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Conservancy's Member Projects are Building the Next Generation of the Free Software Movement

by Deb Nicholson on December 19, 2018

In order for free software to succeed, we must always be bringing new people to free software. In addition to bringing in developers, we need non-coding contributors and learners of all ages for our software to fulfill the promise of our movement. We love helping our member projects as they reach out to non-coding users and learners of all ages.

Conservancy is well-known for our work to support developers which is obviously super important -- there's no free software without well, people writing software. In fact, it's tough to build truly free software without free tools. So tools and code are critically important for software freedom, but I don't believe we can build a successful free software movement without conscientiously bringing in end-users. Many of our member projects focus on building amazing software for end-users, and maybe (while you're fixing computers for family over the holidays?) one of them can help you bring someone into the free software fold.

Several of our projects don't maintain code at all and/or work solely on helping people learn more about free software. MicroBlocks is a new programming language that enables kids and lifelong learners to start building toys or tools right away. Teaching Open Source collects and advises on curricula that helps college students understand open source development and its legal underpinnings. North Bay Python is a community-driven conference serving local Python developers -- including beginners. Outreachy brings people from underrepresented groups into free software via paid internships. The longevity of the free software movement depends on our collective ability to bring in young people and new people so we are proud to support educational efforts.

Two of our newest projects maintain code bases specifically for people who work at non-profits. Non-profit folks love stuff that is free as in cost and while they appreciate free as in freedom -- they also need code that does not need a lot of tinkering to be deployed. Backdrop CMS is a lightweight, easy to deploy Drupal fork specifically designed for small businesses and non-profits. Houdini helps organizations manage every aspect of their fundraising work. Free software is a good mission match for change organizations so it was great to welcome in two projects this year that are working intentionally to serve this sector.

Of course, we believe that software freedom is for everyone and a few Conservancy projects provide tools that can be used by anyone at all. Etherpad is shared note-taking platform that we use nearly every day in our work at Conservancy. Inkscape can be used for serious artists or those just dabbling in design. There are loads of tutorial videos to help new folks get acclimated and productive. Need a band flyer or church program? There's free software for that!

We even have projects at Conservancy that help people who are just beginning to explore free software. Homebrew enables users to install free software on their Apple systems while Wine helps people use a Windows program on a free operating systems. If you don't work at somewhere like the Conservancy, it can be difficult to ditch proprietary software. Projects like Homebrew and Wine help users find ways to use free software where they can and find a way to transition away from the non-free stuff at their own pace.

So wherever you are in your software freedom journey, Conservancy might have a project that can help. We look forward to helping our member projects do even more to bring in new fans, users and supporters of their work in 2019. Help us help them, by donating to Conservancy today! And be sure to let us know if one of our member projects helped you turn a new person into a free software user -- we love those stories.

Tags: conservancy, Wine, Homebrew, Outreachy, inkscape

Josh Triplett: Free Software Optimist

by Deb Nicholson on December 18, 2018

This is part of our ongoing series on generous matching donors. With roots in the Debian community and a contributor to a number of free software projects, Josh is a passionate software freedom advocate. Working at a large company involved in free software has brought Josh a deep understanding if the issues concerning the corporate use of open source. Josh and several other outstanding individuals are joining Private Internet Access and a big anonymous donor in offering $90K in matching funds to Conservancy for our continued work to provide both support for important free software and a clear voice in favor of community-driven licensing and governance practices.

Josh Triplett, head shot

Deb: What's the most exciting thing you've seen recently in free software?

The Rust project. It's the first language with a credible ability to replace C anywhere you can use C, while providing all the features of a modern programming language and many pioneering innovations not yet seen elsewhere. And it's the most welcoming and energizing community I've ever been part of; it's an absolute joy to work with Rust and help it grow. Rust gives me so much hope for the future of computing.

Deb: Do you have a favorite Conservancy project and/or one that is indispensable to your own work?

Conservancy is home to so many incredible projects that it's hard to choose. I love Reproducible Builds and Outreachy, and the ways in which they continue to change the world. Reproducible Builds represents one of those ideas where the goal seems obvious and yet the execution requires an incredible and pervasive effort across the industry, and the people working on it have done an amazing job. Outreachy brings so many people into computing, provides wonderful opportunities, and in the process helps show projects how to be more inclusive. And QEMU and Git are both incredibly useful for me.

Deb: What do you hope to see Conservancy accomplish in the next five years?

