Mon 30 Mar 2015 10:56PM

Open Tools

MS Megan Salole Public Seen by 303

What are the best OPEN alternatives to the proprietary tools we use.
If you are looking for an open source alternative to the non open source tool you're using, do ask.


Dave Lane Tue 31 Mar 2015 12:11AM

Where to begin... I use free and open source tools for 99.5% of my computing needs, so I've confronted this regularly on both a personal and commercial level for the past 20 years. I'm confident in saying there are almost no places where using free tools requires any sacrifice of capability.


Dan Milward Tue 31 Mar 2015 1:19AM

Wow! You got my brain juices flowing and made an opinion piece in me :D

I think open source is great but its not evolved enough for me to use 99% of the time.

Most free operating systems suck because of their UI. Even Android is (or was) UI hell, I'd be prepared to try out the latest with Material design though.

The Gimp as a graphics tool is a terrible replacement for graphics tools. I do not know many professionals that would switch.

Open Office always used to crash. Thank the lords for Google Docs. OMG yes!

These are where I've tested the waters.

For me where Open Source shines in the web development space. Javascript libraries. Web servers.... APIs... probably other areas too. Raspberry Pi anybody?

As a way of life? I'm not convinced about the success of Open Society yet. I hear a lot of passionate people talk about passionate stuff buuuuuut whom are also too busy to do passionate things. I fear important influencers will ultimately judge Open Society on the tangible benefits that it delivers as opposed to what people are passionate about.

What are tangible benefits? Things like stable Open Source software and sustainable Open Source businesses that make a difference.

True OS for me is where passion meets tangible deliverables, products are made and shits gets done :)


Dave Lane Tue 31 Mar 2015 2:33AM

@danmilward As you might imagine, I have a rather more positive view of many of the open source tools you mention... (not sure if you were implying Google Docs is open source (it's not)). It's fair to say that openness has a cost, namely taking some responsibility for things that aren't (or don't work) how you'd like... But it also conveys things that many people value, like freedom. We each have to work out what price we're willing to pay - it's possible I'm willing to pay more than most... perhaps I fear losing my freedom more than most. That said, I don't see using open source software as a sacrifice. I usually see it as a privilege, because I'm using the work others have gifted the commons (some of which I've had a hand in myself, which is very satisfying). To me, open source simply "tastes better", and proprietary software leaves a bad taste. I completely agree that there are large parts of the computing world (for instance, everything to do with the Internet and its infrastructure) where all the front-running technologies are open source, and there's no rational argument for using anything else... but I'd rather see people recognise that there's a principle involved here. Yes, we all have to pick our battles, but if we want to adhere to our principles (and I very much hope we all do), it sometimes requires taking a stand.


Dan Milward Tue 31 Mar 2015 3:22AM

Thank you for responding. I love this topic :)

Sometimes with my Open Source friends we'll talk about Open Source values and approaching things with Open Source spirit in mind. For me that is one of the elements that guides my moral compass. But it is not the only one.

I'm also practical and if there is a proprietary tool I prefer using because of UI or that means I can do a better job of something and impact the world in a better way I will use that and hope Open Source catches up somehow.

... the price I'm willing to pay is just before that point where I cut off my nose to spite my face.


Dave Lane Tue 31 Mar 2015 3:54AM

Dan, the way I see it, the best way to value software is to commit to it. Something a guy called "Utah Philips" once said, while telling a story about his experiences in the Korean War (but it applies in this context too): "It was all wrong, and it all had to change... and the change had to start with me". I've absorbed the idea that championing "open" means taking responsibility for living the change you want to see, even if it's sometimes difficult. I personally think that much of the current status quo is deeply messed up... but there's only so much I can do. Free and Open Source (I always try to use the "Free and" because that's the "principles" part of it - "open source" alone doesn't convey the principle part - it's just a software development methodology, and is therefore far less compelling to me) is something I can do, and so I have. If something open source that I use needs to catch up, then I figure out which bits I can help to improve. Sometimes improvement also involves helping a project achieve critical mass - I see advocacy as a powerful contribution as well.


