Summary: The scarcity of independent coverage of Free/Open Source software (FOSS) and GNU/Linux and what it all means
2013 was an exceptionally bad year for news sites which focus on FOSS. The H ceased publication, Groklaw did too (this time for good), Tux Machines relinquished control due to lack of time (my wife and I keep it going now), and some blogs that focused on Linux and GNU no longer do. In addition, audiocasts which used to regularly cover FOSS no longer do (or rarely do).
“Real journalism tries to appeal to readers, not advertisers and sponsors.”For one who pursues news items and good reporting in this area, the sources became meager and some are repetitive/unoriginal. In order to keep the message out there and in order to prevent FOSS from being abducted by large corporations that sell proprietary software we really need to consider our options. If there is no light shed on the success stories of FOSS and actions of enemies of FOSS (those who seek to destroy it) we will definitely lose momentum. Sure, Linux and FOSS are everywhere, but without the community’s scrutiny companies like IBM and Google silently close down some parts (e.g. in Android) or turn them hostile (TPM, UEFI restricted boot, DRM and so on).
Free-as-in-freedom software is 30 years old, but the second half of its life (about 15 years) characterised corporate transformation under the “open source” wing or brand. Right now, even a hugely corrupt proprietary software giant like Microsoft affiliates itself with this movement. This is wrong.
Real journalism tries to appeal to readers, not advertisers and sponsors. The latter should be an afterthought and hardly a consideration at all. “Linux Voice” will be fresh breath of air because no more will its talented writers be pressured (implicitly) to write corporate sponsors-friendly articles (I have seen it from the inside); the sponsors are people who read the work and this is how it should be done. This is how independent news channels like “Democracy Now” work. It is the only way to guarantee that software patents get bashed (large corporations like IBM love them) and companies like Novell get treated very harshly for colluding with Microsoft to extort FOSS using patent lawsuit threats. The community’s voice has been an essential regulator and proactive enforcer of ethics.
“Those who honestly believe that profit-driven stewardship on its own will take us in a better direction should learn the history of Hippies and their movement.”In 2014 we won’t have many independent sites left. Those that remain deserve to get support from their readers. Ruling out a sellout, their only other option is to shut down, potentially paying for hosting to keep old stories accessible free of charge (some old newspapers turn to paywalls). Once we lose our collective voice as a community, it will all be left for corporate vultures to devour (companies like Cisco and Microsoft, which go out of their way to help the NSA).
There is an important point worth reiterating (we already made it earlier this month). Don’t count on the Linux Foundation to represent the community. It is all about corporations, which make up almost all of its budget. Recently, Juniper joined the circles of the Linux Foundation. Juniper is a company heavily occupied by many Microsoft executives who moved there. Former Microsoft staff inside those circles is now in management, too, not just membership.
Those who honestly believe that profit-driven stewardship on its own will take us in a better direction should learn the history of Hippies and their movement. The direction taken when corporations alone dominate a movement is surely good… for corporations. It gives them more power at people’s expense. They extinguish grassroots and leave activists a little sandbox to play in, mostly as a marketing exercise. In recent years it has felt like this is where the Open Source folks are taking us, unlike the FSF. █