Conservancy's Remote Work Tools
byon March 17, 2020
Conservancy has been a 100% remote organization for over 5 years and is now a remote organization by design. We are dedicated to empowering users through software freedom and we always use free software tools to do our work wherever possible. As many folks are newly switching to remote work or collaboration as part of "social distancing," it seems like a good time to share the "free as in freedom" tools we use and tell you how they work for us.
Etherpad! It's a Conservancy member project and a handy way to write collaboratively. We use Etherpad all the time when we want to collect notes on something, write news items or blog posts (this post was written in Etherpad!) or co-author something with one of our member projects. We also use them to take notes and minutes in meetings, like our Evaluation Committee meetings and our Board meetings. We have a handy plugin enabled where you can enter your email address and be notified when other people are editing the pad, so that you can jump in when your co-authors are ready. You can use our instance or set up your own.
We all use various clients (Empathy, Pidgin, Conversations) to talk to each other on Conservancy's Jabber server during the work day, both from our desktops and phones. We use group chats to coordinate handing off work, to discuss news items or share links. It's perfect for when you need to talk individually or as a group but don't need to start a big email chain. We use email too, but for less ephemeral conversations.
On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes you need a clear record of a task as it make its way through your organization. That's when Request Tracker (aka RT) is key. We moved a lot of our work to RT around eighteen months ago and it's been fantastic for clarity and productivity, especially when there are several different phases to a shared task.
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) may be old school but it's easy to start using it because you don't need an account, and you can use web clients that don't need any setup at all. As a bonus, it's not much of a bandwidth hog, which is especially nice when your connection doesn't have a lot of bandwidth. Plus, you can always swing by our channel to chat with us about software freedom and adjacent topics.
Zulip is another chat service that we and some of our member projects use (our Outreachy organizers, mentors and participants use it, for example). Zulip is more modern by design than IRC, with emojis and reactions built in and does a good job of organizing different discussions. There's email notification when someone is trying to reach you directly, which is nice if you're not always on Zulip. It's also accessible via web or by installing a local client.
Asterisk helps us self-manage several phone lines and teleconference rooms. We hold our daily stand-up on the phone and schedule calls with member projects, volunteers, and contractors throughout the day, in different "rooms."
Mumble is a great tool for holding international phone meetings which can otherwise quickly become expensive for folks outside the hosting country. You set up a room and then everyone connects via the internet through their own machine, preferably with a headset.
Jitsi is a free software video calling tool for when everyone wants to get dressed and see each other. The Outreachy organizers often use this for their meetings and Karen and Bradley use this as a part of their remote Free as in Freedom recording set up. Jitsi is particularly helpful to propose as an alternative when others want to use Zoom. It can be really nice when you want to share screens or when folks want to be able to see each other. You do need a decent internet connection for video calling.
Firefox Send is a handy way to send files to people that's encrypted and that expires after you use it. This is useful so you can avoid using proprietary services that may be collecting information about the files you are sharing with other people. This works even with large files and requires no technical knowledge, local client or account setup to use.
These are weird and uncertain times. Tools are only a small part of making remote work effective. We're in this together and we're happy to talk about the remote work experience with you anytime. In particular, you can join us at 2pm Eastern/6pm UTC on Thursdays in our IRC channel #conservancy on freenode, when we plan to be around to shoot the breeze.
In free software, you're not alone. Starting today, we're scheduling time to chat.
byon March 12, 2020
Given the drastic reduction of travel, cancellation of in-person FOSS events and the many, many folks in the community who are working remotely for the first time, some of us are understandably feeling a little isolated. We at Conservancy know that community is a huge part of software freedom and luckily we already know how to come together remotely.
And so, I'd like to officially invite you to come hang out with Conservancy *virtually*!
Our IRC channel #conservancy on freenode.net is often an active meeting place, where folks already congregate for interesting conversation. Everyone is invited to join that conversation at any time. Starting this week, some of us at Conservancy will make sure to be around on Thursday afternoons at 2pm Eastern/6pm UTC to chat with anyone who is interested. 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, and choose a nick (or nickname) and you'll be "in channel."
Folks in the channel often discuss software freedom advocacy, the challenges of maintaining free software, new gadgets and free software licenses and other practical strategies to advance the cause. On Thursday afternoons, no special topic is necessary! Come for advice on remote work, thoughts about events that may or may not be cancelled, post jobs, find a friend for virtual proofreading, or just chit-chat about The Good Place .