Josh: I'd encourage many more projects to make Conservancy their home. The best time to join a foundation is before you need one, and Conservancy is the best possible home for almost any Free Software project. Apart from that, I'd love to see Conservancy succeed in its ongoing GPL compliance efforts, as well as continuing its many behind-the-scenes efforts to improve industry practices around FOSS. And Conservancy serves as the shining example of principles and good stewardship among FOSS foundations. I've seen what Conservancy can do at their current size; I'd love to see what Conservancy could do with more resources.

Deb: Anything else you'd like to add?

I'm thrilled to be able to sponsor Conservancy with this donation matching campaign. Please consider becoming a Conservancy supporter.

Check if your employer offers donation matching as well, which can make your donation twice as effective. And if you can, use a bit of your social capital within your employer to get them to support the home of so many projects you and they depend on regularly.

And if you have a Free Software project with more than one maintainer, consider joining Conservancy.

Tags: conservancy

Matthew Garrett: Software Freedom Activist

by Deb Nicholson on December 13, 2018

This is part of our ongoing series on generous matching donors. Matthew Garrett is a security-focused developer and software freedom activist who received a Free Software Award for his work on Secure Boot, UEFI and the linux kernel in 2014. If you are not worried about the security of practically all your devices, it is only because you haven't seen Matthew speak about low-level vulnerabilities. Matthew and several other outstanding individuals are joining Private Internet Access and a big anonymous donor in offering $90K in matching funds to Conservancy for our continued work to provide both support for important free software and a clear voice in favor of community-driven licensing and governance practices.

Garrett in 2016, standing outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London holding a sign saying

Deb: What's the most worrying thing you've seen recently in free software?

Matthew: I'm concerned about the perception that it's impossible for development of free software to be financially self supporting, and that the only way to handle this is to develop new licenses that forbid certain use cases. There's a real problem where individual developers are left with little reward for developing code that giant commercial enterprises depend on, but we're largely seeing this push come from venture capital firms who just want a larger return on their investment. The free software community needs to come up with an answer to this that doesn't involve trying to extort money out of companies in order for them to be able to legally exercise the freedoms that free software should guarantee, but I don't know what that answer is yet.

Deb: What do you think non-profits are uniquely positioned to accomplish in free software?

Matthew: Non-profits are part of the solution to the above. Free software needs to be supported in order to prosper - and that means that someone needs to be able to provide resources to free software projects without being motivated by whether or not they can profit from the exercise. Conservancy is an example of an organisation that provides resources to and reduces friction for a number of free software projects, and it's hard to imagine a for-profit entity being able to achieve the same.

Deb: Is there a free software project that you wish existed but (as far as you know) no one has started working on?

Matthew: I'd love to see a free software TV stack. The majority of modern TVs run Linux, but there's no realistic way to replace most of the vendor provided code. The ability to provide a full featured, user controlled experience that improved upon the functionality provided by the manufacturer would be an amazing way to increase awareness of the power of free software, while also reducing the amount of personal information that users are currently giving up (frequently without even knowing what they're giving up!)

Deb: What do you hope to see Conservancy accomplish in the next five years?

Matthew: I'd love to see more projects under the Conservancy umbrella and for Conservancy to be a strong representative voice that can push back against the profit-oriented arguments against free software that are becoming louder.

Please take a minute to help Conservancy continue to spread the good news about free software and meet this exciting year-end match, today!

Matthew Garrett "You're not even a wiki" is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license, from Wikipedia by tef.

Tags: conservancy

Copyleft Conf Venue Announced!

by Deb Nicholson on December 12, 2018

We are excited to announce the venue we'll be using for Copyleft Conf. The one day event will take place in downtown Brussels at DigitYser, Boulevard d’Anvers 40, 1000 Bruxelles. The venue is a bit northeast of Grande Place. Participants can choose to walk, take the train to the Yser stop or use one of Brussels' many buses.

The first ever Copyleft Conf is happening in Brussels on February 4th, aka the Monday after FOSDEM. This event will provide a friendly and safe place for discussion of all aspects of copyleft -- developers, strategists, enforcement organizations, scholars and critics are all welcome.

The event starts at 9:30am and will finish at 6pm.We'll be providing coffee throughout the day and lunch for those who pre-register for the event. We will accommodate vegetarians and vegans and people with other dietary restrictions should get in touch with us. Registration will open in about a week, which should come pretty close to the date when we hope to have a preliminary schedule to share with you.

If you have questions about Copyleft Conf, including questions about attending, volunteering with or sponsoring, please email copyleftconf@sfconservancy.org

Tags: licensing, Copyleft Conf

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