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Re: Advice Workplace that Forces Non-Free Software

From: Matt Ivie
Subject: Re: Advice Workplace that Forces Non-Free Software
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2020 08:46:01 -0600

On Sat, 2020-08-08 at 21:09 +0000, lily via libreplanet-discuss wrote:
> Dear LibrePlanet Community,
> I am reaching out to you again for advice. 7 months ago, I asked for
> advice with asking IT to support a GNU+Linux operating system. Months
> later, and now in the middle of a pandemic, I am working remotely on
> a
> Windows laptop. I have admin rights and so I am able to install and
> run all the Free Software I wish, but I have run into some problems
> in
> the workplace.
> Let me remind you that I work as a biostatistician for a research
> team
> at a major hospital in Portland. And as a non-patient facing health
> care worker, I and the team I work with have been working remotely
> since April. We are forced to use Microsoft Outlook, Teams,
> Skpye/Lync, OneDrive for communication and storage. I continue to use
> R, Emacs, LibreOffice, GIMP, and other pieces of Free Software, but I
> have run into a problem. The data analysts and my manager primarily
> use SPSS, Tableau, and Microsoft products, and other non-free
> software. And, when I propose that we use Beamer to produce
> professional research posters, as opposed to PowerPoint, or when I
> propose LaTeX to write up research reports as opposed to Word, or Git
> to maintain a repository of the R and SPSS code, I get shut down, and
> even punished. Now all my emails have to go to my manager before I
> can
> send them to the medical doctors, and data analysts. I try to gently
> show how great these tools are from a utility perspective, forget the
> ethical standpoint, because all I get is "We use Word and PowerPoint.
> That is how things are done here."
> I am very passionate about Free Software, without it I would be
> nowhere. It was there for me all throughout my studies in mathematics
> and beyond. But now, as I have only been in the biostatistics field
> of
> paper pushing research for less than two years, I fear that if I
> upset
> my manager too much I could easily lose this job (I have been at this
> job for less than a year). I am the only biostatistician on this
> team,
> but unfortunately, the team can get away with producing research
> papers without understanding the mathematics/statistics, because they
> can run some code and there will always be an answer. So, practically
> they can do without me.
> I have learned enough statistics within these past two years, on top
> of my mathematical background and computational background, that I
> feel confident in my knowledge and skills. But, now with the state of
> the economy, due to the poor response to the pandemic, there are
> hiring
> freezes at my place of work and many others. Even if I were lucky
> enough to pick up another position in this field, who is to say I
> will not face the same problems as before.
> So in my mind I have two options.
> 1. Continue to use Free Software just for myself and keep my mouth
> shut, and give the results of my work in the non-free software format
> like Word and PowerPoint to keep the manager happy so that I may
> continue to eat and donate to the Free Software movement. (This
> option
> I also risk loosing the Free Software I have, since eventually they
> plan to take away my admin rights.)
> 2. Gently try to push for a little more Freedom in the work place,
> but
> risk loosing my job and not be able to contribute what I can
> financially to the Free Software Movement.
> I am leaning more towards Option 1, but if I lose the Free Software I
> am able to work with, I will also lose the opportunity to learn and
> grow as a biostatistician.
> I understand that this is more of a social issue, rather than a
> technical issue, but I would greatly appreciate any advice from
> people
> who can relate to this experience.
> Thank you so much LibrePlanet community, you are wonderful! I also do
> volunteering where I get to promote Free Software, but again with the
> pandemic, those activities have come to a halt. And as a result I
> tried pushing for alternative software in the work place, which is
> having a the negative outcome I described above.
> I look forward to hearing your responses. FSF and others are free to
> share my story, but please remove my name and location.
> Thank you again. (Forgive my misspellings.)
> Crista (Electrostatic Woman)
Hi Crista,

I feel the exact same way you do when it comes to non-free software in
the work place. I have fought this battle, as I'm sure many of us have,
many times. There are some things that people are brainwashed to use.
Because many people have been using Microsoft Office for so long, they
are convinced that it is part of a normal office setting and as
necessary as a wrench is to a mechanic. I think with the right approach
at the right time, it could be done but unfortunately I'm not in a
position to massage that situation.

For you, because you've made the attempt and are getting a lot of push
back I wouldn't risk your job. There may be an opportune time where you
can offer a solution using Free Software and they may be more open to
it at that juncture. In the meantime don't give up on affecting change,
just know the right pressure points to apply it. Maybe in the future
you'll be able to take a position in a company that is more open to
Free Software.

Matt Ivie 
"Bad presidents make for great music, and I'm gonna do my best to
provide it."
-Tom Morello 

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