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Open Source Software

The Role of Freeloaders In Open Source Communities 120

Posted by Soulskill
from the arm-extended-palm-splayed-upward dept.
dp619 writes "The Outercurve Foundation has published a defense of freeloaders as part of a blog series on how businesses can participate in open source. '...in the end, it's all about freeloaders, but from the perspective that you want as many as possible. That means you're "doing it right" in developing a broad base of users by making their experience easy, making it easy for them to contribute, and ultimately to create an ecosystem that continues to sustain itself. Freeloaders are essential to the growth and success of every FOSS project.'"
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The Role of Freeloaders In Open Source Communities

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  • Freeloaders (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aXis100 (690904) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @03:17AM (#45962735)

    Otherwise known as regular users???

    • Re:Freeloaders (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dimko (1166489) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @03:24AM (#45962761)
      Yeah, that's what assholes call us. If you don't like your user base - just don't open source your code, thank you very much,
      • by ccguy (1116865)
        Why? The reason to open source is (usually) to get more developers involved.
        • Re:Freeloaders (Score:4, Informative)

          by dimko (1166489) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:47AM (#45963061)
          Who, happen to be who? That's right, users(consumers)! :* At the end of the day, open source was made to attract people who can improve code, and in order for i to happend, they need to use code in the first place! Oh, and btw, you are also wong about developers. I am no developer, but I submit bugs to Firefox, etc, so I am part of development progress. I suggest ideas too! So define freeloader. User != freeloader. If I sugget someoen OSS, am I still freeloader? I do marketing for developer too?
          • by ccguy (1116865) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:59AM (#45963123) Homepage

            Who, happen to be who? That's right, users(consumers)! :* At the end of the day, open source was made to attract people who can improve code, and in order for i to happend, they need to use code in the first place! Oh, and btw, you are also wong about developers. I am no developer, but I submit bugs to Firefox, etc, so I am part of development progress. I suggest ideas too! So define freeloader. User != freeloader. If I sugget someoen OSS, am I still freeloader? I do marketing for developer too?

            I think the first thing you need to do is chill, then install a spell checker :-)

            • by uncqual (836337)

              Perhaps he had trouble finding an open source spell checker he could freeload off of without contributing in some way (and, seriously, would you want him contributing to the dictionary component of a spell checker anyway given your view of his unassisted spelling skills?).

          • by kesuki (321456)

            "At the end of the day, open source was made to attract people who can improve code,"

            actually 'free software' and 'open software' are two heads of the same dragon. and while an online community with much transparency has been spawned it was not the 'goal' of the developers. free software proponents are looking for a dragon that provides protection of their and their userbases needs from big everything, they don't want laws passed to require binary blobs to use a computer etc. open software typically means t

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Freeloader is in fact a very precisely defined term in economics. You may prefer the term "free rider", but it is simply someone who enjoys the benefits of an activity without paying for it. It's not inherently pejorative, it's a technical term. So yes, to an economist, most users of free and open source software are freeloaders.

          • At the very least, people who use the product are advertising the product, even if just to their coworkers.

            If I install MyNewDB, and explain to my coworkers or other IT people I know why it is so much better than MyOldDB, then I am contributing by spreading the word about how great MyNewDB is.

            • by sjames (1099)

              There is something to that.

              Let's assume you are the uber developer who can and will make huge contributions to any free software you use. When you need to frobnicate some images do you try (and so contribute to) the project with 100,000 users or the one with 2 users? If nothing else, those extra 99,998 users helped by attracting the interest of an uber developer.

          • by unixisc (2429386)

            Here is how I define Freeloaders as far as FOSS goes - one who gets a piece of software, and then 'helps his neighbor' - distributes it to others, regardless of whether he got it for free or not.