Dan Milward Tue 31 Mar 2015 4:06AM

I don't think "free" conveys open source principles at all. I think the best open source products are the ones that feed their community members (especially lead developers) by putting food on their plates.

In fact when choosing Open Source products I choose the ones where I can contribute financially.

I've met, and I am friends with many "open source loosers" (in the sense that they lost big time) by investing hundreds or thousands of hours in products that were not sustainable.

They loose. And their "free" users loose because the tool they use is no longer supported.

I'm not saying this is right or wrong. It is just the reality for many an open source developer and it has lead to the death of many an open source project.

It is not possible to contribute code, support or your time to all pieces of software that you use. After living your life, going to work, eating, sleeping, relaxing, being a good parent, good friend, good human... contributing time sounds like it could do more harm than good.

Anyway... its just another side of the same coin.


Dave Lane Tue 31 Mar 2015 4:17AM

Ok, major confusion here, I think (my fault) - the word "free" in this case refers to liberty, not cost. Recommend you read this for a clear synopsis of the distinction: http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/the-gnu-manifesto-turns-thirty

In my opinion, it is essential that we all (those of us providing leadership at this conference) recognise this "Free Software" vs. "Open Source Software" distinction to even have the language to discuss "open" and its implications on society.


Dan Milward Tue 31 Mar 2015 4:41AM

Yes agreed.


Greg Cassel Tue 31 Mar 2015 10:11PM

Do you guys think that the term FOSS generally has the right feel or connotation for most relevant audiences, or do you prefer Libre or something else?


Dave Lane Tue 31 Mar 2015 10:31PM

I've personally chosen FOSS as the least "precious" term that's still accurate :) - it's tricky dealing with a language that has the vagaries of English (the unfortunate overloading of the word "Free" primarily). Libre is a good word, but to some it appears to come across as elitist being a "foreign" word :) (and some people don't know what it means, I've been told)


Dan Milward Tue 31 Mar 2015 11:37PM

It sounds like hygiene :P


Megan Salole Wed 8 Apr 2015 10:09AM

I am looking for some specific FOSS tools for the conference. Does anyone have any suggestions for alternatives to the following tools:
- Twitter display like live tweet app to display our twitter feed: https://app.livetweetapp.com/
- A visual pinboard of ideas and images like padlet: http://padlet.com/
- A bookable/shareable totally open calendar


Mark Wed 8 Apr 2015 9:48PM

@megansalole Not a direct answer to your question, sorry, but... May I respectfully suggest that you consider not displaying live tweets in rooms where presentations are happening? I know it's popular, but I have often observed presentations being disrupted by the audience being distracted by the Twitter feed, which is often not a good reflection of what's actually going on in the room. I also think it's disrespectful to speakers to have a distracting twitter feed (or anything else) displayed on a wall behind them. Just my 2c.


Megan Salole Thu 9 Apr 2015 12:48AM

I hear you...Fear not! The twitter screens will be in the developer lounge and outside in the shared spaces for when people are roaming about! (


Dan Milward Wed 8 Apr 2015 9:53PM

I'm with you man. Normally that stuff is for "between" talks...


Dan Milward Wed 8 Apr 2015 9:53PM

Twitter... tools of mass distraction


Billy Meinke Wed 8 Apr 2015 9:56PM

Chiming in! @davelane @danmilward

IMHO it's effective to use both "free software" and "open source software" when talking about FLOSS with folks who are new to the idea. An important point to drive home is that one has certain "freedoms" to do what they wish with code when it is free software. When code is open source, it is usually publicly viewable (which is great) but may not grant freedoms that truly free software does.

For more on this, I suggest heading over to Stallman's article:


FWIW, Wordpress (which most of us have used at some point over the last several years) is both free and open source software. GPLv2 FTW!

