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Being Permissive, the new Popular
This post is massively inspired by a post in the
mailing list. This is a closed list of the GNU
Project, and only GNU maintainers and contributors can
join, so I cannot put a link to the original message (by Mike
Gerwitz), but this topic is being discussed
over and over again at many places, so you will not have trouble finding
similar opinions. I am also “responding” to a recent discussion that I
had with Luiz Izidoro, which
is a “friend” (as he himself likes to say) of the LibrePlanet São Paulo
Mike's point is simple: we, Free Software activists, are the geeks (or nerds) at school, surrounded by the “popular guys” all over again. In case it is not clear, the “popular guys” are the people who do not care about the Free Software ideology; the programmers who license their softwares using permissive licenses using the excuse of “more freedom”, but give away their work to increase the proprietary world.
It is undeniable that the Free Software, as a technical movement, has won. Anywhere you look, you see Free Software being developed and used. It is important to say that by “Free Software” I mean not only copyleft programs, but also permissive ones. However, it is also undeniable that several proprietary programs and solutions are being developed with the help of those permissive Free Softwares, without giving anything back to the community, as usual.
jQuery, Sizzle, jQuery UI, jQuery Widget, jQuery UI Mouse, jQuery UI Position, jQuery UI Draggable, jQuery UI Droppable, jQuery UI Sortable, jQuery UI Datepicker, Hogan, Backbone, JSON2 (Crockford), Markdown.js, Socket.io, Underscore.js, Bootstrap, Backbone, and Mustache
You can see the license headers of all those projects here:
On the server side, Mike came up with this list of Free Softwares being used by Trello:
MongoDB, Redis, Node.js, HAProxy, Express, Connect, Cluster, node_redis, Mongoose, node-mogodb-native, async, CofeeScript, and probably more
Quite a lot of Free Software, right? And Trello advertises itself as being “free”, which might confuse the inexperient reader because they are talking about price, not about freedom.
The lesson we learn is obvious but no less painful. He who contributes to Free Software using permissive licenses is directly contributing to the dissemination of proprietary software. And the corolary should be obvious as well: you are being exploited. Another nice addition made by Mike is a quote by Larry Ellison, CEO and founder of Oracle Corporation, about Free Software (and Open Source):
“If an open source product gets good enough, we'll simply take it.... So the great thing about open source is nobody owns it – a company like Oracle is free to take it for nothing, include it in our products and charge for support, and that's what we'll do. So it is not disruptive at all – you have to find places to add value. Once open source gets good enough, competing with it would be insane. ... We don't have to fight open source, we have to exploit open source.”
So, do you really think you have more freedom because you can choose BSD/MIT over GPL? Do you really think you it doesn't matter what other people do to your code, which you released as a Free Software? What are your goal with this movement, contribute to a better Free Software ecosystem (which will lead to a society which is more fair), or just getting your name in the hall of (f|sh)ame?
Back to the initial point, about not being “popular” among your friends (or be the “radical”, “extremist”, and other adjectives), I believe Mike hit the nail when he said that, because that is exactly how I am feeling currently, and I know other Free Softwares activists feel exactly the same. To defend a copyleft license is to defend something that is wrong, because, in the “popular kids' view”, copyleft is about anything but freedom! The cool thing now is to be indifferent, or even to think that it is nice that proprietary software can coexist with Free Software, so let's give it a help and release everything we can under permissive licenses. I could mention lots of very nice Free Softwares that chose to be permissive because their maintainers thought (and still think) GPL is evil.
I contributed and still contribute to some Free Softwares that are permissive licensed. And despite trying to use only copyleft software, sometimes I replace some of them by permissive ones, and do not feel guilty about it. I do that because I believe in Free Software, and I believe we should support it in every way we can. But doing so is also nocive to our cause. We are supporting softwares that are contributing to the proprietary world, even if that is not what their developers want. We are making it very easy for people like Larry Ellison to win and think they can exploit what other people are doing for free(dom). We are feeding our own enemy in their mouths. And we should be very careful about that.
This post is a request. I am asking you a favor. Please, consider (re)licensing your project using a copyleft license. If you do value what Free Software is about (or even what Open Source is about!), then help spread it by not helping the proprietary side. I am not asking you to join our ideological cause (or maybe I am?); feel free to stay out of this if you want. But please, at least consider helping the Free Software community by avoiding making your code permissive, which will give too much power to the unethical side.
Privacy as a Collective Good
It has been a while since I wanted to write about this subject. At many presentations that I gave during these last 2 years, I used the expression in the title in order to try to raise more awareness about why we should take care of our privacy (and maybe everyone's). But what does it really mean?
First of all, this article is not a copy of Benjamin Mako's Google Has Most of My Email Because It Has All of Yours. And I would also like to take this opportunity to recommend this great article; it provides many insights that some people do not even realize.
