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[seul-sci] Re: Credit where credit is due
For starters, thanks for your email - it has certainly given a lot of food
for thought, and has stimulated a great deal of discussion on the seul/sci
I certainly agree with the need to cite sources of ideas and tools to ensure
that experients are repeatable. As a publishing graduate student, however, I
must take exception to your assertion that citing sources is a "custom" of
the scientific method - citing sources of previous work and tools is
_intrinsic_ to the method itself.
In many ways, and much to the credit of the project's founder and the
participants, the GNU Project has emulated (and in cases surpassed) one of
the primary Practices of science - fostering the open exchange of
information and knowledge.
About a year ago, I had the pleasure of meeting both Richard Stallman and
Eric Raymond. I have a great deal of respect for their goals and ideas,
I became involved with the open source software movement through SEUL around
December '97 (relatively recently, to be sure) after a colleague (Aldo Pier
Solari from the Fish-Ecology list) told me about an effort to create free,
high quality software tools for science running under an operating system
I'd never heard of. As I became more familiar with the group and their
efforts, I saw the value of what they were doing. Although that effort
(SEUL/seg) faltered, I became more involved, albeit behind the scenes.
Later, I saw just how narrow the choices for tools was in my field, and how
many of them are indeed expensive, limited, and (in a couople of important
cases) embarassingly faulty. Seeing just how wide the gulf was between what
was needed and what was available commercially, and then how quickly open,
free software was progressing, I felt it important to document and highlight
existing efforts. I wanted my peers to know that there was indeed a choice.
Make that many choices: choices in operating systems, choices in software,
choices in interfaces. Hence SEUL/sci and these reports.
You will certainly have noticed by now that the apps that are displayed in
these reports are predominately, if not exclusively, licenced under the GPL.
In fact, I have at least two projects of my own in the works that will be
offered exclusively under the banner of the GPL or FDL.
That said, I have *very* strong reservations about changing the name of the
reports, for a number of reasons. I want people to become more critical and
objective about the tools they use. If that means they want to use Linux -
Debian-GNU/Linux, RedHat Linux, Tiny Linux, Independence Linux - or Open /
Net / Free BSD, so be it. To call it GNU/Linux when there is the chance that
non-GNU or even non-free software would be discussed or entertained would
certainly get us a request from GNU to change the title back. You mention in
your email a familiarity with SEUL/edu so you probably know that GNU.ORG
recently removed their link to the SEUL/edu site for that very reason.
As a result, although I am very glad you brought it up, I feel it is
inappropriate at this point to change the name of the report.
Pete St. Onge
SEUL/sci Project Leader