LibrePlanet 2013

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Notes from Libre Planet 2013

March 23-24, 2013

Negotiation Theory for Geeks

Leslie Hawthorne

How do you keep your community welcoming to new people, and to people who are already involved? In the most successful projects, people communicate well and achieve mutual goals through negotiation. Negotiation doesn't have to be complicated. For example, deciding which bugs to fix first is an act of negotiation. Negotiations can be easy or hard, depending on (1) whether you and the other party have a good (bad) relationship, and (2) whether you and the other party have aligned (unaligned) interests.

Harvard sponsored something called the Harvard Negotiation Project. One of the project outcomes was a series of books, including Getting to Yes.

We have a tendency to pre-judge difficult conversations (i.e., "this is gonna suck"). Try to avoid pre-conceived notions of how the negotiation will proceed.

Ask for what you need. Ask the other party what they need. Once you've done this, concentrate on finding common ground; things you both agree on. Then try to reach agreement. Try to find the most optimal solution for both parties.

It's okay if you can't reach an agreement, of if agreeing to disagree is the best you can do. Preserve your options for having a positive dialog in the future.

Diplomacy is understanding the needs of your audience.

Interests are our goals. Positions are how we believe we can achieve those goals. Focus on outcomes more than positions. Explore different paths towards achieving those outcomes. If you don't like your slice of the pie, then try to make a bigger pie.

It's better to win than to be right. Don't sacrifice long-term relationships for the sake of short-term goals (i.e., being right). Difficult conversations can actually help build relationships.

A positive "no" is better than no agreement at all. Again, the emphasis is on compromising, and trying to preserve relationships.

Once you reach an agreement, try to solicit commitment. Talk about next steps. Make sure people understand what's expected of them. When things don't happen, don't be afraid to call them out gently.

Listen to other's viewpoints. Paraphrase what they're saying (to make sure you've understood it properly). Acknowledge their interests.

The best organizers are the ones that care about their projects, and the people in their community.

There's a big difference between being right about goals, and being right about tactics.

Confrontation is not the same as negotiation. You should know beforehand when you're walking into a confrontation, vs. walking into a negotiation.

Resources:


3D Printing

Aeva Palecek

The Lulzbot TK-0 is a 3D printer.

Slicer (aka "slic3r") is a 3D slicing program. Slicer takes a 3D model, and creates a series of cross-sections ("slices"), which are parallel to the print bed. 3D printers print one slice at a time. Slicer translates a 3D model into a series of primitive printer commands. The printer command language is called "gcode".

What can you do with a 3D printer? They're slow, and they generally print in plastic. They're good for prototypes, but not the best choice for mass production. Aside from plastics, there are print materials based on wood and rubber, and even a few edible materials (sugar and chocolate).

http://devel.lulzbot.com is Lulzbot's developer website. There, you'll find design specifications and plans for their 3D printers.

There are groups working on 3D scanners, to go along with 3D printers.

Some groups are experimenting with metallic printing materials, like copper and silver. This would allow you to print circuit boards, discrete components, and even 3D printer parts.

3D printing takes three programs: one for 3D modelling, slicer, and a program to communicate with the printer (i.e., to send gcode to the printer). it would be nice to have better integration between these three types of programs.

What should you consider when buying a 3D printer? Look at print samples, materials the printer is capable of working with, and the size of the print bed. Be sure to get a demo before buying.

Two things affect printer resolution: the nozzle size (which affects line width), and layer thickness. Line size is more important for small objects, less important for small ones. Z-axis steps are discrete; x- and y- axis are continuous.

There are two common types of plastics: ABS and PLA. Overall, the cost of a job is most influenced by the printed object's volume. reprap.org is a good source for learning about gcode.

Resources:


Free Software Communities and the Cloud

Dave Neary

The Linux kernel is everywhere: smart phones, the data center, embedded devices, and supercomputers.

Back in the 1940's, the president of IBM believed that there was a market for perhaps five computers. That's become true in a way: our five computers are Amazon, Google, Facebook, and pick two others. It boils down to "I no longer have control over my computing", which has its advantages and disadvantages.

Many companies host platforms as a service, or software as a service. You're going to pay for these services, but it's not always obvious how you're paying for them.

