Richard Fontana

Native New Yorker/Brooklynite, now in exile

IAAL. Views in dents solely mine & not those of any past|present employer|client. Fear not the long con!

  • Software Freedom Doesn't Kill People, Your Security Through Obscurity Kills People

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2016-08-13T13:55:18Z


    The time has come that I must speak out against the inappropriate rhetoric used by those who (ostensibly) advocate for FLOSS usage in automotive applications.

    There was a catalyst that convinced me to finally speak up. I heard a talk today from a company representative of a software supplier for the automotive industry. He said during his talk: "putting GPLv3 software in cars will kill people" and "opening up the source code to cars will cause more harm than good". These statements are completely disingenuous. Most importantly, it ignores the fact that proprietary software in cars is at least equally, if not more, dangerous. At least one person has already been killed in a crash while using a proprietary software auto-control system. Volkswagen decided to take a different route; they decided to kill us all slowly (rather than quickly) by using proprietary software to lie about their emissions and illegally polluting our air.

    Meanwhile, there has been not a single example yet about use of GPLv3 software that has harmed anyone. If you have such an example, email it to me and I promise to add it right here to this blog post.

    So, to the auto industry folks and vendors who market to/for them: until you can prove that proprietary software assures safety in a way that FLOSS cannot, I will continue to tell you this: in the long and sad tradition of the Therac 25, your proprietary software has killed people, both quickly and slowly, and your attacks on GPLv3 and software freedom are not only unwarranted, they are clearly part of a political strategy to divert attention from your own industry's bad behavior and graft unfair blame onto FLOSS.

    As a side note, during the talk's Q&A session, I asked this company's representatives how they assure compliance with the GPLv2 — particularly their compliance with provision of scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable, which are so often missing for many products, including vehicles. The official answer was: Oh, I don't know. Not only does this company publicly claim security through obscurity is a viable solution, accuse copyleft advocates of endangering the public safety, they also seem to have not fully learned the lessons of making FLOSS license compliance a clear part of their workflow.

    This is, unfortunately, my general impression of the status of the automotive industry.

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    @MikeLinksvayer, I do think license politics matter. I can't get past the fact that the bifrication of "non-copyleft good", 'copyleft bad" has won and been a great part of the cooption by Open Source of software freedom. But you and I should talk more about how I can modify advocacy to avoid it better so as to succeed in reaching those who are annoyed by such -- I suspect there is a way that I just don't see yet. I've been meaning to call anyway so I will after my current trip. :)

    @Richard Fontana, I decided not to call out the specific name of the person who gave the talk. The statements were typical of those made by many different automotive industry representatives and their providers over a period of years. The fact that this particular individual wasn't any better or worse than others I've heard, so there was no reason to single him out. The problem is the general auto-industry rhetoric and talking points, not one person's version of it.

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2016-08-16T10:32:10Z

    @bkuhn While I agree with most of your post, I don't know if it's fair to say that the Tesla crash was due to proprietary software.

    The Tesla self-driving system, I'm almost certain, relies on machine learning and a neural network. I suspect that even if their algorithms were free software, accidents would occur at the same rate, at least in the short term. The way I understand it, the source code isn't all that important, it's the training data gathered during all the millions of miles driven on the road. Without the data, you're not able to run the program yourself in any useful way other than what you already do by just driving the car. Even if you had access to the data, the volume is so gigantic that you probably wouldn't be able to train the program without expensive infrastructure. Neither would you be able to study the program in a meaningful way, since the neural network isn't "source code" comprehensible to a human.

    I do think self-driving cars would eventually be safer if their training data were open; the more training data, the better, and self-driving car manufacturers would be able to make self-driving cars safer for everyone if they would make their accumulated training data interoperable, so we would benefit in the long term. But for this particular accident I don't believe the blame rests with proprietary software.

