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S04 E03 – Self Hosting IT

In this episode Laura and Doug start chatting about Self Hosting IT and end up talking politics, perspectives, behaviour and more.

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Important note: this is a lightly-edited AI transcription of the conversation. If you require verbatim quotations, please double-check against the audio!

Laura Hilliger: [00:00:23] Welcome to the Tao of WAO, a podcast about the intersection of technology, society and internet culture with a dash of philosophy and art for good measure. I’m Laura Hilliger.

Doug Belshaw: [00:00:33] And I’m Doug Belshaw. This podcast season is currently partially funded. You can support this podcast and other We are open projects and products at open You could just donate a pound to get us a coffee, although I don’t know where you’d get a coffee for a pound. Thank you. To our current backers you’re very much appreciated. And today it’s just us with no guest.

Laura Hilliger: [00:00:57] It is just us. What are we going to talk about?

Doug Belshaw: [00:01:01] Well, the thing I want to talk about first is that there’s literally a website dedicated to not buying the microphone that I am using to record this podcast.

Laura Hilliger: [00:01:12] Oh one website. There’s a lot of websites. Maybe there are also some good be.

Doug Belshaw: [00:01:16] Called don’t buy a

Laura Hilliger: [00:01:19] Oh really?

Doug Belshaw: [00:01:19] Yeah.

Laura Hilliger: [00:01:22] And do they make good arguments? Do you need a new mic?

Doug Belshaw: [00:01:27] Well, I bought this microphone and I bought one for Dave Barnes when we did the previous podcast I used to do today in digital education and this website. It’s don’t buy a It’s called a blue Yeti microphone. The Blue Yeti is a popular microphone marketed to be much more than what it is For the money. You can get something that sounds so much better. Here’s why the Yeti isn’t so great and then recommends like ones that cost loads of money. So you’ve got one that costs loads of money. And I’m sure you sound much better than me, but I’d love some feedback from people who listen to this as to how much better Laura sounds than me and whether I need to shell out on a professional microphone.

Laura Hilliger: [00:02:07] I don’t think this was so super expensive. I mean, it is a professional microphone, but I mean, I don’t know. I guess it depends on what you define as loads of money for a thing that is tax deductible.

Doug Belshaw: [00:02:24] I spent about what, 50, £50 on this?

Laura Hilliger: [00:02:27] Okay. Well, mine is worth twice as much.

Doug Belshaw: [00:02:31] Right. Well, maybe I need. I’ve had this for, what, ten years maybe?

Laura Hilliger: [00:02:36] Oh, well, that probably makes a bit of a difference. Although I don’t know how much audio equipment has advanced in the past ten years. And, you know, I mean, it looks pretty. My mic looks.

Doug Belshaw: [00:02:49] The feedback I want from people listening is, do I need to get a new microphone? It’s fine just to say, yes, I will buy a new microphone. But yeah, I can’t believe there’s a website literally focussed on my microphone which I think is unreasonable. But there we go.

Laura Hilliger: [00:03:05] So we’re not talking about microphones today.

Doug Belshaw: [00:03:08] No, no, no, no, no, no.

Laura Hilliger: [00:03:09] What are we. What are we talking about?

Doug Belshaw: [00:03:13] We’re talking about self-hosting it. And I wrote a blog post yesterday. Obviously I’ve got lots of blog posts, but this particular one was me going out in the sunshine in my garden, and I’ve got this Android based big e-reader, like a ten inch e-reader, and I can connect an external kind of Bluetooth keyboard to it. So for the first time in the Bright sunshine, my wife came out and sat next to me with her MacBook Pro, which he could just see the screen of. And I bashed out this blog post and it’s entitled Video Conferencing may be a technology, but so is Sociocracy. And basically it’s all about as you know, we decided yesterday in our we’re open meeting not to Self-host Jitsi, which is a open source video conferencing solution. And I thought that well, we thought we might talk about this because everyone assumes that we’re called, we are open and therefore we only use open source technology. So I thought we could explore that a little bit.

Laura Hilliger: [00:04:14] Yeah, we can talk about how to host your own technologies, some of the pitfalls that people run into, and we have some good advice on if you’re not looking to mess around with your own servers. We know a couple of co ops that do some great architecture work for you, so we can talk a little bit about that. And yeah, I mean, let’s. Let’s let’s have a little bit of a chat about what openness actually means, because I think we get this a lot. People always assume that we’re only going to ever recommend open source technology. Openness is not just about open technologies. And while we do try to default to open tech whenever possible, I think I think sometimes in a professional work environment, it’s a little bit tricky. So I know, Doug, you have a Linux computer and.

