• Freedom Technology Champions

last modified May 25, 2016 by strypey

The Challenges of Being a Technology Freedom Champion

How do people decide what digital communication tools to use? Fundamentally, there are two ways:
  • evaluation: people compare and contrast the various tools available, rating them against a range of criteria, and choosing the best ones to use for each function they need
  • network effect: people adopt whatever tools their family, friends, colleagues, and other social networks are using

In practice, what seems to happen is a web of trust emerges within each social network, where the most technically confident handful of people who tend to be early adopters and testers of new tools, are trusted to do the evaluation and lead the network in the larger scale use of new tools. In this instance, the "network effect" is actually informal federations following their trusted technologists.

Trusted technologists have to juggle a range of considerations including things like ease of use, trust of the creators and maintainers, privacy, security, posterity (how likely it seems to be well maintained over time) etc. If we champion a tool that does well against all the other criteria, but is very hard to use, we might fail to convince people to use it. But if we simply recommend the easiest tool to use, but it doesn't meet privacy requirements, or the project maintaining it turns out to be unreliable for security updates and new features, we get a share of the blame for that. Either way, we risk losing the trust of our social network, and our ability to effectively champion new tools.

People who maintain proprietary or "open core" projects will defend distributing software without source code by accusing us of being "religious" or claiming a "moral high ground". Whether such terms apply is arguble, but irrelevant.