No matter how many features we add to free software, when a user compares our products with a proprietary one she/he does not see any difference. It is still a buggy piece of crap, made by some folks far away, that does not work as expected. We are not any different from them. Free software will never differentiate from the proprietary products in our current proprietary culture. Real end users see us as programmers, not as different institutions, companies. There is no Microsoft to fight with in that world, only some programmers or IT support people. The IT people are generally some bad guys, scum, dirt lovers whose help everyone needs. To succeed in this world we need paint ourselves in a whole different color than proprietary vendors.
Features and feature sets are the tools of marketing the old proprietary software. In a free software world, when comparing two free software products features are irrelevant, as anybody can copy source code from everybody.
“XMMS got a new feature I don’t have in my music player software? Where is that XMMS’s source code? Hmm, no problem I’ll add it in two weeks!“
Features and feature-set comparisons with other software (proprietary or not) make us look the same as the old proprietary software. Features we have (and proprietary does not have) are hidden to new users, so we are not a bit different. Or even worse, we lack that feature X from their previous software. No matter what, we are lagging behind. This is no way forward.
Start advertising something no proprietary software has! That “something” is “Free Culture”. Since Free Software is a subset of “Free Culture”, no proprietary vendor in his right mind will advertise that.
What means promoting Free Software through Free Culture? It means we need to start advertising the collaboration tools in our software. We have to enable and encourage artists to share their work with other artists and with the world – just as our programmers do. Go out there and tell student/young artists how they can work more efficient as a collective. Show them examples of “free cultural projects’ that are successful and which they can contribute to. Examples include:
- Students for Free Culture
- Mutopia Project – sharing free music sheets
- Project Gutenberg, the first producer of free electronic books
We have the motivation, the responsibility and the technical means to promote Free Culture. What stops us from doing this? Licensing?
That we will lose support of some people? That is unavoidable anyhow!
But look what we would gain!