I attended Libre Planet in Boston this weekend with a goal of talking about the FreedomBox to anybody who would listen. I gave a lightning talk to let people know it exists and was deluged with interest afterwards in the hallway. As expected, the FSF crowd has a lot of great ideas, not just about how to implement the FreedomBox, but about how to organize a project of this scope.
Scores of people expressed interest in further volunteering. I hope to see them in IRC and the email discussion soon. Rob Savoy, in particular, is a fascinating individual who could teach us all a thing or two about development.
I made some headway in arranging for teleconference facilities for the FreedomBox Foundation. IRC is great, but we’re going to need some group voice calls at various points. I’ve added to my todo list an item to make sure we can record calls so we have logs where appropriate.
I talked specifically to some old free software experts, the hard core hackers who have track records of pulling off ambitious projects. I believe I convinced some that this project is a place to put their energy and that we’ll see them active soon.
I invited a woman to the project who has a long history of improving the communities she’s in. She is over committed for the next several months, but I’ve scheduled a note to follow up with her.
I talked to several people who worked on OLPC or OpenMoko, other large projects with some commonalities with the FreedomBox. I received some interesting and frank views about what went right and what went wrong in those efforts. Some opinions are most worth passing on:
- First, OLPC did not test its interface with end users early enough. I talked to multiple people who thought this should have been done sooner. FreedomBox should put the target end user into the design process early.
- Second, OLPC had some incredibly ambitious requirements that spilled over from one part of the project to another. The requirement that the interface be usable by non-literate users drove a lot of the innovative design, but it made some tasks quite hard.
- Third, OpenMoko folks spent a lot of time making a distribution– packaging and recompiling all those Debian packages for their platform. It used a lot of resources and the repos were never complete. FreedomBox should not be a Debian-based distribution so much as a a Debian-based project that relies on a lot of already-existing packages.
Meshing is hard. Nobody I met knows anybody who is nailing mesh networks. I’m going to get all the mesh heads together soon for a real conversation to see if we can work towards a recommendation on the most promising avenue.
Michael Stone pointed me to Heilmeyer’s Catechism. Those are some good questions.
Big thanks to Matt Lee at FSF for throwing a great conference. And to Deb Nicholson for hosting me and towing me around town. She has great ideas about how to include more people in FreedomBox.