Yours truly and FSF staff the day after LibrePlanet 2015
It was the 10th of December 1999. I was standing on the curb outside of Logan airport with my backpack on the ground in front of me. As Tom Turner pulled up his car next to the curb, his first words to me where:
- You really do have a pink backback!
I had just flown in on Icelandair flight 633 from Reykjavik to Boston. My first time in the US. One of my first times outside of Sweden on my own in general. I was 22 years old and a the GNU projects chief webmaster. It left a lasting impression to be in Boston, as you may imagine.
There are a lot of stories that I'd love to share from that time, and as the FSF prepares for their 30 year anniversary this year, I'll probably need to dig into my archive to pull out some of that history. I intended to come back to Boston a lot more frequently (I even asked for a key to the FSF's Programming Offices at MIT to be placed in the FSF Distribution Office in downtown Boston so I could get easier access to it when I came!). But it would be some years until the next time.
The ones who did make it there just after me were Loic Dachery and others from the Free Software Foundation Europe. They made the trip over in 2001 to install a server for the original Savannah. Since then, there's been plenty of people from the FSFE visiting the FSF in Boston over the years, including our vice president Matthias Kirschner who visited in 2012.
For myself, my next visit wouldn't be until 2007, when I met with Benjamin Mako Hill and Hal Abelson from the FSF Board of Directors. Followed in 2014, and now again in 2015. And having covered more than enough of history in a single blog post, let me tell you about LibrePlanet 2015.
Prior to joining the FSFE as executive director, I had a Fellowship from the Shuttleworth Foundation to work on Elog.io, a provenance catalog for digital works that facilitate (among other things) automatic attribution. This was the main reason for my visit, and I gave a presentation on my work with Elog.io on the Saturday which you should soon be able to find on the LibrePlanet Media site.
On the Friday when I arrived, while I was still rather jetlagged, I had breakfast with Benjamin Mako Hill, and Matthew Garrett -- then the newest member of the FSF board. We met at the Friendly Toast by MIT. I had the Green Eggs & Ham breakfast platter (I just
needed to mention that, sorry).
It was an interesting discussion where we moved seamlessly between hardware hacking, inter-FSF cooperation, and veganism on the political spectrum. When I broke away from Matthew and Mako (they had a board meeting later that day), my parting words to them was a promise to work to increase the practical collaboration between the FSF and FSFE. There ought to be more work done in collaboration between organisations in the world in general, but especially between organisations sharing so much of the same values.
Later that same night, the FSF hosted the annual pre-LibrePlanet get together at the FSF offices. I got a chance to meet and say hi to many of the FSF staff whom I hadn't really spoken to before, and then grabbed Bradley Kuhn and Karen Sandler (both with the Software Conservancy) for dinner, which was in ways a logical continuation of my morning discussions with Mako and Matthew, focusing on practical collaboration and exchanges.
As it happened, we ended up having dinner just next to where I had rented a flat (and was later in the week served a Notice to Quit by a Boston constable -- do ensure that your landlord is paying his rent when renting through Airbnb!). Now, I wanted to grab Bradley again during the conference, but he managed to keep out of sight (I learned later that he was just hacking away in one of the rooms where I didn't look). Instead, I had a good chat with Henry Poole from CivicActions, another FSF board member.
As I'm just stepping into my role as the Executive Director for the FSFE, I think it's safe to assume that pretty much all conversations I've had with people at one point or another turn to me explaining either my background, or my vision for the FSFE in the future. Often both, as happened with Henry. What I've tried to emphasize from my side this week, are:
- That I'm a big fan of practical collaboration on joint actions, more than generic coordination on separate actions.
- That collaboration often start with having personal connections between people, so increasing the opportunities for people to meet each other contribute to increased collaboration.
- That the FSFE has -- in my view -- two main challenges moving forward:
- analysing Free Software from legal, technical, and social dimensions and ensuring that any challenges to free software within those areas are met,
- assuring that in a world of free and open everything, Free Software is what ties everything together: you can not have open data, open ecology, open government or open educational resources without Free Software.
Oh yes, there was one more thing I did before I left. I spent half a day at the FSF offices, talking to its staff and in particular to John Sullivan, the FSF executive director and my natural counterpart. Thanks to everyone for being such gracious hosts. I'm looking forward to coming back soon again, and, more importantly, to continue all discussions on how to move Free Software forward in the world.