Snowdrift.coop: addressing the inherent social dilemmas in funding free/libre/open works


#1

Hi, I’m a strong advocate for everything that Ind.ie does (I don’t use Apple myself anymore, but promote Better to all who do).

I also am cofounder of a still-struggling-to-get-launched platform aiming to fundamentally change the way we cooperate in funding the free/libre/open creative economy. The site is https://snowdrift.coop/

I was thinking of finally doing more outreach because Ind.ie is not only one of the most optimal companies that could be an ideal fit as one of the early projects we fund (something we’re looking at formalizing soon, so that we design with project needs in mind with direct collaboration and feedback). I also was just making the decision to link to the Ethical Design manifesto in our own collection of ideal honorable values that projects should strive for:

https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/project-reqs/honor-projects

For more about Snowdrift.coop, the full details are at:

https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/about

And while some items are a bit dated, it’s pretty well put together. The work is all valuable already, and everything we do is CC-BY-SA, so Ind.ie is, of course, welcome to use/adapt/be-inspired-by anything and everything.

We are in the middle of months-long effort to create a better video introduction and finalize all the backend technology and handle project management among everyone (we’re all volunteers and located around the world).

I would love to hear from the community here, collaborate as much as we can, and make sure we are all, on both sides, doing all we can to help each other reach our shared goals (which are not that far from unity; we’re really working, compatibly, on the same mission).

Cheers


#2

Hey @wolftune, thank you for sharing! From some quick reading, it sounds really great. I’m going to have a proper read-through and get back to you, rather than asking stupid questions that are probably answered in the wiki!


#3

Hello Wolftune, I have read your Wiki-article. Somewhere you suggest using Google, but in a different way as usual. Everyone uses it. If you have an adblocker in Firefox you can see all the trackings and Google Analytics is always there. My question is: has Google made itself so powerful that it is iossible to avoid this company?
The same for Paypal: I don’t like that company because it uses many many trackers and because the founder Peter Thiel is not the kind a man that I have trust in (Trump, transhumanism). I wished there was a proper alternative.
Your story is about open source. I noticed that this is mostly Linux and that you have to be tech savvy in order to work and play with it. My Jolla is not recommendable for everyone and unlocking the bootloader of an Xperia is also not something that everyone is willing to do. My question is: why is open source still not an option for everyone?


#4

I backed the crowdfunding for the Librem 5 that is running now. They are working together with the KDE- movement. You are working in the Snowdrift Coop. I guess there are more o s projects. Would it not be nice if all these projects offered products that can work together on devices? I mean: standards.


#5

Hi Kea3!

I’m guessing that you aren’t a native English speaker, forgive me if that’s wrong. A lot of your comment seems strange and surprising to me.

Where does the Snowdrift.coop wiki encourage using Google? We and I do not endorse or support Google at all. But using Google is clearly the path-of-least resistance, and yes they are so powerful that they are nearly impossible to avoid. You can’t simply use email without Google because a huge portion of all the people out there use Google for their email, even if it’s a custom domain so you don’t know. And as long as the recipient is using Google, then your mail to them goes through Google. The fact is that Google Maps has tons of advantages over Open Street Map or even other proprietary map options, but that doesn’t mean you have to use Google Maps, it merely means that we can understand why people use it beyond being just careless.

I agree completely with your concerns about Paypal (and Thiel for that matter).

Your story is about open source

I don’t quite understand. Are you saying that the main focus of Snowdrift.coop is “open source”? That term generally refers to software, and we use “FLO” generally for “free/libre/open” https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/about/free-libre-open

this is mostly Linux and that you have to be tech savvy in order to work and play with it

I don’t understand this either. We talk about “GNU/Linux” as we are embracing the political values of GNU that are about freedom for the general public. This isn’t about techy stuff for tech-savvy enthusiasts. Everything we’re talking about is about how to fund ethical products for the general public. I’m a non-techy non-enthusiast non-programmer politically-active music teacher…

My question is: why is open source still not an option for everyone?

Forgive the assumptions, but this makes me wonder what of the stuff at Snowdrift.coop you actually read. Everything on the Snowdrift.coop wiki discusses answers to why FLO public goods are NOT currently adequate for most of the general public and what we need to do about it (namely, work in solidarity to better fund products that are FLO and ethical).

So, let me be explicit: Snowdrift.coop isn’t about the interests of enthusiasts or programmers or “open source”. It’s about recognizing the fundamental challenges to cooperating in solidarity so that the citizens of the world have the power to insist that technology and cultural works actually serve the public interest. We want maps that have all the features of Google Maps but have no connection to surveillance capitalism. We don’t get there by a bunch of enthusiasts volunteering, we get there by paying all the same sort of talented people who already work on Google Maps but in a set up where we, the public, say “we’re paying you, so you need to make the product serve us”. And, in practice, funding the projects like Open Street Map that already treat the public ethically is the strategy we’re focused on. So, we want the stuff that is currently not recommendable (Jolla etc as example) and fund it well enough so that it really can be good for the general public and not something only activists and enthusiasts bother with.

I backed the crowdfunding for the Librem 5 that is running now. They are working together with the KDE- movement. You are working in the Snowdrift Coop. I guess there are more o s projects. Would it not be nice if all these projects offered products that can work together on devices? I mean: standards.

I so hope the Librem 5 succeeds!! I am a KDE user myself. There’s definitely examples of FLO projects that are successful enough to provide a foundation for the future we need if we can get them adequate funding. I’m all for standards. One aspect of Snowdrift.coop is that the crowdmatching system is inherently working against fragmentation. The disparate long list of half-done FLO projects is tragic. We need to consolidate our resources and embrace open standards.

