LibrePlanet 2010 Completes Its Orbit

Friday 26 March 2010 by Bradley M. Kuhn

Seven and a half years ago, I got this idea: the membership of the Free Software Foundation should have a chance to get together every year and learn about what the FSF has been doing for the last year. I was so nervous at the first one on Saturday 15 March 2003, that I even wore a suit which I rarely do.

The basic idea was simple: the FSF Board of Directors came into town anyway each March for the annual board meeting. Why not give a chance for FSF associate members to meet the leadership and staff of FSF and ask hard questions to their hearts' content? I'm all about transparency, as you know. :)

Since leaving the position of Executive Director a few months before the 2005 meeting, I've attended every annual meeting, just as an ordinary Associate Member and FSF volunteer. It's always enjoyable to attend a conference organized by someone else that you used to help organize; it's like, after having done sysadmin work for other people for years, to have someone keep a machine running and up to date just for you. It's been wonderful to watch the FSF AM meeting grow into a full-fledged conference for discussion and collaboration between folks from all over the Free Software world. “One room, one track, one day” has become “five rooms, three tracks, and three days” with the proverbial complaint throughout: But, why do I have to miss this great session so that I can go to some other great session!?!

Some highlights for me this year were:

  • I saw John Gilmore win a well-deserved FSF Award for the Advancement of Free Software.
  • I got to spend time with the intrepid gnash developer Rob Savoye again, whom I knew of for years (his legend precedes him) but I'd rarely had a chance to see in person regularly, until lately.
  • I met so many young people excited about software freedom. I can only imagine to be only 19 or 20 years old and have the opportunity meet other Free Software developers in person. At that age, I considered myself lucky to simply have Usenet access so that I could follow and participate in online discussions about Free Software (good ol' gnu.misc.discuss ;). I am so glad that young folks, some from as far away as Brazil, had the opportunity to visit and speak about their work.
  • On the informal Friday sessions, I was a bit amazed that I pulled off a marathon six-hour session of mostly well-received talks/discussions (for which I readily admit I had not prepped well). The first three hours was about the challenges of software freedom on mobile devices, and the second three were about the nitty-gritty details of the hardest and most technical GPL enforcement task: the C&CS check. People seemed to actually enjoy watching me break half my Fedora chroots trying to build some source code for a plasma television. Someone even told me later: it was more fun because we got to see you make all the mistakes.
  • Finally (and I realize I've probably buried the lede here, but I've kept the list chronological, since I wrote most of it before I found out this last thing), after the FSF Board meeting, which followed LibrePlanet, I was informed by a phone call from my good friend Henry Poole that I'd been elected to FSF's Board of Directors, which has now been announced by FSF on Peter Brown's blog. I've often told the story that when I first learned about the FSF as a young programmer and sysadmin, I thought that someday, maybe I could be good enough to get a job as a sysadmin for the FSF. I did indeed volunteer as a sysadmin for the FSF starting around 1996, but I truly felt I'd exceeded any possible dream when I was later named FSF's Executive Director, and was able to serve in that post for so many years. Now, being part of the Board of Directors is an even greater opportunity for involvement in the organization that I've loved and respected for so long.

FSF is an organization based around a very simple, principled idea: that users and programmers alike deserve inalienable rights to copy, share, modify, and redistribute all the software that they use. This issue isn't merely about making better software (although Free Software developers usually do, anyway); it's about a principle of morality: everyone using computers should be treated well and be given the maximal opportunity to treat their neighbors well, too. Helping make this simple idea into reality is the center of all the work I've done for the last 12 years of my life, and I expect it will be the focus of my (hopefully many) remaining years. I am thankful that the Voting Members of FSF have given me this additional opportunity to help our shared cause. I plan to work hard in this and all the other responsibilities that I already have to our Free Software community. Like everyone on FSF's Board of Directors, I serve in that role completely as a volunteer, so in some ways I feel this is just a natural extension of the volunteer work I've continued to do for the FSF regularly since I left its employment in 2005.

Finally, I was glad to meet (or meet again) so many FSF supporters at LibrePlanet, and I deeply hope that I can serve our shared goal well in this additional role.

Posted on Friday 26 March 2010 at 06:45 by Bradley M. Kuhn.

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Both previously and presently, I have been employed by and/or done work for various organizations that also have views on Free, Libre, and Open Source Software. As should be blatantly obvious, this is my website, not theirs, so please do not assume views and opinions here belong to any such organization.

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Bradley M. Kuhn <>