User talk:Frederik Ramm/A message to those who want a fork

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Hi Frederik,

I wholeheartedly agree with your suggestion that people should use their energy for constructive rather than destructive work. But I can't agree with your statement "it would be highly unfair of you to try and ruin our project for us by talking as many people as possible into deserting us and rejecting the new license".

Firstly, it is not that those wannabe-forkers want to destroy OSM: it is that they want to make it better, and they think that direction in which it is currently moving is destroying it, and they want to stop that destruction.

There is an old adage "you cannot make an omelette without breaking a few eggs". It would seem to hold, no matter which group you support. Moving to ODbL would break few eggs, as would forking the project. It is not possible (no matter how careful one is) to move forward in any direction without breaking some things. All that there is to guide us is our belief (always faulty to the degree, no matter whose belief it is, or how well informed it is) that breaking (a) in order to accomplish (b) is better tradeoff than breaking (c) in order to accomplish (d). It is just that (a), (b), (c), and (d) are not same for all people.

But that is just how human mind works: both groups think that they try to do what is best for the project, and other group is obstructing that for their own selfish interests. Nobody is villain in their own head, eh? But I'd like in this post not to judge one group or another (but for the record I myself prefer solution to leave license as it is, with no forking and no move to ODbL; even if I understand why CC-BY-SA is imperfect to say the least).

What I would like to comment however is that quoted statement of yours at the top. I do not agree with it at all. If we remove negative implications of one group it is reduced to "it is highly unfair of you to try to get folks to help you instead of us". I do not see why that would be unfair. In fact I think that is about the only democratic way - let both sides try to persuade contributors why their solution to the problem is better, and why they should support them.

How would it seem in politics if party holding power would say to that party trying to get to power that "it is highly unfair of them to try to convince voters that they should desert the party in power and flock to opponent party, instead of remaining with power party"? But it is not "unfair", instead that is the whole idea of democracy! Now, I understand why they would say that (it is in human nature to promote your own interests, and not interests of others), but I do not agree that such saying is correct. In fact, to be "fair", I think OSMF should present (at contributor terms signing, in official explanations etc) both their idea of switch to ODbL and their "opponents" idea of "staying with CC-BY-SA and not losing data, by forking if necessary". Only then it might be called democratic, if at all such places they let both parties the same amount of space to present their beliefs and arguments. But as I said above, I understand that due to human nature there is not much chance of that happening - who wants to work against his ideas? The more contributors are informed, the greater the number that would flock to the fork (if nobody knows of the fork and of the issues why it is needed, everybody would stay with the "default" -- the party in power)

There is however that thing, that not once in history it has been shown (by much less subjective historians than those with personal interest in issue like you or me could ever be) that the "party in power" was in fact going in wrong direction, and the "usurpers" actually had better idea. I could quote the examples from world history, but that could be too easily be wrongly interpreted as derogatory, so I'll skip. Maybe the computer one of free software would be easier (note that I am big FSF supporter, but here I still accept that they didn't do the right thing at that time - for all the best intentions that they might have had).

GNU C Compiler (gcc) at one point was being led by FSF in direction that some people thought wrong. They tried to talk them to other direction, but it didn't work, and so they made a fork of gcc called egcs. After some time, it was shown that the egcs direction was indeed the right one (even if at start many users and developers didn't believe it), and people flocked to it... and eventually, "original" gcc project was abandoned, and egcs renamed to gcc. The better idea won; but only because they did inform (and were allowed to inform) and persuade majority of the users that their idea was better than the "original" party in power. If they were shunned with "it is highly unfair of you to try to persuade users to use and distributors to ship egcs instead of gcc", it would never happened, and we'd be left with inferior gcc. (note that their issue was much easier than OSMs [as it was not about political beliefs but technical ones, and those are by far easier to "prove"], and they still had to do the fork and inform and lobby for their cause).

I do not claim here that the "forkers" idea is better. I just claim that there is possibility it MIGHT be, and they should be allowed to present and lobby for their case (and in doing so, "steal" contributors from "official OSM"). Let the contributors choose with their time and contributions what they prefer. Maybe majority of them would flock to the CC-BY-SA fork, and the rest would follow soon, and the confusion and loss would be minimal, maybe even much smaller than data lost due to ODbL move. Maybe people would see the move to ODbL as best and almost all of them would remain with official OSM and move to the ODbL. Maybe they would see that going to PD to avoid all this mess in the future is the only right thing to do (this is, after retaining status quo, second best idea I favor). And maybe the community would really fork forever without reuniting, as had happened (to draw FSF again) with GNU Emacs and XEmacs. But advocacy in the form of "please be hush, and do not lobby users to support your case" is asking the "other party" NOT TO INFORM the contributors of the issue, and hence, vote for "the default party in power" without understanding the issues, and that is not the way democracy is supposed to work. At all.

On the technical side, as for your "dual upload" idea, I don't think it could work at all, since data will diverge from one another more and more (unless ALL of the people dual upload, which would beg the question why data wasn't simply dual-licensed instead of being forked). You might easily dual-upload GPS tracks, but that's about it -- all the editing would very soon become pretty much impossible. --mnalis 20:10, 24 October 2010 (BST)