I feel so grateful for the free software community, which I think of as my free software family. It's incredibly comforting to know so many people who are passionate about software freedom, and bringing justice and ethics to the technology that pervades our daily lives. We are building solutions to big problems that we can only do by bringing people together from all over the world and all walks of life to collaborate. One of the key sustaining characteristics of this is a strong social network we've formed in the process. When you are involved with free software, you have friends across continents and across time zones. We'll get through this crisis by supporting each other. See you in IRC!
 As always, please be mindful that the folks who are part of our global community different levels of comfort with sexual or religious topics. The channel is moderated and we won't allow anyone to be harassed or subjected to topics that are way outside of appropriate quasi-professional conversation.
Conservancy Activities: March and Beyond
byon February 19, 2020
Open Source 101 is brought to you by the fine folks who put on All Things Open every fall. Deb will be giving a 90 minute workshop at the locally-focused event titled, Software Licensing and Compliance: It’s All About Community on March 3rd, in Columbia, SC. The number of available tickets is limited, but some are still available here.
Denver is keynoting Git Merge where folks will be celebrating Git's 15th Anniversary! He'll be discussing the History & Future of Git. The sixth annual Git Merge will be hosted at The Majestic Downtown in Los Angeles on March 4th. Ticket proceeds will again be donated to the Software Freedom Conservancy. (Thanks!)
Just a few days later, Bradley will be presenting at the Southern California Linux Expo, aka SCaLE, a long-running FOSS community event in Los Angeles on, What'll We Do When FOSS Licenses Jump the Shark?. Join him on Saturday, March 7th.
Denver and Bradley will be at the Conservancy booth at SCaLE! We love seeing supporters and connecting with new software freedom enthusiasts at community-driven events like this one. Helping us greet folks by volunteering at the booth is a great way to support our work. The expo floor will be open from 2:00pm on Friday, March 6 until 2:00pm on Sunday, March 8. Please write to us about when you can help out.
The next Outreachy round is also coming up! In fact, applications for the May to August 2020 round are due February 25 at 4pm UTC. Feel free to share Outreachy's opportunities with interested folks in your network!
Last Week in Brussels: FOSDEM, Copyleft Conf and More
byon February 10, 2020
FOSDEM is a great volunteer-run, community-driven event that has been going on for twenty years!! Conservancy staff and volunteers who attend the event are grateful to have the opportunity to interact with so many passionate free software advocates in one place each year.
The FOSDEM organizers invited Bradley and Karen to speak on the main track talk — the next installment talk on the difficulty in living in software freedom and making ethical choices today — a follow-up to their keynote from last year.
Conservancy staff also gave some DevRoom talks, including participating in the one-of-a-kind debates in the Legal & Policy DevRoom this year. Nearly all of these recordings are now available. The FOSDEM video team is amazingly efficient — with a fully FOSS system for conference video!
The well-attended Legal & Policy DevRoom (which Bradley and Karen help organize each year) occurred all day on Saturday. In the morning, Bradley participated in a debate entitled, Does Careful Inventory of Licensing Bill of Materials Have Real Impact on FOSS License Compliance? The debate format was an exciting new addition to the DevRoom this year. (Please note that per the debate format, some speakers took positions that did not necessarily reflect their personal or organizational views.)
On Sunday, Deb spoke about Building Ethical Software Under Capitalism, in the Community Devroom. Later that day in the same room, Bradley Kuhn discussed, How Does Innersource Impact on the Future of Upstream Contributions?.
On Sunday, Conservancy welcomed attendees to learn more about our organization at our booth. We thank our volunteers who greeted and discussed Conservancy's work with attendees; we appreciate your energy. Also, thanks to the many Outreachy alums (all of whom are still participating in FOSS!) who stopped by the booth — it's really gratifying to hear from you. One current intern even asked for a selfie with our staff!
Many of our member projects were also at FOSDEM. Coreboot ran a shared booth, Homebrew had their second in-person meeting on Monday and Godot had a booth and helped run the Gaming Development track.Godot also hosted two pre-conference sprint days and a two day “FOSDEM Fringe” event — GodotCon.
Photo is by Deb Nicholson and is available under a CC-BY-SA-4.0 license
We ran the Second Annual Copyleft Conf on Monday. The event sparked lively and respectful conversations about the use and future of copyleft. The event included an exciting, multi-faceted schedule of talks and panels. Our lovely program committee — Molly de Blanc, Nithya Ruff, Harald Welte, Josh Simmons, Beth Flanagan, Bradley Kuhn and Deb Nicholson — curated and selected excellent content for the day. Thanks also to our Copyleft Conf volunteers, who helped with registration, speaker introductions and time-keeping.
All the Copyleft Conf sessions and Deb's CHAOSS Con keynote (a Friday “FOSDEM Fringe” event), Ethics: What You Know & What You Don't Know should be posted within a few weeks.