Seek The Wisdom Of Our Elder Geeks

Cartoon image of middle aged geeky superman.

I think what needs to be acknowledged, is Open Source’s emergence from an earlier movement that was largely composed of renegade, left-wing, anti-establishment types. Since then, obviously this movement has expanded to include the mainstream corporate community. And from what I’ve just studied regarding this history, Open Source Software (OSS) established itself as separate from Free Software (FS), to assert a growing membership of business entrepreneurs and corporate interest. And this has come with considerable antagonism and upset from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and related groups.

So of course, you are going to have the occasional clash between the two camps. However, newer members of OSS should not be surprised at all, when some participants reflect more of the original ideals of the FSF, including distaste towards the status quo, which of course includes the corporate world…as well as Republicans, Libertarians, and other right-leaning types. So whether one likes it or not, this *is* the history of Linux/FS, from which OSS sprung (or broke off, depending on whom you ask). This needs to be underlined (using Open Source loosely, to include *both* OSS and FS):

Open Source is *not* Google, as some would have us believe. Open Source is *bigger* than Google. In fact, it’s even *bigger* than all corporate entities of our struggling planet put together! In short: Open Source is *bigger* than capitalism!

In order to grow into a diverse group, you need to acknowledge that aspect of our origins. Ergo, do *not* expect every single member to be excited about the corporate aspect of OSS, and application of Linux to facilitate capitalist goals. Just so you know: in spite of this ideological rift, FS and OSS advocates do come together on various projects, when the purpose matches the ideals of the more liberal camp.

Be that as it may, Berkeley-LUG remains a very small group, for which such a low number could not possibly reflect much diversity. But as it grows under Jack’s leadership, please be aware that you will acquire more participants of a left-wing stripe, besides myself. That is: unless you allow pro-business peer pressure to drive them away.

Cartoon of angry OSS beans ganging up on one FS bean.

When I first joined, it was under the umbrella of Linux advocacy/Free Software. Some time later, Jack stated his wish to use the term “Open Source” in order to form a broader base of interest. Fine with me, however I was not yet aware of the serious ideological *rift* between the FSF and OSS communities. Only when I decided to learn more about how the term “Open Source” came to be, did I understand.

It is my impression that many of the newer advocates to OSS, are not aware of this ideological clash, and therefore blithely assume (as I had) that “Open Source Software” was simply a term to broaden our community of Linux and Free Software advocates. I have only recently learned: that is most definitely *not* the case. It will be a challenge to incorporate members of such opposed camps, but knowing your good character, I believe you are more than up to it. The payoff will be incredible, both personally and communally.

Now, while I am made to feel *alone* in my perspective, I realize that is far from the reality. *Many* anti-corporate Linux advocates live and thrive in Berkeley and surrounding regions. In fact, I am talking about our *pioneers* of FS, GNU, and open advocacy…all free and accessible to even the financially strapped: such is the *intent* of these forefathers. Allow me to employ the title “Elder Geeks” to these most generous and intelligent souls…both male and female, queer and hetero, and politically/socially progressive. BUT most definitely *not* Republican or right-wing, or even conservative (except perhaps if you include certain moderates in that circle).

These Elder Geeks tend to be largely anti-corporate, and frown on this latest phenomenon of the business world, where FS/OSS is utilized to build their monied empires. At least, this has been my observance over the years, of what Elder Geeks promote and practice. Granted, they may not project such a political *bias* as I do…just the same, they harbor distaste for the corporatization of things Linux. Which distaste may be enunciated w/o any sort of politics in mind.

These Elder Geeks are pioneers of programming, hacking, and free and generous sharing of their sofware and knowledge…to *anyone* who makes even half an effort to listen carefully, RTFM, and apply this knowledge to the real world (of cyberspace) effectively. So before you run off with fantasies of fat wallets dancing around your gifted cranium…give a thought to our Elder Geeks, and consider that perhaps (just perhaps) they have a *valid* reason for their distaste, outside of my own sharply political reasons for criticising Google, Red Hat, Sun, Oracle, et al.

It does not become such obviously talented minds to maintain willful ignorance of our history and OSS origins, and thus isolate and trivialize those not hell-bent on turning Linux into a financial Gold Rush.

Photo of tiny Linux penguin in a gold digger's pan.

Does it really benefit your education, to ignore the wisdom of our Elder Geeks, by never learning from them, exactly *why* they refuse to ride the corporate bandwagon? Do you really think that all their brilliant contributions that literally *created* and *shaped* this marvelous world of Free & Open Software you now enjoy, did not spring from a beloved philosophy *outside* the corporate empire?

I invite you to one of our Elder Geek gatherings, to kindly ask them their opinions about using FS/OSS in the corporate environment. Ask them their viewpoints on lucrative companies that utilize FS/OSS (including free operating systems), such as Google and Red Hat. Are there any for-profit agencies using FS or OSS, that they favor? Where should we draw the line between earning a living, and using Free/Open programs to earn that living?

Assuming you approach them with genuine interest and respectful regard (and knowing your character somewhat, I see no reason why you wouldn’t), they most likely will *not* chase you out of the room. :P

I’m certain they will be most pleased that younger OSS advocates even care to ask. So come to our next BUUG meeting, or the one after that, and learn valuable perspectives of our Linux Pioneers, what sorts of philosophies inspire them, and what their opposing views may be, regarding this latest evolution of OSS into the world of Wall Street.

Most sincerely,

Digital signature.

Ezekiel J. Krahlin
Old-school advocate of Free Software

Photo of huddling baby penguins.

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2 Responses to Seek The Wisdom Of Our Elder Geeks

  1. Interestingly, as someone who is, to some approximation, libertarian, I have very great sympathies for the Free Software movement, including advocating radical reforms of the current patent and copyright laws and positively hating Microsoft. In fact, I would almost certainly be more at home in one of your meetings than in the typical board-room.

    Where I feel that FS movement sometimes goes astray is by being overly dogmatic and confusing evil use of something with the thing it self being evil—two errors that almost invariably happen in dedicated ideologies. (For example, I would not consider DRM evil, in and by it self, but readily agree that it is constantly used for evil purposes; the purer FS proponents often see this differently.)

    More generally, I have a very strong impression that groups with different ideologies conflict mostly because they see the flaws of the other ideology as it is practised, but not the “true” ideology as it is preached; with the reverse applying where the own ideology is concerned. US-style capitalism and Sovjet-style socialism are two good examples of reality not living up to the ideals (mostly because human nature got in the way).

    • ZekeBlog says:

      Libertarianism is a “dedicated ideology” of the worst kind. They feign progressive goals and individual freedoms, yet hold to many horrid, right-wing ideas.

      I wouldn’t consider FSF “dogmatic” in its viewpoints, any more than I would a Jewish person standing up against Nazis.

      In short: “Libertariansim sucks“.

      Nonetheless: Thank you for filling up my comment box with mindless horse hockey.

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