Posts Tagged 'services'

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.

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.

What is a network service?

A network service is an instance of a software that runs reliably for a period of time and which links together people over space and time.

But who brings together the software needed to run a service? That would be the service maintainer(s). She/he is the one who wields the power of the software to enable communication between people. And linked people communicating build together culture.

To sum up: culture builds on services, which in turn builds upon software and maintainer’s work.