But back to the point: privacy is a collective good, and we should preserve it. The explanation of why I am calling privacy something “collective” is simple, and if you read Ben's article you probably know it by now: whenever I send an e-mail to someone who uses Gmail, Google will have a copy of it, even if I don't have a Google account. What does it mean? It means that I pay my own server in order to run my own e-mail infrastructure and not have my privacy disrespected, but in the end of the day the majority of my efforts are useless. Which boils down to something that may be hard to read, but is true: you are not respecting my privacy. Your displicence with your privacy is forcing me, who needs to communicate with you, to give up my privacy as well, even if for a small portion of time. But it's not only about e-mail...
Another common example is Facebook. I don't have an account there, and don't plan to have one, despite the pressure coming from the society sometimes. However, when you take a picture of me and post it there, or when you mention something about me on your Facebook, you are also disrespecting my privacy. If I don't have Facebook, it is because I do not want to become a product for them and have my personal data sold to advertisement companies, nor have it shared with the NSA. You, on the other hand, do not care about this, and post things about me and other people without their permission. This is wrong, and you are disrespecting my privacy.
I chose to use this argument because oftentimes people are not concerned about their privacy, and think that “if I have nothing to hide, then I don't need privacy”. I won't even begin discussing this absurd, because that is not the point of this article. Instead, I noticed that sometimes people pay more attention if you say that they are disrespecting someone else's right. Maybe I am wrong, but I still think it is worth trying to open everyone's eyes for something that seems to have been forgotten by most.
After trying (and failing!) to find a guide, how-to, or anything that could help me in the migration from Jabberd2 to Prosody on my personal server, I decided to write my own version here. I hope it can help other people who want to do this somewhat painful procedure!
Struggling with Jabberd2
When I installed my personal server, I chose Jabberd2 as my Jabber server. At that time, this choice seemed the most logical to me because of a few reasons:
- It is written in C, which is my favorite language and, therefore, would make it easier for me if I ever wanted to fix something in the software (as it really happened afterwards).
- Looking at the page comparing different Jabber servers at Wikipedia, I found that Jabberd2 was mature enough to be used seriously.
- I knew some people who uses it in their own servers, and they said good things about it.
So, the decision seemed pretty simple for me: Jabberd2 would be my choice! And then the problems started...
The first issue I had to solve was not Jabberd2's fault: I am using Debian Wheezy (stable) in my server, and Jabberd2 is only available for Debian Jessie (testing) or Sid (unstable). Therefore, I had to create my own version of the Jabberd2 Debian package (and all its dependencies that were not packaged) for Wheezy, which took me about 1 day. But after that, I managed to install the software in my server. Then, the configuration hell began...
Jabberd2 uses configuration files written in XML. They are well documented, with helpful comments inside. But they are confuse, as confuse as XML can be. Of course you have to take into account that it was my first time configuring a Jabber server, which added a lot to the complexity of the task. However, I feel compelled to say that the way Jabberd2 organizes its configuration files makes it a much more complex work than it should be. Nevertheless, and after lots of fails, I managed to set the server up properly. Yay!
Now, before I continue complaining, one good thing about Jabberd2: it has never crashed with me. I consider this to be something good because I am a software developer myself and I know that, despite our best efforts, bad things can happen. But Jabberd2 takes the gold medal on this one...
However... My confidence on Jabberd2's security was severily damaged when I found that the SQLite backend could not encrypt the users's passwords!!! I stumbled on this issue by myself, while naively dumping my SQLite database to check something there... You can imagine how (badly) impressed I was when I saw my password there, in plaintext. I decided to fix this issue ASAP. Hopefully next users will benefit from this fix.
After that, the bell rang in my head and I started to look for alternatives for Jabberd2. Though I still want to contribute to the project eventually (I am even working on a patch to merge all the database backends), I wanted to have a little bit more confidence in the software that I use as my Jabber server.
Prosody came to my attention when I was setting up the server for our local Free Software group in Brazil. You can reach our wiki here (in pt_br) if you are interested. We wanted to offer a few services to our members/friends, and Jabber was obviously one of them. This happened after I discovered the bug in Jabberd2's SQLite backend, so using Jabberd2 was not a choice anymore. We had heard ejabberd, which was being used by Jabber-BR (they recently migrated to Prosody as well), but the fact that it is written in Erlang, a language that I am not familiar with, has contributed to our decision of dropping the idea. So, the only choice left was Prosody itself.
Since I am brazilian, I also feel a little bit proud of Prosody because it is writte in Lua, a programming language designed by brazilians.
We installed Prosody on our server, and it was amazingly easy to configure it! The configuration file is writte in Lua as well, which makes it a lot easier to read than XML. It is also well documented, and I felt that they were more organized too: you have small configuration files splitted by categories, instead of one big XML to edit.
The modular structure of Prosody also impressed me. You can load and unload many modules very easily, generally just by (un)commenting lines on the configuration file. Neat.
Prosody also offers a command-line program to manage the server, which is really helpful if you want to automatize some tasks and write scripts. There is a little thing that still annoys me, which is the fact that this command-line program does not have a very useful "--help" command, but I plan to propose a patch to fix that.
