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Deb Nicholson - Style or substance? Free software is totally the 80's

The free software community is smart and forward-looking, but sometimes it can be hard to see the big picture when you're part of it. Often the easy choice isn't the best. We've been hearing about this constantly from the DevOps community: "Build systems that don't fail spectacularly in the middle of the night!" Of course, those robust systems are a little harder to build and take a bit more planning to set up. But when you consider "other people's systems" there is no question that the hard work should be done because it will make things better in the long run. The trick is looking at your own systems with that same long-range perspective.

The culture of the 1980's is often depicted as an obsession with neon clothing, valley girl idioms and synthpop. That's an unfortunately shallow portrayal when you consider that the artists and activists of the 1980's were pushing back against the cultural norms portrayed in mass media. They were challenging boundaries about who gets to participate in the creation of art and embracing new technologies to share their ideas. How will our current era of increased free software production and adoption be remembered? Will it be all unconferences and penguin swag or will we be remembered for how we changed the world?

Applying a long-range perspective to the continued growth and success of the world-wide free software movement isn't easy. It will take time and probably money. Can we step outside of our own history and make sure that the community is setting a course for the place we want to end up?


7 years, 7 months ago

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LibrePlanet 2015 video · LibrePlanet 2015 · LibrePlanet · lp2015 · video

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Style or Substance (libreplanet) · LibrePlanet 2015 Videos (libreplanet)


CC BY-SA 4.0


This talk was presented at LibrePlanet.


LibrePlanet is the Free Software Foundation's annual conference. The FSF campaigns for free/libre software, meaning it respects users' freedom and community. We believe that users are entitled to this; all software should be free.


We do not advocate "open source".

That term was coined to reject our views. It refers to similar practices, but usually presented solely as advantageous, without talking of right and wrong.


Richard Stallman launched the free software movement in 1983 by announcing development of the free operating system, GNU. By 1992, GNU was nearly operational; one major essential component was lacking, the kernel.


In 1992, Torvalds freed the kernel Linux, which filled the last gap in GNU. Since then, the combined GNU/Linux system has run in millions of computers. Nowadays you can buy a new computer with a totally free GNU/Linux system preinstalled.


The views of the speaker may not represent the Free Software Foundation. The Foundation supports the free software cause and freedom to share, and basic freedoms in the digital domain, but has no position on other political issues.