Free as in Freedom: A Keynote Considered

Last week, I spoke at SCO Forum and have been fascinated at how far some folks appear to be going to misquote the keynote I delivered there. If you separate yourself from bias, you will see that I never said that all folks who buy the concept of free software are idiots — only some of them. You also will see that I am very clear that “free,” in the context of my talk, is, in fact, free as in free beer. I do know the difference between that and free as in freedom.

You’ll also note that I don’t mention open-source software very much at all and that “open source” clearly isn’t in the title of the keynote, regardless of what some postings around the Net have said. I’m a big believer in freedom and I also believe that a large number of Linux backers only believe in free as in “free only if you agree,” which denies choice and, in my view, isn’t freedom at all.

Personal Experience and Groklaw

I spent a lot of the keynote talking about personal experiences at IBM, but this was to focus on something that I’ve called the “big company disease,” which is where a large company can do some incredibly stupid things because they are concealed by the firm’s complexity.

This was to showcase how some of what SCO alleges is possible, but it also was to remind some of the users that this problem likely exists in their own companies. This message was not specific to open-source software or to Linux.

I did refer to Groklaw as a propaganda site, which it is. Any site that claims to be against something and then generates a lot of it is a propaganda site in my view.

Groklaw claims to be an anti-FUD site, but it generates more anti-SCO FUD than almost any other site I could mention. What really upset me were the folks in the keynote audience writing for Groklaw and apparently mischaracterizing what was going on at the SCO Forum.

Free Software

The last part of the talk was on free — as in free beer — software. In the keynote, I called out three types and focused on the fact that most “free enterprise software” isn’t free.

And the “idiots” I call out in the keynote are those who use free software and don’t understand the related costs. You see, even here, my focus is on people who make decisions without reading the fine print.

I have no problem with people who use this stuff and really understand the risks associated with that use, but I feel very strongly that people who make a decision without considering both the negative and positive consequences are, in fact, idiots.

Preserving Freedoms

In the end, the talk focused more on preserving the freedoms we enjoy by protecting the freedoms of others, making informed decisions and acting against those who improperly use the threat of force to further their own agendas.

It’s hard to disagree with these points, which are likely why the keynote is being so widely misquoted this week. Strangely enough, this phenomenon introduces one final point: Many of you are being manipulated by others. What you have read on sites like Groklaw about this keynote, compared to what I actually said, should prove that point enough so you start asking critical questions.

Those questions can lead to better decisions, and better decisions are what I’ve always been about. That’s my “secret agenda,” and it always has been.

Rob Enderle, a TechNewsWorld columnist, is the Principal Analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.


  • Mr. Enderle —
    n your keynote, you made a statement that I believe needs further explication. You stated that Groklaw is "supported by a marketing executive whose future is tied to the future of Linux and has strong political skills". You are clearly not referring to Pamela Jones. To whom are you referring? And by ‘supported’, do you mean controlled or influenced?
    You also stated, and repeated in your article above, that Groklaw is a propaganda site, and that it spews anti-SCO FUD. It would help in countering this if you could give a couple of concrete examples. Groklaw certainly links to many articles that are negative towards SCO; it also links to some few that are positive, or at least not supportive of SCO’s legal enemies. However, linking to negative articles is not propaganda. Are those articles the FUD to which you refer, and the linking and publicizing them what makes Groklaw such an "anti-SCO FUD propaganda" site?

  • Enderle’s argument about free not really being free seems to boil down to a company leaking it’s IP by using a supposedly "free" Enterprise Server. His supporting argument is the workers at GM and Ford discussing critical problems and inadvertantly divulging IP.
    I guess if you take this into account as a cost and if it were to happen, then you could claim that by Enderle’s definition, the server wasn’t free. Fair enough.
    But I think it behooves Mr Enderle to prove this scenario would not happen using a proprietry server as the development OS. For argument’s sake, let’s say GM and Ford were using SCO UnixWare as the platform. It’s likely they would still have similar "critical problems", or does Enderle contend problems only arise when developing on Linux? I hope not, he would clearly be an idiot if he believes that.
    But he clearly believes GM and Ford developers would now all of a sudden not discuss problems with each other, whereas they did before? Why? Because, according to Enderle a "community process.. bypasses internal policy". So, in other words, Enderle contends that there aren’t user communities built up around proprietry platforms. But hang on, he would have to be an idiot to think that wouldn’t he, against all the available evidence?
    In reality, if this is a cost of running Linux, then the cost is present on SCO Unixware, Windows and any other platform. But I guess any one, any one who is not an idiot that is, would realise this IP cost is OS independant. It has nothing to do with the development platform.