@megansalole FLOSS options for Twitter streams would be Twitter Fontana and Twitter Wall, both of which offer their source code via Github. There are other free (as in cost, not source code) options that may be easier to work with.

For collaborative note-taking, I like FLOSS applications like Etherpad and Hackpad. I (unfortunately) do not know of any FLOSS that are exactly like padlet.

No suggestions for FLOSS calendar options.



Alanna Irving Wed 8 Apr 2015 10:01PM

I am pretty sure the twitter stream is going to be displayed in a separate area, not in a way that's distracting while presentations are going on. @megansalole can confirm. If people want to talk about that topic, however, I'd encourage you to start a separate discussion so we can keep this thread focused on Open Tools.

Thanks for the info @billymeinke ! Looks like Twitter Fontana and Twitter Wall could be good options.


Dave Lane Wed 8 Apr 2015 10:04PM

@billymeinke agree with your assessment of free vs. open source software. It's a very profound "nuance" that needs to be well explained... I see that as part of my brief in defining the term "open" for the purposes of the conference (I'm decisively in the "free and open source" not just "open source" camp)...

The NZOSS is making an etherpad instance available for the conference, and it's already being used (well, not very actively so far as I have seen) to discuss some collaboratively edited document. https://etherpad.nzoss.org.nz

For what it's worth, I agree on not displaying tweet streams during presentations.


Dan Milward Wed 8 Apr 2015 10:24PM

@davelane so by freedom, you're talking about a type of freedom that stems from the GPL as opposed to something like MIT? I've heard and met Stallman a few times at various WP conferences around the world and he's pretty hardcore.

I think as long as people don't ram "freedom" down other peoples throats it is awesome. As soon as it becomes evangelical it takes away from other peoples freedom to choose to use whatever they like without judgement from others.

Totally not saying or hinting that you're doing that. I really am interested in your thoughts :)

I love this sort of open conversation, its great to be able to have it with somebody in NZ who has a good understanding of open source through experience. I'm preeeeeeeetty intolerant of people that don't have any hands on experience but have lots of OS opinion.


Dave Lane Wed 8 Apr 2015 11:41PM

Just so you know, @danmilward, the whole "ram freedom" thing is a bit of a red flag to a bull - language like that could end up creating a pretty ugly "open" situation. The question you have to ask is this: freedom from whose perspective. The "permissive" open source licences that I gather are your preference (like the MIT licence) provide freedom for developers (and, practically speaking, specific company interests in exploiting the software by removing it from users or restricting their use). More "open" (based on my definition of the word) strong licences, which Stallman calls "copyleft" do the reverse of copyright. They protect the freedom of society: software users, to avoid exploitation by business interests. To me the difference between "Free and Open Source" and just plain "Open Source" is the difference between societal benefit and the principle of openness (i.e. enriching "the commons") vs. expedient openness preserving the ability for private interests to exploit software at the expense of the commons.


Dave Lane Wed 8 Apr 2015 11:58PM

Also, @danmilward, I've spent a bit of time with Stallman as well, and I recognise that his "hard coreness" is due to his rather unique personality (definitely prickly in many cases) allowing him to be completely uncompromising and focused on "walking the talk". His resolve has effectively "planted the flag" of user freedom so far out in left field, that he makes all the rest of us look moderate by comparison. For that we all owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.

As I see it, most of the people espousing permissive open source licences in preference to stronger copyleft licences (like the GPL) are a) "new generation" developers who didn't live through the heated battles (FUD campaigns, "Linux is a cancer", attempts to legislate against FOSS with the DCMA in the US, forcing proprietary standards through ISO, software patent accusations, etc.) with proprietary vendors that some of us did. We know how bad things were, and could rapidly become again. We also know that companies (and especially listed corporations) are inherently untrustworthy, and that society has to be protected against them.

