Here are some broad themes I can think of that are worth discussing during the Summit.
Though providing FreedomBox as a consumer electronics device has significantly brought down barriers to adoption, setting it up on the home network is still the most significant challenge faced by new users. We should carefully consider new user feedback and use it to guide our solution for improving reachability.
I want to discuss our current sources of funding for the project and discuss Plan B.
Also want to discuss about the bus factor especially for the roles being played by core developers.
The second edition of our HSK
The number of apps supported by FreedomBox is growing. We cannot limit ourselves to basic apps when more feature-rich and popular alternatives are available. This requires us to upgrade the hardware that FreedomBox HSKs run on. We made good progress in 2020 supporting new ARM64 SBCs that are significantly more powerful than our Pioneer HSK. We should start planning for the next edition of FreedomBox home server appliance.
Growing our community
FOSS projects sometimes cannot handle their own success. As the number of contributors grows, the existing core developers will need to shift their focus from development and do things that have more long-term value.
In the past, I mentioned finding people to play specialized roles in the project. Though I don’t see the need for a 1-to-1 mapping between persons and roles, we should still focus on filling all the roles.
Initiatives like “Contributor Invites” need to be restarted. Barriers to entry for contribution should be identified and lowered.
Having popular apps is a big driver for adoption of FreedomBox. It seems like the community is currently asking for three major apps:
- Video-conferencing solutions
- Office suite + Drive (NextCloud, CryptPad)
- Email server
Given my time constraints and multiple responsibilities, I don’t see myself being able to fully develop even one of the above in the next year. We need more people developing apps for the FreedomBox platform.
I have recently posted about some apps that are low-hanging fruits. I mentioned in a previous Summit that the current set of 3 core developers cannot possibly maintain 50 apps. We did significant work on the app development framework in 2020 but didn’t add many apps. This is a good thing. Having dedicated app maintainers frees up core developers to focus on framework development and non-functional requirements like quality and security.
FreedomBox’s visibility has suffered in 2020. I hope we can do better in 2021. Lack of marketing is one of the biggest problems for free software in general and FreedomBox is no exception to the rule. This is a horizontal effort that can put a significant dent in many other problems.
Successful free software projects like Mastodon owe a lot of their success to the contributions of artists and UI developers. FreedomBox basically has two selling points - privacy and user-friendliness. We need to invest just as much in the latter.
Debian Pure Blend status
FreedomBox being a Debian Pure Blend is an incidental technical decision and not a project goal (as clarified by Eben Moglen in last year’s Summit). We should do a pros and cons evaluation of being a Debian Pure Blend to see if it’s still worth it.
We have to ask ourselves some difficult questions like whether the enormous (and sometimes Sisyphean) effort of packaging an application like NextCloud or Pleroma for Debian is really adding value to FreedomBox users.
- Creating a website on FreedomBox is still beyond the capability of most non-technical users, mostly because of Linux filesystem permissions. Creating an easy process to upload website files or adding an app like WordPress can solve this problem.
- We collect no telemetry of any sort from FreedomBox devices. In addition to the annual Summit, we should find a way of collecting and acting upon the feedback being provided voluntarily by the community throughout the year. Maybe we would have paid more attention to video conferencing on FreedomBox if we did this.