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The Battle Between Purists and Pragmatists 213

Posted by kdawson
from the driving-out-in-all-directions dept.
Glyn Moody has a thoughtful piece taking a long look at the never-ending battle between pragmatists and purists in free and open software. "While debates rage around whether Mono is good or bad for free software, and about 'fauxpen source' and 'Faux FLOSS Fundamentalists,' people are overlooking the fact that these are just the latest in a series of such arguments about whether the end justifies the means. There was the same discussion when KDE was launched using the Qt toolkit, which was proprietary at the time, and when GNOME was set up as a completely free alternative. But could it be that this battle between the 'purists' and the 'pragmatists' is actually good for free software — a sign that people care passionately about this stuff — and a major reason for its success?"
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The Battle Between Purists and Pragmatists

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  • by Roxton (73137) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `notxor'> on Friday July 24, 2009 @05:39PM (#28813323) Homepage Journal

    Purists are just pragmatists who believe that moral imperatives are an adequate tool for achieving effective collective bargaining.

    When the bargain fails to materialize, the purists blame a defective culture. And the pragmatists just roll their eyes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Pragmatists are just ungrateful. Without rms and his insistence on freedom, and the years of work on GNU, there would be no fame for Linux nor Linus (whom, to this day, is ungrateful and rude to the very provider of the tools and freedom that led to his project success).

      Once they have benefited from the purist efforts, why must pragmatists be so ungrateful and rude? Why must they bite the hand that fed? Why must they whine like a free-market-Republican when the adults counter their bullshit?

      • by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Friday July 24, 2009 @07:00PM (#28814207)

        Pragmatists are just ungrateful. Without rms and his insistence on freedom, and the years of work on GNU, there would be no fame for Linux nor Linus (whom, to this day, is ungrateful and rude to the very provider of the tools and freedom that led to his project success).

        Once they have benefited from the purist efforts, why must pragmatists be so ungrateful and rude? Why must they bite the hand that fed? Why must they whine like a free-market-Republican when the adults counter their bullshit?

        I don't hear the pragmatists whining that often.. They're too busy getting shit done.

        • by reiisi (1211052)

          ... too busy getting their stuff done or drinking beer.

          I see a false dichotomy here.

      • by NonSequor (230139) on Friday July 24, 2009 @07:01PM (#28814211) Journal

        RMS didn't invent the collaborative software culture. He's just the leader of a sect of it.

        My broad-brush observation is that a purist who manages to win over everyone is a hero and a purist who doesn't manage to win over everyone is just a dick.There are vastly more of them in the second category.

        • by orasio (188021)

          RMS didn't invent the collaborative software culture. He's just the leader of a sect of it.

          He invented the tool that helped that culture survive today. He invented it, because the collaborative software culture existence was threatened.
          And he's the leader of the relevant sect of that culture.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by NonSequor (230139)

            RMS didn't invent the collaborative software culture. He's just the leader of a sect of it.

            He invented the tool that helped that culture survive today. He invented it, because the collaborative software culture existence was threatened.
            And he's the leader of the relevant sect of that culture.

            There was never a threat to the concept that people exchanging ideas freely could do interesting things with computers. It's a very compelling concept that creates a sense of community.

            Let's take a step back here and remind ourselves of the threat that started the crusade. RMS was using a printer with a buggy driver and was angry that the source was not made available so that he might fix it himself. As a result of this inconvenience, he started a movement that declared it a moral imperative that similar in

            • by chthon (580889)

              You forgot another thing in this evolution : the creation of two commercial entities which built Lisp computers based on the code that was available from MIT and which became closed systems.

              There was never a threat to the concept that people exchanging ideas freely could do interesting things with computers. It's a very compelling concept that creates a sense of community.

              But are you willing to always reinvent the wheel, because that's what you will ultimately get. In this case the GPL is also a form of pragmatism : you have the certainty that you will have access to an up to date and broad library of software with which you can do (almost) anything that you want. The almost is : if you

        • by Roxton (73137)

          In any event, a viral license is the work of a pragmatist.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by keeboo (724305)
        Though I'm aware that there are shades between, I say that the ones who are clearly identifiable as pragmatists - the way I see them at least - are just opportunistic people.

