Tag Archives: better world

How can I help the Free and Open world?

16 Apr

So, you recognise that the Open Source and Free Content world is a great idea, but don’t really know how to give back to it and contribute to its development?

Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

Know how to code? Get coding.

There are virtually an infinite number of projects that you can join. You can even start you own!

Some platforms you can join and start a project on are:

  • Lanchpad, using the Bazaar version control system, mainly related to Ubuntu (more than 31,000 projects)
  • GitHub, using the Git revision control system
  • SourceForge, with 324,000 projects

There are many more, and you can make your mind by having a look at this list on Wikipedia.

You can also get involved in the Google Summer of Code, with which Google promotes post-secondary developers getting involved into Open Source projects, every year, since 2005.

Getting involved in an open-source project is a great way to learn about coding and working as a team.

By the way, I’m saying all this, but I don’t know shit about developing. Anyway…

Not a developer? Release different creative Free Content

Free/Open content licenses are not made only for open-source software. You can release you cultural works – be it a book, photos, drawings or music – under a variety of licenses, in order to give others more freedom and promote creativity.

You can choose to release your photos under a Creative Commons license on Flickr for example, but maybe prefer open-source software-based websites like MediaGoblin or TroveBox. Also, if your photos have a encyclopaedic value, you could upload them to Wikimedia Commons so they can be used on other Wikimedia projects like Wikipedia.

Here are a few examples of digital libraries where you can contribute with your cultural works:

The Creative Commons license has a few parameters that you can tweak depending on how you want to be credited and what you want to let other people do with your work.

The Free Art license (called License Art Libre in French – see a definition in English) is a more permissive one. You can compare the different available licenses on the Freedom Defined website.

And if you are a scientist, consider publishing your research in an Open Access journal! This is rapidly becoming the norm for many around the world, and it is definitely the way of the future, probably giving you more opportunities to get cited too! Search for an Open Access journal on the DOAJ website.

Not an artist? Give some time!

If you are not exactly an artist, you can still give a hand at expanding existing community-built websites. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Everybody knows and uses Wikipedia – so why not give some of your time back to the community? There are lots to do, from correcting a typo to creating a new article. You can get started from here. However, if you don’t feel like you can contribute to an encyclopaedia, there are many other Wikimedia projects to spend some free time on, including media library, dictionary, travel guide and news source.
  • MusicBrainz is a music-related database. If you love music or own a few records, why not try and give us a hand? You can start from this guide.
  • OpenStreetMap is a great project that aims at building a open database of geographical data. It is very fun to contribute to, and you can start straight away by mapping your own street! Here is a beginners’ guide to get you started.
  • Another interesting one is OpenFoodFacts. This French language version is the most mature one, but you can start helping on any of the 12 available languages.
  • The Stack Exchange network includes 101 Q&A websites that compile a wealth of community-built knowledge licensed under a CC-by-SA license. You will probably find a topic you are knowledgeable in. (Home-brewing? Islam? Robotics? Cryptography? Come on, you MUST be good at something!)

Another way to give some of your time to the cause is by promoting and advocating the use of open/free content licenses, open source software and open standards. Talk about it to your friends and family, use the cultural works yourself, install an open source software alternative on a friend’s computer, organise an event or a presentation… There are many options!

Don’t have time? Give some money!

I could have gone with “Give some money!” first, followed by “Don’t have money? Give some time!”, but I reckon everything else should be prioritize over money. In my philosophy, the less we use and depend on money, the better.

However, we have to acknowledge the fact that the society we live in heavily relies on monetary incentives. So yes, vote with your money, but only after you voted with everything else.

There are many ways you can donate some of your income for a good cause promoting openness. Here are a few ideas:

Give to organisations that do an amazing job at promoting the Open World. Just to name a few: the Open Knowledge FoundationAPRIL (fr), AFUL (fr), Framasoft (fr), the Free Software FoundationLa Quadrature du Net, the Open Source Initiative, the Free Network Foundation… They will all make a good use of your pennies.

You can also fund specific projects directly. Go to your favourite software’s website and shout them a few cups of coffee. An other way to do it is participating in crowdfunding. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the two main websites for crowdfunding inovative projects. Just do an “open source” search (quick links: KS or IGG) and give some money to the projects you like the most. For example:

Well, there you go! Those are just a few ideas, but hopefully you found something that suits you, and we can all give back to the Open community!

Cheers for reading.

Happy Document Freedom Day!

27 Mar
DFD banner

(DFD, license cc by-sa 3.0)

Today, the 27th of March 2013, we celebrate Document Freedom Day (DFD).

Why? Because we need to improve the interoperability between software in order to communicate better and give everyone the opportunity to use the software they want to use to produce documents.

In my own experience, I often felt guilty because of incompatibility problems when I was editing a .doc text document coming from someone who would use Microsoft Office. We open-source advocates often hear that we are annoying because we can’t – or won’t – use the bloody basic .doc or .docx formats, which results in jumbled documents.

Well, there is absolutely no reason we should be seen as the problem. On the contrary, our choice is more of a solution.

We need to say it, and explain it, over and over until this is understood by everyone: the problem is not us. The problem is the monopoly of the Microsoft closed formats worldwide. It is not LibreOffice or OpenOffice’s fault that your document is all messed up after going back and forth between a Microsoft Office user and a Linux aficionado – it is Microsoft’s fault for making their formats so cryptic no other software can handle them without any trouble.

Using Open Document Formats (ODF) in the first place would have solved the problem – yes, Microsoft Office can read ODF too.

Another very valid reason to use open document formats is that your files’ lifespan does not depend on the software you used to create them.

It is about time the default formats are open formats that any software can understand. Even though at the moment, .doc and .xls formats are the most widely used ones for text documents and spreadsheets, it does not mean they are the best choice! This should be everyone’s decision to do the move in a concerted and informed effort, but the governments and institutions should definitely do their part in initiating a wider change.

Today is not just the day of open document formats, it also is the day of all open standards and formats.

So if you want to do your bit, talk about this, promote the use of open standard and formats, and avoid any closed ones. Here is a short list to have an idea of which formats should be promoted:

  • In your office suite, prefer formats like .odt, .ods or .odp to .doc and .docx, .xls and .xlsx, or .ppt and .pptx;
  • Use PDF documents as much as you want;
  • For your music and other sounds, prefer .ogg to .mp3, .wma or .aac, and .flac to .wav;
  • When it comes to graphics and pictures, choose .jpg, .png, .gif and .svg instead of .psd and .bmp;
  • If you want to compress or archive bulky files, choose .7z, .tar and .gzip instead of .zip;
  • For videos, .ogv and .mkv are preferred to .wmv and .mov;
  • And for your ebooks, definitely go with the .epub format instead of promoting the myriad of proprietary formats that each brand creates to lock you in!

These are just a few examples. Have a look at this Wikipedia article to learn about the safer format choices.

You can read more about DFD on the official website.

Stephen Fry poster for DFD 2012

Stephen Fry gives you a piece of his mind for DFD 2012. And he is damn right. (DFD, licence cc by-sa 3.0)