And at last, but definitely not least, Prosody is also very robust, and have not crashed one single time with us. It runs smoothly in the server, and although I haven't really compared the memory footprint of Jabberd2 and Prosody, I have nothing to complain about it too.
The Migration Process
Well, so after all this story, I think it is clear why I decided to migrate to Prosody. However, it was not an easy task.
Before we begin to understand the procedure needed to do the migration, I would like to say a few things. First, I would like to thank the guys at the Prosody chatroom, who were very helpful and provided several resources to make this migration possible. And I would also like to say that these instructions apply if you are running jabberd2_2.2.17-1 and prosody-0.8.2-4+deb7u2!! I have not tested with other versions of those softwares, so do it at your own risk.
The first thing you have to do is to convert Jabberd2's database to XEP-0227. This XEP is very nice: it defines a standard format to import/export user data to and from XMPP servers. Unfortunately, not every server supports this XEP, and Jabberd2 is one of those... So I started looking for ways to extract the information which was inside Jabberd2's SQLite database in a XEP-0227 compatible way. Thanks to the guys at the Prosody chatroom, I found a tool called sleekmigrate. It allowed me to generate a XEP-0227 file that could be imported into Prosody. Nice! But... I needed to extract this information from Jabberd2, and sleekmigrate could not do it. Back to the beginning...
It took me quite a while to figure out how to extract this info from Jabberd2. I was initially looking for ways (other than using sleekmigrate) that would allow me to extract this info directly from Jabberd2's SQLite database, but could not find it. Only when I read that sleekmigrate could actually work with jabberd14 data directories directly, I had the idead to find a way to convert my SQLite database into a jabberd14 data directory, and then I found this link: it teaches how to migrate from Jabberd2 to ejabberd, and has separate instructions on how to do the Jabberd2 -> Jabberd14 conversion! Sweet!
The first thing you have to do is to download the
script. I had to patch the script to make it work with SQLite, and also
to fix a little bug in a SQL query; you can grab my patched version
the file as
j2to1.pl, and run the script (don't forget to edit the
source code in order to provide the database name/file):
1 2 3
$> perl j2to1.pl jabberd14-dir/ Converting user@host... $>
This will convert the database from Jabberd2 to Jabberd14, and put the
XML file of each Jabber user in the server into
Now, you have a Jabberd14 version of your user data. Let's proceed with
After following the instructions on the sleekmigrate page on how to set it up, you can run it on your Jabberd14 data directory in order to finally generate a XEP-0227 XML file that will be imported into Prosody.
$> ./sleekmigrate.py -j /path/to/jabberd14-dir/
This should create a file called
227.xml on your current directory,
which is the exported version of the Jabberd14 data directory. As a side
note, it is always recommended to check those generated files in order
to see if everything is OK.
Right, so now you have
227.xml, which means you can finally import it
into Prosody. Fortunately, Prosody has a tool to help you with that: it
is a Lua script called
However, if you are doing this using Debian and the same versions of the
softwares that I was using, you may find it harder than it seems to run
this script without errors. Here is what I had to do.
First, grab a copy of version 0.8.2 of
had to do that because using the latest version of the script was not
working. I also had to build some POSIX module of Prosody in order to
make everything work. To do that, unpack the
tar.gz file, go to the
Prosody source code directory, and do:
$> apt-get build-dep prosody && ./configure --ostype=debian && make
Only after I did that I could finally run the conversion script
successfully. The script is locate inside the
tools/ directory. To run
$> cd tools && lua ./xep227toprosody.lua /path/to/227.xml
And yay! I finally had everything imported into Prosody!!!! Then it was just a matter of finishing the server configuration, initializing it, and everything was there: my contacts, my user, etc.
The migration was not very easy, especially because Jabberd2 does not support XEP-0227. I found a bug against Jabberd2 that requested this feature to be implemented, but it was not receiving any attention. Of course, if Jabberd2 implemented XEP-0227 it would make it easier for people to migrate from it, but it would also make it easier to migrate to it, so it is definitely not a bad thing to have.
Despite some difficulties, Prosody made it really easy to import my
data, so kudos to it. The Prosody community is also very responsive and
helpful, which made me feel very good about it. I hope I can contribute
some patches to the project
So, that's it. I hope this guide will be helpful to anyone who is planning to do this migration. Feel free to contact me about mistakes/comments/suggestions.
People talk about themselves all the time. Directly or indirectly, they usually have the intention to promote their views, opinions, or increase their self-esteem. I'm wondering now if I'm too radical when I say that I do bother about this behavior...
Sometimes I can't stand being close to someone who is a narcissist. However, what really pisses me off is talking to someone who pretends not to be a narcissist! This is absurdly annoying. They frequently talk about themselves, mentioning their freaking achievements, secretly waiting for other people to admire them, but they also like to say that they are not so good as they wanted, or that they should give more value to what they do, and so on...
