FLOSS Weekly 708 Transcript
Please be advised this transcript is AI-generated and may not be word for word. Time codes refer to the approximate times in the ad-supported version of the show.
Doc Searls (00:00:00):
This is FLOSS Weekly. I'm Doc Searls. This week, Simon Phipps and I talked with Matthias Kirschner of the Free Software Foundation, Europe, a really outstanding organization, very different from any other in the world, very effective, and about a new book that he's coming out with or already is out in parts of the world and in some languages, ADA and Zoman. It is a really great book. It's a really great show, and that is coming up next
Podcasts you love from people you trust. This is, TWiT
Doc Searls (00:00:36):
This is FLOSS Weekly, episode 708, recorded Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022. Europe Flies the FLOSS Flag. This episode of FLOSS Weekly is brought to you by Code Comments an original podcast from Red Hat that lets you listen in on two experienced technologists as they describe their building process and what they've learned from their experiences. Search for code comments in your podcast player. Hello. Good morning. Good evening, whenever it is, wherever you are. I am Doc sles, and this is FLOSS Weekly. And this week I'm joined by Simon Phipps himself. We can almost make an earth sandwich because we are, I think, 10 or 12 hours apart.
Simon Phipps (00:01:24):
We're opposite sides of the globe. Doc is in some beautiful, warm place with tropical birds outside the window, <laugh>, and I'm sitting here in, in the dark trying to work out whether I want to start the fan heater or not.
Doc Searls (00:01:35):
<Laugh> well, and somebody is outside right now dragging a pallet, a skid <laugh>, so can hear some of the noise in the background. This is Hawaii, as you can tell, from my shirt <laugh>. And I'm here for just this week. Next week I'll be back on what they call the mainland here. So, so our, our our, our guest today, Mattias Kersner. You brought him in, if I'm not mistaken, is that right?
Simon Phipps (00:02:03):
It's all my fault. So Mattias runs Free Software Foundation Europe, which is the the free softwares head body in Europe. And it's quite different from the FS e that you, there's from the fsf that you might be used to in North America. A much younger age profile quite a different approach to advocacy. And the thing that's really fascinating is Mattos just wrote a children's book as a way of explaining what software freedom was to kids. It's
Doc Searls (00:02:34):
Wonderful. Read it
Simon Phipps (00:02:36):
Just before Christmas. You know, everyone's out buying holiday gifts at the moment. His book is about to become available. We're a show. We ought to have people promoting books on this show. So here is, here is a really interesting guy who's written a really interesting book, and he's on the show.
Doc Searls (00:02:52):
So, so let's, let's get to it. We're off to a bit of a late start for the usual technical reasons. So Mattias Kirschner, he'll go by Mattia her, depending on which one of us is talking. Here, is the president of FS e, the Free Software Foundation in Europe. He helps other organizations, companies, and public administrators understand how they get better. Free software, which is most of our listeners of yours know, is, is grants everyone the rights to use, study, share, and improve software, and how those rights help support freedom of speech, press, and privacy. He serves in the advisory board boards that's plural of different free software organizations. He's been a consultant to public bodies and other committees, and regularly gives interviews, lectures, and participates in stuff like this, <laugh> for better distribution of power in a democratic society. Welcome to this show, Matt <laugh>.
Matthias Kirschner (00:03:50):
Hello. Thank you for having me here.
Doc Searls (00:03:52):
<Laugh>. So, so Mattias, I, I've I've read I've read your book and just this morning as a matter of fact. And, and and, and I wondering what, you know, what got you going. I know we got Ada going, your fictional child there in, in the book but what got you going
Matthias Kirschner (00:04:15):
To write the book or in general of research? No,
Doc Searls (00:04:17):
Well, we could cover the book later, but I mean, what's your, what is the path by which you arrived at your advocacy of free software?
Matthias Kirschner (00:04:26):
I mean, the, the beginning was that I was so first of all I got into computers from my father where I also played around with them and programmed a little bit with them, like some, some basic programming. And then later I tried to convince my father that we should subscribe more newspapers so I can inform myself from different sources. And my father said, oh, that's going to be too expensive, but I read something about the internet and I'll get you a modem, and then you can inform yourself from different areas of the world. And yeah, he got the modem and I think in the end it was more expensive. But, well, and so I was one of the first ones in the school with with internet connection at home, which was for me, really great to see what is going on out there and what so many people are contributing.
And and then later I had a second computer at home and I connected two of them, and I wanted to send an email from one of the computers to the other computer, and both of them had email programs installed, but I somehow was not able to achieve it, to send one email to the other without connecting to the internet with the modem, which was still expensive. I complained about that in school. And then someone told me, oh, I have something for you. And day later I had a few CDs and Floppies, and that was my first convenience distribution. And from there it started that I, yeah, installed this fall in love with the command line because I didn't get x running for quite a while in the beginning. And yes. Then over the time I I then like was setting up Linux user groups.