        Idealists are the ones who bring innovation and true progress to mankind, the ones who make things interesting.
        Pragmatists... Well, they just take advantage of what others fought for and use for their own purposes.
        A pragmatist will say XYZ is impossible until an idealist proves him/her wrong, and after that the pragmatist starts tak
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          A pragmatist will say XYZ is impossible until an idealist proves him/her wrong, and after that the pragmatist starts taking advantage of the progress done by the idealist.

          I hate to be the one that breaks it to you, but the word "pragmatist" [reference.com] doesn't mean anything like what you think it does. In fact, to one who does know what it means, what you wrote is little more than gibberish.

  • Define success.

  • by JohnFluxx (413620) on Friday July 24, 2009 @05:41PM (#28813353)

    The purist seeks to change the world to fit him, whereas the pragmatist changes himself to fit the world.

    Ergo all progress relies on the purists. :-)

    • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Friday July 24, 2009 @05:59PM (#28813575) Homepage

      The purist seeks to change the world to fit him, whereas the pragmatist changes himself to fit the world.

      Ergo all progress relies on the purists. :-)

      While the purist is sounding off about some moral crusade for cuter kittens or something, the pragmatist will have finished what they're doing and be in the bar with a beer. The purists see this as proof that they are right. The pragmatists see this as proof that they've got a beer.

    • by lawpoop (604919) on Friday July 24, 2009 @06:13PM (#28813741) Homepage Journal
      With all of our technological advances, people can still manage to be pretty miserable. Look at the rates of anti-depressant usage in the US. Having things do not make you happy.

      No matter how much create comfort we add to this world ( and don't get me wrong, we've added a lot ), the ultimate dysfunction of the human being is that they want utopia. As good as it is, it's never enough. In Buddhist terms, this is usually called "Suffering", but I think a better term is "Anguish", because it's more of a mental-emotional state then physical pain, which 'suffering' implies.

      So yes, the purists changes the world, and this is 'progress' in the physical sense, but I don't know that this necessarily engenders enjoyment of life to its recipients. I spent some time with an indigenous family in the Amazon for a summer field school when I was in college. They basically lived in plywood, thatched-roof huts. They had the typical family/society drama, they always complained about not having enough food, clothes, and goods from the town, and not having access to medical care, but their day-to-day life seemed like a big, casual party. They were always gathered around the fire, cooking their next meal, making jokes, laughing. They would walk to take the bus into town, go hunting, wash their clothes in the river, and work in their gardens. It was a shock for me to get back and interact with my friends, whose main topic of conversation seemed to be the utter injustice of a traffic incident or a snafu at a bureaucratic office, and how it totally ruined their day. Then in the weekend, they would watch a mega-blockbuster movie with crazy special effects, and feel ripped off because there was some nonsense thing in the plot. For all the conveniences and entertainment we had, day-to-day life had more anguish for my wealthy western peers! It really sucked hanging around them initially.

      So the world will always suck, if you have that attitude, no matter your material circumstances. If you enjoy yourself, life will be good. I think the pragmatists enjoy themselves more. There's a Buddhist saying that goes something like "The world is awash in thorns. You cannot cover the world in leather, but you can cover your feet in leather."
    • by timmarhy (659436)
      progress to what end? show me a purist that can actually give you a straight answer and i'll show you a pragmatist in hiding.
      • The argument is whether to put tomboy, and thus mono in the default install of Ubuntu.

        Fedora is expunging mono from the default install, but not from packages starting with the next release. RHE already did.

        They are discussing this over at Canonical, and those who are convinced that mono is suffering a slight are up in arms and claiming to be pragmatists.

        If there is an all-the-newest-fancy-gadgets-to-try-out install, then maybe tomboy and mono belong in the default of that, sure.

    • by dgatwood (11270) on Friday July 24, 2009 @06:56PM (#28814183) Journal

      The purist seeks to change the world to fit him, whereas the pragmatist changes himself to fit the world.

      Precisely.

      Ergo all progress relies on the purists. :-)

      No, you have it backwards. All true change depends on the pragmatist. While the purist is seeking a way to fix everything that's wrong (because it's all or nothing), the pragmatist is adapting himself/herself enough to actually solve as many problems as is practical, one at a time.

      As Nietzsche put it (I think), before you can change the world, you must first change yourself. As long as you're on the outside looking in, you cannot effectively cause change. All you can do is spew rhetoric. Only when you come to accept that you can't save the world can you begin to save individuals within it, and in so doing, actually make the world better.

