Upcoming first meeting of the Empowermentors Collective: intersectionally marginalized POC in free software & free culture!

The Empowermentors Collective is a skillshare, activism, and discussion network for intersectionally marginalized people of color (for example people of color with disabilities, trans* people of color, queer people of color, and women of color) within the free culture and free software movement.

After taking an availability poll with our current active participants, our first meeting is scheduled for Sunday, March 24th at 12:00 pm eastern time in the #empowermentors IRC channel on Freenode (weblink). Also, please join us at this year's LibrePlanet conference for a casual dinner meetup!

Our first meeting will provide a space for everyone to get to know one another; share announcements, projects, and events of interest; and discuss the activities and direction of the collective.

Current meeting agenda items:

  • Introductions
  • Personal plugs, announcements, events and projects to share
  • Open vs closed email list/IRC channel
  • Email list or other space for allies
  • Need for website/blog?
  • Established activities:
    • Videos to transcribe
    • Software bugs
  • New activities:
    • Alternative tech terms list (to "crippleware", "master/slave", "male/female plugs", etc)
  • Your idea here!
To propose another item, please subscribe to our email discussion list or say hi on IRC. If you would like to learn more about our group, you can read about what we do and what motivates us on the LibrePlanet wiki:
We provide a space to:
  • Meet and talk to people with a common interest and shared experiences in free culture and free software.
  • Develop and share our skills and knowledge around free software and free culture.
  • Identify, expose, and organize to confront issues of oppression within the free software and free culture communities.
  • Expand our own philosophy at the cutting-edge of feminist, queer, critical race, and cyborg theory.
This opens up greater potential to:
  • Form coalitions with other causes of importance to us.
  • Create a free culture and free software movement that fights for us.
  • Bridge the free culture and free software movement with our contemporaries in the critical intersectional analysis of oppression, hierarchy, and domination.
Please spread the word and pass this on!

Register now for LibrePlanet and Free Culture X 2013!

Two conferences are just around the corner that fellow free software and free culture advocates, hackers, curious technology users, and critical media participants won't want to miss. LibrePlanet and Free Culture X 2013 are two really exciting conferences at the intersection of technology, social justice, and media studies.
LibrePlanet is the Free Software Foundation's annual conference, this year titled "Commit Change", and will take place at the Harvard University Science Center on March 23rd & 24th 2013 or, in other words, very very soon! Free Culture X 2013 is this year's Students for Free Culture conference and will take place April 20th & 21st at New York Law School. 
What can you expect at each? 

LibrePlanet has a lot to offer people from different areas of expertise with varying levels of experience in free software. Whether you're interested in the profound social implications of software ownership, producing and sharing media with free technologies, or harnessing your own power over the computers around you as a hacker, you can get a lot out of  meeting fellow conference-goers and attending the talks and workshops at LibrePlanet. 
Registration is free for FSF Associate Members, or $90 otherwise. Discounted rates are available for students or for a single-day pass, and of course volunteering is a great way to get in at no cost at all! If you are unable to attend, there will be a live broadcast of the event online.

Free Culture X 2013 is half conference, with one day of talks and panels by brilliant minds challenging media monopolies and permission culture, and half unconference, with participatory workshops and working groups.
Registration is 100% pay-what-you-want, with a suggested donation of $15.00. Proceeds from the conference will help defray the costs of running a nonprofit, so please support as much as you can!
Both conferences will be very accessible and you should absolutely come if you are able. If you can't come, consider following along with the live webcast, participating in discussions during the events through social media, spreading the word now for others to attend, and donating if free software and free culture are valuable to you.

The Future of Creative Commons: Examining defenses of the NC and ND clauses

This is a follow-up to "Stop the inclusion of proprietary licenses in Creative Commons 4.0" but instead of focusing on the problems with NC and ND, the editorial draws upon defenses of NC and ND to highlight how they go against the stated mission of Creative Commons. You can also read the original post on ​QuestionCopyright.org.

