Older blog entries for slef (starting at number 854)

Six of the Best Podcasts?

I’m listening to quite a few podcasts recently. Here are my current favourites:

  • Cyberunions which covers the tech/work crossover space and is appearing as Ogg near the start of most weeks. I reviewed an earlier episode and it’s kept on improving. It’s under CC-BY-NC-SA, so you can share it, but it isn’t free software (FOSS) itself. Thanks to John Atherton for the tip.
  • The Command Line is more tech, but with a leaning towards activism too. This podcast is actually FOSS – sadly the only one of this round-up! It’s recently dropped to once a week on Sundays, which is a shame in one way, but suits me better. I don’t remember how I got started on this.
  • More or Less: Behind the Stats is about numbers in the news. Maybe my love of statistics influences me, but I think this is brilliant, puncturing the pompous politicians who try to mislead (figures don’t lie, but liars do figure). Imagine the FactCheck Blog with its own show and a sense of humour. It’s just gone on a break, but there’s plenty of recent episodes to catch up on.
  • Real Peloton is about pro cycling, by reporter-presenter Ned Boulting and journalist Matt Rendell. They probably should not be left alone to make podcasts, but it’s great that they do. They appear sporadically, depending on other work schedules of the presenters. The Banjo Cycles team including Matt Rendell won the IG Markets Hot Lap during the final stage of the Tour of Britain in London and the world championships are this week so maybe they’ll have something to say soon.
  • Answer Me This appears on Thursdays (although it has just gone on a month’s break) and gives right-but-sideways answers to listener questions.

And now for number six, what are you listening to? Anything you’d recommend?

Syndicated 2011-09-20 05:18:49 from Software Cooperative News

Tour of Britain: Cheddar Gorge-ous

Photo of Fans in the Gorge

Fans in the Gorge

So tired, but so happy. Well worth it as a day out. Yesterday I went to the Tour of Britain as it passed through Cheddar Gorge. It was a fairly social trip, riding along with two from Bristol on the way in (hope they got back OK – one bike broke crossing the orchard at Sandford, but I showed them Cheddar Cycle Store) and one from Milton on the way back.

When I got there, I rode up the Gorge until I had to stop (or else fall off) and it was still packed with fans. It was a good half-hour before the race would pass by, but already almost every flattish piece of land by the road had either a spectator or a bicycle on it. I watched twitter for race news, posted an update @mjray, then put the phone away as the green-fronted police bikes came through just ahead of the racers. I tried videoing the race, but it’s only the second outing for the handlebarcam and I seem to have deleted the recording before hooking it up to the laptop. Thankfully, the itv4 coverage (repeated 13:00) is pretty good. (My back is on TV! Ahem.)

Now, today (Saturday) I will be mostly doing the work scheduled for Friday, but it was still worth it. Go along if you get the chance: Suffolk and Norfolk today, Westminster tomorrow. I suggested it to @enterprisehub’s #coopsweekend because the Rabobank team are doing well.

Syndicated 2011-09-17 05:34:10 from Software Cooperative News

Help with co-op development? Don’t ask here

The blog is back. We’ve moved it to our new blog hosting (please contact us if you’d like us to host your blog – or if you spot a problem with our blog), so the adverts are gone and I’m still correcting the plugin setup for the new version. Among the comments was this one:

“My small design firm needs to upgrade its software, which is very expensive. I am wondering what the legalities might be of putting together a cooperative of other designers to share the $4900.00 expense + additional seats.”

Legalities of a buying co-op for seat-licensed software? I can write reams about co-ops but I shouldn’t because:

  1. Our co-op doesn’t sell seat-licensed software and we’re basically opposed to that concept, preferring co-operative development of free and open source software (FOSS).
  2. This is a site about software, not co-op development. I helped set up our co-op, but I don’t know enough to help many others. For co-op development, our co-op is a member of Somerset Co-operative Services and Co-operatives UK who can advise far better on that sort of thing and publish the damn fine Simply series of guides. We refer enquiries about co-op development to them, Co-operative Assistance Network and the co-operative enterprise hub.
  3. Mentioning $ makes me think this is a US-based question, so National Co-op Business Association may be a better place to start. If it’s another dollar, the International Cooperative Alliance membership may show the right country. The legalities vary by country.

Anyway, now the blog is back, I’ll write about software more soon. If you’ve got questions about software for co-ops, co-op-made software and that sort of thing, please leave them in a comment.

Syndicated 2011-09-09 15:40:09 from Software Cooperative News

Back to Work

This is my first week back after two weeks off (I aim for three complete weeks off a year). Even if I had reached InboxZero (and ToDoZero and so on…), there was two weeks of requests, reports and rubbish piled on top of what was already scheduled. I wasn’t even completely offline this time and was forwarding urgent incoming messages to other members of our co-op, but the backlog is still significant.

