Using Free Software doesn't automatically give people freedom.

The freedom is in the user's ability to modify the software when it does something user doesn't like, and make it do what user wants it to do.

As long as there's someone in the world for whom modifying the software they use is not an option, be it because of license, excessive complexity, lack of time, lack of patience, or because the person is afraid or overwhelmed by the concept of modifying something - that person is not free.

@Wolf480pl it gives me a freedom to distribute and share it with friends so still better than freeware (assuming I know have nothing about programming)

@TeddyDD yes.

But think of a piece of evil software like... dunno... discord client.
Not sure what its license currently is, but if you were allowed to distribute it to friends, but not to modify it, you'd just help its developers get control over your friends.
So it gives you freedom to help its developers control more people.

Maybe I phrased the original post wrong.

It's not that just using Free Software doesn't give you more freedom than using proprietary software.

It's that just because you're using Free Software doesn't mean you are not controlled by the software you use.
To stop being controlled by the software you use, *you* need to be able to control *it*.

To a certain extent, highly configurable software will let you control it even if you can't program. But that's still limited.


Free/Libre software give us a *collective potentiality* of freedom.

1/ if we don't take this potentially ourselves, somebody else can and we benefit from it. 2/ it is only a *potentiality* which means that someone somewhere has to invest energy/resources. It is therefore a collective effort, and a collective ressonsibility...

It isn't magical "freedom for all, now." it is still much better than "everyone in prison". A collective answer to a complex problem one cannot solve alone?

@Wolf480pl I personally believe we need to reconsider this. Though I mostly agree, in my opinion the idea that people need to be able to modify software in order to be free is really difficult. Transferring this to other aspects of daily life, it would mean people aren't free as long as they need specialists in certain fields. That might be true but it's at the same time totally away from reality. And it makes knowledge and experience worthless.

@Wolf480pl Complexity is the number one reason preventing me from tweaking my own installed Linux software in any significant way. And also from contributing new software. APIs are stupidly complex these days, with little justification.

@Wolf480pl I had a great example of this when my work switched me to an Ubuntu laptop. It took a frustratingly long time to figure out how to save in gedit where the tool bar is hidden automatically until you hover over it and there are 2 buttons dedicated to opening/creating files next to one another in the top left, but none for saving those files you've created and edited. I'm not exactly a spring chicken...

@Wolf480pl This is a complex topic between legality and practicality. Someone who has the right to travel has that right, but the right does not guarantee a plane ticket.

Free Software is about the legal right. It is the underpinning. The practical issues are important but when we say that it's all or nothing, we don't move forward.

@emacsen I think the practicality aspect is getting more and more important recently.

I've seen relatively many situations like:
a) a piece of software works against the wishes/best interest of some user/group of users, the user[s] demand that the developer changes the software (for free) and if that request is not satisfied, they call the dev evil and unethical



b) a developer makes software to be easy to use in a way similar to how mainstream proprietary software is easy to use, with the goal of making as many people use this software as possible, to make them free. However, the software is like an appliance, designed to be only used in one way, and forces the users to use it that way, because the users can't in practice modify the software to behave any differently. The users are not more free. Maybe even less free.



c) People demand a developer to do (b)
d) A developer writes free software that gives users more control but requires a bit more understanding before you can use it, but people blame him and call him elitist.


@Wolf480pl These are each separate issues, so (like you) I need to address them separately.

First, we must look at the situation of software usability and accessibility If software is Freely licensed but requires a lot of training to use, it will be effectively out of the hands of certain people where time is an asset they don't have to spare, for example poor people. Being accessible is part of being welcoming, especially to minority or underprivileged people. 1/

@Wolf480pl To further our global goals of Freedom, we need to be aware of and consider issues of accessibility in both the software we develop, as well as the way in which we interact with those in our community.

As this applies to people who demand things from us, we should look at who they are and the historical context. Are they a minority/oppressed/disabled or underprivileged group asking us to help them get out of this situation? 2/3

@Wolf480pl If we're talking about helping an underprivileged group, then if the thing they're asking for is more than you can do, you can explain it to them in those terms. "I want to help you but I'm not able to do so... maybe you can find another way to get this done?"

And if not, if they simply demand with no reciprocity or understanding, then that's called entitlement. We can't fix someone else's entitlement, only understand it and act accordingly. 3/3

I agree with the approach you recommend in your last post.

But that the whole situation where they need to ask us to change software for them, is because they can't control their own software, it's the software that controls them, and we control the software.

Giving them the feature they want is like giving them a fish.
Teaching them so that they can implement the feature themselves, is like giving them a fishing rod. It lets them control their software, so that the software no longer controls them.

@Wolf480pl In some cases, teaching them to fish is great! But imagine if you're a poor mother of three children working two or even three jobs to make ends meet. Hearing "Learn how to do it yourself" can be like hearing "If you want to heal your sick child, first go to medical school".

That doesn't obligate you to take any action. You may still decide not to implement it for them (your time is worth something too), but our answer can't always be to require others to learn programming.

Thank you for your explanation. It helped me understand what "learn to do it yourself" may sound like from the other side, and that "now" may not be the best time for someone to learn programming.

But the case you described is something I mentioned in my original post:
A person is controlled by the software they use because they lack time. They can't benefit from freedoms 1-3.

And if we can't eventually teach some form of programming to everyone, then our global goal will not be achieved.

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