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Non-technicals, why am I not a purist, and other stuff

#epiphanies

Soc Virnyl Estela | 2024-01-12 | updated: 2024-01-14 | reading time: ~7min

At least 2 years being part of open source, I feel like I am witnessing an age where the future of open source and its movement is uncertain. Open source has come a long way where computing has become openly accessible for everyone and I mean desktop computing. However, most non-technicals are not aware or at least unfamiliar with open source and the organizations that advocate for it.

Non-technicals are those that are slightly technical but not technically literate enough. We will call them that on this blog.

Non-technicals only buy their computers without an inkling of what rights they have and what they can actually do to both software and hardware.

Should we discriminate them because they don't know? Of course not!

But should we leave them unaware?

The problem with the current status quo§

Currently, the world of desktop computing is dominated by Microsoft and Apple1. If we include mobile as a form of "desktop" computing of which, it actually is, then Google's Android takes a huge part of the pie2 as well.

What does this mean? These companies have won the desktop and mobile market and it is no surprise. Their thorough marketing and research — knowing what the non-technicals think and want — convenience is a luxury.

Is it bad though? Depends. Then what is?

We own your data§

All of these companies know that most people want things free. I mean who doesn't 🥴.

Anyway, this means that non-technicals are willing to believe that these companies come with good intentions. That's actually... too good to be true.

There are a lot of cases, news, leaks, whistleblowers, et cetera about these things and I have no need to mention them because I am lazy. One good example is how we browse the web and a comic explainer3 has a better explanation than I am.

TLDR; you are paying companies your data for advertisers from your search history, your keystrokes, or even through your alexa.

Trying to protect yourself through incognito mode in a chromium-based browser won't help as well4.

But non-technicals are unaware of those. So what are we going to do? Obviously, it is to educate them right? That's easy to say, hard to execute.

There are so many blockers that at this point, it is nearly impossible to pointless to fix. Or we are conditioned to think that it is impossible to fix.

Once a culture, always a culture§

Humans have a tendency to create in-groups and out-groups. It's part of our nature as we are social creatures (someone still has to cite that for me, thanks!).

Once a "norm" is created, it's hard to leave that norm. One good example is the Philippines unrelenting and always near 100% of the population using Facebook and TikTok from old to young, from rural parts of the country to the noisy urban cities, there is always that one guy or girl that cannot stop thinking of posting a new dance.

Given the easy access of short bursts of dopamine addiction, it is no wonder that around the world, most people are staring at their screens watching unproductive things.

Thus, a culture of using a new form of dopamine addiction rose and became the new norm.

Companies already knew this and exploit this kind of addiction, I kind of wondered why that is not illegal such as how they manipulate psychology just for profit5.

I am also one of those users but discovering Linux and OSS during the early days of COVID19 saved me. Quite ironic that a pandemic made me rediscover this.

Change or be left out§

A good case for this is my family and I. There are times I want them to contact me through Signal or other forms of privacy-respecting communication. But it never went through.

Most people that actually know the truth including me, are afraid of being left out. I still use Facebook, and Discord. I sacrifice my privacy in the name of having connections.

Is it bad though? Probably.

Will I risk chance to keep in touch with friends? No.

This is why even most of us OSS advocates are not purists and pushing us to become a purist means losing friends, and ease of communication between family members.

I am not hopeful that there will be a chance to change that. And I don't believe we have the power to change what has become a necessity. Correct me if I am wrong. :)

Advocate but don't be pushy§

Rather than pushing non-technicals, we slowly educate. We share what we use, what we do, and answer what curiousities they have about OSS.

Pushing will only literally push them away from the possible interest they have about our lives, and about OSS.

ActivityPub may have made it possible§

Given the state of social networking and the boom of ActivityPub instances, I think there is a chance we can introduce more people to OSS.

One good example is the controversial issue of federating with Meta's Threads.

I have mix-feelings with ActivityPub instances federating with Threads and there are a lot of people that actually do not like to federate with them6 7. I actually lean more of not wanting to federate.

Other content creators are more or less pro-federation of Threads because some of their arguments are like these:

  • your posts are public, anybody can scrape your information. Fair enough
  • this allows us to increase exposure of OSS to the non-technicals. Good point but I will stay observant
  • increase exposure means making people aware and may allow them to move over to OSS. Hmm okay

But it so happens that the current Mastodon instance I am in, Fosstodon, is openly federating with Threads.

However, this might8 be the only way to show non-technicals the existence of Open Source and its movement. Big MAYBE I guess.

The current state of non-technicals and us§

To be honest, there is a lot to do to shorten the gap between the technicals and the non-technicals. One example is our tend to gatekeep and have elitist-like tendencies to push curious non-technicals who are new to OSS. And there are a lot of norms on the technicals' side of things about desktop computing e.g. GUI vs CLI, that may cause non-technicals to never use OSS alternatives at all.

Our chance to change our behaviors and our approach is always now, the present. And to do that is to sympathize and empathize with new users rather than barking at them for no good reason.

We should raise awareness and be open to alternatives. In today's age, visible presence is key to allow more adoption of OSS to non-technicals.

3

This maybe for Google Chrome but it also applies to any company known for their shady practices. Link to comic - https://contrachrome.com/ContraChrome_en.pdf.

4

Oh yeah, your incognito is not incognito after all - https://www.npr.org/2023/12/30/1222268415/google-settles-5-billion-privacy-lawsuit

7

There is a huge group of instances that do not want to federate with Meta's Threads called Fedipact.

8

I am still wary about Meta but I do hope this allows exposure of OSS to the masses.

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