This year I organized the Software Freedom Day in Kiel with a handful of other folks. This means I did 90% of the preparations and got a hand for the last two days of five others. I was thinking that we all plan and do things together but I found out that this was not what people wanted, really. Everybody likes to talk, but only few people like to take responsibility. But many people like to help, if they can. So I think the bad decision at the beginning was to think that others would take responsibility from early on. But some expected either a better planning or just wanted to give a hand. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that – only that on our first meeting where I asked about expectations and montivations nobody was coming out what he or she was up to – and so we just moved forward.
The result was that I did not work on some stuff like making sure we got the room 100% in the early stage and also I was not the one who planned the printing of flyers and posters. Besides some ideas nobody else could bring in talkers with topics who would assure us they will come. So this resulted in uncertainty of room, speakers and promotion. As you can easily see these are the basics of every event like that. I take responsibility for letting this happen. Sure one could say everybody could have thinked about those things – but I was the one who asked people to join doing this in Kiel, answering a question of somebody from Rendsburg. As an anarchist I do not like to lead or mak decisions for other people – but I tend to think that you ahve to come up with some kind of blueprint of an event. If you have three people that are also friends or fellow students of informatics maybe it might be possible to develop the basic ideas together. But if some people live outside and others have only few time for preparation the problem you end up is that you think you cant make decisions and delay them if the people are not present – but then time moves forward and you have to get more things done in less time. This is ok to some extend – but it can become critical.
Event planning needs a safety margin so if unforeseeable things happen you still can accomplish your goal to make the event happen. In our case we were able to make a successful event, but without much promotion – like we did not een had the chance for the school to maybe advertise the event on their homepage, parental letter , etc. – the only promotion went in announcing in the XING social network – in an address list from 2007 Kieler Linuxtage – upcoming.org and direct invitations letters to 22 schools and word of mouth. And we then had 20 attendees. All talks went well, the people who cam got a lot of information and answers to their questions and so in a small sense it was successful. OTOH we could have done much more.
So what would or will I do better next year. Firstly I already found that the location is critical. Its the first thing besides the date that needs to be fixed. Next year I would like to find a school who would like to participate actively in the event. And in that sense that they advertise the event as their own event, also. I think a school is a very good place, because here young people learn about computers and the infrastructure is already present. It would be nice if the SFD would fit into some activities that either already exist or start with or after the SFD. It then would be nice to have early contact with representatives of the school especially the teachers who would be interested in doing this.
When it comes to promotion I like to have a better oversight in the options and the costs, before the planning phase. I also think having at least one sponsor would be beneficial to cover the basic expenses – like if we print posters one can put the sponsor on it and so he also gets an advertisement by sponsoring the costs.
About speakers. I think its nice to have speakers from the own hometown. but I also like to have some expert for questions of schools next time. Also I would like to have a room with computers where we can load live cds and maybe also work on them. BTW: Th installable Live-CD is a bit dangerous for schools – as this allows a user to overwrite the installed system.
GNU software exists since 25 years. Also there was the 4th Software Freedom Day at Sept. 20th. And what did we see at www.gnome.org and www.kde.org ? Not a word! This is very unfortunate. Its not that there aren’t people who say that this should or could have been mentioned – I think what it shows is a deeper disconnection between users and developers in the open source community. The event on http://www.gnome.org are 100% developer related. Maybe GUADEC want primarily if you look at the name “GNOME USERS and developers conference” – but in fact it is developer oriented. And what is “25 years” of GNU – or “Software Freedom Day” – these are celebration events – something everybody could join. There is not a development talk focus in any sense. But both big desktops seemed to think that this isnt imporant enough to mention at all. it shows exactly that and not more. It shows that new releases and developer talks seem to be more important than communicating with the users or celebrate what has been accomplished.
BTW. same is true for fedoraproject.org or redhat.com. And thats exactly what Ubuntu seems to distinguish to other distros. Ok the are also sponsor, but SUN was, too. Other distros seem to let Ubuntu alone define what Linux and Linux community are. So … should we all use Ubuntu then? I am also an OpenBSD user because I think many things are more mature there – but when it comes to Linux I can only often shake my head about the ignorance to users of many free software projects like distriobutions or free desktops.
Come on guys, tis not that hard – like: You all deliver GNU software – why not have one word all 25 years about that fact? And there is only ONE free software day every year – why shoudl this be Ubuntus day only?
As long as other distros dont support community efforts like Canonical does, I only support Ubuntu – simple as that. I do not say Ubuntu is technically better – in fact I think that theoretically Fedora is nmore advanced in many ways – but their community is still broken and they do not tseem to be willing to learn from Ubuntu. They way to go is encourage community efforts and support it. Novell makes 930 million dolalar, Red Hat makes 400 million revenue, Canonical Ltd. just 10 million. Nonetheless Canonical likes to sponsor free Linux CDs while Red Hat and Novell seem to think that is too expensive. And all along Ubuntu roles up the market from the bottom up. You dont see Fedora or OpenSuSE on the ground. You dont get CDs in the hand – at Fedora they even do not want you to promote it unless you are an official ambassador.
To summarize: If you are a Linux community activist you either burn your own CDs and tell your own stories – or you stick with Ubuntu who support a grassroots Linux movement – although they are for sure not less capitalistic than Novell or Red Hat. At OpenBSD this choice is not really there. There is no OpenBSD company – so they finance development mainly through presales of upcoming releases, Tshirts and donations AFAIK? I think this is absolutely Ok – but still this means that there wont be much free CDs of OpenBSD out there – marketing is not their philosophy.
Personally I like to do a little Linux promotion – and as I dont like burning my own CDs and spending my money I welcome the Ubuntu CDs – as I said I dont necessarily want to promote Ubuntu – but I do, because they give me the tools. And of people like Ubuntu they might choose to switch to any other distro if they like. Ubuntu is for breaking the ice – if they stick with Ubuntu its ok – if not – same. I just care about promoting usage of free software – and so I think Ubuntu also does work for other distros. So here Ubuntu also means “for no costs”.
If Canonical can do it the others could, too – but they feel too powerful to see the need to. I hope they will regret, because they have more money and could do even more. Lets assume the SFD would be sponsored by all major distributions and so teams would get 4 different CD types – or even could select what they want. More CDs can mean a lot more users, really. I always tell people to pass it own if they think they do not need it.
Photo of the SFD stuff for 2008 that arrived today in Kiel (Germany) from China.