Chris Woolfrey — FSFE UK Team Member

Explorations and Documentations

PDF Readers Campaign Hits the UK; FSFE Attends OggCamp11

I’ve been thinking, for a little while, about what my first post for FSFE should be about. First, I was going to write on education, the arts, or creativity — I’m finishing a Masters, so why not? Plus, I write lots — but it never felt like anything I had in mind would be particularly timely.

But now the UK Team is starting to do some really good things, and I’m trying as much as I can to be involved. On Saturday (13.08.11) UK Coordinator Sam Tuke got a team of people together to identify and report on any UK government websites that advertise, fund and promote proprietary software as standard for its users, as part of FSFE’s PDF Readers campaign. Apparently it went well: though the numbers will be published soon, anecdotal reports state that we’ve doubled the number of identified adverts in one day.

FSFE booth, OggCamp 11

Trying to look approachable at OggCamp11

I couldn’t be in Manchester, where the sprint took place, though. In recompense I went down to OggCamp11 with Sam, and we looked after an FSFE booth past which around 300 people (a member of staff reckoned) will at some point in the day have walked.

The first time I’d “officially” represented FSFE as a member of the UK Team, it was a great experience. Although I’ve been conducting interviews with Fellows since October 2010 and try as much as I can to contribute to discussions via email, meeting with people and discussing some of those issues in person was a very different experience. Across the day I met plenty of great people, including a couple who were already Fellows, some crazily interesting and intelligent developers, and some more people who seemed interested in supporting FSFE after talking with us.

I think it could be an exciting time for Free Software in the UK; as it should be, with the number of talented computer-types we have across the four countries. FSFE is really gathering momentum here, too: Karsten came to the UK after the Cabinet Office published an updated and encouragingly progressive procurement policy notice, and the early stages of a national meeting in London are being put in place for later in 2011.

Although there’s plenty more to do. Hopefully I can sell a few more t-shirts in the mean time. And relating to the first statement in this post, here’s a short extract from my Masters dissertation, though its in its draft stages:

“Perhaps the Web really is the medium for creating the Academy’s “perfect text”, and the Creative Commons, GPL and serious peer review the means for maintaining it. I am inclined to argue that it is. Whether it is or not, one thing is for certain: with the copyright on [James Joyce's] Ulysses due to expire in the United Kingdom on 1 January 2012, it is entirely possible that one, at least, of those three pillars of legitimacy — academic elitism; copyright as a guarantee of quality; the privileging of the printed book — is about to fall, at least in relation to Ulysses. As a result, it is imperative that the Academy has a serious, sustained, and in-depth discussion about its relationship with the Web, with the online world, and with online texts. It may well be the only way it can retain its position as arbiters of legitimacy, as guardians of literariness; and if it doesn’t hold that any more, than what existence could it have?”

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