Oh, man. Really? Can't you just stop appraising yourself externally, and start doing this internally, which is by far the most important thing to do? Can't you just be a nice guy/girl and stop talking about yourself like you were in a freaking presentation?
On the other hand, I understand that this kind of people probably have some serious internal issues (who doesn't, huh?), and they probably want everyone to pay attention to them as much as possible. We've got to be patient with them, understand their problem, and maybe try to help (how??). But sometimes it's just too hard to do that.
New year's resolution? Nah, I don't think so...
About coherence, Twitter, and the Free Software Foundation
You may not agree with me on everything I write here, and I am honestly expecting some opposition, but I would like to make it crystal clear that my purpose is to raise awareness for the most important "feature" an organization should have: coherence.
I first learned about the Twitter account on IRC. I was hanging around
#fsf channel on Freenode, when someone mentioned that "...
something has just been posted on FSF's Twitter!" (yes, it was a happy
announcement, not a complaint). I thought it was a joke, but before
laughing I decided to confirm. And to my deepest sorrow, I was wrong.
The Free Software Foundation has a Twitter account. The implications
of this are mostly bad not only for the Foundation itself, but also for
us, Free Software users and advocates.
Twitter uses Free Software to run its services. So does Facebook, and I would even bet that Microsoft runs some GNU/Linux machines serving intranet pages... But the thing is not about what a web service uses. It is about endorsement. And I will explain.
Free ads, anyone?
I remember having this crazy thought some years ago, when I saw some small company in Brazil putting the Facebook logo in their product's box. What surprised me was that the Facebook logo was actually bigger than the company's logo! What the heck?!?! This is "Marketing 101": you are drawing attention to Facebook, not to your company who actually made the product. And from that moment on, every time I see Coca Cola putting a "Find us on http://facebook.com/cocacola" (don't know if the URL is valid, it's just an example) I have this strange feeling of how an internet company can twist the rules of marketing and get free ads everywhere...
My point is simple: when a company uses a web service, it is endorsing the use of this same web service, even if in an indirect way. And the same applies to organizations, or foundations, for that matter. So the question I had in my mind when I saw FSF's Twitter account was: do we really want to endorse Twitter? So I sent them an e-mail...
Talking to the FSF - First message
I have exchanged some interesting messages with Kyra, FSF's Campaign Organizer, and with John Sullivan, FSF's Executive Director. I will not post the messages here because I don't have their permission to do so, but I will try to summarize what we discussed, and the outcomings.
My first message was basically requiring some clarifications. I had read this interesting page about the presence of FSF on Twitter, and expressed my disagreement about the arguments used there.
They also acknowledge that Twitter accounts have privacy issues. This is obvious for anyone interested in privacy, and the FSF even provides a link to an interesting story about subpoenas during the Occupy Wall Street movement.
This is nonsense. Again: when a foundation uses a web service, it is endorsing it, even if indirectly! And that was the main argument I have used when I wrote to them. Let's see how they replied...
The answer I've got to my first message was not very good (very weak arguments), so I won't even bother talking about it here. I had to send another message to make it clear that I was interested in real answers.
It also seems to me that the FSF believes in an illusion created by themselves. In some messages, they said that they would try to do a harder job at letting people know that using Twitter is not the solution, but part of the problem (the irony is that they would do that using Twitter). However, sometimes I look at FSF's Twitter account, and so far nothing has been posted about this topic. Regular people just don't know that there are alternatives to Twitter.
I will take the liberty to tell a little story now. I told the same story to them, to no avail. Let's imagine the following scenario: John has just heard about Free Software and is beginning to study about it. He does not have a Twitter account, but one of the first things he finds when he looks for Free Software on the web is FSF's Twitter. So, he thinks: "Hey, I would like to receive news about Free Software, and it's just a Twitter account away! Neat!". Then, he creates a Twitter account and starts following FSF there.
Can you imagine this happening in the real world? I definitely can.
The FSF is also mistaken when they think that they should go to Twitter in order to reach people. I wrote them, and I will say it again here, that I think we should create ways to reach those users "indirectly" (which, as it turns out, would be more direct!), trying to promote events, conferences, talks, face-to-face gatherings, etc. The LibrePlanet project, for example, is a great way of doing this job through local communities, and the FSF should pay a lot more attention to it in my opinion! These are "offline" alternatives, and I confess I think we should discuss the "online" ones with extra care, because we are in such a sad situation regarding the Internet now that I don't even know where to start...
And last, but definitely not least, the FSF is being incoherent. When it says that "it is OK to use Twitter through a bridge in a StatusNet instance", then it should also be coherent and do the same thing for Facebook. One can use Facebook through bridges connecting privacy-friendly services such as Diaspora and Friendica (the fact that Diaspora itself has a Facebook account for the project is a topic I won't even start to discuss). And through those bridges, the FSF will be able to reach much more people than through Twitter.