I met with others, we had installation parties, went to free software events, and then I, I discovered that all of that is also quite political. And that's how I then got started that I, I read articles on the new pages, some other writings out there. And that's when I then realized, wow it's not just a technical issue, it's it's actually also an issue which is very important for, for society, for our democracy. And also, I couldn't say it at that time, but I mean, for me it's, it's now in a democracy we are distributing power and it's important that, not that there is no single point with a lot of power. And I believe that free software is a very important component for a technical distribution of power, and thereby very important stone in in the foundation for working democracy.
Simon Phipps (00:07:24):
Right now you are the president of free Software Foundation Europe. I think you are, you are maybe the third president that Free Software Foundation Europe has had. Yes. Tell me about the relationship between Free Software Foundation, Europe, and the free software foundation that many of the American listeners and viewers are familiar with.
Matthias Kirschner (00:07:44):
Hmm. So the Free Software Foundation was founded in 1985 by Richard Storeman with also the aim to to create a free operating system and promote free software where all the components are. It's it's allowed to use study share and improve them. And in 2001, the Free Software Foundation Europe was founded with the same goals to promote free software to to encourage the development of free software and to campaign for free software, but with the with the context of European organizations. So the idea was to set up a network of free software foundations throughout the world where each of those organizations, financially and personally independent of each other, follow the same goals, but keep in mind where they are coming from. So for our side finding a European approach to, to promote free software and reach people in, in Europe about this.
Simon Phipps (00:08:50):
Right. And you've got some fairly distinctive campaigns that you're running in Europe. Do you wanna, wanna tell us just a little bit about, about those campaigns, particularly the, you've got the shirt you're wearing has got one of them on tell us about the approaches that you're taking to advocacy because you're, you're typically not tab something about how you've gotta say free and not open source, and you're typically doing positive things that are campaigning for positive change. Tell, tell us.
Matthias Kirschner (00:09:14):
Yeah, so there is I mean with shirt, it's public money, public code, that's a campaign framework. We started by the Fs f e and then got a lot of other organizations involved in this. The idea there is that we want that publicly fine, and software should be published under free software license. And what we did about that was we were setting up a web setting up a website with with arguments about that with a video, with an open letter that you can sign when you support this this demand. And we created a brochure, we translated all of those things in different languages. So you find all of that under a public code.eu with the, with all the materials there. That's actually now the, the website on fs of e.org. But when you follow, then it's it's the public code dot EU website.
And what we are doing there, as well as then we are reaching out to politicians for before elections, asking them about the positions there. We answer questions by politicians and public administrations. We bring people from public administrations who want to promote free software, who want to use it in their infrastructure together in contact with other with other people who work in a different public administration in other country in Europe so that they can share experience, best practices, and maybe also come together to to do joint projects there. So that's one, one larger larger campaign. We are running for long time because we think that when, when tax pay us money is used to create software, the whole society should benefit from that. Other public administration should benefit from it, companies should be able to benefit from it and individuals should be able to benefit from it.
Simon Phipps (00:11:08):
Right. And I particularly love that campaign task cuz you know, by talking about public money and public code using the word public instead of free or open, we're all able to join in and campaign on that subject. And it's very inclusive. And there's a, there's a big circle of organizations and individuals in Europe who are all able to join in with that. Was, was that intentional on your part to try and make sure that it could use it a language that could have a, a wider community working on it?
Matthias Kirschner (00:11:37):
I mean, the, the main idea was before we worked on many different aspects on, like, we were following migrations to proprietary software, auto free software, like the limo project in, in, in Munich, some other public administrations who used free software and then not used free software anymore. And the idea was how do we find how, how can we phrase the idea of the importance of, of free software for public administrations in a way that it's easy to, to understand, easy to grasp, and like if you first have to explain what is what is free software, what is open source software, you might lose a few valuable time to convince people. And we thought that when it's public money, public code, that public code is a good synonym there for free software or open source software. And that many people are then able to, to, as you said, join in there and contribute and use this campaign framework in their own work. And that's also, I think, one of the big advantages there, as you said that meanwhile there are so many organizations out there who use slides about public money, public code, who showed a video, who used this when advertised when promoting their work towards public administrations or the public. So the idea there was really to make it possible for many organizations and individuals to join and reuse materials. Yes.
Simon Phipps (00:13:08):
Right, right. Now, yesterday you started another campaign about the freedom to use software on any device. Do you want, wanna tell us a little bit about that?
Matthias Kirschner (00:13:18):
Yeah, that's coming from, I mean, we are already working in this area for, for longer time. It's we have a campaign called upcycling android.org. And dare the idea is to explain people how about sustainability and, and software and to encourage them to think about how long to use certain devices, in this case a mobile phone and how much we could save as as humankind in electronic ways if we would just be able to use our phones one year or two years longer. And that's a project which is financed by the German agency for Environmental Protection. And we are doing workshops there to show people how to install alternative ROMs on their phones, be it and other Android ROMs or also post-market OS or other Linux systems. And we help them bring, bring devices there so that they can hack and test it out and also lose a little bit of fear of flashing another operating system on your, on your device.