    I'm curious what you think. I tend to think that many machine learning applications don't fit within the traditional separation between free versus proprietary software, because even if they are open, they don't afford a user the four freedoms. This is something I've been musing about recently, which is why I reacted to that particular portion of your post, but I don't know the answer.

    Philip Chimento at 2016-09-02T03:49:32Z

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    The Tesla system would make the world even better if it were Free Software, but according to the data that Tesla themselves have gathered (duly noted), their system has killed fewer people, proportionally, than humans driving cars have.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) at 2016-09-06T17:49:27Z

    @bkuhn the key word in my comment is 'retreat'. Apparently this person said "putting GPLv3 software in cars will kill people". Instead of extracting the substance from the license politics and making the case that safety is compatible with (or even requires) that car owners be able to install modified versions of software running on computers in cars, you took the license politics hook line and sinker, making facile claims about GPLv3 software never harming people (for what definition of harm? but nevermind, uninteresting) worthy of a TV soundbite but unworthy of any other form of discourse.

    Mike Linksvayer at 2016-09-07T01:43:44Z

  • MC Rove

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2016-02-25T03:22:13Z

    For the rest of my life, when I hear the phrase "treasuer trove", which Gwenn Ifill just used on the PBS Newshour (on a completely unrelated topic), I will forever and always think of this:

    I'm busy working, but I heard Ifill say "treasuer trove" from the other room and I shouted: "Is it MC ROOOVE?"

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  • Dead Kennedys

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2016-01-27T21:03:19Z

    I randomly heard something on my first of two flights to FOSDEM that made me think of the Dead Kennedys. It was just 2 hrs ago but I can't recall what it was. I was inspired, despite that I almost never listen to music on purpose, I grabbed a few Dead Kennedys albums out of my archives.

    I suppose I'm incredibly biased given that they are my favorite band in history, but I'm amazed at how well their stuff holds up. The political predictions and concerns they had, while sometimes juvenile in thier expression, are more or less what *was* happening and the types of political problems they describe persist.

    I *do* notice a certain obsession with their own industry; I'd forgotten how many of their songs were mostly or partly about the problems of the music industry itself. While I suspect those problems have gotten worse (not better) too, I am reminded at how easy it is for politicial insiders to tend toward what the PR people call "inside baseball".

    My problem in Free Software is, like fontana, I just *love* the so-called "inside baseball". I mean, people forget that baseball fans love it when people talk "inside baseball". Yes, it's limited in its interest scope, but the details matter.

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    DK is one of my all-time favorites, as well.  Used to cover some of their songs in a former band of mine.  "Pull My Strings" is the "inside baseball" song that immediately came to mind after reading this.  NOFX is another punk band that spends a lot of time talking about the music industry, or even narrower, the state of punk rock itself.

    BTW, Jello Biafra is still making music in a group called "Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine" which is also (as if the name didn't give it away) very political.

    David Thompson at 2016-01-28T14:34:55Z

    It's always nice to hear of a fellow Dead Kennedys fan. Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, In God We Trust Inc, and Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death are three of my favorite albums, and carry the body of some of their best work.

    Also, Kinky Sex Makes the World Go Round feels chillingly accurate.

    Sean Tilley at 2016-01-28T23:47:49Z

  • OSCON Has an anti-Open-Source keynote (again)

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-10-27T08:57:41Z

    Wow, OSCON EU has a keynote from a Ninh Bui and Hongli Lai from Phusion wherein they argue that (a) non-profit models of fundraising for Open Source will never work and should never be used (I have proven this wrong for decades of course), and (b) that "passive income" through proprietary software add-ons is the only revenue model that is reasonable, because you have to "work too hard" to do other models. They further claim that people who have a problem with "Open Core" proprietary add-ons are a vocal minority that won't cause you too much trouble.