How you deal with this? Basically, I arrive back and I feel like I’m already behind. The good feeling of being up-to-date seems like a distant memory. The clear day I allocated to dealt with things that arrived seemed inadequate. Was that just bad luck because a lot of stuff came in, or is there a rule-of-thumb for how much catch-up time to allocate?

3 Lessons Learned From 6 Days Off The Grid | Social Butterfly Guy offers a view on how to prioritise things, but it still looks like catch-up takes hours. Can you see any ways to make it more efficient but still please clients, collaborators and co-op members?

Syndicated 2011-08-12 04:24:46 from Software Cooperative News

Software in the Public Interest August 2011 – and election results

The SPI election results have been declared. Jimmy Kaplowitz, Clint Adams and Robert Brockway were elected to the SPI board. There were 75 voters, which is 16% turnout, up from the 13% in the last contested election, in 2009.

The next meeting is this evening at 20:30 UTC (21:30 UK) in #spi on irc.spi-inc.org and there are a couple of resolutions, inviting the Drizzle database and Arch Linux distribution projects to associate, so that SPI can collect and process funds for them. Please, pop in and see how the new board members perform.

Syndicated 2011-08-10 04:42:25 from Software Cooperative News

SPI Annual General Meeting 2011

Software in the Public Interest (SPI) will hold its Annual General Meeting today: Wednesday, 13th July 2011 at 20:30 UTC (21:30 UK, 22:30 CET).

SPI is the developer association that supports debian, OpenWrt and many other projects. SPI meetings are held on irc.spi-inc.org (the OFTC network). The agenda for the meeting is available at http://www.spi-inc.org/meetings/agendas/2011/2011-07-13/

There are currently no resolutions on the agenda, but there should be some annual reports.

Syndicated 2011-07-13 04:28:13 from Software Cooperative News

#coops14 continues: Guardian, Facebook, Cyberunions and Breakfast

Thanks to the Guardian for publishing Why co-operatives matter written by two members of our co-op.

Co-operative Congress 2011Also today, I’m pictured being given a share by Giles Simon of our national co-ordinating co-op on the Co-operatives Fortnight Facebook page. I’m not a big fan of facebook and I still want to try the more sharing alternatives that cyberunions reviewed.

Speaking of cyberunions, apparently they answer the criticisms from my review in episode six which I still haven’t found time to listen to yet – and there’s an episode seven out already. Maybe I’ll start to catch up later today (Tuesday), if I don’t go to the Bristol Wireless Annual Meeting. Tomorrow is another busy day, hopefully including the Koha Town Hall Meeting.

And there’s still half a week of Co-operatives Fortnight to go, so we’re not done by a long way yet! If you’d like to take part, there’s a Co-operative Business Breakfast in Weston-super-Mare on Friday morning at 9am – please leave me a comment if you’d like to come along.

Syndicated 2011-07-05 10:19:03 from Software Cooperative News

Co-operatives Fortnight and Congress 2011 (#coops14 and #cc11)

It’s Co-operatives Fortnight until 9 July and our co-op is supporting many events:

As you may know, we’ve already done two events:

First, last Friday, Michael attended the Co-operatives UK Annual Meeting on our behalf. Co-operatives UK is our national co-ordinating co-op and the figurehead for the movement in this country. I didn’t see the meeting (the live video link didn’t work for me, as before), but Michael reports:

“The AGM seemed well organized; it was good to hear about the work they’re doing and the concerns regarding the co-operative situation in Poland. I think it’s important to exercise one’s ability to vote, but would have liked more opportunity to speak with people.”

We couldn’t send anyone to the Mary Portas session on Friday evening, but Paul Dale Smith summarised the session and RuthRosselson described it as “Mary Portas tells Co-op Congress how it is”.

Then on Saturday, I was in Manchester for The Power of Co-operation, thanks to support from software.coop and The Co-operative Bank.

The first session I attended, on mutualisting the Post Office was interesting and pretty full, but I found some later sessions rather frustrating. As well as my usual concerns about surrendering to uncritical use of private-sector software, I got quite annoyed by two sessions on member engagement where the presenters seemed to talk for almost the full time without letting the audience engage! Not good for my blood pressure, that, especially when I feel they’re missing something!

But the real value of the day was in the fascinating discussions I had with many people in the short breaks in the plenary, or while wandering around the exhibition and the marketplace. For example, it was great to see Revolver still selling the T-shirts I mentioned here in 2009 – as well as giving out free samples of their brilliant fairtrade coffee. What comes from the various discussions will probably decide whether we attend similar events in future.

Were you in Birmingham? How was it for you? Are you supporting Co-operatives Fortnight? How, where, when and why?

Syndicated 2011-06-29 10:45:25 from Software Cooperative News

Re: Cyberunions Podcast: Building links with the Co-operative Movement

John Atherton sent me a link to cyberunions discussing open-source and worker co-ops.

