CollectQT is "A (Q)ueer (T)rans (Collect)ive for rebuilding your internets," according to its Twitter page. (They have a home page at collectqt.me which explains their philosophy and aggregates links, but there's no RSS feed, so at the moment you need Twitter to keep tabs on their doings.)
The project they are currently working on is Quirell, with one 'r' and two 'l's.' According to its IndieGogo fundraising page, it:
... aims to be a place for marginalized community members and others to escape the noise and over-saturation of traditional social networks. This project is needed because as users of social media, we are affected by the lack of privacy measures in place on current social networks, ‘real name’ policies, and the way that new features are implemented and security is handled within most social networking sites.
[...] we aim to deliver a platform that serves the needs of marginalized micro-communities searching for a place to call their own when mainstream social networks are overrun with hate campaigns, stress, or you simply want to connect with others like you.
Fundraising goes towards paying their queer / trans / apparently POC staff to work on it.
They "support a variety of communities, including the sex-worker community, transgender community, nonbinary community, and the MPD/DID community," the latter of which sounds like a somewhat clinical way of referring to pluralities like us but is still very encouraging. They have an open issue in their bug tracker for handling multiple personas, and their current early-stage mockup has your pronouns listed next to your name.
Why not Dreamwidth?
Dreamwidth is a wonderful CMS (Content Management System), in our opinion, which gives us a lot of control over who sees and comments on what we publish and how it looks. It is owned and largely run by women, it's free-to-use and ad-free, it supports RSS and OpenID, and it doesn't aggressively upsell its customers on "premium" services or maintain a separate tier of service for "VIPs."
It's not very easy to make it do "Tumblr-y" things or use it to post Twitter-style status updates, though, and it takes some getting used to for people who didn't grow up using LiveJournal. We feel Quirell would do a better job of addressing the needs of people like us who just want to share and communicate, while Dreamwidth's more advanced features make it ideal for RPers and prolific writers.
Sounds cool, where do I sign up?
Again, they are looking for fundraising through IndieGogo, which unlike Kickstarter will give them the funds even if they don't reach a lofty goal. The minimum donation amount is $5. If you'd like to become one of their minions (their cooler word for "allies") and have your status displayed on your Quirell page, the minimum amount is $10.
If you'd like to contribute unpaid labour instead of moneys, they have detailed instructions for helpers on their website, including non-programmer helpers I think.
If you'd like to simply poke at their code, they have instructions for doing so here. Quirell is written in Python, and has instructions for running it on Ubuntu, a free-to-download Linux-based OS which is reputed to be more accessible than others of its ilk and can be installed on a USB key without wiping your hard drive. It should be possible to get the code running on OS X or Windows too.
Hopefully, it will be live on the web soon.
We wrote our "conversion story" on a forum we signed up for recently, and thought it summed things up pretty nicely in case anyone here is interested in what we've used technology-wise (although it leaves out our history of tablets, game consoles, and one beat-up iBook). What, am I the only one with an obsessive interest in how people relate to their technology and what that says about them?
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That's the way Free Software idealists say software development should work. You get everything for free in Linux, including the code. If you don't like how something works, you change it and "submit your patch upstream," thus incorporating it into the whole. That way everyone benefits from everyone's creativity.
The problem is, this disenfranchises everyone who doesn't have both the technical ability to do that, and the social standing to be allowed to do that. Which means the Linux world is, and always has been, just a playground for technically proficient people who meet a particular demographic profile, and who keep making changes that affect everyone without consulting the people affected.
The only way to have your interests represented is to be part of the in-group, which means being a white cismale with unusual technical skills and enough money and free time to work on this stuff without pay. That, or a job that lets you get paid for it.
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I'm reading people's comments on Jono Bacon's blog -- he's the piece of work who's Canonical's "community manager," and whose job description is basically "smother people who've been hurt and prevent them from doing anything about it." They're talking about how Canonical is engaged in "brand value destruction," and how it's destroying the Ubuntu brand by taking their volunteers for granted and treating them and their users as exploitable resources.