            As I've often said, FOSS is a good idea, when it doesn't result in customers becoming competitors. Remember, one is allowed to sell FOSS: the things that are frowned on are things like preventing redistribution or any other activity. But allowing full unobstructed freedom is like mistaking democracy for mob rule

        • Re:Freeloaders (Score:4, Interesting)

          by martin-boundary (547041) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:56AM (#45963105)
          Not usually. A lot of open source (licensed as BSD or variations thereof) is about creating software that will get used EVERYWHERE, and discouraging competing projects that do the same task. The devs don't want more devs involved (if they did they should be using the GPL instead), what they want is to make it so that their software is basically the one and only correct way to do something, ie their vision is it. So they give their code away without any requirement to give back from anybody, or any requirement to improve it, etc. The reasoning is basically that if it's available and anybody can take it and rebrand it and sell it etc, then companies will do the math and won't build their own. So the BSD software "wins".
          • Re:Freeloaders (Score:4, Informative)

            by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @11:07AM (#45965809)

            Not usually. A lot of open source (licensed as BSD or variations thereof) is about creating software that will get used EVERYWHERE, and discouraging competing projects that do the same task. The devs don't want more devs involved (if they did they should be using the GPL instead), what they want is to make it so that their software is basically the one and only correct way to do something, ie their vision is it. So they give their code away without any requirement to give back from anybody, or any requirement to improve it, etc. The reasoning is basically that if it's available and anybody can take it and rebrand it and sell it etc, then companies will do the math and won't build their own. So the BSD software "wins".

            It doesn't actually happen that way. The original project or code isn't used everywhere, just parts of it. It's not the BSD software that wins, it is the product that it is used in that wins. Apple's OS X is a prime example of this. FreeBSD and NetBSD didn't discourage competing projects by letting Apple use it, nor is everybody using the *BSDs (most OS X users don't even know about or care about the roots of their OS). Likewise, Linux being based on GPL doesn't seem to hamper Android being used everywhere.

            In the end, there are many reasons why somebody might release under a particular type of license. Global domination, probably isn't the driving factor, though.

          • by mdielmann (514750)

            Think about this. This is what you want when you are building a standard. Think the TCP/IP stack. One of the consequences of this behaviour is that people can use these open standards in just about any environment, including Windows. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.

            • Exactly. This in my opinion is the main justification for BSD style licenses. Another example is security - building a secure OS is hard, and OpenBSD attempts to do it uncompromisingly.
          • by Darinbob (1142669)

            I partly disagree. Open source software is very often NOT about discouraging other products. Competition is the opposite of some people's idea about sharing software.

            Remember that BSD started life as mods to a commercial operating system. The license originated later, and the license was very loose on restrictions because this had all been funded by the California taxpayers. There was never a goal to drive out competition, commercial or otherwise. Now GNU had a goal of discouraging the commercial side

        • Actually, the primary directive behind open source is peer review, which in turn produces better code. There will always be freeloaders, however these folks provide ideas for innovation and interoperability through feedback. Like it or not, freeloaders are a valued part of the open source community, Unix and TCP was hacked together a very long time ago because someone shared their source for peer review and interoperability, and discovered innovation.

          • Re:Freeloaders (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:51AM (#45963323)

            Actually, the primary directive behind open source is peer review, which in turn produces better code.

            There is no such thing as a primary directive behind open source. Everyone who decides to release their source code does so for different reasons. Do not try to second guess what the intent of the license is.
            Likewise, never assume that a "loophole" in a license is a bug or a flaw, most likely it is intentional and probably the reason to why the author chose that license over the million other licenses out there.
            Also, respect the Beerware-license [wikipedia.org] it isn't a joke. Some people just value drinking beer with a stranger more than a small monetary compensation.

              * "THE BEER-WARE LICENSE" (Revision 42):
              * wrote this file. As long as you retain this notice you
              * can do whatever you want with this stuff. If we meet some day, and you think
              * this stuff is worth it, you can buy me a beer in return Poul-Henning Kamp
             

            • Re:Freeloaders (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:56PM (#45969915)

              This whole thing started decades ago when wide access to computing in universities was relatively new. Everyone was inventing the wheel all over again. People figured out a more efficient way of getting the computer to do division and then would share the code with other professors and students. Some students would write better libraries than the ones that came with the computer, or would augment the libraries, some groups would even take it on themselves to write their own operating system that was more suited to their needs (ie, ITSS).