Some projects have become ecosystems of companies rather than ecosystems of communities. In general, when you're closer to the cloud, you get more corporate contributors; when you're closer to the desktop, you get more individual contributors.

The cloud's value comes from the scale of the computing infrastructure, or from the number of people using the service. But where is user freedom in the cloud?

Mobile companies are very much against GPLv3. They do not want users changing software on their smartphones; instead, they'd prefer to lock their phones down. Android is not "free" in any meaningful sense of the word. We're teaching users that they're supposed to be helpless - it's to hard to administer your own device, so you should let us do that administration for you.

The best way to control people, and to really control them, is to take away a little bit of their freedom at a time. To erode their rights by a thousand tiny, and almost imperceptible reductions.
- Adolph Hitler

So where do we go from here? We can use toys to teach children the joy of hacking. This could come from products like Kapla (wooden blocks), electronic devices like Arduino, or programming languages like Sugar. There are lots of creative toys that can teach children to hack.

Literacy used to be the domain of specific classes in society: nobles and the clergy. Today, programming literacy is in a similar place.

Open devices: pirate box, Arduino.

Open Mobile platforms: Firefox mobile, cyanogen mod, salefish OS.

During the last ten years, we've seen a proliferation of free software. We've also seen a decline in user's ability to control their computing environment.


Federated free software futures

Chris Webber and Evan Prodromou

Have a look at beta.etherpad.org, and autonomo.us

pump.io is a social server with an activity stream API. It's a very simple (but fast) pub/sub server. It defines social payloads between two endpoints.

The W3C is working to standardize the ostatus protocol. The main challenge is restricting access to federated posts. The standard covers server-to-server protocols, but not client-to-server. There's no problem with posts that are completely public; but there's not a way to restrict access to a post once it's federated.


Free software for a healthy democracy

Remy DeCausemaker and Paul Tagliamonte

The Sunlight foundation is a DC-based non-profit. They do a lot of work around government transparency. They're advocating for api-based bulk access to government data.

The Sunlight Foundation has a project called Open States, where they're attempting to scrape legislative data from all 50 states, and place it in one normalized database. This is easier to do in some states than others.

Open States had to be an open source project, with community involvement. There are over 200 scrapers for state data. Each state presents their data differently, requiring different programs to interpret it. You can't do it all with a single scraper.

Civx.us aggregates documentation from public websites.

Each .gov organization has their own data representation, and their own way of presenting that data.

New York state has APIs for data access. (I got the impression that New York is the only state offering API access.)

A group in Germany has put all of their government's legislation into a github repository. They use github to track revisions. They also give people the opportunity to file bug reports against the legislation.

Kansas publishes all of their state data as .odt files. They're making an effort to use non-proprietary document formats.

In Mississippi, state websites are .xml documents with stylesheets. They don't look terribly good, but machine access is easy.

The sunlight foundation compiled a scorecard, to gauge how well each state made data accessible. Massachusetts got an F. Roll call votes are not published in a meaningful way. State web sites frequently have broken links. Information is often inaccessible without javascript. Data only goes back to 2009. See http://openstates.org/reportcard.

When we scrape web sites, the output is stored in a git repository. This makes it easy to see how the sites change over time. It's also helps when debugging broken scrapers.

What can you do with this stuff? Run plagarism detection software over all of the bills introduced in one year; look for similar legislation that appears in different states.

There's a data set from the FEC, which shows campaign contributions. You can go from bill, to lobbyist, to person that hired the lobbyist, to political contributions that person made.

Some .gov sites have pubic git repositories of their own source code.

See http://gov.git.info.

GIS data is ubiquitous among states, for representing land parcels and such.

All the tools we use as hackers can be used to hack government data.

See "code for america brigade".


Free Software Awards Ceremony

Richard Stallman

In the area of mobile computing, we see manufacturers building systems on a chip, by licensing different portions of the circuitry from different manufacturers. The circuitry is licensed as a black box. Even the phone manufacturers don't know how the entire phone works. We'll have to start reverse-engineering this stuff.

Some devices are designed to prevent you from modifying anything.

Our reverse engineering list is growing - this is where we need to most help.

In the past, we could run free software on any computer. Now, we may have to worry about building our own computers. Lots of hardware requires binary blobs in order to function. Manufacturers might provide them, but they don't provide specifications for what's in the blob, or what it does.