I once wrote an inspiring, frequently-favourited, sig-quoted post on the Ubuntu forums, that told the people there that they were what the Ubuntu brand was. That the Circle of Friends represented them. I believed in it every time I saw newbies learn how to use Linux. I believed in it when I saw PCs shipping with Ubuntu preloaded. I believed in it when I saw third-world contributors being empowered, local governments adopting Free Software, and all this other stuff that I felt couldn't happen with other "distros" because they didn't seem to care about anyone besides themselves and those like them.
I adopted and advocated Ubuntu not because I thought "Linux on the desktop" was the shiz, but out of solidarity with those people. And everyone else who had yet to be empowered by it.
Somehow, I missed the fact that the ends justified the means for Canonical. They they would do hostile, abusive things to their users, and take advantage of their most loyal volunteers, and justify it with "we're bringing Free Software to the masses." Sometimes they wouldn't even say that, and would just jump right to the "sustainable business model" garbage: "You want us to be able to make money off of this, right?" They wanted to be seen as a charity while they acted like a for-profit business, just like the church I used to be part of.
It's really no wonder I took to Ubuntu so strongly. It promised me the same clarity of vision, the same unambigiously good mission statement, the same visionary and godlike founder, who literally looked down on Earth from above.
All of it was a lie.
Here are the warning signs I think it and my old church had in common. (Quotation marks are used to indicate actual things said by Ubuntu cultists.)
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After I wrote that takedown of the phrase "religion sucks," in which I pointed out that "religion" and "cults of personality" are separate categories which don't completely overlap, I started seeing cultlike characteristics in a lot of the things around me. And realizing what those characteristics were.
As part of this, I had the unfortunate realization that a lot of the Ubuntu community is a cult. I'm not sure I'd say all of it is, or that you have to be a cultist to use Ubuntu. But they say that people leaving one cult often join another, and for several years around the time I became disaffected with Mormonism I was really high on Ubuntu. I try to see it more pragmatically now, but the cultlike atmosphere on Planet Ubuntu and the way they diss people who don't fit in really disgusts me. Especially with the way people are treating those who left after the recent debacle. I'm switching back to GNOME and Fedora as soon as I can muster the energy.
Anyway, I'm going to try to list some of the cult characteristics that I've noticed here, using both religious and nonreligious cults as examples.
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The concept in question is the idea of "eternal progress." I was taught that this was something which set my old church apart from the Brand X(-tian) churches out there, which all supposedly thought we'd be sitting on clouds in heaven and singing forever and ever. On top of that, we supposedly had "continuing revelation" even in this life, where God's living prophet would tell us new things which were tailored for our day and age.
I really believed all of this. And I believed that "heaven," for that matter, wasn't simply an unquestionably good place that believers were rewarded with. Rather, I believed that there were two kinds of people who didn't go to heaven: The unworthy who knew and regretted their unworthiness, and the unworthy who didn't see heaven as heaven because they'd been twisted around so much they didn't know up from down. They didn't want to go there, and if they could it wouldn't be heaven to them. They simply couldn't appreciate it.
(I may have mixed in some Planescape theology there.)
A couple years after I left my old church, it hit me that this was exactly right. Because back there, they were still teaching the same "Sunday School answers" to every problem, at least the ones they acknowledged existed. And God's living prophet was still telling the same old stories about widows and stuff. Even their new website about "Mormons and Gays" (trigger warning for homophobia) explicitly says "we don't know" why God doesn't want gays to get married. This is what it's come to, now that their old reasons have been disproven. And while the rest of the first world is moving towards marriage equality, they're having a hissy fit over women wearing pants to church.
It's progress, but it's glacially slow and decades behind. And most of their discourse is still the same-old.
