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Conservancy at LibrePlanet 2018

by Molly deBlanc on March 22, 2018

March 24-25th hundreds of free software activists, community managers, hackers, legal experts, and all around fans will meet in Cambridge, MA for LibrePlanet 2018, the Free Software Foundation's annual conference and members meeting.

In addition to everything else happening there, Conservancy's own Bradley Kuhn, Brett Smith, Karen Sandler, and Denver Gingerich -- our part-time compliance engineer -- will all be speaking.

Topics covered include copyleft, the usibility of the GPL, medical devices, and free software in business.

  • State of the copyleft union
    Bradley Kuhn, Distinguished Technologist

    The license-importance divide seems almost generational: the older generation cares about licenses, and the younger generation does not. Yet, the historical focus on licensing in FLOSS, while occasionally prone to pedantry to a degree only developers can love, stemmed from serious governance considerations regarding how community members interact.

    Copyleft was invented to solve the many problems of project governance, assuring the rights of users and creating equal footing for all contributors. The licensing infrastructure today also has increased in complexity, with proprietary relicensing business models, excessive use of CLAs, and tricky clauses on top of existing licenses.

    Given this climate, how do we understand if copyleft is succeeding? This talk explores historical motivations and modern reactions to these licensing matters, and digs into understanding how policies have impacted Free Software communities for both good and ill.

  • A usability study of the GPL
    Brett Smith, Director of Strategic Initiatives

    We want software creators to use the GPL and its cousin licenses. We also know that people make mistakes in the process, or don’t even try because they’ve heard it’s "too complicated." Just as we do when we develop software, we would do well to study these failures and use them as opportunities to improve the usability of the GPL. This talk aims to start that process by identifying some known problems and considering some possible solutions. (None of these solutions are a new version of the license!)

  • Copyleft, Diversity & Critical Infrastructure
    Karen Sandler, Executive Director

    GPL enforcement and Outreachy are the two most visible and controversial programs that Conservancy undertakes. In this talk, Karen will explore how the programs fit together in the context of software freedom generally. Karen will review her work around medical devices and critical infrastructure and show how seemingly disparate initiatives fit into a single advocacy narrative.

  • Freedom, devices, and health
    Mad Price Ball, Rachel Kalmar, Dana Lewis, Karen Sandler

    When it comes to health, freedom is literally visceral. How do the principles of freedom apply to the devices used for medicine, health, and wellness? Moderated by Mad Price Ball, a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow, this panel introduces leaders that bridge industry, community, and individual experiences. Rachel Kalmar (Berkman Klein Center), uses her experience with sensors and wearables to confront how devices and their data interact with a larger ecosystem. Dana Lewis (OpenAPS) connects us to health communities, and her work with the Nightscout project and patient-led efforts in type 1 diabetes. Karen Sandler (Software Freedom Conservancy) shares her experience as an individual with a device close to her heart: a defibrillator she uses, as a matter of life or death -- and she cannot get the source code to it. Join us to learn about how freedom matters for devices in health.

  • In business: Keeping free software sustainable
    Denver Gingerich, Compliance Engineer

    Starting a business is a big decision, and choosing to share its results with the world is perhaps bigger still. Denver started JMP early last year, and faced this very choice, deciding to release all of JMP's code as free software and to charge money to use the instance he runs. In this session, Denver will describe why he chose to build a free software business, and will discuss the details of the business model he arrived at, alongside other business models for free software companies.

    Few contributors are paid to work on free software today, and far fewer are paid by non-profit organizations (or even by small businesses). It is imperative for us to explore how we can sell free software, especially through non-profits and small businesses, so we can bring freedom to more people and, just as importantly, build sustainable futures for our contributors.

More information is available on the LibrePlanet 2018 website.

Organized by the FSF, LibrePlanet is focused entirely on user freedom. We hope to see you there, in our talks or at the Conservancy booth in the exhibit hall.

Tags: conservancy, conferences

Join me at Free Society Conference and Nordic Summit!

by Bradley M. Kuhn on November 2, 2017

I'm delighted to be en route to Oslo, Norway as I write this post. I'll be speaking this weekend at FSCONS, the Free Society Conference and Nordic Summit. FSCONS is admittedly a small event, but has a theme that is absolutely intriguing and incredibly important to the future of software freedom. As can be read on the FSCONS website, the conference looks at the intersection of society, culture and technology. They invite speakers from throughout the Open Source and Free Software world as well as Free Culture and privacy and other technology activists.

I'll be giving a talk entitled The Crumbling Intellectual Infrastructure of Free Software & Free Culture Licensing. My talk will explore the history of Free Software and Free Culture licensing, how it relates to rise of for-profit popularity of Open Source, and the larger political and societal implications of where we are now. Admittedly the title sounds bleak, and I'm certainly known for my pessimistic talks about the future of software freedom, but I'll also include suggestions and ideas for activists to work to solve the problems our community now faces.