    TL;DR: "Proprietary software can make you wealthy so you don't have to work hard, so you should do that, and try to exploit your Open Source community. Those software freedom advocates are a minority so shout them down and they'll shut up, becuase you should be allowed to get wealthy, no matter what you have to do"

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    For clarity, this is likely a purchased keynote? I know that O'Reilly and OSCON themselves believe "you should be allowed to get wealthy, no matter what you have to do" to some extent, per the fact that they *sell* keynotes and talks which can then bypass all normal curation and acceptance procedures…

    Aaron Wolf at 2015-10-27T19:09:25Z

  • You should consider the fact that your project isn't changing the face of computing

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-10-27T08:37:37Z

    If you start a technical talk with the sentence that the technology you working on "changes the way we're all thinking about computing", then you are (a) believing your own hype and (b) shouldn't be believed or trusted as a technical expert.

    Very little has changed fundamentally about computing in many decades. The details change, platforms change, but there are two ways to do computing: you do it on a machine in front of you or you do it on a machine on some network, and you have connections between the two.

    The rest is details. Yes, we've invented ways to do the details better, or worse, as the case may be.

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    Yep, that kind of sentence is a real warning sign xD

    JanKusanagi @i at 2015-10-27T12:38:24Z

    Or (c) you are willfully lying, and treating the technical talk as a pure marketing of the worse kind.

    Where is the "acclames this post loudly by hitting a spear on a shield" button?

    Elena ``of Valhalla'' at 2015-10-30T06:23:53Z

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    >> Elena ``of Valhalla'':

    “[...] Where is the "acclames this post loudly by hitting a spear on a shield" button? [...]”

    There isn't one, but you can just post "AU! AU! AUUUU!!!!!" xD

    JanKusanagi @i at 2015-10-30T12:49:04Z

    There isn't one *yet* but once folk get the hang of extensions to ActivityStreams2.0, it should be right at the top of the to-do list

    SombreKnave at 2015-10-30T18:51:58Z

  • Open Source Initiative Publishes Statement of Support for Conservancy's Enforcement PrinciplesRUL

    Software Freedom Conservancy at 2015-10-13T18:59:42Z


    Today the Open Source Initiative (OSI) made a statement in support of the Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement, which were recently co-published by the Free Software Foundation and Conservancy.

    Publishing these guiding principles clearly explicates community-oriented enforcement, removes uncertainty for companies who face compliance actions, and also provides criteria for evaluating whether license compliance is in the community's interest. The principles enumerated in the document include prioritizing software freedom over all other ancillary goals, using legal action only as a last resort, and offering flexibility on rights restoration under GPLv2's termination clause (GPLv2§4). Allison Randal, president of OSI co-authored these Principles collaboratively with the FSF's and Conservancy's leadership.

    OSI's statement, entitled “The importance of community-oriented GPL enforcement” discusses the important role of Conservancy's and FSF's principles document in community best practices. OSI comments: While the OSI's work doesn't include legal enforcement actions for the GPL or any of the family of licenses that conform to the Open Source Definition, we applaud these principle as set forth by the FSF and Conservancy, clearly defining community best practices around GPL enforcement.

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  • DebConf Keynote Video & other DebConf comments.

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-08-16T12:25:02Z

    I'm here at DebConf and I just met someone who follows me here on at DebConf. I'm really glad to know there are other people than the "usual suspects" :) following me here. is not perfect, or even, um, all that easy to use, but I'm glad there are people that are committed to free as in freedom social networking systems.

    And, as another note, a lot of people have said really kind and friendly things to me here at DebConf about my work. This is a very unstressful conference for me: so many people like what I do here. *Such* a difference between the trade association conferences where everyone walking around things I'm that "infamous GPL enforcement guy". Here at DebConf, I appear to be the "famous and often-thanked GPL enforcement guy".

    As I said in my keynote here, I truly love the people in the Debian project.

    Speaking of which, here's a link to my keynote video:

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    Famous and not-thanked-enough GPL enforcement guy, I'd say!

