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In free software, you're still not alone: the evolution of our weekly chats

by Deb Nicholson on July 29, 2020

We began our weekly chats in mid-March to give people a dedicated place and time each week to talk with fellow free software enthusiasts during the pandemic. During that first month, mostly we talked about what events were being cancelled and how frustrating it was that so many entities immediately embraced non-free tools for connecting remotely. We were also starting to contend with the financial effects of a global pandemic and some in our community wondered about job security and shared some information on who was doing layoffs and who might be hiring -- for remote work, of course.

Once the Copyleft Conf videos were posted in April, we hoped to sort of fill in the gap left by in-person events and so we hosted some chats based on some of those talk recordings. The talks we covered sparked some lively discussions about copyleft adoption and the effects of license choices for users. We discussed these presentations:

Then at the end of May, Black Lives Matter protests began happening every single day in the US as well as in many other places around the world. We thought long and hard about how we might support this long overdue moment of reckoning with systemic racism and violence. We felt we had a responsibility to look at how we might combat racism within our own community. We started with a fairly general discussion and worked towards more action-oriented topics as we went along. In the end, we hosted four discussions around racism and free software, including:

  • "How to Dismantle Systemic Racism in Free Software" -- This was an open discussion where people shared resources and talked about strategies for dismantling racism in free software projects and communities that have worked and some that haven't.
  • "How Racism is a Free Software Issue" -- Led by Molly de Blanc, in which "So you want to talk about race" by Ijeoma Oluo was heartily recommended.
  • "Allyship in FOSS and Beyond" -- Led by Ben Cotton in which participants shared a number of reading suggestions, many of which had already been compiled by the Chicago Public Library.
  • Finally, we watched Byron Woodfork's excellent talk from Strange Loop in 2017, "The Truth About Mentoring Minorities" and shared suggestions for participating in existing mentorship programs or starting programs within your workplace.
  • After the first Thursday in July, we hosted a "no topic" chat and noticed that the folks who showed up to that chat really appreciated the opportunity for no-topic chats. Most of the US is still limiting the size of public indoor gatherings, so we still don't know when we'll be able to do in-person FOSS events again. The virtual hallway track where we talk about installing free software on different devices, how to best advocate for software freedom, who might be hiring free software contributors and what's a good free software tool for some particular task, serves a very real function in the global, remote free software community. So, we've decided that we're going to be doing a topic on the first Thursday of the month and invite folks to share whatever's on their minds on the other Thursdays.

    Tomorrow's chat (July 30th) will be "no topic" and then on August 6th we'll have a topic again. Next week we're inviting people to talk about online resources for learners of all ages that either use or teach free software or otherwise support you -- or your child's -- development as free software user or contributor. The next chat with a topic will take place on September 3rd. Feel free to write to us with a topic suggestion and we encourage you to follow us on social media where we'll be announcing the topics and reminding folks about each week's chat, either on Mastodon or Twitter.

    All our public chats take place in #conservancy on freenode.net on Thursday afternoons at 2pm Eastern/6pm UTC. The #conservancy channel is accessible via your IRC client. If you don't already use an IRC client, you can come in through your browser. Just visit this page https://webchat.freenode.net/#conservancy and choose a nick (or nickname) and you'll be "in channel." In free software, you're still not alone.

    Tags: diversity, software freedom for everyone

Conservancy Staff at Virtual GUADEC

by Deb Nicholson on July 17, 2020

This year's GUADEC — the GNOME community's annual conference — will be virtual. Two Conservancy staffers are participating and the conference will be run using the free (as in freedom) Big Blue Button platform. We're especially looking forward to being part of an event that doesn't encourage attendees to engage with proprietary software.

Our Executive Director, Karen Sandler is co-presenting with Molly de Blanc on "Introducing Principles of Digital Autonomy", they'll be sharing an activist's perspective on how we interact with technology on a daily basis and how the technology using public could re-imagine that relationship in a way that better respects user autonomy and privacy. The talk will stream on July 22nd, at 18:45 UTC.

Our Director of Community Operations, Deb Nicholson will present two topics at GUADEC this year. On July 23rd, at 17:15 UTC, she will share her communication strategies in "Let's Have Great Meetings!" Then on Saturday, she will present "Building Ethical Software Under Capitalism" on July 25th at 18:45, a look at alternative tactics for creating software that doesn't exploit its users.

This year's event is free (as in cost) to attend and conveniently located online. Registration is open now -- see you next week!

Tags: events

Supporting Software Freedom with Your Time through Conservancy

by Deb Nicholson on May 7, 2020

The current global pandemic has affected everyone, but the experience of essential workers couldn't be more different from the experience of remote tech workers. Even within tech, many people have found themselves with no free time at all while they work to balance child-rearing, care-giving and remote work, while some of their friends, siblings and peers have found that they suddenly have a lot of extra time.

This post is for free software enthusiasts who find themselves with extra time. Conservancy and its member projects have a variety of different ways that you could meaningfully volunteer your time -- remotely, of course.

