Group: LibrePlanet Ontario/Street Team Outreach

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LibrePlanet Ontario is organizing a street team (or multiple teams) to have conversations with people in our cities about software freedom. This was originally planned for Software Freedom Day 2016.


  1. Promote software freedom and convince people we speak with of its importance
  2. Develop and improve a software freedom dialogue strategy and apologetics and talking points that are compelling to the average person on the street, and can be used in other conversations about software freedom
  3. Provide our members with experience engaging in dialogue to convince people of the importance of software freedom


  1. Brainstorming / Developing dialogue strategies
  2. Training about effective street-team outreach
  3. Street outreach
    1. Brochure or bookmark hand out
    2. talk about basic points
    3. get their email address to force a small commitment if they have enough interest, otherwise give a business card so they can email us to ask any questions
  4. Debrief and reflection

Location / Time

Need to decide

  • Which day
  • Whether to congregate in one location to do this together, like the biggest city or most central city with members, or to do smaller separate street outreach
    • Or to do separate street outreach to start, and aim for a Saturday later for as many people as possible)
    • We have people interested from
      • Toronto
      • Kitchener-Waterloo
      • Niagara (1)
      • Owen Sound (1)


Proposed format: clipboarding

  • Groups of two or more on public sidewalks
  • Use clipboards to ask and record answers to introductory questions (and perhaps note other interesting points in the conversation), as a springboard for conversation
  • Rather than providing people with conclusions or slogans, use the Socratic method to ask questions to get people thinking themselves about the principles of software freedom, and provide reasons for them to come to their own conclusion

Clipboard questions

This is really rough beyond the gist of the first question... --Balleyne (talk) 02:07, 25 August 2016 (EDT)

  1. Do you think people should have the freedom to share software that is important and useful to them with a friend or neighbour who needs it too?
    1. Why or why not?
    2. If yes, do you think it should be illegal to share with your neighbour?
  2. FIXME
  3. Why do you think companies like Microsoft or Apple prevent users from sharing, improving, or studying software on the devices they own? Do you think this is okay?
  4. "Thanks for your time in answered this questions. Do you mind if I ask you a follow up?"
    1. Imagine we had a replicator for bread, that could basically photocopy bread and teleport it instantly to almost anyone in the world, for little or no cost/effort. Do you think we should provide as much bread as possible?
      1. Do you think we should place any legal restrictions on photocopying bread?

Dialogue Strategies

  • 0 Use: run the program for any purpose
    • Do you think if someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn't give you the key, that they're doing it in your best interest?
  • 1 Study: study how it works, change it
    • We have and expect certain freedoms with physical goods that we should also expect of our software.
      • If someone creates a bookshelf. They have a right to control it. But once they sell it to you, they have no rights over it anymore -- it's now your bookshelf, and you have control and freedom
      • You can cut up that bookshelf and turn it into a tabling, or shelving, or firewood, or a picture frame, if you wanted to. You could put something other than books on it.
      • Yet, when it comes to digital goods, or copyright, we assign all kinds of insane rules about ownership and control. You don't have the same freedoms with non-free software that you would with a bookshelf.
    • Software is powering more and more things
      • Pacemaker: Should we have the ability to view the source code, have someone independent verify that it works, is secure,
      • Voting: Should we have the ability to view the source code, verify how voting software works?
    • Software can work for you! (different than "software should work for you")
      • When you have a problem with non-free software, like Microsoft Windows, that requires a change to the software itself, what are your options? Can you fix it yourself? Can you go to someone else? Does anybody care? What's your option, besides just "be sad"?
      • A computer is not like a toaster oven -- it does not only do one thing, but can in fact do many things!
      • If you computer does not do what you want, it could!
        • If it can, why doesn't it? Why do so many software providers lock down their software so that no one else can help them make such improvements?
      • Our solution? We have created a complete system of software for your computer which is created and maintained by the collective effort of thousands of people, and which anyone can help improve! We represent a global community of people working to improve your access to apps that really behave in ways that are beneficial to you and can be modified by anyone to suit any purpose.
  • 2 Share: redistribute copies to help your neighbour
    • Do you think people should have the freedom to share software that is important and useful to them with a friend or neighbour who needs it too?
    • "The great moral question of the twenty-first century is: If all knowledge, all culture, all art, all useful information, can be costlessly given to everyone at the same price that it is given to anyone — if everyone can have everything, everywhere, all the time, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from any of that?"[1]
      • For example, why does the University of Toronto library "lend" ebooks? Why do you have to "return" an ebook after 3 days? Why can only a limit number of people "borrow" the same ebook at the same time? Why do we place these artificial restrictions on the costless sharing of knowledge and tools that could make the world a better place and help humanity flourish?
  • 3 Remix: distribute modified copies
    • FIXME talk about Wikipedia and the opportunity for anyone to improve
    • You may not have the ability to modify the software, but you could bring it to your favourite programmer
      • Are you a journalist? Do you think that freedom of the press is important? Do you benefit from freedom of the press even if you're a journalist? Is society better off when journalists have the freedom of the press than when they are censored?
      • Are you a mechanic? Do you think that the freedom to fix and tinker with a car is important? Isn't it better to be able to take your car into your favourite mechanic for service, rather than a situation where only the manufacturer is authorized and capable of working on the vehicle?