    Elena ``of Valhalla'' at 2015-08-24T12:08:47Z

  • Richard Fontana at 2015-07-17T10:40:35Z

    We could easily clarify that no 'reverse passing off' claim is made on any binaries built from copyleft-next code,

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  • Stephen Michael Kellat at 2015-07-16T00:16:06Z

    Well, this will still get interesting. I had the opportunity to read through the toybox rationale against copyleft and am not satisfied with that write-up either. As I see through work at my employer, someone determined to get something will try very hard to make it happen regardless of the preparations in place. Compliance violators don't like to come into compliance either.

    In the can we appropriately address this in copyleft-next?

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    We could easily clarify that no 'reverse passing off' claim is made on any binaries built from copyleft-next code,

    Richard Fontana at 2015-07-17T10:40:35Z

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  • Thoughts on Canonical, Ltd.'s Updated Ubuntu IP Policy

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-07-15T22:49:28Z


    Most of you by now have probably seen Conservancy's and FSF's statements regarding the today's update to Canonical, Ltd.'s Ubuntu IP Policy. I have a few personal comments, speaking only for myself, that I want to add that don't appear in the FSF's nor Conservancy's analysis. (I wrote nearly all of Conservancy's analysis and did some editing on FSF's analysis, but the statements here I add are my personal opinions and don't necessarily reflect the views of the FSF nor Conservancy, notwithstanding that I have affiliations with both orgs.)

    First of all, I think it's important to note the timeline: it took two years of work by two charities to get this change done. The scary thing is that compared to their peers who have also violated the GPL, Canonical, Ltd. acted rather quickly. As Conservancy pointed out regarding the VMware lawsuit, it's not uncommon for these negotiations to take even four years before we all give up and have to file a lawsuit. So, Canonical, Ltd. resolved the matter at least twice as fast as VMware, and they deserve some credit for that — even if other GPL violators have set the bar quite low.

    Second, I have to express my sympathy for the positions on this matter taken by Matthew Garrett and Jonathan Riddell. Their positions show clearly that, while the GPL violation is now fully resolved, the community is very concerned about what the happens regarding non-copylefted software in Ubuntu, and thus Ubuntu as a whole.

    Realize, though, that these trump clauses are widely used throughout the software industry. For example, electronics manufacturers who ship an Android/Linux system with standard, disgustingly worded, forbid-everything EULA usually include a trump clause not unlike Ubuntu's. In such systems, usually, the only copylefted program is the kernel named Linux. The rest of the distribution includes tons of (now proprietarized) non-copylefted code from Android (as well as a bunch of born-proprietary applications too). The trump clause assures the software freedom rights for that one copylefted work present, but all the non-copylefted ones are subject to the strict EULA (which often includes “no reverse engineer clauses”, etc.). That means if the electronics company did change the Android Java code in some way, you can't even legally reverse engineer it — even though it was Apache-licensed by upstream.

    This whole situation seems to me a simple argument for why copyleft matters. Copyleft can and does (when someone like me actually enforces it) prevent these types of situations. But copyleft is not infinitely expansive. Nearly every full operating system distribution available includes an aggregated mix of copylefted, non-copyleft, and often fully-proprietary userspace applications. Nearly every company that distributes them wraps the whole thing with some agreement that restricts some rights that copyleft defends, and then adds a trump clause that gives an exception just for FLOSS license compliance. I have never seen a trump clause that guarantees copyleft-like compliance for non-copylefted programs and packages. Thus, the problem with Ubuntu is just a particularly bad example of what has become a standard industry practice by nearly every “open source” company.

    How badly these practices impact software freedom depends on the strictness and detailed terms of the overarching license (and not the contents of the trump clause itself; they are generally isomorphic0). The task of analyzing and rating “relative badness” of each overarching licensing document is monumental; there are probably thousands of different ones in use today. Matthew Garrett points out why Canonical, Ltd.'s is particularly bad, but that doesn't mean there aren't worse (and better) situations of a similar ilk. Perhaps our next best move is to use copyleft licenses more often, so that the trump clauses actually do more.