      • by russotto (537200)

        As Nietzsche put it (I think), before you can change the world, you must first change yourself. As long as you're on the outside looking in, you cannot effectively cause change.

        Ah, but there's the paradox. Once you're on the inside, you have the perspective of the insider and don't WANT to cause change.

        <looks into abyss. When it looks back, hocks a loogie into it>

      • by reiisi (1211052)

        The funny thing is that the pragmatist doesn't often actually change himself, he usually just puts a few more shims between himself and the real world.

        I see lots and lots of false dichotomies flying around here.

        • by Xtravar (725372)

          The pragmatist will see lots of false dichotomies, but the purist will see only one false dichotomy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357)

      I would disagree. The purist DOES try to change the world to fit his views, yes. The pragmatist doesn't just accept the world - he does what he can to improve the world, but doesn't worry himself to death over the things he can't change. Instead, he works with what he has.

      The guy who just goes along, to get along, and has few if any opinions on how things SHOULD be is just another conformist moron. That doesn't qualify him as a pragmatist at all.

      Bill Gates is a pragmatist. He takes what works and make

  • Like anything he writes, it's both original and non-obvious. However the non-obvious bits are not original, and the original bits are obvious.

    Obviously, I didn't read it.

  • is beneficial. It provides calibrated feedback into the guiding philosophies of information freedom, making sure that all perspectives are considered.

    The Shadows [wikipedia.org] had it right, until they tried dominating their own dynamic tension. At that point, the balance was broken and tragedy ensued. The same can happen in the Open/Free movement, if it becomes dogmatic and polarized. (For sufficiently small values of "tragic". Does someone envision millions dying because Microsoft won't open-source their office product

  • On par, AIDS doesn't improve the human spirit, even though people get impassioned by it. The lust for victory that arises from a battle doesn't mean the war is an indicator of healthy relationships between the warring nations.

    The battle over open source is bad not because it separates, but rather because it has created a false dichotomy. The way that the current question is phrased proves this. "Purists" are viewed as ideologues not because of existing conditions, but rather because of the failure of t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      No, purity is not pragmatism. Purity is a matter of principles, as in following a pre-conceived notion of what is "right". Pragmatism is not worrying about what is "right" and worrying about what is useful and practical based on the specific tradeoffs in question. You might believe that your principle will result in useful practical outcomes, but that's not the same thing. Being a "purist" means that you have a preconceived notion of what the correct choice is in all situations, and even if it ends up n

  • by DaleGlass (1068434) on Friday July 24, 2009 @05:49PM (#28813469) Homepage

    It can backfire.

    For instance, take the whole mess with BitKeeper: The pragmatic option was to use a product with really obnoxious licensing terms, because it was good and worked at the time. Then one day Larry McVoy got really annoyed with Andrew Tridgell, and decided to refuse to even sell licenses to people associated with the OSDL, including Linus Torvalds.

    That's the problem, while it works everything seems fine, but when the rug is suddenly pulled from under you, it suddenly creates a lot of complications that get in the way of getting useful things done. I think there's quite a lot of value in making sure that you'll be able to use tomorrow something you're using today.

    • So... purists are pessimists and pragmatists are optimists?
      • by reiisi (1211052)

        purists are pessimists and pragmatists are optimists?

        Definitely not without meaning.

    • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Friday July 24, 2009 @06:10PM (#28813715) Homepage

      For instance, take the whole mess with BitKeeper: The pragmatic option was to use a product with really obnoxious licensing terms, because it was good and worked at the time. Then one day Larry McVoy got really annoyed with Andrew Tridgell, and decided to refuse to even sell licenses to people associated with the OSDL, including Linus Torvalds.

      But it was pragmatists that fixed it. Indeed, purists would have kept Linux using a tool like CVS or SVN because going to a distributed versioning system would have let them to giving up their principles. It was the experience with BK that enabled the creation of git.

      I suppose that this just illustrates a deeper truth: the world needs a mix of both purists and pragmatists. It's called "creative tension".

      • by DaleGlass (1068434) on Friday July 24, 2009 @06:21PM (#28813837) Homepage

        See, I see it differently.

        Linus tried the pragmatic way. It worked for a while. Then it blew up in his face.

