When something is free, pretend you paid for it

Chris Brogan lost all access to his Google accounts today. He can’t check his email, his calendar or even use his Android phone.

We need to learn how to evaluate free products.

When we pay for something, we tend to read the terms and conditions, make sure there’s support, compare it to other alternatives, etc. When it’s free, we go “oh, cool, thanks.”

But free web services aren’t like free pizza. You come to depend on them and you give them your data and control of your life. Shouldn’t you know what agreement you have with them?

From Google’s Terms of Service:

4.3 […] you acknowledge and agree that Google may stop (permanently or temporarily) providing the Services (or any features within the Services) to you or to users generally at Google’s sole discretion, without prior notice to you. […]

I think the responsibility lies with users to evaluate the terms of the software they are using. Google provides a lot of great services. It’s up to us to figure out how best to use them and to demand better terms if we want them.

So when you sign up for a free web service, pretend you are paying for it. Read the terms. Raise your concerns.

Disclaimer: I use a lot of Google services and in general I’m quite happy with them.

Do men and women have different standards of success?

This quote has been haunting me because it rings so true:

men tended to stick with their studies as long as they completed the coursework, while women did so only if they earned high grades

I don’t see that in all fields but I definitely see it in computer science. I wonder if it’s because only really competitive women tend to stick it out in a field that’s often less than 20% women (and comes with all the problems that entails.) They are used to working hard, competing and doing well. And when they don’t, well they figure they should be doing something else. Something they excel at.

I’ve seen it happen. (And for the record the women I know went on to be really successful in other scientific fields. I think they would have excelled in computer science too.)

What do you think?

Stormy’s Update: Week of April 12, 2010

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation? or my earlier updates.


  • Spent Monday traveling home from the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans.
  • Tuesday I caught up on a ton of mail. Like a lot of mail. Got back down to 10 mails in my inbox.
  • Wednesday-Friday I traveled to and attended the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit. I hope everyone from Europe makes it back home soon!

What I actually did:

  • Had a lot of great conversations with existing GNOME Foundation sponsors and members at the Collaboration Summit about things we are working on and GUADEC. I talked with (some in depth, some very briefly) Robert McQueen(Collabora), Phillippe Kalaf (Collabora), Quim Gil (Nokia), Juan Jose Sanchez (Igalia), Ryan Singer (InitMarketing), Amanda McPhearson (Linux Foundation), Alan Clark (Novell), Rob Taylor (CodeThink), Jono Bacon (Canonical), Dave Neary, Paul Cutler. And if I talked to you and you aren’t on the list and want to be, just leave a comment. I talked to a lot of people!
  • Had a couple of great dinners. Yorba hosted a great GNOME dinner (Adam Dingle got  us all together!) and I had a great time catching up with the Yorba folks, Philip from Igalia, Christian Schaller, Paul Cutler, Phillippe Kalaf and Robert McQueen. (There were more people there but I wasn’t able to hear them from down the table. 🙂 Had dinner the night before with Ryan Singer, Jonathan Corbet, Jake Edge, Paul Cutler, Dave Neary and Josh Berkus. Don’t ask me who all I chatted with at the evening event on Wednesday …
  • Spent most of the day on Thursday in the MeeGo talks … when I wasn’t meeting with people individually.
  • Ran the Desktop track on Friday morning. Many, many thanks to Dave Neary and Zonker Brockmeier for helping put it together. We had some good sessions and great discussions about web applications and the desktop. (Talks about Snowy, KDE web apps and Mozilla Weave.) We wanted a controversial panel and we got one. I think the whole room shouted through the whole thing but I think I kept it enough under control that we got a few questions answered. It was exciting if not 100% productive.
  • Heard my favorite idea so far with what to do with the funding that Nokia has given to GNOME Mobile. Robert McQueen suggested that we do like a Google Summer of Code but for mobile. And not limit it to students. I really liked the idea and ran it by several others like Quim and Juanjo and everyone seemed to like it.
  • Got a free Nexus One phone from Google. (They gave one to everyone that attended their keynote!)
  • Attended the GNOME Board meeting.
  • Sent thank you’s to people who donated to Friends of GNOME through Paypal.

Stormy’s Update: Weeks of March 29th and April 5th, 2010

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation? or my earlier updates.