I want to thank in advance the great work of the organizers of FSCONS. Not only are they funding travel for speakers, but they've sent numerous clear and understandable emails about the weekend's events. It's made my planning smooth and easy.

I really encourage you to join us in Oslo this weekend; tickets are still available, and I did a quick check and round-trip flights from major cities in Europe this weekend to Oslo are around €200. I think it's well worth the trip! See you there!

Tags: conservancy, conferences

Late Summer Conference Report

by Karen Sandler on September 29, 2017

I’ve been traveling quite a lot recently and have had the good fortune of participating in some dynamite conferences. Often we’re so busy with our work and travel that we aren’t able to make the time to report on it properly, which results in a lot of our acomplishments and activities happening silently1. August’s travel was intense, and while my inbox backlog continues to be a bit unnerving, I’ve got to tell you about where I’ve been before September is completely over too!

GUADEC: GNOME’s 20th Birthday!

As many readers probably know, I’m an enthusiastic user and fan of GNOME. And, as the former Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation, I was so thrilled when I was invited to give a keynote speech at the annual main GNOME conference, GUADEC. Given that this year is GNOME’s 20th birthday, it was a special year to be able to participate in the conference.

GUADEC was invigorating. With Ubuntu returning to GNOME and the success of Endless and other commercial initiatives around GNOME, the GNOME community is optimistic and focused on the future. There were many new contributors but also a great showing amongst folks who have been around the community for a long time.

Photo of Karen in front of a banner at GUADEC

My talk focused on the personal ethical responsibilities of free software contributors and how GNOME contributors can engage in the process of steering our technology in the direction of transparency and security. While I wasn’t intending to talk about medical devices very much in my talk, for a majority of the audience this was their first GUADEC or free software conference and the topic came up to illustrate some of my main points. As a society we’re building our critical infrastructure on proprietary software, entrusting single companies with some of our most important information and interactions. I strongly believe that we need technologists to stand up for ethical technology now, especially within the companies that are producing it. I recommended that contributors engage with management to discuss the long term business advantages of doing the right thing. As it turned out, there were also several young attendees in the audience who have implanted medical devices so it was a great opportunity to connect. Over time, these issues will impact more and more people.

I was excited to see Neil McGovern, the GNOME Foundation’s new Executive Director, in action. After I moved to Conservancy, I served on a Hiring Committee to help the Foundation find the right person for this role. There were many very impressive candidates, but Neil was the stand out. Neil gave an inspiring freedom-focused talk, revealing the great job he’s already doing.

There was also a big party for GNOME’s 20th birthday which was a lot of fun. I moderated a panel on the history of GNOME, and learned a lot of fun tidbits about GNOME’s past! I was also excited to see the “Pants Award” go to Bastian Ilso, who puts together awesome videos for GNOME releases (and ropes me into doing the voiceovers too).

DebConf

Soon after I got back from GUADEC it was time to head to DebConf. I could only make it for part of DebConf, which definitely left me wishing I could have been there for the whole time.

Photo of Karen with Outreachy alums at DebConf

This time the conference was in Montreal, and I had the privilege of giving a presentation about Outreachy. The talk was very well attended and I left plenty of time for questions. The best part was getting to meet a number of Outreachy alums, mentors and coordinators.

I also had the opportunity to talk to Debian folks about the copyright aggregation project and to participate as a Debian Developer. This was my first Debian event since I became an official non-uploading Debian Developer. While I felt more of a responsibility to work proactively on things that Debian needed to have done, I also felt a strong sense of belonging in the community. When DebConf was held in New York seven years ago, I went briefly for a screening of Patent Absurdity, which I was interviewed in, but was so intimidated by the conference that I basically ran away immediately after! (Somewhat relatedly, I recently recorded a brief video about Imposter Syndrome.) Being recognized as an official contributor to the project helps not only to feel like your contributions are appreciated (even if they aren’t code) but also that you are more than welcome in a community - that you are a part of it.

FrOSCon

The last conference I got to this summer was FrOSCon. I hadn’t heard of this conference until recently and was surprised to learn how big it is. Primarily a local German conference, FrOSCon attracts almost 2000 people. Like FOSDEM, the event runs only over the weekend. Also like FOSDEM, the conference organization is extremely impressive. When I arrived the night before the conference, I went over to see if I could help get things set up but there were so many people there to help they actually had nothing for another person to do!

