[hackerspaces] Hackerspaces survey on Free/Libre Open Source Software

Ben Brown ben at generik.ca
Sun Apr 6 21:31:16 CEST 2014


Our space has a lot of open-source (and even some hardcore GNU)
supporters, and we've been doing Ubuntu events & workshops with
open-source software since we opened our doors. We've also had members
in the past ask to ban proprietary software from the space entirely. We
recognized that while each member has their own principals, the space
can't adhere to every one of them. In fact we decided a long time ago
that the space itself should not be politically motivated or inclined
one way or the other.

The majority of our members are a pragmatic bunch -- go with what works.
Some equipment toolchains (like our laser cutter) are based on
closed-source software. Are there other options? Probably. But we want
to cut things with lasers, not work on the software for cutting things
with lasers, even if it makes us feel better about software freedom.
That said, if a member wants to spend the time to develop an full open
source replacement, by all means they're welcome to do so.

By in large, hackerspaces are full of people with strong principals.
Sometimes it's better to err on the side of inclusiveness instead of
attempting to polarize everyone one way or the other.


On 4/6/2014 12:58 PM, William Macfarlane wrote:
> I think that many European Hackerspaces (I won't say "most" because,
> as a North American with a life that affords very little travel time,
> I haven't visited very many) have an explicitly political/activist
> self-definition, whereas many American spaces don't (this comes up
> every year or so on list n arguments about "Hackerspace" vs.
> "Makerspace".)
> This is , for one, not to say that there aren't explicitly political
> American spaces, but, more importantly, it's not to say that American
> Hacker/Maker spaces are apolitical.  I think that there's a sense,
> even in the least explicitly political American hackerspaces, that the
> thing we are doing is, somehow, radical, even if this radicalism
> doesn't fall in any kind of traditional activist framework.  Just
> creating public/semi-public community spaces is a huge achievement and
> an implicitly radical one in America (radical in the sense of being
> about individual/collective empowerment.)
> I'm usually the guy in my space who says "hey, let's use the FLOSS
> solution for this task."  A lot of times, people are receptive, and
> where they aren't, it's usually because, either, the FLOSS version of
> the tool is significantly worse for the task at hand than the
> proprietary one, or because they already know how to use the
> proprietary one, have access to the proprietary one, and the workflow
> of the FLOSS version is significantly different.  
> "Make a brochure for the space" and "learn to use Scribus to make a
> brochure for the space " (let alone "hack Scribus into something I can
> use") are distinctly different tasks, and while they both have value,
> the second one can feel like an artificial barrier between you and
> getting the task done.
> It's also true that there is a vast space of political/politicized
> ideals that you can focus on, and that you probably can't do them all
> well simultaneously.  I, personally, have a sense that running a
> hackerspace and keeping it going -- having an open community space for
> people to learn about and use tech and tools -- is both a significant
> achievement and a significant challenge.  While, in an ideal world, I
> would use FLOSS for everything, and hack it whenver it didn't meet my
> goals precisely, this is more-or-less equivalent to the ideal world in
> which I do all of our plumbing and building maintenance and fix our
> truck disaster of a pick-up truck when it breaks (which is all the
> time.)  Sometimes things need to be easy in order to get done, and
> sometimes this means using proprietary software (and/or letting people
> use proprietary software.)
> There's also  an issue of welcomingness/accessibility.  A lot of
> people in the world have never thought about FLOSS principles,
> proprietary software, etc etc.  It's incredibly uncomfortable to come
> into a space and find yourself told (implicitly or explicitly) that
> you're bad because you're Doing It Wrong in a context that's
> unfamiliar to you.  This can accidentally play into a lot of bad
> tech-elitism dynamics (i.e. software people telling designer people
> that they are Bad for using Adobe products, and not acknowledging the
> knowledge/expertise that said design people have about what makes a
> tool a good one for their field.)
> Around piracy -- not making a case either direction (because I think
> it's complicated), I will say that a lot of people think that piracy
> is a perfectly reasonable and legitimate form of action against
> proprietaryt software, big copyright, etc etc.  Maybe they're wrong,
> but they might not think so.
> I think that hackerspaces probably should run workshops teaching FLOSS
> tools, where possible.  I want people to leave workshops more capable
> of accomplishing their goals, which means I want them to have easy
> access to the tools that they just learned how to use.  The
> counterexample to this is where a particular proprietary tool is the
