I asked a question that is closed for opinion-based. While the body can be said to basically remain unchanged, I have tried different variations of title like (I've fixed grammar here):

  • When is it not a bad thing to use a nonfree program?
  • When does using a nonfree program not potentially harm me?
  • What does FSF think about scenarios that using a nonfree program isn't harmful to the users?
  • (current version) How does FSF response to scenarios that using a nonfree program isn't harmful to the users?

None of them is able to rescue the question. I can see how the first two versions can feel like being opinion-based, as they rely on adjectives like "bad" or "harmful". But given the body provides a context how good and bad are evaluated, I think they are good subjective questions. The latter versions are even more objective to me. Can you explain why they aren't?

The meta question Stack Exchange is not open source. Why do you decide you participate here? is in the same line of this question. The answers in there can be modified to make it suitable for it.

Related question: Are we getting "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective" right?

1 Answer 1


The four sample questions you quote above are all, to my mind, problematic.

In the case of the first two, in their phrasing they presume as settled something which is not, in fact, settled. If instead you asked:

  • Is it a bad thing to use a non-free program?

  • Does using a non-free program ever potentially harm me, and if so, how?

Those questions strike as significantly less problematic, though not without issues. I'd hope they might survive long enough to get some good answers, hopefully backed up by quotes from authorities rather than just being personal statements of opinion.

The last two questions ask us what the FSF might think, or might in some hypothetical situation say or do. In general, we can't answer that; only the FSF can. It's certainly possible for questions so written to admit of answers from the pre-existing record, but as you know from elsewhere, I don't think the FSF have had any such scenarios presented to them, or if they have, have made no comment thereon.

  • I don't have the elsewhere to know. Why do you think that the FSF hasn't been presented this problem, or made comment thereon?
    – Ooker
    Commented Apr 26 at 14:21
  • Because I've seen no evidence of it, and I've been a free software person since 1990. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist, but it does quite strongly suggest, at least to me, that your questions 3 and 4 can only be answered by the FSF.
    – MadHatter Mod
    Commented Apr 26 at 14:37
  • Do you consider that it is hard to believe that this question hasn't been presented to them from 1985 to this day? Assuming it's indeed the case, do you have any hypothesis on why it is the case?
    – Ooker
    Commented Apr 26 at 19:29
  • Please read what I wrote. I didn't say it hasn't been presented, I said I know of no record of a reply. The FSF exists to do more than comment on random hypothetical ethical dilemmas, but if you've seen such a comment, please do tell us!
    – MadHatter Mod
    Commented Apr 27 at 8:33

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