The state of the freedom services and what can you do about it

First, if you don’t know what freedom services are you should read autonomo.us because that is what this page is all about.

I think most of the problems of freedom services are coming from slow communication in the implementation world. That is people that could run a software long enough for it to become a reliable service are not connected to one another. Ok, they are connected with the developers of that software and they meet other users there, but this is not enough! That is a community dedicated to designing and writing software, but we need a community focused on running software services.We need a place where people with middleware expertise (such as Wikipedia maintainers) meet people with web server expertise, database expertise, generic server-side programmers, Ajax programmers, but also find investors, people with new services ideas.

So the problem in my opinion is the gap in communication between people with resources needed for a network service:

  • some people have the money to finance it (or have extra hosting space, extra bandwidth), but don’t have the time;
  • others have the time and willingness to run or maintain a freedom service, but don’t have the money or don’t know what service to run;
  • others have ideas of what kind of a service they should build, but don’t have the money or the determination to run it –  this is most likely a potential user with a bright idea.

Wikimedia / Wikipedia is one of the most popular services (Alleba 2007 – Top10 most popular sites), yet only a handful of individuals maintain it’s 400 servers – a few guys and gals (see Wikimedia staff here). Yes, they do a great job as they are, but, if they could afford it, I’m sure they would hire more people.

Cluenet.org is an organization of volunteers maintains a network of 20 servers: they have the hosting space and bandwidth to run much more services than they do now, but they never reach the potential they have because they don’t know people with ideas. They run freedom network services, just that they don’t know it yet. And they need services to build upon their own. They hosted the Freedomware Gamefest, the only online gamefest in history to use only freedom software.

Myself, during highschool (around 2003-2004) I had a lot of free time which I wanted to invest in configuration, maintaining and running a service because there was much to learn about network services and I could not learn it other than in a real world situation. But I had no money to build a service nor did I know what service should I build. Last year, I had money and I new what service I wanted to build, but I was a full time employee at a proprietary software company so I had no time. Now, I am unemployed so I have a lot of free time, I know want to build this very community service, but I have little money. I never had all I needed all by myself, I need outside help to succeed – I want to solve this problem for myself and all others like me.

Right now I dream about such a community, but I dream alone, so please help this effort by dreaming along with me. Let’s call it <Service World> or <Freedom Services Social Network>… or make a suggestion! In fact people of the old business world would call this a virtual business incubator. This much I know so far, so it should:

  • have application type sections (web server section, database section, WikiMedia, PHP… you get the picture) – ExpertsExchange has a pretty good hierachy
  • offer opportunities for organizations looking for volunteers or sponsored workers
  • offer advice on how to build a community around a service
  • have an idea service pool
  • should offer legal advice
  • software for the community would be under the AGPLv3 license, content would be CC-BY-SA
  • this needs not to be the single such community, so please copy it, redo it.

Let us dream what this could be and let us make it reality! Let’s rock the network services world.

Freedom is an enabler of future features

In the absence of a charismatic leader that stands up for freedom people will place it on a second plane. Fighting for freedom means sacrificing our present selves for the betterment of the future us. In my opinion most people are not capable of such a thing on their own. See more on my original article FSM  – my own piece about freedom

Failure of parental control software

Just wrote a comment about the failure of parental control software see more about it here See the two comments made by me under the name Bogdan Bivolaru: http://www.lockergnome.com/it/2009/06/15/how-fast-kids-grow-up-these-days/

I can’t link to the comment directly.

‘Freedomware’ terms and concepts

I hope you noticed that thoroughout my blog I try to use freedom software or freedomware. I wrote this page as an explanation and to avoid misnaming in the community and to strengthen the brand ‘freedom software’.
NB: I don’t hold much love for marketing or the current advertising mechanism, but I had to use the term brand.

That is because I am trying to avoid ambigous related terms such as:

  • free software which can be interpreted as ‘no money’ or ‘gratis’ OR software under a free license (of course the Free Software Foundation cannot be avoided)
  • FOSS – which makes people say “what is this new acronym? Eah, I don’t care, I’skip it”
  • FLOSS – what is this? a string to clean people’s teeth?
  • open source – it refers to the ability to write a piece of software collaboratively, but it does not reflect any ethical dimension, it’s not the same as free software.
  • linux – many people in the proprietary world or even the general public tend to refer to the freedom software as just ‘linux’
    This is outrageous! Reducing the whole community to just one project or one piece of software is unacceptable for me.
  • Anti-microsoft – I heard people (mostly paid microsoft trolls) who claim that freedom software community actually means anti-microsoft. This is just wrong, I won’t bother explain this if you don’t know it already.’

