An offer to the Freedombox community

November 13, 2011 by Joshua
in Blog, Freedom, Leadership

My post on how Freedombox’s pursuit of perfection is undermining its goals prompted some discussion. Hearing how people the Freedombox community wants to help end up supporting products we see as non-Free jolted my system. I believe constructive criticism helps, but my desire to contribute more led to the offer below.

One person’s response got me thinking about how I, as someone who doesn’t write much software, can help.

Diaspora is a decent example. They released something buggy, with minimal functionality, reasonably early on… yes, they were criticized for it’s quality at the time, but it got people using it (those who could get an invite / understand they go go elsewhere, anyway) and today they’re by far the largest free socnet alternative.

Diaspora has a long way to go to succeed, but it has a product out there. Why did it release something while Freedombox hasn’t?

Bdale Garbee wrote

The services that work today *are* released, and are widely distributed in the Debian mirror network. Anyone who wants to stand up some or all of the services that have been discussed here need only find a cast-off machine, install Debian, and have at it using the notes various folks have contributed to on the wiki.

I respectfully feel like he described the situation before Eben first presented the project and suggested we could complete the project quickly. It suggests the Debian community is better at packaging what others first create and informing each other of what pieces are out there. Important, but not what the project needs now.

I believe projects work when one person or a small number of people dedicate themselves to doing it themselves. I also believe a sole developer out there, or maybe a small group, wants to create a working Freedombox and has the programming and packaging skills to do it, but also has other challenges they need other resources to overcome.

Based on these beliefs, I will put my time where my mouth is and offer my time to one person or small group working toward releasing a working, however minimally, Freedombox to bring it to release. I’d like to free them from whatever project-related tasks are keeping them from programming and packaging. Or to provide or help find necessary resources.

My time is limited but my motivation and ability to find other resources are great. I’m happy to work one on one, in person, remotely, whatever. I can work as a project manager or guy Friday; you can be my boss or I can be yours; … whatever will help the project best. I can help motivate if that will help best or find other people who can solve problems we can’t. You get the idea.

If you are someone capable of creating a minimally working Freedombox and could use help, email me and let’s figure out if I can help you complete the project. If you are someone not capable to complete the project but similarly motivated, maybe you could offer your services too.

I came up with the idea while reading responses to my earlier constructive criticism. I don’t know how much the offer will help, so if someone can think of a better way for me to offer my services, please let me know.

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8 responses on “An offer to the Freedombox community

  1. My skills do not currently extend to any kind of code / packaging (beyond html / css) and a number of priorities fill my time at the moment, but whatever time I can offer I would be happy towards putting towards either website work, PR, marketing, animation or design.

    Thanks for stepping up and taking the lead here, Joshua! Heck, a box just with LAMP, Roundcube, Diaspora, WordPress, ownCloud and a simplified Webmin with a UI to update the various parts would go a loooong way. Who’s with us?! \o/

  2. I like your approach. A barely functional freedombox is going to help more people faster than a conceptually perfect one (that doesn’t actually exist). I don’t think I can be much help with the electronics or software. However, I’d be happy to help test prototypes, even to the point of buying whatever COTS product y’all think will work and installing the software to see if it does.

    • Exactly! And I’d add that conceptually perfect is impossible. Nothing can be perfectly secure. We have to pick some balance between security, usability, cost, time, etc anyway, I’m not suggesting giving up on security — just adjusting the balance in the short term (for some users — people who require security can still use Facebook, which they use now). And I believe it will improve security in the long term also in the way Free Software always improves with more use.

      I’ll keep your offer for contributing in mind if anyone takes me up on my offer. So far no responses, but it takes time for the message to propagate.

      • I started replying, but it turned into a novel. Instead I made a post with my thoughts here http://disruptivation.blogspot.com/2011/11/freedombox-suggestion.html

        • I like your post and especially that discussion is forming around getting this project going as opposed to just asking what packages it should include.

          You mentioned one adoption strategy:

          Rather than focusing on all the security advantages of the freedombox, emphasize its NON-security features. For example don’t advertise the idea as a personal security initiative (freedom from oppression), instead advertise it as a personal cloud initiative (freedom from
          cost/frustration). THEN build in all the security stuff you would have anyway. Tell people that’s all there to guarantee the security of their cloud data. People love the idea of the cloud right now, and arguably a bunch of freedomboxes working together would fit under that umbrella.

          I like that strategy and I’ll mention another that I think could succeed and complement that one — to meet the needs of and promote to niche segments. For example, maybe create a version great for college students, or just tech-y types, or for lawyers, or for people in high density areas, etc. If something works for that group and it sticks, it forms a basis for crossing the chasm — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossing_the_chasm — to other markets and the mainstream.

          • Looks like they’re updating regularly. http://anonscm.debian.org/gitweb/?p=freedombox/freedom-maker.git;a=summary

            If I’m reading the dream-sheet correctly it seems like the project isn’t so much A freedombox for anyone as it is THE freedombox network for everyone. Like, the goal is to go above and beyond the (even free) home server software that’s already available by creating an alternative distributed internet that rides on the same wires the centralized internet uses. So no data has to be stored on the big servers and, if they’re turned off, the existing wires can still be used by all the little servers.

            If so, then that’s another thing they should focus on besides the anti-oppression angle. The idea that some version of the internet would survive even a total shutdown of the backbone is pretty cool. Analogous to the idea that if everyone had an electric car those batteries would provide power to the grid, turning a blackout into a brownout.

          • I love the project on so many levels. I just want to find ways to contribute and help bring Freedomboxes to common use.

          • Exactly 🙂 rebelling against an oppressive state is not a common use. To make it available for that uncommon use we have to show people how it’s a good idea to use it for all the things they already do.

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