    In other words, as long as there is non-copylefted software aggregated in a given distribution of an otherwise Free Software system, companies will seek to put non-Free terms on top of the non-copylefted parts, To my knowledge, every distribution-shipping company (except for extremely rare, Free-Software-focused companies like ThinkPenguin) place some kind of restrictions in their business terms for their enterprise distribution products. Everyone seems to be asking me today to build the “worst to almost-benign” ranking of these terms, but I've resisted the urge to try. I think the safe bet is to assume that if you're looking at one of these trump clauses, there is some sort of software-freedom-unfriendly restriction floating around in the broader agreement, and you should thus just avoid that product entirely. Or, if you really want to use it, fork it from source and relicense the non-copylefted stuff under copyleft licenses (which is permitted by nearly all non-copyleft licenses), to prevent future downstream actors from adding more restrictive terms. I'd even suggest this as a potential solution to the current Ubuntu problem (or, better yet, just go back upstream to Debian and do the same :).

    Finally, IMO the biggest problem with these “overarching licenses with a trump clause” is their use by companies who herald “open source” friendliness. I suspect the community ire comes from a sense of betrayal. Yet, I feel only my usual anger at proprietary software here; I don't feel betrayed. Rather, this is just another situation that proves that saying you are an “open source company” isn't enough; only the company's actions and “fine print” terms matter. Now that open source has really succeeded at coopting software freedom, enormous effort is now required to ascertain if any company respects your software freedom. We must ignore the ballyhoo of “community managers” and look closely at the real story.

    0Despite Canonical, Ltd.'s use of a trump clause, I don't think these various trump clauses are canonically isomorphic. There is no natural mapping between these various trump clauses, but they all do have the same effect: they assure that when the overarching terms conflict with the a FLOSS license, the FLOSS license triumphs over the overarching terms, no matter what they are. However, the potential relevance of the phrase “canonical isomorphism” here is yet another example why it's confusing and insidious that Canonical, Ltd. insisted so strongly on using canonical in a non-canonical way.

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    Well, this will still get interesting. I had the opportunity to read through the toybox rationale against copyleft and am not satisfied with that write-up either. As I see through work at my employer, someone determined to get something will try very hard to make it happen regardless of the preparations in place. Compliance violators don't like to come into compliance either.

    In the can we appropriately address this in copyleft-next?

    Stephen Michael Kellat at 2015-07-16T00:16:06Z

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  • Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-07-06T22:01:04Z

    Fontana, I think (since you don't disclose your year of birth), that you are a few years older than me. It may turn out that Journey's popularity missed you by a few years.

    They charted in the early 1980s.

    Those who grew up in the USA with formative years in the 1980s probably realize that radio airplay in the USA during that time, mixed with the burgeoning MTV, made "missing" the big current band virtually impossible.

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  • Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-07-06T22:01:35Z

    retroactively is really disturbing.

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  • Did You Actually Read the Lower Court's Decision?

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-07-04T20:13:07Z

    I'm seeing plenty of people, including some non-profit organizations along with the usual punditocracy, opining on the USA Supreme Court's denial for a writ of certiorari in the Oracle v. Google copyright infringement case. And, it's not that I expect everyone in the world to read my blog, but I'm amazed that people who should know better haven't bothered to even read the lower Court's decision, which is de-facto upheld upon denial by the Supreme Court to hear the appeal.

    I wrote at great length about why the decision isn't actually a decision about whether APIs are copyrightable, and that the decision actually gives us some good clarity with regard to the issue of combined work distribution (i.e., when you distribute your own works with the copyrighted material of others combined into a single program). The basic summary of the blog post I linked to above is simply: The lower Court seemed genially confused about whether Google copy-and-pasted code, as the original trial seems to have inappropriately conflated API reimplemenation with code cut-and-paste.