Despite some of my confusion about your questions, I suspect we are quite aligned and agreed about all these things.


#6

We want the same thing: a free and open internet. So no need for misunderstandings about that. What I said about Google was not clear indeed. Apologise! Your article has a head: “Connection to third-party domains”. There you say that Google’s font services uses only FLO fonts and that Google allows you to download them and that it has an acceptable and clear privacy policy. You must know that I became quite allergic to Google during the last years and that it annoyed me reading about the unavoidable Google again. Just today I read that G paid 2 billion dollars to Apple this year for being the default search engine in Safari and that Apple changed from Bing to Google for its Siri -and Spotlight features. I did not say that you encourage G, I have read well that you do not recommend using it. But really, nearly everyone today is apologising for using Google Omnipotent, saying there are no alternatives.
Although FLOSS projects sound like music, I am not so sure about their future. Mastodon for example works well, but is not (yet) widely used. Diaspora: same story. But who knows, things can change.


#7

Your article has a head: “Connection to third-party domains”. There you say that Google’s font services uses only FLO fonts and that Google allows you to download them and that it has an acceptable and clear privacy policy.

Aha! That context is pretty important, because it’s a rare exceptional example.

We do not mean in that part of the article to say, “go use Google Fonts”, in fact, we avoid that ourselves and host our own fonts on Snowdrift.coop. The point is that the article is meant to highlight best behavior for projects of various sorts. In this case, Google is clearly avoidable but was brought up as an example of acceptable use, in that while Google Analytics violates the honorable ideals, Google Fonts is within the range of acceptability. Acceptable ≠ ideal.

What we’re trying to do in the article is to avoid the sort of attitude that says, “if you violate any ideal principle, you’re bad” and instead say, “here are the things to work on to be the best”. We want to say that there’s a continuum. Google Analytics is worse, Google Fonts is not so bad (currently), but hosting your own fonts is ideal. The key point: We’d rather our ideals convince sites to remove Google Analytics while keeping the fonts versus to dismiss our ideals as impractical perfectionism and change nothing (keeping Google Analytics). So, I want to be able to say, "hey, thanks for removing Google Analytics, good for you! Now, you only have Google Fonts, and that’s not as bad, so yay! I would love to see a situation where getting away from Google Fonts is actually the stage we’re at. Right now, we’re losing ground where not only are we failing to get people to switch away from Google Maps/Earth, we’re seeing Google using Chrome-only features to capture a browser monopoly. Sure, I want total freedom from Google, but Google Maps in Firefox is better than Google Maps in Chrome in terms of how locked-in to Google people are. I want any and all steps away from Google and not to come across as all-or-nothing.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback. I’ve updated the article to make it clear we’re not endorsing Google Fonts. However, the old wording was pretty clear about this already. Sometime, I hope to rework the whole page to make it easier to skim (using better layouts, bullets, etc, reduce excessive words).

As to the future for FLO works, just like the ideals of equity in the world and justice etc. are fine ideals even though we don’t see them often in reality, the ideals of FLO works are perfectly fine. There’s nothing about FLO ideals that inherently won’t work (and lots about proprietary terms that are inherently problematic.

The whole issue about Mastodon and Diaspora etc. is directly related to our whole mission. These things cannot succeed in our current economic system. We need a paradigm shift of public support financially so that many more people can work full-time making such tools really work well.


#8

Just had a quick look at your website, looks very interesting. Funnily enough, George Monbiot has written an article in the Guardian about The Commons as an alternative way forward: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/27/rich-assets-resources-prosperity-commons-george-monbiot


#9

@growdigital that article is good but makes a fundamental mistake in conflating two related but different issues. What it says about the commons is spot on, but it’s incorrect to lump “intellectual property” and research (non-rivalrous goods) in with the actual commons (rivalrous goods like land and natural resources).

There’s a fundamental distinction between non-exclusive rivalrous goods (the commons, e.g. land, forests, fish in the ocean, etc) and non-exclusive non-rivalrous goods (“public goods”, e.g. research, art, writings, software). Here’s our article: https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/about/economics

Specifically, Snowdrift.coop is entirely about public goods which are the non-rivalrous ideas we can all share limitlessly but which require R&D labor to develop in the first place. I personally agree about all the concerns about common-pool resources also but that’s outside the scope of our project.

Tangentially about the article: “there should be wages for carers” he says. I don’t like this as it pushes to quantify all activities as paid activities in the market. This is the classic “double the GDP by everyone paying our next-door neighbors to take care of our house and vice versa”. It’s actually a logical argument (ad absurdem) against the idea of quantifying everything and paying everyone for everything. Instead, it’s actually essentially that we limit money to the smallest areas of life that we can. When money intrudes, it pushes social values out. This is why people are correct to worry about the injection of money into FLO projects. Our article: https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/about/psychology … rather than “wages for X” (where X is all valuable work), we really want a Universal Basic Income so that everyone can pursue important activities (that do not all need to be valued as in priced) without worrying about getting basic needs met. Pithily: Valuable work should not all actually get valued.

Unlike what Monbiot says, a commons doesn’t necessarily bring out equity and cooperation, rather it requires those things or else we have tragedy of the commons. Yes, the ideal is to have commons and cooperation needed to sustain them. But the whole issue is that sustaining the commons is fundamentally challenging for well-known reasons. And that’s one reason we’re not trying to even deal with those challenges and are limiting to just the already-difficult challenges of funding public goods (non-rivalrous creative works etc).


#10

Just some of what jumped out - Respect


#11

Instead of Google Analytics, you could also use Piwik.


#12

Piwik was already mentioned as the recommended alternative right there on the page being discussed. Cheers