  • Friends of GNOME ruler was a great success! We met our goal for hiring a sys admin. (My work was just to provide updated numbers frequently and to dent and twitter. And sending thank you notes to all our generous supporters!)
  • Talked to InitMarketing with Paul Cutler about how they might be able to help us with some of our marketing tasks.
  • Planned the Desktop Track at the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit with Zonker and Dave Neary.
  • Attended the board meeting.
  • Met with Rosanna.
  • Met with Jonathan Corbet from LWN.net to discuss partnership opportunities.
  • Met with Jeremy Allison, our newest GNOME Advisory Board member.
  • Had a meeting with the folks going to the events in Africa representing GNOME and some of the other board members.
  • Started a conversation on the mobile list about how best to use the funding from Nokia.
  • Had lots of exchanges with events looking for me to speak at them. (In all cases I asked for lots more info. In one case I offered to speak in exchange for a donation to the GNOME Foundation.)
  • Started working on my write-up for my 6 month evaluation.
  • Spread the word to recruit a few people for the GNOME press team.
  • Created the GNOME wish list.
  • Agreed to pay Texas Linux Fest a nonprofit $100 booth fee. (Zonker and the Ubuntu team will be running the GNOME booth.)
  • Followed up with a few potential GUADEC sponsors.
  • Sent and received a record amount of email!
  • Taking some vacation – going to the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans! (Also took a day the week of March 29th to get some stuff done.)

Next week:

  • Catch up on email from vacation.
  • Attend the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit and chair the Desktop Track along with Zonker and Dave Neary.
  • Continue to follow up with GUADEC sponsors.
  • Help Paul Cutler with prep work for the marketing hackfest.

10 free apps I wish were open source

When it comes to web applications, I think free and open source software fans are settling for “free” instead of looking for the freedom they would get from open source.

Here are some free applications that I wish had open source software equivalents.  I am not unhappy with these applications. I just wish I had open source software alternatives that were as good!

Here are 10 of the good web applications that I use daily that don’t have good enough open source software equivalents.

  1. Gmail. How many free software developers use Gmail as their primary email interface?
  2. Remember the Milk. I want a way to sync tasks across multiple computers, tag them, date them, prioritize them and share them with other users.
  3. TripIt. I forward any reservation to it and it adds it to my itinerary. I can also share with friends to coordinate travel plans or just to share where we are.
  4. Facebook. There’s Identica as an alternative to Twitter but there’s no open source software alternative to Facebook.
  5. Delicio.us/Diigo. Mozilla is working on tools to help me synchronize my bookmarks across multiple machines. I also want to share and search them.
  6. Kayak.com. The best way to find cheap airfare with all the options you need.
  7. Doodle. Ever tried to schedule a meeting with lots of busy people in different time zones?
  8. Google calendar. I can manage my calendar from any where and invite others to meetings. All synced on the web, not dependent on any particular machine I’m on.
  9. Google reader. Judging from how many open source software users share items with me in Google reader, a lot of us are using this RSS reader to follow our favorite websites.
  10. Dropbox. Dropbox and UbuntuOne have become the default way for users to access files across multiple machines, remotely and to share them. Why don’t we have an open source software option yet?

Why hasn’t open source software kept up with the web application space? What needs to happen for us to have open source software web applications in these spaces?

What other spaces are also missing open source software options?

Stormy’s Update: Week of March 22nd

  • Friends of GNOME ruler launched. The campaign has been a great success so far – thanks, everyone!
  • Jeremy Allison joined the GNOME Advisory Board representing Google.
  • Worked with a potential sponsor.
  • Met with Rosanna to discuss the things she’s got going on (invoices, reimbursements, bank stuff, etc) and the Friends of GNOME gifts. Proposed that maybe we could send gifts via a supplier like Amazon. Having too many gifts to send out is a good problem to have!
  • Met with Brian Cameron to discuss my work. It’s about time for a midyear review.
  • Sent lots of thank you’s to Friends of GNOME who donated. Thanks, everyone!
  • Discussed a couple of GUADEC things like press. Need to wrap up the sponsors.
  • Attended GNOME Foundation IRC meeting.
  • Discussed who could attend FOSS Nigeria as the person who was going to attend on GNOME’s behalf had to cancel for work.
  • Organized a Women in Technology happy hour with Julie Bort in Fort Collins. Not GNOME related all though all GNOME women are welcome!
  • Reviewed GNOME 2.30 release notes and Project Accessibility & GNOME press release.
  • Wrapped up an advisory board interview for GNOME Journal.
  • Decided to move the Meet the Funders event to the fall. That will avoid conflict with lots of summer conferences and enable us to plan in person at OSCON.
  • Interviewed with a Northern California radio show on women and Unix and Linux.
  • Met with an analyst trying to figure out how many Linux mobile devices there will be.
  • Attended FSF Women’s IRC meeting. Sounds like the women’s track at Libre Planet was a great success!
  • Attended Open World Forum committee meeting. Haven’t yet committed to helping any particular track.

