My life can be divided into major two parts.
Life before knowing “Libre Office” and after.
No, I won’t go on about how good the software is (which it is; fairly good).
I was fascinated by the name, the meaning.
Libre, means “free, at liberty.”
The name suggested a philosophy, a vision, an idea to me.
Libre != Gratis
But the concept of open source, free software, the industry did not quite settle in clearly, in my mind. The past leads us to the present. So I became more interested in its history. The history of the movement of liberating cyber space. I asked Kushal, who happens to be a free software advocate, and a devout follower to tell me the story, and guide me through the path.
We embarked on a wonderfully meandering journey where I was visiting older, simpler times and Kushal was revisiting the movement with me. The era of sharing, the beginning of the complexities and the fight against it.
Our primary source of knowledge was the book, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, apart from several old articles, newsletters etc.
I was astonished to know that there exists software that respects freedom; the freedom of end users.
There exists software that believes in cooperation and collective building.
By strict definition, the first one is known as free software and the second one is open source software.
To my utmost surprise there are people sacrificing their material wants, over the peace of mind, and easy fame to help others. To preach freedom and openness.
How did it help me?
It made me understand the present state of the world, a lot better.
I now see the words community, & collaboration in a different light altogether.
I now understand why people are so passionate about words, phrases or things.
Why these terms make all the difference.
Most importantly it gave me a refuge. I may not be someone with a coding background, but I can still very much be a part of this community. Coding may be a big part of the technical community but it’s not the only part. It gave me the power to ignore the cold shoulder and the occasional jibe (and laugh at their incomprehension about history), whenever someone treated me like an outsider. It gave myself the justification, and confidence to take the decision of quitting a fairly established career as mortgage attorney and start afresh at 30.
Community, collaboration, and freedom are the some my most used words (apart from “No Py”!) in a day since then.
And now I know why.
And it’s time for me to spread the word.
Coming to the present
July 2017, a tweet and its reply made us relive that journey. It was the discussion of the recent travel ban. A tweet came from @gnome about this. Totally appropriate given the primary idea of gnome. But many could not figure out why such statements are coming from @gnome.
I was taken aback. We were sad, surprised and somewhat angry. People were enjoying the fruits of so many people’s hard work and effort and were yet ignorant of the history and the toil behind it all.
Among many other replies, there was a reply from Miguel de Icaza that seemed to echo our (Kushal’s and mine) thoughts.
We understand why he said that. We thought it’s time for us too, to do our bit, to spread the word.
And so, we decided to do two things -
Firstly, to tell newer, younger lot about it.
For which Kushal & I have taken classes on
- the history of hacker ethics
- licensing and how the choices we make affect us, the society, and the world at large,
at DGPLUG Summer training session.
A similar session will follow in PyLadies Pune August meetup.
Secondly, to write an article on the Hacker Ethic and the Free Software movement, together.
We have published this on 12th July, 2017. Here is the link
Please read it (though it is a bit lengthy) and be a part of our journey.