Doug Belshaw: [00:05:09] I have several Linux computers.

Laura Hilliger: [00:05:10] Several Linux computers, and I, you and I have discussed this and actually thought about it multiple times. I have a MacBook Pro actually, Um, and I think, I don’t know, I think sometimes getting stuff done on behalf of the greater good is kind of where I lean on the open technology.

Doug Belshaw: [00:05:32] Yeah, I think we have similar views, but we’re at slightly different parts of the spectrum and I think part of it is I enjoy tinkering and if you I don’t enjoy being a systems administrator, but I enjoy tinkering. So for example, in the last month I have tried to replace my home broadband with a 5G router. I’ve got a mesh network, I’ve installed Asahi Linux on a mac mini M1. Um, I’ve been trying to Self-host Jitsi, which we’ll talk a little bit about all that kind of stuff, but that just comes from my. I enjoy tinkering with tech software, hardware or whatever, but I think we’ve both got the same values in terms of. We want tech to be decentralised. We don’t particularly like big tech, whatever. Um, so six years ago when we set up the co-op, we did actually try our best not to use, for example, Google what’s now called Google workspace, didn’t we.

Laura Hilliger: [00:06:33] Yeah, we had a we used Nextcloud in the beginning. Um. Yeah, we really tried to use open tech for everything, but that’s also it’s also hard when you’re working with clients that don’t have the same systems. So when you work with a lot of the organisations that we work with are, are, you know, they’re spread out all over the world and they use other systems and we need to kind of be able to plug into them. So I think that’s part of the puzzle. But, but also what you just said there about not really enjoying being a systems administrator. I don’t enjoy being a systems administrator. I do enjoy tinkering to a degree. But generally when I’m tinkering, it’s not with tech. So like I have a lathe in my workshop and I can lathe on some wood. I can’t do anything with the rounded wood that I’ve Lathed I don’t know what that.

Doug Belshaw: [00:07:28] But you’ve got lots of rounded wood.

Laura Hilliger: [00:07:30] I do have a lot of rounded wood.

Doug Belshaw: [00:07:32] But you know, if your, if your value is like we should decentralise stuff, we should use more open source. It doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to use all open source things. I remember when we worked at Mozilla, um, someone called Gunnar who did a lot of facilitation. His company. Which aspiration tech is it? They at that time used all open source stuff. And I remember one of the people he worked with finding that extremely difficult. Um, so yeah, I mean, open source stuff can be amazing. And the new version of Jitsi is great. Um, nextcloud now is fantastic, but it takes a while sometimes for the UX side of things to get up to scratch, which is, which is interesting. Another thing I wanted to mention, you know, one article that I still point people towards when they say, Well, what do you mean if you don’t mean like open source is? There was an article called 50 Shades of Open, which was published about six years ago now. Um, and it’s not really 50 different types of openness, but it’s like openness means rights, it means access, it means use means transparency means participation means enabling other people to be open. It means being philosophically aligned with open principles, all the kind of stuff that you do as part of your open org ambassador work, right?

Laura Hilliger: [00:08:57] Yeah, we’re actually going to be talking about my most recent book on this podcast sometime in the near future. It’s called Opening Up Social Impact Organisations. I read it together with another open advocate. Heather, Listen. Hi Heather. If you’re listening and that’s really all about sort of the cognitive and behavioural side of open, so, you know, disconnected from open data or open tech, there’s a way of being in the open source world that that’s really about mindset and behaviours. And that book is all about how you kind of bring those mindsets into non-profit humanitarian, non-governmental organisations. And, and we have, we also have on learn with we have our course what we talk about when we talk about open and I mean, you know, and maybe you know, listeners who have been listening for a while know that when we talk about Open, it’s actually pretty rare that we’re talking specifically about open code or open tech. So I guess this episode is a chance for us to geek out about open tech stuff.

Doug Belshaw: [00:10:07] Well, it is. Yeah. And maybe we can go through some of the things that maybe we, we do host ourselves. Um, so for example, etherpad, which we’re using for our show notes right now. We’ve used this for over a decade. We used it in Mozilla. You might have used it before Mozilla, um, but certainly Mozilla Foundation back in the day and even the corporation was pretty much run off etherpad linked to one another. And I think you’ve still got some of them backed up from.

