will see in the report, between those who felt sharp distinctions between FS/OS and those who didn't. however, the questions regarding community itself were meant to get a sense of (self-ascribed) identity, and the term "community" there is less politically charged than the term "movement", and is the one that allows respondents to choose for themselves what they mean.

< A person who understands there is only one community with two
< movements might perhaps have decided that the closest answer, among
< those you offered, was that one. Not necessarily, though. He might
< have said there was no difference between the supposed two
< communities.

a person who defines communities and movements as distinctly as you do would have noticed the wording of the answers - not yes and no, but also "yes, they differ only in their principles but work the same way" - i.e., by your definition, they are the same community but different movements. if we replaced "community" with "movement" it may have been ok for those who think this way but it would give much less leeway for others, since "movement" is a much more specific and narrow term than "community". since the point of the survey is to elucidate the opinions of developers we preferred wording that minimised any presumption or imposition of beliefs on the respondents.

we have very detailed questions later on about the ideas, beliefs and motivations of developers which are better designed to draw out these things than using a specific narrowly defined term such as movement in place of a broader term such as community, or providing several options and combinations of possible answers to these two questions.

best,
rishab

-----
From: Ruediger Glott <Ruediger.Glott(AT)infonomics.unimaas.nl>
To: Rishab Aiyer Ghosh <rishab(AT)dxm.org>
Date: Fri, 30 Aug 2002 12:48:23 +0200

[...]
Dear Richard Stallman,

thank you very much for your comments on the FLOSS developer survey report. You really hit an important issue while addressing the use of the term "community" in our questionnaire. However, your suggestion to replace it by "movement" does not appear appropriate to us. Firstly, the existence or non-existence of intermediate views does not help to distinguish communities from movements, because we find intermediate views in both, communities as well as movements. Think, for instance, of religious communities - there are a lot of their members actively communicating and interacting with members of other religious communities and sharing views with them.

Secondly, actually the lack of intermediate views applies much more to movements than to communities, because movements usually organise around a particular social or political issue and require their members to follow a commonly shared goal and strategy, while communities comprise members with different opinions, views, and interests concerning a large variety of issues. For example, anti-fascists do not want to have fascists in their organisation and vice versa, while there are a lot of communities - like nationalities, ethnic groups, localities, or religions- that may include fascists as well as anti-fascists. Therefore, if we would have asked the OS and FS developers whether they assign themselves to the "OS movement" or to the "FS movement", many of them would have associated political or social action with this question. While using the term "community" allowed respondents to express in-between views, the term "movement" would often have forced a simple "neither to the one nor to the other" response. However, we were interested in the structure and scope of self-perception in the community of OS/FS developers and had, therefore, to use a term with a broader meaning. We will follow your recommendation to explain this in future publications, but I hope you can understand why we cannot use the term "movement" instead of the term "community".

Best regards ...
Ruediger Glott

 

Read the final report for the FLOSS project.

This questionnaire is part of the FLOSS study (http://www.infonomics.nl/FLOSS/),
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