advocacy

5 Tips for free software advocates

Free software advocacy is something I do -- both for a living and as a hobby. Over the years I've gleaned a few best practice tips and I thought I'd pass them on. They may not all work or even be applicable in your case, but I have found then all useful at some time or other. They are in no particular order and in my opinion carry equal amounts of weight.

Fighting the "legacy" reputations of GNU/Linux, seventeen years later

Regular readers of this column will know that I'm a fan of education and positive experience as an advocacy tool in place of shouting from rooftops. Winning the mindset of an average computer user -- particularly home users -- is never going to be a quick process but a recent experience showed me we still have some old and familiar hills to climb. How do we combat legacy reputations of GNU/Linux that are no longer valid?

Being open about "open" (source)

I’m not sure why it bothers me: I use the word "Free" when I’m talking about "Free Software", and "Open" when I mean "Open source". I’m very particular about my words, that way. But that's just me. I don't expect another religion to follow the rules of my own, or vice-versa. So why do I expect others to use words in the same way that I do? And why do I feel so cross about "Open standards", which come with proprietary documentation, a hefty price tag, and an NDA?

Let's stop playing the numbers game: free software has changed the game.

Tony Mobily's recent FSM post A future without Microsoft and the resulting comments have caused me to consider the way we use numbers to argue for free software in the marketplace. I'm not convinced that it's the best strategy because those waters are particularly muddy when it comes to comparing free and proprietary software.

Why Microsoft should not lose (and free software will still win)

There has always been a section of the free software community which has an anti-Microsoft agenda. It's almost like their mission statement is "It's not over until Microsoft is dead". Certainly there is a lot of feeling that if Microsoft went away, a lot of our problem would be over. But do Microsoft even need to "lose"; is there even a battle to be fought and if so what would constitute winning it?

Making free software culture feel right

Why it should be a lot more about feeling, rather than knowing, that free software and free culture is right.

Over the last ten years or so, free software has grown from being just a geek-phenomena. GNU/Linux has become a serious force in the business and server market with major companies now throwing their weight behind it. But on the consumer side of the market, things look still quite a bit different. Although GNU/Linux adoption has made some progress on the desktop too, it's still largely absent, Windows comes pre-installed on almost all new machines sold and you see even die-hard free software advocates using Mac OS X on their personal machine. Why is that?

Advocating free software in the real world

Recently, in this column, I spoke about how we can lose our free software choices if we don't use them. Sticking with that choice is not always easy so how do we get others to make it, particularly in a world where the choice is often made for them. How can we advocate free software in a world where others don't seem to care?

Why non-profits should use free software (and it's not why you'd think)

You might have gathered from my article about hosting free software events, I work and am interested in the UK Voluntary/Community Sector (VCS)[1]. I also am a user and advocate of free software and I have a desire to see it used more often in VCS and non-governmental (NG) organisations. I believe that these two groups should be some of the primary non-personal users of free software and here’s why.

It’s not about cost

How to host a free software advocacy event

On 2 Nov 2007, the Free Software Foundation Europe held an event in London, UK called "Free Software as a Social Innovation" to which I was fortunate to be invited. Run jointly with M6-IT CIC and described as an event to “help people learn more about Free Software and provide opportunities for hands-on experience with the technology”, it was aimed at those in the European not-for-profit[1] and non-governmental sectors (hereafter referred to as the third sector).

The LUG is dead - Long live the soulless marketing corporate junket

I can still remember my first LUG meeting; the Greater London Linux User Group at the GND building, London. I met developers, end users, geeks, sysadmins, and a magazine editor who, although neither of us knew it at the time, would later publish my first articles on Linux. These were people with intelligence, soul, and consideration. I had finally found a like-minded milieu for my free software tendancies.

To contrast, in my capacity as the local “geek about town”, I recently attended a one-off event intended to bring together the local geek community to examine the future of the Web 2.0 technology platform. Of all the people present I met only three geeks. Everyone else was a corporate schill wanting to tell me of how their corporate strategy was going to change the face of Web 2.0. Or a marketroid relentless pushing their closed-source buzzword-compliant platform. Or bourgeois recruiters intent solely on badmouthing every employer they didn’t represent. Or a hanger-on, desperate for free beer. Alas, this was not the first geek event hijacked by corporate import.

So what happened to the community?

Ideas for patent reform

Usually, I use this spot to rant about something, or someone that's riled me up in some way. My lack of discussion on software patents doesn't mean I agree with them, it's just that everyone else has been doing it. I couldn't see why I should do so and be seen as just another blogger with nothing better to do with my time.

Someone that has plenty of things to do with their time is Simon Phipps. He was brought into Sun to work up their Open Source strategy, and was instrumental in getting Java released under the GPL. And he still has enough energy left to be a great speaker. I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing him talk last night, where he introduced his ideas for software patent form. Let's face it - software patents are going to happen, so we might as well be constructive about it and guide it in the right direction, so it can be implemented in a manner with which we are agreeable.

My massive quantitative study on free software gets an update

My paper “Why OSS/FS? Look at the Numbers!” is a massive collection of quantitative studies on free software, with the goal to “show that you should consider using OSS/FS when acquiring software”. It has a large set of different studies grouped into the categories market share, reliability, performance, scalability, security, and total cost of ownership.

If you need evidence, not anecdotes, it’s been the place to go. But it was last updated in 2005, so the latest information hasn’t been included. Finally, a brand-new 2007 edition is available, with lots of additions.

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