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What is Free Software?

Copyright (C) 2008 by Steve Litt, All rights reserved. Material provided as-is, use at your own risk. 

This page is a group of links to articles I've written in the past about the meaning of Free Software and Open Source. How did it come about? Why does it persist? What is its benefit? The list of links is arranged chronologically so you can see the evolution of my understanding of Free Software. Before introducing the links, I'll say one more thing -- an economy with a zero cost of reproduction is so new that none of us really knows the ramifications.

Linux Log, March 1999. This article describes the motivation for making my first free software project, UMENU, as "anger", and goes on to further describe the motivation as proving a political point. In other articles I've ascribed the motivation to "looking kewl". Clearly at this point I had no idea what free software was, other than the definition in the license.
Jon Maddog Hall trilogy, based on a November 2000 interview with Jon "maddog" Hall. Maddog describes a "Value added" free software "business model". Although I would later describe it differently, maddog's Value Added model became the pattern for my future understanding of free software.

October 2001 Linux Log: Open Source as Consumer Revolt. This article demonstrates through metaphor that Microsoft's actions were exactly what propelled free software from an underground movement in a few tech colleges back east to the tool running the Internet and many businesses.

January 2002 Linux Log: The Natural Resource View of Open Source Profit. Here I restated my understanding of Jon "maddog" Hall's Value Added model, framing it in terms of scarcity and abundance, and framing the "business model" as "make money by using free software, not by trying to sell it!" This article also addresses long term prospects of a "product that can't be sold."

October 2003 Linux Productivity Magazine: A Free Software Project Moves On. This magazine issue describes the first two years of the VimOutliner project, from the genesis of the itch that produced it, to the handing off of the project from the project's originator to his successor. More importantly, it shows the motivations and actions of all concerned, giving an insight into the philosophy of free software.

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