Freedombone Blog

Freedom in the Cloud

FOSS Sustainability

The people complaining that FOSS is "not sustainable" and that developers need to be paid more and add nagware to their software need to remember: most people using FOSS hardly have enough money to survive.

Free software at least is supposed to be a commons. A resource that anyone can use and learn from regardless of their financial status. Projects have come and gone, but the main system components have sustained for the last few decades.

The outrage at developers adding nagware is because it isn't respectful to repeatedly ask people who are hardly surviving to pay you, and to do so in a very entitled manner.

The need to survive under capitalism does conflict with a gift economy. This is what should be recognized. But we should also respect the user and not try to turn them into cash cows like the proprietary developers do.

A manifesto

Like it or not.

Personalities notwithstanding.

There isn't an alternative to free software.

Solidaric coding.

Or rather.

The alternative is total subjugation. Total loss of control. Of communities. Of knowledge. Concentration of power like you've never seen it.

There isn't a future free from struggle.

The powerful will try to take everything from you and turn you into a commodity.

Software is one thing they don't yet fully control. Corporate coders with comfortable incomes are not equivalent to motivated activists.

Don't give them an easy ride.

Deeds not Words

I've just returned from giving a talk about the Freedombone home server system at Manchester central library. Slides can be found here.

Before the event I was eating a sandwich in one of the parks and listening to nearby Hare Krishna buskers playing bongos, which was quite fun. Not many lyrics, but easy to learn.

Turnout this time was smaller than the previous year, but the venue was nice. It was also fitting to be giving a talk about public software in a place dedicated to keeping information accessible to the public.

Outside the library there is bronze statue of Emily Pankhurst amusingly standing on a chair giving a speech. The motto carved in the stone behind her says "deeds not words". I know what she means by that. You can engage in all manner of eloquent verbosity, but if it's not matched by corresponding actions then it doesn't amount to much. In earlier times there used to be a hacker motto of "show me the code". I don't see that written much anymore - even in the danker recesses of the interwebs - but it's the same kind of ethos.

There was an interesting talk about CSS which was quite relevant to my interests because the recent project which I've worked on called Epicyon makes extensive use of that for themes.

It's also a curious time to be someone doing Free Software. Reports from the Manchester group are that interest in "freedom related issues" such as software freedom, Open Rights Group and freedom of information has been in severe decline for some time. Perhaps there is a chilling effect from the ambient politics of reactionary populism and maybe the passing of the Snoopers Charter in 2016 was a devastating defeat for ORG.

And yet it seems like Free Software is more relevant now than it was decades ago. The problems around who has access to software and who controls it are a lot more tangible and the stakes are much higher. To paraphrase earlier sayings, either the public controls the software or the software controls the public. If the latter is true - and increasingly it appears to be - then we're really in a time of technology-enabled tyranny. Only deeds can even begin to do something about that.