> industry standard.  I think that teaching people the skills that they
> need to get jobs is a legitimate goal for a hackerspace to have
> (because I think that subverting traditional
> educational/credentialling systems is super-important and worth
> doing.)  Learning KiCad might be really awesome for doing your own
> circuit board design, but learning Eagle might be more helpful if you
> want to get an engineering job. (or Blender vs. Maya, etc etc.)  
> Since both of these things seem related to hackerspace goals of
> democratizing education, tech access, etc etc, running both sorts of
> classes seems legit.
> -Will
> www.partsandcrafts.org <http://www.partsandcrafts.org>
> On Sun, Apr 6, 2014 at 12:27 PM, Randall G. Arnold
> <randall.arnold at texrat.net <mailto:randall.arnold at texrat.net>> wrote:
>     To some extent I can agree, even though it's generalizing.  My
>     hacking friends in Finland approach the subjects you're polling on
>     very differently than the hackers/makers in my area (Dallas-Fort
>     Worth, TX).  But then, my Finnish friends are not very different
>     from those I'm familiar with in Boston, Northern California and
>     other regions of the US.  Kansas and Texas, in my experience, are
>     generally more resistant to changing the status quo, to
>     disruption, than those in the other areas I mentioned.  But even
>     then, I find it to be a consequence of corporate culture-- decades
>     of working in cubes with a mandate to keep your eyeballs glued to
>     your PC and a fear of sticking your neck out.  Of course we should
>     work to overcome that conditioning.  My Finnish friends don't
>     exhibit it at all.  Very intelligent, very independent, very prone
>     to questioning things.
>     I've found in parts of Europe I've visited that, yes, there is
>     generally more emphasis on FLOSS and related principles.  Hell,
>     Berlin runs their largest commercial airport on an open source air
>     traffic control system.  We're not ready for that here yet.  On
>     the other hand, the makers I know in this area develop on Arduinos
>     and use Android phones.  Some here are so hard core that they make
>     a religion out of avoiding Microsoft products.  So the situation
>     isn't completely dire for FLOSS.
>     Having said all that, I struggled with your poll.  It's replete
>     with questions couched in confirmation bias.  I found myself faced
>     with questions that required answers with caveats.  "Hackerspaces
>     are for using, creating and promoting Free/Libre Open Source
>     Software" -- sure, but while I love Inkscape,  nine times out of
>     ten I'm going to get my work done with Adobe Illustrator and I'm
>     not going to apologize for it.  And don't get me started on
>     Scribus vs InDesign.
>     In principle we should be *encouraging* use of FLOSS, definitely. 
>     But I don't want to create an atmosphere where that's forced, and
>     your poll seems to be on that path.
>     Now excuse me, I have to set up some ThinkPads to run both Windows
>     and Linux...
>     Randall Arnold
>     Tarrant Makers
>>     On April 6, 2014 at 9:26 AM Mike Dupont
>>     <jamesmikedupont at googlemail.com
>>     <mailto:jamesmikedupont at googlemail.com>> wrote:
>>     Hello Fellow Hackers,
>>     I recently moved to Kansas and found hackerspaces that are not
>>     really what I would have expected from my experience with
>>     hackerspaces in Europe (cbase, matrax and others) .  I find much
>>     less FLOSS and very little knowledge or awareness of any of the
>>     issues that I feel are important.
>>     Of courseI don't want to dictate or tell people what to do, and I
>>     see hackerspaces and people as totally independent.
>>     But what I would like to see is some guidelines or criteria for a
>>     FLOSS supporting hackerspace, something that is supported by many
>>     people. Ideally we can come up with a set of guiding principles
>>     that hackerspaces can freely adopt and identify with that will
>>     tell people that they support software freedom. If enough
>>     hackerspaces do this it would be attractive to new and budding
>>     hackerspaces as voluntary self identification.
>>     So I made a short survey to get peoples opinion on this :
>>     https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/9WYC6SY
>>     Thanks to  wannabe1987, gmc, Wil5on, Otter on irc for debugging
>>     this and providing constructive feedback
>>     Also I wanted to say that I am starting a free software
>>     association for Kansas http://flosokaks.thefr33.com/ and looking
>>     for support.
>>     thanks,
>>     mike
>     Randall (Randy) Arnold
>     Developer and Enthusiast Advocate
>     http://texrat.net
>     +18177396806 <tel:%2B18177396806>
>     _______________________________________________
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>     http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
> -- 
> -Will
> www.partsandcrafts.org <http://www.partsandcrafts.org>
> _______________________________________________
> Discuss mailing list
> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
> http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss

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