Creative Commons licenses arranged all in a row.
A few weeks ago, Students for Free Culture published a detailed and thoroughly cited post calling for the retirement of proprietary license options in Creative Commons 4.0. Already the story has been picked up by Techdirt and Slashdot and it has spurred lots of heated debate around the value of the NonCommercial (NC) and NoDerivatives (ND) licenses to Creative Commons and to rightsholders, but not a lot of discussion has been framed around the official mission and vision of Creative Commons.

Creative Commons has responded to the post stating that adopters of NC and ND licenses "may eventually migrate to more open licenses once exposed to the benefits that accompany sharing," maintaining that these licenses have been a strategic measure to approach that goal. The name Creative Commons itself highlights the aim of enabling a network of ideas and expressions that are commonly shared and owned or, as we usually call it, the commons. To be very explicit, one need not look any further than Creative Commons' mission statement (added emphasis) to see that this is what they work for:

Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.

Our vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.
The NC and ND clauses are non-free/proprietary because they retain a commercial and/or creative monopoly on the work. Legally protected monopolies by any other name are still incompatible with the commons and undermine commonality. There is no question as to the purpose of Creative Commons or the definition of free cultural works. What Students for Free Culture has offered is not primarily a critique of proprietary licenses, but a critique of Creative Commons' tactics in providing them. The idea that the non-free licenses "may eventually migrate to more open licenses once exposed to the benefits that accompany sharing" is a reasonable one, but one that deserves careful reflection after a decade of taking that approach.

This line of reasoning is intuitive in a permission culture: that license options which sound good to rightsholders will lure them into giving up some restrictions licenses and becoming more comfortable with the idea of fully liberating their works. Encouraging the use of free culture licenses then becomes a problem of education and communication of values, and the question then becomes whether or not the proprietary licenses make that task easier or more difficult.

Some argue that rightsholders are not ready for free culture and that they need to be eased into it. Anecdotal arguments supporting this idea say that people switch to free licenses from the non-free ones once they learn about how problematic NC and NC are, but there is no evidence to support this claim. We have no idea how strong Creative Commons' campaign for free licenses would be if they only provided free culture licenses from the start, and Students for Free Culture suggest that in the current climate of copyright and intellectual property maximalism, what we need is to stretch what is accepted as reasonable position to take, not sit comfortably within it.

It may be counter-intuitive that only offering free culture licenses would bring more rightsholders to liberate their works over time, but if we consider that this would allow Creative Commons to have a cohesive message behind the licenses they do offer, we can imagine their educational materials could be much more powerful. More importantly, they would be expanding the perceived realm of possibility. Students for Free Culture argue that the proprietary licenses are mainly used because they are misunderstood and function to reinforce those misconceptions rather than move rightsholders towards free culture. It is analogous to telling people to vote for the lesser of two evils to ease them out of supporting a two-party political system. It may seem practical and appear to bring more steady and reliable change, but it only serves to reinforce the status quo.

The popular criticisms of the post are actually very revealing of this very idea.

All of the defenses of proprietary clauses which have been raised in the recent debate boil down to these types of arguments: that everything should be CC-licensed because it is better than "all rights reserved"; that Creative Commons needs to support all the options that rightsholders want; that not providing more license options is restricting freedom; and that the non-free clauses do serve worthwhile purposes even if they are oppose free culture. These arguments are all problematic in ways either explicitly mentioned or linked to from the original post, and underscore how much extra work this makes for Creative Commons.

