LibrePlanet Day 1: Trailblazing free software together
On day one of LibrePlanet 2019, we welcomed 264 attendees to the Stata Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Techology (MIT). The LibrePlanet conference has now entered its second decade, and as software infiltrates more and more of daily life, there are many new and important ethical, social, legal, and technological questions to answer. Today's sessions examined the theme of "Trailblazing Free Software" from many different angles, addressing how we can apply the practical advantages of free software while maintaining and defending the indispensable principles behind it.
LibrePlanet 2019 kicked off on Saturday, March 23rd with a moving, urgent keynote by Tarek Loubani, an emergency physician who splits his time between Canada and the Gaza Strip, focusing on the production and proliferation of free medical devices. Loubani's work involves gaining self-sufficiency and local independence for medical systems through the use of free techniques.
Dr. Loubani described his journey from seeing change as the work of superheroes to a point of understanding change as built by millions of "tiny ants," working collaboratively to improve how we live. Beginning with stethoscopes, Dr. Loubani and other determined medical professionals and designers created free designs to 3D print cheap but high-quality medical devices, which can save lives in Gaza and other war-torn regions around the world. While many of the stories he told were tragic, Dr. Loubani's talk ended on a hopeful note, about the vibrancy and importance of the free software movement.
Throughout the day, there were over two dozen talks, spanning a wide range of topics relating to software freedom and user freedom. Chris Lamb and Do Yoon Kim addressed the importance of copyleft licenses in their talks "Redis Labs and the tragedy of the Commons Clause" and "GPL enforcement and customer benefits: Evidence from OpenWRT." Speakers introduced attendees to global frontiers (and barriers) of free software with their talks on "Sharing global opportunities for new developers in the Wikipedia community," "Hackerspace Rancho Electrónico," and "Australia's decryption law and free software." A panel of organizers, developers, and collaborators explored the possibilities opened up by the Internet for large, decentralized groups of people from around the world to collaborate with each other in "Large-scale collaboration with free software." And longtime LibrePlanet contributor Andrew Oram explained what he describes as the "seemingly unstoppable ascendance of a few large corporations in computing" in his talk, "Technical drivers of "cloud" centralization and megacorporate domination."
There was space for some more lighthearted discussion as well: in his talk "Free software for safe and happy chickens," Adam Monsen introduced the audience to his awesome free-software-powered chicken door, which of course utilizes only free software. You can, of course, purchase a light-activated chicken door online, but it's so much more fun to figure out how to make it work on your own, and get your kids involved too! Amanda Sopkin's talk on the colorful history of encryption methods was also full of fun factoids -- for instance, the bombe machine used by British and Polish cryptographers to decipher German messages during World War II weighed a ton and had 12 miles of wiring!
Videos of these talks and others will be available soon, at the LibrePlanet GNU MediaGoblin page.
At the end of the day, Free Software Foundation (FSF) president Richard Stallman announced the winners of the 2018 Free Software Awards, celebrating an individual's ongoing commitment to user freedom (the Award for the Advancement of Free Software) and the work of a free software project that has created significant social good (the Award for Projects of Social Benefit).
Deborah Nicholson, dedicated community advocate and free software activist, received the Award for the Advancement of Free Software. And OpenStreetMap Foundation chairperson and co-founder of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), Kate Chapman, accepted the Award for Projects of Social Benefit on behalf of OpenStreetMap.
In addition to her role as the director of community operations at the Software Freedom Conservancy, Deborah has served as the membership coordinator for the Free Software Foundation. She’s done outstanding volunteer work with GNU MediaGoblin, a federated media-publishing platform, and OpenHatch, free software's welcoming committee, and she continues her work as a founding organizer of the Seattle GNU/Linux Conference, an annual event dedicated to surfacing new voices and welcoming new people to the free software community. Plus, she has delivered some truly terrific LibrePlanet talks, including last year's keynote speech, "Free software forever."
OpenStreetMap is a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world. Founded by Steve Coast in the UK in 2004, OpenStreetMap is built by a community of over one million community members and has found its application on thousands of Web sites, mobile apps, and hardware devices. OpenStreetMap is the only truly global service without restrictions on use or availability of map information.
At the end of the Free Software Awards presentation, we presented raffle prize bundles to three lucky winners, which included a Technoethical S3 smartphone and a Technoethical T400S laptop! Congratulations, and thank you Technoethical, Vikings, and ThinkPenguin for donating these terrific prizes!
Don't forget, if you're not attending tomorrow, you can still participate via IRC through your IRC client or our Web IRC interface, powered by Kiwi IRC, or via voice chat on our Mumble server. You can also tune in to watch all of the LibrePlanet sessions at our livestream page.
We're so grateful to our amazing little army of volunteers, our exhibitors, and our generous sponsors, Red Hat and Private Internet Access, for helping us put on this yearly celebration of free software. We hope that all of our participants, both on-site at MIT and watching from afar, are having a fun and educational time at LibrePlanet. See you tomorrow!
Photo credits: Copyright © 2019 Free Software Foundation, by Madi Muhlberg, photos licensed under CC-BY 4.0.