FOSS = Socialism = Bad?

I just ran into a video from Highline Guitars who has made and is selling a device to wind electric guitar pickups. The device uses two FOSS softwares, GRBL and Universal Gcode Sender (which I am developing on). He has also made a closed source program to calculate and generate the gcode for how the pickup should be wound.

The device he is selling is cool, and I really like that someone can make a living on the things they build and sell. And of course that I, in some small way, are a part of it. It feels warm and cozy inside!

But then he got the suggestion from one of his followers that, in the spirit of using FOSS, he should make his tool FOSS too - that way it may benefit more people. This follower essentially got banned from the channel for being a socialist, cheered on by many others in the commentators field.

Highline Guitars doesn’t want make his software open source, that is fine, it is his decision. He is using the open source softwares within the license restrictions, so no problem there.

But the thing that I can’t understand and which I guess is bothering me…
In my world FOSS is essentially socialism - which Highline Guitars is capitilizing from. Yet socialists are the bad guys, and just by suggesting to share, is like swearing in church.

Have I stumbled upon some American taboo?

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Sadly, using “socialist” as a pejorative does have some history in the US. I think that lots of folks in the US can’t tell the difference between a political system and an economic system and somehow think that socialism and fascism are almost the same thing.

I don’t think that it is general in the US that FOSS is perceived as socialism. I have often heard it understood as “enlightened self-interest.” There’s certainly a vast amount of FOSS written and maintained in the US; very little of it by people who would describe themselves as socialist, even if they aren’t confused between political and economic theory. :smiling_face:

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Welcome to the world of hypocrites and narcissists. If they can take something from others for free or little expense they love it because it fulfills their NEEDs but if someone mentioned maybe they should or could help others, it’s a dog-eat-dog world and there’s no reason they should help anyone else because nobody is helping them(so they think).

There’s been an epidemic of that kind of thinking exploding in society since around 2015 and became the norm to some in 2016 and beyond.


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I’d also like to add that Microsoft, especially Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, publicly attacked Linux and FOSS calling it publicly a cancer and communistic. Given the number of MS fanbois out there you can’t undo that kind of training by just keeping quiet. And they didn’t just keep quiet, they stopped chanting the 2 “c” words but they spent millions spreading lies in their marketing materials like their “Get The Facts” campaigns.

That’s some of the tech industry spin on it while the political spin on it grew recently, for a few centuries religions have been pushing similar thought processes.

Sadly too few understand that by helping your neighbor you are helping their neighbors and yourself. What’s the saying, ‘He who dies with the most toys wins.’

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The poster of the comment he quotes has a bit of pollyanna-ish understanding of things - people who don’t write software often imagine that it would be super easy and helpful to just open-source things and everyone will pitch in and we’ll all get good stuff and we all win. Unfortunately, writing software is HARD, open-source or otherwise, and often open-sourcing things takes even more time investment from the original author than staying closed, and none of the mythical benefits accrue. It’s often a huge time sink which actually detracts from future development on the project.

That said, I think his response to the comment was maybe ill-advised. I think he was being sarcastic, but that often doesn’t come through cleanly. I would definitely think twice before making such a comment myself, instead going with something more anodyne. Also, IMHO, unless there is a ton of information not being presented, banning the user seems a bit excessive.

I’d also say that his explainer video maybe shouldn’t have spent any time explaining open-source motivations, because he explained a particular subset as if it was generally applicable. Open source has a lot of drivers motivating people. I think his implication that his dependencies may in the future flip and start charging is unwarranted - it’s possible, sure, but it’s also possible that such a licensing change would cause a project fork to occur and the ensuing competition reinvigorates the project and the open-source version would win out. That happens all the time. Open source contains multitudes.

FOSS harms creators but benefits everybody else.
FOSS drastically reduces the amount of malware in society.
FOSS is not a sustainable model for most small businesses.

If you go FOSS do not expect many or any donations. Most people do not donate, at most they will leave a comment expressing their gratitude, and most not even that. You may encounter a FOSS social butterfly who will tell you this isn’t so, because they got a lot of donations themselves. But don’t expect this for yourself.

Due to malware culture and lack of any consequences for hosting malware sites, things have gotten out of control, and FOSS is recommended, due to a culture of low-trust. Most or many of the mainstream SEO sites host malware or have hosted malware.

In reality you have to contend that there will be bad actors who make malware. If there was a magic button to get rid of malware then it would be a lot easier, but no such button exists… yet.

It is one of those things where there is no correct opinion, there are different perspectives.

Wow, that’s a pretty negative take on FOSS on a forum running entirely on FOSS… :smiley:


Yes :slight_smile:

In the EU I guess “socialism” is not a problematic term, and not likely to offend.

However, socialism is perhaps not an accurate term anyway, although FOSS promotes sharing, it is not suggesting that all software should be shared equally. Socialism implies equality of wealth distribution, which must involve moving money from richer people to poorer people. Richer people generally do not like that, and to implement the policy requires at least some taxation, if not more draconian measures.

Because of that and “socialism” being a politically charged term, perhaps a better description is “philanthropy”. I and others in FOSS who have the time and ability to write code are willing to donate that effort so that others maybe without those attributes can benefit. I hope that other people contribute something in turn, but I don’t really expect them to or require them, and neither does any FOSS principle.

I think suggesting to someone “you should open source your work because other people have open sourced theirs” is kinda like emotional blackmail and is probably overstepping the line. At least it is a bit cheeky. I can see why people might get runkled about that.

I like your idea of “philanthropic code” because it implies that we’re using free time and skills (a luxury!) with a lack of expectations about direct benefits.
It’s nice to have a more specific term than the umbrella “FOSS” which also includes people like hypercorp employees working on Chromium to full time employees of “open core” start-ups who are hoping their stock options go up and to the right.

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