Image of the glider from the Game of Life by John Conway
Skip to content

I Don't Do Proprietary And I Don't Tweet- I Dent

Chuck, I read your post regarding Jono and the EFF choosing Twitter over, and ask the same questions you are: "If you're about Freedom and Liberty, then why choose a proprietary standard when an open one exists?" However, at the bottom of your post, you mention that you don't mind proprietary software, saying that there are many features which proprietary brings to the table that Free Software does not, even if this is becoming more and more rare. Well, let me refer you to a quote by Eric S. Raymond:

When you tell me I should give proprietary software a fair technical evaluation because its features are so nice, what you are actually doing is saying "Look at the shine on those manacles!" to someone who remembers feeling like a slave.

I use for two reasons: it's Free Software, licensed under the GPL and it's based on an Open Standard. I use Jabber for the same reasons. I use everything in my life for those very reasons. Free Software and Open Standards. If the software doesn't fall under one of those two categories, it doesn't have a place on my computer. Like Eric S. Raymond, I am anti-proprietary software.

{ 24 } Comments

  1. Trey | January 13, 2009 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    So you aren't trying to restore your twitter as you said in your previous post?

  2. Aaron | January 13, 2009 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Yeah. I'm trying to get my family and friends to switch over, but I'm met with failure. Switching them over, means they can no longer follow their friends, and they certainly don't want to use two accounts. I'm trying to come to a solution here, but I'm not finding one.

  3. Dread Knight | January 13, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Open source fanatic here!

    I'm switching to as well.
    The good thing is that it can do '' as well, so i don't see the issue people are having with the switch.

  4. Jonathan Carter | January 13, 2009 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    While I'm a Free Software proponent myself, I do believe that proprietary software sometimes have it's place. However, I've been using both Twitter and and I've found to be quite pleasant. There's really, in my humble opinion, very little reason to choose Twitter over

    People will argue about market share, of course, but it's not like it's any real effort to be on both and then just use something like to broadcast your tweets^Wdents

  5. Jef Spaleta | January 13, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Closed web services are a real tough nut... I fear that by and large we as a community of open source advocates have not come to terms with them.

    What if in the future, Canonical makes a profit from a set of closed source web services which are deeply embedded in the Ubuntu desktop experience. These webpplications would of course be optional services, but deeply integrated ones which the default Ubuntu desktop experience is designed and tuned to make use of.
    Would you advocate that people avoid using such webpplications in favor of open alternatives with similar functionality?

    What if part of that profit is used by Canonical to task manhours to support and develop a number of open source projects. What if that sort of revenue stream allowed Canonical to hire X video driver developers working on ati and nvidia open source driver development? Would you still be able to advocate that users avoid those sorts of webpplication services then?


  6. Miloš Mandarić | January 13, 2009 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Actually it's licensed under AGPL.

  7. Jono Bacon | January 13, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink


    I can your perspective, but if you are so averse to non-free software, why do you use Feedburner on your website, why do you use Facebook and Surely they are the "shine on those manacles"?


  8. Aaron | January 14, 2009 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Software as a service (Google, Launchpad, Ubuntu wiki, etc) for me falls under a different philosophy than installed software on my machine. However, with that said, when software as a service becomes Free Software, it takes precedence. As such, > Twitter. I know of no Free alternatives to or Facebook.

  9. Jono Bacon | January 16, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Why is the philosophy different? That seems inconsistent to me.

    Your blog post was titled "I Don’t Do Proprietary And I Don’t Tweet- I Dent" - this clearly states that you consider Twitter a proprietary service, as such it seems reason that you consider closed source websites with closed data also proprietary. Whether there is a free alternative or not has nothing to do with it: it still means those apps are proprietary.

  10. Aaron | January 16, 2009 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    I don't see how this is inconsistent. Consider the following analogy:

    How do you choose a restaurant? A "proprietary" restaurant would be a restaurant who won't give me the recipe for the food I'm eating. An "open source" restaurant would. Which would you rather eat at? The restaurant that tells you what you're eating, or the one with the secret ingredient?

    Now, how about eating at home? If I'm to prepare my own food at home, I should have the right to the recipe for the meal, and prepare it as I wish. I can still choose the "proprietary" pre-made foods, such as frozen foods, or those from the deli, or I can get the "source code" recipe, and make my own.

    So, to me, it's not inconsistent at all. A service is a restaurant I choose to eat at, while software is eating my own meal at home.

    Now, again I ask: which would you rather eat at, when an option exists? Joe Brown steakhouse which does NOT tell you the recipe to the food you're eating, or Sally Smith steak house that does?