And from this, from this campaign, what we what we now started there was we, we opened, we already had an open letter for a while opened for signatures by organizations, but there were so many people who said that they would also like to sign it as individuals that we now brought this up for individual donors as well. So the idea there is that you should have the universal right to install any software on any device, or also remove any software from any device so that you have more control over your own devices, that you are able to choose between different service providers to connect your device to, that you are able, for example, to exchange the, the app store or the browser or yeah, the services like the speak speech recognition or whatsoever. And that that those devices are an interoperable and compatible with, with open standards and that for your devices, you also get the code for drivers tools interfaces that they are all published under free software license. Right, right. So that's the demand there long way ahead of us <laugh>, but it's a start.
Simon Phipps (00:15:46):
So we could talk about several of the campaigns. You've got your root of freedom campaign to help people be able to connect to the internet without having to be intermediated by their is p you've got, you've also got a member staff who works on European policy. How is all this funded mattas? Because you've got, you know, I was at SFS Con with you last week. You had like 18 people with you. How, where, how are you funding all this?
Matthias Kirschner (00:16:15):
I mean, from the 18 people you met there, part of them were volunteers. Some of them are also then staffers, but they are part-time. So, but yes we, we finance ourself first of all through donations. So over one third of our income is through donations by sustaining members our supporters. So they they are individuals who are donating to us for for our work. Then there are companies who are donating to us. And then the other part are then some project funding, like now with up cycling Android from the German agency for Environmental Protection, or we are also participating in EU projects horizon Europe, where we are part of a consortiums when when people apply and do free software projects, which are funded by the European Commission, then we help them with legal questions around free software licensing issues and help them to, to make sure that in the end, the public money, which is been there is actually also public code free software. And so that's another part of the funding plus then some, some funding through sponsorships for events, which is a smaller part there you can find for all, all about our our finances and the sponsors when you go on our website under about, and then then transparency commitment where you can see all the the income, the cash flow, and our donors, that's all, all
Simon Phipps (00:17:57):
Listed there now. And just head up the the legal support page, which I think is quite a significant part of what you do because I, you know, you're not just an advocacy organization, you've also created a reuse framework to help people to get the licensing information right on, on code that you're working with. You run a big international network of legal experts that's got everybody's general counsel on so that we can we can raise legal issues between organizations in between companies. How, how big a part of your work is your, your legal activity? Are you kind of 50 50 for civil society and legal, or are you much more about legal issues as an organization, would you say?
Matthias Kirschner (00:18:44):
I mean, the, the three areas are public awareness, so general informing the public about free software. The other one is policy, and then there is legal and the distribution between those three areas. It's it's changing from time to time. So depending on what campaigns or yeah, what, what activities we have at the moment, which are, are more pressing there. I mean, at the moment in the, in the legal part, we have one full-time position one and a half full-time positions for, for a lot of the legal work plus some hours for the for the reuse. Yeah, I would say another like 30% for, for reuse 30% of a full-time employee. So in total, almost two of two full-time positions are on, on our legal side. But to, to understand that I mean the, the Fs f e is also as an organization heavily run by volunteers.
So we have the staff, but they are there and we, we need them for a lot of things where it's sometimes more difficult to involve to involve volunteers. For example, if it pops up our next week, there is an important debate, an important meeting in Brussels in the commission, we need to send someone there to represent us. Then that's something which is very difficult for volunteer to in this short time frame than to prepare for the meeting, go there and represent the interests of software freedom there. But beside that, there are many, many volunteers who, who coordinate activities, who do translations. They, they run the activities and the different European countries. They they take care about website, about about the development of new tools. Like we were recently, we developed, we participated in in a competition by the European Commission about public procurement data.
And one of our volunteers together with a working student at that time started a project called Detective, where you can enter you can find out, for example, how much money how many tenders did Microsoft, Germany, GM, BH get from, from public administrations for what you can find out who was involved on those tenders. And we, we built a prototype for that, and in the end, actually even won the first award in, in this category for more transparency in public procurement. And they are, it's also wouldn't have been possible without, without the help of volunteers again who were starting all of that. So,
Doc Searls (00:21:37):
So I, I, I have a couple, a couple additional questions. <Laugh>, which one of which involves funding and, and activism in general, and kind of going further in that. But first, I have to let people know that this episode of FLOSS Weekly is brought to you by code comments and original podcast from Red Hat, you know, when you're working on a project and you leave behind a small reminder in the code, a code comment to help others learn from your work. This podcast takes that idea by letting you listen in on two experienced technologists as they describe their building process. There's a lot of work required to bring a project from whiteboard to development, and none of us could do it alone. The host Be Sutter is a Red Hatter and a lifelong developer advocate and a community organizer. In each episode, ber sits down with experienced technologists from across the industry to trade stories and to talk about what they've learned from their experiences.
And I've listened to some of these. I subscribe. It's really good. There's one I just listened to on the subject of networking and the history of networks where networks are going, I recommend that all episodes are available anywhere you listen to podcast and at Red hat.com/code comments podcast, all one word code comments podcast, search for code comments in your podcast player will also include a link in the show notes by thanks to code comments for their support. So, mate, I was, I was looking at the about page you were mentioning earlier there's a roster of pretty much every every name brand, you might say, advocacy group. There's also great seeing Greg Crow Hartman's face there as one of your members of supporters. He was on the show last week and on this show last week, and it was great. I recommend checking that out. He's, he's awesome. And, and no corporate sponsors. And, and is that a bylaw that you have no corporate sponsors or is that is that a choice at your end? At the Fs f e I'm just, I'm wondering how that works. And none is a good answer. I, I run a nonprofit that doesn't allow corporate contribution, so I know what that, that's about.