Apple's Crap store doesn't allow free software. It's really a form of (arbitrary) censorship.

If we give people more incentive to jailbreak their phones, then they'll be more likely to push back against Apple. People should be encouraged to break digital handcuffs.

Phones typically have two processors: a CPU, and a signal processor for radio communications. In some phones, both of these processors have full unrestricted access to memory. A remote update to the signal processing software could easily change other parts of the phone.

This years awards:

  • IPython
  • OpenMRS (MRS = Medical Records System)


Copyright and Internet Architecture: Where Have We Come Since SOPA/PIPA?

Wendy Seltzer

According the classic story, copyrights are an incentive to create.

Who gets a say in how copyright laws are written? Mostly companies that are involved in the copyright industry (e.g., the entertainment industry). The public, and the users of copyrighted material tend not to get a seat at the table.

Sony was taken to court in the 1980's for producing video cassette recorders. The plantiffs argued that video recorders were instruments of mass copyright violation. The court decided that video recorders were okay, because they had many non-infringing uses. For example, time-shifting broadcast television.

Today, the copyright term (for individuals) is the life of the author plus 70 years. For corporate works, it's 90 years. The copyright term extension act (CTEA) has been used to extend the duration of copyrights.

The DCMA created safe harbors for ISPs, search engines, and hosting providers. Services providers were not liable for the acts of infringing users, provided that they responded quickly to takedown notices.

There have been lots of copyright legislation introduced. Note the number of bills that have "protection" in their name.

NET Act - no electronic theft act.

CBDTPA - Civil Broadband Digital Transmission Protection Act. Included mention of a Broacast flag. Devices would have to shutdown recording if a copyright bit was set.

HEPA - Higher Education Protection Act. Makes higher education funding conditional; to receive funding, colleges must take steps to prevent students from using the college network to copy copyrighted materials.

Google receives thousands of takedown notices a day. These are requests to take down claimed infrigements. In 2012, Google was asked to remove 55 million URLs that were alleged to infringe upon copyright. Supposedly, many of these takedown requests were generated mechanically. It's a case of bot vs bot.

See the Chilling Effects website (http://chillingeffects.org) for more information on takedown notices. There's very little in the way of due dilligence requirements for the submitter of a takedown notice.

Lots of material tends to be taken down and put back up again. Popular works tend to reappear. Individual political speech tends to be silenced.

The most recent development is the "six strikes" rule for copyright infringement. The six strikes don't necessarily exclude fair use. Strikes can be time-consuming and expensive to appear. How might this affect, say, open wifi access points at restaurants or coffee shops?

The Free Software foundation takes advantage of copyright laws (e.g., the GPL). But we need a more balanced system.

Copyright does not include replicating processes or functions.

What would happen if we sent our legislators emails, referencing links to copyrighted works? How many strikes could we socially engineer?


Creative Commons and Wikimedia: Designing Systems to Support Free Knowledge

Kat Walsh

The Wikimedia Foundation is supported by a staff of about 150 people. All of the content is published using CC-by-SA licenses.

Wikipedia was a big participant in anti-SOPA protests. The anti-SOPA protests were a temporary victory; but the ideas behind SOPA aren't dead.

We are the content industry.

Early on, the Mediawiki foundation developed a mission statement. The mission statement has helped guide our decisions over time. For example, we wanted to show the world what was possible with free content. The more that something affects you, the more it should represent your interests.

Wikipedia represents the fights and inaccuracies of the world around us.

Wikipedia is explicit in its use of free licenses. This is rooted in the values of free software and free culture. Knowledge belongs to the public.

Wikipedia has the goal of serving every human being. We don't do it perfectly, but we're thinking about it.

Wikipedia strives for transparency and accountability. We want to be as public as we can, so that people will trust what we do.

The foundation takes in ~ $50MM/year. The conditions by which we distribute these funds are important. We've spent a lot of time thinking about how to share them fairly.

The foundation shouldn't control the projects. The people who show up to do the work should be allowed to do the work.

If your goal is to capture all of the world's knowledge, then you have to spend a lot of time thinking about how to bring these voices in.

Many web sites have had to change their content to suit the demands of their advertisers. Wikipedia avoids advertising to avoid the influence of advertisers.

Failure is cheap. We can always keep trying.