    That's all.

  11. Don | January 13, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Extending Jono's point: did you avoid using Launchpad before they announced its opening?

    Sure, Launchpad is not on your computer. But then again, neither is Twitter.

  12. Aaron | January 14, 2009 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    See reply above.

  13. Igor | January 13, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I use Twitter because all my friends use it... and I can't convince 100+ people to use another service, so thanks but no thanks.

    Using is like going to party the same day as your friends do but in another place (alone).

  14. Aaron | January 14, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Understood. That's why I'm trying to get my Twitter account restored, so I can at least interact with those who matter to me. But maybe I shouldn't, and leave it to email and cell phones in that case. I don't know. It's a hard decision.

  15. Igor | January 13, 2009 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    ahh btw, you might need to update your "user agent" detection plugin 😛 it says I'm using a Mac (wack!) and Safari (wack), but I'm on Windows with Chrome.

  16. Aaron | January 14, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Don't blame my user agent string detector plugin, blame Google Chrome. Their useragent string is reporting Safari on Mac.

  17. Igor | January 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    hehe, OK 🙂 np

  18. nnonix | January 13, 2009 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    With a hard-line position like that you could actually go through life using several pieces of open software and never realize that they suck.

    Now the above statement may not be legitimate in a conversation about twitter vs but the point still stands. If you never use proprietary software, you'll never know what your missing (if anything).

    For me, this is the difference between being "pro open-source" and "anti-proprietary software". The best quality software gets my vote and if that software happens to be proprietary I use it without guilt until there is a suitable/comparable open alternative.

  19. Chuck | January 13, 2009 at 7:14 pm | Permalink


    I appreciate what you're saying here. However your last post, as has been noted, was all about using proprietary services.

    The point of my post is that F/OSS is the best choice when it does what you need and want it to do. However there are cases where arguments can be made to use proprietary. Your argument was to compromise for those in your circle that will not embrace the Free services you prefer.

    In the case of you can do something interesting. You can live your freedom and reach out to your friends in the shackles. Follow your subscribed people via your RSS reader. As your friends become more enlightened, your RSS reader gets less of a workout.

    My post was wondering why those who embrace Freedom chose the shackles when an option at least equal to their needs is there.

  20. Aaron | January 14, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Yeah, software as a service falls under a different category than installed software on your computer. I recognize that. If you don't subscribe to a service, because it's not Free, then you better not eat out at restaurants, shop at the grocery store, go to the movies or even go to work. All these services have intellectual property that keeps them competitive. They provide the service to keep the cash flow inbound, but don't release their secrets as Free to the world. I recognize this, and don't have a problem with services.

    However, surely when there is a Free service that arrives, it is superior to their proprietary cousins, and the better choice?

    Lastly, I agree with the point of your post. I wasn't picking on you, as much as extending your argument: those who chose proprietary software are choosing to enslave themselves in their manacles. I made that clear with the quote from ESR.

  21. Jef Spaleta | January 14, 2009 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    If the openness of services matters to you, do you plan to lobby companies to build open services? Or are you content with waiting until another company feels comfortable with running an open service?

    Do we have any examples of groundbreaking, webservices that started out as open services where there is no dominant competitor in that service space yet? That's the watershed moment as open development advocates that we need to try to reach and then hold up for others to follow. isn't that.

    Ninjam for collaborative real-time music performance might be that sort of watershed service.

    I have a sneaky suspicion that a certain Mr. Bacon might find that sort of open collaborative service that ninjam is trying to provide to be the sort of thing he would be drawn to and could personally champion.


  22. Harry | January 14, 2009 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    100% agreed with Aaron !
    I'm going to delete my twitter account to switch to
    But sometimes, we have no choice.
    (PS: Sorry, I'm on windows =( )

  23. Wolfger | January 16, 2009 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Freedom means being able to choose. What you, ESR, RMS, and most of the FSF fail to understand is that means I need to be free to choose a proprietary solution as well as an open one. Saying "Identica is Free, therefore we must all shun Twitter" is the equivalent of putting nice shiny manacles on. I use both, and will continue to use both until such time as everybody I care about following switches to Identica.

  24. Chris Jones | January 20, 2009 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    A) argument by analogy is like a leaky screwdriver.
    B) esr is an awful example. He does not promote free software and has said recently that we should take a mixed stance to pull in the iPod generation. Use rms for this kind of argument.

{ 1 } Trackback

  1. [...] all the posts on planet ubuntu lately about twitter it got me thinking about my micro-blogging habits and how I update my online status in general. I [...]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.