        So he ended up having to do what the purist way would have required (writing a new SCM if none of the available ones were suitable), except that since events unfolded quite suddenly, there was no time for a smooth transition, and something had to be hacked up fast.

        Git is certainly interesting, but I doubt half the people who use it really understand how it works. Maybe if it was started in less a dire situation it could have been more user friendly.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MichaelSmith (789609)

          Git is certainly interesting, but I doubt half the people who use it really understand how it works. Maybe if it was started in less a dire situation it could have been more user friendly.

          Thats where Mercurial [selenic.com] comes in.

          Within OSS there were these cascading projects. With Arch close to the beginning. Along the way different things are tried and the DSCM field is refined. I think git is a step along the way.

      • by DaleGlass (1068434) on Friday July 24, 2009 @06:40PM (#28814043) Homepage

        Indeed, purists would have kept Linux using a tool like CVS or SVN because going to a distributed versioning system would have let them to giving up their principles.

        I just re-read your comment, and got no clue what you mean by this.

        The debate I saw is that Linux should use a Free SCM, to avoid precisely what happened with BitKeeper. I don't remember people speaking against the concept of a distributed SCM and don't see why would they.

        IIRC, Mercurial for instance existed back then and was considered, but rejected because performance wasn't good enough.

        • IIRC, Mercurial for instance existed back then and was considered, but rejected because performance wasn't good enough.

          Mercurial came about because of the BitKeeper explosion, apparently "a few days after" [wikipedia.org] Git did.

          It looks like the only ones around in 2002 when BitKeeper was chosen were probably Aegis, DCVS, and Arch.

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday July 24, 2009 @07:41PM (#28814567) Homepage

      For instance, take the whole mess with BitKeeper: The pragmatic option was to use a product with really obnoxious licensing terms, because it was good and worked at the time. Then one day Larry McVoy got really annoyed with Andrew Tridgell, and decided to refuse to even sell licenses to people associated with the OSDL, including Linus Torvalds.

      No, all that did is show that Linus Torvalds made an error in judgment that is common among the pragmatic "use the best tool for the job" crowd: Failure to consider the license as an aspect of the tool that affects its usefulness as much as the software itself.

      I personally consider myself to be solidly in the "pragmatist" camp, and I argued against using BitKeeper not because I thought Linux development should be "pure" and only use OSS, but because I saw the BitKeeper license as a ticking time bomb that made the tool unsuitable for its purpose. It made some sense if you only thought short term, but I think that's foolish for such a long-term project. Then the bomb blew up faster than I even imagined, and in hindsight we can see it was in fact not the best move.

      The problem with pragmatism, then, is that it involves reasoning about the future, trade-offs, risk evaluation, and so on and thus people can be and often are wrong about what constitutes the "pragmatic" choice. Identifying the "pure" choice is comparatively simple. "Is it free software or not?" Pick the free one and you did it right. You may choose to follow such a principle in part because you believe it leads to better practical outcomes too, but if it turns out not to be in some instance you were still "pure" which is what you were trying to be.

      So the "purists" were right in this case because the pure choice ended up being the practical choice, but it was quite possible for a pragmatist to arrive at the same conclusion.

      • Actually, it's quite simple. Purists are people who are bound by certain principles. Principles are good, but sometimes they are not right. Whenever principles lead us to the right solution, purists are successful. Whenever they do not, purists fail.

        Pragmatists are not similarly bound, and see principles as useful approximations of the right solution. When the principles fail, they adapt and adjust their approach until they find the right answer.

        Most importantly, neither is a substitute for sound judgment.

      • by elgaard (81259)

        ==
        So the "purists" were right in this case because the pure choice ended up being the practical choice, but it was quite possible for a pragmatist to arrive at the same conclusion.
        ==

        And the pragmatist should always arrive at the same conclusion as the purist if he looks far enough into the future.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by extrasolar (28341)

        I personally consider myself to be solidly in the "pragmatist" camp, and I argued against using BitKeeper not because I thought Linux development should be "pure" and only use OSS, but because I saw the BitKeeper license as a ticking time bomb that made the tool unsuitable for its purpose. It made some sense if you only thought short term, but I think that's foolish for such a long-term project.

