Contributing to free software requires privilege. Even regular contributors might sometimes find themselves without it.

Time, focus and money. You might find yourself lacking in one of these at various points in your life.

While software projects from startups move like streams, most free software projects move like glaciers. They move slowly but they keep moving for decades.

Being away from a project doesn't mean you have to give it up. You can join back later.

#FreeSoftware #Privilege

@njoseph Just because I'm seeing a lot of public push-back: I agree. Reminds of a quote from this article:

"A surprising amount of OSS is made by former big tech developers. They can afford to subsist on meagre revenue—for a time—because their pay and stock options have left them free of debt and with well-stocked savings accounts."

Dunno why people seem triggered by the word "privilege" TBH. I've got gobs of it myself. Take responsibility for it. It's a form of power.

@ryan Dude, OSS is not F. OSS is a business model. Free Software is, among other things, an ideology that states that everybody should have equal access to software and equal opportunities to contribute to it.

That is literally the opposite of a privilege.


@josemanuel @njoseph Prevailing material conditions mean that not everyone *will* have equal opportunities to contribute. Being able to perform a significant amount of un-or-under-compensated work without suffering economic hardship necessarily comes from having at least some degree of economic privilege. I'm not saying OSS or FOSS propagate inequality.

@ryan Again, is contributing to free software un-or-under-compensated work? Yes, in most cases. But so is having a hobby. Do you consider having hobbies to be a privilege?

And nobody’s forced to «perform a significant amount» of work. You can just contribute a patch, a bug report, a translation, an improvement to documentation, etc. Or simply fork an existing project for your own personal purposes or to learn and improve yourself.

Moreover, contributing to (or just using) free software can help one land better paid jobs that will get them more time and better material conditions to contribute more significantly if they so desire.

So, again, I fail to see where the so-called privilege is.


@josemanuel @njoseph @ryan

> can help one land better paid jobs that will get them more time and better material conditions to contribute more significantly if they so desire

In other words, not just privilege, but privilege with leverage! Having the resources to invest in free software is the digital global analogue of landed gentry.

I grew up at the right time in the right place with the right inclinations to end up in a position where I can find a well-paid job in any country I like, and have hobbies on top of that. Someone else might be working two jobs just to survive. Billions of people work two jobs just to survive.

It doesn't matter how hard I worked to get here. In my eyes, actually not very hard. I'm *super lucky*.

It is my end goal to help allow a few others to be super lucky too, because everyone deserves that.

@clacke Fascinating how you left out relevant parts of the original message just to make a point, which, I admit, escapes me among all the excess irony.

@njoseph @ryan

@josemanuel @njoseph @ryan I don't see the irony at all. Yes, the ability to have hobbies is a privilege, I said that, and of course you are free to volunteer more or less of your time, I agree with that so I didn't counter it.

The ability to choose to volunteer any time at all without colliding with essential parts of your life is your privilege.

@clacke Ok. I understand your point now and I disagree.

Do you call people who give their time to any NGO dedicated to help others privileged? Because I’d feel insulted if I was one of them.

“Hi, I donate my free time to work for social justice and to reduce inequality.” “Yeah? Well, check your privilege, asshole.”

@njoseph @ryan

@josemanuel I don't think you understand. Are these people able to help because they're privileged? Yeah, no shit they are. But *having* privilege is no cause for someone to tell you "check your privilege, asshole." *That* response is generally reserved for people who are blind to their privilege and so expect *everyone* to be able to do what they are able to do. Many forms of privilege are not at all under a person's control. E.g., being able-bodied, or being light-skinned.

@clacke @njoseph

@josemanuel Being privileged is nothing to be ashamed of, but it *does* bring with it the responsibility of using that privilege for good. It is simply a form of power, relative to the unprivileged. And it's a good idea to nurture awareness within yourself about your privilege, because it's shit like (for example) telling people how *anyone* can retire young because you (with your daddy's money) were able to do it that'll get you told to check that privilege.

Does that help?

@clacke @njoseph

@ryan @josemanuel @clacke @njoseph
I broadly agree but it gets complicated. Grandstanding privilege can lead to perpetuating it by taking on the role of saviour.

@ryan @josemanuel @clacke @njoseph
A lot of free software developers look more or less the same and are from the same background. They're eroding their privilege by working on free software - great! But it's still a huge problem for the free software community. We all lose out because the software is less interesting/useful than it could be.
There's no contradiction in both being super thankful for the work of any free software dev, but also want to work on the structural problems that lock out a lot of people from contributing.

@ryan Listen. You’re not going to convince me as long as you keep using a term that only has negative connotations and apply it to voluntary work done for the common good.

If you want us to understand each other, use a word that shows appreciation instead.

@clacke @njoseph

Interesting. I don't personally feel negatively about the word "privilege," FWIW, but what word for that concept would you feel more comfortable with? "Advantage?" Or...? Like, I don't think we're going to get everyone to move to another word or anything, but maybe this will help me understand your perspective better. I'm guessing my experiences around this concept have been wildly different from yours.

@clacke @njoseph

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Qoto Mastodon

QOTO: Question Others to Teach Ourselves
An inclusive, Academic Freedom, instance
All cultures welcome.
Hate speech and harassment strictly forbidden.