Matthias Kirschner (00:23:51):
I, I'm, I'm not sure which, which page should you then ended up? I maybe, yeah,
Doc Searls (00:23:56):
Like, I don't know which one. Anyway,
Matthias Kirschner (00:23:59):
When when you go, you go to,
Doc Searls (00:24:06):
Go ahead. We're talking over each other. Latency at work,
Matthias Kirschner (00:24:10):
<Laugh>. Yes. So if you go to the about page and, and in the transparency commitment, you see like what fi about our finances, and there you also see our donors. And there are other pages there about our associated organizations, like when you go to donations or maybe the shorter one is go back go to donations. I don't actually go to <laugh>, sorry, this is also an important page. Our
Doc Searls (00:24:40):
Producer is, is
Matthias Kirschner (00:24:40):
Now who donates to us under, under donations. There is who donates to Us. Yes. And there you see the, the donors there.
Doc Searls (00:24:49):
Matthias Kirschner (00:24:49):
And there you also see we, we have corporate donors as well. And so that's that's not something that we, we don't accept. So as I mentioned before, one over one third of our income is through through our supporters. And then the other parts is a, a large part then about the donations by companies who are also supporting our work there.
Doc Searls (00:25:16):
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I, I, and I'm wondering, I mean, I, I, I don't say there's a sort of principle that says that, you know, follow the money and you find out where the influence is. A how do you deal with that? Cause you got, and you have Google on that page, and those, those two in particular for different reasons are often accused of having corporate influence. And I'm wondering how you either get around that or just ignore it. It seems to be your principles are so strong that ignoring is not a hard thing to do. But yeah, tell us a little bit that,
Matthias Kirschner (00:25:50):
I mean, with every donation you are influenced, so that's, that's clear. What we try to do is we, first of all, we are aware about this that when companies are donating to you or also large individuals are donating to you, that this can have an influence on, on our work. So the first thing we do about that is we have exactly that page so that everyone out there can have a look where our money is coming from. And we encourage everyone who has a look at that and also our activities and things that we are doing something in a way because we might have received money from one of those companies, or we are not doing certain things because we have received money from one of those companies that everyone out there can help us to raise those questions so that we can then reflect on them on our own again.
So that's very important for me because I think in organizations you often when you just think about it on your own, you might somehow justify some things. And for the Fsv it's important that there are outside triggers for discussions, even if that sometimes might feel for the organization itself, like some people spinning up some conspiracy theories, <laugh>. But it's, it's still a very important very important trigger there that you then have to think about that whilst that really something that had an influence, might we be influenced too much about this? So those are very important discussions we regularly have. The other thing that we have is we have a financial reserve, which is bigger than any of the of the donations we have we receive from the companies. So if any of the donors will stop funding us, we still have enough money there that this will not be immediately a problem for us, but that we have several months to compensate and find other solutions for the for the lose of the money there.
And the other part is that our aim is always together the money which we need next year already by the end of the year before. So we are now at the moment finding the money for our budget next year, and then we can operate quite independently of, of additional income there. So that's always our goal. And the other thing is that we have several very principled people in the organization who who always make clear towards donors that a donation is a donation. That means that yes, we will list you on this website also for transparency reasons, but that there is nothing you get in return beside this, we mention people, but you will not be allowed to participate in in strategy meetings or other meetings in a different way than anyone else out there. So if we are discussing a new topic, we will find out the stakeholders there, but there is no preference of donors towards other organizations out there who have will have a good input there.
And from time to time, there are, and also situations where you have to tell people that yes that they are asking for something in return. And in those cases we also explain them that yeah, that's not how it's gonna work at the Fs f e for example, recently we had we had an event and there was one of the sponsors of the event contacted us and said, oh yeah, we are are sponsoring the event. The call for papers is already over. Would it still be possible to to have a speaking slot there? And our reply then was well, if you wouldn't be a sponsor, it wouldn't be a problem at all. We could just accept you, but because you are a sponsor, we now have to call talk with the jury about that, if we can allow you to, to still submit something there. So, and by, by doing this, and yeah, repeatedly clarifying that the, for the Fs f e one of the most important values is to be neutral from from company interests. This is something that we, that we constantly work on to make sure that we yeah, that we can act in a way that we think is best for software freedom and not what some companies might think is, is good for
Doc Searls (00:30:35):
Dell. Well, that's for software freedom. That's a more than complete answer, and I thank you for that. I, I wanna say add to it what Simon already said about your advocacy of free software being, and I hate to say this cuz I love the fsf here in the us but one reason open source became a thing was because it was really hard to explain free software. I think making the public money public code is so interesting because because I mean, I, I think you're doing an awesome job of, of branding free software. I mean, it, it didn't happen in the us I don't think it happened elsewhere very well, which is why open source became a thing. But I like, you know, public, public doesn't have to mean in the US there's this notion that there's a public sector and a private sector, and the public sector is government and it's not, in your case, it's the idea is the public is the public and the public is people.
