Week 22 - free / libre / open source software

My library uses Pika as its discover layer. Pika indexes our collection via Solr. The non-“catalog” parts our website are built with Drupal. Our events calendar is Bedework. Of those platforms, Bedework has been the most hassle, mostly because its development has not kept pace with our needs. Our head systems librarian helps with the development of Pika.

I’m a free software enthusiast. I use the term “free software” for the ideological reasons Vicky described but if talking to a larger audience I will use the term FOSS or FLOSS to avoid confusion. I strive to be an advocate for free software in libraries. If one goal of libraries is to share information to help communities, rarely is such a goal better embodied than open source software. When I was in public services I used free software everyday to be creative: GIMP, Inkscape, Audacity, and even video editing. Though I am not a coder, my knowledge of Git and GNU/Linux was probably the one thing most responsible for me transitioning to NPL’s systems team. Once on the systems team, I was very disappointed to learn the SIP2 protocol is not open source. I would not have learned Git with the spurring of Nashville technologist / troublemaker Amber Adams. Thank you, Amber.

On the home front, my partner and I have used GNU/Linux exclusively for 10+ years and it’s been great. I’ve eaten a lot of free software dogfood over the years, but the biggest biscuit I’m nibbling on right now is using an Android phone with no Google apps. that’ means no Play Store. The only thing I miss is Twitter which I was not super active on but I used it as a newsfeed. This the one choice I have made about privacy / software freedom that really changes the way I interact with technology compared with most folks.

Rando stuff:

The “free software” / “open source” ideological distinction is so esoteric as to be meaningless to the outside world. What is does kind of remind me of though is the bicycling world. For years, the leaders there were hardliners that said you did not need bike lanes and cyclists should behave like cars. Evidence showed that bike lanes made people feel safe and more people would ride bikes if there were designated lanes. The free software hardliners are kind of like folks denying utility of bike lines.

Last week @josh and I were at the LYRASIS Member Summit and the panel about “user data” presented a point of view about patron privacy diametrically opposed to the one articulated by Vicky. I’m pretty sure the moderator of the panel thought they were being edgy by advocating for the position of world’s largest, wealthiest corporations. The one dissenter was James English (ex-NYPL now w/ LYRASIS) who acknowledged the reality of data collection but advocated for anonymization and ethical stewardship. When of speaking the inherent hypocrisy in most library privacy policies, English said, “Privacy policies are legal statements got us out of our ethical obligations.”

Also present were the folks from Richland Library who are making the customer / event tracking tool that Vicky spoke about. It’s called Intercept and they have yet to open source their code. At LYRASIS Summit, this project was definitely framed as a solution to a “libraries are wrong about privacy problem.” Basically, they scan your library card at events and this tied into their events calendar it makes interest/demographic profiles of patrons. No word on whether or not it ties into reading history. Participation is voluntary. In testing, they said only one patron chose to not have card scanned because they didn’t want to be tracked. They said it was an interesting social experiment. They would just start scanning cards and everyone would just queue up naturally.

I know you want me to shut up and go back to my yurt but data flood has commenced: 1) Libre Office is easier to use than MS Office; 2) if you’re creative Krita is a robust painting tool that rivals propriety stuff; 3) Julia Evans does some hero level GNU/Linux zines.

heck yeah!

reminder to all that “dogfooding” or “eating your own dog food” means using the tools that you either build or advocate for. it’s a popular term in free software.

I both agree and disagree. I think that when people care about this it’s cringey, but I also think that uninitiated people should be aware of this rift because like, what if you go to a conference and people are arguing about it and you don’t understand?

omgggg. who was the moderator?

yikes, I don’t even remember her talking about this but it sounds creepy as heck. here’s your proof that FOSS isn’t always perfect about privacy either – you can build open source tracking tools! it just means that you can see more clearly what they’re tracking.

Bryan, we’re all in the yurt now.

I agree with this generally.

she rules! and her comics are so great for free software and git beginners!