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Re: Discussion - non-free software removal



On Fri, Nov 15, 2002 at 03:50:38PM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> On Thu, Nov 14, 2002 at 12:07:23AM -0500, Branden Robinson wrote:
> > On Thu, Nov 14, 2002 at 12:15:32PM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> > > On Wed, Nov 13, 2002 at 06:09:55PM -0500, Branden Robinson wrote:
> > > > Non-free certainly costs *something*, even just at a concrete,
> > > > shoveling-bits-around level.  What *is* that cost?
> > > Given contrib, nothing.
> > That has to be incorrect; it is impossible that the marginal cost of
> > non-free is zero, though it certainly may be very small.
> 
> Well, you have to type "non-free" in a few places. That'd make it less
> than the cost of just about any given mail to a mailing list.

Hmm, but the same would be true of a "non-free enabler" package that we
might ship in contrib and which would add all sorts of non-free package
repos to one's sources.list.

(Such a package might be useful to some people quite apart from this
proposed GR, since there are packages we reject even from non-free but
which could be distributed from elsewhere.)

> > I'm not talking about human, intellectual labor.  I'm talking about
> > network traffic and disk sectors.
> 
> You should be: human, intellectual labour is the most costly and limited of
> our resources.

It has the disadvantage of being fiendishly difficult to quantify.  Of
course it's the most important factor, but it seems to me foolish to
*not* grab what easily quantifiable data we can, in the event that it
proves a tie-breaker for the decision maker -- each developer who votes.

> > You're the second person today (the other was Josip Rodin) whose done
> > statistical analysis that refused to consider non-free separately from
> > contrib.  Why?  
> 
> Why not? It makes the costs look larger, which is the appropriate direction
> for the error to go in, no?

That depends on whether one is focussed on disk and network consumption
in a problem in and of itself, or whether one is concerned about the
size of the task of replacing infrastructure elsewhere.  In the latter
case, erring in the direction you indicate might unnecessarily frighten
people away from the proposal, by leading them to believe it would be
(even) more onerous than they think.

> To put it another way, in terms of disk space and bandwidth the cost
> of non-free is the same as that of two days' updates to unstable. The
> combined cost of contrib *and* non-free in those terms is about three
> days' updates to unstable. (On average. On big days, a single day's
> updates uses more space and bandwidth than non-free in its entirety)

Neither I, nor John Goerzen as far as I can tell, has forwarded reduced
resource consumption by the Debian mirror network (including the master
server) as a major compelling factor.

> > It's difficult to measure the impact of user confusion or charges of
> > hypocrisy.  
> 
> Doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Surely if user confusion is common
> enough to be worth worrying about, a list of messages in debian-user or
> debian-mentors should be easy to come up with? Or a list of comments
> on slashdot? Or something independently verifiable? How about giving
> everyone the credit of assuming that they'll be able to understand
> the flaws in any statistics or evidence you gather, and won't leap to
> unjustified conclusions unnecessarily?

I've got an idea along these lines.  I'll have to talk to the Project
Secretary about it.

> > > non-free software pays its own way by putting a smile on Herbert's face
> > > when he plays whichever games he listed,
> > Do the frowns it presumably puts on other developers' face count for
> > nothing?
> 
> No one's required to expend effort on it, except to answer a single
> question on installs, so no, I don't really think so.

What's effort got to do with it?  What about people who feel that we are
diverging from the goals set forth in our Social Contract by packaging
anything we can get our hands on, irrespective of its license?

> > > and when Kevin can advocate Debian more effectively due to its
> > > existance.
> > What about those who could advocate Debian more effectively due to its
> > absence?  
> 
> They can point users to main easily enough; and if they're truly
> obsessive can construct a mirror without non-free trivially easily,
> for the same effect.

If the problem is that Debian itself distributes non-free software
despite our claim that we will "remain 100% free software" (as the
Social Contract says), then no, the solution you propose really does
nothing at all.

If a producer of milk claims that it is the "Lactose-Free Milk Company",
and yet sells two milk products, one with lactose (red carton) and one
without (blue carton), the fact that one can tell people "only buy the
blue cartons", or start their own business extracting the lactose from
the red carton product, doesn't really do anything to reduce the
assumption in the marketplace that a "Lactose-Free Milk Company" will
sell nothing but lactose-free milk.

> > > Considering how little it costs, it doesn't take much to pay its way.
> > You seem to be disregarding the opportunity costs of keeping it around.
> 
> I'm yet to see any direct evidence of them -- even anecdotal -- and my
> personal experience leads me to think that there aren't any, certainly
> none that aren't outweighed by the benefits of having non-free readily
> accessible.

It is your contention that no one has been been motivated to make a
piece of free software better because a competing piece of software was
non-free?

This certainly flies in the face of the common argument that Free
Software only "chases taillights".

-- 
G. Branden Robinson                |     You don't just decide to break
Debian GNU/Linux                   |     Kubrick's code of silence and then
branden@debian.org                 |     get drawn away from it to a
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |     discussion about cough medicine.

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