    No one else has addressed this nuance of the lower Court's decision in the year since the decision came down, and I suspect that's because in our TL;DR 24-hour-news cycle, it's much easier for the pundits and organizations tangentially involved with this issue to get a bunch of press over giving confusing information.

    So, I'm mainly making this blog post to encourage people to go back and read the decision and my blog post about it. I'd be delighted to debate people if they think I misread the decision, but I won't debate you unless you assure me you read the lower Court's decision in its entirety. I think that leaves virtually no one who will. :-/

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  • Stephen Michael Kellat at 2015-06-30T23:52:35Z

    Do we count birthdays for copyleft-next or does it officially have a Date of Death?

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    copyleft-next has a target maturity date which is July 4, 2032. The 1.0.0 release is expected to be out no later than that date, and probably much earlier.

    Richard Fontana at 2015-07-02T15:12:19Z

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    But in any case, for US people the birthday of copyleft-next is easy to remember.

    Richard Fontana at 2015-07-02T15:15:09Z

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    Actually the contemplated Date of Death for copyleft-next would be the anticipated adoption of copyleft-next 1.0.0 as the GNU GPLv4.

    Richard Fontana at 2015-07-02T15:32:02Z

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  • Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-06-30T21:10:23Z

    It's also the 24th anniversary of GPLv2 this month, BTW.

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  • Charity Fundraising

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-05-08T00:02:01Z

    This is completely scattered and unclear, but I doubt I have time to work this into a clearer blog post, and if I save it to edit later, it won't see the light of day, so I'm just going to post it. Here goes:

    Is it only because I'm a non-profit geek that I become jealous of public radio fundraising drives, thinking: "If only what my org did could easily interrupt the flow of publicmix benefit it does for 5 minutes to explain why donations are needed?"

    I'm not a fan of Shareware, but I do think, say, what Wikipedia does for fundraising is reasonable (the banners could be a little smaller, but that's a minor tweak).

    However, most Free Software projects, and even more, orgs that serve the needs of Free Software projects just don't have the ability to interrupt the flow of the "public benefit work" to remind the public of the importance of the work. But, if you take a look, orgs that can do that have had a much easier time getting funding. WMF is a very wealthy org, as are most public radio stations.

    It's just tough not to be jealous. My colleagues and I talk in terms of "how in the world can we raise another $N", where $N << 100,000. These are numbers that other charities can raise so easily, merely by doing a fundraising drive via their "standard medium". For other orgs, they can only raise that much when there is a huge crisis, and those donors don't repeat the following year, so you get to do some good work for a while, and then what?

    I read a study a long time ago arguing that NPOs should invest much much more in fundraising overhead, since the study showed orgs that did that increased size (and thus public good work done) by orders of magnitude.

    Maybe that principle applies easily to the typical org, which has a simple and clear message of what it does that is hard to criticize, but what if you're raising money for a radical cause that lots of powerful people have convinced many would-be donors shouldn't exist at all? Think about how GPL enforcement has been portrayed by the powers-that-be, and you'll get a sense of why it's not like raising money for an animal shelter. (And yes, I give to animal shelters; it's not that I'm against them, I'm just saying that some of these things are just easier to raise money for).

    This is the world I live in. And, while fundraising is thankfully not my job anymore, everyone who works for a small non profit has to help on this, particularly when the charity is so taxed by overwork that everyone fights proverbial fires all day.

    Which just brings me back to jealousy. I always try to set it aside, but it's tough not to. I try not to think about the OpenStack party at OSCON 2013 that looked, upon inspection of the event and back-of-napkin calculations, to cost more than a year of Conservancy's operations (gratis FIji water and full bar with mixed drinks for hundreds of people?!?!). I try not think about the fact that Oregon Public Radio, whose fundraising drive has been playing the whole time I've been writing this, probably will raise Conservancy's entire annual budget just this week, just during All Things Considered.

