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2019-12-26 - New Year's Resolutions in FOSS & Tech

In 2019 I spent a lot of time thinking about the benefits of Free and Open Source software (FOSS), community-led services, and the impact of technology on privacy. I've ended up moving most of my personal computing back to self-hosted or open & and community led services - where I've dabbled continuously since the early 2000s, but never completely committed.

I'm by no means an absolutist on the free software front. There are things I can't do with free software like easily prepare my taxes, or communicate simply with family around the world. I have no problem using commercial software that is sold with a clear and honest description and pricing, doesn't hold data hostage, and does not abuse user privacy. I believe that it is still possible to trust closed software, and I continue to happily use and pay for some of it. My work involves producing both open source and closed source software, and I'm perfectly happy with this. I'm aware that there are many challenges to funding FOSS so that it is fair and sustainable, and I enjoy FOSS not for a fundamental belief in the right to have source code, but the practical ways in which:

Resolutions for 2020

For the coming year I've decided to try and keep the following promises:

  • Financially support FOSS / community / privacy causes. I'll continue to donate to the Software Freedom Conservancy, Electronic Freedom Foundation, SDF, and Fosstodon. I'm not sure about renewing my FSF membership - that would depend on seeing an inclusive & positive leadership emerging, which is long overdue. Likely I'll start to contribute to a few specific projects or individuals whose work I benefit from the most.
  • No new hardware. I have more than enough desktop, laptop, and single-board computer stuff now. It's not all sparkly & new, but it's all more than adequate. Instead of new hardware my money would be better spent supporting the FOSS projects that I use in some way, and the people behind them.
  • No commercial ad-supported service signups. Having closed most of the social media accounts and other things I used, let's see if I can avoid signing up to any ad-supported privacy invading services in 2020, and continue to close accounts instead.
  • Stop distro-hopping and spend the time contributing, writing, or off the computer altogether. I'm a nerd who likes to play with computers, so like many others I end up trying a lot of Linux distros in my spare time. Really there's not a lot of difference between the ones that I look at, and it'd be far more constructive to spend those hours making some kind of open-source contribution, writing a blog post, or doing some more exercise :-)
  • Write blog posts every 2 weeks. I'm enjoying following people's blogs rather than Facebook, Twiter, etc. Let's see if I can come up with anything interesting.
  • Answer questions. I've been using Linux and FOSS since about 1999, as a hobbyist and a professional in various areas. I've benefitted hugely from the mountain of Q&A out there on the web, in IRC, and elsewhere. Maybe I can try answer a few questions a week to pay that back.
  • Engage in more discussion. A lot of FOSS discussion, particularly on the GNU side of things, seems to get overtaken by people who take an extremely hard line on what 'freedom' is, and it can become very judgemental. I think it's valuable for different opinions to be seen, especially in places where a hard-line culture may discourage those interested in FOSS from becoming more involved.

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