Jul 15

Zed Shaw and the BSD Dichotomy

Zed wonders why the BSD license folks are so inconsistent.

As a student of evolution and behavior, I think I can safely answer this:

1. We are all still cavemen at heart – Evolution has not had time to remove the small-group-power-dynamic genes from our pool.

2. Companies are big and powerful tribes

3. GPLed apps are small and puny tribes

Given those definitions, it’s easy to see what’s going on.  The BSD-advocates love it when big companies use their BSD-licensed source code because it makes you feel all special and important.  The chief noticed me!  He nodded in my direction and acknowledged my existence.  By extrapolation, I am now more important that someone else in the tribe!  It is, in the end, all about status, even for (most) geeks.

On the other hand, GPL, being weak and puny, is actually insulting a BSD-advocate by interacting with them.  This is like the sickly man throwing himself down in front of the Chief and showering him with praise.  It actually makes the Chief look weak when someone puny praises them (why would a powerful Chief need praise from someone so low-status?)   how dare low-status GPL apps try to use our powerful BSD source?   We are powerful and control much of the Internet.   Big Companies acknowledge our existence and use our services! (for free, but that’s beside the point)

Thnk about it – no one would really quibble if Linux pulled some BSD code into the core.  Because Linux is so high status, the acknowledgement of BSD by Linux is a net gain in status for BSD.

But Zed Shaw, alas, is not as high-status as Linux.  And until he is, the BSD people will feel uncomfortable when this low-status individual uses their resources for his own gain.  How dare he???

Having said all this, people who are sufficiently anti-social (Aspergers, Autistics, deep introverts, etc) don’t care about social niceties, and are able to point out the logical contradictions and the general irrationality of status-seeking.

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