A Community I Love

Fri, 8 Mar 2024

I love many things: my fluffy feline overlord, an excellent free software interactive fiction playthrough that keeps me guessing, and boldly going where no human has gone before (thanks, Star Trek!). But today, I want to talk about a different kind of love: the love for a community that inspires me daily - the free software community.

Free software is a cause that transcends arbitrary lines. It's about freedom. Not just some abstract ideal but the concrete freedom to control the software that does our computing and shapes our lives. In this fight for ethics and user empowerment, I've found a home where I find myself so deeply embedded - the incredible free software community - a haven for those who share this passion.

Now, some might scoff and say, "Free software? Isn't that just about nerds and code?" Well, it is about code, but it's about so much more. Free software, at its core, is about ethics. It's about the fundamental belief that users should control their computing. Both individually and collectively, they should have the right to control the software they use. It's about the unshakable conviction that proprietary software shouldn't subjugate us.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF), championed by the legendary Richard Stallman, lays it out beautifully - the four essential freedoms that users need to have:

  • Run the program for any purpose (no permission is needed!)
  • Study how the program works and change it (source code is required)
  • Change the program
  • Share copies, with anyone anywhere

If you think about it, it's these specific freedoms, and not some different ones, that are necessary to have control over your computing.

It's a community that values ethics, and this philosophy resonates deeply with me. The free software movement stands as a beacon of hope in a world where our freedoms are increasingly infringed upon. Here, people unite to create tools that serve us, not vice versa. We believe in the power of copyleft, a licensing mechanism that ensures these freedoms are not only granted but also protected and passed on, generation after generation, into the future.

This might sound utopian to some, but it's a lived reality in the free software community. I've found a vibrant group of passionate individuals in the free software community who believe in this. We've built amazing tools - operating systems, web servers, and games, including those interactive fiction games I enjoy. However, the free software community is more than just licenses and code. It's a community with a diverse group of passionate individuals from all walks of life. We have programmers toiling away on critical pieces of software, activists fighting for user rights, artists, writers, educators, and everyday people who want control over their computers. We're a diverse bunch, all doing it united by a common shared passion and conviction that software should empower, not enslave.

We face challenges like proprietary software giants with seemingly bottomless resources, oppressive laws, patents, Digital Repression Management (DRM), the constant struggle to raise awareness, and more. Still, amidst these challenges, there's an unyielding spirit here, a la the indomitable Captain Picard facing down a Borg cube, and the free software community perseveres. We share our knowledge, code, and even cat pictures (because the internet needs more cats). It's a community that welcomes everyone - the seasoned hacker, the curious newbie, the person who wants to know their computer isn't spying on them.

Within this community, I've found not just technical help (because, let's face it, troubleshooting free software can be an adventure!) but also camaraderie, friendship, and a shared sense of purpose. We celebrate victories, big and small, from releasing a new program to heated debates. We support each other, offering guidance and encouragement. Every win strengthens the foundation of a future where users are in control. We also commiserate over setbacks.

This community makes me believe in a better future - a future where software serves humanity, not vice versa, and everyone has the power to control their computing. It's a future worth fighting for, and I'm proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the fantastic people who make up the free software movement.

So, if you're looking for a community that's passionate, principled, and values freedom and ethics - join us. Dive into the world of free software. We may not have all the answers, and our debates can get lively (to say the least!). Still, one thing's for sure: we're a passionate bunch who believe in the power of software to empower people, and there's a place for everyone - programmers, activists, cat lovers (because who isn't?), and anyone who believes in a common goal: a future where software is a tool for empowerment and liberation, not control and enslavement.

Let's boldly go where no user has gone before - into a future of free software for all! Let's build a better world, one free software project at a time!