And the free software is for people, and it's for everything people do, including making stuff and making stuff work and keep working. And that just strikes me as an extraordinarily appealing thing. And, and I love the way that you're addressing kids and young people, and for the most part, it seems like your constituency is young as well. Where as Simon joked earlier, we tend to be gray beards over here. And I'm, I'm wondering, you know, do you, do you see this becoming a, a part of the general young people's movement that I think there's kind of worldwide agreement right now is the best hope for the world, you know, with the, our economies are, especially with the environment and other things like that. Are are, do you sort of see it that way? I mean, is it a, I mean, here it feels like an old people's movement, I hate to say that, but it it does it's free software, but do you see it as primarily a young people's thing? I'm projecting that cause
Matthias Kirschner (00:32:38):
I, I want it to be that, but so now I'm, I'm not, I'm not 100% sure about that. So in, in Europe, we have the same problem that find new people contributing to free soft projects find new people who get active in organizations who promote software freedom out there. And so that's something where I think in, in general we, we have those challenges to, to encourage young people to get active there. But I think that that is something that, I mean, for quite a while, people argue, yeah, the younger people, they're not political and they don't want to get active. I, I think with Fridays for future and, and other movements, we recently saw that well, they, they proved this wrong. So they want to shape their future and they want to have an active role in society, not just a passive role.
And in order in, in nowadays society to shape your future, you need to sh you need to shape technology. You technology is shaping so many areas in our society. So you need to be able to understand how this environment works. You need to be able to make modifications to that, to adopt it, to, to fit your goals. And that's why I think that a lot of the, a lot of the a lot of the younger people who want to shape the future and take an active role in society, that they are a very good crew of people whom you can encourage to also get active and, and in, in free software to understand those tools to to influence those as well. And I mean, that's, that's one, one thing which I think still needs a lot of, a lot of work to, to reach those those younger generations.
We at the we just had the last month's coding competition, youth Hacking for Freedom, where we had 14 till 18 year olds competing with free software projects who then afterwards were invited to involve ceremony and had and got some prize money for their own projects in the future. And that was something for me, which was like, I just thought, wow, what they are doing there, and when you talk with them about what that they want to do good for society and, and what their ideas are, that was, that was so motivating for me and so encouraging to, to continue with this and, and explaining them, helping them to understand how free software can help them to to follow their ideas, to, to shape the future without dependency on Gray Beard <laugh>. And and that's also also one of the, the reasons with the, with the children spoke that I think it's important to reach people at a very early age and explain them the advantages of free software and get them interested in technology to, to tin with technology, to, to self-determined use technology and thereby, as I said, be able to, to have an active role in society.
Simon Phipps (00:36:03):
Right, right. So, you know, that's a great segue into thinking about the book that you've written. Now, you know, I've, I have had a read of your book. I unfortunately don't have any children the right age to read it to. My children are all about your age. And my grandchildren are still too young to really enjoy the finer points of it, although they will listen to it being read to them. What, what made you write the book? You know, what was your, what was your motivation for writing it? Were you telling stories to a child or, you know, where did it come from?
Matthias Kirschner (00:36:38):
So at the, at the beginning I thought, how can I explain to my own children, what am I doing there? Why do I think that free, free software is important? How can I explain them what software is and why it matters? What the difference between software and hardware is? And that was in 2017, I asked on the mailing list of the Fs, f e do you have any recommendations for younger children? And then I got some replies there. And either the suggestions were for older children, so rather from 12 years upwards or so, or I didn't like them so much. So what I did then was I started as good night stories to just invent a few a few stories. And just every evening I came up with something. And and then based on the feedback, I mean, one good thing with children is that they have very direct and good feedback there.
You I was then further developing this and included some ideas they had and said, oh yeah, but this would also be great. And then, okay, let's include let's include skateboards and oh yeah, they're, now it's, it's summer. We need to include ice cream as well. So I, I included more and more in this. And and then I at one point figured out, well, maybe the direction in which this is going, that might, some, might be something that's not just fun and educational for my own children, or a good tool to talk with them about all those topics I care about and where, where I would also like to see that they are starting their life well prepared for the challenges ahead of them that I thought maybe, maybe it might be good to, to do a book about that.
And at the beginning, I thought, thought maybe self-publish that. And then I was very lucky because when I talked with a person about that and he said that I, I'm thinking about writing a, a book for children that he said, well, if you do this, then I will buy 1000 copies and, and give that to customers of us. And yeah, as I knew that, then I, I knew, okay, I will get, probably I will have some funding available. And then the fsf e agreed that I can use some money to, to get an editor involved specialized in children's books and then started working with the editor on the script. Then from there on then thought, okay what do I do about self-publishing publishing? And yeah, I heard a lot of stories about how difficult this is.