The everything-should-be-CC-licensed argument:
  • "Big media could adopt NC or ND, but not free culture licenses"
  • "So much is already similarly available, it should all be CC"
  • "The purpose of Creative Commons is to provide a diversity of options"
  • "Creative Commons isn't an ideological organization about free culture"
These arguments fail to see the mission of Creative Commons and ignores that for years they have been moving away from providing more options in favor of promoting their free culture licenses. Creative Commons does not exist to provide a licensing option for every possible desire of rightholders, nor does it exist to slap a CC logo on every work released under terms similar to what license options they could or currently do offer. We can keep licenses that big media may use for the sake of meaningless adoption, or we can focus on the licenses that subvert intellectual monopolies. Creative Commons could have moved towards being a highly-flexible modular licensing platform that enabled rightsholders to fine-tune the exact rights they wished to grant on their works, but there's a reason that didn't happen. We would be left with a plethora of incompatible puddles of culture. Copyright already gives rightsholdors all of the power. Creative Commons tries to offer a few simple options not merely to make the lives of rightsholders easier, but to do so towards the ends of creating a commons. By its very name, Creative Commons does promote an ideology.
The freedom of choice argument:
  • "Everyone's freedom should be respected"
  • "This is an effort to dictate our license choices"
  • "Promoting freedom by taking away choices is hypocritical"
  • "This is just one definition of freedom"
Right off the bat, these arguments miss the fact that the old proprietary licenses will still exist and can be forked and updated, but that is beside the point. They not only confuse different freedoms but, in doing so, also value the legally granted right to restrict freedom over the freedom to be free from those very restrictions. This is the foundation of permission culture and the antithesis of the commons.

The NC-and-ND-clauses-are-useful argument:
  • "They serve a purpose even though they aren't free"
  • "A vague protection is better than nothing"
  • "These protect us from big media stealing our work"
  • "Not everyone wants to use a free culture license"
These arguments all seem to be built around the popular discontent with today's draconian copyright regime, yet they are at the same time apologetic towards the permission culture which enables it. While NC and ND appear to empower creators to retain control over their work, it is crucial to remember what copyright is: a legal construct of private property and, more specifically, a monopoly. Distributing these innumerable government-granted monopolies, even to individuals, only leads to monopolistic organizations that amass ownership and control over huge sums of our culture. Again, Creative Commons could have provided a totally customizable framework for rightsholders to pick what rights to grant for each of their works, but copyright already gives them that power. Making it easier to do only validates the fears that made copyright what it is today. Take, for example, the Free Software Foundation. If they had advocated for any proprietary software/licenses that were anything "better" than the terms that Windows and OS X are distributed under, the world would not be as open to the idea of free software as it is today.

These three types of arguments exclude those that have been made purely concerned with the interests of rightsholders and the many many interesting and creative misunderstandings of the license terms and enforceability. This all serves to indicate that Creative Commons' current strategy is working against all of the great work they do promoting a freer culture. People don't need to be convinced that copyright is a broken system. Instead, Creative Commons should be focusing on affecting what people believe is an acceptable position, showing the world that much more is possible, and proving that we can and are building a free culture.

Creative Commons is at a very important philosophical and tactical crossroads. The crux of the concern raised by Students for Free Culture comes down to weather Creative Commons will be locked in by pressures to serve the interests of rightsholders or be committed to a strategic standard promoting free licensing towards the creation of an indivisible and shared commons. The drafting of version 4.0 of the licenses may be the best and last opportunity to make such a dramatic change, which underlines the urgency of the suggestion. Creative Commons is perfectly positioned to critically reevaluate its strategy and make a change that more effectively promotes its mission, so please heed Students for Free Culture's call to action:
  • Send a letter to the Creative Commons Board of Directors about your concerns.
  • Publish your letter or a blog post on the issue (and send it to the list below)
  • Join the Creative Commons licenses development list to participate in discussions of the 4.0 draft: http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/cc-licenses
  • Contribute to the CC 4.0 wiki pages: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/4.0