Laura Hilliger: [00:10:36] From that. I do. I am famous for being able to find old aether pads. And there’s some there’s some new open tech in the area of of Aether pad that I’ve seen lately. That’s pretty cool. Like Hej Doc, which is a markdown based sort of aether pad kind of tool.

Doug Belshaw: [00:10:56] Yeah. And the bonfire team that I’ve been working with outside the Corp, they use crypt pad as well. Yeah, there’s loads of these things when you start looking into it and it’s about just trying things out and seeing what you could potentially use things for. I think sometimes people are just like, Oh, I’m going to replace Google Calendar with proton mail calendar and I’m going to replace, I don’t know, outlook with this other email provider or whatever. And sometimes it’s not about that. Sometimes it’s about sometimes open source technology is just different and allows you to do different things than you could previously. So like there’s a French organisation called Framasoft Framasoft, I don’t know how you pronounce it, and they just have lots of little weird things, like they’ve got an events platform which ostensibly allows you to get off Facebook events, but it also runs Activitypub. So it’s like a decentralised federated way of doing events and it just enables like I remember back in 2007 and 2008, there just being loads of weird web2 things and all of those ideas haven’t gone away. It’s just the big tech. Isn’t great innovation. It buys innovation and then locks it up.

Laura Hilliger: [00:12:15] I think the thing is about the open tools is, you know, stuff like etherpad. There are some definite benefits to using etherpad for note taking and internally in small groups and organisations you know, but there’s also like etherpad is, is something that requires quite a bit of technical support. So like if you want to host it yourself and if you want to have some of the bells and whistles that something like Google Docs has, you need to set that up yourself. You need to use plug ins, you have to figure out how, how to actually do the server maintenance to be able to have some of those features. And I think a lot of open source tools work like that, like there’s mods or plug ins or modules and it’s a shame that some things are not easier for people who are maybe not quite as nerdy as as we are because.

Doug Belshaw: [00:13:09] A lot of power and I think, you know, when people talk about UX or the UX of this isn’t as good or whatever I think for and people use the example of Apple. I was looking at apples Apple cash thing that day, which is a new way of being able to pay one another or whatever. And what they do an amazing job of is the mental model and being able to understand what it is that you’re doing and having really powerful defaults that lots of people don’t really stray from. But the the default is really powerful. Open source stuff tends to be about serving lots of different people’s needs. So accessibility is baked in often, um, the ability to change it for your own purposes. But sometimes the default is very niche and doesn’t particularly suit your your purposes. Um, we use wiki JS for our our wiki at wiki open europacorp and that is great. That is absolutely fantastic. But I had to learn how to install Docker to be able to on Digital ocean to be able to do that. And I remember having this conversation my son like how did you learn this, this stuff? Well I’ve never done a computer science course, I’ve never done it. And I’m not like advanced in any way, but I know enough networking, I know enough like server stuff because I’m interested. And to be honest, back in the day you had to learn the command line to play games. So that’s where it all comes from.

Laura Hilliger: [00:14:41] Yeah, I think, I think there’s definite power to some of the some of the more nerdy kinds of skills that allow you to self host and to not be afraid when you break things Like I, you know, I’ve often said in my career I’m not a developer, but I know how to code because I don’t think of myself as a developer at all. But I understand enough code to be able to make things work for me. Um.

Doug Belshaw: [00:15:07] Like mash things together, kind of mash.

Laura Hilliger: [00:15:09] Things together and, you know, copy paste and know, you know, oh, that should be a semicolon. That, that sort of level, right? Um, but there’s, you know, any time I tinker around with my own websites, I always wonder how people have websites without being or even even like WordPress, like without knowing just the most basic HTML CSS because I never just use whatever the, the, the GUI is the graphical user interface for any tool. I always switch like I do it in the tool first, but then I am always finding that I have to switch to a to a mode or I’m irritated because I can’t figure out where the code mode is.