        You seem to be a smart guy, but please notice the contradiction here as I see it. You say you're in the "pragmatist camp" because you don't think GNU/Linux should use only OSS/free software, yet when you look long term you notice that e.g. the Bitkeeper license was unsuitable for this purpose. Now look at the free software definition [gnu.org]. We purists, as you like to call us, believe that all software that doesn't meet these four criteria our unsuitable for our purpose.

        As it turns out, purists are just pragmat

  • by Statecraftsman (718862) * on Friday July 24, 2009 @05:50PM (#28813477) Homepage
    Discussion is helpful to educate and to flesh out and refine arguments but frankly it doesn't accomplish as much as taking action. For example, for Free Software(and for user freedom) to get where it is today has required: Getting the word out. Providing free software to people. Installing it for them in some cases. Educating them about cases where their freedom has been limited. Writing good software and releasing it under a free software license. Helping document and support free software.

    There are so many facets that everyone can find a way to help. If debate is your thing, cool. If you can write well, great. If you can code, awesome. If you can't do any of the above, you probably buy technology from time to time. Make sure free drivers are available or that it works with free software. Just do something. Freedom is unique in that one person can not have it without a significant number of others also being able to exercise theirs.
  • Good for both! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Prien715 (251944) <agnosticpope@gmai l . com> on Friday July 24, 2009 @06:00PM (#28813585) Journal

    I think that pressure from Gnome and the fundamentalists helped make Qt change their license to the LGPL.

    On the other hand, Qt's innovation list have provided the Gnome project with a lot a good ideas for feature work.

    There's a give and take here...it's not so much a zero-sum battle as a mutually beneficial collaboration...without the parties believing they're cooperating;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ppc_digger (961188)

      I think that pressure from Gnome and the fundamentalists helped make Qt change their license to the LGPL.

      No, it didn't. The license was changed to LGPL because Trolltech's profits are pennies for Nokia and they figured they'd rather see more commercial development for Qt.

      • by reiisi (1211052)

        But how did (ergo, Nokia) understand that investing in software under the GPL would bring more commercial development?

      • Re:Good for both! (Score:4, Informative)

        by dbIII (701233) on Friday July 24, 2009 @08:17PM (#28814871)
        Wrong - the GPL change happened about TEN YEARS before Nokia bought Trolltech.
        Qt was sort of open at release (you could download and read the code but it still all belonged to Trolltech) but had a different licence to the GPL. They went through a variety of licence alterations until I was clear that their opponents would never even read the licences so it had to be GPL or nothing.
    • I think Nokia buying trolltech helped Qt become available under the LGPL.
    • Re:Good for both! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bogtha (906264) on Friday July 24, 2009 @10:02PM (#28815479)

      I think that pressure from Gnome and the fundamentalists helped make Qt change their license to the LGPL.

      I can't agree with that. TrollTech were doing nicely dual licensing Qt. They were essentially making proprietary software companies fund Free Software development. That was their business model. LGPLing it would have lost them plenty of money, and for what? The respect of GNOME fundamentalists? Their customers were already choosing Qt over GTK and the GNOME libraries, throwing away their business model might have helped their "market share" in the Free Desktop "market", but it would have lost them loads of money.

      Qt was LGPLed right after TrollTech were bought by Nokia. The licensing fees for Qt aren't significant to Nokia, they wanted a high-quality toolkit and the developers that built it. So it wasn't necessary to keep it GPLed. Then it makes sense to LGPL it to get more users/developers/market share/whatever. But before that point, the "pressure" from GNOME was insignificant compared with the pressure of bills to pay.

  • i side with the pragmatic, the GNU/GPL makes a great philosophy but a terrible religion, i will use GNU/GPL as much and as often as possible but when i cant i fudge a little, i have flash and Nvidia's blob video driver, when gnash and noveau mature enough to do just as good or better from a performance and technology point of view i will start using them and not a minute sooner...
  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Friday July 24, 2009 @06:02PM (#28813621) Homepage Journal
    People who label themselves as "pragmatic" simply aren't willing or able to consider their own interests on a longer timeline. A lot of them tell me that they finally realized that RMS was right about something, but it took them years, including a bad experience that was their own fault, to realize.
    • by timmarhy (659436)
      i disagree, people are only purists as long as they aren't involved in anything serious. as soon as they hit a road block they find out life is all about compromises and they become pragmatists.
      • by keeboo (724305)

        i disagree, people are only purists as long as they aren't involved in anything serious. as soon as they hit a road block they find out life is all about compromises and they become pragmatists.

