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#1 2019-12-07 21:20:12

Registered: 2019-10-21
Posts: 66  

the fsf and the non-profit lifecycle

the free software federation is a growing list of organisations that promote free software. i dont know if people realise there are more than 16 different such organisations-- is one, april (a french free software org) is one, the irish free software organisation is another.

how many people have heard of all of these?

several days ago, i visited the fsf india website. for whatever reason, its been down for days now. but the free software community of india, fsci website is up and running.

looking at these communities as part of de facto collective means that each one has the opportunity to reinforce the others, as nodes. as with the internet, or a public mesh, not every node is working for the benefit of the network--

sfc attacked the fsf founder, fsfe applauded the misfortune, while was the only organisation to make an official statement in his defense-- bravo dyne. other organisations offered defenses as well, though not necessarily in the form of an official statement.

one of the newest orgs on the list, free software force, was created specifically to defend stallman and stallmans concept of free software. they are also leading a charge that directly or indirectly discredits systemd-- bravo free software force.

the free software fellowship has a number of articles that say more about the problems fsfe is having than fsfe does. as with the internet, more than one source is sometimes the difference between knowing whats actually going on and being out of the loop.

but each of these nodes has an opportunity to help, sustain, or salvage the work done by the others. so if something terrible happens to the fsf (as it has) then the other nodes can help to some degree. they can hold those responsible accountable, they can retrieve and provide information, they can provide important commentary that was up until now, missing from the discussion.

the free software fellowships articles on the fsfe make it clear that fsfe could be having some serious problems since their former leader left. several articles on techrights make it clear that fsf (boston) may have its own serious problems-- apart from the obvious cancelling of stallman, but not necessarily unrelated to it.

as a former npr supporter and former fsf member, i know that national public radio was set up for the public good. i know that it was captured, co-opted and fought against (successfully) by a number of corporate interests over the years, and today it is about as commercial and corporate-driven as a "listener-supported" 501c3 (public radio international is the umbrella 501c organisation, i think) non-profit can be.

i fear this is the obvious fate of the fsf, whether that is reversible or not. if it is reversible, great. im not optimistic, but despite predicting both the purchase of red hat and the cancellation of stallman, i could still be wrong. id really like to be.

either way, many non-profits are known for having a lifecycle where they do great amounts of good, and eventually settle into a trajectory not unlike a career politician, where day-to-day business becomes more about reelection and sponsorship, or sponsors and fundraising and "awareness", than really meeting any new problems with the sort of dedication and serious action needed to deal with the same cause in later decades.

non-profits often peter out, and this is all the more reason to have a living, regenerative "mesh" of organisations than to rely on just the fsf for promoting (and particularly defending) free software in the 21st century.

the fsf still has funds, resources and talent that are useful. i think their ryf certification is likely to remain beneficial. they keep a lot of history of the movement, as they started it-- the free software directory and savannah repo are both priceless, they maintain the free software licenses that are most valuable to free software (at least the ones that implement copyleft.)

i think the fsf has fared better than npr, at least if you count from 1984 to 2018 when stallman was still president.

but, people keep saying that the best thing you can do is join the fsf so that people who care about freedom are still represented there.

even the acting president of the fsf has said he isnt sure that the fsf has ever made a change based on member input. hes one of the people saying that people should join so theyll be represented, but ive said "i get how in theory, thats a good idea and will result in free software being represented."

but ive also said the truth is that members have no real say at all. and thats something the fsf has in common with npr already. when npr started, the whole idea was that it was for members, by members. it wasnt just radio "for the public" but funded by the public, essentially owned by the public. that means the public matters.

the fsfs official policy never made members have a real say in this regard. not only does former staff joshua gay say this, but it is confirmed by acting president alex oliva.

if officially, members do not have any authoritative input, and in practical terms, no such input has ever produced (to my knowledge) any change in what the fsf does, then i dont feel bad saying this representation is entirely hypothetical.

if it seems like corporate sponsors matter unofficially, and regular members officially dont matter (nor do they in any practical terms either) then perhaps this is not too unrealistic an assessment.

it happened to npr, the original purpose of which was no less good than the purpose of the fsf. if it seems like a similar thing is happening to the fsf, maybe thats because it is.

whether it is or not, i think its ideal that we have many different organisations (either way. they exist) but i think this is why that fact is so important-- we need a little redundancy, for the same reason the internet does. nodes will flag from time to time, and the transmission of freedom must continue.

in my opinion, every advocate is an organisation; richard stallman is certainly an institution. for example, is an organisation consisting of just two people.

above all, i think this is what the future of free software looks like-- people working somewhat independently, sometimes together and often in support of each other, as part of a larger (ad hoc) network. that was the original concept of the internet, after all.

monopolies are able to change free software so it better serves their freedom than ours.

why is that so difficult to prove to many free software advocates, and what is it that stops them from caring?


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