Free Software Foundation helps no one with name-calling


Discourse on the Net is tough enough without lowering yourself to pointless name calling. The Free Software Foundation ought to know better, especially when their work is so important.

Today John Sullivan posted a story about problems the FSF has with Amazon's release of the Kindle source code yesterday. Their three main issues are:

  • Not all the code is included.
  • Changes to Kindle code do users no good because users cannot legally update their devices
  • Important features remain secret.

The article is well-thought out, and clearly makes the three points. It would be a fine article if not for the insulting headline: No, Amazon did not release all of the Swindle's source code.

Why, FSF? Your article stands on its own, so why sling the mud? Why lower yourselves to juvenile name-calling? What do you hope to gain by calling the Kindle the Swindle? Are we to think "Ho, ho, those clever FSF folks!" I can't imagine.

Relatedly, please read Roger Ebert's article "The O'Reilly Procedure" on the lowering of the standards of debate in our society.


At first i didn't even notice that they called it "Swindle" :)

But yes, they should have avoided it.

Making up derogatory names is a part of RMS' character, and it stuck to the whole of the FSF. "Digital Restriction Management" for DRM hits the spot very well, because it is very correct and doesn't insult any entity in particular.

On the other hand, calling Tony Blair "B'Liar" is insulting and pointless, and so is "Kindle/Swindle", even though it's not as tasteless.

Sometimes the FSF's names are clever and appropriate, because they highlight the issue. For example, I really do like RMS's renaming of DRM to "digital restrictions management" and "trusted computing" to "treacherous computing".

Those names actually get to the heart of the matter, especially because the original names are simply Orwellian doublespeak.

In the case of the Kindle, calling it the Swindle is just playground taunting. It's like calling Andy "Mandy" or something ridiculous like that.

Sometimes, I have no clue what the FSF is smoking.

Amazon could very easily not have released ANY source code.

They are legally required to release the source code of any GPL licensed software they are distributing.

I think the poster above is stating more along the lines of Amazon not being a good player whether they were legally required to release it or not.

However, this takes the FSF down a few notches in my view. Name calling never helps and Amazon did comply with the GPL requirements.

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