I am not, in any way, comparing Twitter and Facebook. I am very much aware that Facebook has its own set of problems, which are bigger and worse than Twitter's (in the most part). But last time I checked, we were not trying to find the best between both. They are both bad in their own ways, and the FSF should not be using either of them!
My conversation with the FSF ended after a few more messages. It was clear to me that they would not change anything (despite their promises to raise awareness to alternatives to Twitter, as I said above), and I don't believe in infinite discussions about some topic, so I decided to step back. Now, this post is the only thing I can do to try to let people know and think about this subject. It may seem a small problem to solve, and I know that the Free Software community must be together in order to promote the ideas we share and appreciate, but that is precisely why I am writing this.
The Free Software movement was founded on top of ideas and coherence. In order to be successful, we must remain coherent to what we believe. This is not an option, there is no alternative. If we don't defend our own beliefs, no one will.
GDB and SystemTap integration improving linker-debugger interface
It is really nice to see something you did in a project influence in future features and developments. I always feel happy and proud when I notice such scenarios happening, and this time was no different. Gary Benson, a colleague at Red Hat who works in the GDB team as well, has implemented a way of improving the interface between the linker and the debugger, and one of the things he used to achieve this is the GDB <-> SystemTap integration that I implemented with Tom Tromey 2 years ago. Neat!
You can read a detailed description of the problem in the message Gary sent to the gdb-patches mailing list, but to summarize: GDB needs to interface with the linker in order to identify which shared libraries were loaded during the inferior's (i.e., program being debugged) life.
Nowadays, what GDB does is to put a breakpoint in
which is an empty function called by the linker every time a shared
library is loaded (the linker calls it twice, once before modifying the
list of loaded shlibs, and once after). But GDB has no way to know what
has changed in the list of loaded shlibs, and therefore it needs to load
the entire list every time something happens. You can imagine how bad
this is for performance...
What Gary did was to put SDT probes strategically on the linker, so that
GDB could make use of them when examining for changes in the list of
loaded shlibs. It improves performance a lot, because now GDB doesn't
need to stop twice every time a shlib is loaded (it just needs to do
stop-on-solib-events is set); it just needs to stop at the
right probe, which will inform the address of the link-map entry of the
first newly added library. It means GDB also won't need to walk through
the list of shlibs and identify what has changed: you get that for free
by examining the probe's argument.
Gary also mentions a discrepancy that happened on Solaris libc, which has also been solved by his patch.
And now, the most impressing thing: the numbers! Take a look at this table, which displays the huge improvement in the performance when using lots of shlibs (the time is in seconds):
|Number of shlibs||128||256||512||1024||2048||4096|
|Old interface||> 0||> 1||> 4||> 12||> 47||> 185|
|New interface||> 0||> 0||> 2||> 4||> 10||> 36|
Impressive, isn't it?
This is one the things I like most in Free Software projects: the possibility of extending and improving things by using what others did before. When I hacked GDB to implement the integration between itself and SystemTap, I had absolutely no idea that this could be used for improving the interface between the linker and the debugger (though I am almost sure that Tom was already thinking ahead!). And I can say it is a pleasure and I feel proud when I see such things happening. It just makes me feel more and more certain that Free Software is the way to go :-).
No, I am not leaving the Fedora Project, I am just leaving (or taking a break, depending on how you look) its Ambassadors program. I am still the co-maintainer of the GDB package, and will contribute to the development of the distribution since it is also my job. However, after a few months trying to become more involved with the Fedora community (specifically with the Brazilian/LATAM community), I became so disappointed that the only logical action for me now is to step back.
My brief history
I joined the Ambassadors program on October, 2012. After having used the system heavily for almost 3 years, I decided that it was about time to pay something back to the community too. Since I live in Brazil, I joined the the brazilian team of Ambassadors (which meant that I was also part of the Latin America team). Thanks to my friend Leonardo Vaz (from Red Hat), I talked to Daniel Bruno who then became responsible for "mentoring" me.
The brazilian community was (and still is) very inactive (compared to others, and to itself a few years ago), but I was very excited and decided to try to revive it. And the first task that I assigned myself was to regain control of the brazilian and LATAM domains.
Alejandro Perez, a very nice guy from Panamá responsible for LATAM's money, asked me to talk to Rodrigo Padula, an inactive Fedora Ambassador from Brazil, about the domains. Padula was a very active member of the brazilian community since 2006 if I'm not mistaken, but due to reasons beyond my knowledge is inactive in the Fedora community for quite some time now (he's still very active in the Mozilla community, however). And he owns both domains.
Alejandro was worried because the LATAM domain had suffered some sort of outage during some days, which is obviously bad for the project. He was also concerned (and I totally agreed with him on this) because those domains shouldn't be owned by a person (rather, it should be registered on behalf of the Fedora Project or, ultimately, Red Hat), specially if this person is now inactive.
To make a long story short, I spent more than 1 month doing the indirection and talking to both guys about this issue. Padula initially said he could transfer the domains without problem, but then changed his mind and said he wouldn't do it. On the other side, Alejandro was getting upset because Padula did not want to make the transfer, and the LATAM community was pressuring him. In the end, I totally gave up, and the LATAM guys registered yet another domain, but right now are still using the old domain. Yes, a mess.