Why do I bring all this up? Because I've been realizing how unhealthy it is for me to dwell on that garbage, and trying to find new things to occupy my time with. And while looking at different forums and blogs, I realized I felt more at home on Planet Ubuntu than most more traditional "Free Software" blogs, although Planet GNOME's a close second and I also like Máirín Duffy's blog. And I realized the reason why was the same as with the above: Because in my personal experience, Free Software zealots in the vein of the Free Software Foundation are fundamentalists, who are as anti-progressive as the ones in the church that I left.
So while GNOME is moving design radically forward, they're throwing fits about it. While Máirín's teaching Girl Scouts to use Inkscape, they're making fun of her and staging juvenile protests on Planet Fedora, against the idea of making it easier to use and get involved with. And while the Outreach Program for Women is bringing new writers and contributors into the fold, they're trolling our blogs and insisting we're making stuff up about harassment and other issues that they do not face.
(I realize "they" is amorphous here, so for the sake of discussion it means "the people who do these things." I associate "them" with the FSF because I see it as the least progressive, most fundamentalist arm of the Free Software movement, which I associate in my mind more with their boycotts and insistence on purity than anything -- like the GNU project, or the gcc compiler, or the GPL -- that they may have actually done or created at some point. I'm open to being proven wrong here; I'm aware that people and organizations change, and have been especially impressed with some of Microsoft's recent products. This is just an impression I have, based on who they call their enemy and why.)
I guess what I'm saying is I realized I like the culture in Ubuntu and GNOME, where the emphasis is on moving forward (albeit in different directions for different reasons), and on bringing this stuff that we have to as many people as possible, and even on changing it so as to be more useful and accessible. Whereas in other projects, and communities, and of course churches, I see more of an emphasis on preaching (or appearing to preach) the same fundamentals over and over again, to the point of insulting people it doesn't appeal to or help instead of asking them why.
I realize it's slightly ironic that I'm saying all this when my favourite computer game ever was made about 10 years ago. >_> In FFXI's case, though, I really haven't seen anything better at doing what it does best, for me personally. Most MMOs these days tend to copy World of Warcraft, with its looting and button-mashing and information overload UI. And they don't even do a good job of it.
For me, FFXI isn't a game so much as a world, that I experience in a particular way. It has a minimalist interface that's designed to be played with a game controller. It's immersive, and sort of invites contemplation. Chatting's normally done by text instead of headset. And the pace is extremely different. The only games I know of which come close to how it feels (which I didn't describe very well) are PlayStation Home and FFXIV, both of which I either play or am hoping to play when it comes to the PS3.
I realize now that a lot of the things I lament about missing, that were around in the "good old days" of FFXI, are things that made the game hostile to newbies. I feel good about triumphing over them, but countless others got discouraged and left. I like seeing the game make some progress on this front, and I have high hopes for FFXIV: A Realm Reborn. I want to see this style of game that I like stay young, and bring in new players. I don't want to only be surrounded by people my age, and with my exact preferences. And I don't want all that we talk about to be how things aren't like what they used to be.
I guess there's not really a point to all this. I just figured I ought to write more Dreamwidth essays. Most of the realizations I've been having and progress I've been making, in the last few weeks, I've only been sharing on Skype. I figure I ought to change that, since people seem to like my writing.
(Goddess, I wish that I'd picked up Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri for Linux back in the day.)
The app situation on GNOME, though, isn't nearly as good. We've got some shinies, but we don't have that many, and we certainly aren't getting bundles of them every few months. As someone who's trying to empower application developers by writing tutorials, this concerns me. Who's going to read what I write, and what are they going to make with it? Most importantly, when do I get to use their apps?
Developers don't rush to new platforms
That's the name of an essay by Marco Arment, developer of Instapaper for iOS. In it, he sums up the reasons why iOS took off like a rocket:
All three of these factors converged to create the Linux gaming renaissance. Live CDs and dual-booting made it easy for game devs to experiment and gain familiarity with Linux, and distros like Ubuntu (which pushed brand awareness and ease of use above all else) elevated its public profile. Partly thanks to that, the installed base for desktop Linux is now higher than it's ever been; and by showing their profits from each platform right on their homepage, the Humble Bundle crew empirically demonstrated #3.
