Freedombone Blog / Free Software remains a struggle

There's a pretty good talk at the Australian Linux conference from Karen and Bradley of Software Freedom Conservancy about the various problems which continue to be obstacles to having personal agency over what computers do. They have given talks on this theme before, but I think this is the best version of it so far.

Some points raised:

  1. Too many Linux-related conferences are sponsored by surveillance capital companies, and this makes it difficult to talk about certain things or promote certain issues.
  2. Living entirely without proprietary software is becoming increasingly difficult and/or impractical.
  3. Using older hardware sometimes means you get treated as a second class citizen.
  4. Explaining to people why Software Freedom is important is difficult, not just because there are so many other things going on but because many of the issues are invisible to the average person. Unless you know about some of the technical stuff happening behind the scenes then you don't encounter many conspicuous ethical issues.
  5. Conservancy sometimes only was able to use Free Software because it pushed the interactions with proprietary systems over onto its supporters/interns. This wasn't very ethical and in future they will try to do the reverse - handling the proprietary stuff so that supporters don't have to.
  6. In terms of practical software freedom, 2006 was a kind of utopia by comparison to now.
  7. Feeling like you are in a constant battle and being tempted to give up is ok. Keep trying anyway and small successes still count.
  8. Although more Free Software is being written it's often focusing on cloud-like use cases which big companies care about, and isn't necessarily benefiting average users. This is the shifting "who is really the beneficiary?" problem.

Another point which wasn't mentioned, but which I'd throw onto the pile would be:

  1. The organizational structures that we often use within the production of Free Software are probably not optimal. In the Linux kernel project I see maintainers getting older and not being replaced by younger people. This doesn't bode well for the next 10+ years when the older generation start to retire.