Free or Open?

I don’t know if this has been discussed elsewhere in Open Labs, please tell me if there is a link or anything. It is well known that there are people who prefer to use the term Free Software instead of Open Source and whether they mean the same thing

I noticed that the name FOSSCAMP was chosen for the event in Syros, Greece but the names Open Labs and OSCAL use Open instead of Free.

There are potential donors and potential guest speakers who would prefer the word Free, whereas I don’t think there are any people who would insist on the word Open or not support Open Labs if the word Free was being used. Other groups/events have chosen to use names like FOSDEM and FOSSASIA to try and keep everybody happy. Kosovo has an event Software Freedom Kosova

Before beginning to work on the next OSCAL, it may be a good time to think about this issue and decide if the F can be introduced somewhere.

I realize some people find these discussions awkward, a lot of effort has been put into the Open Labs and OSCAL brands and it may also create extra work for people to choose a catchy acronym. People on the other side of the debate would probably say that if you really want software to be free, you have to make these efforts. How do people feel about this?

1 Like

Thanks for the comment @pocock. Indeed this has been discussed previously and the short answer is that we promote and communicate more OSCAL as an abbreviation and less and less Open Source Conference Albania. In the next weeks (or mid September) we will have the first meeting of the organizing team of OSCAL 2018 and I will make sure to have this on the discussion points and come up with a decision. I will also add your arguments on the discussion as well.


1 Like

I feel that OSCAL has a lot of potential to grow more and attract the type of speakers who care about this issue. Before making any final decision, it might be worth asking for suggestions on the LibrePlanet list operated by FSF.

FOSDEM was created as OSDEM and was renamed to FOSDEM, at the request of Richard Stallman, in 2002 for the second edition.

Maybe we’ll have FOSCAL '18, who knows … :slight_smile:

We had that discussion in 2014 when Erik from FSFE suggested that already. We would be happy to bring that up as a discussion point, although we had it already once or twice. I personally don’t understand the whole debacle about the “Free” part as it’s a whole discussion focusing on the definition rather than the actual content. Instead of debating whether it should be FOSCAL or OSCAL shouldn’t we rather try to improve the actual event and what comes with it? Also, Open Source is more inclusive as a definition, and most Open Source Software respect the 4 Freedoms by the FSF anyway, so I don’t see why any Free Software activist who is at least a little bit empathetic would be hesitant to attend something just because it misses the letter “F”. It seems absurd to me for anyone apart RMS to do that honestly.

It also saddens me that this whole FOSS vs OSS word game war seems to be often more important then actually understanding the context of the local community. Albania is not Germany, neither US where Free Software or Open Source projects have been active for decades. There were no organized efforts before Open Labs in Albania, so 5 years of awareness is nothing compared to what other countries have been doing. We currently need adoption of Open Source principles and growing the community, not bikeshedding about whether one should use Emac or VIM. So have a little bit of empathy as the lack of information here locally is overwhelming. Once we have improved these areas we should discuss about whether it should be Linux or GNU/Linux and the likes.

Last but not least, OSCAL is simply called OSCAL as it is nice, short and sounds better than FOSCAL or FLOSCAL. The same thinking was behind FOSSCamp. It sounds better than OSCamp. It’s more of a branding decision than anything else so no need to overanalyze it.

My 5 cents.


I frequently see the word bikeshedding brought in for any discussion that doesn’t involve writing code or some other hands-on technical activity.

However, if we want to have meaningful and lasting social impact, questions like this are important. Otherwise we could all just stay home and write code and not have any social organizations in the real world.

To take RMS’s perspective and relate it to the Open Labs community:

  • Open Source means learning a way of producing code that will help people get good jobs but those jobs may well take them away from the community and even put them in competition with each other,
  • Free Software (or at least introducing the word Free somewhere) means a more lifelong commitment to empowering yourself, your friends and family and society as a whole. You get everything you get from Open Source and more.

So it is actually very relevant to questions like:

  • why does the organization exist?
  • why should new people join?
  • why should people volunteer?

So it is even more important to build on the strongest possible foundation.

Choosing a brand is much more significant than choosing an editor or choosing a pencil or whatever.

Brands and names have a very powerful impact, otherwise we wouldn’t use them at all. Why do you think organizations put so much effort into protecting brands with trademarks?

Very valid points Daniel. If we have a strong foundation based on Free Software values then why is the name how we call it that important? Shouldn’t we focus on actually cultivating this foundation before talking about labels?

The thing about FLOSS, Encryption, Security and similar is that they are hard to grasp for newcomers. When we organize OSCAL we tend to keep this in mind and make it as accessible as possible for people to get into the Free Software world. And from my experience, having debates on whether to call it FOSS or OSS, GNU/Linux or Linux scares newcomers away, although I can relate myself to the importance of such discussions.

Unfortunately the FSF isn’t very approachable to new people (I prefer the FSFE stance way more) so I believe that we have to find the middle ground between respecting the values we promote, while making it also inclusive and relatively easy for new people to join us. I don’t think there is a Silver Bullet solution for solving both.

1 Like

I just realized that my comments looked as if they were exclusively towards you @pocock so please accept my apologies as they were meant more generally toward a phenomenon rather than specific cases.

@elioqoshi please let’s discuss on the first meeting of the organizing team of the conference the proposal from @pocock and come with an answer on what Daniel proposes because right now it is not clear what is your position and the position of the organizing team. I will add this on the agenda and after talking about it will also give an answer.


The FSF session at DebConf starts in about 5 minutes …

Obviously everything I said is my perspective or how I experienced the organizing of OSCAL. I think that’s understandtable.

One other observation about this: it wouldn’t be right to simply rename the event or rename Open Labs just to get a speaker. If you choose to do this, it is because you believe the concept of freedom is important to your organization and so the F genuinely belongs in the name for the long term. That was the case with FOSDEM and that is the reason people come to FOSDEM for so many different reasons.

Yes, totally agree :slight_smile:
It was just my 2 cents (not even 5 cents) about FOSDEM history linked to the topic talked about here.

I actually do not care if it is FOSDEM, OSDEM, OSCAL, FOSCAL, FOSSCAMP, … or what so ever ;
The important thing is the content of those events, not the name in my own opinion.

So the questions to be decided at the meeting are:

  1. is the question of freedom part of Open Labs’s mission (if not, the next points don’t need to be discussed)
  2. does having Free/Freedom/Libre in the name make a difference or not (I would argue it does, because as a bare minimum, it means RMS would feel more comfortable)
  3. if it does make a difference, is it significant enough to justify further discussion?
  4. does Open labs want to consider using a new name that includes Free/Freedom/Libre?
  5. can the name OSCAL be revised using Free/Freedom/Libre?