Stop the inclusion of proprietary licenses in Creative Commons 4.0

 This is crossposted from the Students for Free Culture blog: http://freeculture.org/blog/2012/08/27/stop-the-inclusion-of-proprietary-licenses-in-creative-commons-4-0/
Over the past several years, Creative Commons has increasingly recommended free culture licenses over non-free ones. Now that the drafting process for version 4.0 of their license set is in full gear, this is a “a once-in-a-decade-or-more opportunity” to deprecate the proprietary NonCommercial and NoDerivatives clauses. This is the best chance we have to dramatically shift the direction of Creative Commons to be fully aligned with the definition of free cultural works by preventing the inheritance of these proprietary clauses in CC 4.0's final release.
The concept of free culture has its roots in the history of free software (popularly marketed as "open source software"), and it’s an important philosophical underpinning to the CC license set. As with free software, the word "free" in free culture means free as in freedom, not as in price, but Creative Commons has not set or adhered to any standard or promise of rights or taken any ethical position in their support of a free culture. The definition of free cultural works describes the necessary freedoms to ensure that media monopolies cannot form to restrict the creative and expressive freedoms of others and outlines which restrictions are permissible or not. Although Creative Commons provides non-free licenses, the fact that they recognize the definition reveals a willingness and even desire to change.
Creative Commons started off by focusing much more on flexibility for rightsholders, but since its early days, the organization has moved away from that position. Several projects and licenses have been retired such as the Sampling, Founders' Copyright, and Developing Nations License. It's obvious that something like Founders' Copyright which keeps "all rights reserved" for 14 years (before releasing into the public domain) is not promoting free culture. Giving rightsholders more options and easier ways to choose what rights they want to give others actually reinforces permission culture, creates a fragmented commons, and takes away freedom from all cultural participants.
What's wrong with NC and ND?
The two proprietary clauses remaining in the CC license set are NonCommercial (NC) and NoDerivatives (ND), and it is time Creative Commons stopped supporting them, too. Neither of them provide better protection against misappropriation than free culture licenses. The ND clause survives on the idea that rightsholders would not otherwise be able protect their reputation or preserve the integrity of their work, but all these fears about allowing derivatives are either permitted by fair use anyway or already protected by free licenses. The NC clause is vague and survives entirely on two even more misinformed ideas. First is rightsholders' fear of giving up their copy monopolies on commercial use, but what would be considered commercial use is necessarily ambiguous. Is distributing the file on a website which profits from ads a commercial use? Where is the line drawn between commercial and non-commercial use? In the end, it really isn't. It does not increase the potential profit from work and it does not provide any better protection than than Copyleft does (using the ShareAlike clause on its own, which is a free culture license).
The second idea is the misconception that NC is anti-property or anti-privatization. This comes from the name NonCommercial which implies a Good Thing (non-profit), but it's function is counter-intuitive and completely antithetical to free culture (it retains a commercial monopoly on the work). That is what it comes down to. The NC clause is actually the closest to traditional "all rights reserved" copyright because it treats creative and intellectual expressions as private property. Maintaining commercial monopolies on cultural works only enables middlemen to continue enforcing outdated business models and the restrictions they depend on. We can only evolve beyond that if we abandon commercial monopolies, eliminating the possibility of middlemen amassing control over vast pools of our culture.
Most importantly, though, is that both clauses do not actually contribute to a shared commons. They oppose it. The fact that the ND clause prevents cultural participants from building upon works should be a clear reason to eliminate it from the Creative Commons license set. The ND clause is already the least popular, and discouraging remixing is obviously contrary to a free culture. The NonCommercial clause, on the other hand, is even more problematic because it is not so obvious in its proprietary nature. While it has always been a popular clause, it's use has been in slow and steady decline. Practically, the NC clause only functions to cause problems for collaborative and remixed projects. It prevents them from being able to fund themselves and locks them into a proprietary license forever. For example, if Wikipedia were under a NC license, it would be impossible to sell printed or CD copies of Wikipedia and reach communities without internet access because every single editor of Wikipedia would need to give permission for their work to be sold. The project would need to survive off of donations (which Wikipedia has proven possible), but this is much more difficult and completely unreasonable for almost all projects, especially for physical copies. Retaining support for NC and ND in CC 4.0 would give them much more weight, making it extremely difficult to retire them later, and continue to feed the fears that nurture a permission culture.