        No, that's an example of people who have ideals - as long as they don't have to pay the price for keeping them.

    • This is a false dichotomy and a red herring.

      The argument is over putting mono in the default install by way of tomboy. It has virtually nothing to do with either purism or pragmatism, except, perhaps, to the degree that some of the mono devs feel slighted that they aren't granted a higher status than the ruby crowd.

      No, that's gonna induce a red herring, too.

      They want to be granted the status that java has, on the basis of tomboy. They are also frustrated that their attempts to build "compelling" apps that w

      • I think they have a right to feel slighted as I think they have built compelling apps. Tomboy is kind of a toy that I never really found that useful, but I think F-Spot and Banshee are both worthy of being called "Pretty Damn Good." I'd be cranky if people kept trying to beat down something I'd created with the sweat of my brow due to some vague association to Microsoft.
  • Yes the End justifies the Means -- because the means becomes part of the end.

    If you must destroy your world to save it then you have a saved, destroyed, world.
  • It's really a hierarchical system based on making software a commodity -- most of the technologies in the open source world began as fully proprietary, then moved into the pragmatic domain for practical use, then became implemented by purists when the ability to develop it for cheap by hobbyists existed.

    I could go into significant history of things such as UNIX, but for example, if it were not for Netscape, Firefox would not exist. Firefox would not exist in its current form if dogmatic people prevented the

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jd (1658)

      If you look at the phases of, say, computing, radio, or other technologies, you see oscillations between the purist and the pragmatic. The theorists are invariably purist, the inventors pragmatic, the experimenters purist, the developers pragmatic, and so on, back and forth.

      Let's indeed look at the history of Unix, which was kicked off because MULTICS was just too complicated an idea (ie: more purist than pragmatic). The BSD line got back into the hands of researchers looking for new ways to do things (back

  • On a related note I think the whole community is becoming more pragmatic. when Eric Raymond [ibiblio.org] commented on the usefulness of the GPL licence and it was covered [slashdot.org] in a slashdot article peoples arguments were pragmatic. Examples being the GPL is better for business, not religious war on which licence was more free.
    I don't agree with everything he says but, if Richard Stallman had not have taken the stance he had, there would not be any free/open source software. A GPL licence is one thing but it wont protect
  • False dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by orzetto (545509) on Friday July 24, 2009 @06:14PM (#28813763)

    There are periodically arguments of ideological integrity vs. pragmatism in all areas. I usually react by asking "which foot do you use to walk?" or "when you climb a mountain, to you look at the path to the summit or to your feet?". Both ideology and pragmatism are required. If you use only ideology, you will not get anything practical done; if you use only pragmatism, you get something done, but it may well be in the wrong direction.

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Friday July 24, 2009 @06:18PM (#28813809) Homepage

    A few months ago, some usenet crackpot posted his latest mathematical research. Among the usual nonsense and ravings about a world-wide conspiracy of academic mathematicians, possibly under the control of aliens (the space kind), to suppress his work, there were some points of mathematical interest--some potentially neat patterns and relationships in how he was wrong.

    I spent a very enjoyable few weeks investigating these, using Mathematica to aid in this. I was able to find things using Mathematica that I would not have found otherwise--even using the best current free mathematical software, and those taught me a lot, both directly, and from the books I then consulted.

    The most pure purists, such as RMS, take the position that I should not have done that mathematical investigation, because I could not do it without using non-free software. I'm supposed to wait until I can do it with free software, and maybe contribute to developing said free software if I want to speed things up.

    If life were infinite, I would consider that. Life is not infinite, so I will go ahead and use the tools that let me get done the things I want to get done during this short life. I see no difference between, say, riding in a vehicle like a boat or plane where I cannot inspect and study the engine and using a piece of software where I cannot see the code. For the boat, all I care about is that it accomplishes the task I need--getting me safely to my destination. Same for software.

    • Exactly, however the other people see it a different way. You and me might never look into the source code of any kernel just like I rarely look under the hood of my car. However, for the people who do write kernels and other lower level software the fact it is open source may be a huge plus for them in working out bugs. Similarly, good engine documentation would help a mechanic. Most people don't care about their engine unless there is a problem, if there is an engine design that can get me a cheaper mecha
    • by melikamp (631205)

      Funny that you bring up math in defend of pragmatism. For a practicing mathematician, purism is not even a choice: it's an occupational hazard.