Doug Belshaw: [00:15:51] I’ve just thought that some people might be listening to this who are like, they’re talking about Self-hosting, but they’re not really Self-hosting They’re getting someone else to sell. They’re getting someone else to host open source software. So yes, technically Self-hosting would be to host it on your own server underneath your desk, on your own internet connection. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about having digitalocean droplets or getting web architects, which is another corp in our network to host badge wiki, for example, that kind of thing. Um, so it’s almost like a spectrum really from what’s called software as a service. So you, you don’t even think about where it’s hosted. You click a few buttons and you’ve got a Trello account. Um, and at the other end is that, yeah, I’m going to spin up my own thing on my own device, on my own connection, and we’re talking about something in between, which is more I’m going to use open source software and install that on a server which I have paid for, but I don’t have physical access to.

Laura Hilliger: [00:16:51] Right. So you think people were really do you think people were really sitting there being like, you’re not really self-hosting where I.

Doug Belshaw: [00:16:58] Have been corrected on the fediverse many times the term Self-hosting Yes.

Laura Hilliger: [00:17:03] Yeah, that’s.

Doug Belshaw: [00:17:05] So just to be absolutely clear. Yes. Um, all right then. So in an ideal world, so a few years ago I got rid of my Gmail account. You recently got rid of your Gmail account, I think.

Laura Hilliger: [00:17:19] Personal know I transferred.

Doug Belshaw: [00:17:22] You transferred from a Yeah. Okay. So I transferred to Protonmail. So in a perfect world, I would like to use lots of different organisations stuff for both my personal and co-op. Tech choices, but realistically. I don’t.

Laura Hilliger: [00:17:44] Yeah. Sometimes I feel like I’m strong armed into some of my tech choices. Like it’s not even it’s not really even a choice, you know, like. So my first Gmail account was invitation. I was invited to use Gmail back when, you know, in the before times like the very before times when you had to have an invite to Gmail. Um, and I, you know, I started my four way foray into the world of tech and art and culture, you know, with using Gmail and at this point. 18 years later or whatever. Yeah. You know, at this point, actually. Getting my data out. I guess there’s maybe there’s an argument to be made that I could just throw away the last 20 years worth of data. But I feel weird about that. I’m a digital pack rat. I’m totally a data hoarder. I don’t delete my data. I mean, I delete data for stuff that I know I’m not going to use. And I’m very good about, like cleaning up my data footprint.

Doug Belshaw: [00:18:53] So your Twitter account goes back literally to when you signed up?

Laura Hilliger: [00:18:56] No. Okay. That’s Twitter is the one place where I do a regular delete.

Doug Belshaw: [00:19:02] Do you do it manually or is it on a rolling, auto thing.

Laura Hilliger: [00:19:06] I do it manually and I think I have it on my I have a calendar like a calendar reminder once a year maybe. Okay. And I also use like I actively remove my data from data brokers. So there’s a site called what’s it called up?

Laura Hilliger: [00:19:29] I’ll have to look it up.

Laura Hilliger: [00:19:32] Optery, it’s called. Okay.

Doug Belshaw: [00:19:34] Well, I’ll have to stick that in the show notes.

Laura Hilliger: [00:19:36] Yeah. Um. So I’m so I’m active on that. But like, personal communications or personal and professional communications where I’m interacting with another real life human being over the Internet, I keep those communications and I, like, refer back to them. So switching from email would mean like switching from Gmail would mean that I would have 18 years worth of communications that I can no longer search.

Doug Belshaw: [00:20:03] Yeah, it’s difficult. And there’s all of those kind of considerations. And in a in an ideal world, I think from some people’s point of view and I guess mine to some degree, you’d have your own email not just paying for to use someone else’s email server, but you’d have your own email server. But the reason we can’t do that isn’t because it’s not technically quite easy to run an email server. It’s because these days you have to add SPF records and all this kind of stuff to make sure that you’re not just spamming the world. So we can’t have nice things because of spammers. And then with like the fediverse people say, Oh, well, what we should do is we should all have our own instance of Mastodon or pixel fed or whatever. Well. Maybe that’s maybe not a great use of resources. And also, I really like the local timeline, for example. So something about that aspect. And then when it comes to things like. I don’t know, Nextcloud versus Google. We’ve already talked about this, but. If everyone in the same organisation is using something, that’s one thing. But when you’re working between organisations, which of course we do all of the time, there’s an expectation like a base layer in the same way that people were using everyone was using Zoom during the pandemic, and the reason that we started to use it instead of things like whereby which is web based, was because it does breakout rooms and because everyone knew how to use it without us having to do some remedial work. So some of it.

