FSFE supporters Vienna

Reports from the FSFE supporters group in Vienna

Information stalls at Linux Week and Veganmania in Vienna

Linuxwochen Vienna 2018
Linux Weeks in Vienna 2018

Veganmania Vienna 2018
Veganmania at MQ in Vienna 2018

Linuxwochen Vienna 2019
Linux Weeks in Vienna 2019

Information stall at Veganmania 2019
Veganmania at MQ in Vienna 2019

Information stall at Veganmania 2019
Veganmania at MQ in Vienna 2019

As has been tradition for many years now, this year too saw the Viennese FSFE volunteers’ group hold information stalls at the Linuxwochen event and Veganmania in Vienna. Even though the active team has shrunk due to former activists moving away, having children or simply having very demanding jobs, we have still managed to keep up these information stalls in 2019.

Linux Weeks Vienna 2019

The information stall at the Linux weeks event in May was somewhat limited due to the fact that we didn’t get our usual posters and the roll-up in time. Unfortunately we discovered too late that they had obviously been lent out for an other event and hadn’t been returned afterwards. So we could only use our information material. But since at this event the FSFE is very well known, it wasn’t hard at all to carry out our usual information stall. It’s less about outreach work and more of a who-is-who of the free software community in Vienna anyway. For three days we met old friends and networked. Of course some newbies found their way to the event also. And therefore we could spread our messages a little further too.

In addition, we once again provided well visited workshops for Inkscape and Gimp. The little talk on the free rally game Trigger Rally even motivated an attending dedicated Fedora maintainer to create an up-to-date .rpm package in order to enable distribution of the most recent release to rpm distros.

Veganmania MQ Vienna 2019

The Veganmania at the Museums Quartier in Vienna is growing bigger every year. In 2019 it took place from 7th to 10th of June. Despite us having a less frequented spot with our information stall at the event due to construction work, it again was a full-blown success. Over the four days in perfect weather, the stall was visited by loads of people. There were times when we were stretched to give some visitors the individual attention they might have wanted. But I think in general we were able to provide almost all people with valuable insights and new ideas for their everyday computing. Once again Veganmania proved to be a very good setting for our FSFE information stall. It is always very rewarding to experience people getting a glimpse for the first time of how they could emancipate themselves from proprietary domination. Our down-to-earth approach seems to be the right way to go.

We do not only explain ethical considerations but also appeal to the self-interest of people concerning independence, reliability and free speech. Edward Snowden’s and Wikileaks discoveries clearly show how vulnerable we make ourselves in blindly trusting governments and companies. We describe with practical examples how free software can help us in working together or recovering old files by building on open standards. Of course pointing to the environmental (and economic) advantages of using old hardware with less resource hungry free software is a winning argument also.

Material

Alongside the introductory Austrian version of the leaflet about the freedoms free software enables, which was put together as a condensation of RMS’ book Free Software, Free Society, one of our all-time favourite leaflet features 10 popular GNU/Linux Distros with just a few words about their defining differences (advantages and disadvantages). I updated the leaflet just a day before the festival. I replaced Linux Mint, Open Suse and gNewSense with the recently even more popular Manjaro, MX Linux and PureOS. I also updated the information on the importance of open standards on the back. We have run out of our end-user business cards for our local association freie.it which makes knowledgable people available to others searching for help. Therefore, we decided to use the version we originally designed for inviting experts to the platform. It obviously was wrong to order the same amount of cards for both groups. Our selection of information material seems to work well as an invitation for people to give free software a try. Of course it feels probably also like a safeguard that people can contact me if they want to get my support – or that of someone else listed on freie.it.

Experiences

The first day was rather windy and we had to carefully manage our material if we didn’t want to have our leaflets flying all over the place. In the very early morning of the second day the wind was so strong that some tents where blown away and destroyed. There was even a storm warning which could have forced the organisers to cancel the event. Fortunately our material was well stored and the wind died down over the day. We also had to firmly hold-on to our sunshade because it was very hot, but beside that everything went fine.

It was just coincidence that Richard Matthew Stallman had a talk in Vienna on the evening of the first day of the Veganmania street festival. So at least one of us could take this rare opportunity to see RMS at a live talk while the other carried on with manning the information stall.

As we didn’t have our posters on Linuxwochen we investigated where they were and got them sent to us via snail mail just in time. We didn’t only get our posters but merchandise too. This was a premiere for our stall. It was clear from the beginning that we wouldn’t sell many shirts since most designs assumed prior knowledge of IT related concepts like binary counting. The general public doesn’t seem very aware of such details and people don’t even get the joke. (If we had had the same merchandise at the Linuxwochen we probably would have sold at least as many items despite having reached a much smaller crowd there.)

Outlook and thanks

There will be another information stall at the second Veganmania in Vienna this year, which takes place in end of August. The whole setting there is a little different as there isn’t a shopping street nearby but instead, the location is on the heavily frequented recreational area of Vienna’s Danube Island. Just like last year, it should be a good place for chatting about free software, as long as the weather is on our side.

I want to thank Martin for his incredible patience and ongoing dedication manning our stall. He is extremely reliable, always friendly and it is just a real pleasure working with him.

Thanks to kinderkutsche.at, a local place to rent and buy carrier bicycles, we could transport all our information material in a very environmentally friedly way.

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