Thus many of us "old school" FOSS adherents shake our heads in despair at the trusting expedient open source "MIT everything" developers of this new generation - for whom FOSS has always existed and been a good option. They generally seem to have little support for the principle of openness, and more just like getting lots of software resources they can use at no cost to build their cool start up ideas, which in turn, are often proprietary themselves and exploit the commons for their private gain. That's a perfect example of "the tragedy of the commons".

It's analogous to people who take our various social freedoms for granted because, from their perspective, they've always been there. Those people (often the younger generation born into more or less the current society) simply can't imagine that those freedoms can disappear in an instant (because they've never experienced it). Those same people often blithely dismiss the concerns of those who know better because they've seen it first hand.


Dave Lane Thu 9 Apr 2015 12:37AM

Putting it another way, @danmilward, I'd be very interested in understanding the freedom provided by the MIT licence (or your preferred licence) that you value.


Dan Milward Thu 9 Apr 2015 1:38AM

@davelane - The software we developed in the WordPress space is GPL (which is the licence that I prefer).

Our HTML5 game engine is MIT because for the majority of our users it offers them the freedom to publish content that doesn't fit with the GPL space.

Under the GPL if we make a game for say Lucas Arts "Star Wars" then as soon as that game is launched in their browser the whole lot including their content essentially belongs to that user - which isnt suitable for a client like Lucas Arts.

Personally I am very happy with that line in the sand.

Under other circumstances it certainly feels to me that the MIT is a cop out. I am actually considering dual licences, I was talking to Red Hat lawyers about this who confirmed that would be best of both worlds. However I also run a small business and can't afford to resource that change yet. I cannot let my own personal ideals get in the way of putting food on the plate :)

Carrying the message in a non scary way is so important. I've seen Stallman turn ROOMS of people off the GPL because of his approach - and sure in an idealistic world we'd all see beyond that but that isnt worth the risk... I think attraction rather than promotion is the way to win over the people and not put them off.


Megan Salole Thu 9 Apr 2015 2:04AM

Hey folks, we are open sourcing our harvesting of the event (imagery, blogs, tweets etc).

I am trying to think of the best way to collect imagery - do you have ideas/opinions? I was thinking upload to flickr with creative commons licensing AND/OR just getting people to tweet with our hashtag #OSOS2015 or we could make a public dropbox (I note none of these are great from a FOSS POV...). Then we can display through Storify.


Dave Lane Thu 9 Apr 2015 3:33AM

@danmilward I agree RMS is very capable of putting people off (we can discuss why when we're at the conference :) I have some well formed theories). That doesn't in any way alter the value of his message... But I fully agree that these concepts have to be pitch to people in a way that they can receive them, building on common experience, expectations, and knowledge. Mindfulness of and accommodating other people's perspective isn't RMS' strongest suit.

Pleased to hear you're a GPL supporter. My own FOSS background includes a LOT of Linux and Drupal, both GPL v2 projects (Drupal is GPL v2 or later), and like WP, both are brilliant demonstrations of how "The Commons" can protect itself with smart use of the existing law (particularly GNU-related hacks, i.e. the GPL - I use "hack" in the best sense of that word). I was intrigued to see (last year) that in response to a request from the Drupal community, the Bootstrap community dual licenced Bootstrap so that it would be compatible with the GPL...

In regards to your statement about ideals getting in the way of food on the plate, I feel very bad for people who are in the position where they have to choose. Trying to live with that sort of cognitive dissonance would probably break me - thus my career choices all along. I firmly believe who and what I work for is an ethical decision...


Dave Lane Thu 9 Apr 2015 3:48AM

@megansalole regarding open source appointment scheduling apps (an open source alternative to Doodle?), there're quite a few (I don't have any personal experience with these - would tend to first try a Django-based one over other technologies), e.g. https://nuages.domainepublic.net/ or https://framadate.org/

For a larger list, check out http://alternativeto.net/software/doodle/?license=opensource


Billy Meinke Fri 10 Apr 2015 12:02AM

@megansalole For curating and archiving content from the conference, I'd recommend setting up a Flickr group for #OSOS2015, and making it really clear what the main hashtag for the conference is. I don't know if the Dropbox solution would be a good solution.

