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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Suggestions for a coding club that is just sta

From: Pen-Yuan Hsing
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Suggestions for a coding club that is just starting?
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 2015 00:40:52 +0100

Hello all,

I am so excited to read all of your replies to my original post,
really lots of things to think about.

>From my experience, of all the practical/technical obstacles to the
spread of Free Software, one of the biggest challenges is simply for
someone (who speaks English) to overcome the intellectual hurdle that
Free Software refers to freedom, not price. No matter how many times I
tell someone this, they somehow revert back to thinking about it in
terms of price the next day! So often I get responses like: "My Mac
comes with xcode, which is not only a great IDE but it is also
'free'!!", or "Students at this university can get Microsoft Office
for free!!", etc. ad nauseum.

Even more egregious examples are when proprietary software vendors
market their products as promoting "freedom". For example, proponents
of Apple software/hardware likes to talk about how that "ecosystem"
(yes, I know ecosystem is a problematic word from a Free Software
perspective), with its wide range of creative apps (like all those
cool looking music creation or drawing apps) give users tremendous
creative "freedom". Even if that is somehow a "freedom", it is not the
freedom that Free Software provides which is more fundamental. If you
use proprietary software to exercise your creative "freedom", e.g.
make art with Adobe Photoshop, you are still fundamentally limited by
what Adobe lets you create with the software.

Anyway, I think this emphasises the special role that schools can play
in teaching Free Software, because many students have not been so
indoctriniated. CoderDojo sounds like a good event, which I will refer
the teacher of this new coding club to. CSUnplugged
( also looks great!

One thing I noticed when I went to the GNU education page is that in
the embedded video of Richard Stallman, he acknowledges that one
(albeit not the deepest) benefit of Free Software is reduced costs.
That is, he didn't deny the practical benefits of Free Software. I
think the important thing is that after introducing some of the
practical benefits (many of which "open source" proponents like to
talk about and are not wrong per se), one should always say something
like: "BUT most importantly, Free Software ensures that we have the
freedom to be independent and good citizens who help one another". Has
anyone tried this?

When it comes to actual coding, I like the suggestion that it might be
a fun "activity" to see what would happen if rules require the
students to say "I know the answer, but sorry, I can't help you."
Contrast that to the freedom that comes with Free Software might make
a strong case for the students and help them understand the importance
of Free Software. What do you think?

It was suggested that Geany might be a better idea than using
Notepad++, I agree. This of course also reminds me that in addition to
the actual coding, other software like GIMP or Inkscape should be
introduced as well. After discovering the free (as in Freedom)
alternatives to most of the software they use, maybe the students can
then be presented with the idea that "actually there is a free
alternative to your entire operating system!".

I also *really* like the idea of encouraging the students to create
Free Software as a replacement for selling cupcakes or cookies (not
that cupcakes and cookies are bad). Communities/organisations often
have bake sells, flea markets, or art sells for charitable purposes,
so why not Free Software? This *might* also be a chance to show that
Free Software doesn't have to be free of charge. So instead of asking
for a certain amount of money for a cupcake, the students can ask for
monetary contributions to receive a piece of Free Software that they
create? Any ideas on how to implement this for real?

This brings me to another big hurdle for some people when they
consider Free Software: money. As I read on the Free Software
Foundation (FSF) website, the distribution of free software doesn't
have to be gratis ( It
explicitly states that "you might as well charge a substantial fee and
make some money. Redistributing free software is a good and legitimate
activity; if you do it, you might as well make a profit from it".
After I tell some people about this, they often say: "OK, so
technically I can charge for the distribution of my piece of Free
Software. But after that initial distribution, anyone with the
software has the freedom to continue the distribution, perhaps even
gratis. So after that no one would come to me for the software,
because it is now available somewhere else free of charge, or people
can just copy it from a friend who has it!"

This suggests to me that charging only for the *distribution* of Free
Software might not be a sustainable source of funds. So what other
funding models are there? I am aware of charging money for technical
support or adding new features; Crowdfunding development; Code
bounties; or just plain donations. Have these models been empirically
demonstrated to be a *sustainable* source of funds for all kinds of
Free Software? Are there other models for sustainable funding, or even
- as the FSF clearly allows - when one wants to make a profit? I
realise and appreciate that making money is far from the only reason a
person might want to write software, but a well formed answer to this
might help alleviate a lot of people's unfounded fears of Free
Software. What do you think?

Anyway, I think now I can try to synthesise everyone's points and make
a case to the teacher that teaching the students to be good citizens
is just as important as the actual coding!

Sorry about the really long reply..... but you have really sparked my
excitement on this topic!!! I just wish that I actually know how to
code myself....