              But it was all sort of a group experience rather than a competitive one. If there was competition it would have occured with their research and not with the computing that was assisting their research. So this early computing mindset just grew and evolved until it was considered natural to share software. There was no reason to hold back. Even when networking grew and Usenet was popular across a very large number of universities and companies and organizations across the world the sharing of software was the norm.

              People started adding licenses and stuff but they were generally ad-hoc things with little meaning, some of which were just plain goofy or tongue in cheek. It really only changed significantly with Unipress Emacs demanding that Stallman cease distributing his modifications to what was previously publicly available software. So he started creating a more standard license so that he and other programmers would not be burned again. Later on "open source" was adopted as a term because newcomers to computing (individuals and corporations) were misinterpreting the "free" part in various ways.

              The only primary directive in that history is the desire to share software and have access to the source code.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I wonder how far any open source project would get, if the only people who could use it were the people who were developing it... no matter how free it was made.

          At the end of the day, developers develop for users (yes, sometimes they also develop utilities for themselves... but mainly they develop solutions for other people to use).

          Imagine if Linux could only be used on the computers of the people who are developing it... or Apache could only host sites that host Apache builds... etc.

          Our users are what give

        • by Githaron (2462596)
          Developers tend to be attracted to interesting projects with a good user base. The more users you have, the more developers you attract.
        • by Wycliffe (116160)

          Why? The reason to open source is (usually) to get more developers involved.

          But that's very narrowminded thinking. Think of it more like this:
          For every 100 users, one might be a developer and for every 100 developers
          one might contribute back so by increasing the total user base you do eventually
          get more developers not to mention that the larger the user base the larger the
          word of mouth and the more likely the developers you want hear about you.
          Likewise if the freeloader is your current employer, when you move to a new company
          which software will you recommend to your new employer w

      • by symbolset (646467) * on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:51AM (#45963081) Journal

        The very topic is a BSD license vs GPL trolling deathmatch. Almost as if it were designed that way.

        If the enemies of openness have developed this level of subtlety then they deserve recognition for their brilliance. It is a far cry from "Project Mojave" levels of stupid. Their products still suck, but at least they are learning to push the right buttons.

        • Not only do the various licensing schemes for code, from open to proprietary, reflect the spectrum of human motives for coding (duh),
          the sum is greater than the parts.
          That is, we're better off with choices amongst the groupings of ScrewYou, BSD and GPL offerings in every category.
          Licenses are merely another dimension of competition, and we see that played out in lower costs and improved capability.
          Our chief challenge is to avoid implementing Big Brother HAL Skynet.
          • by symbolset (646467) *
            Dude, I love you but it might be time to talk to the doctor about your meds. You are going disjointed again.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              I bitterly regret my outburst of Making You Think.
              • by symbolset (646467) *
                I like what you're trying to say, really I do, and I get it. But your audience is not going to hear you and benefit from your brilliance unless you simplify it for them. They are really dumb. I would translate it for them, but I dare not compromise your artful expression.
                • GPL is for the heart, BSD the mind, proprietary for the wallet.
                  Kind of like bass, drums and guitar in your favorite 3-piece.
                  You get better sound with all of them, for all the players may be great soloists in their own right.
                  How's that?
    • by leuk_he (194174)

      Yes.. that is right.

      developers do not care about users. They are just a statistic that is needed to get to the very small percentage users that manage to report a good reproducable error report, create some overrated documentation.

      And the stats are pretty accurate: for every 100 binary download there 1 one source download in my expierence. after that i am not sure who of those 1 percenta actually compile and look at the source.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Otherwise known as regular users???

      That used to be the difference between Linux and BSD. For some of the BSD crowd users were free-loaders and newbies were a useless annoyance. I still remember some BSD guy describing how it worked on the BSD forums. According to him newbies were first kindly instructed to p*** off and then screamed at if they didn't leave. The Linux people seemed to rate users/free-loaders as a measure of the success of FOSS and if you went to a forum and asked stupid newbie questions you would either be quietly ignored or,

    • by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @07:30AM (#45963747) Homepage

      Simply using a Linux-based router makes you a "freeloader" of hundreds (if not thousands) of FOSS projects you've never even heard of.