  • Enderle is just an M$ paid harl*t. LOL ex-sheriff, wanabe judge, pathological liar. Go play with your varoom varoom ferarri red laptop. Maybe you can figure out how to install SP2 on it and not fsck it totally.

  • All I need do from here on out is post two links wherever I see your twaddle online.
    This one:
    ‘Editor’s note: Microsoft Corp. is a client of the Enderle Group, the consulting firm headed by Rob Enderle.’
    And now this one, which includes the unedited version of your booze fuelled ranting with some insightful annotation:
    You are a gift to our community. Keep up the good work!

  • Mr. Enderle,
    Your keynote address at the SCO forum and your follow-up LinuxInsider post has convinced me that, while you seem to hold your own views in very high esteem, anyone that hopes to learn or improve their understanding of the issues involved should ignore your meaningless ramblings. Allow me to explain:
    You clearly point out in your follow-up article that you DO know the difference between "free as in beer" and "free as in freedom". However, you spend the whole of your keynote address attacking the "free as in beer" vareity of software. As the most valuable and influential IT professional to have ever graced the surface of the earth, you must know that the FOSS community repeatedly clarifies their position as being in support of the "free as in freedom" type of software.
    So the question arises, what would motivate you to use your entire address to argue the evilness of "free as in beer" software? I can only come up with two conclusions:
    1. You really are as much of an idiot as you make yourself sound, and don’t know any better. Or,
    2. You have been highly motivated (probably financially) to argue a non-relavant point in order to sway people who are not informed of the true issues at hand.
    Either way, your views have no validity to anyone who wants to make up their own mind regarding the issue (a freedom in which you seem to hold in very high regard).
    Because I do not believe you are a total idiot, it is my personal belief that you are, directly or indirectly, a paid employee of one or more of the companies with something at stake in this battle. So, in closing, how much are you paid to ramble without meaning about this topic? And if you are paid double, will you ever shut up?

  • Maybe it would have been better for you if Groklaw had sent some spies to listen, Rob. No one has ever questioned Groklaw’s accuracy that I am aware of, so you could have had a nice, accurate transcript. Groklaw even goes so far as posting a corrections section for corrections and updates to be posted. Unfortunately, when SCO put your uncensored rant on their web site, I tended to put stock in it because it was their conference, and you were there to advance their indefensible position. Now they’ve edited your rant and you are writing about your own reading; Something isn’t rotten in the state of Denmark, it’s just you and your pals at SCO.

  • [QUOTE]
    I did refer to Groklaw as a propaganda site, which it is.
    Yes, of course it is… Just like SCO is one huge propaganda organisation.
    I feel very strongly that people who make a decision without considering both the negative and positive consequences are, in fact, idiots.
    Yes, of course they are… Sounds to me like a perfect description of SCO management.

  • SCO has a hard copy of the keynote speech (cleaned up of the original filthy language) at:
    The title of his speech was "Free Software and the Idiots who Buy It", there was one section in his speech with the same title, and the word "idiot" appears exactly 2 times in the actual body of the speech – once as a plural.
    While he maintains in his rebuttal at LinuxInsider.com that "… you will see that I never said that all folks who buy the concept of free software are idiots–only some of them" it isn’t exactly clear that he only means some of them. The thrust of his speech is that there isn’t any really such thing as ‘free software’ and anyone who buys ‘free’ software expecting it to be free is an ‘idiot’. In other words, even though he didn’t say it explicitly, he inferred that anyone who buys ‘free’ software is an idiot.
    In his rebuttal, he states that he knows "the difference between that [free as in free beer] and free as in freedom." But his speech says NOTHING about the idea of ‘free’ software as in ‘free speech’. We’re just supposed to KNOW that he knows the difference.
    In fact, in the keynote speech, he states:
    "With software there are several kinds of "free". There are free products that come with ads and increasingly with Spyware, there are ‘free trials’ which time out at unfortunate periods of time (time bombs), and there are free enterprise products that cost 1,000s of dollars. Guess which one Linux is?"
    He doesn’t even MENTION free as in ‘free speech’. If we were to go by only his definition of ‘free’ software, we’d never know anything about the ‘free speech’ component to ‘free software’. So while he may be correct in the absolute sense of the word that the context of his speech was ‘free’ as in ‘free beer’, he was still being dishonest by implying that he had outlined the only types of ‘free’ software that exist. Exactly what we’ve come to expect from paid shills like Rob Enderle and Laura DiDio.
    Of course, out of all of his examples, he didn’t even cover PostgreSQL, or Apache. These two pieces of software are ‘free’ as in ‘free beer’ and ‘free speech’. But if he did mention them, his entire line of argumentation would have toppled like a house of cards in a tornado. Not very honest for an independent analyst, but exactly what we’ve come to expect from paid shills like Rob Enderle and Laura DiDio.

