Loomio
Sat 30 Apr 2016

OSS or FOSS?

CF
Cam Findlay Public Seen by 310

When discussing licensing I usually use the acronym "FOSS" to get across the "freedom of reuse, modification" etc as well as being able to see the source code (that's the open source bit).

I usually avoid using use FLOSS (Free/Libre & open source software) because
- a) sounds like something from a dentist
- b) the "libre" bit I feel is only needed if we don't communicate well that "free" in free & open source software refers to "freedom". It's an education thing I think we're all responsible to share and make others aware of.
- c) one less acronym to remember is a good thing

I'd like to see FOSS used in place of simply OSS in NZGOAL-SE.

CF

Cam Findlay Sat 30 Apr 2016

Also, a glossary couldn't hurt given there will be a range of people using this policy, some will know the open source technical terms, some will not.

CF

Cam Findlay started a proposal Sat 30 Apr 2016

NZGOAL-SE should include a short glossary Closed Sun 1 May 2016

To ensure all users are able to make sense of some of the software industry/free & open source terms used throughout.

Agree - 3
Abstain - 3
Disagree - 3
Block - 3
3 people have voted (7%)
CF

Cam Findlay
Agree
Sat 30 Apr 2016

keep it short and only cover the most potentially confusing of terms.

DL

Dave Lane
Agree
Sat 30 Apr 2016

Fully agree - I always refer to FOSS (rather than OSS or FLOSS) for exactly the reasons you specified Cam. Good call.

KB

Keitha Booth
Agree
Sat 30 Apr 2016

DS

Danyl Strype Sat 30 Apr 2016

I think a glossary of terms is essential, but... Oh boy. If you think some of the discussions about copyleft vs. non-copyleft were contentious, wait until you see what's inside the can of worms you just opened @camfindlay1 ;)

In answer to your question, the compromise Wikipedia uses is "free and open source software". I do think using this, abbreviated to FOSS after the first mention, would be an improvement on "OSS" alone. I agree that it adding "libre" to make "FLOSS" doesn't really add anything useful, and I can see why nobody ever suggested "libre and open source software", it's hard enough to convince decision-makers to let us use or release free code without referring to it as "LOSS". That would be likely to lead to them implementing CROSS (Canceling and Refusing Open Source Software) ;)

Disclosure: although I try to be as non-dogmatic as I can about it all, my interest is primarily as a citizen user and libre activist, rather than a developer (although I have been project managing a bit), and I do tend to find the FSF's arguments more compelling on most issues. Keeping that in mind, here's some of the definitions I use:
* software freedoms: the four software freedoms defined in the Free Software Definition
* software freedom: the ethical proposition that if it would be unethical to send a thug around to constrain they way someone uses their device, it is equally unethical to willfully build software that does the same job as the thug, by stopping the computer doing things it would otherwise be capable of doing (eg playing DVDs, copying copyright materials even in ways that may be legal under "fair dealing").
* free code: source code that has been licensed under any software license approved by the FSF (or OSI)
* free code software: by which I mean exactly what people mean when they say "open source software", packages of software licensed under any combination of the afore-mentioned licenses
* open source development: the set of community practices and norms that surround the development of free code, and the governance of projects that coordinate that development
* free code project/ open source project: a software development organisation that releases free code, and follows and contributes to the development of the afore-mentioned community practices and norms
* public domain software: software whose authors have, as much as legally possible, waived any copyright or other legal rights over the work, including but not limited to the right to attribution and (in theory) the limitation of liability asserted in most free code lienses
* open core: (more on this in its own thread) a business strategy used by some companies, in which some part of a software project is released as free code, but certain features remain proprietary, so that the company can sell an "Enterprise Version". Note: not every company that sells a hosted service commercially is "open core", there are some that still release all their code (AFAIK Red Hat and Loomio do, and MySQL did until Oracle's recent decision).
* dual-licensing: Like MySQL used to do, a free code package can be offered under the terms of a free code license (MySQL is GPL), OR under the terms of a commercial license where the free code license still applies, but there are other aspects which may include hosting, tech support, integrations with proprietary apps which require the use of proprietary plug-ins to implement non-free APIs etc
* GNU/Linux or GNU+Linux: The GNU operating system running with the Linux kernel. Now that there is Android/Linux or Android+Linux, which is the Android operating system running on the Linux kernel, this distinction has become even more important to avoid people asking confused questions like "Is Android Linux?"

CF

Cam Findlay Wed 4 May 2016

For the terms already included in NZGOAL-SE draft, which are most likely candidates to be included in a glossary?

CF

Cam Findlay Wed 4 May 2016

Also, if "free and open source" were to be used as the core term, would it also be acceptable at times to say simply "on open source terms" when referring to licensing? I'm conscious adding "free and..." any time "open source terms" is mentioned adds extra length to the piece and may not help readability. :thinking_face:

DL

Dave Lane Wed 4 May 2016

Just use FOSS in its place: "under FOSS terms"...