And somehow I was very lucky because I thought, okay, what would be the, the best publisher I could imagine for him at that time, the German book of the, of the story. And then I thought, okay, I'll, I'll write to O'Reilly before I do anything else, and three hours later I had a reply, let's have a phone call. And yeah, from there on, then the, the discussion <laugh> continued and they were very interested in this and lots of things still to discuss, especially also with the Creative Comments licensing, which we choose for the book. But yeah, from, from there on it, it then continued that I then worked with with the editor. I found an illustrator for the book, and then also worked with the editors from the, from ORI and further developed that. And yes, then last year in December we had a German version, and then afterwards I continued with the English version. And I'm very happy that no starch press agreed to publish the book. And yes, now from December on, the book will be available to buy in the us in English as well,
Simon Phipps (00:40:43):
So. Excellent. And, and you did a Ukrainian version as well, because I know you, you, my son lives in Ukraine, and you, you sent one of the local charity leaders in his area, a big shipment of them. Why did you do a Ukrainian version
Matthias Kirschner (00:40:57):
<Laugh>? So at the Fs f e we, we had a discussion when there were so many refugees in Europe from, from Ukraine. We thought about, okay, is there anything that we can do? And then we had this idea maybe when, when there are lots of children who, who come, they had to flee. They, they don't aren't able to take a lot of things with them. It might be nice idea to, to hand them a book in their native language so that they have a, a book again. And there again we were very lucky that reman was the person who said that, well, that sounds, that sounds really great. If you do this, I will finance the translation and the printing of the book. And it was also clear at that time that there will probably no be, won't be a commercial publisher for the Ukrainian version for quite a while.
So yeah, we then created this translation. We printed 2,750 copies and then distributed that to organizations working with refugees, with some organizations in in <inaudible>, like Your, your Sons. And then sent them around that they are then distributed. We also had some, some readings organized by our organizations where there were artists reading the book, and we had discussions with them. So that was the idea there that we can make a very small contribution there and, and help them to, yeah, to have a book on their own, again, in their hands. And actually,
Simon Phipps (00:42:32):
Yeah, carry on.
Matthias Kirschner (00:42:35):
Actually at the moment in, in the next days we will also ship 7,000 books in the same book in Arabic, because after the success with Thein version, there are also people who said that, well, there are many refugees also who speak Arabic, and if we can't also enable this, and yes, that's why we now also have a Arabic version, which we will distribute in the next days.
Simon Phipps (00:43:03):
That's all very exciting. You know, I was talking to Doc about this and we wondered who the characters are. You know, ADA sounds like she might be named after Ada Lovelace, but doc pointed out that Zenman sounds like bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk all rolled into one without being any of them. So who, who would you say were the inspirations for your characters?
Matthias Kirschner (00:43:26):
I, I, I would say that the names you mentioned plus a few others who, who are also out there, that's definitely people whom I encountered in, in my work for Free Software Foundation Europe. And what I then thought, okay, what, what are some of those characteristics? How can you combine that? And yeah, so I, the funny thing is always <laugh>. I'm, I'm asked a lot of people, they tell me like, oh, it's so clear who it is, and then I ask like, who is it? And then the funny part is that they mention different people. They mention, it's clear that it's Steve Chops, it's Mark Sucker Burs, it's Ellen Musk, it's Teal, it's whoever. So yeah, I, I'm quite happy with that outcome, <laugh> <laugh>. And the name was also something that was really, really fun because I, that was one of the things I struggled really for a long time.
And I had for a long time in my, in my script, there was dollar name for the for Sangerman. And the other names were really, they were not, not good, which I tried. And then one day when I was reading this again, the, the current script to, to my children, my older son said, no, he's, he's called Sang And Man. And I said, why, how do you come to to this idea? And I said, I, I, I had a dream this night about, about the book. And there he was called Sang Man. And I thought like, wow, that's, that's very good because yeah, it's, it's in German, it fits very well with the, the Sang, which is like Pena. And so I thought that that's really nice. And then in the editing process we in the process sometimes forgot the end after Sang Man, and then it was Sang Man, and then we thought, Hmm, actually might even be better. And also from the actually it's, it's not a name. So Sang Man is something which you find, but Sang Man is something you don't find anywhere at very few people. So we thought that that's, that's good. So that there is nobody out there who will then be the bad person or someone people associate with something that they don't have anything to do with. So it's all fiction, spoiler characters, <laugh>,
Simon Phipps (00:45:45):
Spoiler alert for the readers. You know, Zaman is Unre redeemed. Do you, do you feel that that's correct. Do you feel that people who insist on Lock in and walled gardens are beyond redemption? Does, is that the, the meaning of the end of the book for adults, or do you feel that there is actually hope in the sequel that you're gonna write next?
Matthias Kirschner (00:46:06):
<Laugh>? for me, it was important with the ending of the book that it ends in a way that people think about the topic more. And I didn't want to, to make the, the ending of the book to predict too much what is happening and, and cut too much of the discussion you can have with people with who, who read the book or whom you read the book. So that, I mean, in general with the, with the other the other parts of the book as well. So I, I try to make it in a way that it's very open to words, you as the person who discusses this topic with others to think about how you want to discuss issues there and what topics you want to discuss there. That's also why it, it's quite open what is happening with Sang Man or why he's acting this way.