Freedomware is short for freedom software and I like it because it’s just as short as free software, while it tells the whole concept, such as ‘free (as in freedom) software’ or ‘free (as in free speech, not as in free beer) software’. It leaves no doubt that it refers to software that provides the four freedoms of free software. While I think freedomware can be confused for ‘freeware’ when spoken, I still think it’s preferable to free software. I would like to point that when spoken one should prefer to use the longer term ‘freedom software’. Also read the free software page at Wikipedia.

Also I try to use GNU/Linux when I refer to the generic class of operating systems running Linux kernels because most of them include software from the GNU Project, such as gcc… Although many would point out that most of the software coming from the GNU Project is not used by average users nowadays, I am not calling it GNU/Linux for historical reasons or because we should pay homage to Richard Stallman, I do so because the most important contribution from that project was the GNU General Public License, the license under which the Linux kernel and most other freedom software is released.

I call it GNU/Linux because we should always preserve the spirit that brought us together and that is the spirit of the GNU Project, not Linux, nor open source. Likewise the BSD software community keeps its spirit alive by calling thier operating systems FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, PC-BSD and so on…

PS: While I host my views and terms dear, I don’t try to push them down to other people’s throats and I don’t enjoy others doing the same on my own blog.

Added a photo iconAdded a photo icon

Changed the site image to be less bland:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rene_ehrhardt/2390754091

Found on Flickr. Licensed by René Ehrhardt under CC-BY

Proprietary services or free desktop software?

Actually that question is more of a flame bait or a non-starter for a real discussion. I would answer it by choosing a third option, freedom cloud service. Read on to find more about it.

There are some people, RMS for example, who say that freedom minded individuals should avoid using proprietary services. I’m not going to defend proprietary, but if we think that people are going to give up on proprietary services, and go back to the desktop, as the only alternative, we are fooling ourselves. Once people have discovered network services and the collaboration that can be done with it, they are never going back to the desktop and working offline. Working on the desktop is like taking notes while watching TV: nobody is ever going to know about it and people work to make themselves known! The people’s short term need is to communicate with others, and, even if on the long term that means they give up their freedom, short term needs always prevail. Short term communication will always win against long-term freedom. A service will always win against a piece of software.

No doubt, on the long term, if we do not build freedom services that are consistently better than their proprietary counterpart, proprietary service maintainers can insert proprietary plugins both on the client side. We are going to lose the progress we have achieved on the free desktop software and people’s data will be just as locked in as with the old proprietary software.

We need not to advocate for going back to the desktop free software, because that is a losing battle, we need to build freedom services that fill the communication gap between people better than the proprietary do. We need a process to help us design and maintain a freedom service consistently better than we currently do.

I agree ‘cloud computing’ is a trap, I disagree on the way out of it. I say we should build an alternative freedom service cloud. I will cover how to build such a freedom service and problems associated with it in a later post.

Why freedomware services are important?

Free network services, or freedomware services, matter because they bridge communication channels between people across space and time.

The digital equivalent of the Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park in the Internet Age are WordPress.com, Youtube.com and Flickr.com.  In fact the ‘speech’ from the saying ‘free as in speech, not as in beer’ is the perfect example of a freedomware network service. Free speech, upon which the free market relies on heavily, relies in turn on free press which is still a service.

I started to get involved more with free(dom) software when I began to realize that working collaboratively is much more effective than individual work. That was after I read an essay at Life is not read-only.

Soon after, I learned that other people need to work collaboratively, too. So I wanted to expand the posibilites of collaborative working from software creation and Wikipedia to many other fields of knowledge. There are already services that build and enhance this collaboration: for example, vector graphic artists build OpenClipArt, lawyers and law officers build Jurispedia, Identi.ca helps users share small tidbits of information. In addition to creating a free culture that can be used in free software, such participants also understand better than the average non-programmer how the freedom software world works and are most likely to be the best at spreading the word amongst their kind about freedom software and culture.



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