All decisions have a cost. The important thing to consider is the justification for that cost. What are the short term vs long term costs related to your decision?

Creative Commons' goal was to create a set of licenses that are adoptable, flexible, and representative of a large number of users.

Question: What about wiki federation? By federation, I mean the ability to push content from one Mediawiki instance to another.

Not sure.

Question: Are there people treating Mediawiki articles as data?

Yes.

Question: Mediawiki is a great platform, but it can invite spammers. How does Wikipedia deal with spam?

Most of the anti-spam solutions have come from outside the Mediawiki Foundation. Most of the work is done by the community.

Question: How do you determine what kinds of projects are in-scope for the Mediawiki foundation? What's your process for dispute resolution?

Most disputes are resolved quickly, but others are long and heated. Disputes are resolved through a community process. We can use mediation, arbitration, or just let the dispute carry on by itself. Some issues are very controversial in the real world. It's complicated, but things can get resolved.

Question: What's the status of the next generation of Creative Commons licenses?

We're trying to improve the messaging behind the different licenses, to give examples of who's chosen which licenses, and do give more information about where each license is appropriate. We're trying to make some Creative Commons licenses one-way compatible with the GPL.

Question: What about cultures with less of a literary tradition? For example, cultures that rely more on oral communication?

We had something called the oral citation project, which was largely the work of one individual on a fellowship. I'm not sure if anyone else has taken the project up.

Comment: Higher education is being changed by the internet. Some systems are open, while others are closed. Wikipedia is probably the best example of what the internet is supposed to be. I'd like to see the Mediawiki Foundation work more with higher education.

We have been working with universities and professors, to have Wikipedia used as a resource for learning. It's a kind of media literacy. You should treat Wikipedia like you'd treat a newspaper. Read it critically.

http://simple.wikipedia.org/ - a section of Wikipedia, that's written in simple (and usually nontechnical) english.


Lightning Talks

Lightning talks are short, informal talks that last for five minutes or less.

Metadata games. http://metadatagames.com. This is part of a project to design games for social change. The game involves tagging media. We've partnered with libraries for tagging audio and video material. We're crowdsourcing information that would be valuable to archivists.

Libre Planet Gaming Collective. Free software has gained a lot of traction, but many people run non-free software, like games. There are lots of resources behind non-free game development: programmers, musicians, animators, graphic designers. Free game developers generally don't have these resources available. Thanks to the FSF, we have a gaming collective, and a server where we can run free games. Chat with us via #libreplanet-gaming on freenode.

Metadata. The speaker was a fellow named Jonas, from the Shuttleworth foundation. We made it easy to share digital works. Using works can be a challenge - you have to keep track of license and attribution compliance. We'd like a way to embed this kind of information in images, etc, as metadata.

Tor Bridge and Cupcake Bridge. People have tried to make Tor bridges. This is a daunting task to the average person. I've come up with a way to use web browsers as Tor bridges. Right now, I've been doing this by embedding bridges in Flash games, or running bridges as Facebook apps. We need more people to write bridge software. This allows people to run Tor in countries that block access to the Tor network (e.g., China and Iran).

Collecting All Knowledge Yet to Be Learned.

Etherpad Lite and Mediawiki. Wikis were built for collaboration, but the collaboration tends to happen external to the wiki. I'm experimenting with developing a wiki editor based on Etherpad, so that people can collaboratively (and concurrently) edit wiki pages. So far, I've managed to embed Etherpad, and get it to handle simple mediawiki markup. It's not perfect yet, and there are still a few bugs to work out.

Ether Editor and Parasoid. We've lost wikipedia editors over time. We're trying to find new ways to keep editors engaged. We're working on better visual editors for Mediawiki. Wikitext html translation is a challenge. Templates add another layer of complexity. By the way, the Wikimedia foundation is hiring. See http://jobs.mediawiki.org.

Pirate Party. We have a pirate party in Massachusetts. I've been an FSF member since 2007, and many of the values that led me to support Free Software also led me to support the Pirate Party. We stand for Open Government, Open Innovation, and Open Culture. At the moment, we're focused on local levels of government, and we need people to run as candidates. Talk to me if you're interested, or visit http:// masspirates.org.