Because I think that's very interesting questions to you, you can talk about. And actually also questions, not just to talk about with, with children, because one of the feedbacks that I I received was, I, I first thought it's a, it's a children book, but then people told me, yes, I, I gave that as a present to, to my parents, and now finally they understand why I'm doing all this work for, for free software there, or they say, well, I, I gave it as a present to my boss. I think he finally understood why software freedom matters and, and why we should use more free software in our company. And so it it's not just the discussions with, with children, but also with adults. Oh, and, and actually yes, also for, for politicians, we, we also gave that as a present to some politicians already. And we a few days ago, there was actually the public reading a Loud Day in Germany where people go to schools and they read books there, and two members of the u of the German parliament, they choose the German version of Ada and Sangerman went to schools and read it out there. And I think had also quite interesting discussions about monopoly, self-determined use of technology democracy and all of that. So yes,
Doc Searls (00:48:36):
So, so I'm wondering as we, getting short on time now in, in the stuff you've said that I've that I've read, something stands out to me is interesting and I'd like to know more about is what is the next generation internet that you're talking? Is it a different protocol completely or is it just better behavior by the intermediaries that are out there? I'm just
Matthias Kirschner (00:49:00):
Wondering. Next Gen, next Generation internet is that's a program by the European commission to support to support the development of new technologies. So it's in the research and development area that the European Commission wants to encourage new approaches there for new internet technologies. And then there are different programs focusing on, on different aspects like like networking or like more privacy and, and other aspects there. So that's the that's a, you funded you funded projects, and we are consortium partners there together with other organizations to help projects who are applying there and got accepted and with different aspects. So there are people who help with UX design. There are people who help s ut there are then the FS of e is helping them with all kind of legal and licensing questions so that they know can I combine this free software license with that free software license? How do I make it clear that this is actually free software? So they will bring in reuse.software with those very easy to understand recommendations to make sure that your software is not just out there and avoidable with the source code, but it's actually under free software license, so that you can then also exercise the rights to use study share and improve the code.
Simon Phipps (00:50:35):
And that's leading to some great outcomes. You know, that, that project doc, doc was not completely aware about ngi, actually, Mattas was, he was wanting, was wanting you to comment on what comes next and whether it has Bitcoin in it. And and, but fortunately, fortunately, instead of talking about Bitcoin, you talked about ngi. NGI is doing some great work. It's, it's partly funded by EU grants. It's partly funded by charity called NL Net and in the Netherlands. And it's leading, it's, it's what's led to some of the software that is now suddenly becoming popular on the Fed verse and, and becoming published out there. Very well worth looking into if any, if, if you are working on software in Europe at the moment NGI might well be able to fund your brilliant next idea. So, you know, where do you think software is going in the future?
In, in Europe, Mattas I see a Europe where the the old industries and the old ideas of competition have very much got control of both the markets and the strings of power. And I see the work that I I'm doing with OSI and the work that you are doing with Fs f e as both being crucially important and yet we haven't found, really found a rock to put the lever that is going to move the world yet. How hopeful are you that we can prevent the next generation of Europe being a like a, a, the pods in the matrix being harvested for money by big corporations?
Matthias Kirschner (00:52:11):
Mm, I, I always have some difficulties to predict the future <laugh>, but I, I'm in, in almost all my talks, I'm, I'm using a quote which one of my teachers once wrote down for me. It says many small people in many small places do many small things that will change the face of the world. And that's, that's also my approach there, that well, I don't know what will happen. Maybe there are some times where it's worse again for software freedom than it has been in some years. But I mean, what does that change? It's still something that I, myself, the fsv we will continue to work for of freedom as well as you the i many other organizations out there are doing. And it's in the end we also have it in our hands. What, what will happen there.
And it's something where when you, when you think about political decision makers, the organizations working for software freedom, they need to be able to do this works. They need better financial support to do this. They also need other people contributing with their free time because it's in the end when, when politicians or decision makers hear something about about other topics there, it's the first time they might think, yeah, well, hmm, but then when they hear it again and again and again, they will think more about that. And then there will be new younger advisors to decision makers who grow up where it's way more normal that you have software freedom and this should be something and it's not so abstract anymore. And so, so far away. And so I, I'm, the part which makes me optimistic is that there are people out there who are really dedicated to work on these topics and want are working for software freedom there.
And the other part is also that in the, for the decisions makers, there is also a generational change there. And there are more people getting in roles of influencing decisions who are way more sympathetic and way more positive about free software who way better understand that free software is something very important for our democracy, that we need to distribute power, that we cannot have just a few companies who control what we can and what we cannot do with technology, but that we need to distribute that and that we need to have a digital sovereign of, of governments. And so those are things which are also pushed more and more. While of course there are those those those topics popping up where you think like, wow, it feels like we now did two steps forward. And now it's the four steps back again. And then the important thing is, from my perspective, not to stop, but try to make eight steps in front. Again,
Doc Searls (00:55:17):
That's very optimistic and I'm, I'm really happy with this. We're about out of time, so we always close with with two questions. You've covered the other questions. I think we already would've had <laugh> one is, what is your favorite text editor in scripting language?