      Statistically, even people like Linus are "freeloaders".

      • by Sique (173459) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @09:37AM (#45964829) Homepage
        Everyone of us is a freeloader. We use an alphabet we didn't invent, we use a language we didn't invent, we live in towns we didn't build, we live in states we didn't found, we are entitled rights we didn't fight for, we follow ethical principles we didn't think of ourselves etc.pp..
        • Everyone of us is a freeloader. We use an alphabet we didn't invent, we use a language we didn't invent, we live in towns we didn't build, we live in states we didn't found, we are entitled rights we didn't fight for, we follow ethical principles we didn't think of ourselves etc.pp..

          You sound like some kind of OBAMA BIN BIDEN supporter - or worse yet, a HILLARY supporter - with your "we built it together" and "people working together can enrich us all" and "it takes a village" socialist political agenda. W

    • by Anonymous Coward

      To an economist, yes. This is an economic article, written by an economist. About economics. And to an economist, there is a technical term for someone who benefits from a service or product without paying. And that term is "freeloader".

    • Agreed. Seems the author is confused between users and Freeloader, in the traditional sense. The Freeloaders are those that incorporate their code into their product and offer that for sale and don't contribute back to the open-source community.

      In a certain product for sale, I know of just under 50 open source components (not including core linux) included. All the licenses are complied with. But, few get patches submitted upstream. Some bug reports though.

      Does the community need this kind of freeloader? I

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      That was kind of my thinking.

      If the ethos of open source software is "free software for the masses", WTF are you doing calling the people you want to be using your software 'freeloaders'?

      If you're doing it right, you have a very large base of people who just want it to go and not know or care anything about code, a smaller base of people actively coding and enhancing, and a few people who occasionally find and fix an issue.

      If free software/open source is going to start acting like these people are freeloade

    • That's the point of the headline, summary, and article so you're triply redundant.
      The audience of the article is business. Those that might release code as open, or might use open source. Most have at least one senior member that either doesn't get why releasing code is good, or using someone else's code is good. They will buy Unix instead of running linux.
      Or if they release code, they expect code to be contributed back. Sometimes, like when no one cares to fix it, there is no code to give back.
      Your post, a

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Yes. However there's a class of open source people who strongly dislike these users who don't recontribute. They want open source to be communal. You see this attitude in forums and news groups sometimes, where those who don't participate and are just reading are given disparaging names like lurkers, or your vote on common issues is weighted by amount of participation, etc.

      Which is a poor attitude because historically the earliest free software never demanded that you give back. Some users of the code di

  • Not freeloaders (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @03:19AM (#45962741) Homepage

    They aren't "freeloaders". They're called "users". Without them, there's no point to creating software except for stuff you personally need. And there's more stuff you need than you have the time or the skill to create, so you will be one of those users a lot more often than you're a contributor. Users aren't a problem, they're the reason software exists in the first place.

    • Re:Not freeloaders (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bug1 (96678) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:36AM (#45963015)

      Users are freeloaders if they are ideologically opposed to contributing or participating in the community.

      If people dont contribute because they dont know how, but would like to, then that fine, maybe one day they will be able to. Nothing to lose, everythign to gain by havign them around.

      If people (or more likely corporations) are ideologically opposed to contributing back to the communtiy because they dont want to mix "their valuable IP" with the communities IP then are a dead weight to us. We would be much better off pushing them to use inferior proprietary software so their competitors who arent so short sighted can win.

      [end rant]

      • Re:Not freeloaders (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:40AM (#45963541)

        Not really, assuming this reluctance to contribute back doesn't extend to bug reports.

        Just using the software and reporting bugs is valuable.

        • by bug1 (96678)

          Yea, thats a fair point. "freeloaders" do have a self interest to provide constructive criticism to their suppliers irrespective of the conditions under which where provided the goods.