    • But what does that have to do with putting mono in the default installs of Ubuntu?

    • The most pure purists, such as RMS, take the position that I should not have done that mathematical investigation, because I could not do it without using non-free software.

      This is *not* their position. RMS and his colleagues worked on computers with proprietary software to create the GNU operating system. They are saying it is better to use free software if free software exists that does what you want to do. They understand you using proprietary software if an alternative doesn't exist, although they would want to advise you about the risks of lock-in that you are running.

      Their argument is that if you are *creating* software then you should offer it under a Free Software license. The creators and extenders of software are the people they are appealing to.

  • Could it be that some people prefer one language to another (modified) language?

  • by CSMatt (1175471) on Friday July 24, 2009 @06:37PM (#28814021)

    Purism may seem to get in the way at times, but if everyone was pragmatic, and no one put their foot down and demanded that things be done in a certain way, then many of the advances we have made in the last decade or so would never come to pass. For example:

    As stated in the summary, purism is what gave us GNOME. Purism is also responsible for getting Qt under the GPL. Regardless of your feelings about GNOME, you can't say that it is not at least a good thing we don't have only one major DE to choose from. Also, who knows what could have happened to KDE had Qt still been exclusively proprietary when Nokia bought Trolltech?

    Purism is what gave us gzip and PNG. Instead of just complaining about LZW, developers made completely new formats, and generated enough momentum around them to virtually replace their patent-encumbered predecessors, all the while creating superior technologies in the process.

    Purism is what gives us Web standards. The Browser Wars were one of the worst times in Web history because everyone was being too pragmatic. Browser vendors were only interested in locking in users to gain market share, and Web developers were only interested in coding for one browser and just pointing everyone who wasn't using that one to a download link for it. The Web is becoming a better place because of the growing purism among both browsers and developers, not in spite of it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      [Your post is fucking idiotic.

      As stated in the summary, purism is what gave us GNOME.

      No, a lack of any halfway decent desktop environment, and the convenient creation of a widget toolkit in a different application, led to GNOME.

      Purism is also responsible for getting Qt under the GPL.

      Except that it's not under the GPL, and never was; while it was at one time dual-licensed under the GPL even when dual-licensed it was commercially driven outside of KDE (the developers of Qt were still being paid by commercial licensing). Your purist fuckery "lost" because Nokia realized that more people would actually use Qt if it was

      • But the underlying argument is not purism vs. pragmatism.

        There is no real pragmatism in putting tomboy or any other particular mono-dependent app in the default install.

        I personally think there are too many things in most of the default installs (plural) as it is.

        If there is an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink install, then, definitely, tomboy and mono would belong in the default install of that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          But the underlying argument is not purism vs. pragmatism.

          No, it's easily-influenced idiots who believe Roy Shitowitz when he yammers on about NOVELL IS EBIL and MONO IS TERRIBLE!!!111. Never mind that there is legal promissory estoppel protecting Mono these days, it's still EVIL!!!111.

          There is no real pragmatism in putting tomboy or any other particular mono-dependent app in the default install.

          What pragmatism is there in putting an application that isn't as good as its competition into the default install? Gnote certainly isn't as good as Tomboy, and Rhythmbox edges out Banshee only by a few points and that's not likely to last. The pragmatic argument is "this works reall

  • by Thomas Larsen (1454771) on Friday July 24, 2009 @08:58PM (#28815137)

    As a 'purist' in this sense myself, I feel somewhat justified in claiming that without the purists, there would never have been such a pragmatist movement as there is now. Let's face it: in all likelihood, if I were a pragmatist, I'd be using proprietary software tools to write programs and share information--because that was, and perhaps still is, the easy option. Purists, on the other hand, reject compromise when that compromise will eventually result in their freedoms being restricted.

    Actually, free software is the pragmatic option: it guarantees that, in the future, I'll be able to code using free, compatible tools. Software that compromises on freedom will eventually fall into the trap of convenient, non-free, proprietary software that will eventually restrict my freedom in the future to write and share and change programs in an upstanding, moral way.

    My two cents.

"Consequences, Schmonsequences, as long as I'm rich." -- "Ali Baba Bunny" [1957, Chuck Jones]

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