Invest in what you believe in

By Christine Lemmer-Webber on Sun 13 September 2009

I just got back from Djangocon, which was pretty awesome. I was once again on the video team, much like at PyCon. Now that I've got traveling and such out of the way I can return to working on personal projects in my "spare time".

And hey, one of those spare projects turned out to be making some contributions to Miro. Pretty much just minor GTK-X11 specific fixes or enhancements thus far. I'm hoping to return to more Miro hacking in a serious way in the future, but of course I'm not working for the PCF full-time any more, and I notice that the kind of things I'll likely be working on will be a bit different: it really will be more scratch-an-itch style development. Working on serious projects would probably require more full-time dedication than I'm able to give at the moment.

Which actually leads me to another point. Free software and free culture projects all require funding. I tend to think that if you reap the benefits of these kinds of projects, and especially if you really believe in them, then you should consider putting your money toward them. Think of it in terms of the Lessig Challenge: how much money do you put toward media distribution companies, proprietary software vendors, etc whose policies and actions you object to? We do live within a capitalist system, and that means the best way to vote toward change is often to vote with your dollar. (There are other ways to vote of course, you can vote with your effort and time too. Generally the best option is to do both.) So putting your money toward things projects you believe in, even when that "purchase" won't result in an immediate result, is something I think everyone should do.

One such project is subtitle translations in Miro. The PCF is trying to raise funds toward this, and I think it's a great opportunity to tackle accessibility in open video, which hasn't really been covered yet... I'd really like to see this bar make it all the way:


I wouldn't stop there either. What organizations do you really believe in? Various groups could use your support, in especially what has been a terribly difficult year for nonprofits. A sample of groups that I think are important and worth joining or donating to in the free culture / free software sphere: Creative Commons, GNOME, the Free Software Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation... these are all important groups that need your help.

As for media, support independent artists, especially those that use free culture licenses like Jim's Big Ego, Professor Kliq, Brad Sucks, or any one of the many awesome artists on Jamendo or Magnatune. The Blender Foundation is creating a new Open Movie, Project Durian. They're very close to meeting their pre-order goals... of course, they could still use some help, and the more orders the better (at the moment, if you preorder, you can get your name in the credits). That's a great project in particular because it funds Blender development, helps create an awesome movie, and even releases all the source files under free licenses. They have other items in their E-Shop, too. When you buy hardware, try to buy devices that are free software friendly. There's loads you can do in the realm of media and technology.

There's tons you can do outside of technology, too. Morgan and I get all our groceries from the local farmers' market, from our local CSA, and from independent grocers. When we go out to eat, we go to independent restaurants instead of chains. The Eat Well Guide is a fantastic directory for finding ethical sources of food near you (especially consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture program... it's a cheap and easy way to get fresh, local and organic food at your door every week).

Maybe not everything I've listed here meets what you believe in, but probably something does. Just remember that your time, effort and money are all incredibly important resources, and how you use them will change the world, either in ways you believe in or ways you don't. So invest wisely.