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Stallman Does Slides -- and Brevity -- For TEDx 326

New submitter ciaran2014 writes Richard Stallman's long-format talks are well-known — there are videos going back to 2001 and transcripts dating back to 1986 — but he recently condensed his free software talk down to 14 minutes and set it to hand-drawn slides for TEDxGeneva (video link). He introduces with the four freedoms, as always, and then moves on to spyware, surveillance, non-free drivers, free software in schools, non-free javascript, Service as a Software Substitute and how free software is today necessary for a strong democracy. As usual, the talk is suitable for non-technical audiences.
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Stallman Does Slides -- and Brevity -- For TEDx

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  • by TWX ( 665546 )
    One of the things that I've always been confused by with Stallman is where he draws the line between what in his view must be free open-source software and what can be free non-open-source, and what can be truly paid commercial software.

    This confusion stems from his fairly regular changes as to what Linux distributions he's willing to endorse or criticize. At one point he was very happy with the Debian folks, but at some point decided that their making available non-GPL or other free-to-distribute-but-n
    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @01:12PM (#47846795)

      Stallman's a bit of an extremist, and wants all software to be open-source. Remember, it all goes back to when he was trying to get a printer working, and couldn't because the driver was closed-source. That's why he invented the GPL, which just requires you to make source available to anyone whom you distribute software to.

      But you're right: some parts are far more important than others. The platform being open-source is much, much more important than any high-level application being open-source. When the platform is closed and proprietary, you have all kinds of problems: you're locked in by the vendor, it's harder to write and debug applications, the platform vendor can have secret APIs to give them an advantage over third-party application vendors (we saw this with MS many times), you're stuck with drivers that vendors provide you and can't upgrade your platform software if the driver providers don't want you to (we've seen this with Windows upgrades, where older but perfectly functional hardware can't be used because the HW vendors didn't feel like updating their drivers for the new OS, since they want you to buy new HW), etc. Whereas if some random application is closed-source and proprietary, that doesn't affect anything at all except that one application.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        He doesn't even just want it to be open source. He has a problem with anything that isn't GPLv3. Release everything with FreeBSD and see how happy he is.

        • by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @01:30PM (#47846921) Homepage

          He'd be fine with everything being BSD licensed forever (FreeBSD is a BSD distribution / OS not a license). But he's smart enough to know that BSD licensed software doesn't stay that way in the real world. There is a long proven track record of BSD software getting embedded in commercial software and becoming effectively or actually closed.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            There is a long proven track record of BSD software getting embedded in commercial software and becoming effectively or actually closed.

            Good call on the FreeBSD, it was before my coffee.

            Anyway, FreeNAS still exists because a commercial company picked it up. A lot of big companies use BSD for some things because it doesn't have the limitations of GPLv3.

            "Everything is free" is a great idea but I need to pay my bills.

            • by jbolden ( 176878 )

              Anyway, FreeNAS still exists because a commercial company picked it up. A lot of big companies use BSD for some things because it doesn't have the limitations of GPLv3.

              Certainly. And that's not uncommon either. It happens. But at this point we have a track record. GPLed products get longer term support than BSD products. And not only that companies on average are more willing to contribute to GPLed products because their competitors or potential competitors are similarly limited.

          • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
            BSD software did not get closed, the fork of BSD got closed. The BSD software will always be open, if it's not open, then by definition, it is not BSD.
            • by jbolden ( 176878 )

              I think I was pretty specific in the original that this was the problem. Having an original which is available and functionally useless is not a desirable state. It might as well be closed. The versions in use have to be open not the original.

      • Stallman's a bit of an extremist, and wants all software to be open-source.

        No he doesn't. He wants it to be free. Had you watched the video you would have seen him negatively describe open source as a way for people to avoid the subject of free software. He doesn't care at all about open source except insofar as it gets us to free software as defined by himself.

      • Stallman's a bit of an extremist, and wants all software to be open-source.