For this week:

  • Review my very long todo list and make sure I’m working on the most important stuff.
  • Start a conversation on GNOME Mobile about what to do with the Nokia funding.
  • Try to close with all GUADEC sponsors.
  • Work out a schedule for the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit desktop track.
  • Annual report letter.

Best hotel in San Francisco … not yet

I’m not looking for the best hotel as in the fanciest hotel. I’m looking for the cheapest hotel that is still good. Or at least clean, safe and convenient.

I travel to San Francisco a lot and I’ve been looking for the best and most economical option for quite a while. I’ve stayed at a lot of San Francisco hotels during my quest. This last time I stayed at the Best Western Americicania. I’m still looking. Next time I’ll be staying some where else.

The Best Western wasn’t the perfect hotel for me because:

  • It was loud. I was woken up at 4:30am by traffic noise. I should have asked for an inside room. If you stay there, be sure to ask for an inside room.
  • The internet was down. While on business trips, I usually use my down time to get work done. What else are you going to do in a hotel room by yourself? Especially at 4:30 in the morning …

My criteria for the perfect hotel in San Francisco is:

  • Cheap. I try to travel cheaply when on the GNOME Foundation’s dime. It feels ridiculous to spend several hundred dollars a night for a bed for a night but in San Francisco that’s what most of the hotels are asking. (The Best Western was $100/night, not bad for the location. And it was clean.)
  • Private room. I need my down time and alone time. I usually use it to work but I need it to recuperate. Especially at a conference where I’m meeting with tons of people every day.
  • Safe. As in the room is safe, not it has a safe. Goes without saying. Plus if I don’t feel safe, I don’t sleep well.
  • Clean. The Best Western was very clean, I was impressed there.
  • Internet. I work in my room. What do you do in your room at 4:30 am with no internet? I ended up heading out to a coffee shop.
  • Treadmill. I like to run everyday – it makes up for all the junk you eat on the road. It’s often not daylight when I run so I’m not going to run outside.
  • Quiet. I added this requirement during my last trip. Some sleep is important. Especially when you don’t have any internet. I have friends that always travel with ear plugs but I can’t sleep in them.
  • Private toilet. (The last time I stayed in a dorm and ran into someone in the hall at 3am while half asleep and just about screamed, I decided I wanted my own toilet in my room. 🙂
  • Within walking distance of the venue I’m going to. The closer the better. That way I can use breaks to get some alone time and get some work done. Or fit a run in. If it’s not close, I consider the walk my exercise. But that means I can’t run back to my room for a quiet place for phone calls or conference calls.

What I definitely do not need is:

  • Fancy anything.
  • A big room.
  • Desk.
  • Room service.
  • Restaurant.
  • Fridge/minibar.
  • Concierge.
  • TV.
  • Alarm clock.
  • Ice machine or vending machines.
  • Well equiped gym. (I just want a treadmill.)
  • Parking.
  • Phone.
  • Bathtub. (Just a shower.)

I would think I’m not alone here, surely they could make a more economical business hotel option than the $200-500 that the standard business hotels charge?

How do you find the perfect hotel for you when you’re on a business trip?

One step closer to a sys admin …

We’ve been raising funds for a system administrator for GNOME. Yesterday we added a ruler to the top of various GNOME websites to show people our progress and it’s been a tremendous success.

Since yesterday we’ve gotten almost $1,000 in donations from individuals and another $5,000 match from a company!

That’s in addition to the money we’d already raised and all the company matches we’ve received so far.

We’ve only got $5,843 to go before we hire a system administrator. (And put up a new goal!)

Why are we hiring a system administrator?

To help GNOME developers be able to write more code, documentation, etc. There’s a lot of system administration work involved in keeping a project like GNOME and an organization like the GNOME Foundation running. We have an awesome team of volunteers that keep it running day to day but it would help to have someone dedicated to the system administration team, able to manage projects, tackle some of the bigger projects and to stay on top of the day to day requests.

Why are we raising money for this?

We’re a nonprofit and all of our budget comes from donations from individuals and companies and any profit we run from events.

What are you going to do when the money runs out?

Hopefully we’ll continue to be successful with our fundraising efforts so that we can continue to enjoy the benefits of having a system administrator. The money we raise should cover at least a year of a part time system administrator.

How do I apply?

Stay tuned. We will be announcing the application process soon. You can check out the job page for more information.

How can I help?

Spread the word! You can promote Friends of GNOME on your website or by blogging about it or by mentioning it during your talks.

What’s your fundraising tip 101?

Well, right now, it’s let people know what the progress is. Put up a ruler! Thanks to everyone who worked on the ruler … Lucas Rocha, Vinicius Depizzol, Andreas Nilsson, Paul Cutler, Shaun McCance and many more.