Why does this need to happen now?
People have been vocal about this issue for a long time, and awareness of the problematic nature of ND and NC has been spreading, especially in the areas of Open Educational Resources (such as OpenCourseWare) and Open Access to research. With the percentage of CC-licensed works that permit remixing and commercial use having doubled since Creative Commons' first year, it's clear that there is a growing recognition that the non-free license clauses are not actually necessary, or even good.
Both NC and ND are incompatible with free licenses and many, if not the vast majority, of NC and ND licensed works will not be relicensed after CC 4.0, so the longer it takes to phase out those clauses, the more works will be locked into a proprietary license. There will never be a better time than this. Creative Commons has been shifting away from non-free licenses for several years, but if it does not abandon them entirely it will fail as a commons and divide our culture into disconnected parts, each with its own distinct licence, rights and permissions granted by the copyright holders who 'own' the works.
In December of 2006, Creative Commons implemented a subtle difference between the pages for free culture and non-free licenses: green and yellow background graphics (compare Attribution-ShareAlike to Attribution-NonCommercial). This was also when they began using license buttons that include license property icons, so that there would be an immediate visual cue as to the specific license being used before clicking through to the deed. In February of 2008, they began using a seal on free culture licenses that said "Approved for Free Cultural Works", which was another great step in the right direction. In July of this year, Creative Commons released a completely redesigned license chooser that explicitly says whether the configuration being used is free culture or not. This growing acknowledgement of free vs. non-free licenses was a crucial development, since being under a Creative Commons license is so often equated with being a free cultural work. Now, retiring the NC and ND clauses is a critical step in Creative Commons' progress towards taking a pro-freedom approach.
The NC and ND clauses not only depend on, but also feed misguided notions about their purpose and function. With that knowledge, it would be a mistake not to retire them. Creative Commons should not depend on and nurture rightsholders' fears of misappropriation to entice them into choosing non-free CC licenses. Instead of wasting effort maintaining and explaining a wider set of conflicting licenses, Creative Commons as an organization should focus on providing better and more consistent support for the licenses that really make sense. We are in the perfect position to finally create a unified and undivided commons. Creative Commons is at a crossroads.This decisive moment will in all likelihood bind their direction either being stuck serving the fears that validate permission culture or creating a shared commons between all cultural participants.
We don't want the next generation of the free culture movement to be saddled with the dichotomies of the past; we want our efforts to be spent fighting the next battles.
What should we do?
There have been lots of discussions on the CC-license list about promoting free culture licenses and discouraging proprietary ones. A couple of proposals have been made to encourage the use of free licenses over the non-free ones.
One is a rebranding of the non-free licenses. They could be differentiated in a much more significant way than it currently is, such as referring to NC and ND as the "Restricted Commons" or "Limited Commons" or some variant thereof. License buttons could also be color coded in the same way that license pages are (green for free culture licenses, yellow for proprietary ones). Another proposal is to rename NonCommercial to something more honest such as CommercialMonopoly.
While these proposals and other ideas are certainly worth supporting, we should not lose sight on our ultimate goal: for Creative Commons to stop supporting non-free licenses. We should not feel like this is impossible to achieve at this point, as it will be much more difficult to do later. More people than ever are starting to advocate against proprietary CC licenses, and there is clear evidence and reasoning behind these arguments. We have the power to prevent the inclusion of non-free clauses in this upcoming version of the Creative Commons License set.
To join us in resisting the inclusion of proprietary clauses in CC 4.0, there are a few important things you can do:

