Group Cohesion

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calher

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There has been a lot of discussion about which video chat software to
use instead of proprietary ones, but that is not the most important
question in my mind.

The biggest question is: Does it even make sense, as a mere student or
other subordinate member of a group, to demand that the whole group
change its habits? It seems futile and arrogant, and disrespectful to
others.

Even when a group does agree to switch to a new platform, the unity is
never recovered. There are always outliers who remain on the old
medium. This is a problem regardless of software license.

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Connochaetes
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In my case, it is important for me to learn which software I can expect people (many of whom happen to be much more tech-savvy than me, but others not so) to install and use. I don't think it's arrogant, at least if people don't have *any* conferencing software installed yet. If using whatever I prefer is not significantly harder for them than using what I dislike, why should we use what I dislike? I will look into their suggestions and arguments if they have anything they like or dislike.

rinakra
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On the contrary I think it is arrogant to expect students especially to be *required* to use proprietary software.

As a teacher, it is really important that learning tools are *accessible* and that means free and trustworthy.

For example MatLab/Mathematica can easily be replaced by SageMath. This alleviates the need to force students to spend money on abusive software.

Similarly it is really important that we have an alternative to "Zoom" or "Skype" that doesn't require students to sign up for something or even necessarily download a software at all (Jitsi for example). Zoom which my university is using right now limits video conferences of more than 3 students to 40 minutes or less unless you pay them.

I don't understand why people go to great lengths to respect moral concerns about religion, eating meat, etc but concerns, moral or otherwise, about software freedom are not taken seriously.

Also no one is demanding anything necessarily. Nonetheless as a professor or TA running workshops, yes, it makes a lot of sense for me to demand that the whole group use one platform. I would not use the word demand, but the whole group absolutely needs to be using the same platform in order for us to meet online, obviously. In light of that we should choose the most accessible option possible.

Also what do you even mean by "the unity is never recovered"? Unity is needed on a case by case basis.

calher

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On 3/21/20 7:32 PM, name at domain wrote:
> On the contrary I think it is arrogant to expect students especially to
> be *required* to use proprietary software.
>
> As a teacher, it is really important that learning tools are
> *accessible* and that means free and trustworthy.

Unfortunately, these ideas are directly related to our political
beliefs, which are totally alien to the general population.

> Similarly it is really important that we have an alternative to "Zoom"
> or "Skype" that doesn't require students to sign up for something or
> even necessarily download a software at all (Jitsi for example). Zoom
> which my university is using right now limits video conferences of more
> than 3 students to 40 minutes or less unless you pay them.

My class had three teachers and eight students and lasted for three
hours on Zoom.

> I don't understand why people go to great lengths to respect moral
> concerns about religion, eating meat, etc but concerns, moral or
> otherwise, about software freedom are not taken seriously.

It is our pet political issue, like being environmentally friendly.
People shrug these things off.

> Also no one is demanding anything necessarily. Nonetheless as a
> professor or TA running workshops, yes, it makes a lot of sense for me
> to demand that the whole group use one platform. I would not use the
> word demand, but the whole group absolutely needs to be using the same
> platform in order for us to meet online, obviously. In light of that we
> should choose the most accessible option possible.

"But you can install Zoom on Ubuntu," one might say. To outsiders, we
are just weirdos with tinfoil hats.

> Also what do you even mean by "the unity is never recovered"? Unity is
> needed on a case by case basis.

Whenever a group migrates to another medium, there are always people who
stay behind. You can never get people to agree on anything.

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rinakra
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"Whenever a group migrates to another medium, there are always people who
stay behind. You can never get people to agree on anything."

You would be surprised how flexible students get when their grade is on the line. Trust me, no one is staying behind in my classes. They are all learning how to use whatever I tell them they need to learn how to use.

If they are capable of learning proof-based multivariable calculus, they are capable of clicking on a Jitsi link.

I don't see the need to for group cohesion actually. When the need arises for everyone to meet on one platform, they usually do it and if they don't that's a pretty good indication they didn't care about the meeting very much.