In general, it’s a very good show and worth a listen by anyone from the union movement, in my opinion. It’s available in Ogg as well as MP3, which I think is also a plus point.

There were a couple of points where I was ranting at the radio, though…

The first was the choice to try Skype alternatives. Leaving aside the danger of playing the “alternatives” game, I can understand why they chose that (the change of corporate control to Microsoft has been in the headlines recently and the phones affect them but not their listeners or readers), but open internet phones are a bit fiddly because they try to move quite a lot of data (audio) in real-time and a lot of domestic network devices don’t behave correctly with the protocols that they use to do it.

I agree with their conclusion that the problem is probably networking, but I wonder why they didn’t log in to their routers, look at any debugging output and try to find the setting to change? Or try switching on debugging in the software and see what’s wrong, or send it to someone who can help? Instead, it seemed like Linphone and Ekiga got blamed for not doing Skype-style router-busting without asking. They don’t mention whether they tried switching on the STUN option mentioned in the Linphone FAQ and I don’t see a email on linphone-users asking for support but I don’t read every mail on that list.

Am I being unfair, expecting them to seek support? Maybe but I’m not sure. If you got the software from a store, what would you do? Would you throw it away and tell people that the stupid thing doesn’t work? Moreover, would you use your podcast to say it doesn’t work because users need to be “clever enough” for that “obscure” tool? That’s a great way to scare people off unnecessarily.

Wouldn’t you usually think you might be overlooking some detail and ask for support, from its maker or the place where you got it? I think you’d ask. I’d probably ask, even though I’m available for hire to fix FOSS problems and it’s not the proudest feeling when I have a script-reading call-centre worker solve my mistake.

Of course, with most from-store software, you’ve paid an artificially-inflated box price, but the bigger cost is your time and that’s the same for downloaded free and open source software, so why give it less of a chance to work?

I also think they had easier options, like switching more of their website over to free and open source software, like getting rid of the rubbish comment system which doesn’t work if you don’t let it run javascript on your browser. I’ve had a bit of discussion with them since the show and it seems my first suggestion may no longer work (typical!), so we’ll see how that goes.

Back to the show: the next segment did a good job of linking FOSS to the co-operative movement. I really think they should call it Free and Open Source Software and not just “open source” because I feel the freedom should be important to the labour movement. Also, calling the whole thing “open source” seems like calling all of the political left “Revolutionary Socialism”: inaccurate at best. I don’t often express this objection these days (I’ve bigger targets to work on), but it’s important when trying to inform new audiences, else they only see part of our rainbow, a less radical part.

Pretty interesting to suggest Orbea bikes as Mondragon’s most famous brand. I’d pick Eroski or Caja Laboral. What about you?

Then it moved on to a pretty good description of UK co-ops, mentioning co-ops that I’m a member of (the Co-operative Group) or buy from (John Lewis and Suma). I was surprised that it seemed to stop short and didn’t mention any of the co-ops that work with free software, or with any software in fact. Of course, I’d love software.coop to be mentioned, but there are other interesting and very different ones like BristolWireless.net and OSAlliance.com. Globally, many of the worker tech co-ops are linked through the tech-coop mailing list. This was the second part where I was shouting at the speakers. After all, Debian is a great voluntary project making a fantastic GNU/Linux distribution, but it is not a worker co-op by a long way and I suspect some of my fellow developers would be horrified to hear that suggested. Why not mention some actual tech worker co-ops?

Finally, before the listener feedback, suggestions of tools which union activists could use. There was some minor confusion about exactly which version or name was really FOSS and a surprising claim about openoffice into LibreOffice (I thought Oracle were still screwing that up with Apache’s help but I may have missed some news), but it was a good list of door-opening suggestions. I hope some activists will take them up.

It seems there’s an earlier show about open social networks, which is a topic I’ll look at after I finish my series of posts about mailing lists. So, please let me know if you have comments on this show, that show, open social networks or mailing lists which you think I might find interesting, or if there’s anything above you’d like me to expand upon (or correct – often, correct…).

Syndicated 2011-06-21 14:40:39 from Software Cooperative News

Software in the Public Interest June 2011

Software in the Public Interest is one of the oldest and best non-profit associations (and not a foundation!) that supports free and open source software development and it will hold a public board of directors meeting on Wednesday at 20:30 UTC (21:30 UK). SPI meetings are held on irc.spi-inc.org (the OFTC network) in channel #spi. See the OFTC site for more information about connecting to OFTC.

The agenda for the meeting is available on the web. A single resolution regarding ankur.org.in joining as an SPI associated project has been received.

Please, come along and support SPI and thank its volunteers for their efforts.

Syndicated 2011-06-08 04:19:59 from Software Cooperative News

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