suggestions/request for fsfe

Paul Boddie paul at
Tue Jan 7 14:05:44 UTC 2020

On Wednesday 1. January 2020 13.15.21 V F wrote:
> Over the holidays I (being the crazy family geek) speaks about adblock
> (µblock origin) and many in family are bored but a bit thinking it is
> a good idea. With many smartphone + TVs - I sent (whatsapp) links to
> these people but realized soon everyone ignore this as running pi-hole
> is too much work. No one wants to touch router if it f**** up.
> After Googleing a bit I found there are few pi-hole open to everyone to use.
> I am not an expert in network (actually a zoologist) things but I was
> wondering why not FSFE build a open pihole server?
> Instead of trusting some people on the internet (there are warnings
> about using someones dns server???) FSFE is a trustable place.

I can almost predict one answer you may get from people representing the FSFE 
in some way: it isn't the job of the FSFE to run services because that 
requires a different focus from the mission of the organisation. A related 
answer would undoubtedly be that the FSFE cannot get involved in everything.

Both of those answers are acceptable on the face of it, but they don't provide 
solutions to people looking for "actionable" things to do when trying to 
advance the FSFE's mission (to get more people to use and develop Free 
Software) or to address related concerns like the need for privacy, security, 
and so on.

It is therefore left for others to bridge the gap between advocacy and 
reality. Presumably, this involves individuals doing things that they believe 
in, with virtue being its own reward, or it involves companies trying to make 
a viable product that brings in enough revenue to pay its employees.

Unfortunately, individuals volunteering their time and effort do not tend to 
produce sustainable solutions, except in a few cases where there is the 
opportunity to apply technology to a potentially neglected area and for those 
solutions to require limited amounts of further development and maintenance. 
Those few cases amount to "easy wins" but tend to make people think that 
"scratching itches" is all that ever needs to happen to get everyone using 
Free Software.

Meanwhile, businesses developing or providing Free Software and "libre" 
services have to compete with proprietary software businesses with aggressive 
and/or predatory monetisation strategies. Where Free Software businesses might 
have an advantage is interoperability, but some people in the broader 
community still seem to think in terms of picking winners (which solution - 
singular, not plural - will replace Facebook, for instance).

So, hype gets directed at some project or other for a while, everyone thinks 
that the problem was solved, and then it turns out that the world has moved 
one. And all we are left with are a bunch of unmaintained, obsolete projects, 
with everyone using proprietary solutions instead.

> This finally rounds up studies that say *people* do *care* about
> privacy but to enable this is too much effort. (other than buying
> Apple devices - at least people think)
> Would it not be better FSFE does *real* practical help to world?
> Every year here in our chapter we distribute flyers but many go to
> bin. Why? Not easy to do it?
> Want to avoid google search but others are not good (enough)?
> Want to  google docs - no easy docs in phone!
> Want to stop MS-office - forced by enterprise/job!
> Want to stop Gmaps but ...

I have always maintained that you need viable solutions to exist before 
advocating Free Software adoption, at least where end-users are concerned. 
Otherwise, they are left to wonder what it is they can actually do. It is easy 
for people to make a shopping list of solutions, naming the "best" (or only) 
Free Software offering in each case, then claiming that Free Software has "got 
it covered".

Such attitudes are complacent and actually undermine Free Software adoption 
because the end-user might have a different opinion about the offerings, how 
usable they are, and so on. It also doesn't help that some of the people 
developing Free Software solutions seem to live in a bubble, telling each 
other how "awesome" their design skills are, and yet failing to deliver a 
coherent, accessible user experience.

> Are there any legal reasons FSFE does not want to get into adblocking?
> Or is it money?

It is most likely due to the reasons I gave above, plus related ones. However, 
this should not mean that the FSFE should not facilitate the establishment of 
trustworthy service providers.

> Educating public/law makers is good intension - but at the end of the
> day people need practical help. Or finally I found many end up buying
> Apple devices - assuming they automagically get privacy - despite
> using Gmaps, or Google search etc.  How long can people be tracked
> (especially our friends) until law changes or helps. I feel worry
> because some smartTVs are traking with even mic.
> *So people really want to do change but it is help are presented in a
> easy way. *
> What about a simple VPN service or pihole type adblock. Every small
> thing will help the innocent citizen?

I think that the FSFE and related organisations have to step up and offer 
practical support for those people and companies operating in the 
advocacy/reality gap. This means, amongst other things, providing a venue for 
developing interoperability standards, connecting developers with businesses 
and businesses with revenue opportunities, and having a coherent, 
comprehensive strategy for how end-users should be able to enjoy a complete 
computing experience using entirely Free Software and "libre" services.

The last item is the most ambitious and strategic, and there will always be an 
advocacy/lobbying aspect to it as well, but it cannot come about by merely 
making positive noises, talking up the idea of Free Software, and waiting for 
"the market" to deliver the missing pieces all by itself.

> Sorry if my email was rude...
> Wish you a good start for wonderful year.

Don't worry about seeming rude: your message is pertinent and constructive. At 
this time every year, having spent time with relatives and having to do end-
user support, there are a lot of rude things I could actually say about the 
disconnect between supposedly wonderful Free Software solutions and the way 
some of those solutions are experienced.

And I really think that organisations like the FSFE have to adapt to embrace a 
broader set of values so as not to become irrelevant.


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