[sword-devel] Open Content Creation

Paul Gear sword-devel@crosswire.org
Mon, 05 Feb 2001 06:19:24 +1000

"Bryan L. Fordham" wrote:
> Paul Gear wrote:
> [snip]
> > > 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.

I meant the latter.  If we are still to be GPL (which i think we
should), we cannot tell people what they are allowed to use the software
for.  However, we could make it clear what we *do* want them to use it
for by only providing those modules which are 'approved' on the main

I'm still not sure whether this is a good idea, though.  I'm merely
pointing out that it could be done.

> ...
> > 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'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.

My point is: _why_ is there a difference between software and its
content?  If they are both a ministry, how is the software less
"sanctified" than the content?  Cannot God set apart his people for the
ministry of software development, just as he sets apart others for
teaching or evangelism?  It seems to me that we are far too ready to
compartmentalise things that can and probably should be connected.  If
the Sword project is a ministry to the church, then yes, i think it
might be inappropriate to accept contributions from avowed enemies of
Christ.  (Again, i'm not sure if it is a good idea or even practical,
but i'm certainly willing to hear the arguments for and against.)

> ...
> 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.

In theory, i disagree, as noted above.  I see no need to distinguish
between the work of producing software and that of producing content. 
In practice, i'm with you: i don't know what can/should be done about

> ...
> 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.

But the defining context is "a body working together for a common
purpose".  If we are not really a body, how can we be working together?

"He must become greater; i must become less." - John 3:30