I was asked to do my standard medical devices talk as the first keynote of the conference, and I was glad I gave that particular talk - the room was full of people who hadn’t heard it. The questions I got were insightful and the enthusiasm in the discussions after I spoke was exciting. I also did a couple of interviews with local tech press reporters and met some fabulous people which led to great discussions. A few of us spontaneously gathered a working group on ethics for IoT and informed consent. Since then Emma Lilliestam, who also spoke at FrOSCon about issues related to software and cyborgs, has been writing up these issues and further developing thought on the topic.

Photo of file boxes set out during FRoSCon takedown

I fully appreciated the organization of the event when I stuck around to help with takedown.

It was amazing to see everything get taken down, cataloged and organized for next year. FrOSCon is definitely a conference I would recommend to others in the future.

While the summer is over, it seems like it’s always conference season. This evening I’m delivering a keynote presentation at Ohio Linux Fest, a conference I’ve always wanted to attend. While it’s a lot of travel, I’m grateful to get the opportunity to meet with so many people interested in free an open source software and to have the chance to encourage folks to think about the important issues of our day. If you attend any conference that I’m at, please be sure to say hello!

1 Conservancy has a staff of four full time people, which includes no marketers, campaigns people or anyone focused on PR.

Tags: conservancy, conferences, Outreachy

Git Merge and FOSDEM 2017!

by Karen Sandler on February 17, 2017

For me, FOSDEM this year started two days early with Git Merge, the annual Git conference. Git Merge is organized by GitHub, and so far in all three years of its organization the conference has donated the proceeds from ticket sales to Conservancy! I’d been hoping to get to Git Merge one of these years, so I was very excited with the organizing team asked me to do an talk introducing Conservancy.

I got to kick off the conference, and introduced myself by explaining how investigating my heart condition and defibrillator caused me to become passionate about software freedom. I then delved into what Conservancy does and in particular talked about some of the work we’ve done with Git. The talk had a good impact, and all day long I was able to speak with people who were excited about Conservancy and thinking about the ethics of all of our software. It’s always especially thrilling to speak at our member projects’ conferences. I love meeting up with leadership committee members and also putting faces to the names that we see go by while monitoring the activities of our projects.

Photo of Karen Sandler and Mike McQuaid at Conservancy's FOSDEM booth

Photo by Neil McGovern

FOSDEM is an extraordinary conference. A two-day whirlwind of activity, there are many more worthwhile things there than any one person can get to. The whole conference is completely community run and organized. Companies can buy neither stands nor talks in any of the devrooms, which keeps the quality really high. Thousands of people attend FOSDEM and there are great conversations happing everywhere. I find it incredibly difficult to balance seeing people, attending talks (even in my own devroom) and keeping the Conservancy stand running.

Fortunately for us, the FOSDEM organizers were very thoughtful and placed the Conservancy stand just across the hallway from the Legal & Policy devroom, which Bradley and I help organize. I spent most of the time running between the short distance between the two.

Photo of a child playing a game at Godot's FOSDEM booth

One of the major highlights for me was being at the stand with volunteers. Mike McQuaid (of Homebrew, another member project) and Spencer Krum both spent significant time at the booth loudly heckling people into becoming Conservancy Supporters. Stefan Hajnoczi (of QEMU, also a member project) took a quieter but no less dedicated approach. Michal Čihař spent a huge portion of his conference in our booth helping to promote phpMyAdmin and Conservancy. Having people who are giving of their time already so eloquently advocating for our organization was powerful, and helped me feel so energized about Conservancy. We’d launched our match donation that day, and I think it generated a lot of excitement at the booth. We also were lucky to be right next to the stand for one of Conservancy’s newer projects, the Godot Game Engine, which was very fun and convenient.

The Legal & Policy devroom is always fantastic, and while I wound up at the stand and in meetings for much of my time at FOSDEM, I still participated enough to really get a lot out of it. I spoke on a panel about permissive/dismissive licenses and another about fiscal sponsorship entities in Europe. FOSDEM video volunteers have been great, and video is already up for most of the sessions. A huge shout out to Tom Marble who does most of the heavy lifting in organizing the room. There are a lot of great places to discuss imporant legal issues but the FOSDEM devroom is one of my favorites. The talks this year were particularly interesting. I’m looking forward to catching up on the videos of the ones I missed.

Photo of Bradley Kuhn delivering his keynote at FOSDEM

I also really enjoyed Bradley’s keynote (we closed the stand down a little early so that we could all attend). Bradley is such an inspiring speaker, and I think he distilled a lot of the major issues facing copyleft and copyleft compliance.

I think part of the magic of FOSDEM is that it’s contained in a single weekend. While it’s inevitable to feel like you wished there were more time to catch up with all of the exceptional people who attend, and it’s exhausting to have no downtime over two days (I even missed the GNOME beers!) it’s just the right amount of time to fully immerse yourself in all things free software.

Tags: conservancy, conferences, Member Projects

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