Facebook is not very popular among free software hackers. When I announced my Facebook page on identi.ca (see here) I got a few replies suggesting it was odd for me to use Facebook.
Indeed there are many good reasons why Facebook should be avoided: it is a centralized and proprietary service that is not very privacy-friendly. But the truth is that lots of people are using it (even Debian developers, can you recognize them on the picture?) and some are using their Facebook news feed as their main source of news.
You might wonder how many persons that represents, so here are the figures: the Debian Facebook page has 48,361 fans and the Ubuntu one has 247,932 fans. That’s right, an announce put on the Debian facebook page would reach more persons than the most popular announce list that Debian is currently running (firstname.lastname@example.org has about 29,000 subscribers). Unfortunately that Debian Facebook page is empty and I don’t even know who the administrator is. The Ubuntu page on the contrary is properly configured to relay news from The Fridge and Jono Bacon is posting some custom updates from time to time.
Debian contributors regularly mention “world domination” as the ultimate goal of the universal operating system (I even feature this in my blog header banner! :-)). But working towards world domination means — in my opinion — that we should communicate our ideals of freedom to as many people as possible, even if they are using a service that we don’t want to promote.
The Debian social contract acknowledges that some users have to use non-free software and we provide the non-free section for them. In the same spirit, I believe we must have a presence on Facebook. That does not mean that we endorse Facebook, and we should surely promote Joindiaspora once it’s usable. But in the mean time we should reach out to Facebook users and allow them to follow us with the platform of their choice.
That’s the choice I recently made when I decided to setup a public facebook page featuring my free software work, my blog and my book. So if you are a Facebook user, click here to visit my page and click on “Like” if you want to follow this blog in your Facebook news feed. I also share interesting Debian or Ubuntu related articles that I discover while reading my RSS subscriptions.
Below are the usual facebook widgets for the 3 pages quoted in this article (they might not show up if you read this article through an RSS feed):
Debian contributors regularly mention “world domination” as the ultimate goal of the universal operating system
I would say it’s a difficult goal.
– No chromium-browser in Squeeze
– No Plone in Squeeze
– No Hadoop in Squeeze
– Iceweasel 3.5 in Squeeze (EOL in upstream)
It’s really disheartening to see this situation.
It is unfortunate that none of chromium, plone, hadoop could meet Debian’s strict quality requirements in time.
Fresh Backports will surely be quickly avalaible.
Stefano Zacchiroli says
I suggest a very nice and very relevant reading to this discussion:
“Free Software Needs Free Tools”
Stefano Zacchiroli says
I’ve posted a more elaborated reply at http://upsilon.cc/~zack/blog/posts/2010/09/yes_we_can/
Thanks for having triggered this discussion!
Raphaël Hertzog says
I replied on your blog but I’m reposting my answer here too:
I completely share what Mako said but when I work as a debian-publicity team member, my goal is to spread the world to as many people as possible without annoying them (i.e. no spam). That’s not time that I want to spend on working on a free alternative to Facebook and I’m glad that some people are already doing it (Joindiaspora that I mentioned, GNU social maybe too).
I’m not suggesting to promote Facebook on http://www.debian.org or whatever, I just want that Facebook users who are looking up Debian in Facebook find something more useful to them than an empty wall. It doesn’t require to use the service on a regular basis, but just to setup the proper “RSS to Facebook” gateway.
But to get control of that Facebook page, the person who is going to contact Facebook needs to claim that he is more legitimate in representing the Debian project than the current person who owns it (to the best of our knowledge).
Adnan Hodzic says
Facebook may not have any other value then it’s huge (500 million) user base, and that should definitely be used to your own advantage.
We’ve tried using Facebook to promote DebConf11 (http://bit.ly/bwn8hE ) since Facebook is widely popular on Balkans, but I’m just not sure it’s going that well 🙂
Why? Even though it’s widely popular its target audience may just be wrong, since Facebook is even used by the people who don’t even use computers.
But in general I do agree with you and should be as one of the marketing methods.
Stimpson J. Cat says
Freedom cannot be achieved with isolation
Any tool or tecnology well used should be good (not being dependent of it)
I would really like to go for Debian 6.0 but I will be using unsupported PPA for Chromium….have to have it. 🙂
No need to use a PPA, when you can use squeeze-backports!
Olly Betts says
The number of direct subscribers to debian-announce only really gives you a lower bound on how many people a message sent there will reach, since there a growing number of mailing list archive sites which allow you to follow mailing lists you aren’t directly subscribed to in various other ways.
For example, I read debian-announce via NNTP at gmane.org, which also allows browsing on the web or subscribing to an RSS feed of posts:
(Incidentally, Gmane is Free Software.)
“I would really like to go for Debian 6.0 but I will be using unsupported PPA for Chromium….have to have it. :)”
No need for that either just add the ubuntu 10.04 repositories and pin it down in /etc/apt/preferences
Raphaël Hertzog says
If someone uses Debian, he should not add ubuntu repositories in his sources.list… anyone running Debian 6.0 Squeeze can pick up chromium from unstable currently. And after the release, it could be taken from backports.debian.org since several persons volunteered to take care of a backport.
Adding ubuntu repositories don’t hurt anything as long as you pin it lower than “squeeze” or “testing” and only cherry pick packages you need. And, yes backports is preferred but backports will have to wait.