  • Send a letter to the Creative Commons Board of Directors about your concerns.
  • Publish your letter or a blog post on the issue (and send it to the list below)
  • Join the Creative Commons licenses development list to participate in discussions of the 4.0 draft: http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/cc-licenses
  • Contribute to the CC 4.0 wiki pages: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/4.0

Last chance to fund Tube, an upcoming Blender-animated film

Blender's Open Movie Projects have already proved that it's possible to produce stunningly high-quality 3D animated films exclusively using free software in a studio setting. Now, a new animated short film called Tube, inspired by the ancient epic poem of Gilgamesh, is expanding on that work to bring free culture to the masses. The Tube project is not merely evidence of the technical capabilities of free software tools like Blender, PiTiVi, and Fedora GNU/Linux, but living proof of their viability for independent filmmakers. The most impressive aspect of the project is that it has managed to come together through distributed collaboration between 56 artists from 22 countries — some of which are at war. Tube truly highlights the incredible unifying power of free software tools and a free culture model. 

Within the first few days, Tube's Kickstarter campaign reached the minimal baseline goal of $22K and subsequently hit Slashdot. As the film enters the final stages of production, the Tube team needs as much support as they can get to make this story a huge success for free software, free culture, and independent animators everywhere. With the production funding target of $50K in sight and just a couple days left in the campaign, this is your last chance to support this ambitious undertaking and get your name in the film as a backer. There is enormous potential here; as Mashable questions, 'Will This Open-Source Animated Film Change the Movie Industry Forever?'
The film's public release is scheduled for 7 months from now along with all the assets, source, and project files under the free culture and copyleft Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) licence. For an in-depth discussion with the team, check out this interview with the Tube project founders on Libre Graphics World. It's up to us now to help Tube affirm the legitimacy of producing free cultural works in a fully free software workflow. 

Join the FSF Now for a New Membership Benefit: Credit Union Eligibility!

During my 2010 summer internship at the Free Software Foundation I was able to bring lots of new ideas to the table, get involved with campaigns and publicity, and take on leadership roles like organizing the Massachusetts LibrePlanet Team.

One project of mine was to find a Credit Union for the FSF to partner with in order to bring eligibility to their membership base. Why? Banks have too much power. They've destroyed economies. Credit unions are basically banks (they offer all the same services and often more), but they are structured democratically and don't have to potential to do the kind of damage big banks do. Credit unions are not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives rather than profit-driven corporations. Members elect a volunteer (unpaid) board of directors, and profits don't go to shareholders but instead go into lower rates on loans, higher rates on savings, and better services. If you're still letting big banks hold your money, see what credit unions you're eligible to join!

Finally, over one year after my internship, I've finally finished my project. If you are a card-carrying member of the FSF, you are now eligible to join Digital Federal Credit Union. Some neat benefits include being able to deposit checks online, and DCU is one of the very few credit unions that has that allow you to cash checks via your Android or iPhone using an app (disclaimer: zero-cost proprietary software). For more information check out the announcement and join DCU today!

Chaos: Some clarifications on Novacut

My post on the Novacut project stirred up quite a shitstorm, pardon my language. I can't even attempt to explain the whole point of my post—something that seemed to be misunderstood by anyone who didn't already agree—better than Jeff "Nekohayo" Fortin has in his blog post, which I have included below:


No matter how I try to write this, it will come out wrong. I have basically no chances of improving anything at all, especially since I’m no Shakespeare. I’m good at singing the praise of contributors, but I’m terrible at handling delicate situations. I’ll still try clarifying my thoughts into this post, which I’m quite certain will be perceived as an attack, propaganda or be subjected to attack. That’s fine. All those things are normal and to be expected after what I’ve done. By linking to Danny’s post I officially endorsed it as an individual. Since I’m a volunteer contributor to pitivi, the result was akin to a napalm strike to clear a beach for surfing.

I underestimated the consequences and hurt Jason so badly he was trembling with anger. It is only when I chatted with him once more on IRC tonight that I came to realize how deep the wound was. Even though I have my doubts they can pull it off, deep inside I’m rooting for them to succeed.

I am not here to ask forgiveness as it sounds impossible, but I am however very sorry for any pain caused by my actions. Not sure how to phrase this properly, basically I don’t think forgiveness is something you can request.

Somehow this reminds me of Ran, although I should be careful in personifying anyone as Saburo or Hidetora in this (I’m probably both, anyway). After that chat, now that I’ve been banished from the kingdom and I’m nothing more than a beggar, perhaps I can tell you the story that made me break the bundle of arrows.

