The Meaning of Free Software

From Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators:

Stallman’s free software movement was imperfectly named. Its goal was not to insist that all software come free of charge but that it be liberated from any restrictions. “When we call software ‘free,’ we mean that it respects the users’ essential freedoms: the freedom to run it, to study and change it, and to redistribute copies with or without changes,” he repeatedly had to explain. “This is a matter of freedom, not price, so think of ‘free speech,’ not ‘free beer.'”

The Problem with New Open Source Social Media Platforms

The problem with the new, open source, social media platforms?

They (typically) don’t run on basic php/mysql web servers. Plain and simple.

I’ve written lots on open source before (see here), so needless to say I see a lot of value in open source software.

These new, open source, social media platforms I’m talking about include diaspora* (explanation here), MediaGoblin (explanation here), and pump.io (explanation here). Each of these require server resources above the standard shared server. Thus, the cost is to high for your average user. Typical shared hosting costs anywhere from $5 to $10 per month. Typical virtual private hosting (the next step up and able to run these platforms) costs anywhere from $15 to $25 per month. That’s a big difference for your average hobbyist. Like myself.

Sure, you can find pods or installs of this software to use. But part of the need for these platforms is that you can host and own your content. And there’s no guarantee of ownership when you’re using someone else’s install and someone else’s server. If I wanted someone else to host and manage my content, I’d upload my pictures to flickr or Google+.

I’ll compare to the WordPress content management system (on which this site is built).

WordPress has a huge user base. WordPress powers 23% of the web. Nearly a quarter of all websites run on the open source WordPress software. It’s not all self-hosted, like this site. Much of it is run on wordpress.com, an install of the WordPress software maintained by Automattic. But for most everyone else, it is self-hosted and runs on cheap, shared hosting.

And this is why I think WordPress is so popular. Cheap, shared hosting.

Cheap, shared hosting that any hobbyist can afford. That any business can afford. That any non-profit can afford. That any government can afford.

So here’s a shoutout to everyone working on the likes of diaspora* and MediaGoblin (and many others, and all the future open source platforms). Design it to work on cheap, shared hosting and on php/mysql. This combination powers most of the web. And it allows us hobbyists to run your software. I really want to use it and tinker with it and contribute to the code and contribute back to the communities around them.

But I can’t on my shared hosting plan.

Backing Up Twitter with WordPress

Last week I found out about an updated WordPress plugin that let’s you archive your Twitter feed within WordPress. The plugin: Ozh’ Tweet Archiver.

I’ve already put it to use with my own Twitter archive here. I’m using the Hemingway theme for the moment, but Ozh already released a theme that looks like the new Twitter profile that I might utilize.

Ozh’s plugin only imports the most recent 3,200 tweets (thanks for that restriction, Twitter), and he just posted a way to use your Twitter archive to import your previous tweets. That wasn’t available last week, so I used the Advanced CSV Importer plugin to take the csv file from my Twitter archive and put those older tweets into the WordPress database.

This plugin is a really good way to maintain a usable archive of your tweets. Twitter might not always be around, plus, this is your writing, store it on your own website! Thanks, Ozh, for your hard work on this.

Abhi Nemani on technology in government

Abhi Nemani of Code for America:

In departing, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about coding for America. At the end of the day, it’s not merely about technology and cities; instead it is about the optimism technology confers and the meaning that cities make us crave. What defines this movement is an unyielding belief in the possible. A constant and a fervent desire to try new things, to push new boundaries, to do important work. That’s rare, and that’s special.

Remembering Aaron

Remembering Aaron – by Parker Higgins of the EFF.

Losing Aaron – A Boston Magazine interview with Aaron Swartz’s father, Bob.

It’s been over a year since Aaron took his life. I feel like I’m still dealing with my own feelings about Aaron’s passing. I was reading Aaron’s weblog today, specifically the post on his theory of change. His writing is still incredibly relevant today, and so are his causes. I hope we never forget the impact he had, and  I hope we never forget this man who could have accomplished so much more.