Right to Own a Computer. Yesterday, Stallman gave a non-standard talk. Starting in 2002-2003, a few manufacturers tried to push a system called Palladium. Palladium was a system designed to give hardware and operating system manufacturers root access to your machine. Apple has done this brilliantly: it's too hard for you to administer your own systems, so you should let us do it for you. If we don't take action soon, we'll lose the formal and practical rights to own our own computers.

foss.rit.edu. We're hacking the ivory tower from inside, and bringing freedom to the students. For example, as a homework assignment, we'll tell students to go find a bug and fix it. Any bug. If the maintainers accept your patch, then you'll get extra credit. While teaching students about FOSS projects, we discovered that many students were interested in staying involved in the FOSS community.

Jalview and Friends. Jalview is gene sequence analysis for all. Bioinformatic data is not fun to read, so we need tools to help us understand it. Jalview is the "Java Alignment Viewer". It's been around since 1997, and open source since 1998.

Earthcube. Earthcube is an NSF-sponsored project to help geoscience researches. The idea: to form an open-source social network for people working in geosciences.

Hacking in the Arts. This is a success story of hacking in the arts. When printing photos, you're locked into the manufacturer's dithering algorithms, whether you like them or not. For a long time, digital cameras were like this too. With free software and hand-loaded printer inks, I can make much better prints than with the manufacturer's stock products.

Challenges in Free Software Gaming Projects. I worked on one project where we had no revision control, and our software was exchanged by posting patches to a bulletin board. Eventually, poor code quality caught up with us.

'World Vista. World Vista is a system that deals with veteran's health records. It's similar (in goals) to the OpenMRS project, but it's a different system. A Department of Defense (DoD) directive said that the agency should "condsider free software", but the directive didn't provide a way for DoD employees to participate and share with the free software community. World Vista has used FOIA requests to get the source code to the system (from the DoD). Medical records systems are very lucrative for for-profit companies, and the for-profits try to lock you in to using their software. Closed source vendors want the VA and DoD to drop World Vista, in favor of their own proprietary systems. World Vista has been around for a long time, since end-users have been involved from day one.


Defective by Design

Kxra

Some companies have proposed adding DRM tags to the HTML5 specification. We call this the "Hollyweb".

Most content producers don't choose to use DRM. More often, the desire to use DRM comes from the content distributors, like Amazon or Netflix. Distribution is still locked down, and "regulated" by a small number of big players.

Different countries have different copyright laws. This makes the idea of adding DRM tags a real mess.

By itself, copyright is a commercial monopoly for publishers. It's not necessary in the public interest. For most of history, copyright laws didn't affect the public directly. Now, those laws affect the public very directly.

The GTLD DNS servers are based in the US. This is a big problem for many countries.

Many technical advances were hailed as democratizing the media: radio, the internet. Then along came advertising.

There's a movement called "A2K" - access to knowledge. In the 1940's, the UN declared that access to knowledge was a human right. Today, focus on A2K is no longer discussed as a human right. Instead, we discuss how much access should be disallowed.

See Aaron Schwartz's "Sharing is not Stealing".

Copyright was originally created to prevent publishers from publishing each other's material, not to prevent people from sharing.

Many criticisms about copyright and IP restrictions happen to be very appealing traits to capitalists.

Could capitalism develop an anti-DRM sentiment? Sure, if there was strong opposition to DRM, then the removal of DRM could become a selling point.

We shouldn't have to pay for the removal of anti-features.

For the vast majority of artists, publicity is the biggest challenge. If piracy gets your work to more people, then it's considered a plus. (Think Grateful Dead.)

Hey, the entertainment industry is pirating our culture.

Sharing is a basic element of human behavior. You can criminalize human behavior, but that will only create more criminals. It won't change what people do. The act of criminalization merely gives a small group of people a tremendous amount of leverage against everyone else. DRM is not a way to stop piracy; it's a way to monopolize media distribution.

Proprietary Software = Tyrant Tech.

DRM is not just for music and videa; it also affects electronic devices. Many DRM schemes are easy to hack, but don't assume that all of them will be easy to hack.

How do we raise consciousness about DRM with people who are not techies? This could be a matter of framing. It's not about piracy, it's about sharing. We can find ways to make money out of free culture.

Look for Defective by Design pages on the Libre planet wiki.


