Reflections on Free Software Past and Present

I’ve been reading First Monday for several years now. It’s probably the only academic journal that I take the time to scan every single time a new issue is released. As you might imagine, I was felt honored to be asked by Sandeep Krishnamurthy to submit a set of reflections on Free and Open Source Software’s from a "where have we been, where are we going" perspective for a upcoming special issue of First Monday on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).

First Monday has published or republished some of the most important articles on FOSS — both academic and non-academic — over the last few years and this issues tries to highlight many of the best pieces.

The issue was released today and can find the whole issue here. You can jump direction to my reflections on free software past and future as well.

Overall, Krishnamurthy puts together a solid collection. My only critique is that I felt that at least one piece from someone on the Free Software side of the Open Source/Free Software divide would be essential to a complete collection. I found it conspicuously missing.

Thinking along these lines, I could not help but remember that Eben Moglen’s Anarchism Triumphant: Free Software and the Death of Copyright was published in First Monday early on and I’m sad that it was no included. I understand that Moglen’s piece is more radical and less "academic" than others but I’m not convinced it would be any more out of place than the Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar which was included. While less visible, Moglen is at least on par with Raymond in terms of the impact and importance of this thought in the FOSS world.

Moglen’s piece was one of the two articles that first brought FM to my attention and, whether you agree with it or not, it is a controversial and important piece. The other article on FOSS that I an think of in relation to FM was George Dafermos’ Management and virtual decentralized networks. Looking at again, I’m not sure it’s aged very well (or perhaps I haven’t aged well in relation to it) but I was happy to see that it make it in.

2 Replies to “Reflections on Free Software Past and Present”

  1. hello Mako,

    Been some time – hope you’re doing well.

    First, I agree that Moglen’s text would make for a pertinent addition to the special issue on open source. I would have liked to see it there. But being familiar with the editor’s – Sandeep Krishnamurthy – academic contribution and breadth of knowledge in the field, I am also sure that he had his reasons for not including it.

    Second, as regards to my paper, thanks for your kind words. However, I’m not sure I understand in what ways it hasn’t aged well, or what exactly you mean by this. Sure enough, there are problems with it. The more important ones that I can remember:

    – I argued that Linux was meant to be a very portable OS from its very beginning, which is not correct.

    – I speculated that the AOL-Time Warner merger was a good idea. History prove me wrong.

    – There are typos: ie. Brook’s should read Brooks, and Open Letter to the Lobbyists should read Open Letter to Hobbyists instead.

    If there’s any other error or flaw that still eludes me, please bring it to my attention, as I would also like to know. Bear in mind though that this paper was my dissertation for a masters in management at Durham Uni., and thus the focus was on the lessons that Linux as a collaborative project enabled by virtuality & connectivity holds for management science; it wasn’t a paper submitted as requirement for a course in CS.

    all the best.


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