Working with LATAM
Anyway, after this episode, and after witnessing how active the LATAM community was in contrast with the brazilian community, I decided to work directly with them. I wanted to do something, and I was eager to start working as a real ambassador, spreading the word about Fedora everywhere. And my friends from Panamá, Argentina, México, Venezuela, etc., seemed the right people to work with.
So I started attending the weekly meetings on
Freenode, every Wednesday night. It is a well-organized meeting (run by
Alejandro), whose main goal is to vote tickets from LATAM ambassadors
(including brazilians). Tickets are basically requests made through a
instance, and are used to ask
for swags, media, sponsorship for travels, etc. The Fedora Project has a
budget, and the LATAM region gets a fraction of this budget for annual
expenses, so our job as ambassadors was to vote those tickets and decide
whether they deserve to be approved or not, according to some rules
Keep in mind: we are dealing with money here. It's not yours nor mine, but it's still money that should be used to promote a project that embraces open source initiatives (unfortunately, I cannot say Fedora is Free Software, but that is a topic for another post).
So, after some weeks working with the LATAM guys, I became the default owner of Trac tickets from brazilian ambassadors. And a few more weeks down the road Alejandro asked me to produce media (Fedora DVDs) and be resposible for distributing them in Brazil. I spent a lot of time ordering the medias (I had to travel to São Paulo in order to make sure everything was OK), and every time an ambassador requests Fedora DVDs I go through a series of steps (link in pt_br) to guarantee that she gets her media and I get my reimbursement.
I also like to give talks and presentations about the project, and so I've attended some events (or organized them) just to be able to do that. I have posted some reports about them in this blog, you can find them in the archives (if you can read in pt_BR).
So, enough of self-promotion: why I am leaving the ambassador's program after all?
A few things started to happen:
- During the weekly LATAM meetings, it bothered me to see that the tickets were being approved without any kind of serious discussion. Everyone (including myself!) was just giving "+1" to everything!
- FISL, the biggest open source (no, it is not about Free Software!!) event in LATAM, is going to happen on July. Suddenly, new brazilian ambassadors were popping out of nowhere, and inactive ambassadors were pretending to do something.
- As a consequence, we received 9 sponsorship requests in our Trac. Some from active people, some not.
Something that I should have noticed before became crystal clear to me: some people are there just to take advantages for their own. They are not interested in the project, in the philosophy (yes, you can laugh at my face now...), in the promotion of the ideals, etc. They just want free lunch. And they get it...
During the last meeting I attended, two weeks ago, we were going to vote the FISL tickets. A few days before the meeting, I sent the following message to the LATAM Ambassadors list:
This message is just to let you know that we will be discussing several FISL tickets in our next meeting, May 8th. You can take a look at the meeting agenda by going to:
I would like to ask everyone to read the requests and make your decision based on merits, please. In my opinion, only active ambassadors should receive the honor of being sponsored by Fedora to go to FISL14. Let's not spend money unnecessarily, so try to avoid the "+1" wave when voting for the tickets.
Thanks a lot,
As I said, some tickets were filed by inactive ambassadors, and I wanted us to at least discuss the matter with him/her, showing that we were not happy with his/her conduct. It is one thing when you have personal problems and have to step away from the project for a while; it is another different thing when you disappear without saying a word and then comes back to request sponsorship for travel.
We began the meeting by discussing tickets filed by active members, and approving them without thinking much about it. However, eventually we got to the problematic ones. There is this specific guy, whose name I will not mention here, who was very absent since I started in the project, and I felt the need to point that out. I told him I hadn't seen him in quite a while, and explained that there were many ambassadors doing things for Fedora. He's a long term contributor to the project, as he himself told me in a not-so-friendly tone during the meeting. But that was not the subject of the discussion, and while he kept saying how hard he worked for the project in the last 5 years, or how much he's done for this or that, I remained silent and began to think: what the hell am I doing? Why am I wasting my time in a Wednesday night to convince a group that someone maybe doesn't deserve the credit he's asking for? Well, the only reasonable answer was: because I feel it is the right thing to do. But nobody said a word during this discussion, and I started to feel something else. I felt that people were not interested in evaluating how much this guy (or anybody else, for that matter) really did for the project! And the feeling was corroborated when someone else said: "Hey, let's just approve the ticket now, we can continue the discussion later". WHAT????. Let me see if I get it: we are here to discuss, reach a consensus, and vote. You want to approve, maybe discuss, fuck the consensus. Well...
I left before the end of the meeting, but I still managed to see this behaviour explained by some people: there was enough money to approve all tickets, so the meeting was just a formality needed to explain the expenses later. I was at least fully convinced that I did not belong there.
