As the New Year swiftly approaches, it’s time to write those resolutions. From exercising more, eating fewer snacks, or remembering to call your mother on her birthday, we all think of various ways we can improve our lives, by starting good habits or ending bad ones. I’d like to suggest some resolutions that will assist you in your pursuit of free software.
Contribute to a free software project
Support comes in many forms; while monetary donations are always welcome, constructive feedback in the form of comments or bug reports help make a project improve. If you like or dislike a particular feature, tell the developers! Many projects utilize testimonials when marketing their services. It’s also a confidence booster for the people toiling innumerable hours to know that someone supports their efforts; behind every great product is a team of people.
Help spread the word about a particular product or service that you enjoy
If you find a solution that works for you, then by all means tell others about it. An email to friends or family, starting a forum discussion, or even a few kind words in passing can improve another user’s experience. If you don’t talk about it, nobody will know about it; even if you’ve found a gem, it’ll get buried and lost in the ever evolving landscape of choice.
Donate to a non-profit legal organization
Good recipients include the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), who work to preserve online rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who defends and preserves the individual rights and liberties of individuals, or another equivalent non-profit organization that supports freedom of expression. It’s important to protect your ability to express yourself and to be able to freely choose between alternatives, and with your support, these non-profit organizations will be able to continue the struggle to maintain your electronic freedom.
Try to replace at least one commercial product you use with a free alternative once a month
Just because something comes in a shiny box or has a slick marketing campaign doesn’t mean it’s automatically superior, but just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s any better. Take the time to evaluate alternatives to develop an informed decision, and you’ll improve your quality of life and work. When making changes, it’s easier to make a gradual transition rather than just pulling the tablecloth out and expecting the glassware to stay intact.
When talking to others about free software, remember not to be too pushy
There’s nothing more obnoxious than unwanted and arrogant advice; if you’re openly hostile or sneering in a discussion, you’ll invalidate your argument regardless of whether you’re right. As hard as it may be, don’t preach; educate instead. Think of that know-it-all who hovered over your shoulder, scoffing at your obviously inferior choices. Do you want to be that guy? Didn’t think so.
In the end...
If you adopt even one of these resolutions, I’m sure you’ll be happy with the result. It’ll definitely be easier on your conscience than making a promise that you know you’ll cast aside in a week or two, like running a mile a day regardless of rain, sleet or snow. I wish you and yours the very best in the years to come!