When I first encountered free software in 1999, I was amazed by it’s creative power. The power of collaboration coupled with the power of a truly free marked seemed the future to me.
Back then when Linux was a geek’s OS and rarely taken seriously except as web servers, and Wikipedia was nowhere, “proprietary” seemed to trump “free” in most any arena. The push for marked dominance by secrecy, copyrights and patents was mounting with companies like Microsoft and Oracle carrying the torch of Mammon. Gordon Gekko’s legendary words, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.” carried the American dream powered by egoism forward. But could something work even better? Free Software sparked a belief in me that collaboration, sharing and caring could indeed turn the tables.
My sentiment is well captured by Dan Pink in his TED talk. The endless possibilities of the Ant Hill Innovation captured my heart, my motivation. I decided to pitch in.
I got into the Free Software business in 2000. In 2004, my wife and I started FreeCode Norway (English link) and FreeCode International to help in the fight for freedom and the fight against vendor lock-ins. Being an idealist, I wanted to help make the dent in history by forwarding the ideals of freedom, creativity and human potential through collaboration.
For ten years I have been at the forefront of a battle for freedom. I went from a protector of “intellectual property” to a “copyright abolitionist“. I even rebelled against my own religion. The Church of Scientology had long since positioned itself as the main copyright terrorist on the Internet with it’s harassment tactics against anyone daring to challenge its monopoly on freedom.
I followed my heart, did countless of talks, speeches, seminars and media appearances in an effort to forward the ideology of a culture based on sharing. We helped African countries to see the light and set up FreeCode in Tanzania and Kenya, had meetings with governmental officials and got the media’s attention in Africa as well as in Russia, Ukraine and Norway.
The ideological war was fought in the area of software and it’s success gave birth to phenomenas like Wikipedia and Wikileaks. The marks of freedom was left on many parts of our society. Hell, even Microsoft started to embrace free software. Free software conquered the Internet infrastructure, started moving up the stack and is now practically everywhere.
The conflict loving media used to cherish the David against Goliath battle of Geeks against the Establishment. But as David won out, not by vanquishing the proprietary but by its ideology slowly being absorbed by the enemy, the media interest kept sliding.
To the point where I now feel that The War Is Over.
It’s kind of sad really, as I love to have something to truly fight for. Freedom, justice and the common good. I’m not motivated by the next buck. I am motivated by making a dent in history for the common good. Oh, well. Got to find another Hill to conquer.
While the war I engaged in a decade ago may be over, there is always another Hill, and FreeCode, me and the ideology of sharing and caring will morph into a new identity to make a jab at Mammon from another angle. Because there is no rest until… Well, forget “until” – as any goal toward a common good will do – as the pleasure lies not in attaining the goal but in the journey itself. One only needs to remember to enjoy the game. Immensely.