[sword-devel] Open Content Creation

Bryan L. Fordham sword-devel@crosswire.org
Sat, 03 Feb 2001 00:23:05 -0500

Paul Gear wrote:
> > The obvious flaw is I download the code and do whatever I wish, 
> > neatly nullifying all that hard work on a doctrinal statement.
> Not really.  CrossWire can trademark the product names and require
> permission from people to use them.
> You can still have 'free software branding' - that's exactly what
> AbiSource <http://www.abisource.com> and Ximian (formerly HelixCode
> <http://www.ximian.com>) have done.  You can do whatever you want with
> the code, but if you want to release a product based on it, you have 
> to a) have their permission, or b) call it something else.
> Thus, we could trademark certain names (like "The Sword Project" and
> "CrossWire Bible Society"), and have an icon that only approved
> software can use.

Hadn't thought of that, though I'm familiar with it because of 
AbiSource.  I don't see what it would solve, though perhaps we're not 
talking about the same thing.  I'm addressing the problem of folks using 
Sword for non-Christian purposes, perhaps you mean just keeping certain 
things out of the official distribution?  Or at least, if they're 
included, being in a different category than standard Christian works.

Seems to me that's all branding would do.  I could still do whatever I 
wished with the product, just under a different name.  Doesn't seem to 
answer the larger issue but, again, maybe you and I are talking about
two different things.


> > 3) Get out of the module business.  Seperate the Sword engine from 
> > the modules entirely.  The base install can stay the same, but 
> > additional modules are produced by third parties.  (Of course a 
> > third party can consist of all Sword developers, if they want.)
> My understanding of what Darwin was getting at is that with Christian
> software, software development is a ministry, and therefore it is just
> as important that the developers be doctrinally pure as those who 
> create modules.  Thus, getting out of the module business doesn't 
> solve anything.  (Not to mention that it becomes a pain for end users
> who want to download the whole shebang at once.

I understand about viewing working on projects like Sword as a ministry, 
and appreciate that you and others view it that way.  And I agree with 
the hassle that could be created for end users by moving modules
I'm a bit confused about the statement that developers should be 
doctrinally pure, though.

I understand what the statement means, I'm confused on its application.  
If I was an atheist and programmed a huge section of Sword (software 
only, not content) it wouldn't be included?  I'm certainly not accusing 
anyone of close-mindedness or anything equally silly; it just seems odd 
to me.  Again, I understand and agree with you to an large extent.  But 
there is a difference between software and the content it is presenting.


> Personally, i'd like to see a NWT module.  Not because i believe it, 
> but for purposes of comparison.  I have a print copy of it on my shelf
> already.  Online Bible ships with a Quran module!

I'd like to see it too, actually.  And I have a good-sized collection of
writings from other religions and it would be handy to have an 
electronic version at times.  But of course they shouldn't be presented 
with the KJV; at least not in the same category.  That was my point.

And the issue is rather cut-and-dry with thinks like the NWT or Book of 
Mormon.  But things aren't always that clear.  For instance there are 
some great Christian writers who I disagree with on some small points; 
I still read them and learn a lot, and recommend their works.  The small 
points don't matter much to me.  But what may be a small point to me may 
be huge to someone else.  I like certain styles of worship, but 
understand that people are different and worship God differently.  But 
some consider anyone doing anything differently to be heretical, and 
those views are likely to come up if things are categorized as good and 
bad or what have you.

So what's to be done about it?  I don't think a third party system would
eliminate the problems.  But it would perhaps remove the discussion from
development and put it where, at least in my opinion, it belongs: in 
discussion on content.

I have a feeling you disagree with that, which is of course fine.  I 
understand (I think) why you might disagree.  I just really don't know 
what can be done about it.

I just went to the crosswire site and read the purpose statement of the 
Sword project.  At the end:

> There are many modularized components of this project, each with their 
> own group leader/s. Each leader is free to take the direction that 
> they see fit to accomplish the goals of the concurred design, being 
> held accountable only to fellow developers, users, and of course God
> ;) (that should put a sense of responsibility in all of you! :) 
> Startup efforts and this homepage are organized by Scribe, who may 
> happen to be a group leader of a few of the core components, but should
> in no way be seen (or wishes to be seen) as the overall manager/owner 
> of this project. This is a collaboration of the masses-- many parts of
> a body working together for a common purpose (wow, what an analogy :)!

That's the whole thing, I think.  If it's decentralized there's no way
to control it.
> > That's not too comforting, I know.  As a lay-preacher and as a plain ol'
> > Christian I don't like the idea of JW's or whomever using Sword.  But
> > that's the nature of the GPL.
> Indeed it is.  I think that to choose GPL for Christian software is to
> choose to trust God that, regardless of who uses the software and how,
> he will get the glory.

That's why I'm not concerned with NWT or whatever modules.  God's word 
is a lot tougher than anyone thinks.  We certainly should not be slack
concerning our responsibilies, of course, but I doubt I'm the only one 
who has seen God do amazing things in ways I never would have suspected.

I have a feeling I've rambled quite a bit in this.  Please forgive me if 
I have.  I think most of my thoughts can be summed up in the statement 
that I'm looking at development of the software and of modules as 
separate issues.  Any attempt to centrally control a decentralized 
project has pretty much by definition failed from the beginning.