Thoughts on life choices around software freedom
ThistleWeb has a really nice soul searching blog post on the abundance of self limiting purity in the free software community.
I've made a bit of a different choice than he has with regard to facebook (setting up a dummy account and responding to friend requests by letting them know where else to find me). However, I have recently started pushing my notices from identi.ca through to twitter so that I can communicate with the large group of friends already well established there. Open source is not the only issue I am promoting in my life, and while I use only free software on the desktop, and on servers I own and I use open network services preferentially, I'm not going to stop reaching out to people who I love just because they are entrapped in a proprietary platform.
I don't think lecturing or judging friends helps anyone. Cutting yourself off cold turkey is also not effective. However, I do think letting them know why you've made different choices upfront is important.
On some strategic choices, one should take a stand, in others, one is allowed to calculate the risks and benefits:
* At the tipping point, one should err on the side of what is right. (Webm vs h264 is hot right now, I'm gonna only produce content in Webm, cause open formats have a chance of winning and opening up a new era of freedom in content production).
* With well entrenched proprietary communications methods with which you can reach a lot of people, but where your participation or non participation has a negligible impact on the marketplace, I would say that one should take it on a case by case basis, and merely put safeguards in place against a slippery slope. Twitter falls into this category for me. It's more important for me to reach people and be reached by them than to hope against hope for identi.ca to become the norm. I post to twitter only through identi.ca and hope that I can keep enriching both ecosystems. The quality of relationships are deeper and more friendly on identi.ca, but the breadth of information and the potential to reach people is greater on twitter.
* When it goes to participation in an ecosystem controlled by an openly evil empire, I would just say no, regardless of the effectiveness of your individual resistance on the marketplace as a whole. Facebook and Microsoft Skype fall into this category to me. In the former, I have an easier decision, since I have no personal network created there. I will create alternate methods of reaching those folks in that ecosystem, and expend energy to get the message to them. What I will not do is enrich that ecosystem. In the case of Skype, it's gonna be hard to replace. I'm gonna have to ween myself and hopefully some of my network off towards freer alternatives such as Jitsi. It's gonna take a while, but with the news that MS is cancelling skype integration with Asterisk as its first act since the merger, a downward trend is clear.
Canonical I think is a bit of a different issue, it's one of people falling out of love with what was percieved as a savior or leader rather than any sort of software purity test. Pretty much 5 years ago Canonical totally embraced the linux community and was embraced back. Since then, they have progressively made clear that they see themselves as the decisionmakers and us as the consumers of the Ubuntu product. OK then, if it's us and them on opposite sides of a line, then let all the consequences of that decision work themselves out. I think that's what we are seeing there, rather than any software purity debates.