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Share free software with your friends and colleagues

by Miriam Bastian Contributions Published on Jul 05, 2024 04:40 PM
Have you ever wondered how to get a friend or colleague or even a complete stranger hooked up with free software? Here's the ultimate guide.

Step 1 - Awaken interest

It helps when people become curious and ask us about free software instead of us telling them about something they're not genuinely interested in. That way, we can also better connect to a benefit of free software that the person we are speaking to cares deeply about. But how should we get them curious? You can:

  • Use free software in front of them. Leading by example is always a great way to get people interested;
  • Wear some merchandise supporting software freedom, or put stickers for your favorite free software project on your computer, phone, or car;
  • Talk about what you do in your free time and why you like learning about or tinkering with free software, meeting with other free software activists, or volunteering for the FSF and GNU. Keep it personal;
  • If your friend is complaining about their phone or a program they're using, ask them if they ever considered using a free software app or program instead; and
  • Use the overlap with other kinds of activism. Whether your friend is concerned about privacy, frustrated with hardware obsolescence and eager to protect the environment, or eager to empower the historically disempowered -- explain how free software helps these causes.

Step 2 - Your elevator pitch

When someone asks you questions, it helps to present them with your elevator pitch about free software. Tell them why free software matters to you. Ideally, choose a topic they can relate to. If they are a student, for example, you can mention why computer user freedom is vital for education. If they are interested in politics, you can point out how important free software is for a free society. Check out the LibrePlanet wiki for some elevator pitch examples for your inspiration. Feel free to add yours to the list! Be prepared to accept rejections. It doesn't make sense to push people who aren't ready.

Step 3 - Help them find their own reason to use free software

Step 4 - Help them install their first free program

Some free programs that are easily adopted:

Note that this is a nonexhaustive list of programs which have proved to be easily adopted by newcomers. For a full list of free software programs the FSF recommends, see the almost 17,000 entries in the Free Software Directory.

Step 5 - Help them further step up on the Freedom Ladder

Help your friends and colleagues take a further step up on the Freedom Ladder by explaining encryption to them with the FSF's Email Self-Defense campaign or introducing them to the concept of mobile phone freedom. Admittedly, mobile phone freedom is still a big challenge, because a nonfree "baseband" operating system runs at the ring-0 level of every cell phone and the chip manufactures refuse to make the interfaces of their chips known. It remains a High Priority Project for the free software community to work on. Our goal is a world where the firmware and software running on our devices is fully free. This is why the FSF recommends the free Android distribution Replicant. Free software newcomers may not want to switch their mobile phone right away, but first steps on the Freedom Ladder can be to install the free app store F-droid. Then, have a look at the list of mobile phone apps that respect the user's freedom and are easily adopted on the Freedom Ladder draft.

Step 6 - Show them where to find help

Don't forget to show your mentees where to find help so that they can advance in their journey to full software freedom with help from the wider community.
The FSF Member Forum is a great place to ask questions, as is the libreplanet-discuss mailing list. We also recommend the Trisquel user forums, and there are also likely other local free software enthusiast who can help them, which they can find on the LibrePlanet wiki. If they want an easy check for whether a program is free software, point them to the Free Software Directory.

Step 7 - Invite your friends to get involved in the community

Finally, encourage your friends to get involved in the community. Maybe they want to file bug reports for the programs that they use or translate important resources to help make them accessible to more people if they speak a foreign language. Perhaps they want to participate in the Free Software Directory or contribute to the GNU Project. There are plenty of ways to volunteer! You can invite them to join the FSF's mailing lists libreplanet-discuss and DRM-elimination-crew, where they can participate in discussions and find like-minded people to start or join a project. And of course we would be honored if you encourage your friends to join the FSF or gift them an FSF associate membership.

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