@danmilward @davelane @alanna

I think attraction rather than promotion is the way to win over the people and not put them off.

Hear hear.


Dave Lane Sun 12 Apr 2015 10:55PM

One of the "open" world's greatest challenges is demonstrating "marketing savvy". Open source has resonated most with technical creators (developers) who are focused on finding elegant and correct solutions to technical problems as opposed to aesthetic creators (designers) who also seem better attuned to the human factors like "making something which the market wants". The main issue is that marketing has become an amoral profession, built around exploiting human frailty (e.g. lack of discipline, suggestibility, etc.) to maximise profit often to the overall detriment of the market, rather than being "open" about what they're doing. This makes the onus on champions of "open" more difficult, because we can't employ these same exploitative devices without stooping to the same level and being liable for exposure... So we need to sell things based on their actual merits, which are often difficult to explain, or aren't perceived as valuable by the market. It's a major challenge. How do we get people to care about their own best interest?


Dan Milward Mon 13 Apr 2015 12:12AM

I just read that and thought it is dangerous to assume that what is in your best interest is also in somebody else's best interest.

And that is why attraction rather than promotion is so important. In my opinion.

Live the talk. I people are attracted they will come and if not... who cares because you're being authentic to yourself and your own standards :)



Dave Lane Mon 13 Apr 2015 5:24AM

That's the thing I love about FOSS - people are unapologetically scratching their own itch, nothing more or less. If you like it, you can join in, and so much the better. Enlightened self-interest is a beautiful thing.


Lin Nah Wed 15 Apr 2015 6:23AM

@megansalole I just read through the list of your open harvesting http://blog.opensourceopensociety.com/an-open-harvest/

If someone already has a blog, I don't think they are likely to sign up to medium to blog their thoughts. May be just better if you set up a planet so it can aggregate all blog regardless of what they use for their blogging.

Planet is open source. If you haven't heard of it before, here's 2 links: http://www.planetplanet.org/
There's a list of planets on the front page so you can see how it works.



Lin Nah Wed 15 Apr 2015 6:40AM

Reading some of the discussion above, I wonder if there should be a topic opened up on open source - ie the philosophy etc. There's a lot to talk about there as you can see above.


Silvia Zuur Wed 15 Apr 2015 9:19AM

@linnah You may find the convo here interesting: https://osos.loomio.org/d/XC7EJNg2/what-do-we-mean-when-we-say-open


Jaco van der Merwe Wed 15 Apr 2015 11:08AM

(jumping in late here, sorry)
I understand both ends of this discussion, and have come to appreciate the non-tech more of late.

FLOSS has (thus far to a very large extent) been the domain of techs, more "focused on finding elegant and correct solutions to technical problems".
This is not a bad thing (high technical competence), but I feel it is disingenuous & diminishes the contributions of "aesthetic creators (designers) who also seem better attuned to the human factors".

A healthy, diverse community & ecosystem consists of SO much more than great devs, and having the world's greatest project or product only gets us so far if we can't tell our story effectively, and get people to buy into our shared vision.

I think that if we want Sally & Joe Public to 'get it' & share our values, it is something they need to relate to & accept on their own, rather than us "preach" at them (and, I'm sorry to say from my own encounters with "St. IGNUcius of the Church of Emacs" came across as very preachy), and for that we need to attract people with a more common touch.


PAN & BAM | Creator: Stephen Chernishov Fri 8 May 2015 12:30PM


Instead of using your keyboard, a good old school alternative is pen & paper - somehow drawing a picture, writing a letter, and walking to your friend's house to slip it under the door helps get a job done that Gmail, keys, & send can do faster..but it is raw, real, and relational.

I'm looking for an analogue alternative to Facebook..