How can we fight the powers-that-be in our normal, daily lives? What can we little people possibly do when even our one power – voting – is ignored. We call senators and tell them how to represent us, and they ignore us for their own gain.
When our daily lives are monetized for the rich. We use software that costs nothing to us, but we give our data. We are profitable. But these networks are so heavily ingrained in our lives.
I, personally, have used Google Calendar for over a decade to keep my life in order. I use gmail because its spam detection is the best. I sell my apps on the Google Play store because it’s easy and cheap. I use Facebook to keep up with political organizations, family, and friends. LinkedIn. Twitter. And so on.
And I know my daily life is being sucked of value because it brings profit to others. And it makes me sick. But how much of my productivity am I willing to sacrifice for becoming an individual again?
We live in a capitalist society, and the main thing that influences our representatives (if you can call them that) is capital. I’m sure that I’m not alone in feeling like our government works for the lobbyists and not for me. As individuals, we can’t make our own lobbying group, and we can’t bribe politicians into caring about our lives; we try to tell them the consequences of going against our wishes (“we won’t vote for you”), but that all seems to land on deaf ears.
But, we have some power: We are a product. And we can stop being a product.
We can shift our lives onto non-proprietary platforms that don’t monetize us. We may need to spend a little money to donate to keep a server up-and-running somewhere in a distributed system, or we may need to give up some polish and perhaps some features, and even a chunk of our social network.
Now, I know as a small business owner, and someone who has volunteered for a political campaign, that we can’t just upend this entire aspect of our lives. Social Media can be integral to making a living. But, I’d implore people to begin using alternative systems, and use them as the primary form of communication in our personal lives.
Of all the things you can currently do to fight against a corrupt system, isn’t being slightly inconvenienced by your software one of the easiest things to do?
And it can only get better…
Building and using ethical software
The more energy and time we put into platforms that are ethical – and maybe a bit rough around the edges because of the lack of a paid, dedicated UX team – the better these get. The more people know about it, the more quality of content exists on them, and the more programmers will invest in these technologies. It doesn’t have to be “inconvenient” forever.
If we understand what we’re doing by moving away from these “free-but-you’re-the-product” services, if we make that intentional move and encourage others to do the same, we can make the world a little better. Together, we can send a message that we’re more than just something to extract value from – we can send this message to companies as well as our own government.
These systems in place aren’t helping us, and they’re not taking care of us, so what is the point of these systems?
Let’s construct our own…
Ethical software vs. Open Source vs. Free software
I love FOSS (Free/Open Source Software) from the outside. When I am teaching people how to program, I prefer exposing them to FOSS tools available – anyone can program or make games, and you don’t need much money.
However, FOSS isn’t perfect. If you lift up the surface, you will find a lot of problems. Namely, the communities built around developing the software are known to be toxic.
Our software can’t be ethical if we’re making the developers suffer, or keeping willing participants out.
Just recently, Linux has replaced its “Code of Conflict” for a “Code of Conduct”, and there has been massive backlash – people are threatening to leave development of the system, trying to defend their “right” to be toxic and disrespectful.
Even the father of Free software posted:
(Pulled from this Reddit thread)
It seems odd to me that a group can be ideological about how software should be Open and/or Free (as in liberty) and yet be against making software Good (as in Kind) as well.
And we can’t just flip these systems from the inside – we are outnumbered. We have to start at the ground floor and build our own movement for what we want to see in the world…
And there are groups working towards this – groups like Compassionate Coding with April Wensel, who advocate for caring and kind software development. I would like to go further than this and create a license and a resource website around ethical, kind, compassionate software development. That by, creating a project within this framework, you are committing to having Codes of Conducts, to treating people with respect, to building good software for a good purpose.
And we can start small. We can identify good, ethical, kind software that we can use, and identify what is problematic – even if it is under the umbrella of FOSS. We can build some small utility projects under the new license and release it to the world.
We will need to pull in all sorts of programmers as well. I cannot be “the boss”; I am a queer white nonbinary person, but I cannot offer (nor will I pretend to offer) insight for every view. An ethical coding movement must contain people from many different backgrounds, and it must honor and respect many perspectives. It cannot be centered around just white men/people building software for their own politics, but violently keeping out other people.
I’m going to be thinking about this project, and ask some friends to jump in with me. I hope that there will be interest and buy-in from others as well.
And if there’s already something like this that I’m not aware of (specifically making a “Kind Software” brand instead of just “Open Source” or “Free”), I will signal boost it.
Thanks for reading.
Kind Software homepage (edit)
I went ahead and created this page as a kind of landing page for “Kind Software”. Other people can also make suggestions and edit the page (+ issue a pull request) to add their own ideas. My main idea is that classifying your software as Kind brings along a certain set of expectations; a certain message you’re saying about your work.