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

Mike Dupont jamesmikedupont at googlemail.com
Mon Apr 7 00:13:40 CEST 2014

I want to thank you all for your great responses and you have cleared up
this topic for me. I will be writing a summary of the survey and the emails
in some weeks but the answer has been a clear "hackerspaces should not be
limited to just FLOSS and open things" so far.

thank you for your time and input,

On Sun, Apr 6, 2014 at 2:59 PM, Randall G. Arnold <randall.arnold at texrat.net
> wrote:

>   Ben I think we must be twin sons of different mothers.  ;)
> On April 6, 2014 at 2:31 PM Ben Brown <ben at generik.ca> wrote:
> +1
> 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.
> Ben
>  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
>  On Sun, Apr 6, 2014 at 12:27 PM, Randall G. Arnold <
> 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>
> 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
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> --
> -Will
> www.partsandcrafts.org
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James Michael DuPont
Member of Free Libre Open Source Software Kosova http://www.flossk.org
Saving Wikipedia(tm) articles from deletion http://SpeedyDeletion.wikia.com
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