All my family and friends contact me over Telegram, for example.

calher

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On 3/22/20 10:45 AM, name at domain wrote:
> I don't see the need to for group cohesion actually. When the need
> arises for everyone to meet on one platform, they usually do it and if
> they don't that's a pretty good indication they didn't care about the
> meeting very much.

I care about my meetings very much, which is why I have Zoom installed
on Trisquel right now.

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Beko
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>I don't understand why people go to great lengths to respect moral concerns >about religion, eating meat, etc but concerns, moral or otherwise, about >software freedom are not taken seriously.

Perhaps we need to make a religion out of this. Not even joking, if the Spaghetti people can have one and Scientology too, why not Librism. I'm sure someone can think of a better name.

calher

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On 3/22/20 7:22 AM, name at domain wrote:
>
> Perhaps we need to make a religion out of this. Not even joking, if the
> Spaghetti people can have one and Scientology too, why not Librism. I'm
> sure someone can think of a better name.

There is already the Emacsites who belong to the Church of Emacs. Using
a free version of vi is permitted.

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Beko
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For real you could go to your school/work and claim this as a religion as long as it is actually filed as a religion in the U.S (assuming where you're from). The school/work would have no choice but to present you with an alternative that would suit your freedom-loving religion.

calher

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On 3/22/20 6:03 PM, name at domain wrote:
> For real you could go to your school/work and claim this as a religion
> as long as it is actually filed as a religion in the U.S (assuming where
> you're from). The school/work would have no choice but to present you
> with an alternative that would suit your freedom-loving religion.

The Church of Emacs is not recognized in the U.S.

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Connochaetes
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>Zoom which my university is using right now limits video conferences of more than 3 students to 40 minutes or less unless you pay them.

I do advise to stay away from Zoom for other reasons, but this particular thing is not a terribly big deal: As soon as the 40 minutes are over and the conference falls apart, you can immediately restart one, from what I hear. Maybe it's a big deal if you have 100 participants and it runs several hours.

rinakra
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It's not a particularly big deal because the University has paid for premium accounts for the professors and TA's. If you are a student and you didn't notice this issue it is because it is being hosted by a professor with a premium account.

But it would be great if universities, especially in countries where the schools have less funding, didn't *have* to pay for that!

It would also be nice if students could zoom with each other or host their own meetings without paying.

I mean yeah, we can make it work, but we can just as well, or we *should* just as well be able to make a free software version work.

boba
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> There has been a lot of discussion about which video chat software to use instead of proprietary ones

Indeed, because contrary to proprietary ones they are not fed on us by huge marketing resources, so we need to share and spread the information about their mere existence, but also about their individual details and about our own experience with them. That does not mean that all existing groups of people on the planet and elsewhere who have decided on a given available tool now suddenly have a compulsory injunction to switch to free alternatives. We need to talk about them if we wish to be able to use them one day. If no one talks about them on this forum, then where?

And yes, all networking tools have powerful network effects, hence the necessity to carefully examine them before adoption.

> Even when a group does agree to switch to a new platform, the unity is never recovered. There are always outliers who remain on the old medium. This is a problem regardless of software license.

True. People massively "migrated" from Mumble to Grumble (or whatever) without asking minority members for their opinion. And before that from you-name-it messaging app to you-name-the-next-one, most often both proprietary. This is common to all platform migration, not specific to proprietary-to-libre switching, and I agree this can come accross as an annoying pattern of tech evolution. Maybe that's where federated protocols will help most.

I sometimes feel that the current all-out push for online-only admininistration has a similar taste of letting people out of the way for the sake of some majority preference.

jxself
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"The biggest question is: Does it even make sense, as a mere student or other subordinate member of a group, to demand that the whole group change its habits? It seems futile and arrogant, and disrespectful to others."

Depends on how the issue is framed. We all know why proprietary software is unethical. If it were solely up to one individual person that *might* be one thing. Although they should be using free software for their own sake and that would still deserve a discussion and push to using free software. But: Programs involving multiple people, like chat software, are even more insidious because it also pressures other people into using the software in order to talk to their friends through the "network effect." If you've already lost one person to proprietary software each additional person's freedom should be fought for even harder to avoid losing any more.