        The real problem with his point is that he is so consumed by this idea that we must "get rid of proprietary software" but that is merely a side-effect of successful free software, attacking proprietary software by spreading FUD about it "controlling the user" doesn't make free software any better. We have the choice and by and large people choose proprietary software, not because they don't care about the possibility - however remote - that whatever particular software package they are using may do somethin

        • What'd be better is to focus instead on taking over the platform, rather than trying to make Free alternatives to every single proprietary program out there. It's a much smaller and more manageable task, and the benefits are far greater. It really doesn't matter that much if your engineering design program is proprietary; yeah, it'd be better if it were Free or at least open-source, it'd be nice if they used open file formats, etc., but that one program only affects that one function you do on your comput

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm confused by your confusion. Stallman's been pretty consistent, unambiguous, and what irritates a lot of people about him, uncompromising. Since you mentioned the distros the FSF endorsed, then perhaps comparing them to the ones they don't endorse would help clear your confusion. http://www.gnu.org/distros/common-distros.html

    • drawing a line is the point...

      i agree that Stallman's hyper-specific definitions are obtuse and ruin his theories...but they key here is to understand where he goes wrong and why it doesn't matter to discussions about FOSS

      in Stallman, you can see the problem many anarchist/libertarian types have across disciplines...the problems they raise are good, their arguments are solid, but their conclusions about how to **move forward and fix the problem** are stilted and unworkable

      it usually comes down to **language

    • by ranton ( 36917 )

      One of the things that I've always been confused by with Stallman is where he draws the line between what in his view must be free open-source software and what can be free non-open-source, and what can be truly paid commercial software.

      From what I can tell, he draws the line quite clearly. There is no place for traditional paid commercial software. It is okay to make money writing software, but it is never okay to keep even a single line of software secret from the general public.

      I don't agree with his philosophy at all, but he seems to make it pretty clear where he stands. I honestly don't know every single public statement he has ever made though, so there could be some inconsistencies I don't know about. With such a hard line stance, i

      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        From what I can tell, he draws the line quite clearly. There is no place for traditional paid commercial software. It is okay to make money writing software, but it is never okay to keep even a single line of software secret from the general public.

        I guess I don't see that view as being compatible with making a career out of writing software, as at some point one needs money for one's efforts, and being paid for one's software is how one makes money from the effort of writing it. It's similar to how autho

    • by jbolden ( 176878 )

      His position on platforms is:

      a) Avoid at all costs embedding not free into free (i.e. what happened with commercial X11)
      b) More free is preferable to less free, do the best you can.
      c) For (b) the best you can is defined not by "this would be slightly annoying".

    • You must be very confused indeed if you are wondering about Stallman's view of open source.

      He doesn't give a shit about "open source". He believes in Free Software.

      You should check fsf.org and gnu.org for more info. This page [gnu.org] might be a good starting point.

      In general, he does not endorse any distribution that includes non-free software. (This is nearly all distributions.) He also makes no distinction between platforms and applications, or system vs. user software. It should, ideally, all be Free Softwa

    • physical prisons and EULAS are the same thing. I'm sorry, but when you equate educational use of paid software with teaching kids to smoke cigarettes, you've gone 'round the bend.
    • from free in practice, i.e. he is missing any concept of substantive freedom or constitutive practice.

      Most users can make this distinction easily.

      Free in theory but utterly constrained in practice is something most users don't care for. Since most users are not coders, most are much freer in practice with software that "just works." Sure, they *could in theory* be more free with free software that does less, since they could just rewrite the missing parts themselves, without IP encumbrances, but in practice

  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @12:56PM (#47846719)
    I've been in on maybe 5 thousand + meetings. PowerPoint is a dual edged sword. And both sides are kind of dull. The presenter always likes it, because it can make any old crap look nice and crisp, and has an undeserved cachet of credibility to it.

    In the end though, it's effect is mind numbing.

    If we could go back to pre-PowerPoint days for a moment, there were three main methods of presentation

    1. Viewgraphs. These were the old 8.5 by 11 inch Ozalid or halftone images on transparent media placed on a light table with a projection lens.

    2. 35 mm slides - this was for when you wanted to have a polished presentation. You knew you were getting some attention when presenting these.

    3. Back to the view graph projector - the roll of transparent material that you drew on with a sharpie or similar instrument. Whne you were finished, you rolled a fresh surface, and drew some more.

    What was good about these? The first two took a little work to prepare. And despite the idea that labor costs need to be minimized, just teh preparation effort mad you whittle the information down. That whittling process made presentations better.

    The third method of real time drawing was pretty crude, but incredibly efficient for brainstorming.

    Contrast to today, where it appears not a thought will be left unsaid. Presentations in general have become worse with the advent of PowerPoint. The ease with which you can add "one more slide" maenas that many people will add 25 "one more slides".

    In the end, it is mind numbing. Engineers will spend time telling you about some minutiae they find interesting, Bean counters will spend forever trying to justify hiring a 100 k a year person to keep track of pencil theft, which is costing the company 5 hundred dollars a year, and on and on.

    I'ts not a get off my lawn issue, it's just that the process has been made so easy it is abused, and pointless points are consistently made.