          • by mdielmann (514750)

            Likewise, developers benefit from the extended 'debug phase' such users can provide. And note that they might look like freeloaders to you, but you can't tell from their usage behaviour whether or not they're promoting your software when someone mentions a need that your product solves.

            In other words, you're far better off to treat 'freeloaders' as valuable users than to treat them as a drain on your resources.

      • If people (or more likely corporations) are ideologically opposed to contributing back to the communtiy because they dont want to mix "their valuable IP" with the communities IP then are a dead weight to us.

        And yet even there they are doing something good by using it. This is especially true of FOSS frameworks, libraries, etc. The more jobs that use them, the more value knowing the work becomes and that means you attract more potential contributors. Besides, at some point you run into situations like when M

        • by Iskender (1040286)

          If people (or more likely corporations) are ideologically opposed to contributing back to the communtiy because they dont want to mix "their valuable IP" with the communities IP then are a dead weight to us.

          And yet even there they are doing something good by using it. This is especially true of FOSS frameworks, libraries, etc. The more jobs that use them, the more value knowing the work becomes and that means you attract more potential contributors. Besides, at some point you run into situations like when Microsoft decided to add intellisense support to jQuery and build solid support into Visual Studio. Then a lot of these people suddenly stiffen up when a company with that clout decides to throw in some of its IP lot with the project.

          I agree 100%: just look at Photoshop. Imagine where it would be today had Adobe somehow managed to eliminate all piracy. The answer is, probably in pro use, like it is now. But normal people would have needed something else, and that would have been a competitor. It could even have meant normal people using GIMP more. Who knows, maybe it could have been a blessing for GIMP, leading to more contributors, more pro-level features...

          A big userbase makes software stronger. Who cares if some user has the wrong id

        • by bug1 (96678)

          And yet even there they are doing something good by using it. This is especially true of FOSS frameworks, libraries, etc. The more jobs that use them, the more value knowing the work becomes and that means you attract more potential contributors.

          A corporation uses free software and is committed to not contribute anything back (freeloading), yet one of their workers does so in their own time (contirbuting).

          In that case the company has unknowingly contributed to free software in the way of promotional work, but that has to be weighed against the damage they do to free software by trying to prevent their workers contributing in the first place.

      • While I understand your distinction of freeloaders who are ideologically opposed to contributing, I would hesitate very much to push them to use their own proprietary software.

        One of the many benefits of open source is that you can get common implementations, which makes interoperability so much better. It also means you do get newer and better products for society as they're not spending time rebuilding the wheel.

    • "Freeloaders"? "Users"? Try unpaid beta testers.
      .
      .
      .
      Provided your business model is support and\or infrastructure of course...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      To an economist, by definition, they're mostly freeloaders. It's not an insult, it's a technical term. Would "free rider" make you feel better?

      • by Todd Knarr (15451)

        No, it wouldn't. Both terms have the negative connotation that the people in question have a negative impact, are undesirable and their numbers should be minimized. But open-source projects are operating under a different model, and users are not undesirable and don't have a negative impact. In fact most open-source projects consider themselves a failure if they don't have a large number of users, because that means people don't want the project's software.

  • Freeloaders (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jalet (36114) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @03:31AM (#45962791) Homepage

    There are two kinds of them : the one who complains for any reason and often doesn't even know why, wasting coders' time, and the one who sends logically articulated problem reports (not necessarily in a bug tracker), helping coders to improve their software.

    • Re:Freeloaders (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chrisq (894406) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:08AM (#45962925)

      There are two kinds of them : the one who complains for any reason and often doesn't even know why, wasting coders' time, and the one who sends logically articulated problem reports (not necessarily in a bug tracker), helping coders to improve their software.

      Three kinds - the I expect the most common user is probably one who doesn't report anything but just uses the features that work.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        No, five kinds.

        The MOST common user is the one that complains that the software does not work like some unspecified Windows application works, and is distressed because it's the one they're learned to use, by rote.