Thanks to everyone who has helped so far! GNOME rocks!
Become a Friend of GNOME

Stormy’s Update: Weeks of March 8th & 15th

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation? or my earlier updates.

Attended Open Mobility. Was on a panel about the desktop and the cloud. There was lots of audience participation and the conversation took a couple of strange turns with Google and Google apps being a good piece of the conversation.

While I was there I met with Gabi Schindler from Azingo and Morgan Gillis and Andrew Shikiar from the LiMo Foundation. Plus quite a few other people.

While in San Francisco I also met with Adam Dingle and Jim Nelson from Yorba and had lunch with the whole crew.  I was really impressed with their mission to create easy to use multimedia software (for GNOME!) for artists. Check out Shotwell.

Blogged about Friends of GNOME results.

Simon Phipps left  the GNOME advisory board as he left Sun. Thanks to Simon for all the help over the years. Good luck to him in his future endeavors!

Got access to our Google Checkout account and added Jaap so we can add it to Friends of GNOME. We can receive donations without fees through Google Checkout thanks to our Google Grant.

Blogged about GNOME and Project:Possibility – students are working on GNOME accessibility!

Attended Board meeting. (Didn’t attend the advisory board meeting as I was on a plane.)

Thanked new subscribers and one time donators to Friends of GNOME.

Talked to InitMarketing about GNOME and marketing and how they might be able to help.

Reviewed Juanjo Marin’s GNOME SWOT Analysis which should be published wider soon. Please comment on it when it is.

Worried about GNOME representation at Texas Linux Fest and  Idlelo – looks like all will be good! (Backup plan would be for me to go to Ghana.)

Announced dates for marketing hackfest.

Attended marketing IRC meeting.

Did some paperwork – some to officially get on GNOME’s bank account, expense reports, etc.

Reviewed several press releases. Very glad we have Zonker on board!

Was on multiple threads about the event box – glad we have Larry Cafeiro on board!

Met with Fluendo and Flumotion to talk about GUADEC.

Met with Bharat Kapoor and Paul Cutler to talk about the mobile texting donations campaign, reviewed agreement from company, got legal review on it, setting up a meeting to discuss concerns.

Met every week with Rosanna.

Met with several board members individually. Some to discuss my goals, others finance, and some other topics.

Experimented with Inbox 0. Usually I use my inbox as a todo list, even emailing myself action items. The last two weeks I’ve played with keeping my inbox at 0 at keeping my todo list more uptodate. I think it’s resulted in a different set of things getting done. Things that are more of a pain to add to the todo list than they are todo get done quickly. Those that are a little more involved get moved to my todo list where they are less visible in some way. Maybe I need to spend more time studying and rearranging my todo list! I’m going to continue the experiment for a bit.

Took an extra long weekend to hang out with family from out of town.

Stormy’s Update: Week of March 1st

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation? or my earlier updates.

Followed up on several sponsors for GUADEC. It is looking good from a sponsorship perspective! (Don’t forget to submit your talk proposal!)

Michael Meeks joined the GNOME Foundation Advisory Board representing Novell, replacing Gary Ekker.

Set up some surveys for the board directors to give feedback on each others’ performance.

Way too much time and energy on Foundation List threads. Really liked Dave’s post about consensus driven conversations. Hopefully everyone follows Vincent’s advice and refocuses on making GNOME rock and making the GNOME project a fun place to work.

Short meeting with Jorge Castro who’s been really busy in his new board role!

Board meeting.

Meeting with Rosanna. She’s adding info to the CRM system. I’m trying to help her with Friends of GNOME. Planning a trip to Boston to get on the GNOME Foundation’s bank account.

Looking for someone to help out with the GNOME booth at Texas Linux Fest.

Meeting with Jeffrey Altman about the Meet the Funders event in New York.

Set up some meetings for my trip to San Francisco and Open Mobility next week.

Helped/asked/pushed for some press releases. Hopefully you’ll see some of them soon. (Thanks to Zonker for leading the GNOME press team!)

Wrote thank you emails to people that donated to GNOME.

Generated Google Adwords Campaign Tracking code. Gave it to Jaap and Claus to add to our Friends of GNOME pages.

Sent questions to advisor interviewee for Board of Advisors GNOME Journal interview.

Generated Friends of GNOME February data. Need to blog about it on Foundation blog.

Tried to take a day off to deal with doctors’ appointments and dentist appointments and accountants among other things.

Next week:

  • Trip to San Francisco. Speaking on a panel at Open Mobility.
  • Get the Meet the Funders event planning moving. We’ve scheduled them for May.
  • Continue to work on GUADEC sponsorships.
  • Try to touch base with a few GNOME Board of Advisors folks.
  • Write letter for annual report.
  • Blog about February Friends of GNOME data.