supporting our fellowship representative

Bernhard E. Reiter bernhard at
Wed Aug 29 07:17:56 UTC 2018

Hi Paul,

Am Dienstag 28 August 2018 16:28:44 schrieb Paul Boddie:
> I do recognise the
> effort made by both staff and volunteers within the FSFE, but I do also
> recognise the frustration some people have that their involvement with the
> organisation is largely confined to paying their membership dues.

as a small organisation, we have increasingly build up more ways to get 
involved with the FSFE, to meet us, to get support material, to request or 
send speakers, get some pieces of personal infrastructure like the blog you 
have been using.

You certainly know, but for other readers, see

> Having begun my involvement with the FSFE in a fairly active way, only for
> that involvement to gradually diminish over the years, I don't consider it
> completely inappropriate for me to point out that the organisation
> struggles to engage and empower its membership.

It is part of our core mission to empower people to benefit and help to 
further Free Software (and related advances in society), in this sense we 
will always be struggling. And also naturally there are several ways to do so 
and we are having internal and public discussions about how to improve.

Where my understanding is different from yours is: To me it is about all 
people and not about "members" in a strict sense. In my eyes FSFE shall 
not "respresent" a defined group. I'd rather like to help people educate 
themselfs (in the better sense of enlightment) about Free Software.

Still there are many possible paths to discuss and I am very open for good 
ideas. As with anybody the constraints of personal time let me focus on those 
ideas that quickly show a promise an improvement over all the other ideas 
that have been tried before.

> Some of these struggles are matters of practicality. For instance, which
> tools are available to supporters to amplify their own personal efforts to
> use, develop and advocate Free Software?

And how many tools shall FSFE provide? 
(We are not a good hoster for instance, because there are many Free Software 
based hosting offering we are unable to beat. And of course we want people to 
be able to select from many Free Software based and Free Software friendly 
service offerings, so it would be unwise to create a competing offering. 
where there already are some good ones that could improve.)

> (We have, at the moment, an ongoing thread about not using GitHub in the
> face of arguably overstated claims about that platform's "network effects",
> but what kind of network effects does the FSFE offer?)

A main offering is personal networking, education, places to exchange and 
including access to knowledge from some of Europe's most experienced Free 
Software folks.

> Other problems arise from the organisation's positioning. While some people
> may like the idea of the FSFE as a kind of "FSF light", others including
> myself expect the organisation to take a principled and effective stand on
> matters of software freedom and associated concerns. To do otherwise is to
> misrepresent an entire family of related organisations.

FSFE's positioning has been strongly principled from the beginning, has and 
will maintain that. The difference to our elder sister from the US is that we 
are using a political style that is more fitting continental Europe because 
of the cultural differences. The results we've reached with this "European 
style" have been far-reaching, even world-wide with getting a voice for Free 
Software heard in international organisations for example like the WIPO 

> As the Fellowship did elect Daniel as representative, with various other
> candidates expressing similar views, I find it disturbing that if these
> views are dissenting then they will no longer find a voice in the
> leadership of the organisation. While it may be claimed that others in the
> leadership do, in fact, share his views on some matters, the rest of us are
> now obliged to take those claims at face value.

Being a member of the e.V. for about 18 years that has the duty to control the 
official executives of FSFE, I'm considering criticism and the views you have 
been mentioning. I'll voice them myself if necessary. We have a number of 
e.V. members, many being former fellows or even some former fellowship 
representatives. Feel free to ask them as well (or read their posts and 
publications). Look at FSFE's actions.

And please ask. We are trying to answer all questions about FSFE's work
as good as we can. Some on mailinglists, some personally, some in texts on the 
website or elsewhere.

> I can understand that the elections seemed like a distraction, especially
> given a turnout of 265/1532 in the last one [1]. However, such
> disengagement was probably informed by the fact that the Fellowship
> representatives are vastly outnumbered in the governing body of the
> organisation, making their only effective role as some kind of conscience
> of the membership.

As explained in my previous post, the idea was not working out on a larger 
scale. Each fellowship representative has been given extra attention by e.V. 
members to make sure they are getting information, background and mentoring 
to be able to help forming some of FSFE's opinion. (However most people 
overestimate the influence of the e.V., FSFE's opinion is formed more in 
other places like internal mailing lists, meetings with Free Software people, 
public lists. You can have access to this without being a e.V. member so you 
haveing access to the places where most of the opinion building happens.)

> I don't agree with Daniel on everything, but I can sympathise with him here
> given that his current predicament is practically a consequence of a number
> of factors in the way this organisation is structured and run. 

Sometimes a person's way of working is highly incompatible with a specific 
group. This is not to say who has the better way of working. Though, if this 
is the case, it is better to split ways. There are many other groups and 
maybe later it is possible again to cooperate on topics of joined interest.

> And while people might not want the obvious to be said out loud,
> the result will be that people end up voting with their money instead.

It is correct: Some people may support other organisations instead of FSFE or 
even in addition of FSFE, if they seek something else to what we are 
offering. Note that in the last years the supporters of FSFE have been 
growing, so in total we may even win more people by offering more of what we 
did in the past, for example the new initiative.

Best Regards,

FSFE -- Founding Member     Support our work for Free Software: | contribute
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