[permaculture] Steve, Thilo, etc. - what's it really about?

John Schinnerer eco_living at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 26 23:18:50 EST 2002


Wouldn't it be nice if a typical "useful" question to the list (what're
some good plants for..., where can I learn more about..., who has
internships in..., has anyone tried a guild with X, Y and Z, how did it
work...) generated as much response as this has?  But then, that may be
my point here...  ;-)

I figure most *anything* a whole bunch of people (or sometimes maybe
just one person, it doesn't matter) have spent a lot of time and effort
to synthesize, create, codify, etc. etc. is worthy of my respect for
their work.  I may completely disagree with it/them *and/or* how the
creation is distributed (or not), but I will hold the disagreement in
one place and the respect in another instead of mistaking my
disagreement for disrespect.

That's why what's *important* in permaculture (and this thread, and
life) isn't elements, 'things' - but relationships.  We human beings
are (some of the) elements in permaculture.  What matters is our
relationships. What matters is *how* we do what we do.  That's nothing
more than a fundamental PC concept - which applies to groups of us as
well as groups of trees, bushes, grass, buildings, roads, critters,
etc. etc.

One very practical benefit of cooperation and community (which is a
process, not a 'my-way-or-the-highway' dichotomy) is that people
seeking current, relevant info about something (say, permaculture, just
for an example ;-) have an easier time finding current, relevant info
when there are a *few well-tended collaborative and open sources* of
info (such as a permaculture FAQ, for example ;-) than when there are
many scattered individual bits and pieces.  Especially when those bits
and pieces are 'borrowed' from each other, with or without permission,
altered slightly here and there, some more up-to-date than others, some
cross-linked, some not, some tended frequently, some not, and so on.  

Diversity is good to a point, and then it becomes chaos.

The web is enough of a messy trash heap already.  Let's make our little
bit of it better than most by pooling our resources, working together,
stacking our functions and making it easy for people to find, explore
and learn about PC.  Doing so can provide more than adequate space for
diversity (as this list demonstrates ;-).  As mentioned back in the
plant DB threads, the 'open source' development model(s) already in use
for years in open source software development are applicable to this
process as well. Since nothing (afaik) is happening with the plant DB,
maybe this is a more important project anyway.  

And, speaking of open source and respect,...

Whatever else it may be, the GPL is specifically *not* a license to
disrespect how other people choose to protect, not protect, distribute,
not distribute, or otherwise make available (or not) their creations. 
It is not a license to do whatever one wants with whatever one wants
and then be upset at others who don't agree with one's actions.  Same
goes for the open content licenses.

And - the GPL specifically, Thilo, is for software, unless you are
referring to the GNU FDL (Free Documentation License).  That and the
licenses at opencontent.org mentioned by Warlock are specifically
intended for documentation, documents, articles, books, 'the written
word', electronic or otherwise.

*AND* - Thilo, all those "open" licenses contain very specific language
that contradicts a number of your generalized statements about what
they 'enable' or 'allow' you to do.  Their main purposes are to:

1) Protect the original author's content from being 'ripped off',
plagiarized, attributed to someone who is not the author, etc.


2) Insure that the original work *and all derivative works* remain
*free* for all who want them.

Purpose 1) is explicitly spelled out in the open content license (to
quote section 2, a):

a) You must cause the modified content to carry prominent notices
stating that you changed it, the exact nature and content of the
changes, and the date of any change. 

The GNU FDL is much more explicit, spelling out in steps A) through N)
all the history, annotation and attribution that must be carried out
when distributing a modified version under that license.

This is not at all the same as changing a few bits and claiming the
whole as your own (because obviously it's not).  And if the FAQ is not
covered by an open license, then it is by default covered by standard
copyright law, which does not recognize 'community property' just
because a whole bunch of people contributed bits and pieces, and which
frowns even more heavily on plagiarism.

Purpose 1) is essentially the same as standard copyright protection. 
Purpose 2) is what makes the (potentially huge) difference between that
and the 'open' licenses - the content (not necessarily the media or
related services) starts free (free of *charge*, not
*responsibility*!!) and stays free, including derivatives.

'nuff said.  In closing, to quote one of my favorite authors, Kurt
Vonnegut Jr., or rather, to quote a character he created,

"hi ho",
John S.

John Schinnerer, MA
- Eco-Living -
Cultural & Ecological Designing
Food - Shelter - Community
john at eco-living.net

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