As a journalist, I don’t often come straight out and endorse anything. Having worked as a marketer, I have had a strong reaction against hype of any sort, including my own. Nor is endorsement my style. Anyway, just by writing on an issue, I can often do far more by encouraging others to support it than I could if I were to volunteer time or money. However, every once in a while, a cause comes along that is so obvious worthy that I make an exception.
Take, for example, the Free Software Foundation’s high-priority list. How anyone who is the least interested in free and open source software (FOSS) could not support this cause is almost inexplicable to me.
As you may know, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and thousands of other groups have been working for years to create a computer environment that users control – one that they can use on as many computers as they want, that doesn’t require registration or activation, and doesn’t report on your activities to the manufacturer without your permission. That environment is almost there, in the form of GNU/Linux and a few other operating systems like FreeBSD. Only a few gaps such as an unecumbered Flash player and 3-D drivers for the leading video cards remain to be done, and they should be ready in a matter of a few years.
The high priority list is a way to call attention to these last remaining gaps in functionality. A couple of weeks ago, the FSF relaunched it as a campaign, soliciting donations to help in the development of the needed applications. These donations will not be used to pay developers directly, but may be used for such purposes as organizing face to face developer sprints to help the projects developing the applications, or to make people aware of the need.
The donations were kicked off by Russell Ossendryver of Worldlabel.com, whom I like to think of as a friend I haven’t met yet. Russell is a small business owner, but believes in free and open source software enough that he has pledged $10,000 to the high priority list.
You can argue over which applications are needed most, and about the content of the list (and the FSF encourages you to submit your thoughts). Very likely, you can’t match Russell’s donation (I can’t myself).
But if you have any interest whatsoever in FOSS, the high-priority list is a matter of getting down to basics. What could be more basic than finishing the free desktop? That’s been the goal all along – not our present 90% free and 10% doing without or compromising with proprietary software for the sake of expediency, but a completely user-controlled desktop. Anyone involved with FOSS who doesn’t donate what they can, or at least join the discussion about what should be on the list should ask some serious questions to themselves about their own sincerity.
With support, the FSF’s relaunching of the high priority list could be one of the major moments in FOSS. What more can I say, except to repeat my request to support it?
And before you ask, yes, I plan to sync my money with my mouth and send my own small cheque before the end of the year. Like I said, this is one time that my usual words in public aren’t enough.