        The last category, fortunately, is quite rare. It's the type of person who has heard about some bug, but either not heard or not interested in its details, but now wants the developers to devote all their time into investigating this, BEFORE the complaining user might run into it. Except that the

        • by Chrisq (894406)

          The last category, fortunately, is quite rare. It's the type of person who has heard about some bug, but either not heard or not interested in its details, but now wants the developers to devote all their time into investigating this, BEFORE the complaining user might run into it.

          Yes - I've come across this .... I've heard that GIMP can't handle APNG files ... have you ever used APMG? .... No but .....

    • by shentino (1139071)

      In my opinion, diligent bug reporters aren't freeloaders. They are involuntary beta testers.

  • by symbolset (646467) * on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:13AM (#45963157) Journal

    The publication of source code in the free software movement is not about receiving benefit in return directly. It's about helping others avoid the effort of solving the same problem. The goal is not fame, fortune, or accolades - just that it would be a waste for others to spend time re-solving the same problem when they could be about something more useful.

    The notion of a freeloader is ridiculous. Let me give an example from the current real world. India just became Polio free. That means that you and your children are less likely to become victims of the Polio virus from that region. You are freeloading on their efforts to remove that virus from the world. You benefit from the effort of millions of impoverished women who carted their children to a medical center and stood half a day in the hot sun waiting to receive the vaccine for them and their families. You are a freeloader on the efforts of a woman who in her life could only hope to make a dollar a day and the stakes are the life and death of your children, their lack of exposure to one of the worst scourges Man has ever known. Did you give to polio relief efforts? Did you go and find them, and educate them about why they needed to suffer so much to get the vaccine? No.

    In India and other parts of the world the last efforts to rid ourselves of this vile threat are opposed by armed men. Many have already lost their lives to innoculate children. If you would not be a freeloader carried on the back of the least woman in India then get busy earning your benefit. Put your money where your mouth is, or go to Pakistan and start giving shots to the children who might carry the disease that could disable your grandchildren if you don't act. Report back with your findings.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:28AM (#45963225)

    In open source communities the freeloaders are users.

  • by ledow (319597) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:29AM (#45963233) Homepage

    Why is this specific to open-source?

    Most of the software I use is freeware, actually, or not open-source. The fact is that I help those projects whenever I am able because I feel a "debt" to them that does not always have a direct monetary value (but I have donated to, and bought from, such projects because I want to support them).

    The rule is simple: Help me, and I'll help you. It doesn't matter about being open-source - as such - if your software/service is useful and free, I will help you out. I will refer users to it (which could generate you ad revenue). I will send in helpful suggestions. I will even take off some of your support burden by helping your own users in your own forums (or even settings up my own for them!).

    And it doesn't matter about your source code - nice as that is. I've even done this for major commercial companies selling educational software, for instance.

    Help me, I'll help you.
    Stiff me, and I'll only use you if I absolutely have to.

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:47AM (#45963299)
    For every piece of open source software, 99.99% of the people who use it are end users who will never, ever look at the source code and who will never, ever contribute to it. Even active open source developers will never, ever contribute to most of the open source software out there.

    So if you remove all the "freeloaders", most of the purpose of the software is gone. In the official GPL rationale, the whole purpose of the GPL is to make sure that the "freeloaders" cannot only use the software, but are free to modify it - without contributing anything. (Not that I agree with the rationale, because the percentage of end users who can actually take advantage of these rights is minuscule).
    • by Kjella (173770)

      So if you remove all the "freeloaders", most of the purpose of the software is gone. In the official GPL rationale, the whole purpose of the GPL is to make sure that the "freeloaders" cannot only use the software, but are free to modify it - without contributing anything. (Not that I agree with the rationale, because the percentage of end users who can actually take advantage of these rights is minuscule).

      Most people aren't auto mechanics either, but using third party repair shops and aftermarket parts is common. Everybody who's used a patched/forked version that the "main" project didn't like - anyone using x.org instead of xfree86 for example - has had benefit of the distribution right, which wouldn't exist without the modification right. I agree that without the distribution right your personal right to dig into the software and patch it is almost meaningless, but so is the distribution right without the

    • And reckoning by code contributions leaves out those many who contribute in other ways, such as active forum participants, teachers and evangelists.