    To combat the jealousy, my new way of approaching this situation is simply this: basically, if people don't give to Conservancy, it's my fault, not theirs. If Conservancy can't fund its rather meager operations, I and my coworkers just weren't doing work that mattered to the world. Conservancy just shouldn't exist if people don't want to fund it. I've worked for charities where the leadership had a fundraising "sense of entitlement" that they deserved to get donations because of who they were. I certainly never want to work at a place like that again.

    But, this in turn leads me into a sprial of self-loathing: if so few people actually support Conservancy's work, then I am clearly wasting my life.

    I've thus generally come to the conclusion that being a radical activist requires a careful balance of self-righteousness and humility. I've not met a single person, including myself, who has gotten an appropriate balance on that front. I've also seen a bunch of people move away from radical activism because they leaned too far in one direction.

    e.g. I've met people who got so self-righteous about their cause, that they conflated it with their own professional success. I've also met people so humble that they can't motivate themselves to do anything bold in activism because they feel they just "aren't important enough to make a difference".

    I want to be neither, but hopefully you see why I think it's a balance of those two seemingly incompatible tendencies found in activists.

    OTOH, there's really no room for jealousy, but to deny that jealousy exists is simply not being introspective. As I said to someone recently when discussing this issue of "pecking order of charity jealousy": "someone on the block always has a nicer house". Every charity is jealous of the charity that has 3-5x its budget. I know for sure: because when you talk to colleagues frankly at other non-profits, you can tell them how jealous you are of them, and they'll tell you who they're jealous of. That's how I figured out that 3-5x "jealousy number". :)

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    A FaiF episode in the style of NPR fundraising would be good theater.

    Mike Linksvayer at 2015-05-08T14:28:24Z

    Doug Whitfield, Nathan Smith likes this.

    That's an interesting insight, Bradley. It would be interesting to try to think of ways that a free software project could "interrupt the flow" for fund raising without interfering with the functioning of the software. I think it also helps to have specific targets and limited fund raising periods. Projects have wiki pages, download pages, and mailing lists. Messages could be placed there. For rapidly released projects, perhaps a release cycle could have fund raising messages in documentation or startup banners. Distributions could consider cooperating with appropriately tasteful fund raising drives and pass along messages during installation or upgrade of packages. For organizations such as SFC, interrupting the flow will definitely be more challenging. Hopefully the projects you help manage would point back to you during their own campaigns.

    Charles Stanhope at 2015-05-08T15:27:28Z

    Mike Linksvayer likes this.

    Some free software projects could definitely "interrupt the flow" to remind people of their importance. For example Firefox could occasionally delay the rendering of a web page to display "an important message" :-) I doubt people would stand for that very long, though, and there would be a fork out soon :-)

    sazius at 2015-05-08T17:19:39Z

    Mike Linksvayer likes this.

    @sazius I think you're right, user-facing programs can easily interrupt flow. Firefox doesn't need to (because search revenue) but they do in subtle ways occasionally. More programs could, and get away with it, particularly if they had strong relationship with their communities already. Are there any good examples? 

    Don't tons of 'apps' do in-app upselling to a proprietary version or other in-app purchase? Do any faif apps ask for donations or offer in-app purchase of crowdfunding-like perks? I guess I should try more 'apps' so that my knowledge isn't secondhand.

    I know the bigger problem is not having millions of users, but lack of $ for development and marketing only perpetuates that problem.

    As @wolftune might be reading, perhaps after finally launches with real money, it should somehow enable in-app/program pledging.

    I don't know that there's a solution for Conservancy wrt applications interrupting users, other than some of its member projects raising lots of money that way and giving Conservancy its cut. But I suppose (modulo it not having enough resources to do anything beyond what it is already doing, etc) that it could conceivably also help member projects do in-application asks.

