13 years later: Why FOSS is still not on activist agendas

Hi folks!

Recently I published a blog post that was a chance for me to articulate some of the challenges of Free Software as it connects to social work / grassroots organizing. This was a response to an article written thirteen years prior by Bruce Byfield, titled “Why FOSS is not on activist agendas”.

When I wrote this, I kept coming back to governance. I thought some folks hanging out here might appreciate this as an analysis piece.

For the people who want the tl;dr:

While I don’t agree with all of Byfield’s sentiments, he identified some key challenges that still hold truth today: a predisposition to focus on differences and not similarities, an outreach approach centered on ethics and not software, and the importance of opportunities for intersectional interaction.

[…] So, while Byfield is right that there is an almost competitive nature of ideas in activism, it is not enough to write insularity off as a fixed aspect of nature. […]

Instead of seeing diversity and inclusion initiatives as problematic or unneeded, D&I groups in FOSS communities stand to be the most effective people at building community and influence.

[…] We need more representative governance models in open source communities that reflect the interests of the communities around them, not necessarily an individual, a company, or group of companies. […]

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Thanks for sharing!

I was left with the question of what would a FOSS as an activist agenda look like?
I think some of your discussion may take on a different meaning in-light of the answer.

PS: did you get your CHAOSScon ticket yet?


Ooh good question. If FOSS were an activist agenda, I think firstly the open source community needs to get organized and become more socially conscious about the technology we build together. At the community level, perhaps this looks like a shared-ownership model of decision-making between a sponsor and a community. At an inter-community level, it probably looks like more coalitions of people working on similar challenges together, instead of the isolation of somewhat different but very similar initiatives across the humanitarian sector.

No but I will now!