MJR's slef-reflections

photo

spi Entries

Better Free Software Organisations?

Wed, 16 Apr 2008 10:11:38 +0100

Another zero-day announcement of a Software in the Public Interest online meeting has been posted. The announcement mentions "one motion has been raised" but the agenda doesn't include any motions, so I'm not sure what. Also, the agenda lists "Debian logo licence" as up for discussion but I thought last month's meeting resolved that. I watch SPI fairly closely and I'm confused. How about the rest of you?

SPI isn't alone in this: many software organisations seem to suffer from similar problems. For example, I ranted in passing about Free Software Manchester yesterday, who just posted the notes from their own zero-day meeting and I've suggested possible ways of reforming debian's currently-stalled New Maintainer process more than once.

Are free software users particularly bad at the basics of running an interest society (like welcoming and expiring members, calling meetings, publishing routine communications, and so on), have I been spoiled by cooperatives with their friendly Member Services departments or secretariats, or what? Is this why so many free software orgs seem to include self-perpetuating leadership groups? Is this a serious problem if, as reported, Software Development is a Team Sport [etbe]? Are there fully-working free software mass participation groups out there?

I feel a lot of these problems are caused by attempting to order our inherently entropy-filled world completely and insisting everything follows petty rules, such as refusing to answer a question because the "wrong" member asked it. The world will not become less random just because hackers try to impose arbitrary rules. Sometimes it's good to put down minimum standards (because calling zero-day meetings is a mostly-avoidable way of excluding some members) but it will always be a poor alternative to trying to do the best you can for others.

How do we get past this? My pro-cooperation-and-better-business platform for SPI board went pretty badly and I've had some anti-cooperative flames back from someone starting another free software group this month, so I don't think I can fix these existing organisations any time soon. About 1 in 6 people in the UK are members of a cooperative, so even if that is reflected among hackers (and I think it's lower), all of them would not be enough to reform much.

One of the most common memes in free software is "show us the code" and the few other free software cooperatives I've seen have mostly failed, with a few surviving but hitting a size limit. As a result, I'm currently negotiating the start of a new free software cooperative. So far, I'm really happy with how that's going. Many cooperators learn at the feet of large consumer cooperatives like the Cooperative Group who run training courses for new members about putting cooperative values and principles into practice, which we smaller groups couldn't run ourselves. As a result, most cooperators already know how to work well together. Should large software societies like SPI try commissioning similar courses?

3 comments.

Tags: charities, cooperatives, debian, spi.

SPI Meeting May 2008 - Doldrums?

Wed, 21 May 2008 08:54:38 +0100

At the time of writing, I've not seen an announcement (again), but there's an agenda for an Software in the Public Interest IRC meeting at 19:00 GMT tonight (Wednesday 21st).

It doesn't include any reports, motions or items for discussion. This is particularly surprising because Michael Schultheiss declared in the last meeting that there would "definitely" be a complete treasurer report before this meeting (see 20:07:48 in the meeting log http://lists.spi-inc.org/pipermail/spi-general/2008-April/002571.html I sent to spi-general after last month's meeting).

But why are there no motions or items? Are we that short of work to do?

I may not be at this meeting (library event in Bristol instead) but I'll post a log to spi-general later if I have one.

Be the first to comment.

Tags: charities, debian, spi.

Forthcoming (and past) Events News: LUGoG, BikeWeek, HacktionLab, SPI

Mon, 16 Jun 2008 15:05:41 +0100

LUG of Glastonbury meets at Tor Leisure in Glastonbury at 7pm tonight (Monday). It will be a general planning meeting, maybe with some GPG-key-signing and other tasks. If you want the LUG to show you something in particular, this will be a good event to attend.

This week is BikeWeek 2008 and there's a free cyclists breakfast at the Victorian Cafe on the Weston-super-Mare seafront about 8am Wednesday morning. For events in other areas, stick a partial postcode into the BikeWeek event search.

Someone from The Doon Of May was at Hacktionlab 2008 @ Highbury Farm this last weekend, as were Bristol Wireless, who were running the wifi.

I've not seen an official announcement, but SPI's board meeting will be on Wednesday at 8pm UK time (1900 UTC), according to my last meeting report.

I've heard through BBLUG that the notorious Shevek is co-organising an event called "An Adventure in Technology" at Trinity Community Arts in Bristol on 28 June 2008. It's a follow-up event to the 2003 Bristol Linux and will be an all-inclusive event where everybody is encouraged to bring something along, talk about it, swap ideas, and build things on site. It doesn't have to be Linux-based, but a lot of things will be. The event web site is http://www.techadventure.org/ and you should post there if you have an idea or want to run a session. There will also be a list for people who decide on the day that they want to give a talk.