EA

Edward Abraham Wed 4 May 2016

I have a bit of a different view here, I am for OSS. For me "Open Source Software" is the core point. Expanding that to FOSS doesn't add much (the licences and legal text will stay the same), and comes across as more jargonish, especially if you need to explain to people what free does and doesn't mean.

DL

Dave Lane Wed 4 May 2016

In that we differ. The main reason I'm strongly in favour of the "F" is that many (mostly corporate) entities who claim to support the same ideals we do, don't. They see OSS as a rich commons they can exploit. They see other people doing their R&D for "free" (no cost), and they love that. They love "permissive" (from the business perspective) licenses, because it facilitates their one-way involvement with the community. By insisting on using the "Free" part, yes, it runs into the ambiguity of the word, but it also sends a signal to anyone confronting the term "FOSS" that it's not what they expected, and many will follow up to understand why that term's used, and not simply "open source software". The business entities jumping on the OSS bandwagon have subtly changed the meaning of the term "Open Source" - originally meant to be synonymous with Free Software (but less confusing) - to mean "a methodology for developing software in which the source code is available" rather than the core set of principles underlying Free Software (from which universal access to the source code follows). To me, sticking with "OSS" is a way of aligning oneself (perhaps unwittingly) with the former proprietary software companies who've now adopted open source for expedience (they can no longer compete with a proprietary software model) rather than out of principle. Underneath it all, they're still trying to build exploitative business models, profiting disporportionately at the expense of the commons, rather than endeavouring to enrich it while providing value which justifies legitimate profit.

EA

Edward Abraham Wed 4 May 2016

While FOSS makes the important freedom part explicit, open source software is a more common term. In many cases, the people who need to use this document will be the people comssioning the work, not IT people. To be effective, it is important that the document is in plain English.

EA

Edward Abraham Wed 4 May 2016

I am going to be even more contrary and argue against a glossary (even though it has a big green circle in its favour). Glossaries arent especially usable ... if you need a glossary, then you are failing the plain English test. Better to re-write what you are saying so it can be understood by a broader audience.

K

Kay Thu 5 May 2016

A glossary can be useful to people seeking to get a handle on terms so they can ask questions. While @edwardabraham is right that plain English would be better it is difficult for people to break down their language if they're very familiar with the terms. In my view the English in this forum and on the ICT website is technology dense and not ideal for a general audience. A short glossary with examples could be a stand alone document for the "oh that's what they're talking about" moments. Once people get the scope and possibilities of free and open source and related topics, they'll be more willing to work their way through the information.

If we're thinking of a broader audience it would also be helpful to consider accessibility. For example the 2015 file format guide doesn't mention accessibility or link to the Web Toolkit for accessibility and readability for vision impaired people. Yes, machine readable should help but making an explicit reference is more inclusive. https://www.ict.govt.nz/guidance-and-resources/open-government/new-zealand-government-open-access-and-licensing-nzgoal-framework/nzgoal-guidance-notes/nzgoal-guidance-note-2-file-formats-august-2015/

CF

Cam Findlay Thu 5 May 2016

Thanks for the feedback @edwardabraham @davelane @kayscarlet - from reading over the draft again, I feel that actually @richardbest has done a great job throughout defining terms inline in the policy wording and in footnotes (and there is always room for improvement).

I too start to change my thinking that in the spirit of making things understandable and readable while not watering down that this policy is, in fact, dealing with something quite technical (free and open source software and licensing) that carrying on this approach (inline, well described terms) may be preferable over a discrete glossary per se.

To quote Martin Seligman:
"I don't mind being wrong, and I don't mind changing my mind" :smiley:

EA

Edward Abraham Thu 5 May 2016

Cheers @kayscarlet @camfindlay, definitely need to encourage the "oh thats what they're talking about" moments :)

CF

Cam Findlay Thu 12 May 2016

See https://github.com/opendatanz/nzgoal-se/pull/7/files - while FOSS is a better term, there still may be some plain English readability to consider. I wonder if there is a way to in the initial paragraph mentioning FOSS we also set out some of the other interchangeable terms (open source, OSS, FLOSS) and then throughout the paper stick to one of the more common term (like simply "open source")? Any further thoughts?

EA

Edward Abraham Thu 12 May 2016

I am keen on open source being used where possible. De-acronymisation FTW!

CF

Cam Findlay Thu 12 May 2016

Thanks @edwardabraham would you also agree that there is some value in explaining to the reader that the other terms around "open source" are equally valid and used interchangeably often in practice? This is to help the reader who may do other research around this how to interpret other material that mention FOSS, OSS, FLOSS et al.

EA

Edward Abraham Thu 12 May 2016

Yes I do agree that setting the context to explain what open source is and the different terms are is very useful.

