Frequently asked questions

Who pays for the FFII?

Who pays for Linux? Welcome to 2007, the age of the community, in which millions of people work together to achieve great things. To be accurate, we live from membership fees, from individual donations, from donations from small to medium businesses, from grants from NGOs, and so on. We don't hire permanent staff except in very rare cases, because volunteers work more accurately and more independently. We spend the little money we have on travel, phone calls, systems, and events.

Why the strange name? Can I say "Fifi"?

A rose by any other name smells as sweet. FFII is much nicer than "Förderverein für eine Freie Informationelle Infrastruktur". Yes, you can say "Fifi", but it's an old joke, and not that funny any longer. We've thought about giving the FFII a nicer more web2dotzero name but then again, we're not about marketing, but about substance.

Why is the www.ffii.org so sucky? Why can't you make it pretty like forum.ffii.org?

A real FFII activist does not like pretty things. He or she wakes up at 4am, jogs 10km, eats a light breakfast of muesli and walnuts, then practices some foreign languages before reviewing the latest software patents newsfeeds and writing a scathing blog entry about how lawyers are sucking the lifeblood from the digital economy. She, or he, then launches a new petition, collects ten thousand signatures before lunch, makes the Slashdot front page with an article about a cluster of dancing robots that can predict weather patters (which he or she developed the weekend before). As a real job, the activist works in a bicycle shop and promotes ecological personal transport. Trust me, www.ffii.org is the very last thing on the real FFII activist's mind.

So how come this site is pretty then? Are you not just contradicting yourself?

Two things. One: not all FFII activists get up at four in the morning. Two: don't believe everything you read online. This site is pretty because it's made by people who spend enormous energy to avoid having to answer questions over and over. Some FFII activists are really lazy and will do a lot of work to safeguard that.

OK, how do I help the global digital revolution?

Relax, it's not a war, just a slow digestion of the industrial economy by an aware, educated, and highly-connected digital society. You can help in lots of ways, most of which are explained as HowTos on this site. Read them, try them, but don't take them too seriously, you probably have better ideas, even very different ideas. Diversity is good, so think for yourself.

Why are software patents so important?

Thanks for finally asking a serious question. When all the FUD has been stripped away, the only thing really protecting the industrial age monopolies (phone companies, Disney, Microsoft, etc.) from full competition are laws that prohibit real and fair competition. Patents are finally the only weapon old Software has against its small (mostly FOSS) competitors. But software patents also give the lawyers a way to eat up the energy of the software economy, and bring it down. Patents are about lawyers eating what engineers make.

All patents? Or just software patents?

There are problems throughout the patent system. But in software, they are inescapable and dramatically more dangerous than in, say, ship building. Besides, we like software and consider it to be special. Software is not just an industry but a raw material for many other sectors, and when it's locked down by patents, society suffers. This is a very bad time in history to be chopping down the tree of knowledge just to chuck a couple more logs on the fire. In very simple terms, all patents have a cost/benefit, and when applied to software the benefit to society falls to zero and the cost increases to infinity. Not good.

Who runs the FFII?

The FFII is run by its members, and the board, who the members choose. The members choose new members (by majority vote) during general assemblies1, which we hold every year. If you are a power-mad tyrant, you can even stand for president.

What's the difference between the FFII and, say, the Free Software Foundation?

Philosophically, we're close. Consider the FFII to be a collaboration of intellectuals who produce analysis and legislation and activism, much as the FSF is a collaboration of intellectuals who produce software. We're campaigners, writers, analysts, not programmers. But we work on the same principles of free (libre) sharing (of information), of ecosystems where to get you must also give, of high moral values and ethics based on the principle of non-discrimination, and so on. Note that many, many free software developers are FFII members.

What's the relationship between an FFII affiliate and the FFII itself?

The mother organisation (FFII.org, as it's sometimes called) holds the trademarks (yes, we do care about the name), the main domain names, and has some funding. Our affiliates are independent associations with compatible mission that have signed an affiliation agreement with us. The affiliate's members become our members, automatically and without paying anything (but our members do not become members of the affiliate, this is not a swap but an umbrella).

What's the advantage of affiliation?

Affiliates get access to the huge, diverse, experienced FFII network. This makes them smarter, faster, and more successful. FFII.org also funds affiliates that need it, when we can afford it, and we help them with tools, techniques, and so on. The world we live in has no borders, and our activism also has no borders. Our most successful projects are those where we work locally but organise globally. Affiliation is therefore a very big part of building the future we want.

Can the FFII offer me a job?


How do I pay for the time I spend on FFII matters?

Not our problem anymore than it's Wikipedia's problem to pay for the time people spend on editing articles. If you don't have some way to live, either a job, a grant, or some savings, do not commit to more activism than you can handle safely. People do burnout if they work too much without some kind of economic framework. It's ugly. In some very exceptional cases, the FFII will look to fund individuals who do extraordinary work for the association, at least for a time.

How do I convince my company to join the FFII?

Don't bother. Instead, explain to them the benefits of joining Esoma, our association for businesses in the software market. Esoma is an FFII affiliate, so all Esoma members automatically become FFII members. But Esoma is much better suited for companies - it offers a range of services, and has a professional staff.

Should I try to recruit people?

Of course. The FFII like all volunteer efforts always needs new hands. Please, try to say nice things about us. Sometimes the people we're trying to help (as in, explain why their attempts to lobby for an insanely unjust law or report is doomed to failure) say unkind things about us. We've been called "anti-property communist anarchists" and worse. It hurts…. OK, to be honest it hurts because we laugh so much. Where was I… oh, yes, recruitment. Yes, go for it, but you don't get any prize except some non-transferable non-exchangeable 'points'.

How do I contribute to this site?

Normally, if the permissions thing works, you register with Wikidot and then you can submit new articles, howtos, etc. As author you can edit and improve them. You can also join the site and help moderate, and fix pages.


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  • Pieter Hintjens <gro.iiff|hreteip#gro.iiff|hreteip>