The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is an organization that does a lot of behind-the-scenes things, mostly policy and legal, which can be a little hard to see at times. Of course we are always happy to support Free Software projects manage the legal and organizational aspects of, um, projecthood — that means supporting copyright consolidation (or supporting copyright management, don’t let me suggest that consolidation is necessary in all situations), asset management (as a project you have a domain and a name and possibly a brand and trademark, make sure those are protected), and other fiddly bits that aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.
After all, in the long list of contributors to Free Software projects: artist, translator, coder, writer, supporter, forumista you rarely see “legal” except when it comes to the largest of projects. As a consequence, the FSFE’s work is often a little bit hidden. The FSFE newsletter (under the general news part of the site) gives a view of what the association is doing in an official capacity.
The human face of the FSFE — the people behind it, as it were — are members of the Fellowship of FSFE, supporting the work of the FSFE financially as well as organizationally (e.g. booths) and doing fun stuff at the same time (e.g. fellowship meetings, get-togethers of Free Software people who work on different projects, different places). Some of the Fellowship groups are not all that active — here in the Netherlands we’re largely dormant, even though we live fairly close together and I even think we could agree on a pub to meet at.
There is an interview series with Fellows — Smári McCarthy, Timo Jyrinki, Myriam Schweingruber are the last three — that illustrates really well the range of people involved in Free Software across Europe.
The person who does most (all?) of the interviews is Stian Rødven Eide, who can’t exacly interview himself to talk about the cool things he does, so I’ll just point to his own blog and in particular the entry on Gnutiken, the Free Software boutique. Basically a cafe that caters to the Free Software crowd, it seems, with a hardware and consulting business co-located. I hope that’s a good description, anyway.
This kind of boutique strikes me as a kind of ideal sprint location, bringing together a relaxed atmosphere with fanatical devotion to results. I used to fantasize about buying an orchard in the middle of Sweden and converting it to a campground / chalet-huts area for Free Software development, hacking and relaxation, but that never went farther than surfing some real-estate sites. There’s the Linux Hotel which can provide that. Most of the sprints I have been to — KDE sprints, that is — were short, just a (long) weekend, and I wonder what would be achieved if we could hold a group together for an entire week, working not only on new features but also putting concrete effort into “papercuts” type fixes and stability improvements.
Anyway, the human face of FSFE: the fellows. See the Berlin group on the 10th of September, Wien or Helsinki or one of the other groups — or start one up yourself. Heck, I’m going to have to arrange something in the Netherlands now. How does October 28th sound?