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Technically Biased: Taking Free Software's Niche Appeal Mainstream

The Free Software movement’s ideals are egalitarian. We aim to bring the benefits of computing freedom to all users. However, we often overlook an uncomfortable inequality: Software Freedom disproportionately empowers programmers and those wealthy enough to hire them.

For today’s average “end users”, freedomware leaves them with basically the same options as proprietary freeware: use it as-is, or politely ask the developer and hope for the best. In my opinion, this is a key reason why it’s difficult to convince the wider public to care; it’s why Software Freedom largely remains a movement by and for programmers.

In this talk, I’ll argue that:

  • Programming education policy is the most important area for Software Freedom advocacy.

  • Designing for “nontechnical users” is an existential threat to Free Software.

  • Scriptable interfaces are a great way to make software more accessible to tech-illiterate users.

Presenters

Stephen Michel

Stephen Michel

Human. Problem-solver. Friend. Tinkerer. Aikido practitioner. Idealist (within reason). Aspiring imperfectionist. Musician.

Co-founder at Snowdrift.coop. Maintainer of Red Moon; contributor to the F-Droid ecosystem. GNU/Linux user and FLOSS advocate since 2010.

Programmer (“Software Engineer”) looking for work near Queens, NYC (or remote). Contact: seagl-bio-2021@smichel.me

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