Software Uprising

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Software Uprising
a non-profit co-operative in the public interest
Well-behaved nerds seldom make history.

Quick Overview

Software Uprising addresses the vast need for public-interest software by employing underutilized coders to provide and maintain software that prioritizes the needs and wishes of its users over the practical need for any given software "product" to somehow generate revenue in order to fund development.

The need for revenue-generation inevitably places marketing concerns between users and developers. This is problematic; software users and developers should be able to work together more directly and productively in order to meet user needs while maintaining technical best practices.

The Need

Software

Software now controls and dominates almost every aspect of our lives, but the overwhelming mass of it is provided by sources beyond our control -- most commonly enormous for-profit corporations who unashamedly try to squeeze every last drop of revenue from our usage. Software is used to force advertising on us, to lock us into perpetual subscriptions, to all but force the usage of specific additional services.

Even free or open-source software (FOSS) is damaged by these trends. Profit-think insinuates itself into every aspect of software design -- from oversimplifying interfaces and using mobile/touchscreen UI paradigms for desktop applications to simple neglect due to lack of adequate funding, the for-profit software model sucks life and energy out of the free software universe. Where a given piece of software becomes popular and is able to attract funding, this is inevitably tied to a specific self-promoting individual or team, who then essentially become "benevolent dictator for life" regarding the software's design and goals.

Developers

There are a lot of unemployed software developers[1], and many who would like to be involved but don't know how to. This is especially true for non-white non-male people, many of whom face various career obstacles.

There are also a lot of employed software developers who are well aware that their work largely serves to enrich the plutocracy, and who would far rather be doing something more useful.

The software development sector has become increasingly challenging over the past two decades -- from companies essentially scraping the bottom of the barrel in the late 1990s looking for y2k-remediation coders during the dot-com boom[2] to the point now where even during a pandemic, when web usage is booming hugely due to the necessity for more internet-mediated contact, any advertised position is flooded with applicants to the point where employers are resorting to the use of algorithms to help filter them down to a manageable level.[3]

The Solution

Software Uprising is a not-for-profit co-operative wherein members collectively decide how to allocate the use of resources (including funds) among these goals:

  • creating new software
  • maintaining existing software (either original or 3rd-party)
  • hiring developers, preferably on a regular basis with benefits
  • promoting Uprising-maintained packages to potential users
  • funding usability studies, to uncover and fix UI issues
  • providing training and equipment to new and underprivileged developers
  • branching out into other areas where appropriate (e.g. open-source hardware dev)

Non-profit status would encourage moneyed individuals and organizations to contribute funding, and allow the Uprising to present a familiar profile to potential donors despite its somewhat unconventional mission. The co-operative structure would ensure that the funders would not gain too much control over the direction and priorities of the Uprising.

Obstacles

Primary obstacles at this time include:

  • the need for legal advice on how to set up a non-profit co-op (OpenCollective could probably act as an umbrella nonprofit initially)
  • the need for seed funding to get things started (maybe a GoFundMe?)
  • decent collaboration software, to enable full participation in a location-agnostic way
  • eventually, financial transparency software (to be developed) to show how every penny is spent

Each of these is solvable.

Pages

Footnotes

  1. I'm one of them, and I know many others.
  2. ...which is how I got my first non-academic coding job
  3. I've only heard about this anecdotally in software dev, but it's certainly being used in more general employment -- see for example:

(Sorry about the numbering -- there's some kind of bug with the References extension.)

Links

Related projects:

  • Cooperative Source - zkat's project for a new software ownership/distribution model
  • Foss and Crafts - Christine and Morgan Lemmer-Webber's blog and Chris's FOSS software work. Individual dev-focused, rather than community-focused, though.