      I don't know how many times, in my decade as a rural librarian, I have explained that the "big blue e" isn't the internet, or showed how Firefox can be set up to browse safely and securely. Most of the patrons who bring laptops into the library now use Firefox. Many of them use LibreOffice or OpenOffice (from before the fork) instead of the MS Office that cam

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:34AM (#45963511)

    Count me in! I am a freeloader, but willing to help. When do I start? I volunteer to: Put the permanent status bar back in FireFox so I don't need an extension. Get rid of Gnome 3 entirely. Revert the GIMP's atrocious Save As.../Export As... abomination. Oh, right, these projects are closed cluster****s, and don't want me to help. Sorry, I'll go back to being a freeloader now.

    • by dargaud (518470)

      Revert the GIMP's atrocious Save As.../Export As... abomination.

      I converted my family to Linux with little effort, but going from Paint Shop Pro to Gimp was the most painful. It takes a long time to have even a basic grasp of any graphics program; that's expected and OK. But when they did this modification, I wept. Try to explain to a bunch of 70 year old that, no they can't open a jpg, modify it and save anymore. They now open it, modify it, save, no, there's no save option. Why? OK, let's 'save as'. Well, even if I change the extension to jpg as I dutifully learned, i

      • The devs have made it clear that they aren't interested in the 70-year-old user, nor even the "average" user; but rather the semi-mythical "professional" GIMP user, to whom this export/save thing is second nature. We've tried explaining about less-savvy end users and we've suggested compromise solutions, but to no avail: we've been either ignored or told off in no uncertain terms.

        I'm not a coder, and have trouble getting through the technical aspects of a bug report, but I've placed many a copy of the GIM

    • Put the permanent status bar back in FireFox so I don't need an extension

      Have you tried Pale Moon? [palemoon.org] - It's a Windows-optimized version of Firefox (no version for Linux, more's the pity). The developer has reverted many of the "features" of Firefox's Australis, including the statusbar, and the community is fairly responsive and active. The developer even seems to hang around the forums occasionally. I expect, as the Firefox developers seem determined to turn Firefox into something that is Not-firefox, it will eventually become a fork when the codebases diverge too much.

      Revert the GIMP's atrocious Save As.../Export As... abomination

      I agree

  • Maybe this will help people distinguish between participation in an organization (personal) and participation in a network or movement (virtual).
  • There's an obvious solution to stop people using your software without contributing (a.k.a. "freeloaders")... make your software crap.

    A hypothetically perfect software would have only freeloaders and no developers, because none would be needed, because nothing could be improved.

  • by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @08:43AM (#45964233) Homepage

    Free, as in jury duty, apparently.

  • by PGC (880972)
    Isn't the whole point of creating software, so that it will be used ?

    If the users contribute back, that's nice, but it's still an extra.

    Of course, companies incorporating software into their products without adhering to the licenses is a whole other discussion, but I don't think that is what is being referred to as a 'Freeloader' here.
  • If you provide free software, you should, you know, expect people to use it for free.

    Of course, you might have users pay to use your open source software, but then they wouldn't be freeloaders, would they?

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @11:22AM (#45965985)

    The Free Dictionary defines a freeloader as "a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc." While there are many users of open source software, are they actually freeloaders? Do they actually depend on the charity of the developers? The definition implies that the freeloader gets something for nothing. But, if you submit bug reports, are you still a freeloader? If you participate in online forums, are you still a freeloader? If you promote the software in question to others, are you still a freeloader?

    Put differently, just because open source software can very often be had without monetary cost, doesn't being an active member of the community count for something? Surely we aren't saying that everybody who isn't an actual developer is a freeloader?

    When one checks a book out from the public library, they are a called a patron, not a freeloader. Maybe we should call those who support open source projects the same thing.

    • When one checks a book out from the public library, they are a called a patron, not a freeloader. Maybe we should call those who support open source projects the same thing.

      "OSS Patrons." That is a good idea. I wish I had mod points today. Thanks.

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