  • Is this misquoting you? It takes the whole speech as presented on SCO’s website and breaks it down.
    Most of us have known for a long time that you, Mr. Enderle, are in fact an idiot. But now you’ve given the world at large enough ammo so that the fact can not now be overlooked even by the most sympathetic to your viewpoint.
    To know what to expect in your next ranting, unconnected article of non-sequitors, all one has to do is examine this resource:
    Between appeals to pity, ad hominum attacks, changing the subject, false analogy, straw men, and irrelevant conclusions, you do not make a single point in your entire tireless tirade that applies to the object of your undeserved hatred, Free Software.
    The more you talk, the more you dig your own hole. By all means, continue.

  • Does anyone else wonder why the story icon shows a glass of beer w/open source in it? Isn’t that exactly the confusion Rob is engaging in his speech? Hmm, some LinuxInsider this site is…

  • I saw and downloaded the Keynote because I knew it for what it was. If he’d been working for me I’d sent him for a blood test.
    Sorry, the spin on this his going to haunt him for awhile.

  • Rob,
    Please do not rationalize one of the worst keynote addresses given anywhere. This does not cut it even if it was done by a public relations person of a company, and certainly not by a supposedly independent information technology consultant.
    Given that you very good relations with SCO, can you please ask Darl & Company to supply the world and you with proof of the Linux infringements, and publish those. That will impress me.
    Rudolf Schnetler

  • Rob you might want to quit your job as a "analyst".
    It appears that SCO had to edit your speech, and remove all the profanity. How exactly can you pretend to be respectable when you get up on stage and swear about topics?
    As for your back-pedalling article, its easy to point out the errors. All someone has to do is read the transcript of the speech.
    Under Free Enterprise Software you said "Novell Linux isn’t free, and Redhat Linux clearly isn’t free". Hmmmm….. they aren’t free (as in cost), so why exactly are you talking about them????
    Also you came up with a ridiculous example, of GM Linux developers sharing "top secret" info with Ford Linux developers. I guess when Bridgestone make tyres for all those different Formula 1 teams, every Formula 1 team loses all its top secret IP.
    Its not the first time someone has taken a possible problem (sharing secret IP), and tried to pretend the problem only occurs with open source software. Next time try and do better with your anti-Linux FUD.
    PS Groklaw simply puts court documents on a public web site for people to read. FUD is the spreading of false information – are court documents / transcripts false information?
    I would love to hear Mr Enderle try and explain his ignorance and backpedalling.

  • I am simply amazed. The message that Rob Enderle outlines in this piece and the message found in his keynote are entirely different; despite his claims that they are the same. I’ll avoid insulting Rob’s professional abilities as either a speaker or a writer (he does note that he used a teleprompter and that the linked transcript is accurate… I assume he was the author). But I would note that if you miscommunicated your message, it is rather poor behavior to blame the audience.

  • Dear Rob:
    I am curious about your statement concerning the dangers of buying free software because there may be unforeseen dangers.
    What about the very foreseeable danger of buying non-free software, like SCO Unix, and then being sued 7 years after you have publicly changed to an alternate operating system?
    Has anything like that EVER happened to an open source user? ANYTHING? Your hypocracy is astounding!
    Your rambling monologue was boring, Rob. You presented no facts, your points of view are without significance and your ignorance of even the most obvious truths make your conclusions valueless.
    It is unfortunate that you get any airplay at all but I guess you have a certain comical buffoon quality that draws some hits.
    All I can say is I am very pleased you are on SCO’s side. You and Darl share an equal position of credibility and esteem in the IT community.
    As for your restatement of the particulars of your speech – That anybody who buys ANY product without knowing their rights can be considered stupid – Thanks for stating The Bloody Obvious, Rob!
    Vancouver, BC Canada