Laura Hilliger: [00:21:32] I think that’s a really I think that’s a really key point to, to hosting your own software, using open source software and like interacting between organisations or like in work in general is the, you know, the, the leap that people have to make to, to learn a new tool. It’s not, you know, some people, they can just open up a new tool. They’ll take one look at the interface and they’ll be like, okay great. I’m happy to bang on this and no problem. I’m going to figure it out. But there are plenty of people who, especially since the pandemic, who are coming online, going through digital transformation and simply don’t have the technical skills. They haven’t been using tech the way that that others have for a really long time. They open up a interface and it’s not immediately clear what they should do with it, how to use it. I mean, when we run community calls, for example, we often use Etherpad because it’s our tool of choice and it’s relatively easy to onboard people to. But at the beginning of every single community call that we do, we explain in the upper right hand corner there’s a little user icon. If you click on this, you can pick your own colour and write in your name, you know, and it’s a it’s a very basic, like very light touch. Here’s how you use the tool. But we have to do that every time because most of the time people have never seen etherpad.

Doug Belshaw: [00:22:51] Mm hmm. No, it’s a good point. And I think that one of the things that I used to explicitly want out of technology and this has only recently changed is that I want my choices to be ones that other people could follow. So it sounds a bit pretentious to say I want to be a role model for other people, but literally, if I’m going on a slightly different path to people, if I’m going to eat different food to them, if I’m going to use different technologies, then whatever. I feel like there should be easy and obvious steps to get to where I am. If other people want to make the same choices. And it’s only recently, probably during the pandemic, having some therapy or whatever, that I’ve kind of realised that I. I just don’t want to do what I want to do. So, for example, if I wanted not many people worldwide are actually installing Linux on a mac mini M1, but I want to do it and therefore I shouldn’t have as the rationale or the people being able to copy me. They can if they want. I will document stuff, whatever, but I’m not doing it for other people’s benefit anymore. I’m doing it for my benefit. And the only reason that I would actually care is if it gets in the way of me doing my work. So just circling back to the point we just made, which is if it makes us. If it makes it harder for our co op to do our work internally or if it makes it harder for us to do our work with different organisations, then we’re likely to make different technology choices. And the obvious example of this is the fact that. We’re using jitsi someone else’s server of Jitsi for internal work, but we’re using Zoom now for external stuff because they’re two different use cases.

Laura Hilliger: [00:24:40] I’m just I’m just thinking about this idea of being a role model in tech and. Like making making choices so that other people can can follow your lead if they want to. Do you want to say a little bit more about that?

Laura Hilliger: [00:24:58] Because and I ask.

Doug Belshaw: [00:25:00] From so 2000 potted history started my career what 2003 I guess as a teacher started at 2004 2007, start January to June 2007. Get on Twitter was talking about talking about technology. And when you’re a teacher and a network of teachers, you kind of have this responsibility to share stuff with other people and make it easy for other people to follow your footsteps because teachers are crazy, crazy busy and haven’t got time to learn the tech or whatever. So literally either explaining things step by step or recommending stuff that’s easy to pick up and use. And that was the time of the great Web two boom that I’ve already referenced. And therefore you could point to different tools and say, Look, use this one, not that one. I’ve tried this one, let’s try this one out, whatever. And lots of them got shut down for different reasons, etcetera. But I carried that into then working in universities and being part of a network of edtech. Projects, etcetera. And so if things had too much of a high barrier to entry with. Too expensive to host or were just confusing, I wouldn’t recommend them. And then I went to Mozilla and this is all just craziness and whatever, but I kind of kept still. Oh, and I started being seen as like having more tech skills than I actually had because I worked for a tech company. And so I tried to almost double down on, No, this isn’t that hard. You just need to do these things here. So it’s only recently when I’ve kind of gone, I don’t actually care if you can follow these instructions or not, and I don’t really care if you can follow my steps into being a vegetarian who’s part of a co-op who likes messing and tinkering around. I get that not everyone wants to do that, but I’m very happy doing it myself.

Laura Hilliger: [00:26:54] Right. I think. I think I’ve been in that frame of mind.

Laura Hilliger: [00:26:58] For.

