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Help the FSF tech team empower software users

by Dana Morgenstein Contributions Published on Aug 04, 2020 12:42 PM

Illustration of 2 people working on a computer

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) tech team is the four-person cornerstone of the primary infrastructure of the FSF and the GNU Project, providing the backbone for hundreds of free software projects, and they epitomize the hard work, creativity, and can-do attitude that characterize the free software movement. They’re pretty modest about it, but I think they deserve some serious credit: it’s only because of their everyday efforts (with the help of volunteers all over the world) that the FSF can boast that we can host our own services entirely on free software, and help other people to become freer every day. It’s also largely to their credit that the FSF staff were able to shift to mostly remote work this spring with barely a blip in our operations.

You can read a summary of their work over the last six months in the most recent issue of the Free Software Foundation Bulletin, but I wanted to give you a few highlights:

  • This March, the novel coronavirus swept in and caused the shutdown of nearly all in-person activities at the most inopportune time in the FSF’s yearly schedule: the week of the 2020 LibrePlanet conference. After deep discussion, the decision was made to take LibrePlanet online-only on Monday, March 9th; the conference was due to begin on Saturday, March 14th. You can see all of the details of how the conference ultimately ran on our blog, and you can watch the session videos on our MediaGoblin page. However, the thing that I want to emphasize here is that the tech team successfully ran an entire conference online, which they had never done before, and made it all run smoothly with only five days to prepare, and every piece of software used was free software. Like I said, they’re modest.

  • Next, the tech team set about addressing how proprietary remote communication tools used for staying in touch and for education are becoming a dangerous fact of everyday life. Having used Jitsi Meet as one part of the livestreaming process for LibrePlanet, they created a Jitsi Meet instance that FSF associate members can use for work and play. They can invite anyone to connect with them in a freedom-respecting video chat room. Not only does this instance enable you to chat with the people you care about without the abuses of proprietary software, but it also makes it easier than ever to demonstrate the advantages of free software to everyone you know!

  • Finally, we’re so proud that FSF Web developer Michael McMahon spearheaded the HACKERS and HOSPITALS project on the LibrePlanet wiki, enabling the hacker community to share resources and connect with activists who have been manufacturing an astounding variety of desperately-needed medical and protective equipment. Only free software gives hackers and makers the complete flexibility and freedom they need (and deserve!) in order to meet immediate needs, and Michael and many others have risen to the occasion admirably. You can read a dedicated article on HACKERS and HOSPITALS in the new issue of the Free Software Foundation Bulletin.

If you’re finding these accomplishments as exciting as we do, we hope you’re now motivated to chip in by becoming an associate member of the FSF! At this writing, we are only 13 members away from our goal of 200. The farther we surpass this goal, the more our tech team can achieve!

The value of a membership goes far beyond the dollars and cents needed to help us weather the challenges of this year: a membership is a vote of confidence that helps us launch new initiatives and puts weight behind our campaigns, licensing, and technical work. Plus, membership comes with plenty of benefits, including merchandise discounts, a bootable membership card, and the newest member perk: access to our Jitsi Meet videoconferencing server.

We don’t know what the future will bring in many ways, but we know that we can count on the ingenuity and hard work of the FSF tech team -- and so can you. Thank you so much for supporting their efforts!

Illustration Copyright © 2020 Free Software Foundation, Inc., by Raghavendra Kamath, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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