    • I started doing presentations back in the days of 35-mm slides. I didn't have to prepare them myself—I sent the text to the corporate slide presentation department, and they sent me back the slides.

      I prepared my presentation by first writing out what I wanted to say, word for word. I then distilled that document into a few topic lines, which I had made into slides, generally about three topics to a slide. At this point I discarded the original manuscript. When I gave the presentation I glanced at

      • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @01:29PM (#47846901)

        I started doing presentations back in the days of 35-mm slides. I didn't have to prepare them myself—I sent the text to the corporate slide presentation department, and they sent me back the slides.

        I prepared my presentation by first writing out what I wanted to say, word for word. I then distilled that document into a few topic lines, which I had made into slides, generally about three topics to a slide. At this point I discarded the original manuscript. When I gave the presentation I glanced at each slide to remind me of what I wanted to say, then spoke extemporaniously.

        Today I prepare the slides myself using LibreOffice Impress, the free equivalent of Microsoft PowerPoint, but I use the same method.

        I have a similar background, except we had an editor who approved all slides. She was a ruthless, heartless person who lacked a soul while wielding a red pen like calvaryman's saber as she edited. In other words, the perfect editor. To this date, I cringe at a presentation withe text less than 16 pt and more than 20 words on a slide. When I see a sentence with a period on a slide I remember her admonition "Women have periods, slides don't."

        • I have a similar background, except we had an editor who approved all slides. She was a ruthless, heartless person who lacked a soul while wielding a red pen like calvaryman's saber as she edited. In other words, the perfect editor. To this date, I cringe at a presentation withe text less than 16 pt and more than 20 words on a slide. When I see a sentence with a period on a slide I remember her admonition "Women have periods, slides don't."

          I would liked to have met her. As far as I know my slides never had any approval process, but I think your editor would have liked them.

      • Today I prepare the slides myself using LibreOffice Impress, the free equivalent of Microsoft PowerPoint, but I use the same method.

        You are exceptionally rare and should be commended. I'd say about 1 percent of people do not just pour on more and more crap into their power points.

        And I still stand by my assertion that in the 30 plus years I've been involved in presentations, the quality has plummeted. And it really happened when PowerPoint took off. Too much on every slide, at least 200 percent more slides than needed. Graphs darn near unrelated to the topic. I've noted from running meetings, there is a large component of "If I can on

        • ....A trained communicator in the loop is a very good idea.

          I would disagree with you only on this point, and only slightly. I would say that a trained or experienced communicator in the loop is a very good idea. I have never had any formal training in communication, beyond a class in public speaking in summer school.

          • ....A trained communicator in the loop is a very good idea.

            I would disagree with you only on this point, and only slightly. I would say that a trained or experienced communicator in the loop is a very good idea. I have never had any formal training in communication, beyond a class in public speaking in summer school.

            I'm still saying you are the competent exception. If you took one class in public speaking and are an expert, you are not the standard student. You are a savant. Where I worked we had technical editors, visual editors, and general content people who went to school to learn how to communicate ideas professionally and if you are performing at their level you are possibly in the wrong line of work.

    • Re:Well (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CrankyFool ( 680025 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @01:18PM (#47846831)

      I give a lot of presentations, both internal to my company and at conferences. Writing presentations is easy, and results in the issues you raised (and many others). Writing GOOD presentations is much harder, and takes a lot more effort.

      For me, I find the key to making a presentation that my audience will value is exactly that -- the audience. I try to figure out what it is my audience wants to learn and hear about. I'm not there to talk about whatever the hell it is I want to talk about -- I'm there to communicate something that's going to make a difference for the people in the audience (and, given audience focus, I also make sure I practice my presentations well enough that I know how long they'll take and I MAKE SURE to leave time for questions. Presenters who run out of time are just lazy).

      I think presentations are like writing code -- in the end, it's really up to the author, most of the material out there is bad, and the editor (whether vim, emacs, Sublime Text, Atom, IntelliJ, or pick your favorite IDE) has little to do with the quality of the product. At most, and at best, the presentation software makes the mechanical effort a little easier.

  • Link to the video (Score:2, Informative)

    by BasilBrush ( 643681 )

    For those who want something more useful than webm:

    http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video... [ted.com]

  • by mfwitten ( 1906728 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @01:30PM (#47846913)

    Indeed, free software projects aren't even run as democratic organizations; rather, they are emergent hierarchies formed via the spontaneous participation of individuals.