DL

Dave Lane Fri 13 May 2016

My main concern is that the term "open source" has largely been redefined to mean "a methodology of developing software where source code is available to developers". It loses/corrupts many other crucial elements of the original meaning of Free Software (which the term "open source" was supposed to clarify, but was quickly co-opted by commercial interests) as outlined by the "4 Freedoms". The term "open source" is what companies like Microsoft exclusively use, as they and many others do not support the 4 Freedoms. Those proprietary software developers want software that they can exploit (e.g. with "permissive" (from a business perspective) licenses like MIT rather than copyleft like the GPL). I like FOSS because it makes much clearer that we're not talking merely about open source - we're fundamentally talking about more than that.

DL

Dave Lane Fri 13 May 2016

I think I'd be satisfied using the term "open source" elsewhere in the document if we had a preamble which explicitly stated something like "We use the term 'open source' in its original sense - equivalent to Free Software - used to describe software which preserves the following four freedoms"...

CF

Cam Findlay Sat 14 May 2016

Thanks @davelane - admittedly it is a juggle between readability and common in-use language (to get the point across), and correct use of terms with underlying principles (that are subject to interpretation). I'm sure we'll get there with this :thumbsup:

DS

Danyl Strype Sun 15 May 2016

I also think that just using 'open source' risks missing the point of free code software. For those who haven't read it, I highly recommend at least skimming the GNU.org essay on the subject. I agree with Dave that this could be dealt with by mentioning the Four Freedoms in the preamble, and maybe referencing the GNU.org essay.

CF

Cam Findlay Mon 16 May 2016

See https://github.com/opendatanz/nzgoal-se/pull/7/files?short_path=d87f721#diff-d87f7210b76c2230ddcaec8658fa8be0 for the diff - I've included some info about the interchangeable language, the meaning of "Free" as in "Freedom" and indicated the particular language we'd use in nzgoal-se.

I'd welcome a fork and pull request if you have alternative wording for this, though I can't guarantee a merge, I'm keen to see how it might look through others eyes keeping in mind the intended audience - Government people - to whom this might be a whole new thing (though FOSS has been around for decades :wink: ).

DL

Dave Lane Mon 16 May 2016

Just been reading a huge thread on the internat'l (but US-centric) "Foundations" list (you have to join to see the archives: https://lists.freedesktop.org/mailman/listinfo/foundations ) re-litigating the "OSS vs Free Software" terminology discussion. Simon Phipps, one of the people behind the Open Source Initiative (OSI - http://opensource.org - they hold the trademark and vet licenses and whether or not they can legitimately claim to be "open source") said this, which I think is relevant (and interesting to see that their new initiative tries to sidestep the problem altogether):

"The fiduciary umbrella we've started for Europe (you'll remember I was asking about it last year) is called Public Software CIC, https://publicsoftware.eu/ and we picked the name specifically to avoid the terminology conflict and identity issue under discission, per https://publicsoftware.eu/about/why-public-software/

However, we also emphasise that the formula has to be licenses AND collaboration, since without the four freedoms guaranteed through an OSI-approved license, collaboration is probably illegal. One day that will matter a great deal to many of the innovators using open source today, when some amoral corporate behemoth decides to sue them for billions of dollars for doing what everyone knows was OK but which they struggle to prove was actually so.

In passing the baton to a new generation, it's crucially important we ensure their vision builds on rather than replaces that of the generation before them. We were fixated on licenses, but it was with good reason."

DL

Dave Lane Mon 16 May 2016

Also, (another quote from the aforementioned Foundations thread) I find Bradley M Kuhn's (of the Software Freedom Conservancy and on the Free Software Foundation board) point resonates (it references the quote I posted above):

"I agree with Simon on this point. The fixation on licenses was because we
wanted to ensure the four key software freedoms for everyone.

I also agree with something Simon didn't say but he's hinting at: I think
there is a serious failure on the part of the previous generation (which
includes most of us) to explain that there were real, fundamental, moral
principles involved.

Does anyone have specific ideas of how we can communicate to the next
generation that there are moral principles and fundamental rights -- not just
"better code" -- at stake? I must admit that "public software" as a term
doesn't seem to get that across to me."

To me this is the burden that this NZGOAL-SE has to take on board - if we're recommending that taxpayer funded software be made available for the citizens, we need to explain our thinking as to why otherwise, the "spirit of the recommendation" is obscured, making it much easier for the clear commercial incentives to "obey the letter, but deny the spirit" to prevail.

DC

Don Christie Mon 16 May 2016

Hi

Interesting and thanks Dave. Simon Phipps (former Open Source and Java
evangelist at Sun Microsystems) is an excellent source and thinker. He
"gets" free software as well as understanding the thinking behind Open
Source.

I really like that Public Software page and the thinking about needing
to be explicit about allowing collaboration.

Cheers
Don

GP

Grant Paton-Simpson Tue 17 May 2016

Open software

(vs FOSS or OSS)

Open means more than access to viewing source. And it's shorter.

DL

Dave Lane Wed 18 May 2016

My concern with that, Grant, is that it's even more vague than open source... and has already been co-opted by many (e.g. NZ Labour) who don't really understand what any of free, open source, or libre mean in the context of software...

GP

Grant Paton-Simpson Wed 18 May 2016

Heh - probably right.