Be prepared to speak about:

  • Copyright: So what about copyright law?
    • Whether through copyright reform, copyright abolition, or licensing under existing copyright law, can't we at least agree that software freedom is important and that software user freedom should be assured, even if there are several options for liberating users?
  • Economics: if people can just share the software, how will anyone make money? Why would anyone create software? Isn't that just hippy communism doomed for failure?
    • (practice/history) First, people (both individuals and companies) have already been making free software for 30 years.
      • Examples of free or largely free software: Linux, Firefox, WordPress, Wikipedia, Android, much of the Internet... you're probably using a ton of free software every day that people were paid to work on, and you don't even know it
      • Then, illustrate how it works with a couple examples:
    • volunteers with itch to scratch
    • universities
    • companies that release free software to improve adoption, or that collaborate with other companies to support free software projects because they recognize it's more cost-effective to share the effort than to build something themselves or be locked-in with a single vendor for something proprietary
    • organizations that sponsor features or bug fixes because they need them, and everyone benefits
    • software developers are...
      • employeed by companies that use free software
      • hired to do customizations or to implement or run free software for an organization
      • contribute in their spare time to make their lives easier and participate in the community (Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus -- non-monetary reasons people contribute, like competence, autonomy, membership, sharing)
    • (theory/reasons) Second, business models based on artificial scarcity are short-sighted and unsustainable, and there's a smarter way to use infinite goods like software
      • there's a difference between scarce and infinite goods. Digital files can be copied infinitely without any cost, they're not scarce. But food is scarce.
      • Economics 101: price is determine by supply and demand, right? Given constant demand, the lower the supply, the higher the price (e.g. oil). The higher the supply, the lower the price -- and, as the supply approaches inifinity, what happens to the price? It approaches zero. This is what we should expect to happen -- that the price of something infinitely reproducible like software basically goes to zero
      • But how do you make money? There are always complimentary goods that are scarce. Maximizing the use of the infinite goods but spreading them as far and wide as possible increases the value of those scarce complimentary goods. This makes the infinite nature a huge asset, not a liability!
        • e.g. time to offer support for software, talent or knowledge to create new features or fix bugs
        • community or accessibility or convenience, to pay for a service or support a crowd funding campaign -- lots of intangible complimentary goods
      • How not to make money? Artificial scarcity -- it may be very profitable for a while, but not only does it place unjust restrictions on people, but it's actually a really shaky foundation for a business model
        • How many people just get copies of Photoshop without paying? Didn't we learn this lesson with record labels, and movies, and newspapers -- all these industries that have tried to continue selling copies of things when the copies are infinitely reproducible? They're fighting against and really ignoring the theory of economics by pretending they can live of selling things for which the price is naturally going to zero. It's like fighting against and ignoring the theory of gravity -- that's not going to work for very long

Note: negative arguments about the effects of proprietary software here are introduced within the positive framework of the values and importance of software user freedom and what software can and should be able to do for you, as the flipside injustice when that potential good is stiffled

Dialogue Principles

  • Provide evidence along with clear and compelling reasons for software user freedom -- don't just present slogans or conclusion, but help lead people to their own conclusion
  • Avoid idea bundling: Stay focused on the issue of software freedom, and don't raise other unrelated issues which will increase your surface area, require more arguments, give people more reasons to disagree or dismiss you, etc.
    • Only appeal to other subject areas where there is uncontroversial common ground, e.g. the importance of education or a well-functioning democracy, not something that presumes one particular philosophical, political or religious worldview orthogonal to software freedom
  • Show don't tell: illustrate both the power of software freedom and the injustice of restricting the freedom through concrete, releatable, accessible examples (that don't require technical explanations)
  • Stay on topic: Remember that we're here to talk about software freedom, not the million other interesting things that may come up in a conversation. Always try to bring the conversation back to free software -- unless in some rare cases it actually seems fruitful to led the conversation meander elsewhere

Background Reading


TODO: Consider

  • This a pretty offline-focused dialogue. What about net services?

Long before the four freedoms and copyright and "how are you going to make money" comes the basic understanding:

  1. Your computer could do things you wish it did
  2. Your computer does not do some of these things
  3. We want to build a future where you computer does do these things. Join us in building this future, we've already come so far!

Problem: What about when free software isn't better? We need a way to make a case for freedom even when it means your computer can't do the things you want it to do (yet)... --Balleyne (talk) 22:21, 24 July 2016 (EDT)