Matthias Kirschner (00:55:37):
So yes, I, I am using the Editor of the Beast, so, and that's something where I spend most of my time in. So it's we or whim the text editor and scripting language. I, yeah, I did some bash. I I did a little bit of Python, but I'm, I'm not so often programming myself. So there are great tools out there and, but I I love Python and I love be
Doc Searls (00:56:11):
Well, that's great. So thank you so much for being on the show. I, I want everybody to go by the book, get the T-shirts, look at what the FS e is doing. I, I love, I love, I really love everything that you're doing. I'm, I'm very encouraged by it. So thanks so much for being on the show. I'll have to have you back again to talk progress. Thank you very much for having me. So Simon, that was good. And thanks for carrying the weight on that one. I, I, I had to be riding mute now it's quiet in the background. I, I had trucks going by. I had a guy under the window hosing out buckets with a power hose <laugh>. So
Simon Phipps (00:56:52):
It's always the way, isn't it, <laugh>? Well, I knew you. I thought you, you, you would love that. Cuz you know, to start with, you know, you are an author and, and you appreciate a, a well targeted book and, and I think that Matta's book is, is well targeted and he's obviously hit a nerve with it cuz it's being picked up in Germany and elsewhere. And you know, I I will put in the show notes where people can get it from, they can get it from no starch press in the US and there's a, a discount code available for you to, to get it. And I'm hoping it's gonna be shipped in time for the holidays. But I also, the wider organization, you know, I work with fsf e quite a lot in doing European policy work. They have some great staff, they're always very positive and friendly. They've had some big challenges to deal with over the last decade. So, you know, I think you, you've got a great story there and I think it'll be well worth getting the task back. Also, some of his colleagues like Alexander Sand, who does their policy work, would have some fascinating things to say about what's going on with technology policy in Europe and its relationship with Software Freedom.
Doc Searls (00:58:01):
Yeah, I I, I'm very encouraged and and I have to, I have to admit, I did not know that much about the F S F E. I mean, I knew it existed. I didn't know much more. And I, I, I've, I've sort of despaired where we are in the US sort of in general anyway where we don't talk politics here, but basically we just have an extreme right and extreme left, and the rest of it is all just noise. And it seems like there's really constructive stuff going on in, in, in Europe in general, and they're part of it. And it's, it's a model for the world. And anyway, just I'm, I'm, I'm just digging in and I, I wanna know more.
Simon Phipps (00:58:44):
Yeah, they've got some really cute merchandise as well, I have to say. The, so my favorite thing they've got is they have a children's size t-shirt that says on it, I am a fork that every
Doc Searls (00:58:55):
Kid ought to go. I love that.
Simon Phipps (00:58:58):
Doc Searls (00:58:59):
So they love,
Simon Phipps (00:59:02):
They have a baby bib and they have a and a t-shirt that says it, which I think is great
Doc Searls (00:59:07):
<Laugh>, I I also love that that that his kid named Zaman <laugh>. I think that was Yes, yes. That's excellent. <Laugh> It's also also funny. Oh no, I blame the kid. You know, the kid came up with it. So next week we, we have Jason Griffy on and and on my notes here, say Doc in Hawaii, I'm not in Hawaii. Next week I will be back on the mainland with a better connection with ethernet, with Windows closed <laugh> in my office. That is the plan. So so enthused about that and Tim Posar the week after that. And others, other great ones coming up as well. So any, any plugs? We've already plugged the f v pretty well and Yeah, yeah, for the OSI or,
Simon Phipps (01:00:01):
You know, we've, we've gotta help their fundraising at this time of year. You know, the, the only thing I'd note is apparently something happened at Twitter recently. I, I don't quite know what, and suddenly my account on, on, on the Fed verse which, and you should say Fed verse rather than master do, because there's lots of different apps on
Doc Searls (01:00:18):
In the right. Yes. Suddenly
Simon Phipps (01:00:19):
My account has gone, has gone absolutely crazy and I've got loads of activity there. And I'd encourage anyone who's who's listening to, to go look for me on the Fed verse, you'll find me on mesh.cloud/web min. And I would, I'd love to see you over there. And there's lots and lots of very well tempered, very eloquent, very enjoyable conversations going on that really could not happen on Twitter anymore. There, there's too much sniping on Twitter for that to happen. So do come join us on Masteron or on the verse and I look forward to seeing you there.
Doc Searls (01:00:59):
That's a, it's a good distinction. And I just have a note out there for everybody's doing a story on Mastodon, and this is still with full respect for the fed of hers. A Mastodon and a Willie Mammoth are not the same. Show picture of a Mastodon. Okay, not a Willie Mammoth. They also show a Willie Mammoth. I don't know why. They're more interesting looking probably, and they've, they're fancier tusks or they had <laugh> and there are more of them frozen in the tundra that are thawing out as global warming progresses, but MAs are different <laugh>. So show the, show the right thing. Anyway, so that's a, a kind of, yeah, there we go. No, there's a Willy. Yeah, yeah. Masto different <laugh>. Wikipedia has a good picture of both of them together. That, that should make clear what the, what the difference was <laugh>, because they're both gone anyway, so, so thanks a lot Simon. This has been a great show and and again, we'll see everybody next week for for Jason Griffy. It'll be a good one. Take it easy everybody.
Ant Pruitt (01:02:08):
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