The end goal was not to attack the person or the core idea behind a distributed video editor focused on making videographers more efficient at what they do, but a last attempt at preventing another tragedy.

Let me tell you (the public) the story of one of those failed video editors projects. In November 2008 I received an email from the guy who was launching his video editor project, Saya. Just as I did with Jason, I wrote lengthy emails and had endless conversations trying to make him see the hardship he was to face. Since pitivi was dormant at the time, I was cautious in my predictions that he would crash and burn, and accepted to be part of his project as an advisor. In the process I have accumulated tons of inside knowledge, and what you can see on the surface is only the tip of the iceberg. The ambitious goals, the mislead technical decisions and autocratic management attitude of the leader paled in comparison to his delusions of grandeur.

Then, just as I had predicted, this guy went into nervous breakdown (his own words) as well as complete financial disarray after alienating every contributor around him. He now came back as an empty shell of a man wandering the remainders of the castle that was burned to the ground. When he came back in that state, I asked if he would swallow his pride (much like Danny wrote here) and join an existing project—any project—which he refused. On his blog, you can see some saddeningly meaningless posts about writing playback GUI controls or an “image reading plugin”.

After so many years and seeing such a spectacular failure still occuring, I thought that next time, I would try as hard as possible to prevent it from reoccuring, by insisting much more on the forewarning part and avoiding to ever have to say “I told you so” again. I prefer to be banished first for having done my public duty rather than after the unfolding of yet another tragedy.

Wait, I know this, you know this, and Jason obviously knows this because I’ve been warning him incessantly for a year, until a point where he said “We’ll have to agree to disagree”. That doesn’t answer the question that burns on your mind, “Why did you break the bundle of arrows?” Why suddenly rock the boat on which we’re all standing?

I’m generally immune to marketing in the media in the “real world”, but not as much in open source. I had this belief that it was a completely separate world, a belief that was shattered by events of the past few months.

Seeing the first few videos posted for the 2nd kickstarter, I was annoyed. Then,seeing the latest artist video posted, my jaw dropped on the floor. What I felt at this moment is beyond words and can only be understood by someone who has been observing the tireless, daily struggle of all the open source video editors for over six years. Particularly with a claim like this going unedited: “This thing exists! It’s called Novacut”.

I immediately posted a comment on YouTube, in which I did not mince my words. You can now have a better idea why I found it logical to link to Danny’s post afterwards. I linked to it with the shortest post summary I could think of, because:
  • I could not condone his post: I was agreeing with what he presented.
  • I could not add arguments in the same direction, since
    • I could not think of a better way to say what he said, although his point about “this is a trend to be stopped” was certainly misunderstood as a personal attack.
    • You can guess from the tone of my YouTube comment, I was not in a good disposition at that time.
  • I am not the best writer there is (it took me over 9 hours just to write the post you’re reading right now).

And all hell broke lose.

Did breaking the bundle of arrows do any good? Does trying to prove the point in public achieve anything but suffering?

I need to say that I ideologically still stand behind my endorsement of that blog post and the comments I have posted. Sometimes, even when you know that saying such things out loud can’t possibly be seen in a good light, you still have to say it, for the sake of exposing to the public at large the situation as you have analyzed it to be. Open source is also a matter of dealing in public as much as possible. Leave your dissent buried in your IRC channel and private discussions, and you do not achieve anything for you, for the person you disagree with, for the world.

As improbable as it may seem, to me this is not about money. 25 000$ is peanuts. I’m not saying this because I’m a rich businessman or rockstar developer—I’m a student who spends most if not all his free time contributing to open source. I don’t make a dime on it and I’ve never been into this for the money. If it was about money I would have bought myself a copy of Sony Vegas years ago and called it a day, because I’ve spent so many years working on getting pitivi back on track that I am at a net loss in terms of unpaid work. I even wrote the user manual in secret while I was working in a summer job, and this year I had to take time away from supervising 23 employees while I spent all the rest of my free awake time mentoring SoC students for pitivi (and I still think the amount of mentoring I could provide was insufficient). My weekly paycheck was smaller because I spent less time working “in the real world”. Hang on, where was I heading towards when I started this paragraph?

