[Ambassadors] The 4f-problematic of Fedora.

Yaakov Nemoy loupgaroublond at gmail.com
Fri Dec 18 14:08:17 UTC 2009

Hi Josephine,

I'm going to reply inline here, but i've read through the thread too and i'm going to add the bits i think are missing.

Keep in mind that these four foundations are not unique to us in any way. They are just the moral core we try to run Fedora as a project around. Like other's have said, it's good to reevaluate the Foundations from time to time to see if they are still relevant. It's also good to have to rexplain them to people who have questions because it helps us understand it better.

2009/12/18 Josephine Tannhäuser <josephine.tannhauser at googlemail.com>:
> Hi all,
> I have some problems with the definitions of the 4f's.
> friends - this is a clear thing , we are all friends, the world is
> pink and there are no conflicts (until proven otherwise)

Try to take this from a slightly less literal approach. Conflicts always happen, but this is what happens between friends. Our goal is to see community happen. What i see as a clear thing is that we treat each other as friends and not just 'as coworkers' or something else less personal. It's a statement on how we view participants and contributors.

> features - is a clear thing to, fedora is a distribution huge amount
> of features (perhaps not enough features ;-) we need more).

I'm not 100% sure on the intentions here, but this stemmed from our development process, where we focus around features. It's a convenient entry point for anyone looking to try out new ideas.

> first - there is my first problem. This is like a racing duel with
> other distributions. We can not win on all sectors. This is more a
> destination, our goal.... We WANT to be the first, but we are not
> always the first.

We aren't racing anyone here. I like to explain this as "first among equals". It's a bit of a paradox, but it doesn't describe our destination, but how we get there. There are a number of things many other distros do first, but that doesn't mean they are 'more first' than we are. Our mission is to be the first out with the technologies that interest us, in a completely integrated fashion. For example, a number of distros picked up ext4 as the default file system long before Fedora did. How many of them integrated it with encryption including the necessary password prompts in plymouth and anaconda?

> freedom - This one is my biggest problem. What's the definition of freedom?
> The definition of freedom, which was definied by the FSF, formed the
> understanding of freedom in the whole world. And the FSF (Richard
> Stallman himself) said, that fedora is not free. So what's the current
> understanding of freedom in the fedoraproject?
> I haven't found arguments to discuss with someone about it.

Everyone has a different argument of 'freedom'. RMS has mentioned before that he sees open source software that implements patent encumbered algorithms as 'free'. He was definitely one of the first people to define 'free' but there are so many definitions now. It's more important for us to use our own internal definition of 'free' and hope we get it right.

The goal is to provide a distribution and project that advances the cause of free software and free culture. The three biggest concerns i've seen are binary firmware blobs, binary drivers and media codecs. We ship with the blobs because without them, many machines won't work at all. We wouldn't have a way to deliver free software otherwise, because the entire operating system simply could not work effectively. This is with the eventual goal to be rid of them sometime in the future. Certain purists disagree here, but if this bother's you, i refer you back to point one, Friends.

Drivers are trickier. They are also necessary in some cases, but decreasingly so. Unlike the blobs, we don't have the rights to distribute certain well known key drivers. Some hardworking Fedora developers have been hard at work for the past few releases to provide the best free and open source drivers possible for these devices. This is an active example of the project leading towards a more free environment for people to use.

Media codecs are another contention point. Red Hat's legal team has discussed liability that Red Hat is not willing to take, before, but the problem is not just the liability to a certain North American software service provider. The problem is that certain codecs and algorithms are encumbered by more than just software alone. Shipping these codecs encourage people to use media formats that could limit other people in other ways. Unlike hardware, which can be costly to replace, software and data can always be transcribed and converted for much less effort, time and money. Pushing for better and free codecs, free culture and all the good things that come out of that is actually a low hanging fruit, something easy to work on and that we can see effective change in quickly.

The definition we use for free comes from how we pick the battles we can fight in order to reach our ultimate goal. It's a topic that comes up again and again, and can be pretty contentious. It's good to ask questions here, but for once, i'm going to caution you to be careful how you word things and which questions you ask on public mailing lists. This topic is really prone to nasty, long and arguably nearly worthless threads.

If you have more questions about this, there are a number of places you can look. If you have questions about the legal aspects, see the wiki https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Legal . When discussing issues of freedom on a mailing list and you feel the argument is contentious, perhaps you might want to email the target offlist. If you have questions whether a post is going to cause trouble, ask one of the Ambassador mentors first to look over your comments. If you have questions though, please share.

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