Laura Hilliger: [00:27:02] I definitely feel like at Mozilla I was really interested, you know, in helping people gain the sort of technical and social skills that they need to be able to be internetty. I think I was a lot more focussed on that sort of educational mission earlier in my career. And at this point it’s I want to help people understand methodologies that we use and but I’m not really particularly concerned about the technical side of things like the like helping people have tech skills for any of the tools that I use. You know, so and it’s sort of it’s it’s a nuanced position, but it’s sort of weird because that was very much where I was focussed at the beginning of like kind of edtech. You know, I was really focussed.

Doug Belshaw: [00:27:51] Change though, right? So now. You could argue because everything’s so kind of smartphone first. Easy to use. Tech is much more mainstream. Whatever. It’s kind of not our job anymore.

Laura Hilliger: [00:28:07] Yeah, no, I mean, we definitely I feel like a lot of the work we do definitely focuses on more, either more the social aspect or like the intellectual aspect of using tech as opposed to the technical aspect of using tech.

Doug Belshaw: [00:28:21] So can you can you use proprietary technology to work openly? Yes, you can.

Laura Hilliger: [00:28:28] Yes, you definitely can.

Doug Belshaw: [00:28:30] Although would it be better to use open source technology to work openly? Of course.

Laura Hilliger: [00:28:37] I mean, I’ve definitely had that fight. I think like the the history of sort of the divide between, you know, people who advocate for open source and people who advocate for free software, that that sort of argument I’ve definitely had thrown in my face a couple of times. People have told me, oh, you’re not you know, you’re not a free software person. You’re barely even open source because you use corporate tech tools or because you work with organisations that they didn’t think are open enough or whatever.

Doug Belshaw: [00:29:08] Oh yeah. I mean, I remember you getting shouted at at a co tech event.

Laura Hilliger: [00:29:12] Yes.

Doug Belshaw: [00:29:13] Because you know, you didn’t use the most extreme open source free software stuff on your phone or whatever. Yeah. That, you know, and I call these people tech vegans and some people reject this, this label but you get extremely you know, it’s not it’s not a bad analogy and you get some people who will refuse to engage unless you meet them on their terms. Yeah, I don’t think that’s reasonable.

Laura Hilliger: [00:29:41] I agree it is not reasonable. And I went to a Chaos Computer Club, C.C. 29, I think, several years ago. And I went with this awesome woman who is a documentary filmmaker who was making a documentary about cyber security. And we and I took her to the the Conference Chaos Computer Club Conference for C, I think it’s about three C, but in any case, um, and it was a it was a pretty wild couple of days because I was, I was helping her to understand some of the jargon that was happening and sort of helping her understand some of the tech industry insider stuff. But we were both women. And in this sort of infosec community, it’s, I mean, in tech in general, like there’s only 3% women in open source who are specialised in open source. It’s a very, very small percentage anyway. But if you look into infosec numbers, then it’s, you know, crazy and scary and crazy and. Where was I going with this? Yeah. And I thought it was really interesting at the. At the c.c.c.. How? How? Conversation sort of evolved like. Like I’m not sure if it was because I am a woman that the conversations went the way that they did or because I don’t like I’m not, you know, an absolute honest when it comes to my technology choices because it was definitely the case that like if you if you were walking around there without, you know, Linux on your machine, then it definitely said something about you. So I don’t know if the like the sort of animosity that I experienced there was because of my gender or because of my tech, or if it was both.

Doug Belshaw: [00:31:33] Yeah possibly, possibly both. But I mean, it happens, It’s not, it’s, it’s a gender thing and it’s just a. Thing as in people. The Linux distribution. So I’m already using Linux, which is reasonably hardcore compared to the general population. But the version of Linux that I use, which is called Pop OS, which is a derivative of Ubuntu, which is a derivative of Debian gets dismissed as like. You know, just a shiny toy. And people are like, Oh, I use arch Linux, by the way, and I use Arch, by the way, is literally now almost like a meme because like, it shows that you’re hardcore in some kind of way. So I think we’re being quite dismissive or being a bit down on. On people who are quite into their open source and free software stuff. But. I think that it’s not just a technological choice that people are making. It’s a political choice. And I think that’s why it’s a bit like, for example, being a. Being. I’m using the food analogy again. Like being vegetarian, being vegan. It’s a political choice as well as a food choice and open source and open working is a political choice as well as a sociological technical choice as well. Um, and what I mean by that is that anything which is political has a worldview and a way that the world should be. And if you’re rolling along just with the way the world is, then you’re not really you are making a political choice, but your political choice is being a centrist and centre is so reason why centrists are a reason are the reason we can’t have nice things, I would say.