Translation

Translation is great way to help spread free software. MicroBlocks needs help with translation to help them make their fun projects available to more new coders, all over the world. The contact email is: interest@microblocks.fun. Etherpad, a key tool for remote collaboration, is also currently seeking translation help.

Technical

In a few weeks, we will need help with some of the bits and pieces associated with our upcoming migration to Bean Count. Moving ten years of financial records is a big undertaking. Folks who are python savvy and/or have experience with Bean Count should drop us a note at info@sfconservancy.org with "Bean Count Help" in the subject.

Many of our projects could use more technical volunteers, here are two that have nice specific lists of tasks they could use help with. Reproducible Builds has a handy list of technical tasks that they could use help with on their site. Inkscape has a thorough list of both coding (and non-coding) tasks that they could use help with on their site.

Compliance

Compliance is more important than ever. As more and more people come to rely on their digital devices and applications, we want to ensure that these tools empower, rather than spy on, the user. Compliance is big part of how we make sure there is source code that folks can examine -- and alter if necesary.

At a high level, this is how Conservancy's compliance process works:

  • People like you tell us about products or services they use where the source code for GPLed parts isn't provided or is incomplete
  • We investigate and contact the company if we can't find complete build and installation instructions
  • We work with the company to get the complete source - in rare cases we file a lawsuit (only when all other avenues fail)

We're specifically interested to hear from people who are able to check their devices (TVs, smartphones, tablets, et.c) to see if they contain any GPLed software. Here's how to do that:

  • If you think the device uses Linux, BusyBox, Android, etc., or the manual mentions "open source" then ask the manufacturer for source code
  • If they don't reply, or refuse to provide it, please report this to us
  • Or, if you can't build their source code or install the result on your device for some reason, let us know
  • We will start the process to resolve it (so you can get the source!), following up in a few days

For more details, see our reporting page or email us at compliance@sfconservancy.org.

Writing

We're always interested in talking to FOSS-savvy folks who want to write for our blog. A robust free software movement includes lots of voices. Some topics we'd like to see include; stories about driving free software adoption at your work or school, ways to improve governance or work-flow at community-driven free software projects, how your company embraced copyleft or sharing strategies for growing and/or diversifying free software communities. If writing about free software sounds exciting to you, email us at info@sfconservancy.org with "Guest Blogging" in the subject.

Some of our projects have also put out calls for help with writing. Selenium could use help answering questions, writing documentation, and updating information on their website. Inkscape has a thorough list of both non-coding (and coding) tasks that they could use help with here.

Grant Research

This one's a little specialized, but if you are at all familiar with the grant space or are interested in learning, we could use some help identifying grant application opportunities. If that sounds like your wheelhouse, then please email us at info@sfconservancy.org with "Grant Research" in the subject.

Thanks for considering volunteering your time to support software freedom!

Tags: conservancy, volunteer

Videos From The Past and Upcoming Virtual Appearances

by Deb Nicholson on April 27, 2020

We've got a handful of videos from free software events that took place earlier this year and then two upcoming online appearances with different communities.

Videos From Before Shelter-in-place

Bradley and Karen both attended linux.conf.au, a fantastic, long-running community conference that was held at Australia's Gold Coast in January. Bradley Kuhn, our Policy Fellow and Hacker-in-Residence gave a tutorial on the GNU General Public License, version 2 aimed at helping folks participate knowledgeably in both internal and external licensing conversations, "Introduction to Linux's License." Karen Sandler, our Executive Director co-presented with Bradley on the challenges of being a FOSS Activist, "Open Source Won, but Software Freedom Hasn't Yet: A Guide & Commiseration Session for FOSS Activists."

On the day before FOSDEM, Deb Nicholson, our Director of Community Outreach keynoted CHAOSSCon in Brussels. Her presentation, "Ethics: What You Know & What You Don't Know" is about biases, pre-conceptions and how to work though them when you're building and optimizing free software communities.

SCaLE (aka the Southern California Linux Expo), a large FOSS community conference, was held in early March. Vagrant Cascadian is one of the lead developers working on Reproducible Builds and he gave a talk titled, "There and Back Again, Reproducibly!" Reproducible Builds is a Conservancy member project that works on a process to create an independently verifiable path from source code to the binary code. Want to learn how it works and why you might want it for your free software project? Then you should definitely check out this talk.

Upcoming Remote Appearances

GNOME is hosting a social hour on the first Friday of every month at 16:00 UTC. The special guest on May 8th will be Deb Nicholson, our Director of Community Outreach. She'll be talking about "Roadmapping and Finding People" which is a talk about planning and delegating for community-driven free software projects.

Deb is also giving a remote talk at Open Source 101 on May 12th, titled Software Licensing and Compliance: It’s All About Community." Tune in at 4:00 PM EDT (20:00 UTC) to catch it live.

Tags: conservancy, events

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