Not my place
If you are part of a team and you disagree with its members, I believe you have two choices most of the time: you can either (a) discuss with them, try to understand their reasons for being different, try to explain yours, see what you can do to overcome this, or (b) leave it. Sometimes I choose one, sometimes another. This is the time for (b). I don't want to spend more time and energy into something that doesn't work the way I think it should. I don't feel motivated to fight against the tide, because I am not so strong and the tide keeps getting bigger and bigger. And I also don't want to stop people from doing what they think is right, honestly. In the end of the day, I still want to believe that everyone has a conscience and knows what's correct...
But I am not going to cross my arms and sit. Some friends and I decided to create our own group, called LibrePlanet São Paulo (link in pt_br), and focus on the real important thing: Free Software. I really hope we can make a difference with our local community, and we have started with the right foot already: we organized the Document Freedom Day in our city this year!
As for Fedora, as I said, I still intend to continue contributing to it. I'm still subscribed to the fedora-devel mailing list, and I still follow the project's decisions, partly because it is part of my job, partly because I strongly believe you have to give back what you take for free -- as in freedom -- from the community. I also have some DVDs and I intend to distribute them. But my time as a Fedora Ambassador is coming to an end. It was a good experience, I met good people, had a great time doing talks and presentations, and most of all, did what I felt right at the right time.
So, as Douglas Adams said, "...thanks for all the fish!".
Document Freedom Day 2013 in Campinas -- São Paulo -- Brazil
Hi, there! This is the report of the Document Freedom Day event that took place in Campinas, São Paulo state, Brazil. I will talk a little bit about how we (keep reading to know who "we" are!) organized it, and the conclusions that can be drawn to help for the next edition.
The DFD (or Document Freedom Day) 2013 in Campinas was organized by the LibrePlanet São Paulo (link in pt_BR) group. If you follow this blog, and if you speak portuguese, then you have probably read the announcement of the group that I made last year. If you haven't: LibrePlanet São Paulo is part of the LibrePlanet project (sponsored by the Free Software Foundation), and "... is a global network of free software activists and teams working together to help further the ideals of software freedom by advocating and contributing to free software.".
The DFD 2013 was an important event to us because it was the first serious event that we organized as a group. Despite some mistakes and errors, I believe we did fine and were able to learn some great lessons for the next events that we plan to do. By the way, if you want to see the official page which we used to promote the event (and organize it too), take a look here. The page is in pt_br.
Basically, we should have: (a) focused more on defining the venue as soon as possible, because that would have made it possible to (b) start sending announcements about the event earlier. We also should have contacted the Document Freedom organization and asked swags and banners earlier, because when we did it was too late for the shipment to arrive in time. And last but not least, we should really have taken pictures!! Unfortunately, I have absolutely no pictures to post here, so you will have to believe just in the words I write...
But well, nothing is perfect, and hey, the event happened!. So let's talk it :-).
DFD 2013 occurred on Wednesday, March 27th. After some discussion, we decided to schedule the event from 13h (1 p.m.) to 17h (5 p.m.), with 4 presentations of 50 minutes each, approximately. The venue chosen was CCUEC, the Center of Computing at the University of Campinas, UNICAMP. This center has some great people working on it who are involved with Free Software since the beginning of the movement, particularly Rubens Queiroz de Almeida, a very nice guy (very famous in the Brazilian Free Software scene) who helped us a lot with the organization of this event.
We understand that doing the event on a Wednesday afternoon was something that made it very hard for most people to attend, and that is probably the main reason for the low attendance: only 8 people in the audience. I have to say I was a little frustrated in the beginning, but hey, what really matters is that we spread the word about Free Software to 8 brave souls there, who will hopefully spread the word again to more people, and so on :-). So, it was time for the show to begin!
Our schedule was (presentation titles translated):
- "What is Free Software?", by me
- "Free Documents or the End of the World", by Rubens Queiroz de Almeida
- "HTML5: all the faces of the new standard", by Ricardo Panaggio
- "EPUB3: The book in the XXI century", by Raniere Silva
So my presentation was scheduled to be the first one, and I really liked it (surprise!). It was virtually the first time I gave a "philosophical" talk, and a very important one: a general presentation about Free Software, its history, the present, and a little bit of the future. In my opinion, what I liked about my talk is that I focused less on the "freedom" part, and more on the "respect" part of the philosophy. This is something I did because I wanted to use a different argument that was on my head for a long time: that the main thing behing the Free Software is the respect towards others, and only with that one can achieve freedom.
I watched Rubens too, who gave an excelent presentation about why we need free documents and standards. Rubens is very talkative and warm, which makes the audience feel relaxed. People liked his presentation a lot, from what I noticed.
Unfortunately, Ricardo Panaggio had a problem with his computer before his presentation, so we decided to switch: Raniere Silva would take his place as the third presenter, while Ricardo tried to fix the problem. I helped him with his problems, and because of this I was unable to watch Raniere's talk. In the end, we could not solve Ricardo's problem and he decided to give his presentation without any slides. In my opinion, he managed to catch everyone's attention (also because HTML5 is such a hot topic today), so I guess the missing slides were not so important after all!