    Each person involved in free software chooses how to appropriate his own resources—that is, how to appropriate his own capital, including time, intellect, money, etc. Democracy, on the other hand, is about choosing how to appropriate someone else's resources, especially against that someone else's will, especially by threat of violence as punishment for noncompliance.

    Democracy is no friend of freedom, and certainly no friend of free software.

  • Things I noticed from the video:

    11:25 "Don't bring any proprietary software to this class." So which cell phone running free software should students be putting in their bags instead? Even Replicant OS [wikipedia.org], which is based on Android Open Source Project with the non-free parts cut out, uses non-free radio firmware.

    12:48 "So how to help? Well you can write free software." So how would you go about feeding yourself while you write a free video game? Video games can't rely on support to the same extent as software critical to a business.

    • You answered your second question already. You write the indispensable business software first, then with all the money you earn, you support yourself while you write the next video game of the year.

      • And what happens to the next guy? What happens when there isn't any truly indispensable software left? You just stop making new games?

        • The next guy can get a job that pays his bills.

          Do you think we should be guaranteed money every month just because we want to create a game?

          If you want to do something that doesn't make money, than learn to live without money.

    • 12:48 "So how to help? Well you can write free software." So how would you go about feeding yourself while you write a free video game? Video games can't rely on support to the same extent as software critical to a business.

      Get a job? You don't have an automatic right to be paid for making video games.

      If you really feel that you couldn't make a video game whilst also doing other paid work, and you can convince other people that you can make a game they'd like to play, then some of those people will pay you to write it. If you doubt that, Chris Roberts has $52M of evidence to the contrary. 3% of Kickstarter games projects get $100k or more. That's not going to fund a "AAA" development process, but it'd pay your living costs fo

    • 11:25 The answer is do the best you can. Support those who are the least closed.

      12:48 If you are paid to write software, do what you can to have that software under GPL license. If you develop video games, do what Id Software does, and release the code as GPL when it's feasible to do so. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than not releasing anything ever.

    • by Bob9113 ( 14996 )

      11:25 "Don't bring any proprietary software to this class." So which cell phone running free software should students be putting in their bags instead?

      Depends what your primary objective is. If your primary objective is to have a cell phone with you, you sacrifice freedom. If your primary objective is to give no comfort to those who are harmful to that end, you sacrifice carrying a cell phone.

      Me? I'm pretty serious about Free Software, but being connected is also important to me. So I have a CyanogenMod pho

    • Stallman has stated before that he's ok with proprietary games since they're not functional software.
  • by jfbilodeau ( 931293 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @02:33PM (#47847311) Homepage

    I will be snide and I will not post as AC. There are too many comments labelling Stallman as a uncompromising, communist, extremist, liberal, etc... Though it may be true, without his uncompromising stance on freedom, would we have GNU/Linux? Would the Open Source movement even exists?

    Sure, there would be source code out there on the web, and the BSDs would probably exists, but he's fighting to ensure that we do not lose the very freedoms that we enjoy with (forgive the term) FLOSS software.

    Yes, I run a Linux distro with non-free warts (Mint), I use proprietary software (Steam). But for the most part, I'm in control of my computer, and quite thankful of that. I may not live in the 'ideal' free world of Stallman, but without folks like Stallman and their extreme position on freedom, I suspect the world of computers would be much more closed.

    Thank you Richard Stallman for your fight.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @05:01PM (#47848191)

    Slightly off topic but I watched the video. I've read a lot of what Stallman has written but haven't heard him speak before. He's a pretty bad public speaker judging by this TED talk. His slides looked like something a sixth grader would draw, he sounded like a robot and he clearly didn't spend enough time rehearsing. He kept looking at his slides as if it was a surprise what was coming next. If you want people to take your arguments seriously, having a good argument is not sufficient. You have to be able to present it well. He's been making these arguments long enough that he ought to be more polished by now. I respect the stance he is taking but based on this talk he's doing a pretty crap job of being an evangelist to the general public.

    I really can't imagine anyone coming away from that presentation convinced that they've had their eyes opened. His argument was moralistic but he didn't really explain convincingly the consequences of not-free software or why anyone should care. He explained that we control software or it controls us as if it was axiomatic which it is not. Here on slashdot we understand what he's talking about (whether or not we agree) but a more general audience will NOT be convinced by such a superficial argument especially when presented in such an amateurish way.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      At least he's not doing the silly long drawn out saint joke with props or the "Linux? Never HURD of it!" joke he used to do. Just be happy with the content instead of expecting him to put on a show since it's much better when he doesn't try to put on a show.

"Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward" -- William E. Davidsen

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