  • I read Rob Enderle’s "sanitized" version of his keynote speech. It seemed to be more of a hate speech thing mixed with a bit of paranoia OGroklaw spies) and name calling. Hardly something that would enhance the reputation of an analyst. His attacks on Groklaw also were peurile at the best, backing it up with absolutley no facts. When reading or listening to Rob, one has to take anything he says on faith because his is consistently devoid of any substance.
    Fortunately for the Groklaw is an open forum and anyone can visit the site, read the facts, and make up their own minds. The bias is admitted, but unlike Mr. Enderle, Pamela Jones backs up her opinions with soild research. I invite anyone to go to Groklaw and read one of Pamela’s articles and compare it for tone, content, and reasoning with one of Rob Enderle’s articles.
    I have exchanged a few emails with Rob, who can engage in a amicable dialog, but I had the same problem eveidenced in his articles. He just refused to provide any basis for his stances except his opinions.
    His dogged support of the SCO Group is a c ase in point. HE says that he has found evidence that they have a case. However anyone who has been following the different court cases will know that The SCO Group has yet to present any evidence thus far in the courts to bolster its arguments.
    Maybe the results of the various cases would be a good measuring stick for Rob’s analytical prowess since he has provided us with nothing else solid upon which to go on thus far. If Rob is correct, and the SCOG pulls the rabbit out of the hat against all the legal odds that would seem to say that the lawsuits are really a farce, then we will have to tip our hats in Rob’s direction. However, if it doesn’t happen, Rob’s rep is toast.

  • Rob Enderle keeps shouting, "Free Software is not free as it beer!" Everyone knows that Free Software is NOT free as in beer, it IS free as in speech. Everyone knows the acquisition costs and the support costs can be similar to Proprietary Software. It is the development model, customizability, long term reduction in licensing costs, lack of vendor lock-in, etc., etc. that are the real reasons why companies are switching. Yet here he goes again. Either he just does not get it OR he is intentionally confusing the free beer vs. free speech issue to mislead people. You decide.
    The parallel question I have about Rob Enderle after reading his keynote and this article is: is Rob Enderle a very disturbed person with many horrible professional and personal experiences in his past that have scarred him and formed his self-conception as a victim who knows what is right. Or, is he a political businessman who makes a living jumping from, by his own admission, failure to failure to make a buck. Again, you decide.

    • This seems to be Enderle’s style: make some bold, deliberately antagonistic speech, filled with inaccuracies, mischaracterizations, and not-so-subtle digs, then when he gets called on it and cornered, he goes into "apologist mode" and claims that everyone’s misinterpreting what he said. He did the same thing in a great big (200+ post) thread on eWeek’s old discussion forum. The forum is still there–though read-only–but the thread appears to be whacked out of it.

      FWIW, I, too, read SCO’s transcript of the keynote. As much as Enderle may like to claim otherwise, both the Groklaw "spies" and PJ herself hit its meaning dead-on. The keynote projected exactly what Enderle intended it to project, no matter what he may say in his defense now.

      There’s a term for it: "yellow journalism." The keynote was little more than a long-winded trolling expedition, designed to get a lot of attention and elicit a very specific response.

  • I don’t believe your agenda is secret at all nor is it what you state in the last paragraph.
    Anyone who reads the not-so-fine print should have no problems discerning your motives. It appears that the only people who aren’t aware of your agenda are those who haven’t spent any time analyzing your past missives.
    Your articles are a fun read not because of anything new one can glean from them, but because it’s always interesting to see how someone who thinks so much of themselves can continually add 2 plus 2 and end up with anything but 4.
    In fact, the bio portion of your SCO speech makes it quite clear to me why it is your articles tilt in a particular direction.

  • Rob,
    your original keynote was posted on the SCO Group website and many of us copied it (before the cleansing). I don’t think anyone has mis-characterized you at all. We do know you hold a perverse animosity toward Linux, IBM, and those who dare to question your brand of thought.
    Here is a link to the new version:
    I will know that anytime a company uses you for a quote, they are saying they don’t respect their customers. My money will go elsewhere. Have a nice life, but don’t tell me how I perceive your arrogance. I am quite capable of my own conclusions of your performance.
    The funniest note came on the SCO newsgroup from a thoughtful person who said that he genuinely liked the SCO Group employees he met, but called your speech "smarmy". That was from a person who was kind to SCO Group, not a "spy" as you see people.
    Imagine had there been someone who was not favorable to SCO Group there. I imagine they wouldn’t have been so kind in their description.
    Things change. It’s inevitable. Get used to it.

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