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You are here: Home Blogs Community Sharing day two of LibrePlanet 2024: Cultivating Community

Sharing day two of LibrePlanet 2024: Cultivating Community

by Free Software Foundation Contributions Published on May 05, 2024 08:10 PM

Volunteers and speakers at LibrePlanet 2024.

Today, May 5, marked the second day of the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) sixteenth edition of its annual LibrePlanet conference. This year's theme was "Cultivating Community." The talks and activities this year centered around nurturing the free software community's continued growth for decades to come. We're happy to report that, following a successful first day of the conference, our second day brought both online and in-person attendees entertaining and enlightening talks.

Hayley Tsukayama at LibrePlanet 2024.

The opening keynote delivered by Hayley Tsukayama shared her origin story as an activist for user rights causes, beginning from her time as a reporter on the Washington Post. Tired of having to pair stories about Cambridge Analytica and similar fiascos with those same companies' quarterly earnings, she started a journey that brought her to her work as associate director of legislative activism for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Tsukayama emphasized the importance of cross-disciplinary advocacy and shared lessons EFF has learned from building partnerships with different movements such as the workers rights and criminal justice. When working together with other movements, attendees should think about the individual skills they bring to the table and bridge their own experience to the issues they're trying to impact. Tsukayama's talk also emphasized the activist's journey rather than the destination, stating that many times the cliche about "the friends you make along the way" turns out to be true in activism for user rights. When asked by an attendee during the Q&A what individuals can do, she encouraged all of us to write to our representatives about our personal experience with free software and the injustices of proprietary software. She says: "I often find that personal stories move lawmakers."

As not every conference presentation needs to be a full forty-five minutes, a lightning talk round was held with both in-person and prerecorded talks. The three in-person lightning talks were given by four conference attendees, covering topics ranging from the Sandstorm platform for web development, mesh networking, and a collection of art projects that demonstrated how widespread and effective mass surveillance technologies are. Meanwhile, J.Y. Amihud spoke on making and producing a (libre!) film with entirely free software, and Iván Alejandro Ávalos Díaz led a workshop on the GNU Taler project which continued through the afternoon.

Tech team member streaming LibrePlanet 2024.

The free software movement extends far beyond LibrePlanet. Several sessions in the afternoon were dedicated to spreading the message to wider communities and contexts. One of these was Neil Plotnick's presentation on GNU/Linux in the high school classroom, where Plotnick demonstrated how he uses free software to teach high school students core computer science concepts and slightly more advanced topics like octal (Unix) file attributes.

In the FSF staff panel, FSF executive director Zoë Kooyman joined campaigns team members Miriam Bastian and Greg Farough for an open (and libre!) discussion on the future of LibrePlanet, opportunities to broaden the free software movement and the FSF's support base, as well as challenges activists face in introducing their friends, family, and complete strangers to software freedom.

The lunch break had its share of extracurriculars. The GNU Boot install party was continued into Sunday, where the FSF provided several laptops for enterprising attendees to try the sometimes complicated flash process before performing it on their own machines. Chief GNUisance and FSF founder Richard M. Stallman (RMS) hosted a book signing and Q&A, where attendees asked inspiring questions about how to build community and becoming an effective free software advocate.

FSF-LA president Alexandre Oliva (often just "lxo") extended Cory Doctorow's useful and now well-known concept of the "enshittification" of web services to software more generally. In a session that was chock full of both knowledge and puns, Oliva illustrated software enshittification through the example of CPU microcode and device firmware updates, which is one of the main avenues for the most nefarious kind of exploitation. In contrast to more "baked-in" forms of firmware which are ethically indistinguishable from the circuit, microcode and firmware updates are a particularly vulnerable place for software enshittification.

The volunteer-run and fully virtual Neptune track continued into Sunday, with Tobias Platen sharing how to game in the free world on a Talos II, Adam Monsen highlighting methods for "steadfast" self-hosting while streaming over the web himself, Jurgen Gaeremyn on resurrecting the (formerly?) annual Software Freedom Day celebration, and others. LibrePlanet attendees could watch these streams on laptops set up in the conference's "Space Station" lobby in a special viewing session.

Alyssa Rosenzweig at LibrePlanet 2024.

Alyssa Rosenzweig's keynote concluded the conference, sharing her trailblazing work with freeing the M1 series of Apple GPUs. Rosenzweig did this through first giving an introduction to the dramatis personae of the graphical toolkit world, like Direct3D, which she "begrudgingly" described as a standard when compared to Apple's completely undocumented Metal API. From there, Rosenzweig took us through how she became involved in reverse-engineering graphics stacks by sharing how she freed her first machine, and her first computer, a Chromebook equipped with a Mali GPU. This highlighted the domino effect her exemplary work on free software had, beginning with "Alyssa getting a Chromebook" leading straight up to the multi-billion dollar ARM corporation contributing to the project. Rosenzweig characterized her talk (and work) not as being about graphics or even free software, but resisting the daily injustices perpetrated by the "big corporate monolith." "I want you to find a cause, I want you to build a community, and I want you to resist," she said. Rosenzweig concluded to a full standing ovation from the audience.

Rosenzweig emphasized the collective impact that our individual actions have, stating that individuals have something corporations do not: dignity. We couldn't have asked for a more appropriate capstone for the conference generally. The free software movement continues day to day, not just two days out of the year, and we hope that LibrePlanet has provided the encouragement both old and new free software activists need to continue their work.

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