Ah right: Jason, I don’t mind you getting 25 grand. That’s not the point.

I spoke the truth when I said that I knew you guys would reach the goal a few days ago, it was not even a question in my mind. Deep down, I knew that for sure as soon as you passed your previous milestone of 11K$.

I am still a bit dumbfounded that, in the comments on that blog post, there were accusations of actively “threatening the financial security of [Jason's] family”. I hope I can make that clear. It has never been something as outlandish as trying to bankrupt your family.

I’ve juggled with the ideas for years and I still haven’t found a definitive answer to what could be achieved if we threw money at pitivi. It’s not like I’m seeing a financial loss here, it has been going on for years without any budget. I rather wished you’d have got 250 000$ instead of 25 000$. I am unable to imagine, as others pointed out, what you can do in the long run with a mere 25K without quickly implementing a more permanent business model that regularly brings in significant amounts of money. I sincerely hope you get your financial situation sorted out.

Yes, of course I had that moment of “What is this? How unfair is this to all the other video editor projects out there? Imagine fulltime paid developers on kdenlive, I’d finally be able to ditch pitivi!”. That comes back to my section above: I felt compelled to share that link because not doing so would have been “refraining from giving any credibility to naysayers” and passively nodding in front of misleading statements such as “it exists”.

Jason basically went about it in a completely opposite direction to all open source software development models, with insane risks involved. After seeing what happened of Diaspora, one can’t help but to be worried. I think that was the main point behind Danny’s article, where he said enough about these macro-socio-economic issues, in much better words that I could try to convey myself. Frankly, the more I write on this subject, the more I’ll drift on a tangent and look like I’m bent on dismissing your project. Let’s shift my point of view for a minute.

What would I think of Novacut, if I was not a cautious cynical old fart?

I’d have drank the cool-aid. Back in 2005-2007, I would have killed for the realization of such a promise as Novacut’s. I would have thrown hundreds of bucks into the kickstarter. 25K, in the grand scheme of things, is breadcrumbs. I would have been their most vehement fan. I would even have called the CBC and written articles for the local newspapers or tech magazines.

Yesterday, seeing as they were merely a few hundred dollars away from the goal, I even pledged a couple of bucks myself (before I had the chat and realized how much I hurt Jason).

What will happen in the future?

If Novacut succeeds, PiTiVi dies. Hang on a minute. This statement is not to be interpreted as a threat or warning. This is me publicly saying that if Novacut manages to rapidly reach feature parity with pitivi, then pitivi becomes technologically irrelevant and *I* will join the Novacut project (if they ever let me in). These are my thoughts and do not necessarily reflect those of others, though I know that many probably feel the same as I do on this one.

And without me, I can pretty much assure you that pitivi will slow back to a crawl and fade out from my cladogram and my life. And thus will Novacut be the new heir. The king is dead, long live the King. Such transmutations are a curious fact of the cycle of life in open source.

In short, there are two possible outcomes that I can see in the long term:
  • Novacut succeeds and produces the FOSS editor that people have been awaiting for so long (simple in the beginning, but usable with more coming over time). In that case, join Novacut since it is the way forward.
  • Novacut manages to produce some code that others will use and useful lessons are provided for others (eg design decisions, workflows, etc.)

Either way there will at least be some benefit.

Everybody in life secretly wants to start a revolution and write history. In the grand scheme of things, I am a speck of dust, I’m happy to just go back to the stage of my life where I was only a cineast who wanted a “friggin editor that works”. Tell you what, you build it as awesome as you promised in the next decade, and if you don’t want me I’ll “go find a new hobby” as you suggested. Software is a big part of my life right now, but in the end I’ll be a pack of bones in a grave and until then, maybe I should go fly a kite — literally.

My feelings towards Jason could be summarized by this quote from Randy Pausch:
“When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.”
And this is why I feel this way…


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