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The Online Conference Has Been Liberated

by Bradley M. Kuhn on February 8, 2021

Something unique happened this weekend. Hardly anyone knew about it, in the grand scheme of the entire world population. But, in the FOSS community, it's not uncommon that we see what's coming that can change the world — if only we embrace it and fight for its adoption. We did this with Linux, and below I describe another FOSS solution that needs promotion and that same “accept nothing less” devotion that made Linux succeed.

This weekend, the largest international FOSS conference in the world, FOSDEM, attempted, and succeeded, to achieve what we all thought was not yet possible: They ran a massive online conference event with 100% FOSS0. This conference had more than 25 simultaneous talks at times, with accompanying interactive text-based chat rooms, live Q&A with the speakers on video, and “hallway track” breakout rooms after each talk where speakers and attendees could join video chat together and discuss the talk.

Still image from the online Organizers Panel at the FOSDEM Legal and Policy DevRoom in 2021

Organizers' Panel from Legal & Policy DevRoom 2021
Photo © by Bradley M. Kuhn, licensed CC BY-SA

In the Legal & Policy DevRoom (the FOSDEM name for what most events would call a “conference track”) that I co-organized this year (with Max Mehl, Richard Fontana, Alexander Sander and Karen Sandler), we had peaked at at least 225 attendees, and most talks had dozens of people interacting and discussing. According to the main FOSDEM organizers, they had a peak of 33,600 attendees and about 22,000 still participating on the second day of the two day event. There were no technical problems in our DevRoom, and I've heard very little about any technical problems in any of the rooms.

Of course, we'd have all rather gone in person to FOSDEM like every other year. But, necessity is the mother of invention, and what the FOSDEM team has done proved that there is absolutely no reason that any online conference should require proprietary software. There is no reason going forward that we should accept excuses; those who claim to be helping Open Source by running proprietary-software-based FOSS-related conferences are now on notice: you are actively thwarting the adoption of proven and working FOSS solutions by any insistence of continuing with proprietary platforms for conferences, developer meetings, and interactive online collaboration.

As always, FOSS is not necessarily free-as-in-price, nor should it be. Bandwidth and computing costs do exist for this. There was much integration effort of the various FOSS technologies such as Matrix, Element.io, and Jitsi to make them work together. But FOSDEM did this work transparently and documented it publicly, and any organization seeking to run a conference can either hire their own people to follow FOSDEM's recipe, or simply hire some of the folks who organized FOSDEM to deploy the technology for you.

We have at least another eight months of remote-only events. Those running events later this year, begin your transition to FOSS now. Our community will not accept a backslide to Zoom or any of the many other proprietary solutions. Proprietary software is what FOSS was made to fight against. Let's start fighting Zoom now.


0 And, regular readers of our blog know me. I checked at every step that what was being loaded was 100% FOSS. The only spot where proprietary software was involved was that the main element.io chat site for FOSDEM — to create your account — loaded proprietary “captcha” Javascript. However, I'm told that this was an option that the FOSDEM organizers had not meant to turn on in element.io, and also if I'd planned far enough ahead to set up my own Matrix server, which I plan to do eventually, I could have just used my existing Matrix account on my own server to authenticate to the element.io software (which is based on Matrix).

Tags: conservancy, conferences

On Elastic, its fork, MongoDB, and the SS Public License

by Bradley M. Kuhn on January 29, 2021

Now that Elastic adopted SS Public License, folks have been asking us if Conservancy's view on the SS Public License has changed. It hasn't, and our previous two blog posts on MongoDB's license change and Copyleft Equality are still relevant. The only statement we'd like to add is:

To our knowledge, there is no individual nor organization who has yet agreed that they will run a project under the SS Public License and be themselves bound by the SS Public License. That license remains a disingenuous proposal until it's put to use in an “inbound=outbound” licensing configuration.

(Both Elastic and MongoDB require inbound contributors to give them special licensing rights.)

Meanwhile, on the orthogonal issue of whether a forked project should choose a non-copyleft or a copyleft license, we refer everyone to this excellent old keynote from Martin Fink about how copyleft makes project governance better and easier.

Tags: conservancy, GPL, law, licensing

Thanks to all of our donors, Conservancy met our match challenge!

by Karen Sandler on January 15, 2021

We're pleased to report that with your help we did it! This year's match challenge of $111,029 was the first posed entirely by individuals (and not companies) who care deeply about software freedom. The bulk of this match challenge was provided by one very generous donor who prefers to remain anonymous. Their amount was augmented by six Conservancy Supporters who came together to increase the match even more. Conservancy thanks (in alphabetical order) Jeremy Allison, Kevin P. Fleming, Roan Kattouw, Jim McDonough, Allison Randal and Daniel Vetter.

We also thank every person who donated this season. Whether it was $42, $120, $128, $512 or any other amount, your donation helps us continue our work to fight for software freedom! We can only do this work because you support us. We cannot wait to see everything we can get done together in 2021!

Tags: supporter

Interview with Matcher and Conservancy Board member Jeremy Allison

by Karen Sandler on January 14, 2021

picture of Jeremy Allison in front of a beautiful nature landscape with water, mountains and trees.

Jeremy Allison. Photo © Jeremy Allison, licensed CC BY-SA 4.0

A generous group of individuals has banded together to increase the amount of our match donation. This post is part of a series of interviews where these extraordinary folks tell us about why they care about software freedom and why they support Conservancy

We asked Jeremy Allison to describe himself for this interview, and he described himself as "a tedious audiophile who torments his friends with esoteric speaker trivia. He also likes to write C code and tries really hard not to put security holes in it. He co-founded the Samba project, whose list of CVE reports shows he is failing at this task. For some odd reason, Google thinks he is worth employing."

Q: How did you first get interested in software freedom?

A: I first got interested when I read the GNU Manifesto, back in the late 1980's. I don't know if was the "Astroid Mining" part that took my fancy, but it seemed like the right thing to do as learned in primary school - "Sharing is good !".

Also I grew up in the UK at a time where there was a great diversity of computing platforms many of which encouraged hacking. There was even a laptop that ran Forth as it's primary language rather than BASIC ! The spirit of wanting to be able to understand and work on the code that runs our lives never left me.

Q: How did you get started with Samba and why did Samba join Conservancy?

A: I was the person who submitted the first patch to Andrew Tridgell's (tridge) project (smbserver) that became Samba. I never looked back after that. I have to be honest, but Samba joined Conservancy because neither tridge or I wanted anything to do with non-technical things, and Conservancy seemed the easiest and lazyist way of getting other people to do these things. I now know that's not true, but it seemed a good idea at the time :-).

You've been on the board of Conservancy for a long time - what's that like?

A: The people who contribute to it are what make Conservancy. I know the projects are great, but the staff and other Board members are *AMAZING* ! It's an education and a privilage working with them. I love helping out and I hope to be able to do so for a long time to come.

Q: Why do you think people should contribute to Conservancy?

A: Conservancy's work has never been more important. More and more computing platforms are moving to locked down, proprietary code (sadly sometimes even based on top of Free Software).

The right to understand, to learn, to tinker and modify the code that runs all of our lives has never been under more risk. Please help conservancy do its vital work of continuing to fight for the freedoms I took for granted in my youth.

If we lose them, we'll all be the poorer for it !



Software Freedom Conservancy is in the final days of its annual fundraiser. Please help us continue our work by becoming a Supporter. Donate now and have your donation matched by a group of generous individuals who care deeply about software freedom.Your donation could push us over the top to meet our goal!

Tags: supporter

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