False FOSS Dichotomies
People often talk in terms of the false dichotomy between pragmatic software use, and ethical software use.
‘Us pragmatic folks’, they begin, ‘just want to use what works’. We should understand of course that they have nothing against people who have principles, but would prefer functioning to non-functioning computers.
This is bunkum. Nobody likes their computer to not work. The real distinction we should draw lies in long-term thinking, and short-term thinking.
Short-term thinkers will use the best note taking tool for today, even if it might disappear tomorrow, causing all manner of headaches. Short-term thinkers buy services which deploy ‘at the press of a button’, but cannot be automated, and will eventually push to sell them more and more, by clever design, because they don’t know what kinds of dark patterns lie in those proprietary services, or think themselves immune. Short-term thinkers will sign up to a service’s free trial with something that ‘just works’, then end up messing with contracts, rather than doing real work.
Long-term thinkers, on the other hand, may have written a nice
.bashrc in the 80’s, and can still use the same one to this day.
They can open their files from 20 years ago, because their software never stops getting support, and will always get the kinds of updates that users want, rather than the updates companies think will make them money, because the developers write the software in order to use it.
Their initial ‘social media’ was
, which will probably outlast the sun.
We can’t ask people to switch from Photoshop to GIMP, because the sacrifice would impact them too much. However, GIMP still serves us all best in the long term. The more people use it, the more of a default it becomes, and the more code-attention it would receive.
Pragmatists used Skype over IRC because…well actually because it had video calls. Skype was great. But once we got free video calls across the internet, there’s really no excuse for Discord and the like.
Expanding on ‘and the like’, people now ask me ‘are you on Facebook, or WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, or Instagram?’, and if I say ’no, are you on XMPP?’, apparently I’m being difficult, because a series of small, pragmatic steps have lead us into a forest of faff, which they can’t be bothered to leave.