Laura Hilliger: [00:33:27] I mean, I’m just saying, you know, like, the thing is, is that it’s a technical choice is not always a political choice because it can’t be because there are plenty of people that don’t realise that they have a choice. They are put into an environment where they are having to interact over the internet using digital technologies and they are quite simply unaware that there is an alternative to Zoom, you know, or that you can play around with those different tech choices and that choosing something other than Zoom, for example, says something about.

Doug Belshaw: [00:34:02] A technical choice, if it is a choice, is always a political choice. If it’s not a choice, then it’s not a political choice. Yeah.

Laura Hilliger: [00:34:09] I guess what I’m saying is I don’t think people will understand the politics of technology. Like, I don’t know that people know that that, you know, that there’s a political choice for between using Firefox and Chrome, for example.

Doug Belshaw: [00:34:26] Maybe. I mean, I’m using politics very widely in the same way that you could say it’s a political choice to, I don’t know, carry your own water around rather than buying bottled water or whatever. So I’m using it and I guess I’m using it as a shorthand to say. It’s a way of expressing and instantiating a worldview and values. And if you’re not aware that the choice you have is a reflection of your values, then. You’re not really making a choice, perhaps? I don’t know.

Laura Hilliger: [00:35:02] Yeah, There’s something there about not really making a choice. Like, I mean, you know, a few years ago, people didn’t have a choice between operating systems. It was windows or windows, you know, for a really long time. And now it’s, you know, a choice between windows or Mac os, you know, and. Well, yes. Linux if you know. But I wonder how many people realise that Linux is a operating system or have ever even heard the word Linux. You know, I mean maybe people who are working in in technology that should hopefully be coming.

Doug Belshaw: [00:35:36] The other thing is I think sometimes because we’re interested in technology, I’m talking about my own experience here and the people who I follow and whatever. I think sometimes we can overestimate how important something is. So because I spend so much time on computers and around technology and things, I can think that that is the most important thing for me to make the right decisions about these things. Um, and there’s things that need doing in the world where it doesn’t really matter what tool you’re using. Um, so I think sometimes we can be navel gazing when actually we should be doing the important work because you might be using Nextcloud instead of Google workspace or whatever, but if you’re not doing the work of like bringing down the monarchy, overthrowing the, you know, the fascist government or whatever, doesn’t really matter.

Laura Hilliger: [00:36:30] We definitely went off the hosting topic here. I mean, we went full on philosophical and political on this as opposed to talking, talking about one button installs and like.

Doug Belshaw: [00:36:43] and you know what, I could go down a different rabbit hole now but we’re probably we’ve probably said enough about this. What’s kind of your final words on if people haven’t really thought about this before? Like what? What would you suggest they think about do first? Whatever.

Laura Hilliger: [00:37:01] I mean, I think. I think that your your technology choices are only one tiny little piece of the puzzle. And what you do in life matters. And it matters across multiple spectrums, not just the whether or not you’re using open source software, but how you’re interacting with people both online and offline and that, you know, basically assuming that somebody is anything because they have a MacBook Pro and, you know, not a ThinkPad or whatever is like not a good way to to interact with the world. I just I mean, it’s just such a small sliver of who we are as people, the tech choices that we make. And I think that people have reasons for choices that maybe, you know, you don’t have the full context, so don’t be judgy.

Doug Belshaw: [00:37:54] Yeah, I think that it comes down to judging people and not knowing the full context. And other other day we were talking about the difference between credentials and recognition and the difference between fitting someone into your framework and way of understanding the world versus encountering them in their context. And I think a lot a lot of that kind of goes into this conversation as well. Um, so some people wear their heart and their sleeves and everything they do meshes with their values and they try and push that as far as they possibly can. And other people have reasons why they don’t do that but have the same values. And some people don’t have those values. And I think diversity is important. Yeah. Who I could talk about this for a lot longer, but let’s. Let’s pause it there.

Laura Hilliger: [00:38:38] Okay.

Laura Hilliger: [00:38:39] Um, we are always looking for feedback. You know, Doug and I are just hanging out in a room, and we talk about stuff, and then we sometimes listen back, sometimes not. Anyways, if you tell us what you think we would like to know.

Doug Belshaw: [00:38:54] Especially about my microphone.

Laura Hilliger: [00:38:56] Especially about Doug’s microphone. Thanks for listening!