How can I, a public university employee at the bottom of the totem pole, start working today to try and end the University's dependence (read: wholly ensnared state) on proprietary, corporate owned/backed software?

Anybody know of any orgs that work on this, or have any experience fighting this kind of thing?

It makes for a very depressing state of affairs, being so reliant on these capitalist structures.

@gabe I need this as well. My field has grown dependent on Wolfram Inc., and Wolfram knows it. In an extortion(-like?) scheme they increased the price of a license by 300% for Mathematica. We all need to get out from this.

@gumcap Yeah, it's really an abusive relationship, ed institutions and corporate software outfits. My department shells out thousands upon thousands of dollars to companies like Adobe, Microsoft, and various other smaller companies to get access to what is almost always inferior software compared to FLOSS alternatives.

Frustratin' for sure.


My approach is to seek out and offer mutual support to those already using free software as free software. Haven't gotten much further than that ...

@gabe Use and promote alternatives. Subversively, if necessary.

Is there some software in particular?

@kdsch I work in web dev for a college at my University, with most decisions being made by people one or two steps removed from the actual labor.

Our setup is like this:
Windows servers running MSSQL, and using Adobe Experience Manager as our main CMS, and using Adobe ColdFusion as our main programming language for our web applications.

Above that, is the University which is also heavily reliant on the Microsoft/Windows ecosystem, which somewhat forces all sub-departments to do the same.


@gabe 😱 Oy, an exemplar of hierarchy sucking. I feel similar tensions in my job, but it's driven by "market demand" (profitability) for shitty (yet open source) technologies.

Crazy ideas:

A free-to-proprietary transpiler. Write your webapps in whatever, compile them to ColdFusion. Or port existing code to free languages that can interface with the current stack. Then it'll be easier to switch to a free stack when pressure mounts.

Find security holes in the current stack. Make it a PR problem.

@gabe It would be really interesting to do some case studies of organizations that switched from proprietary to free software. Especially, what circumstances caused them to do so. I'm sure somebody has done this already.

@gabe I'm biased, but I'd say through organizing with your other coworkers through the Industrial Workers of the World

@olivebranch I need to look into this. We have a fledgling (and largely powerless) campus workers union that's trying to get started, but here in the deep south of the US there's little room for workers protecting themselves.

@gabe I would be more than glad to talk more about the union or answer any questions as well

@gabe institutions are difficult to just uproot and change. i recommend starting the conversation first, just casually with higher ups, letting them know your interests and reasoning. maybe putting a strong emphasis on long term cost cuts, as well as pointing out shifts in cultural relevance.

if things go well, arranging a meeting with higher ups, departments heads and even board of directors, would be next, and outlining a plan to demonstrate a proof of concept.

the concern on this path is political, as well as philosophical, and monetary relevance. i.e., will they even care, or will they find the budget to transition.

i believe that you'll find an audience and an ear where it matters, but you'll have to follow the official institution practices for organizing such a change.

if they are resistant, you could even possibly go as far as to use underground channels to build interest, not necessarily /hype/ though

@tsu Thank you! This is very helpful, albeit quite daunting.

I guess it's the same as most other things: just have to do the work and be patient.

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