On 20/09/2015, Andrés Muñiz Piniella <address@hidden> wrote:
> Hi Pen-Yuan Hsing,
> As mention here I also did some coder dojo. I discussed my practical
> thoughts here [1] special mention is how little you really need to know
> about coding to help out. Now, a coding club sounds like something more
> frequent. (Bi weekly?)
> fsfe has some info look into 'further information'  section  here [2]
> Long version:
> On one coder dojo session I was given the chance to talk about freesoftware.
> This was near the end. I commented on how they could look up one anothers
> code and help each other out. And how that even though they all had windows
> or Mac running the same software (python3 idle) there was a 3rd option
> Gnu/Linux  that did the same but worked under the same concept of 'sharing
> is caring'. (I loaned my laptop with trisquel-mini to a kid that did not
> bring his laptop and he did not know or care it.was not windows or mac but
> when I told him what it was she (or.he?) was interested) I talked and
> explained the 4 freedoms as best I could and let them have as many stickers
> they wanted from the fsf and fsfe promos [3] [4] great to personalize their
> computers. I think I told them that by default their code was theirs in such
> a way that it did not allow their friends to share without permission. That
> it was best to state that they are 'general public licenced or similar' in
> the heading as a comment.
> That way everybody knew it was safe to share without of fear of legal
> action. Note that I tried to avoid using acronyms and the word free by it's
> self. I used free as in freedom or freedom software.  I also stuck around to
> take questions. Most of them where about 'is hacking is legal?' or 'what is
> this Sony boicott about'. About hacking I said that sadly the term was miss
> used and that for example depending on the context the word 'cell' could
> mean prison or a biological part of us. I think (or I hope) this hit home
> with some of them.
> Sadly I do not have time to continue going every session (a Saturday once a
> month). And while most if not all agree with me in the free software front
> the 'cool kids' are more on the OSS front. They bring in raspberry pi with
> minecraft on them. And do some mods. And they just want to get on and do
> cool things. I would love to install a freemine server and have them play
> and modify their world for example. I had discussions with some and still
> don't get what the fuzz is about.  What I mean to say: make sure you bring
> in volunteers that do understand it. Make sure they are the first ones.
> In your case, if I could, I would offer as a volunteer.  Gnu/Linux
> installations are good but for start use live USB (isn't cool.that you can
> run it on a computer and leave no trace behind?). Or/and start by using free
> programs on their proprietary os that are also available in gnulinux (geany
> rather than notepad++ as an intermittent step towards Emacs and eclipse?). I
> feel they are better off learning by themselves what is best for themselves
> instead of imposing but avoid lockdown to an OS. To The teacher as an
> organizer I would give her/him a version with your own words about software
> freedom from the great web pages that have been shared here. But do not rely
> on external links(I feel they will not be read You can imagine that
> happening on this mailing list as well)
> I do not know your situation but I can say what my dream would be: I would
> say that the best thing is to offer the children to choose a project (as
> others have said) that they want to work on. But with some help to frame it
> (too much choice is difficult to handle). maybe an activity do you want to
> build a game? Maybe something to help the local community? A chat only for
> school kids? It has to be something that they all agree with the idea that
> they will be scratching their own itch (vote with absolute.mayority). I
> would then hunt down (duckduckgo  it with them) an existing free software
> that does something similar (Wikipedia normally has lists that you can
> filter by licence and ensure they run in at least Gnu/Linux) and start
> learning with them the basics of the language or langages. Contribute to
> documentation and translation of  it (even the art!) File bug, fix bugs,...
> Discussing plans with lead developers even if it means a fork or derivative
> or an addon or a skin. Joining
> mailinglists irc channels. Encountering proprietary software and finding all
> the strings that are attached to it. deliberately Avoiding it because it is
> the right thing to do. Or maybe comprimise by using a rasberry pi for
> example  but make them aware that it is a comprimise or a bug that needs to
> be deleted.
> For.the teacher: For example build a public bus countdown system for the
> school: give links to wikis and to code so that other children can do the
> same for their homes. Or an irrigation system using arduinos and some nails
> . Or music generated from the school newspaper words or poems, citizen
> science,... publicise it in socialmedia to see if they get others outside
> the classroom to contribute (maybe the art class? Tell them.about creative
> commons) maybe kids can even make a startup with it or sell kits with all
> documentation (don't forget to include the gpl! ) instead of selling
> cupcakes, biscuits and lemonade for sponsoring school trips. Selling is
> impossible/impractible to do with proprietary software(strings attached).
> But it is all about the travel not the destination. The means, not the end.
