Group: Freedom Ladder

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This list is a work in progress and a result of a collaborative effort between the FSF and the free software community.

We encourage you to think with us on what this ladder should include, and what else to highlight by leaving notes on the discussion page, by joining us in the IRC meetings, or by emailing campaigns@fsf.org with your thoughts.

This page is a shared resource, and we encourage others to add to the discussion pages, but it is possible that some entries here may be added by members of the community. We check this resource periodically, and process the comments we receive. We know that others check it too, but it's a wiki, so errors may be added before they're fixed. We encourage you to review licenses and information about resources you add, and to update this page with your findings.

Introduction

The “freedom ladder” is a new method the FSF campaigns team has developed to help users get their first start in software freedom.

One problem with most guides introducing newcomers to GNU/Linux is that they stop them too soon on their “journey to freedom,” and end up suggesting that a partially nonfree setup is a desirable outcome. By contrast, our guide’s focus is to encourage users to not rest content with nonfree software, while at the same time recognizing that they have other pressures and obligations. We want to help them stay both motivated and determined in their gradual process to eliminate nonfree software from their lives.

Collaborate with us to build the ladder

The FSF campaigns team held a series of IRC meetings about the draft schema:

Join us in #fsf on Libera.Chat to contribute to these conversations!

Steps

This is what we’ve developed so far, and we’re asking the community to weigh in with their thoughts and suggestions.

  • 1. Understanding nonfree software
  • 2. Finding your own reason to use free software
  • 3. Free replacements and installing your first free program
  • 4. Understanding encryption
  • 5. Mobile phone freedom
  • 6. Learning how to find help
  • 7. Trying a free operating system

1. Understanding nonfree software

When is a program free or nonfree? What are the dangers of nonfree software, and why should a user be bothered about it?

2. Finding your own reason to use free software

To stay motivated on their journey to freedom, each person needs to have a compelling reason to use free software. That reason could be the philosophy of freedom, or it could be a more practical concern like desiring security or using gratis software wherever possible.

3. Free replacements and installing your first free program

The first step we recommend a user to take on their journey to software freedom is by replacing one nonfree program they use with a free replacement. As we assume these users are on a nonfree operating system like Microsoft Windows or macOS, it is acceptable to recommend a program that is mostly free software, but that poses certain problems to the more experienced free software user (e.g. Mozilla Firefox).

4. Understanding encryption

On this step, users are encouraged to try encrypting some device or program they use on a day-to-day basis. This could be learning how to encrypt one’s email with the Email Self-Defense Guide, or using GPG to encrypt a file they would like to remain private.

5. Mobile phone freedom

This step does not build off of a previous one, but is important enough of an issue that it deserves consideration. True mobile phone freedom is an impossibility given the nonfree “baseband” operating system that runs at the ring-0 level of every cell phone. However, this doesn’t mean that mobile phone freedom is a lost cause.

Here we encourage the user to use free repositories like F-Droid, and at least be aware of the free Android distribution Replicant. Other mobile free operating systems can be covered in this step. Even if they have certain issues, it’s important for the user to be aware of them: PureOS, Mobian, LineageOS, Ubuntu Touch, postmarketOS, GrapheneOS, Havoc-OS, etc.

6. Learning how to find help

One common reason for burnout when it comes to learning free software is getting hung up on a technical problem, and being unable to progress. If the user isn’t especially tech-savvy, this can sometimes cause them to accept defeat and go back to a nonfree operating system. Here, we make sure the user is aware of how to find program documentation (such as through manpages or Texinfo), and also how to seek help on communication mediums used in the free software community like IRC.

7. Trying a free operating system

During this step, the user will be encouraged to write a USB drive of the Trisquel GNU/Linux operating system and see if their hardware is compatible with it. They can then choose to install the operating system, or if there is a compatibility issue, some things they can do to address it, even if that involves a “deal with the devil.”