Freedom to Organize Online: The CiviCRM Story (So Far)

Donald Lobo and Tim Otten

A lot of free software goals come down to supporting personal autonomy. In the civic Lilieu, there's also freedom of assembly, and transparency.

Civic communities are small in size, and tend to have small budgets. These folks are passionate about their cause, but they may not have a lot of tech experience.

In 2004, we started working on a software package for non-profits. This became the beginning of CiviCRM.

CiviCRM has a front-end interface for taking contributions, but most of the application is a back-office system. Civi has a dashboard for tracking contacts, engagements, and so fourth.

Drupal (as a CMS) works in conjunction with CiviCRM. CiviCRM has good market penetration among organizations with less thatn $250k/year budgets. Market penetration is smaller in large organizations. 83.3% of CiviCRM users have annual budgets of less than $500k. We're trying to get more large organizations to subsidize CiviCRM development, since large organizations have the resources to do that sort of subsidization.

59% of CiviCRM installations run in Drupal 7. 14% of them run inside of Wordpress.

Civicon is an annual conference for US and UK CiviCRM users.

There are 4-7 developers who do most of the work on the project's core.

CiviCRM financials. The organizations main costs are (1) salary for 5-7 staff, and (2) funding for sprints and conferences. Our philosophy is to release early and release often. We prefer iteration over perfection. We're very service oriented, and interested in responding to user needs.

CiviCRM is built with PHP5, MySQL, jQuery, PHPUnit, Jenkins. On the technical side of things, we're focusing on PHP5, Symfony, better handling of financial data, and making components more interchangeable.

CiviCRM provides its own internal API and module extension framework.

Hosting is a challenge for many organizations. If you lack the technical expertise, we have partners to help with integration projects. At some point, we'd like to develop ready-to-use system images. We're looking for hosting strategies that can provide economies of scale.

Salesforce provides a free package for non-profits with 10 members or fewer.

Question: Does CiviCRM run side by side with your CMS, using its own database?

Yes.

Question: What about payment handling?

You'll have to set up an account with a payment processor, and configure CiviCRM to use that payment processor. Authorize.net, Paypal, and Stripe are popular payment processors.

Question: Does CiviCRM have anything tailored towards satisfying FEC reporting requirements?

CiviCRM doesn't have anything tailored specifically to FEC requirements. But in general, the reporting features are pretty good.


Closing Plenary: Idealism for Community Building

Karen Sandler

Karen used to work at the Software Freedom Law Center.

For this talk, I feel like I'm preaching to the choir. But preaching to the choir can be a good way to recharge your batteries.

The FDA does not review medical device code. The code isn't available for review, if when the device is going to be implanted in your body. (Karen has a defibrillator implant; she asked for a copy of the device's source code, and the device manufacturer refused her request.)

Gnome 3 is the default desktop in many distributions, the project has many contributors, there are old and new community members, and project development takes place in the open.

Over time, every project becomes a revolving door. Old people leave and new people come in.

The Debunking Handbook is a book of advice for correcting myths. See http://www.skepticalscience. com. You can't simply dispel a myth; you have to replace it with a fact. The challenge lies in finding facts that are as compelling as the myths they're intended to replace.

Instead of facts, you can also replace myths with ideals. Make campaigns about ideals, not about tasks. For example, if you want to add accessibility features to your project, then do a campaign about the need for and benefits of accessibility.

There are proprietary products for accessibility, but many of these are tied to license donations. They have all the usual drawbacks of proprietary software.

The Gnome project is working on privacy; putting you in control of your personal data.

How do you bring new voices into your project? There are several ways to do this: outreach programs, sponsorships, internships. When you bring more women into a project, the atmosphere changes. By improving outreach efforts to women, we're actually improving outreach overall.

Marketing people are incredibly important to free software projects. They can help you spread your ideals. Ideological goals can unite us more than bad press can divide us. Be sure to say a kind word for people working on free software.

Nonprofit culture and infrastructure is a different environment than for-profit development.

Gnome is about to celebrate its 15th anniversary.

Question: What about new devices and new interfaces?

Gnome 3 was designed to accomodate touch devices. But free software tends to move a little more slowly in supporting new hardware devices.

Question: What about all of the distributions that forked Gnome 3, like Mint? Did this happen when Gnome 2 was released?

There was some backlash when gnome 2 was released. I'm not sure about the forking.