> As said in some of the many other emails. It is not about just typing in
> code to make something yours it is about building something that is shared
> with the world (and giving you credit for it!). Helping others in a global
> scale, doing the right thing.  And if you want to give a practical spin to
> it: in a company you rarely code solo and by showing your contributions
> online you already have a porfolio and that you document your code for easy
> maintaince to show future employers or you can use gimp? Does that mean I do
> not have to spend money 'renting saas'?
> I would not be too critical about them having windows and mac.  As said in
> this and other similar mailing lists... do you also have a free wifirouter?
> Is your ISP free? Who serves that server? At some point you have to start
> from a line in the sand and cross that line to find there are more lines
> ahead just make sure you are not locked in. If they want to be really cool
> and not mainstream as cocacola/pepsi they will join the other cola drinks
> (Gnu/Linux, Bsd, hurt) and all the variants within them. Always talk in
> positive terms about how good free software is not about how bad proprietary
> is. When they ask you are you windows or are you Mac you can raise your head
> with pride and say I use Gnu/Linux.
> Sorry it was longer than I thought!
> Good luck! Stay free!
> [1]
> [2]
> [3] and
> [4]
> El 17 de septiembre de 2015 23:50:33 GMT+01:00, Pen-Yuan Hsing
> <address@hidden> escribió:
>>Thank you Brendan and Thomas for your replies.
>>I see that (1) to start it is nice to think about something you could
>>benefit from coding, and (2) CoderDojo is a nice organisation to join.
>>Both sound good! I'll past this information along, and I hope the lead
>>teacher can involve their students in CoderDojo events.
>>With that said, I think I might need to re-phrase my original post a
>>bit: How do you broach the subject of Free Software to someone for the
>>first time? Specifically, what about in the case of a new coding club
>>for secondary school students? Are there examples of successful coding
>>clubs that started with an emphasise on Free Software? Are there
>>people with experience in communicating to these groups that "remember
>>to release your software under a Free license", "make the source code
>>available", etc.? Thanks!
>>On 17/09/2015, address@hidden <address@hidden>
>>> I strongly recommend that you start a CoderDojo
>>> its ethos is opensource (all the docs, samples, code, etc are all
>>> it's all driven by volunteers (free) and there's a worldwide network
>>> people willing to help (also free). I have been involved for the past
>>> years and the kids learn a lot!
>>> On Thu, 17 Sep 2015 at 19:18 Thomas HARDING <address@hidden>
>>> wrote:
>>>> Le 17/09/2015 17:10, Pen-Yuan Hsing a écrit :
>>>> > Hello,
>>>> >
>>>> > First of all, thanks everyone for your help several weeks ago on
>>>> > Freeing of a scientific software I mentioned here. I have a couple
>>>> > follow up questions which I plan to post in another message, but
>>>> > now there is another issue.
>>>> >
>>>> > I learned that a teacher in a secondary school in my town is
>>>> > a coding club for their students (probably teenagers), and they're
>>>> > looking for information or other direct support regarding how to
>>>> > it. Since this coding club is just starting, I think this is a
>>>> > opportunity to include in their agenda the concept of Free
>>>> >
>>>> > I am not an active coder myself, but care a lot about Free
>>>> > and I want to do what I can to make sure this club goes in the
>>>> > direction". However, I have zero experience doing this. Do folks
>>>> > have ideas, or better yet links to existing
>>>> > websites/information/teaching plans that are appropriate for this?
>>>> > plan to email the lead teacher soon about the important of Free
>>>> > Software in their club, and would appreciate anything you can
>>>> > provide!! I think the more we can give the teacher the better.
>>>> >
>>>> [having only little skills in English, please point any impairing
>>>> mistake (I'm French)]
>>>> Fortunately, coding is one of the most outstanding features given by
>>>> Free Software, not only by design but by lang::fr::nature :)
>>>> That said, first question is not "what do you want to code" but
>>"what do
>>>> you need needing coding": first step to learn for coding is to
>>>> simple which *you want to exists but can't find*, or, at option,
>>>> do not already exists, or, more, already exists but do not fit
>>>> *perfectly* *your* needs.
>>>> My opinion is: some tools always exists but never fit perfectly your
>>>> needs.
>>>> Just take the ways to rotate a screen and the way and conditions
>>>> think* a screen should rotate. You have a project, scalable from a
>>>> alias to a C project (Ada would work too if you want for contracts),
>>>> with any kind of programming model and typed level.
>>>> You'll also want the screen rotates from a web interface,
>>>> and with no [fakes?] to a complete classroom if your goal is to say
>>>> "now, we start to read text displayed vertically as a book, please
>>>> rotate your screen counerclockwise... No Allan, *counter*clockwise,
>>>> goal is not to read head top-bottom").
>>>> While you can do almost anything with free software with excerpt for
>>>> time) quantic crypto break and low cost blu-ray tray scrambled video
>>>> reading, anyone in the crew needs only whiches :-)
> --
> Richmond Makerlabs
> Ham United Group

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