[Linux-aus] Open source: time for a name change?

Pia Smith greebo at pacific.net.au
Tue Aug 12 17:13:02 UTC 2003

On Thu, 2003-08-07 at 15:41, Dan Shearer wrote:
> On Thu, Aug 07, 2003 at 11:34:10AM +0930, Greg 'groggy' Lehey wrote:
> > On Wednesday,  6 August 2003 at 16:09:17 +0930, Dan Shearer wrote:
> > > On Wed, Aug 06, 2003 at 03:14:15PM +1000, John Knight wrote:
> > >> Layman's terms, what about 'Open Software'? Only a
> > >> slight change, but it might desribe it better.
> > >
> > > Until a person reaches that point, what better word do we currently
> > > have than "Linux" or "Linux-style" to describe Open Source, from
> > > OpenBSD through to Cygwin? Greg, you started this thread -- can you
> > > improve on this?
> > 
> > Well, my argument was for a descriptive term.  "Free software" fits
> > that bill.  "Linux" (or "BSD", for that matter, before you accuse me
> > of being partisan :-) don't.

So far as random terms that the general person doesn't understand,
neither "Free Software" nor "Open Source" are easy to understand clear
cut concepts from their names. Once people understand them, its all well
and good and they make a choice. The danger in choosing "Free Software"
is that there is an automatic (and in my opinion negative) reaction to
the word "free" that is misleading. The reasons are not the problem, but
we can't afford having this initial misunderstanding. Having a term such
as Open Source that means _nothing_ to the average person before you
explain it, is much better. I like Open Source and seeing it and Linux
have become buzzwords that are attracting interest why should we bother
changing them and confusing the average layman who really doesn't care

My analogy can be expressed better by using people names. Being called
Pia is interesting for me because most people have never met a Pia and
therefore have no pre-conceptions based on the name. A name like John,
or Greg, or Susan have pre-conceptions associated because of childhood,
movies or whatever, so whether a person knows it or now, often 
pre-conceptions of that name are imaged onto a child of that name.

> I was't going to accuse you of being partisan :-) Linux comes nowhere
> near being an accurate term. But it is becoming widely understood to
> vaguely stand for free software.

And we don't really care about what draws them, we just care they are
drawn. Would you change your fish bait because you don't like the smell
if it was catching you lots of fish (bad analogy, I swear there are no
hooks involved! :)

> > Alone we can't, of course.  But the term "free software" used to be
> > mainstream, and somebody changed that perception.
> Trying to do this again sounds a bit like quixotic. The "Open Source"
> movement has done that once, and it was a clever move, with continuing
> success in technical circles. But to do the same for the man in the
> street? By all means try, but why? Just live with the wrong things being
> called Linux and make sure that the right things are being run :-)

Wonderfully put :)

Pia Smith <greebo at pacific.net.au>

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