Column is a monthly feature that explores the world
of creativity and aesthetics.
The Freedom to Give:
Part 1 | Part 2
de Sousa, Director, AbleStable
we enjoy great advantages from the inventions
of others, so we should be glad of an
opportunity to serve others by any inventions
of ours; and this we should do freely
"...those who believe software
should be free cannot prevail against
the U.S. Congress and voices of seven
U.S. Supreme Court justices who believe
that 'the motive of profit is the engine
that ensures the progress of science.'”
Darl McBride, CEO, SCO
current battle between the SCO Group and the Linux
community encapsulates the choice all creative people
consider at one time or another: do I offer the
products of my creative labours freely, or should
I charge for them? More to the point, do I have
For the few who inherit wealth, the choice and direction
of where their creativity takes them is an open
book. For most however, the daily necessity of generating
income is pressing, and the open pursuit of their
creative potential is often frustrated as they find
themselves constrained by commercial realities.
Some consider creative people can only be found
in the fields of art, design, and literature, however
a more robust definition of the creative person
is not determined by the medium. Programmers, database
designers, and software authors are as creative
as designers and artists, although their discipline
may not be as expressive.
A creative person chooses the best medium for the
job, collects the tools required, develops their
knowledge and skills, then goes to work.
The Culture of the
There are many resource websites for creative people.
The usual pattern of usage is that a novice will
come to the site with little or no knowledge, and
download source files that can be studied and altered.
As the novice develops their skills, they may choose
to give something back to the community by producing
'open source' material and uploading these new resources
to the site. And so the cycle continues.
The developers of free software are the longest
established community that practice this model,
and the main body of this column uses their example
to explore issues relating to the free distribution
of knowledge and skills.
What is Free?
software doesn't mean free in the financial sense,
but rather it applies to distribution, exchanging
code, and innovation. The free software communities'
essential characteristic is one of openness. Source
codes are published not only for all to see, but
also to use, manipulate, change, and redistribute.
Larry Wall, the inventor of Perl, a widely used
scripting language that functions across platforms
and commonly used for building websites and other
network-based programs, sums up the position of
many freeware authors:
want my stuff to be used. I wrote it
to be used. If I make a living off it,
that's great, but I come from a culture
where you're valued not so much by what
you acquire but by what you give away,'
There are great strengths yet serious flaws in distributing
code or creative resources in an open way. The advantages
of cooperation and the potential of so many developers
contributing to the improvement of a system or application
is clear, as is the abuse by a few but significant
Long, Play Hard
Richard Stallman is the founder of the Free Software
Foundation or GNU Project. He views himself as a 'hacker':
is hard to write a simple definition
of something as varied as hacking, but
I think what these activities have in
common is playfulness, cleverness, and
exploration. Thus, hacking means exploring
the limits of what is possible, in a
spirit of playful cleverness. Activities
that display playful cleverness have
Around 1980, when the news media took
notice of hackers, they fixated on one
narrow aspect of hacking: the security
breaking which some hackers occasionally
did (cracking). They ignored all the
rest of hacking, and took the term (hacking)
to mean breaking security, no more and
no less. The media have since spread
that definition, disregarding our attempts
to correct them.'
spirit of playfulness Richard alludes to should
be a part of every creative experience as should
the principle of sharing and openness that inspired
the foundation of the free software movement.
Freedom to Give: Part 1 |
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