Project to stimulate Edu-FLOSS development

Charles Cossé ccosse at
Mon Jan 9 04:56:19 UTC 2017

Hello Guido,

Thanks for taking time and enabling a discussion.  First please allow me to
urgently dispel the notion of "punishment", because it's actually all about
positive reinforcement and earning, rather than taking away.   In the demo
system a parent can add any number of white-listed websites.  You could
also award 1000 hours of credits just for completing a 5 minute activity,
for example.

The other part which I see needs better explanation is the connection to
free education software.  The goal is not to teach kids to embrace free
software.  That's not a bad goal or anything, but that's not what this
platform can do.  Rather, this platform (and proposed campaign) can result
in the development of more free education software by giving people a
reason to make it beyond mere altruism.

Basically, the above 2 paragraphs refer to 2 distinct communities: parents
and developers.

For readers who have not seen the latest slides
here is the idea:  I began developing free education software 16 years ago,
initially for my own 2 young children.  I followed-through with some of the
better ideas and got them onto Linux distros and into schools.  My
motivation was merely "faith" that something good would happen later,
perhaps that a free education software revolution would take-off and there
would be rewards down the line.  Motivation aside, with the applications
themselves there was always the problem of getting my kids to work
carefully, to focus and to think.

Fast-forward to 2012 and I have been led, by "necessity", to develop the
proposed system:  a Raspberry-Pi WiFi HotSpot which firewalls them in
unless they use credits which they've earned to open the firewall to their
list of devices.  They have free access to any number of white-listed
websites, including the one(s) where they earn credits by completing
activities.  I call them the "credit-meter" and the "credit-feeder",

My results were very positive: the kids had a bird - bird-feeder
relationship with the system, i.e. they served themselves when they needed
more credits and it was essentially hands-off and drama-free for me.   And
they would have plenty to talk about at dinner, such as things they read,

The big thing, however, was that any activity could be substituted and they
would be motivated to make an effort just the same.  This is the connection
to free software development, i.e. the platform has the potential to
accommodate anything you plug-in.  It works as a single point of motivation
for any content.  I'm no biologist, but a biology activity could certainly
work here if one existed.  So, for the thing to reach its potential it
should attract contributions from the largest number of developers
possible.  And this, in turn, would require complete openness and
transparency so as to include FSF/E and anyone else.

Charging parents a subscription in order to compensate developers would
result in value flowing in two directions: money from parent to developer,
and applications from developer to parent.  Let the money be handled by a
trustworthy foundation, and let each parent distribute their own
subscription fee among developers as they see fit.  Require each activity
to run independently of the platform and to be licensed as free software.
The result is a transparent and healthy new market for free education

This plan offers an opportunity to begin a new chapter in free education
software development by providing incentive, an organized community, a user
base, a market and an increased likelihood of developer satisfaction, at
the same time as focusing positive attention on the FSF/E.  There is plenty
of room for new innovations in education software, and there are plenty of
creative people who might be interested if there was an active community
and some incentive beyond altruism.  The tools are there, the ideas are
there, the developers are there, but without an organized community,
without strength in numbers, those ideas will wither and die.

Best regards,
Charles Cossé

On Sun, Jan 8, 2017 at 5:50 PM, Guido Arnold <guido at> wrote:

> Hello Charles,
> Sorry for the delay. I just found a few minutes to have a look through
> the slides of yours.
> On Wed, Jan 04, 2017 at 02:28:59PM -0700, Charles Cossé wrote:
> >
> >    [2]Here are slides which describe the idea visually.  The last slide
> >    explains the Edu-FLOSS connection.
> >
> >    I would like to re-develop the project featured in the slides as a
> >    community, inclusive of FSF/E.
> Thanks for the offer! I have to say that I am sceptical about this
> project. My kids are not in an age where they would find themselves
> alone with internet access yet but I will soon get there. I am curious
> how happy you are so far with the outcome of the experiences you
> gained.
> With the little experience I have, I'd rather send my daughter an
> email (if I can't speak to her in person) with URLs to read or tasks
> to do than forcing her to deal with a carrot-and-stick system.
> If I come home and she hasn't done anything, I can still think of a
> way of punishment if I see the need for it. Cutting off access to
> information would not be my first choice. I mentioned my case earlier
> but reckon that this seems to be the only way that works with youths
> nowadays.
> Back to your case:
> If the young person doesn't like the task at hand, the options are
> - screw it and grab a book of her choice from the shelf (good case
>   scenario)
> - bypass the system (e.g. get access to the RsPi and replace the
>   SDCard with a stock Raspian image (not really a bad case scenario ;)
> - do it anyway to earn the frickin' credits and learn to hate the
>   subject (bad case scenario)
> - go outside to the next fast food joint with free Wi-Fi (and probably
>   start to hate you for pushing her to spend the little money she's
>   got for food neither you nor her want her to eat (worst case scenario)
> There are certainly more options to list but I chose those to
> illustrate my scepticism in practice.
> My main point thoug is that I also fail to see how this will teach the
> kid to embrace Free Software as an empowering, positive thing that is
> worth fighting for (or: endure minor inconveniences for now).
> As I said, I merely skimmed through the slides and may have missed the
> point, but didn't want to leave this initiative unanswered for too
> long.
> Looking forward to your reply and a fruitful discussion!
> Greetings,
> Guido
> --
> Guido Arnold                       Free Software Foundation Europe
>    []          Edu team & German team
> OpenPGP Key-ID:  0x51628D75   [][][]                   Get active!
> XMPP: guido at     ||      
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