Have you ever been depressed, possibly more than once, to
discover that a so called Free Software
project was financed despite the fact that it had nothing to do
with Free Software? Europe will soon be financing new projects and
you could help prevent similar travesties by becoming External
Experts. It will then be more difficult to claim that nothing
could be done: your skills are required to validate the candidate
Framework Programme (FP5) of the European Commission needs experts. Of
the candidates who proposed themselves thru the online
application form, only a few have any real understanding of
what Free Software is and how it works. While all experts will be
eligible, only a few will be solicited for any particular
evaluation. In each case the experts will speak only for
themselves, not for their employer nor for organizations they
belong to. Early in October 2001 a number of projects will be sent
for evaluation in the Creating a user-friendly
information society framework.
Who will then be able, technical concerns aside, to judge that a
so called Free Software project is not in fact simply a
marketing attempt, using the latest buzzword? The candidates for
funding know that the European Commission wishes to
encourage Free Software projects because of their intrinsic
qualities of freedom, independence and sharing. The temptation will
be great for them to say they have the technical and human
resources necessary to create and maintain a Free Software project
even if they don't have the slightest idea of what it really means.
If no expert has a real knowledge of Free Software project
development, how will the European Commission be able to sort that
An example demonstrates this situation. Let's pretend that the
GnuPKI project and
the campware project
proposals that are equally good technically speaking
(regardless of the fact that they deal with different subjects).
Let's further pretend that the commission has to choose between
these two, without the benefit of advice from any Free Software
experts. They will probably favor GnuPKI since they do a better job
of marketing themselves.
It turns out that people familiar with Free Software would
notice some anomalies about GnuPKI. First of all it is not a
package of the GNU project,
despite their name. Given that the GNU project provides core
components to the most widely used Free Software operating systems
(Debian, RedHat, Mandrake etc.), this mistake demonstrates a
disturbing ignorance. Free Software is a matter of communicating
with heterogeneous development groups, this is therefore a point
that plays against GnuPKI. In addition, the GnuPKI security expert,
Mr Eduard Tric, has never
participated in Free Software development and no package of the
developed software is available as yet. This shows a lack of
understanding for the development model. Taking these facts into
account, we would now expect GnuPKI's chances of being successful
to be much lower than those of campware.
One cannot expect all cases to be as clear cut as this example.
Evaluating a project, for the European Commission or for your own
company, often requires a more subtle study. When dealing with Free
Software it is essential to carefully evaluate the legal status of
a project with particular regard to copyright, because various
licenses are used and many companies are involved. The ability of
the candidates to cooperate with development teams on the network,
their ability to establish a dialog and their current involvement
in the Free Software community is also of great importance. These
points are not technical, they don't have an equivalent in non-free
software projects and can only be evaluated by people actively
involved in Free Software.
Dacharymember of the GNU
project Thanks to Phil Hands, Bernhard Reiter, MJ Ray.
Copyright (C) 2001 FSF Europe
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is
permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.
Some of the products that appear on this site are from companies from which QuinStreet receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site including, for example, the order in which they appear. QuinStreet does not include all companies or all types of products available in the marketplace.