FSFE Fellowship Vienna

Reports from the fellowship group in Vienna

Software Freedom Day 2013 in Vienna


On Saturday 21th September the FSFE fellowship group Vienna held an information booth in Vienna’s most prominent shopping street. Despite short rain showers occurring all day long we began at about 10:30am and finished at 7:30pm. At times we needed to protect the leaflets with our jackets, but overall we had good feedback and many interesting conversations. Up to three free software advocates ran our booth.

Surprisingly many people had heard of free software before. In most cases people quickly understood our concerns about dependence on big corporations and governments. Many wanted to take a free sample of our operating system DVDs right away. We had our own FSFE fellowship editions of Debian, openSuse, Fedora and Trisquel DVDs. Additionally we brought some of our private copies of very good books featuring free software and free culture for display.

We are considering producing USB sticks with some free software distributions to give out to people for a small donation in order to avoid one way discs and to add an additional value to the media we give out. We could possibly make a FSFE branded stick to gain additional attention through people using them.

Some people asked us for posters. We where able to give away the robots poster from last DFD, but we didn’t have the requested Fedora poster. Next time we should probably organise distro posters and t-shirts.

As we set up our stall in front of a memorial and used it to hang up our SFD-posters we had some discussions with people who felt this to be inappropriate. It was the Marcus Omofuma memorial which is dedicated to a black Nigerian man who got choked to death in 2003 during his deportation flight to Bulgaria whilst in the custody of Austrian police. The 5 meter high black stone memorial was originally illegally placed in front of the well known Vienna Opera House. The government couldn’t remove it without provoking a public outcry. Therefore one month later it was moved from the Opera to the shopping street where we set up our booth.

In our discussions we could even use this controversial point to refer to the importance of civil rights and free speech and it’s direct connection to free software. Marcus Omofuma probably would have supported free software since it is an important instrument to allow free speech in modern society. Even the memorial itself originally was placed without any permission.

An older man, living high up in a building near our stall saw our posters on the memorial and came down to visit us. He told us that he had had difficulties with installing free software on his two computers. He reported that it got stuck in an error message late in the installation process just before the desktop should start. He took some of our distro disks with him in order to have an other try.

We invited many people to our monthly fellowship meetings and encouraged them to become FSFE fellowship members.

We asked people with advanced knowledge in the field of free software if they were interested in our local project to make free software experts accessible for private free software users. We set up a new association and web page called: freie.it where we bring experts willing to support private free software users together (with or without charging for it). The web page is designed for people who value the virtues of free software, but do not have the motivation to learn more about how computer systems work at all. It is meant to give end users a means to easily find experts willing to help them with free software issues. The web page just offers the possibility to search for experts relevant to the entered search terms. Visitors get a list of these experts that they can then contact for help. The project isn’t public yet. We are still in the testing phase and want to go public when we have enough experts to give visitors satisfying results for the most frequent issues ordinary users want help with.

After packing up we celebrated the Software Freedom Day in the excellent vegetarian restaurant Harvest. Due to a newly forming fellowship group in Linz some of our colleagues went there in order to support a similar booth. Therefore we were fewer people in Vienna this year. Nevertheless, we managed to have a successful SFD in Vienna as well.

4 Responses to “Software Freedom Day 2013 in Vienna”

  1. lucile.falg Says:

    Your report is great!

    >> I also wished I had FSFE sticks with free software distributions last time we ran a cryptoparty and talked a lot about free software.

    >> If you need more posters, please tell us. We can also bring non-folded ones to the GA in Vienna (pretty much as many as you need)

    >> “In our discussions we could even use this controversial point to refer to the importance of civil rights and free speech and it’s direct connection to free software.” –> awesome, we should make this connection more often. I’m working on a leaflet about it, help welcome ;)

    >> “We set up a new association and web page called: freie.it where we bring experts willing to support private free software users together” great, I’m curious to know how it will work. It is often a huge effort for experts to make themselves understandable by beginners. If you find good ways of ensuring that the group is welcoming and inclusive (especially for women), please share the recipes! It’s great to do it at a local scale

    This report is very motivating, thanks!
    Lucile (lucile.falg_at_fsfe….)

  2. Franz Gratzer Says:

    Hi Lucile,

    I was not referring to the usual FSFE posters. We still have plenty of Fellowship and Android posters. People asked for distro promotion material.

    On what leaflet do you work? What is the subject? Free software concerning sfree speech and civil rights? I had quite some experiences in that field since I’m volunteering for the local animal rights movement as well and we are facing continuing serious state repression. The volunteer work for free software is like holidays in that regard.

    I’m not sure if I was clear enough what our newly formed association is trying to accomplish. It’s not about educating people (even if this should be possible to offer on the platform). We just want to make useful contacts available. It’s main goal is to make it easy to find experts who can help with computer problems. It shouldn’t be necessary to browse through documentation or searching for answers on the net if you are willing to outsource the task of system administration. Therefore I think there is no gender issue.

  3. Guido Arnold Says:

    Awesome report indeed! Congratulations to your success at SFD!

    But I have to say that I also find it inappropriate to use the memorial as an advertising pillar. There’s probably nothing wrong with the location, but I suggest not to post anything on the pillar itself next time.

    Anyway, thanks for your efforts and the report!

  4. Franz Gratzer Says:

    Hi Guido. Sticking something temporarily on a memorial doesn’t automaticly mean disrespect. Especially if the meaning of it is similar to what the memorial stands for. We even used a very decent layout fitting to the style of the memorial.

    The much bigger and more likely inapropriate looking orange flag you can see on the pictures wasn’t even from us. It was what the people used during a special event in memory of the tragic death of Marcus Omofuma.

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