    Mike Linksvayer at 2015-05-08T18:20:30Z

    Christopher Allan Webber, Aaron Wolf likes this.

  • Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-04-23T23:39:39Z

    The thing I probably hate most about being a software freedom activist is how often the politics dictate that I ingratiate myself to proprietary software company employees and leaders.

    I then always wonder how often environmental activists ingratiate themselves to Exxon employees.

    Then I wonder if I really am an activist at all.

    Robert Musial, Sean Tilley, Aaron Wolf, Matthew Tift and 3 others likes this.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) shared this.

    Show all 7 replies

    I don't really understand what you mean. Could you give an example, either real or fictional?

    Douglas Perkins at 2015-04-24T04:57:22Z

    in my opinion the problem is in, some, environmental activists. employees as individuals are not "guilty". environmental activists neither work in the same industry than petrol or car industry employees. microsoft emps, I imagine, think they are developing the best software and that the non-community approach is better, at least some of them. I don't think that they have all the time in mind how to slave their user. everybody try to see the positive parts of the work they have. in my opinion the free software community have a much more healthy attitude than some, more noisy is true, parts of the environmental movement. long and awfully written. sorry.

    FLWNQWUD at 2015-04-24T06:16:09Z

    Scorpio20 likes this.

    Why would ingratiating ever be necessary? Or to put it another way - if you are being fair to yourself about accusing yourself of ingratiating yourself, what has such ingratiation actually achieved for you?

    When I look at how companies deal with one another, I don't see anything like the sort of ingratiation I think you are talking about (ignoring things like sales pitches - surely you're not talking just about corporate fundraising). 

    Richard Fontana at 2015-04-24T18:34:00Z

    i do not get it at all

    hellofgames at 2015-04-30T13:00:47Z

  • Christopher Allan Webber at 2015-04-01T23:46:50Z

    I think this post is a hoax, @Richard Fontana probably broke into @Bradley M. Kuhn's account as a parody.

    Funny joke, Fontana! But you're not fooling anyone.

    Jim Bowering, Richard Fontana, warp, Charles Stanhope and 3 others likes this.

  • Christopher Allan Webber at 2015-04-02T01:46:57Z

    Accidentally clicked a like button on a post I was neutral on and then clicked unlike, then worried that clicking unlike sent an even more unclear message than if I left it as like!

    People get really upset about that sometimes!

    Richard Fontana, Nathan Willis, X11R5, Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) likes this.

    I wish we had stats on how many people unliked things.

    Doug Whitfield at 2015-04-02T02:23:50Z

    Mrs Manners says to click it 12 times in this situation.

    joeyh at 2015-04-02T02:46:04Z

    veleiro, Christopher Allan Webber, Kete Foy, Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) and 4 others likes this. This is why I have always found the 'like' terminology troubling.. often I simply am marking it for later viewing. I may even do this with things I disagree with and want to take the time to give a considered and reasoned response to later when I have more time.'s 'favourite' terminology is better but still not a great fit for me. I'd prefer 'keep' or 'bookmark'.

    Freemor at 2015-04-02T10:59:17Z, Christopher Allan Webber likes this.

  • Ancient

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-03-31T22:53:07Z

    So much ancient astronaut theory is predicated on the assumption that ancient peoples had no imagination. Particiularly the parts that relate ancient myths to modern technology.

    In fact, I suspect they had more imagination than we do today. Think about it: night is truly dark, like really dark. Nothing to see but the stars. Nothing to read (literacy is likely near 1% or something).

    Of course you make up stories to entertain yourselves. Who wouldn't?

    That said, I often ask my dogs (both pugs) if they are in fact ancient aliens. I really do secretly wish that, like the mice in Hitchhiker's Guide, the are in fact highly intelligent beings that are studying me and will reward me when the Vorgons come to destroy Earth because I treated them so well.

    This is in fact why I think I didn't really like Lord of Light.

    EricxDu, Richard Fontana likes this.