- Dogfooding: We use iPhones ourselves.
- Installed base: A ton of other people already have iPhones.
- Profitability: There’s potentially a lot of money in iPhone apps.
As far as I can tell, though, most of the above does not apply to most Linux distros. The one which comes closest is, again, Ubuntu, partly via aggressive promotion of existing GNOME developer tools and the promise of exposure through its Software Centre. Beyond that, though, Quickly and Launchpad also combine to create a packaging environment that -- while unattractive to git veterans -- is apparently easy for newbies to learn. (Which, Ubuntu's focus on newbies is probably another reason why Python's the language they push the hardest on developer.ubuntu.com.)
This is all well and good for Ubuntu, but I personally like GNOME 3 better than Unity and I like Fedora's implementation better. I'm guessing most of those reading on Planet GNOME are with me on at least the first part of that.
So, what can we do to help get apps written that use awesome GNOME technologies?
Lower the bar to entry
One reason things like Desura are so important is because "packaging", from what I've gathered of it, is a chore. Extra work that you do to make sure people can use your app, which you then have to repeat for each distro. Not only does this favor more popular over more focused distros, thereby creating a winner-take-all feedback loop, it also creates extra work and confusion for devs, who already have five different languages to choose from in GNOME documentation and no clear guide for which one they should use.
You'll note that in the case of Linux gaming, the biggest first step was bringing in enough newbs for the market to matter. But the assumption behind most of our docs seems to be that readers won't be newbs, and will have a clear goal in mind ("I want to contribute to X project which I know uses Y language") when visiting. We assume they're familiar with IRC and mailing lists, that they know how to use git, that they have a high threshold for frustration (which is implied in that last item), and that they're comfortable browsing source sometimes in lieu of documentation. We also assume they're console fans who use Emacs or Vi; or at least we seem to, since Anjuta and Glade (our more newbie-friendly dev tools) don't support the latest GNOME widgets yet.
But by acting on these assumptions, we boil our developer base down to only the people exactly like that. We leave out the Girl Scouts, the 13-year-old whiz kids, the hackers of tomorrow who have no idea that they, too, can write apps. And who aren't being taught, because we think they're too short to ride and that's apparently how some of us like it. Like the commenters on Máirín's blog entry linked there, who "don’t want incompetent users [sic] life made easier" and who -- bless their hearts -- think that the reason they themselves are competent is because they're just awesome like that, as opposed to because they fit the narrow profile of the kind of person who thrives in their "meritocracy."
(Let me know if I ever use that word outside of scare quotes, BTW. If I do, it was a mistake.)
Piggybacking to success
Making GNOME development more accessible (and fun!) for newbies is what I and some of the other interns are here for, although you're totally welcome to help if you like and there's a whole page set up with instructions.
Beyond that, I mentioned Desura but what I'm really excited about is the Mozilla Marketplace, which is going to be the "app store" for the Firefox browser and Boot to Gecko devices. The web is the world's biggest and most awesome open-source platform, and GNOME's browser, Web, already has an app mode, plus GSOC intern William Ting is working on building in Firefox Sync. I don't know if non-Mozilla browsers will be able to access the Marketplace, but it seems like integrating it into Web would be a logical next step.
The Marketplace is possibly the most democratic of all existing "app stores." It's like the Identi.ca to Apple and Google's Twitters; the code's open-source, and anyone can roll their own. Hopefully, it will be seamless for people to buy apps from anyone's store, using their Persona.
I'm looking at other sites and services too, though ... and IM accounts, and things. Trying to think where I want to have accounts, and where I kinda don't. I'm thinking through this out loud in case anyone wants to help me, or has any suggestions.
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A-nywho, I'm open to suggestions for what other sites and web services I should be looking at. >.>b And / or any comments on the ones I mentioned.