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I asked a question about the overlap between Free Software (as defined by the FSF) and Open Source Software (as defined by the OSI).

  1. Note that this question was not subjective. I was not asking about peope's personal idiosyncratic definitions of the terminology, nor about the difference between copyleft and permissive licencing, nor about which type of license was "better". (I did get a bunch of off topic responses answering those questions which I hadn't asked, but I edited the question to clarify, and there's been no trouble since.)
  2. Note that the question has an excellent, simple, accepted answer.
  3. Note that, in general, good answers are voted up, and a bad answer is voted down.
  4. Note that the question is nearly two years old, and has stood without trouble that long.

So why was it suddenly and unilaterally closed as "Not Constructive"? What does this achieve? Who is helped by this closure?

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Stack Exchange sites are really not good at handling questions that ask for a list of things. Here is the second part of your question, which is classic "not constructive":

Does any such software actually exist? Please give examples.

With this one statement, you gave the community, as well as any random drive-by user/spammer, permission to post a link to software that fits the description you've provided, and none of those answers would solve a real problem.

The other issue is that you're asking a programming community, not a lawyer, not someone licensed to give legal advice, to interpret lengthy and detailed licenses. This is not really what Programmers Stack Exchange is about. Legal questions in general don't really fit on any Stack Exchange site.

This isn't to say your question wasn't interesting or that you didn't get a good answer, just that it's not generally the type of question that Programmers SE and Stack Exchange has had success with traditionally. In fact, it looks like the entire thread was turning into a debate, with 7 answers all interpreting things differently. Questions that solicit extended discussion and/or debate are not constructive and do not belong on Stack Exchange.

In addressing the actions of the moderator, there have been many discussions on meta about the site topic, which moderators use when making decisions on questions. It's a moderator's job to make decisions on material that clearly doesn't fit the scope. Additionally, we don't really know that it was closed unilaterally, as it's quite possible someone may have flagged it as off-topic or not constructive. It only takes 15 reputation for a user to flag a post, and flags don't show up in the post notice like when a 3k user votes to close.

Finally, I'm not really sure how you could edit the question to make it fit the guidelines, but it's possible that it could be reopened if the problems were fixed. I'd suggest beginning by removing the part of the question asking for a list of examples and go from there. Then, you'd have to figure out a way to solve the discussion/debate issues. Good luck! :)

  • "Legal questions in general don't really fit on any Stack Exchange site." We're drafting up a Law & Government proposal on Area 51. Perhaps that would change that. – Joe Z. Feb 22 '13 at 13:40
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1. Note that this question was not subjective. I was not asking about peope's personal idiosyncratic definitions of the terminology, nor about the difference between copyleft and permissive licencing, nor about which type of license was "better". (I did get a bunch of off topic responses answering those questions which I hadn't asked, but I edited the question to clarify, and there's been no trouble since.)

Actually you are asking us to verify or dispute your idiosyncratic definitions of the terminology, right here:

These definitions, although they derive from very different ideologies, are broadly compatible, and most Free Software is also Open Source Software and vice versa. I believe, however, that it is possible for this not to be the case: It is possible for software to be Open Source without being Free, or to be Free without being Open Source.

That's not a question, that's a confusing & confused opinion based on unreferenced claims.

2. Note that the question has an excellent, simple, accepted answer.

3. Note that, in general, good answers are voted up, and a bad answer is voted down.

Also note that there are four deleted answers, two of them up voted. You confused a lot of people with your question, 11 answers in total, all answering to a slightly different question. That, by definition, is not constructive.

4. Note that the question is nearly two years old, and has stood without trouble that long.

Sorry about that, we should have closed this one earlier.

So why was it suddenly and unilaterally closed as "Not Constructive"? What does this achieve? Who is helped by this closure?

It helps signal future readers that the question and its answers are problematic. You rushed in accepting an answer, and arrived at a possibly wrong conclusion:

And the answer, it seems, is that it's impossible to be Free without being Open, but possible to be Open without being Free. Thank you everyone who actually answered the question.

Examples of licences that are approved by the FSF but not by OSI:

In fact some of those where pointed to you in a later answer, at which point you dismissed OSI approved as a parameter, and moved on to your own definition of what an open source license is. That's unfair to the answerers, your question is build around the FSF and OSI definitions, and it's implied that one of the parameters of it is that the licences discussed should be approved by either the FSF or OSI, or both.

We are not here to discuss personal interpretations and ideologies, what is the actual practical problem you are trying to solve? Your question lacks well defined parameters, it's a very interesting discussion topic, but unfortunately discussions don't really work with the Q&A philosophy and format of the site.

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    It was flagged as offtopic, which clearly wasn't the case, but after reading your answer I gave the question a second read and you are right, it does seem like a loaded question. The question had preconceived opinions and tried to lead posters to answers that the the OP was looking for. – maple_shaft Aug 20 '12 at 10:57
  • @maple_shaft. It didn't, actually. Perhaps my only "preconceived opinion" which I should have made clearer, is that licenses which have been rejected by the OSI for practical reasons (e.g., the WTFPL is unnecessary because we already have a license with similar effect), that does not make it a non-Open license. The WTFPL fulfills the Open Source definition, and is therefore an Open Source license, it just happens to be an Open Source license which the OSI does not recommend. That's my reading, anyway. – TRiG Aug 20 '12 at 11:05
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    @TRiG That's where the question turned into a discussion, and where it stopped being a question that fits the Q&A format. We can argue for hours what open source actually means, and we'll end up with a thousand and one interpretations. Let's not do that. – yannis Aug 20 '12 at 11:09
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    @TRiG Even so, speculating as to why isn't possible without much discussion, and speculating on the OSI's interpretation is even worse. – maple_shaft Aug 20 '12 at 11:12

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