7 Sep 2000 dhd   » (Master)

lilo: It's mostly personal crap and this is not the place for it, a point which I've been trying to make clear to myself with varying degrees of success.

Okay well, there are some things I've been thinking about that might be relevant. On the other hand this might just be me ranting. Feel free to tune out at any point.

First of all:

I used to be fairly heavily involved in underground music, specifically the hardcore punk rock scene. I played in a couple of bands, one of which (WARFARE STATE) managed to release an EP on our bassist's independent label. I did a fanzine ("Fetch the Pliers!", after the INFEST song of course) for several years. I helped organize and did sound for all-ages shows at a local non-profit club. I did a radio show and volunteered at one of the local community radio stations ("Shouting to be Heard" on CHUO 89.1). I housed and fed touring bands, distributed records, fanzines, and anarchist books and pamphlets, etc, etc.

Consciously or not I threw all this away to go hacking. Through the last couple years of university and afterwards I found I spent less and less time on music and my friends from that scene, and more and more time at home tinkering with my GNU/Linux machine or (shudder) at users group meetings or on IRC or whatever. What's worse, now that I have a job at a free software company, I spend almost all of my time at work or with people from work.

It's not like I outgrew it, because I still love the music, and I still have a good time on the rare occasions I make it to gigs. Likewise, my politics have not changed substantially. What happened really was that I transferred all my energy from the punk scene to the "free software scene" (no offence, mbp, but that term makes me cringe somewhat), and from one creative outlet (music, writing) to another (hacking). Then this hobby became a job, and there was nothing else left.

This was a mistake. I miss my old friends. I want my life back.


To put it coarsely, I am fucking fed up with corporate bullshit. It's not as hard to deal with when it's just your job, which is why I've been trying to enforce a greater separation between work and life, but it's hard, because I had expected more from the free software community and, perhaps naïvely, also from free software business.

I'm also a bit disillusioned with the lifestyle I've ended up in. When I was in university I hoped that I'd be able to use my skills to work reasonable hours doing something meaningful, live a modest lifestyle, and have enough extra time and money to do things like, oh, say, write free software and put out punk rock records. Instead I ended up massively in debt, working long hours, stressed to hell, basically running the ratrace I swore to avoid.

I should have seen it coming. But somewhere along the line I lost sight of what it was I really wanted, seduced by the excitement surrounding the big "Open Source" hype and the fact that I could see that I actually had skills that were in demand for the first time in my life, as well as the ability to improve them and get paid at the same time.

There's no real escape from this, I realize. At least, not until I get myself out of debt and have some time to think about what it is I really want. I worry about whether I will still remember this when that day finally comes.


I worry about the future. I share your fascination with technology and your talent for technology. I don't share your faith in it. What good is free software if it's, to put it bluntly, fucking useless, like so much of it is? What good is a global Internet if all it does is alienate people from each other, from their communities, from their means of survival and support? I guess it's a cliché to say that, but I mean it, really. I have seen it first hand.

Silicon Valley has destroyed my faith. The computing industry has turned it from a land of fruit orchards and wetlands to an overpriced, overcrowded, overpolluted, freeway-choked and automobile-infested suburban wasteland from hell. It may lack the iconic black smokestacks and crowded tenements of the last episode of human progress, but it's just as soulless and self-destructive. If this is where the future is being made, I want no part of that future, GPL or no GPL.

At YAPC 19100 there was a great talk about "Perl and Open Source as Appropriate Technology for Global Education". I've heard and said a lot about appropriate technology over the years, and one of the reasons I was so enthusiastic about free software is that I saw it as being inherently "appropriate".

Boy, did I ever get it wrong. Free software is just like any other software, only stripped of some of the elements that make proprietary technologies explicitly evil and inappropriate. Like any other tool, it's the person wielding it that makes the choice.

I very much want to be able to make that choice.

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