At 17h o'clock, we declared DFD 2013 finished. I still had time to distribute some Free Software stickers (from FSF), and talk a little with two or three people there, who were satisfied with the presentations! It made my day, of course :-). And just because of that I now feel motivated to organized another DFD next year!
I would like to thank Rubens Queiroz for helping with the promotion, the location, and the presentation during the event. DFD 2013 would have been impossible without his help. Thanks, Rubens!
The LibrePlanet São Paulo team, specially Ricardo Panaggio, were also deeply involved with me in the organization. And I hope we manage to make a bigger event next year!
Finally, I would like to thank everyone who attended the event, even for watch only one talk. Your presence there was really, really important to all of us. See you all next year!
Once upon a time, there was a guy who cared about what other people could say about what he was writing on his blog. Well, like all fairy tales, this one also has a happy ending!
In case you didn't make the connection, the "guy" is me
:-). And also
in case you didn't notice: my blog does not have a comment system
anymore. My reasoning for that is simple, and I can make a small list
with the major points that made me take this decision:
- Juvia (the comment system I was using) is written in Ruby, which in itself is enough to drop it entirely (I really don't understand how it is modeled, and I spent quite some time trying to figure out how to hack it);
- I had to run Passenger on my Apache, which was eating lots of RAM (I only have 2GB of RAM in my personal home server, which is where I was running Juvia);
- I had to run MySQL in order to store the comments (the other option was PostgreSQL), which was also eating lots of RAM;
- I want to use my personal home server for other things
I probably could list a few more reasons, but I think you get the picture. Before dropping the comment system, I spent some days thinking about whether the blog readers would like the decision or not, but after all this time I came up with this: if you, dear reader, want to send me your opinion about what I write here, you can easily send me an e-mail (see the "About" page for my address), and I will happily reply to whatever you have to say. And if I notice that the blog is losing by not having interesting discussions, I can easily bring the comment system back online (though I'd like to find another solution that consumes less memory).
Anyway, that's it. I'll make another post about something interesting soon, I promise. Stay tunned!
Misunderstanding the Free Software Philosophy
This will probably be one of those controversial posts, but I really cannot just be silent about a behaviour that I am constantly seeing around me.
Since my childhood, I am fascinated by the power of the words. I always liked reading a lot, and despite not knowing the grammar rules (either in pt_BR or en_US, the former being my native language, the latter being the only idiom I can consider myself fluent in), I am deeply interested in what words (and their infinite meanings) can do to us. (If you can read in portuguese, and if you also like to study or admire in this subject, I strongly recommend a romance by José Saramago called "O Homem Duplicado"). So now, what I am seeing everywhere is that people are being as careless as ever with words, their meanings, and specially their implications.
The problem I am seeing, and it is a serious problem in my opinion, is the constant use of the term "free software" when "open source" should be used. This is obviously not a recent problem, and I really cannot recall when was the first time I noticed this happening. But maybe because I am much more involved with (real) free software movements now, I have the strong impression that this "confusion" is starting to grow out of control. So here I am, trying to convince some people to be a little more coherent.
When you create a group to talk about free software, or when you join a group whose goal is to promote free software ideas, you should really do that. First of all, you should understand what free software is about. It is not about open source, for starters. It is also a political movement, not only a technical one.
I was part of a group in my former university which had "Free Software" in its name. For a long time, I believed the group really was about free software, even after receiving e-mails with heavy negative critics about my opinions when I defended something related to the free software ideology (e.g., when I suggested that we should not have a Facebook page, which had been created for the group by one of its members). Well, when I really could not hide the truth from myself anymore, I packed my things and left the group (this was actually the start of a new free software group that I founded with other friends in Brazil).
I also like a lot to go to events. And not only because of the presentations, but mostly because I really like to talk to people. Brazilians are fortunately very warm and talkative, so events here are really a fertile soil for my social skills :-). However, even when the event has "free software" in its name and description, it is very hard to find someone who really understands the philosophy behind the term. And I'm not just talking about the attendees: the event staff is also usually ignorant (and prefer to remain like this)! I feel really depressed when I start to defend the (real) free software, and people start looking at me and saying "You're radical.". It's like going in a "Debugger Conference" and feel ridicularized when you start talking about GDB! I cannot understand this...
But the worst part of all this is that newcomers are learning that "free software" is "Linux", or something which is not free software. This is definitely not a good thing, because people should be aware that the world is not just about software development: there are serious issues, including privacy and freedom menaces by Facebook/Google/Apple/etc, which we should fight against. Free software is about that as well. Awareness should be raised, actions should be taken, and people should refuse those impositions.
So, to finish what I want to say, if you do not consider yourself a free software activist, please consider becoming one. And if, after giving it a thought, you decided that you really do not want to be a free software activist, then do not use the name "free software" in your event/group/whatever, unless you really intend to talk about it and not open source.. In other words, if you don't want to help, please don't spread confusion.