1 comment.

Tags: cooperatives, life, spi, travel, web, wsm.

7 Reasons Why Firefox 3 Download Day Sucks

Wed, 18 Jun 2008 14:06:57 +0100

Download Day 2008

  1. It's every where on TV and in print, even in Esperanto, which doesn't even have an official translation - only a third-party add-on Esperanto language pack.
  2. It was late even for the US and after most of Europe finished work AFAIK.
  3. There's no official bittorrent.
  4. There's no link to the source code from the main download page as far as I can tell. It may be mostly free software, but it feels like MozCorp don't want pesky users changing things.
  5. It brings more changes for webmasters (which is another reason I code to standards whenever possible, but I bet some of the free software web applications we use will need upgrades).
  6. It might be the "most stupid world record ever" (or at least useless) and comes just as some browsers move away from the Gecko engine.
  7. ...and all this irritation came before I've even built and installed the damn thing!

Seriously: the browser looks like a big improvement from Firefox 2, but there are so many niggles with this download day idea...

10 comments.

Tags: cooperatives, software, spi, web.

Firefox 3, day 3: first impressions

Fri, 20 Jun 2008 14:24:30 +0100

Previously, I wrote:

Seriously: the browser looks like a big improvement from Firefox 2, but there are so many niggles with this download day idea...

In reply to Open Sesame ยป Did you download Firefox 3?, I answer "Yes". It was a major upgrade for me, requiring new versions of Cairo and GTK+2, and installation of DBus-GLib on my GoboLinux computer, which brought in new versions of Xorg and so required a recompile of my GNUstep desktop applications.

Once that was done, Firefox compiled unattended. As noted by Adam Sampson in the comments on my last post, even after building from source, you still get all the obnoxious click-through EULA and when you type about:config into the address bar, you get a "no user-servicable parts" sort of notice, which really sucks. I notice that MozCorp don't call it "100% Open Source", preferring instead Firefox: 100% Organic Software (because we need another marketing campaign for free software, right?), so I expect I need to winkle out the restrictively-licensed parts again - GNUzilla, there's still demand for your good work!

After day 3 with Firefox 3, what do I think of it? Well, it seems a lot faster and a lot less RAM-hungry, and I'm quite impressed that all of the fancier bits of Koha and Wordpress seem to be working nicely but while I'm not annoyed enough to switch browsers yet (unlike FF3 and Safari - DrBacchus' Journal), there are still a hell of a lot of niggles and interface bugs. Some of the problems may have been introduced in Firefox 2, but I didn't actually use that enough to notice. My day-to-day browsing for the last year or so has been on a customised Firefox 1.5.

The FF3 user interface has some big steps backwards from FF1.5: in particular, I've lost the "force pages that try to open new windows into the same window" option (or whatever it was called... I can't find the FF1.5 manual online anymore); some keyboard shortcuts have changed - for no good reason that I can see (JavaScript has switched from Alt-E n Alt-S to Alt-E n Alt-J, for example); what on earth is the history drop down doing next to the "Go Forward" arrow?; and the button to close a tab is on each tab, so I need to be careful to miss it when trying to switch to a tab and my pointer makes a pointless detour to the top-right when I want to close a tab.

It's not all bad on the interface. The new RSS feed and bookmark links in the location bar are much better than in previous versions. The bookmark tagging and auto-generated folders could be a great idea once I've used it for a while.

I'm pretty annoyed that Firefox 3 seems to come with some spyware enabled as default. I usually have cookies either switched off or set to "ask me every time" so I was surprised to be offered a cookie from safebrowsing.google.com! I know it's for a noble goal, but what's this doing enabled without asking first? Untick the "tell me if the site I'm visiting is ..." options in Edit: Preferences: Security if you don't want details of your browsing to be sent to the USA. Another thing which really annoys me is that the Firefox support site requires javascript and seems unhappy with my cookie settings. Not cool.

Other than that, the main problems with Firefox 3 are omissions rather than bugs. For example, Microformats [Alex Faaborg] support was one of the long-trumpeted new features in Firefox 3, but they're really not obviously included, as noted by others in posts like Firefox 3 is here - where's the microformats?

And finally, searching mozilla.com for firefox returns 0 hits, which is a bit strange... are they ashamed of it?

8 comments.

Tags: cooperatives, koha, software, spi, web.

RSS Feed

This is copyright 2008 MJ Ray. See fuller notice on front page.