So TL;DR: Yes this is something that should be done. The "habits" of using proprietary software are harmful not to just one person using the software but to other group members as well and so yes - this conversation should happen about what the problems are with subjugating people and how free software is the solution.

rinakra
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Yeah actually in general, if education does move more and more online, we should get together some libre tools and do it very quickly because before you know it there's going to be proprietary software for EVERYTHING and avoiding that is HUGELY important.

This means Xournalpp needs to be polished- it's incredibly unstable,
A full-featured video conferencing software that's easy to download needs to be developed
A libre version of "Blackboard" where we can post people's grades securely needs to be developed.

and we need to be push very hard for the option to use these things and be able to make them available to everyone.

Luckily, Mike Gage who invented "WebWork" (very popular online homework software) and who is a professor at my university is super friendly towards open source mentality although I don't think WebWork has a copy left license. In any case from what I can tell he is always really overwhelmed and people don't help him with that enough.

I would be willing to help anyone who wanted to do these projects but unfortunately I do not know anything about actually making software so I'm pretty useless and feel silly even proposing these things without being able to "do" anything about it.

Nonetheless probably I, and other people, should be a lot more "whiny" about this because it has some pretty bad consequences.

Also at least in the math world, people don't really care about free software but I do not feel like they equate it to tin hats either. It's just a combination of ignorance and laziness on their part. They usually believe it's something for techies and it's not.

chaosmonk

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> A libre version of "Blackboard" where we can post people's grades securely needs to be developed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moodle

My university is already using Moodle.

rinakra
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nice! i didn't know about that

eric23
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I know a school that plans on changing to Canvas from Moodle.

https://github.com/instructure/canvas-lms/wiki

I am a little unsure how a libre program like this can enable a student under an administrator's power. The question who does that server really serve is more complicated even if it is free. What does a student have a right to do with this freedom other than studying the code and recommending changes?

calher

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On 3/22/20 2:53 PM, name at domain wrote:
> The question who does that server really serve is more complicated even
> if it is free. What does a student have a right to do with this freedom
> other than studying the code and recommending changes?

Canvas does not replace any applications one would normally run on their
own workstation. It is a pure service, not a software substitute.

The service runs on the organization's computer. Single individuals do
not and should not change the whole organization's computing at a whim.

However, the JavaScript sent to clients IS the user's concern. It runs
on the user's computer and does nontrivial things. The benefit of the
server software being free is that, usually, the JavaScript sent to
users is (or can easily be) free. So, users can install and modify
their own versions of the service's JavaScript, to make it better for
themselves.

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calher

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On 3/22/20 2:53 PM, name at domain wrote:
> I know a school that plans on changing to Canvas from Moodle.

Please get involved with this IMMEDIATELY. The commercially-supported
version which schools use is NOT under a free license, as the Community
Edition is. Please convince them to use the Community Edition!

Even then, the Community Edition may need some tweaks, like not
demanding that users have Flash installed. Perhaps that has changed in
the years since I used it.

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chaosmonk

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>> I know a school that plans on changing to Canvas from Moodle.

> Please get involved with this IMMEDIATELY. The commercially-supported
> version which schools use is NOT under a free license, as the Community
> Edition is. Please convince them to use the Community Edition!

It seems that Moodle [sells hosting, and that some third parties sell support[1], but I don't see any mention of a "community edition" or any indication that there is a non-free version of Moodle. Can you link to some information on this?

[1]: https://moodle.com/pricing/

calher

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On 3/22/20 6:50 PM, name at domain wrote:
>>> I know a school that plans on changing ***to Canvas*** from Moodle.

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calher

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On 3/22/20 10:54 AM, name at domain wrote:
> A libre version of "Blackboard" where we can post people's grades
> securely needs to be developed.

Moodle, or a fork of Canvas LMS Community Edition.

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Caleb Herbert
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